In what has been a highly anticipated book by me for some time, Supergirl Annual #2 did not fail to please. Written by Sterling Gates, the book re-introduces Supergirl to the Legion in a way that both looks back at the Silver Age and looks forward to the upcoming history of this incarnation of Kara Zor-El. As a long time fan, I am thrilled that the Legion aspect of Supergirl's mythos has been brought back; it was such an important part of her pre-Crisis history. We had been given a few hints about this back in Supergirl #52, the Last Stand crossover, so it was good to see those threads brought to fruition here.
As I said, this issue also is a nice look back into the Silver Age Supergirl/Legion stories. Sterling Gates obviously has a respect for those stories to include some hints of them here. The main antagonist here is Satan Girl, a riff on the villain from way back in Adventure Comics #313 (and don't worry I'll head to the back issue box to review that one soon). But even beyond that, there are a lot of Easter Eggs sprinkled through this book (and don't worry, like with Cosmic Adventures, I'll have an Easter Egg post of this issue). For old-timers and diehard Supergirl fans, these nods to her past are very appreciated.
It is clear that Gates has a solid understanding of Supergirl's history and her fans concerns ... it's all in this book. But for me, it was especially nice to see the rekindling of the Supergirl/Brainy romance.
The book sports a wonderful and dreamy cover by Amy Reeder. I like that Brainy and Supergirl are in a time bubble, a wink at their star-crossed and time-crossed relationship. The internal art is mostly done by Supergirl pinch hitter extraordinaire Matt Camp. His stuff is so incredible; I think he does a near perfect rendition of Supergirl. There are some pages done by Marco Rudy as well.
There really is a Silver Age magical feel to the story too, some things happen almost too easily or inexplicably, but I think that it worked given the tone of this book. This book also includes one of the best Supergirl scenes in all of Gates' run.
The book starts with Supergirl and the Legion saving Metropolis from a falling satellite. It is clearly an early version of the Legion given their members and their costumes. As such, I thought the very old Legion logo on the cover was more appropriate than the more modern one seen here.
Still, it was fun to see Supergirl and this young Legion team-up to avert this disaster. It really is all hands on deck as multiple Legionnaires are needed to slow the descent and save the nearby populace.
The satellite is some sort of orbiting lab of Brainiac 5's. He has been doing experiments on a 'Brocian hunting statue' that has been rumored to have magical properties.
In standard Brainiac 5 fashion, he has been a bit too caught up in his experiments to think of the downside. So he did not think about the potential adverse outcomes of bombarding the statue with chronon energy, he just did it. Unfortunately, it did result in this disaster. And worse, the statue becomes a 'magical time bomb', exploding right in the faces of Supergirl and Brainy.
That thirst for knowledge despite the potential pitfalls sounds like a young Brainiac 5.
That explosion reminds Supergirl of how she got to the future. The rocketship bringing her to Earth from Bizarro World also exploded mid-trip. The resulting explosion somehow flings Supergirl into the 30th century.
An explosion that catapults Supergirl through time? Sounds a little to easy, too lucky, too deus ex machina to get her into the Legion's time? Certainly that sort of stuff happened all the time in the Silver Age and this future feels like that future so maybe that makes some sort of sense.
One thing I did love was Supergirl's near immediate acknowledgment that this is not the 30th century that she had visited before. So we at least now know that she lived those 'Waid reboot' Legion stories. I don't know if that was ever 100% explained in a satisfying way so I am glad she said it.
I do have to say again (and probably will other places here) that Matt Camp draws a great Kara. That last panel is Supergirl.
The Legion are all too eager to have Supergirl join them for a time ... everyone but Brainy that is. At least here he recognizes the dangers of this 'experiment'. There are too many things that can go wrong with time travel, events that can be altered.
He even mentions some 'historical' events in Supergirl's life, none of which we have seen. Were these future stories that Sterling Gates had in mind before being lifted from the title? They all sound so interesting. 'The Scion of Superwoman'?? 'Lex Luthor's OTHER Son'?? 'The Deadly Day of the Doll-maker'?? Will we ever see those stories? Or will they merely be fodder for fan-fic?
As with Superboy, the Legion majority wins out and Supergirl sticks around having many adventures with them and ending up joining them as a full-fledged Legionniare, flight ring and all! In other places like the JLU cartoon, Supergirl has felt more at home in the future time of the Legion, so maybe this extended stay is a reference to that.
But also, Supergirl recognizes that this is a more innocent time than her own. This is another chance to give herself some distance from the events in the present. There is no war here, or murder, or New Krypton. It seems almost like a vacation.
There is a great page of her early adventures with the group all of which I will review in the Easter Egg post.
But like many, I absolutely loved this panel, showing Kara's friendship with the other girl Legionnaires. I especially like how Supergirl tells Imra that her pink high-collared bikini is a good look. Could it be Kara is responsible for Saturn Girl wearing the Dave Cockrum costume of the 1970s?
I also like Kara's lounge-wear. The headband and S-shield off to the side evoke other versions of her own costume.
Despite being on this team of equals and the acceptance she feels here though, Supergirl still feels lonesome.
I think Supergirl simply realizes that her destiny is not here; she needs to eventually return to her time. She doesn't belong here.
That second panel is so fantastic, with Kara centered and small. You can almost feel the weight of responsibility on her. Again, how lucky we have been to have had Sterling Gates here for these last couple of years. He understood that there is this hidden aspect inside Supergirl.
I talked earlier about this issue having one of the best scenes from Gates' run and here it is.
While in the future, Supergirl visits the Superman Museum and meets the tour guide, an animatronic Jimmy Olsen who tries to get her to walk through the Hall of 1,000 Olsens. Instead, she walks to the Supergirl Memorial Hall. She hears how Supergirl, "during one of the greatest battles in history ... was killed stopping the worst threat the Earth had ever known, giving her life for her adopted planet." And then she sees how she dies. Look at the horrified look on her face. What a great panel by Camp.
Now the description sounds like her death in the Crisis ... but that has happened already right? And we don't see her death for obvious reasons. I am sure DC doesn't want to be handcuffed to some vision here. But more importantly, since we only see Kara's reaction it is more powerful ... more worrisome.
Since 1986, I think Supergirl fans have some sort of PTSD about her death. I think we are all worried ... always waiting ... for DC to kill her off again. By having Brainy talk about it in Supergirl #52, to address it so clearly here, Gates is poking an exposed nerve. The truth is, how can I not be happy with a creator who understands a character and her fanbase so well. This only adds to my appreciation of his run. I doubt that DC has any plans to off Supergirl again but this kind of picked at a scab and made the wound bleed a little bit again.
I absolutely loved this scene. Loved it. And that's without showing some of the Easter Eggs there as well.
Before Supergirl can process what she has seen, an emergency pops up calling her away.
Brainy's earlier experiment have somehow called S'tanicule Gyrstress ... or Satan Girl ... to Earth. Walking through the dimensional rift, she begins enslaving the population of Earth.
With little chance of defeating her and her minions (which includes some Legionnaires), Brainy activates an escape route device he has been testing, throwing Supergirl and him 4 days into the future. When they arrive, they find Earth aflame and in ruins.
In four short days, Satan Girl has simply taken over the world. Somehow hitting the statue of Satan Girl with time energy called the real thing to Earth. It looks like it is up to Brainy and Supergirl to save the day all by themselves.
As you can see, the pages of this 'Hell on Earth' are done by Marco Rudy who has a rougher style which I guess thematically fits the terrain. His style has a Sean Phillips/Jock vibe to it.
Unfortunately there isn't much time for them to formulate a plan. They are almost immediately attacked by a brainwashed original three Legionnaires. Despite Brainy getting mind-blasted, the two are able to beat a quick retreat.
During the Legion's assault, Saturn Girl, internally fighting Satan Girl's influence, is able to implant a message to Brainy and Supergirl. Satan Girl's 'Crimson Plague' (I love that and it's connection to the original Satan Girl story) spread over the world in a matter of days. Now, she is building a citadel to open up a rift for all her race. Supergirl and Brainiac 5 need to stop it.
To be successful, Supergirl is going to need troops and the only ones available to her are the 1,000 Olsens from the Superman Museum. Suddenly Elastic Boy, Turtle Boy, Porcupine Boy and all the other versions of Jimmy Olsen help Kara break into Satan Girl's fortress. Why the museum would have actually given the robots powers is beyond me. Again, this is a little bit of Silver Age silliness ... but that's part of the charm here right?
There is a decent brawl between Satan Girl and Supergirl, during which Supergirl actually wields a longsword. Nice!
During this fight, an enraged Phantom Girl wrecks Brainy's force field belt and he gets skewered by Satan Girl. Luckily, before he dies, he is able to save the day. He has cobbled together a device that will siphon of the time energy that they absorbed (remember they were closest to the 'magical time bomb') to shut the rift and revert things to the way they were. Hmmm ... even more Silver Age nuttiness, where answers were easy?
Brainy's device works and the time line is set straight. Suddenly Supergirl and Brainiac are back on the satellite, the Brocian statue is still an intact statue, and no beacon to Satan Girl has been activated. Brainiac 5 no longer has a penetrating abdominal wound. Just like that those days have never happened.
And since we are back to the Utopian future, Matt Camp's clean style resumes.
I love the sly look between Kara and Querl. Perfect.
Well maybe not as perfect as this. The Legion bring Supergirl back to the present and she shares a kiss with Brainy.
All the knowledge Supergirl gained from her time in the future, specifically how she dies, is mind0wiped by Saturn Girl. After the events on Bizarro World and this diversion to the future, Supergirl looks downright elated. She has been through a lot recently and come out the other side.
Brainiac 5 on the other hand has a much sterner countenance. He vows that he won't let Supergirl die alone like the history books say. Awesome.
There is almost too much that happened here to easily encapsulate at the bottom of this review. I can only commend Sterling Gates for bringing back so much Supergirl/Legion history here. There is more to cover from this book and I promise I'll get to it. But the kiss with Brainy was just a perfect capstone to this issue.
On top of that, Gates also brings back the specter of Supergirl's death, leaving it out there; there is something of a delicious dread with that ...we all fear it might happen again so why not play on that?
And on top of all that you get the nearly perfect art by Matt Camp.
Marco Rudy has a rougher less polished style which might work from a story point of view but when the art changed, it was a bit jarring. And there was that Silver Age simplicity and serendipity with some events here. As a reader, you either recognize that was part of the riff here or it might bother you.