Review by Ian Keogh
Reign of the Cyborg Supermen theoretically continues from the final ‘New 52’ volume Crucible, but new writer Steve Orlando thankfully has little time for the plot of Supergirl losing her powers. These are restored over the first few pages of an opening chapter that also sees the recently arrived Supergirl working for the Department of Extranormal Operations, and attending high school as Kara Danvers. As her Kryptonian heritage is acknowledged also, in effect it restores her to the legacy Supergirl of the 1960s. Some aspects of that iteration, however, are too dated today, so there’s a multicultural cast, and this isn’t a world where everyone other than the villains is straight outta Mayberry. Cameron Chase of the DEO is authoritarian and Cat Grant, media titan, has the acerbic knowing personality of her Supergirl TV show equivalent.
Another part of the Supergirl myth from the 1960s was how her home city of Argo split from Krypton before the planet exploded and drifted in space for years under a protective dome, and this is where Supergirl grew up before tragedy struck and everyone but her died. Or did they? Someone seen in the previous series has now cleared their head to some extent and claims to be Kara’s father Zor-El.
There’s potential here, but too many obvious roads taken, too much artificial melodrama and unsuitable art drop Reign of the Cyborg Supermen down below ordinary. Brian Ching is a good artist, but are his loose impressionistic style and his manga-influenced layouts well suited to Supergirl’s clean world? This is brought sharply into focus by the comparison of Emanuela Lupacchino drawing the opening episode in exactly the style to be expected.
Some of what Orlando introduces is innovative, such as people listening to Supergirl’s English realising she’s from out of town, and he captures Grant’s sarcastic speech patterns from the TV show, but these are all smaller elements, and it’s the bigger picture that’s lacking. The plot is on an epic scale, an invasion of Earth by a form of Kryptonian, yet it never convinces as the underlying logic is daft. If you really want to do the best by someone you listen to them rather than imposing what you consider best, and even in the broad strokes of a superhero comic the failure to address that in any significant way is contrived for an easy plot. As this was originally serialised, Orlando has to recap, but does this in the most obvious manner, as if some characters are reading from the autocue, and for all the polish of her dialogue, Grant’s participation is forced. She’d have been better introduced in the next story arc. That’s Escape from the Phantom Zone.