Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It Came From the Back Issue Box: Legion of Super-Heroes 16


In anticipation of Supergirl's major part in Final Crisis #6, which is a long 3 months away, I am continuing my review of her role and appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths and related issues.

While not emblazoned with an official Crisis On Infinite Earths Cross-Over banner, Legion of Super-Heroes #16 is often put on lists of issues pertaining to COIE. It is written by the Legion legend Paul Levitz and drawn by Steve Lightle and Bob Smith.

I always wonder why it didn't merit the official cross-over banner. As is wonderfully rendered on the Lightle cover, this issue mostly tells the story of Brainiac 5 dealing with Supergirl's death in the Crisis. I really think this is a great cover showing Brainiac's overwhelming grief. And the depiction of Supergirl at her moment of death on the cover is powerful and shocking.


The issue opens with Brainiac openly grieving Kara's death in his lab, replaying footage of her death over and over. Indeed, the panel above, a copy of a COIE #7 panel, is the only panel in this issue in which Supergirl appears. It seems as though Supergirl's death in the Crisis is a historical fact in the future, and this night represents the thousand year anniversary of her murder at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. This explains why Brainiac 5 is so grief-stricken now.


Brainiac 5's friends Rond Vidar and Chronarch try to help him with his grief but it is of no use. Brainiac tells them how despite knowing she was someone from the past, despite knowing when and where she would die, he still went to great lengths to meet her and love her, even inventing Time Bubbles to do so. But he knew he could not change destiny and so watched her go to her death.

This struck me as a little odd ... his knowing all this. I thought part of the mystique of the Crisis was that it was happening throughout all time at the same time. This is why Anthro and the Legion are shown facing the same anti-matter walls sweeping over Earth as current heroes are. As such, I would think that knowledge of its outcome would be unknown, as if history itself was in flux or being re-written (which of course it was). Still, despite knowing all this, Brainiac 5 is one sad Coluan! And for a super-intelligent android who already has had major psychological breakdowns in his past, that is a bad thing.


Now that is not the only storyline in the issue. The other storyline involves the newly added Legion rookies: Polar Boy, Magnetic Kid, Tellus, Quislet, and the mysterious Sensor Girl. They are the only Legionnaires minding Earth while the rest are off celebrating the baptism of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's baby boy Graym. Of course, the rookies are called into action when terrorists begin bombing places in the city including a techno-park. This part of the issue is rather pedestrian ... straight forward comics fare.

Sensor Girl's identity at this point was a mystery, although it was hinted at that maybe it was Kara behind the mask. Her powers remained vague enough throughout many of her first adventures to make it possible. The 'Who is Sensor Girl' mystery lasted about a year and was entertaining as readers tried to guess her true identity. Even Legion characters were in the dark and they started stating their guesses in future issues. Indeed, at one point while in the depths of his depression, Brainiac begins scheming on how to prove that Sensor Girl is Kara. He teeters on the edge of insanity at that point.


But for now, he is in the early stages of grief. He continues to talk about how brief his time with Kara was. He has some drinks with friends.


He even contemplates going back in time and try to change history and save her, knowing the resulting ramifications could destroy himself ... even the universe itself. In the end, he knows he can't do that ... and brands himself a coward for doing the right thing. In some ways it echoes the current 'Saving Thomas' storyline, showing a hero desperate enough to save someone no matter the cost.

While it is clear that Brainiac is deeply saddened by the loss of Kara, some of his dialogue come off just a bit eerie here. His lines tend to be maudlin and over-the-top. These could be the lines spoken by a lover with a history of descending into madness. Or they could be the lines of an obsessed fan who has become a stalker. In any case, they felt right coming from his character, so addled with sadness.


In the meantime, Sensor Girl keeps acting just enough like Supergirl to keep people guessing. Here she helps the new Legionnaires defeat a bunch of brainwashed Science Police officers who were behind the bombings. As for who she turns out to be .... 2 decade old SPOILER ALERT ... in the end Sensor Girl is Princess Projectra.

While Supergirl barely appears in this issue, she clearly is the dynamic behind the happenings here. The concept of grief is not usually covered in comics, what with characters dying all the time. I like the fact that we actually got to see Brainiac's response to the death of Supergirl in such a lengthy way, that we got to see how much her passing impacted his every day life. All too often we don't see this in comics. We certainly didn't see this much of a reaction to her death in the Superman titles. We didn't see any reaction like this to Barry Allen's death. So I thought this was a touching cap-stone to Supergirl's comic career, one last eulogy to Kara. For fans of Supergirl, it would be a nice issue to have in a collection, a sympathy card in four colors.

I think comics do a better job of showing characters reacting to loss now. From Funeral to a Friend during the Death of Superman storyline to the recent Final Crisis:Requiem we at least see some scenes of super-heroes having to deal with grief.

Overall grade: B

8 comments:

The Fortress Keeper said...

Welll ... when current comics end up spending 5 issues over characters' grief - like Marvel's Fallen Son thingie - it can get to be a bit much.

I read an interview with Paul Levitz a while back where he revealed that Sensor Girl was originally supposed to be Supergirl ... but the idea was vetoed by the higher-ups.

Also, that issue of Superman where he takes her body to Rokyn and disovers Kara's secret life was kind of touching ...

Anj said...

Welll ... when current comics end up spending 5 issues over characters' grief - like Marvel's Fallen Son thingie - it can get to be a bit much.

In this day and age, everything seems to be 6 issues so it can be neatly packaged into trades. That makes overdoing it too easy.

I read an interview with Paul Levitz a while back where he revealed that Sensor Girl was originally supposed to be Supergirl ... but the idea was vetoed by the higher-ups.

Really!? I always figured she could never be Supergirl because it would cheapen COIE and go against all the editorial reasons they killed her off in the first place. Still, when the mystery was ongoing, I held a glimmer of hope it might be Supergirl under the spidey-eyed mask.

TalOs said...

I choked up a bit after having read that issue out at the time myself. (Even though I was nothing more then a mere tyke at the time when Supergirl died it still saddened me none the less even come having had read this issue of Legion too)

Really!? I always figured she could never be Supergirl because it would cheapen COIE and go against all the editorial reasons they killed her off in the first place. Still, when the mystery was ongoing, I held a glimmer of hope it might be Supergirl under the spidey-eyed mask.

You're right. Apparently (exactly as Mr. Levitz explained it) at the time in question Levitz claimed to have fought the PTB up at DC in allowing them to keep Supergirl Post-CoIE continuity wise only in the form of "Sensor Girl" who'd happen to reside within the Legions own era hence forth instead. That way being able to have Superman still be their preferred "sole Kryptonian survivor" come present time continuity titles at the time, only, DC didn't agree with this and unfortunately Levitz had to scramble at last minute for the revelation of Sensor Girl being unmasked to be actually Princess Projectra here instead.

Blast John Byrne AND his stupid Man of Steel proposal/eventual actual preferred continuity by DC come Post-CoIE at that for the prevention of our Kara existing Post-CoIE! URGH! >:( Well, till 05 anyways when we officially got her back that is. Heh. :P

John M said...

I don't own many Pre Crisis Supergirl issues so Thank You for sharing and reviewing this issue. Besides the moments in Crisis in which Superman and Batgirl deal with Supergirl's death I'm glad to see another comic book that shows Kara did mean a lot to the heroes and heroines of the DC Universe.

I've always wondered- was there ever an issue in which the Danvers grieve for their daughter?

Anj said...

I don't own many Pre Crisis Supergirl issues so Thank You for sharing and reviewing this issue. Besides the moments in Crisis in which Superman and Batgirl deal with Supergirl's death I'm glad to see another comic book that shows Kara did mean a lot to the heroes and heroines of the DC Universe.

I've always wondered- was there ever an issue in which the Danvers grieve for their daughter?


Thanks for the post. I do think that the Batgirl's eulogy and Superman's prayers at the end of COIE #7 adequately showed the grief they were feeling.

As far as I know, the Danvers were never shown and that's a shame. There is a Superman cross-over where we see him return the body to Rokyn and get a brief sense of Zor-El and Allura's mourning.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Alura screams when she sees Kara's body...very depressing image. After that I pretty much stopped buying comics for five years.
Stories like this are interesting and necessary from a dramatic perspective but they also mask DC's policy of forced expulsion for Supergirl's readership from fan-dom.
As such, SG's fans are the first readership in the history of comics to be so expelled.
When all was said and done and Kara was exposed as a "runaway bride" and then expelled from continuity, DC then turned to us all and told us to either become Power Girl fans or get out. And from the looks of things looks like most of us left.
Well it took 23 years but now kara is back, sales are down and DC needs every reader it can get. I'm glad to see some justice for Kara Zor El but I am suspicious and cynical about DC's motivations.

John Feer

Nikki said...

kara's relationship with Brainiac 5 lasted years on and off again. For me it was a much a part of the Kara story as streaky was. I wish that they would write them together again but with the threeboot I sensed they were trying to be radically different. He was mad about Kara so now he hates her but with the subtext that its always her he complains about. She took his girfriends place in the team and in the dream he had when he came out of it dream girl turned into kara. So something is there people want to see it, a replacement theory much like the silver age when dream girl was introduced as a replacement for kara 'miss terious'

Anj said...

He was mad about Kara so now he hates her but with the subtext that its always her he complains about. She took his girfriends place in the team and in the dream he had when he came out of it dream girl turned into kara. So something is there people want to see it, a replacement theory much like the silver age when dream girl was introduced as a replacement for kara 'miss terious'

Thanks for the post. I had forgotten about his waking from the dream and seeing Kara in the current series. Never put 2 and 2 together. Nice pick-up.

I also think they won't write this back into continuity.