Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Happy Halloween: Review Adventure Comics #396
Happy Halloween to all the ghouls and goblins out there.
I am, unfortunately, still carving my jack-o-lanterns so can't post them here in time for trick-or treat time. So instead I thought I would present a spooky Supergirl story from the Adventure Comics run in the early 70s.
There is some synergy here as I actually reviewed the first part of the story earlier this month when talking about the thought beasts of Krypton. If you want to refresh your memory, you can go here for the full review:
In that story, Linda Danvers spends the night in a 'haunted mansion'. The haunting later turns out to be the Phantom Zone villains broadcasting evil telepathy through a amped-up television set. The house belonged to a missing inventor Amos Ameswell. At the end of that first part, the Phantom Zone villains have been 'unplugged' when Supergirl destroyed the TV set. But then suddenly Ameswell seemed to magically appear!
Writer Bob Kanigher does an interesting job in this 2 parter mixing science fiction and horror elements. It makes for a bit of a muddled story but a fun one nonetheless. Artist Kurt Schaffenberger puts in his usual fantastic work, especially in the expressions Kara has in the story.
But this is supposed to be a Halloween story! I think with a title like 'I am a witch!' it fits the bill, especially when we see on the opening splash page Supergirl surrounded by black cats and broken mirrors.
Supergirl seems perplexed by the sudden appearance of Ameswell especially when he starts to cackle about how she hasn't earned the reward for staying in the haunted house overnight.
Hoping to get some answers about where Ameswell has been for the last 12 years, Supergirl tries to grab him only to have him seemingly do some rapid fire shape changing - fire to smoke to python to lion to condor and back to human.
Supergirl seems unconvinced that his tricks are true magic. After all his 'haunted house' was also explained by the science of the transmitting television.
Ameswell means to convince Supergirl that there is some factual basis behind magic and superstitions. And so he brings her into his 'bad luck room', a place filled with objects meant to curse someone with ill fortune.
In some ways it's comical ... ooooh, a salt shaker, a mirror, and a black cat! But Supergirl takes it all with a ... ahem ... grain of salt. In fact, she seems to forget that there is a mystery behind Ameswell's disappearing/reappearing act. Instead she decides to have a conversation with him.
In the midst of the conversation, Ameswell shows he believes these items to be capable of affecting someone's luck. When he spills the salt, he tosses some over his shoulder.
For some reason I think the panel of Supergirl defiantly walking under a ladder is awesome. Maybe because it is so inane.
Unfortunately, it looks as though her disregard for superstitions might lead to tragedy.
When she stops to help a group of civic minded young men build a boys' center, she ends up destroying it.
And later when she tries to save some passengers on a runaway roller coaster, she ends up accidentally demolishing the ride.
And lastly, when she tries to save some pilots at an air show who are in danger, she only makes matters worse, sending them into a worse predicament.
It is clear that she has toyed with powers beyond her ken.
And, this being the Silver Age, she goes through a momentary crisis of self-doubt.
Supergirl figures that after afflicting herself with bad luck, and knowing that being a jinx with super-powers is a recipe for major disasters, she has no choice. She must banish herself to the Phantom Zone!
Ahh ... the Silver Age.
Meanwhile, from afar, Ameswell cackles in joy. He has seen Supergirl have a 'super-breakdown'. And he knows that with Supergirl out of the way he can use all his powers and inventions to terrorize future victims.
His greatest machine of all, a time machine he has used over those missing 12 years to travel through time and learn from the greatest dark magicians in history.
Hmmm, maybe he has some 'real' magic powers after all?
Before he can enjoy his victory for too long, Supergirl crashes into the house and destroys the time machine. (I guess Ameswell has to say 'irreplaceable' so as readers we know he won't simply rebuild things.)
Maybe now is the time for him to break out that black magic he used??
I guess he doesn't really have magic powers after all.
It turns out that Supergirl's jinxiness came from science ... an anti-mass destruct element Ameswell invented and spilled on Supergirl. Thus anything she touched she would destroy. (Of course, that doesn't explain the lack of control of her super-breath in the airplane rescue.)
Looking herself over after the accidents, Supergirl noticed the elements and deduced that Ameswell set her up. So she washed it from her hands and returned to bring Ameswell to justice.
While the earlier part of this story was wonderfully silly, the end sort of falls short. Why would Ameswell, a great scientist, use his inventions to learn magic to terrorize people. Aren't there easier ways to use a time machine and anti-mass destruct elements to do that? And did he actually learn magic anyways? Why did he have the bad luck room set up ... just in case a super-hero showed up so he could try to convince them they had bad luck? And why did he return just at this moment?
I guess I'll just have to roll with it.
Still, I do love that montage showing Supergirl standing with her arms crossed, daring to let a black cat walk in front of her.
So a sort of silly, magical, superstitious tale for Halloween.
Don't eat too much candy!
Overall grade: B