Thursday, March 8, 2012

Argo City - Modern Age

We move ahead to the Modern Age in my review of Argo City in the history of the DC Universe.

When John Byrne took over the reins of Superman in the post-Crisis DCU, he brought back the idea that Kal-EL was the 'Last Son of Krypton'. As a result Supergirl was left in limbo as a character. And pieces of her history, such as Argo City, were cast onto the rubbish heap.

In 2004, after much of what Byrne stripped away had been brought back, Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner brought back the Kara Zor-El Supergirl. They decided to tweak her origin a bit. They did not have Argo City survive the destruction of Krypton. Instead, Kara is born years before Kal-El. And she is rocketed from the intact planet in a separate rocket towards Earth.

The early years of the Supergirl relaunch are something of an omelet and Zor-El is portrayed as a madman haunted by ghastly visions. Supergirl is a moody, confused, and angry girl. And as a character, she is difficult to like or root for.

It doesn't feel that long ago but it was almost 4 years ago that Geoff Johns decided to reinvigorate the Superman lines and as a result revisit and retell Supergirl's origin.

Zor-El, Alura, and Kara all live in Argo City. This time, the city is enveloped in a force field tinkered together with remnants of the Brainiac tech obtained during the shrinking of Kandor. I love that it is Alura (Science Guild member) and Zor-El that make it work.

So the idea of a domed and protected Argo is once again put into continuity. It is a nice homage and a needed updating for the concept though. As readers, we know how strong Brainiac force fields are. It is plausible the city could survive.

Johns' doesn't make it perfect. The force of the explosion wrecks the city but there are survivors. This includes the El family. As before, Kara is already a teenager, Kal's 'older' cousin.

While it is never implicitly said, I don't think the survivors lived comfortably for years in the city as they did in the Silver Age.

Brainiac arrives to claim what is his, destroying the city and slaughtering anyone felt to be redundant to his collection of Kryptonian knowledge.

So the citizens of Argo don't die from K-poisoning but rather by the sword.

I wonder if the ground would have eventually become Kryptonite?

And, in an interesting wrinkle, Zor-El knew the force field wouldn't last long. He had begun plans to rocket all the survivors to Earth. With only a one-person rocket at his disposal, Zor-El and Alura send Kara to Earth. They are captured and brought to Kandor by Brainiac drones.

We only have this one episode of Argo City in the Modern Age.

As a longtime Supergirl fan, I applauded this revamp/reboot for a number of reasons. First off, it brought back some of the uniqueness of Supergirl's origin. It didn't feel right that 2 rockets were fired from the exploding Krypton. That lessened the impact of both Supergirl and Superman's origins.

Second, Johns took the parts of Supergirl's original origin that worked (Argo City surviving, another rocket flight, caring Zor-El and Lara) and kept them. But he also took other elements seem a bit wonky and updated them. So a Brainiac force field and invasion rather than a weather dome and slow death by Kryptonite. Moreover, this really adds a lot of depth to the Brainiac and Supergirl interactions as characters.

Lastly, it simply erased the whole 'crystal hell, kill Kal-el' crazy Zor-El origin. That is explained away as symptoms of Kryptonite poisoning in Supergirl ... fever dreams. Look, Kara is even dressed in the rocket! She isn't parading around her father naked on Krypton.

So elements that are the same in the two incarnations: domed city, ultimately doomed, caring parents sending daughter to safety.

Differing elements: composition of dome, cause of ultimate doom, length of time on the city.

Again, kudos to Geoff Johns for righting the Supergirl ship and bringing back some of the special features of her origin.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought this particular mini would make an excellent straight to DVD animated feature. It would require a few tweaks here and there, but a solid 75 minutes could be assembled easily.


Gustavo Delamarques said...

Argo City is important history of the DC universe, too for supergirl origin's. But the true history will be always in action comics #252.

Gustavo Delamarques said...

Never was a based history of Argo City, mainly of the origin this city, to the its destruction, is a error of the DC not do this.