Monday, August 4, 2008

Review: Reign in Hell 1


I'll apologize up-front for the long post. But when you are passionate about something, as I am about the Linda Danvers character, you tend to be verbose with your opinions.

I wasn’t going to read Reign in Hell until Dan Didio leaked that Linda Danvers was going to be a part of it. Like most Linda fans, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was excited to see the character again, especially given that Didio had said she had been ret-conned out of continuity in the past. But there was another part that was worried that the writers would not treat her with the respect that I have for her. I would rather have her in limbo than poorly portrayed.

Alas, after reading Reign in Hell #1, I am still of mixed feelings.

The issue is a nice opening chapter setting up the story and opening with a bang. Lord Satanus and his sister Blaze, the overseers of Purgatory, have declared war on Hell. The first few pages show Satanus’ army over-running The Odium, a resource rich and densely populated province in Hell.

Satanus’ motives could actually be labeled noble. He doesn’t understand why sins committed in the transient mortal realm should equate to eternal damnation and punishment. He is offering a message of hope to the sinners in Hell. Satanus will re-write the rules … there will be punishment but also redemption. There will be hope. And if it takes a war to accomplish that, so be it.


I wonder if Satanus’ words are true or if this is simply what he is saying to accrue his army, his real motives hidden. I mean he is a demon; you can't really trust him, right? I also wonder how long Satanus and Blaze will be acting together, given that they have battled each other in the past. What are Blaze’s motivations in all this?

Neron, the current ruler of Hell, hears of the overtaking of the Odium and demands a response. He also realizes that a message of hope could take root among the tormented. The damned outnumber the hosts of Hell by millions to one. Even if they are little more than cannon fodder, by sheer numbers the damned could overtake Hell for Satanus. Realizing he will need reinforcements, Neron calls upon the demon Mother Lilith to recall her children, those indebted to Neron, back to Hell.

Cut to Gotham City, where Shadowpact has a lead on someone they need to capture. That person is Linda Danvers.

Here they confront her as she tries to enter her apartment.


Yes, I see that Linda is currently a blond and that she was a brunette before. I don’t mind this as much as it seems to have bothered others around the web. Linda wants to go into hiding, changing your hair color is an easy way to change your looks. Also, she spent half her heroing life as a blond, as Supergirl … maybe she simply likes the look. I would think the editors would know Linda was a brunette and didn't just make a continuity gaffe.

But hiding out in Gotham City?? If you wanted to go into hiding (which she stated emphatically in her last appearance in Supergirl #80), why would you go to a city patrolled by the ultra-paranoid and world's greatest detective Batman? Of course I remember this part of Linda's farewell letter in Supergirl #80 …

A place where a lack of conscience and cold ember instead of a soul are pluses? On the mortal world, Gotham City might fit the bill.

In response to the confrontation, Linda goes into what appears to be her Angel mode, powerful with fire wings.

So this is a bit harder for me to swallow than her being depicted with blond hair. It doesn't sit well. How does she have these powers? We know Linda didn’t have her angel powers at the end of her Supergirl title, that the Angel of Fire fused with the character Twilight. Here is the 'new' Earth Angel from Supergirl #74.


The angelic Linda then takes on the whole Shadowpact team and despite being outnumbered, seems to be in control of the fight. Throughout, she is cursing, yelling that she will kill Shadowpact for finding her ... kill them! So this characterization also does not sit well with me.



Maybe it is simply hyperbole, like when people say they want to kill their boss or their in-laws but don't really mean it. I don’t want Linda to be someone who would actually kill other heroes.

The battle ends suddenly when Linda disappears, being called back to Hell presumably as one of Mother Lilith’s children.


And this really doesn’t sit well with me. Linda before the merge with Matrix certainly was a flawed person, even evil. for example, here is an adrenalized Linda feeling frisky after taking part in killing Leesburg’s local pastor (see the body pin-cushioned with knives?), a chilling scene from Supergirl #2.



So maybe she is called to Hell for her past sins, those she did pre-merge. But I always felt that Linda had redeemed herself when she was merged as the Earth Angel Supergirl. Even when the Angel aspect merged with Twilight, it was only after Linda had made the ultimate sacrifice, dying in battle to save Mary Marvel. So I don’t like her being called to Hell if that is the reason.

That said, Linda did evidence some mystical power and used it to kill Xenon in Supergirl #80. Murderers, even justified murderers could be damned and maybe that is why she is called to Hell. But I would not like this explanation either.

Or maybe she regained her angel-like powers by making a deal with the devil and that is why she is called back to Hell. I like this explanation even less. Linda is not Spiderman in my mind.

In fact, despite being thrilled to see her again I felt uneasy with how Linda was portrayed throughout these pages, feeling she acted more like a villain than the hero I remember. It is the same duality of feelings that I had before this issue was released.
Hopefully all these continuity glitches: the blond hair, the angel powers, the killing mentality, the debt owed to Hell ... hopefully they'll all be explained in a satisfactory way. Hopefully. But I am not holding my breath. Sigh.

I keep having to remind myself that this is the first issue of an 8 issue mini-series. I keep having to tell myself that Linda appeared in 4 pages and that I should wait and see what happens before passing total judgment. But I would have liked this issue much more if she was shown to be clearly on the side of good.

Overall, the story about a war in Hell is interesting and looks like it will encompass all of the DC magic characters, with Zatara, Zauriel, Dr. Occult, and the Dibny ghost detectives all showing up. Tom Derenick's art is a lot muddier than I am used to, sort of like Denys Cowans or Bill Sienkiewicz, but that fits the tenor of the book.

Still, for me the success of this series hinges on the treatment of Linda. I hope Giffen treats her right the rest of the way.

Grade: B, but with concerns about Linda

8 comments:

Heath Edwards said...

yeah, i was quite confused about linda's status, too. i don't know too much about her, but i did know that she'd lost the earth-angel thing. so, that was an interesting thing. i, also, didn't dig the 'kill you' thing (especially with her being 'angelic', but dcu angels could be different from our ones), but we'll see what happens...
overall though, i thought this could be quite a fun miniseries, and i look forward to the rest of it. i found it a bit confusing, but, hopefully, i'll be able to pick up more about the characters as we go along...
though i liked the art in the first story, i really enjoyed the dr occult backup story art. i really enjoyed steven segovia's art in the backups during the dr fate mini, and i'm glad he's back for more... the story itself was confusing, for me, too, but i'll get into it as we go...

The Fortress Keeper said...

My guess is that this Linda Danvers isn't quite the same woman we saw in the Supergirl series. DiDio did say, after all, that Matrix no longer existed which isn't quite the same thing as saying Linda Danvers never existed.

Perhaps this Linda is some hybrid angel/demon thing, and was never Supergirl?

Anj said...

overall though, i thought this could be quite a fun miniseries, and i look forward to the rest of it. i found it a bit confusing, but, hopefully, i'll be able to pick up more about the characters as we go along...

The pieces all seem to be in place with the 2 armies of Hell forming and the resistance led by Zatara/Zauriel plotting behind the scenes.

It intrigued me enough that I am eager to read the next issue. I can't say that about all mini-series I buy.

Anj said...

DiDio did say, after all, that Matrix no longer existed which isn't quite the same thing as saying Linda Danvers never existed.

After DiDio said that, Johns came out and said 'Of course Linda Danvers exists'. I just interpreted that to mean that those adventures happened, just in a slightly different way. Like rather than being Supergirl she was Mega-Lass.

Perhaps this Linda is some hybrid angel/demon thing, and was never Supergirl?

I am pretty sure the powers that be have said that the current Kara is the only character to have had the mantle of Supergirl.

So I doubt Linda was Supergirl, but instead had some other codename when she was the Earth Angel.

But who knows, maybe she is part demon now. We just have to wait to hear what has happened to her since we last saw her.

Diana_Fan said...

First off, I just wanted to say that your site here is fantastic, and just what I've been looking for. Great work, and I hope you keep it up!

Secondly, concerning Reign in Hell #1, excellent review. A lot of this aspect of the DCU is new to me, but I very much enjoyed it, felt drawn in, and I can't wait for issue #2.

Finally, as to Linda (?), I'm only familiar with her through a few issues and Many Happy Returns. So, it goes without saying that I'm not particularly knowledgeable concerning the character. But I'm definitely interested to see what is happening with her.

I do trust Giffen, and very much liked Derenick's art, with the inking. I thought it fit the nature and milieu of the story perfectly (as you mentioned).

Anyhow, I've been coming here for a while, very much enjoy the site, and am looking forward to this series, and even more so to further Supergirl.

-- Aaron

Anj said...

First off, I just wanted to say that your site here is fantastic, and just what I've been looking for. Great work, and I hope you keep it up!

Secondly, concerning Reign in Hell #1, excellent review. A lot of this aspect of the DCU is new to me, but I very much enjoyed it, felt drawn in, and I can't wait for issue #2.


Thanks so much for the post and supporting the blog. I am glad you are enjoying it. It's a blast for me to do.

I think Reign in Hell did just what it was supposed to do which is set-up the plot threads and whet your appetite for more.

I am intrigued to get the next issues to see how it plays out.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog I feel a little nervous about picking up "Reign In Hell"... Linda Danvers was a wonderful Supergirl. She is just as great a heroine as Kara! I do hope the various things you pointed out will be explained in the next issues- in particular why Linda is one of Mother Lilith's children and her angel wings of fire. The thing I would love for DC to do is have Linda find peace and have her soul return. She has done a lot of good as Supergirl. And hopefully Buzz will return as well! He is such a rogue and would love to find out what happened to him.

-John

Anj said...

After reading your blog I feel a little nervous about picking up "Reign In Hell"... Linda Danvers was a wonderful Supergirl. She is just as great a heroine as Kara! I do hope the various things you pointed out will be explained in the next issues-

Thanks for the post.

I keep telling myself to be patient and wait out a couple of issues before being completely disheartened.