Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade – Her First Extra-Ordinary Adventure! is exactly what it says on the cover. Kara Zor-El, Superman’s 12-year-old cousin from Argo City is rocketed to Metropolis from her home in another dimension. After she accidentally destroys Lex Luthor’s latest battle robot on arrival, Superman tells her that once she learns to fully control her superpowers she can help him to protect the world. But until then, she has to keep them secret, in her new identity as Linda Lee, 8th grade transfer student at Stanhope Boarding School.
Writer Landry Q. Walker and artist Eric Jones are veterans of kids comics. The pair have spent years crafting Little Gloomy and Kid Gravity strips for Disney Adventures magazine, and they apply their considerable skills to their contemporary update of a 1960s premise. This new version of Supergirl is reintroduced for young readers without losing any of the charm that made it work so well in its original form. The humour has been amped up for this revival – the new Linda Lee is a socially-awkward, uncoordinated and slightly goofy tween/teen. Her other-dimensional knowledge is useless in this new environment (“So the computers don’t respond to thought control? What stops them uprising and rebelling then?”), she can’t rely on her new powers to work consistently if they work at all, and she has no friends.
Landry and Jones create a story that operates on two registers, mocking the typical bombastic tone of superhero comics where both heroes and villains live on a higher dramatic plane than ordinary humans, but using that difference in tone to highlight how Kara/Linda isn’t like the girls around her. It makes for surprisingly emotional characterisation and you will find yourself identifying with her very strongly as she tries to fit into her new setting and fails, in hilarious ways. Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is very silly but because that silliness springs from logical foundations it’s an exhilaratingly smart romp, in a way that’s rare in superhero comics – and even rarer in comics for young readers.
Her First Extra-ordinary Adventure! is just the first part of a six-volume story, continued in book two My Own Best Frenemy. These short (22-page) stories are ideal for young readers, but there is also a trade paperback available with all six parts complete in one place – Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade. It’s not as sturdy as this single hardcover volume with its library binding, but it’s a lot better value at only slightly more money for the entire adventure. The two editions have almost identical covers, so make sure you know which one you have before you buy it.