Monday, July 11, 2011

Back Issue: Supergirl #24

Given both characters are being resurrected/rebooted in the DCnu coming in September I thought I would continue my look at the Supergirl/Resurrection Man crossover from the late 1990's with Supergirl #24.

As we learned in part one, Resurrection Man Mitch Shelley has been possessed by an evil spirit from Leesburg (Supergirl's home town). Using his powers, this spirit decides to carve a path of carnage through the town, culminating in the detonation of a hydrogen filled zeppelin over the city's centennial celebration.

As mentioned in my earlier review, this team-up had a lot going for it as both books seemed to dip their toe in themes not typical for standard super-hero comics: sexuality, religion, and ultimate redemption. Both books also had a nice undercurrent of humor in their books, adding some levity to the otherwise heavy material it was dealing with.

The Earth Angel Supergirl certainly wasn't universally accepted but I loved it. Sure, it was a break from the 'Kryptonian cousin of Superman' origin, but the book (specifically the first 50 issues) was innovative and intense. I miss this version of the character and reread the run regularly. This issue takes place early on in the manifestation of Linda's angelic powers as she just starts to understand her place in the grand scheme of things. Peter David clearly had a love of the original Supergirl, infusing some Easter eggs of Supergirl continuity into this version - Dick Malverne, Stanhope University, Comet, and Satan Girl to name a just a few. But this book mostly deals with the redemption of Linda Danvers and Supergirl in a wonderful way.

Leonard Kirk had the unenviable task of picking up the book after Gary Frank's initial run on the book. I really thought Kirk was solid on this book. He really drew a lovely, graceful, and powerful Supergirl. I would love to get a Supergirl commission from him at some point.

The opening scene picks up just before when Resurrection Man #16 left off. We are at the Leesburg Centennial celebration. The town is wondering if Wanda Lee, the citizen the city is named after and the longest living citizen will make an appearance. But there seems to be some trepidation about it not only because of her advanced age but also because of some wrong-doing ... some evil ... she had in her past.

On a lighter note, I include these panels to show some of David's humor. Cutter Sharp, a local reporter and comic relief of the book, makes a 'hole in the head' joke to the mayor dressed as Lincoln. Maybe gallows humor, but funny nonetheless.

I also liked this replaying of a scene from Resurrection Man #16. It was interesting to see this scene as well as the explosion of the blimp from a couple of different perspectives, both Mitch's and Linda's. It cemented where we are in the story.

But this divorce is an interesting plot point in the book. The divorce stems from Linda's mother psychological breakdown when she learns Supergirl fused with her daughter. Sylvia slips back into alcoholism and her father can't take it. So much emotional trauma happens to Supergirl throughout the book as the evil in the world conspires to break her spirit. To see her ultimately triumph ... to forgive her transgressors ... was fantastic.

For those who don't know, eventually Sylvia receives a visit from Wally and is 'saved'.

But on to the action. With the zeppelin aflame and about to crash, Supergirl springs into action, using her flame wings to absorb the fire while saving the blimp's occupants.

As I said before, Supergirl is just learning about her angelic powers, unclear what they even mean right now. So I enjoyed this internal monologue where she is both happy and worried about her new powers. I miss those flame wings.

And a replay of a scene from Resurrection Man happens again, this time with us seeing Supergirl lay out the resurrected Shelley after discovering him as the cause of the explosion.

I can never get enough of seeing Supergirl pound people.

Shelley has been possessed by Wanda Lee. She is 'The Rider' who controls others and lives out her sinful desires in them.

But Lee was defeated. That's why her body has been in a coma all these years, lying dormant. She was beaten by the last Earth Angel, the being known as Ember. She also lived in Leesburg in the 19th century.

The story of Ember was covered here in the past when I covered prior incarnations of Satan Girl. But this lineage, this legacy of the Earth Angels, was another piece of this complex world David was creating that I enjoyed.

One of the threads that I will have to investigate (that is remember) more is the notion that Mitch was already resurrecting before the tektite infusion. Here we see a couple more of those lives ... as a knight in Camelot fighting with Etrigan and as a southerner trying to save a slave from being lynched.

Of course, now that he resurrects constantly in this life, there might not be other lives for him to go to in the future.

This last death was a semi-suicide on the part of The Rider as they try to keep upgrading the inherent powers of Resurrection Man. The Rider finally thinks they have the best mix, being able to inhabit the landscape and create a literal man-mountain, all with the hope of getting to that chaos stream.

But this power might lead to some hubris as Mitch/Rider dares Supergirl to do her worst. Using a mix of old/new powers, Supergirl is up to the challenge and end up shattering the monstrosity before it can literally rip open the world to get to the magical waters. Nice to see Supergirl use her brain to come up with an effective attack more than just simply punching.

And finally we get some clues about who The Rider is. It turns out it is Leesburg citizen Wanda Lee. She drank from the chaos stream long ago achieving near immortality and the ability to possess others as the Rider. She then would take over unsuspecting people and lead a life of debauchery through them, ruining those innocents while she remained untouched and unspoiled. Untouched that is until Ember battled her, leaving Lee the comatose patient, her spirit trapped in her aging body.

But the recent swell of power from the stream as well as a well timed defibrillation freed her spirit and she has acted as the Rider since.

I love that the Earth Angel persona has battled Lee in two incarnations.

Resurrected with the power to make things intangible, Mitch/Wanda jumps into the Chaos Stream to try to grab onto even more power.

Luckily, Mitch is at his strongest to wrest control back right after resurrecting. He is able to warn Supergirl that she needs to end the battle now. But how?

As all of this is unfolding, Wanda's body begins to arrest. And before the doctor (Linda's friend Hattie) can resuscitate her, Wanda's care taker assaults her. If the Rider persona is defeated, there won't be a warm body to return to.

Pretty cold blooded but given the evil nature of Wanda, maybe this was the just move?

There isn't much time to figure out what to do, so Supergirl throws herself into the chaos stream hoping her inherent goodness will somehow counteract the chaos stream. The water bursts into flame and the Rider is ripped from Shelley's body. Then Wanda's spirit is immolated in holy fire, the S-symbol scorched onto her chest.

This is not without its consequences. While Wanda seems to be destroyed, Mitch is once again killed in the resulting explosion. And Supergirl suffers significant burns over her body.

I have to say it was a dicey chance by Supergirl here, based solely on her hand being burned when she touched the water earlier in the issue. She could have been killed herself while The Rider could have remained free. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Overall I thought this was another good chapter in this little known cross-over. Clearly, the bulk of this chapter dealt with issues which effected the Supergirl title more than the Resurrection Man book. But the fact that both characters move forward in this story make this more than some forced and foolish team-up. This had implications for these characters.

David clearly was building something here, having Supergirl become more confident and controlled in her angelic powers. And Kirk really shines here both in the battle scenes and the quieter moments.

Again, this isn't of high importance to a Supergirl collection per se. But I would hold the first 50 issues of this book against almost anything for story telling quality.

Final chapter of this arc to be reviewed here soon.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review, as always, Anj. Love Leonard Kirk's art on this. -ealperin