Monday, January 24, 2011

Back Issue Box: 'Dark Supergirl' in Supergirl #4

With Dark Supergirl active in the Justice League, punching Donna Troy and back-stabbing anyone she can, I figured it was time to look into the back issue box for another historical versions.

Today I thought I would look at Supergirl #4, written by Peter David and drawn by Gary Frank.

It's important to put this issue in the right context. This was very early in the PAD run when Supergirl was still trying to figure out what it meant to be both Linda Danvers and Matrix. She was trying to come to grips with being a human, figuring out what it meant to have a soul. This was way before she manifested the angelic part of her powers, although hints were already there.

I love Gary Frank's art and his stuff on Supergirl was just lights out fantastic. This cover is just wonderful. Clearly this is a Dark incarnation of Supergirl, oozing 'bad girl' sexiness, back arched, hair teased, devilish grin. I chuckle looking at it now, the belly shirt being such a prominent part of a darker look then, now accepted as the norm. But for me the best part of the cover is the shattered baby doll at Grodd's feet, a clear symbol of lost innocence in these trying and twisted time.

This issue was the second part of a two part Final Night crossover, surprising since their is no cover dress on this issue signifying that. I guess even the late 90's were a simpler time. With the sun almost extinguished, Leesburg was cloaked in darkness. And what better time for Gorilla Grodd to come around and take control of the town!

That's right, Grodd has taken over Leesburg, bringing to the surface the seedier elements of mankind. And part of Leesburg is Supergirl, looking more like an ape, and serving her master Grodd.

And who is slumped over her shoulder? That's Sylvia Danvers, Supergirl's 'new' mother. Somehow Sylvia's faith has kept her free of Grodd's spell. Unfortunately, Supergirl/Linda aren't sure exactly what that means quite yet.

So when Grodd orders her to toss Sylvia onto a roaring fire, Supergirl obeys.

Luckily (?) Buzz is there to shake Supergirl loose of Grodd's powers for a couple of seconds. Buzz, for those who don't know, was a demon on Earth sent to slowly whittle away at Supergirl's angelic resolve until she would fall.

But like any good (?) demon, he wants that fall to happen on his terms, his timetable. It would be too early in Supergirl ascendancy for her to fall. And so, calling on Supergirl's love, he awakens her heroic tendencies and familial love. Supergirl nudges Sylvia over the fire with a telekinetic blast, saving her mother from the fire. In fact, Buzz then comes 'to the rescue' of Sylvia befriending her and leading her away from the mob.

Grodd has taken over Leesburg using the 'Heart of Darkness', a talisman that unmasks the uncontrolled and uncivilized part of man. One caveat of the talisman, the area under its control needs to be ... well ... dark. So the sun-eater threat is a perfect time. Even if life on Earth is going to end in a short time, at least Grodd is thrilled that he will contol a small area.
I love how it was Buzz who gave Grodd the Heart. This was just another domino in the long trail he was building to crush Linda/Supergirl's spirit. Buzz was such a powerful character, sort of a Constantine gone really bad (although in the end, there were glimmers of good in him).

The effect of the talisman spreads over the whole town.

One of the people was Linda's friend Mattie, a young physician whose brother has been killed by an enraged town member. Mattie, under Grodd's spell, attacks the man and eventually kills him. That sin, that reminder that civility is just a veneer over the dark stuff inside man, haunts her throughout the title.

Wallowing in the sickness of the town, Supergirl goes out looking for trouble. Amidst the chaos, she notices Wally the God-boy. He stands out like a sore thumb, his '50s squeaky clean kid image brightening the carnage around him.

When Supergirl goes to investigate him, she comes across the bloody tattered uniform of her 'new father' police officer Fred Danvers. Fred had been overwhelmed by the insane crowds earlier in the issue.

The sight of her father's name tag, much like her mother's peril, shakes Supergirl free from the Heart of Darkness.

She rushes to Grodd to confront him.

I always like images of Supergirl taking down some heavies. Here she bashes Grodd with a nice right hook.

The two battle through the town with Supergirl finally beating him down.

I really love this panel as Grodd realizes what Supergirl does not; Supergirl is new to humanity. She has an idealized vision of humanity, that good exists in man. Grodd knows that hate is just below the surface in all of us.

But she is above it all.

And suddenly, off screen, Parallax saves the day, defeating the sun-eater. The sun rises on Leesburg, freeing everyone from Grodd's influence. The towns people look around, seeing all the things that they have done.

Without his talisman, Grodd has to resort to his old tactics, psi-blasts and bluster.

Now fighting a more typical battle, Supergirl uses her own TK to knock a large icicle off from the roof above Grodd. Perhaps guided by a higher power, the ice spike pierces Grodd's chest, 'killing' him.

The town unfortunately has to clean-up more than the mess and gorilla carcass. Everybody has to look inside themselves, knowing those feelings were dredged up so easily. And the have to look outside themselves, seeing the damage they have done to each other.

I have touted PAD's Supergirl series in the past. I loved this series, a unique take of both Supergirl and super-heroics in general. This issue was an early view at what David had in store for the character, explorations of morality, religion, pride, and redemption. Frank did art on the first 9 issues and his stuff is stunning. This issue seems so timely given the dark manifestation of Supergirl.

Supergirl #4  is usually found in the bargain boxes at conventions. The first 9 issues of the series are collected in an out-of-print trade. As usual, I highly recommend the series especially the first 50 issues.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

I have this in a trade....The way Gary Frank drew the dark version of her made her look creepy.... and that's a good thing 'cuz it worked!-ealperin

Yota said...

This and the issue before it really blew my mind when I first read them. Of course, I was, like, ten at the time, but the first nine issues still never fail to amaze me. Peter David's run, to me, remains one of the most unique twists on the classic Superhero story/genre...

Meanwhile, Anj, have you checked out DC's April solicits yet..?

Anonymous said...

Telekinesis or not, it must've taken Supergirl a half hour to wiggle into those bondage pants.

John Feer