The first few pages of DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis are dedicated to a roll call introducing our main characters, including Wonder Woman, Super Girl, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Katana; names that will likely be familiar to those with some knowledge of the DC Universe. In this graphic novel, written by Shea Fontana, these girls are back in high school, in a reality that pits them against a challenge understood by school kids everywhere: finals.
The book revolves around the aforementioned characters’ various ways of preparing (or procrastinating preparing) for their finals at Super Hero High. The storytelling begins in gym class, with a sparring match between Wonder Woman and Cheetah. Following this opening portion, each character is the main protagonist of her own chapter, with the other characters popping up in each other’s stories subtly; it was fun to take note of the various overlaps in stories upon a second reading. While I like the way this allows us to focus on each character, I still feel the characterization was a little shallow.
The art, by Yancey Labat (with colors by Monica Kubina) reminds me of animation. In particular, it reminds me a bit of Ever After High (which is not terribly surprising, as there is a connection to Mattel for both franchises). The backgrounds of the action are simplistic, a shade or gradient of color to offset a character’s flowing hair or a fighting stance. When we see the more detailed backgrounds, they’re lovely, like the school while Super Girl flies past, or the town when Poison Ivy goes for a walk. The cel shading and simple style keeps the art from looking cluttered even when there are many characters in one scene, or there’s a lot of action; it gives the impression of there being plenty of breathing space in each panel, and makes the book easy on the eyes for reading.
The story itself moves quickly, perhaps too quickly. Each chapter can be viewed as is its own contained narrative, and there were a few that I felt wrapped up too briskly, or too simply, for the matter at hand. It felt a little too easy to solve some of these problems that could have taken a few more panels, or pages, to explore with more depth. Then again, with only thirteen pages dedicated to each of the seven protagonists, I do understand the author’s inclination to be brief and to make sure each story wrapped up neatly. Especially as this is a graphic novel directed towards kids or tweens, we don’t want to leave too many loose ends or land the girls in any mortal peril. Unfortunately, in doing so, it runs the risk of seeming to pander to its audience, at the cost of a more complex story.
All in all, the art is lovely, and it’s novel and interesting to see these characters populating a new setting. I do wish I got to know them better as teenagers in this book. I think the intended audience will be pleased with this piece of the DC Superhero Girls franchise, but as someone coming at this as a stand-alone, it left me a little unsatisfied.