Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala (writers), Jamal Campbell (artist), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer), Jorge Jimenez with Alejandro Sanchez (cover)
March 14, 2018
Supergirl has been my favorite character in comics for almost as long as I’ve been reading them. She means the world to me, and she is what drives me to be the person I am. Sometimes I stumble, and that’s okay, because so does she. Her faith in humanity tends to be both her biggest strength and her biggest weakness at the same time. That’s one thing that Steve Orlando has excelled in capturing during his time on the title.
In no issue has that been more evident than Supergirl #19, Orlando’s penultimate issue. In it, Orlando brings in non-binary writer Vita Ayala to help him introduce a new character to Supergirl’s supporting cast. This is important, because Orlando realized the gravity of having a non-binary voice help to tell this story.
To set the stage, the story opens with the populace of National City torn on what to think of Supergirl. It’s been revealed that she kept her dad’s identity as the Cyborg Superman secret, and that she confined him in the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations) after he had tried to decimate the city. As such, a good portion of the city does not see Kara as the friend she’s trying to be, but rather as a dangerous enemy. This is a perception that’s aided by the current head of the DEO, Director Bones. He’s been twisting public perception of Supergirl to advance his own nefarious goals.
Supergirl’s friend Ben Rubel is hunting for people with good stories to tell about Supergirl, because he still believes in her and wants to fix her image. He searches out Lee Serrano, a person who has a very important Supergirl story to tell. Lee begins their story with the first time they met Supergirl, when she saved them during “Reign of Cyborg Superman” (issues #1-6). Supergirl left Lee with the standard “Have to run, saving the world and stuff, but I will be around if you need me” line. Only unlike most superheroes, Supergirl meant it. She kept popping up in Lee’s life, much like she does to anyone she saves. She cares about people, good or bad, and she tries to find the best in all of them.
Kara took time out of her busy days just to sit and talk with Lee. And Lee is comfortable enough with Supergirl to tell her that they are non-binary and terrified of telling their parents. And Kara? Kara doesn’t balk for a second. She tells Lee that she too feels different, and that not a day goes by that she doesn’t wish she had more time with her own parents, but that no matter how Lee’s parents react, Kara will always be there for them.
The next time Lee and Supergirl meet up, it’s after Lee just had an encounter with a school bully. Kara again comforts Lee, and gives them the encouragement they need to keep moving forward. “Those people don’t know you, Lee. But I do. You’re a beautiful person . . . and deserve only the best.”
Kara’s words give Lee the the strength to finally tell their parents. To their credit, Lee’s parents don’t react the way they thought they would. They’re accepting and kind, as all parents should be. As I wish my own had been.
Lee’s story ends with one more confrontation with the bully. Supergirl swoops in to protect her friend, but steps back when Lee asks her to. She’s given them confidence and power, and Lee knows this is their own battle to fight. And much like Supergirl, Lee uses empathy and understanding to deescalate the situation. They tell the bully that they understand the things going on in his life, and that if he needs to talk, they’ll be there. What Supergirl has provided Lee, Lee has offered to their own bully.
I strive to be better every day, to be someone that Supergirl would be proud of. This issue has given me more than that. Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala give me a Supergirl who I wouldn’t just strive to be like, who wouldn’t just make me want to be a better person, but one that I think would call me a friend. One that would accept me unconditionally, and always have my back. One that tells other trans and non-binary kids out there that there is nothing wrong with them, nothing to be ashamed of. This is one of the single most important issues of a comic I’ve ever read, and I will be forever grateful to DC for publishing it.