Review: Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Steve Orlando gets it right with Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight, his final volume of the Rebirth series. That's fortunate and unfortunate; fortunate that this run finally lives up to its obvious potential, and unfortunate it should come right at the end. There's something to enjoy here for fans of many of Supergirl's iterations, but wisely Orlando also fills a gap in the present Supergirl landscape; again, this is quite good -- we can assume co-author Jody Houser contributes to the uptick -- and it's too bad there's not more of this particular take.

[Review contains spoilers]

Orlando's inaugural Rebirth Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Superman did a fine job setting up a distinct-but-TV-familiar supporting cast for Supergirl Kara Zor-El, with foster parents, a new school, and an internship with Catco. Orlando's Supergirl was kind of like a CW Supergirl prequel -- many of the trappings of the Supergirl TV show, but with Kara still in high school. The subsequent volumes, however, abandoned that almost entirely, with nary a scene at school or work and almost no appearances by Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers.

Plain Sight immediately demonstrates itself as something different, with a first chapter with nearly no superheroics whatsoever. Instead we get the interesting banalities of Kara's life -- dinner with her folks and trouble with a new girl at school (Belinda Zee, first seen in the younger-skewing Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade). Orlando devotes two pages to Eliza and Jeremiah just talking, sans Kara, the kind of dedicated character work this series has needed all along. From there, we get plenty more school foibles, including a semi-formal dance and a strong romance angle -- plus a superhero battle in most every chapter.

This is, again, the balance this title has needed -- not sacrificing character for action or vice versa, but paying deference to both. I would acknowledge that the action suffers here a bit, at least in terms of important, relevant hero vs. villain material. Orlando and Houser pit Supergirl against a different antagonist each issue for the second, third, and fourth chapters (taking a breather in the fifth, and then introducing one more frenemy in the sixth). Though I like the "Supergirl Revenge Squad" vibe (which we also had in Supergirl Vol. 3: Girl of No Tomorrow), the done-in-one fights feel more like throwing Supergirl at a random foe because action is expected rather than something that seems connected to the larger story.

I have to give Orlando and Houser credit for using Sharon "Strange Visitor" Vance, inheritor of Superman's electric blue super-suit, whom we last saw almost twenty years and a couple continuities ago. For her ties to the "Superman Blue" era, through to "Our Worlds at War," Strange Visitor is one of my old favorites, so this is a thrill, right up there with Orlando using the New Blood Terrorsmith in Justice League of America. At the same time, Sharon's presence (as well as, for that matter, Terrorsmith's) makes little to no sense given what we know (or don't know) about current DC Universe continuity. I cheered when Strange Visitor came back, but then had a big shrug when this story literally name-checks the Imperiex War.

I was not particularly impressed with the art in this book's third volume, perhaps a reaction to the departure of Brian Ching, who defined this as a more youthful Supergirl book at a time that was really needed. In that third book, I thought Robson Rocha et al presented something that looked too superhero-y; perhaps it's the shift in Orlando and Houser's story, but that art quibble was less of a concern here, especially with Rocha drawing so well Kara's expressions of concern while talking to her foster parents or the awkwardness of the school dance (Rocha's teenagers are sometimes drawn too aged-up, though not when it counts). Jamal Campbell does a fine guest-spot (ahead of his Naomi work) on the special one-off issue profiling a non-binary teen inspired by Supergirl.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight

With the shock of the new, the gleam is off Steve Orlando's Supergirl series a bit; the machinations of the DEO's Director Bones are great and all, but now we've got Supergirl in space and crossing over with Superman and Rogol Zaar, so on and so forth. So I'm impatient for the first Marc Andreyko trade. At the same time, with the Supergirl title seemingly about to be solely devoted to cosmic superheroics, once again one can't help but feel some regret that the direction finally realized in Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight won't continue -- about the most "teen Superman"-ish title we've seen from DC Comics in a while. Hopefully someone else will pick up the torch.

[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Supergirl Vol. 4: Plain Sight
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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