Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back Issue Box: Wonder Woman #292

In Supergirl #7, Supergirl battled the Worldkillers, a group of beings which reminded me of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

And that reminded me of the time Supergirl really fought a member of the Horsemen, back in Wonder Woman #292 from way back in June 1982. This issue was the middle chapter of a three part story written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Gene Colan. Back then, it stood out on the comic spinner rack because of its cover design, looking more like a 'real' book'. And it was something of a novelty back then as it was a 'female-only' crossover. Levitz crafted a story with a big scale as Wonder Woman battles a major power threatening the entire world. And with a threat that big, she needs a little help from her friends.

What is interesting is the semi-prickly personality that Levitz gives Supergirl here, a characterization that stands out even more given how he portrayed her over in the Legion.

As for the art, Colan did his usual ethereal and solid work here.

In the last issue, an seemingly omnipotent being named The Adjudicator lands on Earth with the intent of passing judgment. Wonder Woman is able to see visions of The Adjudicator finding other worlds lacking and wiping them from face of creation. What's worse is that no planet seems to have found to pass muster. He has found each and every world wanting.

But Earth and Wonder Woman intrigue him. He is able to sense the many Earths in the multiverse (this was pre-Crisis after all). And the variations on the planets fascinate him. He wonders if some version of Earth will be found worthy. Could it be because of heroes like Wonder Woman?

To challenge these heroes, The Adjudicator creates The Four Horsemen, imbued with powers based on their aspect of the apocalypse, and sends them to various Earths. And Wonder Woman mobilizes her teams and sends them out to defend the world.

Supergirl is sent to Greenwich Village to team up with Madame Xanadu. Supergirl seems almost irritated at being asked to do this wondering why she is 'running errands for the Amazon anyway!' Seems a bit off for Supergirl.

This Supergirl has never met Xanadu and Wonder Woman didn't fill her in either. So, in her Linda Danvers identity, Supergirl is shocked by the doors opening on their own and Xanadu's apparent knowledge of her Kryptonian heritage.

The Adjudicator has been watching this whole interaction and decides to speed things along.

He sends Supergirl and Xanadu to Earth X. For those not in the know, Earth X was the home of the Freedom Fighters, a world where Germany won World War 2. And what better place to send the Horseman War. Tanks are constantly rumbling, soldiers are always on the march, and rebel factions are waiting to strike.

And there is War, riding on his red horse, swinging his flaming sword, and fueling the fires of conflict.

It's great to see Supergirl so ready to jump in and engage. If it's a fight war wants, it's a fight he'll get.

Seriously, how awesome is it to see Supergirl smashing Nazi Panzer tanks?

And to bring a little history lesson to it as well! It's the battle of El Alamein all over again!

But War doesn't take sides. War simply wants fighting.

He is able to enrage the French rebels into a berserker frenzy such that they lash out at friends, even Phantom Lady of the Freedom Fighters.

While Supergirl continues to bash away at the war machines, Madame Xanadu takes the battle to War itself.

She shows him the tarot card of the Fool and when faced with the fact that War is a Fool's errand, the Horseman is frozen in his tracks. And this defeat angers the Adjudicator.

The Adjudicator dissipates his creation and sends Supergirl and Madame Xanadu back to their Earth victorious.

This is something of an understated win for the heroes but it is a win nontheless.

The issue ends on something of a sour note. Supergirl storms out of Xanadu's store ... unwilling to hear an explanation about what happened and hoping to forget the whole thing. That seems somewhat out of character for that version of Supergirl. You would think Kara would want to know if the Earth is still in peril.

This is Wonder Woman's story after all, Supergirl a bit character in this arc. I suppose nuance isn't what was needed here. It is Diana who ends up saving the world. She combats the Adjudicator both physically and psychologically while the other women heroes are imprisoned. In the end Wonder Woman defeats the Adjudicator by making him face his own insanity.

For a Supergirl collection, this issue (and this story) are of minor importance. Anytime you can get Supergirl teaming up with Wonder Woman or other heroes, I think it is worth looking at. They were somewhat difficult to find. After looking for them for years, I found these issues in the $2 box at a convention. So if you see them and want them, I'd buy it. I also think it is great to see Supergirl rendered by the greats of the industry, so a Gene Colan Kara is also a rare find.

But the overall story and the personality of Supergirl aren't great.

Overall grade: C+


Diabolu Frank said...

Aww, I thought we were going to try a crossover with these issues someday. Ah well, I dug the write-up...

Martin Gray said...

Great piece, I'd forgotten how much fun that storyline was. Wasn't it Roy Thomas scripting, though, from a Paul Levitz plot? That might explain the pricklier Kara. Not that I minded, this was the period when Kara was really growing into her own woman.

I love the cover treatment, at the time I thought it was original, but now know that DC had tried it several times for their war comics. Still, a classic's a classic.

I think this was the first time Madame Xanadu left her Doorway to Nightmare for an active role alongside DC's heroes ... a trendsetting issue indeed!

I adore Gene Colan's Kara; did he draw her anywhere else besides here and the Phantom Zone mini-series?

Anonymous said...

Yeah that dialogue reads "very Marvel", likely it was written by Roy The Boy Thomas.
It is the sort of thought balloons and dialogue bubbles one might see over Peter Parker or Ben Grimm's heads.
Geez I forgot how much fun it was to see Supergirl destroying Nazi Panzer Tanks with her bare hands, the very picture definition of Karatharsis!
This being Wonder Woman's book, you had to expect the amazon to take center stage at the climax...which points up a serious lack of Supergirl-Wonder Woman teams back in the Silver-Bronze age. I think the two of them only got together some four times almost all of them problematic in varying degrees.
Gene Colan drew a very tall good looking REGAL earnestly wishes he had somehow been given prime art chores in her Superman Family Feature. Yeah I know...impossible.


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I can't think of any other Colan Supergirls other than here and Phantom Zone (which I reviewed somewhere along the way). He does have a nice ethereal quality to her.

I'll recheck the credits. It didn't feel like Levitz' Kara so I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else putting the words in her mouth. She really comes off as sullen here. Her first appearance in part 1 is arms crossed, head down, almost annoyed to be recruited by WW. Her last words in part 3 are threatening Zatanna.

Gene said...

Kara smashing German tanks while recounting the battle of El Alamein? COMPLETE WIN!

One thing that I loved about the pre-crisis Supergirl was all the history lessons that were part of her stories.

Gene said...

Kara smashing German tanks while recounting the Battle of El Alamein?


One thing that was cool about the pre-crisis Supergirl was all the history lessons that were part of her stories from time to time.

Godzylla said...

Fun stuff. This was a really good era for Wonder Woman, and it was always fun to see pre-headbands Kara!