Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is less about a 12-year-old adjusting to life as a superhero than it is about a superhero figuring out how to be 12 years old. Gawky, insecure, and a complete fish out of water, Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones’s Kara Zor-el is the antithesis of her broodier, more volatile “New 52” counterpart.
Granted, it helps that this iteration of the Last Daughter of Krypton didn’t witness the destruction of her home planet in a cataclysmic explosion. In this alternate canon, Argo City survives after the force of the blast shunts it into a pocket reality known as Quasi-Space, where. Kara, like most preteens, engages her parents in a constant battle of wills. That is, until an impulsive decision sends her careening to Earth on an interdimensional rocket, with no hope of return in sight.
Though typically regarded as a distaff version of Superman, Kara faces challenges that are uniquely her own. Unlike her famous cousin, who was raised on Earth by human parents, Kara didn’t grow into her powers.
Most of the time it’s played for laughs: her mounting horror when she realizes she can see through everyone’s clothes, for instance, or the time she makes a spirited leap off a building, soaring for one brief, shining moment before crashing to the ground. “This planet hates me,” the Girl of Steel moans.
That doesn’t mean you don’t sympathize with Kara, either. Her civilian guise of Linda Lee is the frequent target of jeers and taunts at the Stanhope Boarding School, where she faces genuine bemusement over local concepts of currency (“What’s money? Is it important?”), anatomy (“Do all animals have four stomachs, or is just these cow things?”), and language (“You mean artificial translator components haven’t rendered multiple languages moot?”).
Kara’s powers may not be relatable, but her difficulties fitting in are.
Kara’s powers may not be relatable, but her difficulties fitting in are. “How am I supposed to become a superhero?” she asks herself. “I don’t understand this world at all! My powers are all weird, and nobody anywhere likes me.”
Kara is close to breaking, until she finds a gift that Superman left in her dorm room. It’s a communication device with a direct line to Quasi-Space. For the first time in weeks, our strange visitor feels less alone.
By the time her mother asks if everything is OK, Kara is smiling. “Yeah…,” she says, a cloud lifting. “Everything’s OK now.”
Kara’s problems are only just beginning, however. A rogue meteor shower is about to imbue her classmates with superpowers of their own, further complicating her burgeoning rivalry with Belinda Zee, an evil doppelgänger hell-bent on destroying what little remains of Kara’s reputation.
In a series of clever nods to the past, Walker and Jones also pit elements from Supergirl’s comic-book history against her: Roomie-turned-BFF Lena Thorul, who harbors a secret of her own; a time-traveling alternate version of herself bearing a Legion of Superheroes flight ring; Streaky the Super-Cat (Comet the Super-Horse makes a cameo, too); and kryptonite, all the colors of kryptonite.
By the end of the book, Kara isn’t the same awkward kid we started out with.
By the end of the book, Kara isn’t the same awkward kid we started out with. Officially a teenager, she’s a little older, a little wiser, and a touch more confident in her abilities.
And yes, you’ll believe a girl can fly.
Walker and Jones planned to follow Supergirl’s adventures into the 12th grade, where she would have continued to evolve as a hero and a person, but DC declined to renew the title. Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 9th Grade would have included a return of the main cast, plus new appearances by Satan Girl, Brainiac 5, Krypto the Super-Dog, and Batman.
In a different universe, perhaps…