Supergirl Archives, Vol. 2
by various artists
(DC Comics, 2004)

The early 1960s were an important time in the original Supergirl's career. She joined the Legion of Superheroes, acquired a small archenemy and finally lost her "secret weapon" status, allowing her to have an Earth family of her own and fight openly alongside her cousin Superman. DC's archive editions now make those early years available for new readers in Supergirl Archives, Vol. 2.

As always, the DC archives staff deserves commendation for restoring the old four-color art to better than original condition. Without modernizing the basic flat color techniques available to the original artists, the archive edition sharpens the line work and brings the colors to supersaturated life without losing the natural palette. With the production issues that often marred the original work solved, the composition and basic artwork shine through, and the quality is sometimes astonishing.

The stories are too bizarre to invite serious criticism. Once Supergirl is saluted with a thank you letter spelled by the bodies of trained fish, or turned into a floating blimp, super-weaving powers seem perfectly reasonable. And why worry about the presence of a semi-sentient robot slave when Supergirl herself hardly blinks over the appearance of a sudden second head? These are vintage Silver Age stories, written for fun and on the fly, with more thought put into the visuals than into how an army of tiny Supermen might affect precious continuity 60 years down the line. Still, there is a larger story arc that makes significant progress in this volume. By the collection's end, Supergirl is finally allowed to reveal herself to the world as Superman's cousin, a move that also let her finally have an adoptive family -- a landmark for a character who had been living as a "secret weapon" since her introduction.

These are stories to be read with gasps, giggles and a super-suspension of disbelief. But those who have tried to keep up with the life story of Supergirl over the last 20 years may find it hard to criticize the cheerful fantasy excesses. This Supergirl may not have obeyed the laws of physics, continuity or basic human behavior, but at least she knows who she is. This is Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin, here to save the day and have fun doing it. And thanks to DC's archive editions, a new generation of readers can join her.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 23 July 2005

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