With the events of New Krypton and Codename:Patriot occupying the bulk of Supergirl, some plotlines hinted at in Supergirl #34 have been pushed to the background.
The Cat Grant feud and the Lana Lang illness, for examples, have not been examined as much as I'd like. In fact they have barely been touched upon. It is not that the recent issues have been lacking quality ... there's simply only so much that you can squeeze into 22 pages each month. And the New Krypton and Superwoman stories have warranted the space they have been given.
So I have ben greatly anticipating Supergirl Annual #1 which promised to deal with two such wayward plots: the Linda Lang secret identity and Superwoman's origin. To be honest, these are two plots that I have really been looking forward to. As a proponent of the Linda Lang idea, it has been touch to only see her in only a couple of panels of Superman/Batman.
It did not disappoint. Given the two story nature of the annual, I have a few more scans than usual and probably a few more words.
As we saw on The Source preview, the Linda Lang story has Kara, as Linda, infiltrating a bank robbery/hostage. She quickly subdues them (off-screen) with superspeed and heat vision.
The K Squad arrive and quickly suspect a Kryptonian must have defeated the robbers and so an investigation for a rogue Kryptonian ensues.
I really liked this scene where Linda fumbles with the most basic questions about her secret identity. She hasn't been Linda for very long. Unlike Lana who has dealt with secret identities all her life, Kara is very new to this. Slip-ups are bound to happen until Kara gets more settled in the role of Linda.
Petty prejudices begin to spread through the crowd with people accusing each other of being Kryptonian. Then the K Squad brings in the ultimate interrogation tool ... a chunk of Red Kryptonite. Whoever reacts will be the Kryptonian.
Before they can reach Kara, a mother and her young son make a break for it. When the child is exposed to the Red K, he mutates and goes beserk. It turns out that Supergirl wasn't the only Kryptonian in the bank!
This whole early part of the story felt like a riff on John Carpenter's The Thing, both the grwoing paranoia and specifically the 'blood test' interrogation scene. Both scenes, the viewer/reader is set up to expect a reaction in one character (here Kara) only to be shocked when it happens to another. Anytime I compare something to John Carpenter's The Thing, it is a huge compliment.
With the boy going wild and the building falling down around them, the troops and the hostages scatter. This allows Linda the chance to change into Supergirl. I love this panel, a classic heroic pose of the superhero shedding their secret identity to reveal their costume below. Wonderful!
Supergirl is able to corral the boy and fly him into space where the direct yellow sun light purges his body of the Red K radiation.
As the boy regresses to his normal form, Kara is ambushed by his mother.
When Supergirl awakens, the unnamed female Kryptonian reads her the riot act. It turns out this woman fled New Krypton rather than stay and suffer as a member of the Labor Guild. She came to Earth and went into hiding to try to give her son a new life outside of servitude.
Could this be Kryn Kel-Ur, the woman whose apartment Lucy Lane was hiding out in?
As if that wasn't strong enough, the woman really pulls no emotional punches, telling Kara that Zor-El would be ashamed of her. Talk about going for the jugular.
Of course this is a pretty thin argument. I don't think Zor-El would have approved of this woman standing around doing nothing in the bank while police officers and hostages were being gunned down. But Supergirl is stuck in the moment and considers what the woman had to say. We have been shown in World of New Krypton what a life in the Labor Guild means ... life as a slave. I can understand why this woman would do anything to spare her child that fate. And I can understand how her harsh words might touch Supergirl.
What's worse, this whole thing made the news, fanning the anti-Kryptonian fire.
The story ends with Kara questioning the ultility of her secret identity. This is another panel I really love. While Kara puzzles over her future as Linda, she holds up her eyeglasses. Of course, the glasses are a physical representation of the secret identity. But the composition of the panel, her holding the eyeglasses like a magnifying glass in front of her eye as she puzzles away ... the way a detective closely examines a crime scene ... just a nice mix of words, feelings, and art.
I can't imagine that Sterling Gates will get rid of the Linda Lang idea right after introducing it. But I do think that there will be and should be some growing pains around the Linda identity. It makes sense and should lead to some good stories.
Now as much as I wanted to read about Linda Lang, I was even more interested in reading the Superwoman story. My one complaint about the 'Who is Superwoman?' arc was that it ended without giving us any answers about how and why Lucy donned the cowl. And while I know that story ended just a few months ago, it has felt like ages. So I was glad to see at least some of my questions being answered here.
The story starts with an unsuspecting hiker tramping through the woods of Maine at the site of Lucy's death. For no obvious reason, purple energy manifests and crackles around him while he heard Lucy's voice. The energy incinerates him.
And just as suddenly, Lucy is recorporalized.
It sort of reminded me of the first Hellraiser movie where people killed on the spot of Frank's death reconstitute him back to the living world. Hey ... that's two references to classic horror movies in one Supergirl review.
While Lucy lies still in the woods, we see her remembering key moments in her life.
We see how she was made to feel completely inferior to Lois in all things in her childhood. Her father is emotionally abusive to her belittling her accomplishments. When older, Lucy even moved to Metropolis to be near Lois hoping the mere proximity to her older sister will lead to General Lane noticing Lucy.
When that fails and when General Lane is declared dead, Lucy decides to honor his memory by enlisting in the military.
Rising quickly through the ranks, Lucy is nearly killed during the Washington DC fight during Amazons Attack. I love how we see Supergirl in the background ... so nearby while Lucy is fighting for her life ... it just adds another layer to Lucy's feelings about Supergirl.
Wounded on the field and about to be killed by Amazonian troops, Lucy is rescued by Agent Assassin and brought to Project 7734.
Lucy is reunited with her father and thrilled to find him alive. More importantly, General Lane seems proud of the choices that Lucy has made, acknowledging all she has achieved. Ever willing to do anything she can to earn his love, she agrees to put on the Superwoman suit, not yet adorned with the S-shield.
As important as it is for me to see why Lucy would become Superwoman, it is also important for me to see how she could do all she could do. It couldn't just be a cool suit or General Lane would be mass producing them. So seeing Mirabai and the scientists making the suit, seeing it is a combination of science and sorcery, it makes more sense that Lucy could act as Superwoman and do all the things she did.
And we see the suit do some things we haven't seen before ... like hand beams and invisibility/cloaking.
Armed with the suit and well trained, Lucy was more than willing to infiltrate New Krypton, donning the symbol of her enemy and preparing to strike back at them.
In some ways this story humanizes Lucy a little. You can see how a life where she felt unloved, where she was made to feel unworthy, would make her emotionally fragile. How it would make her willing to do anything to feel loved ... even if that meant kill.
But this is the most interesting panel in the whole issue.
The boys at Project 7734 seem surprised that Lucy is back. And what's more, they don't think General Lane is going to be happy in hearing she is back. Maybe they weren't expecting this. And is she manifesting powers now without the suit? That is very interesting!
So I think there is still a lot to learn about Superwoman. But at least I feel I have seen enough pieces of the puzzle to have a clearer idea of what the big picture is.
Everything worked in this Annual. I have been waiting for these storylines to continue for a while and Sterling Gates did not disappoint. I thought that these were the strongest pencils I have seen from Fernando Dagnino, especially in the Lucy story. And, of course, that Renato Guedes cover is spectacular and could be a poster.
Nothing but goodness here.
Overall grade: A