Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back Issue Box: Daring New Adventures Of Supergirl #12

Despite the busy reviewing and news schedule this month, I did want to wrap up my look at Supergirl in peril in the Fortress of Solitude with a particularly hard glance at the Kryptonian Atomic Cauldron Superman kept there.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #12 is aptly called 'Escape from the Death-Pit' on the cover and titled "Guess who is about to die!!" It has Supergirl once again nearly being incinerated in her home away from home. It also is one of the more bizarre issues with a particularly nutty plot point of Supergirl fighting half a dozen miniature clones of herself!

Despite the the silliness of the early '80s plot, one thing shines through as it did in all of the Daring run. Paul Kupperberg writes a very determined, very heroic, very strong Kara who uses her brain as well as her brawn to deal with the threats around her.

Moreover, I have come to appreciate the art on this book more and more with age. I'll start with the cover by comic legend Gil Kane. I am not much of a Kane fan but I like the perspective here. Supergirl is flying out of the pit on the floor, our point of view is literally looking down on her. And Supergirl surrounded by the purple flames is dramatic.

The internal art is by legends Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner. I appreciate Infantino a lot more now than when this book first came out. I will say, his pencils look much better with Oksner's inks. But the real winner here is colorist Tom Ziuko who uses pinks and purples to great effect throughout.

Engaging in a long tussle with Reactron a couple of issues before, Supergirl is suffering from significant radiation poisoning. Weakened and possibly dying, she was then captured by The Council where an evil scientist was able to clone her 6 times, albeit each clone only 1/6th the normal size. After escaping the Council, she has rushed to the Fortress only to be overwhelmed by the fog of super-powered mini-Karas. They are now dragging her to the Atomic Cauldron to kill her.

It opens with this great splash page where Supergirl talks frankly about the death she has encountered in her life. It is easy to forget that this Supergirl never lived on Krypton. She was born on Argo City as it was flying through space. So she speaks about Krypton's exploding as a history lesson. But she also talks about Argo and how she saw death up close.

Call me sentimental, but I like this origin more than the needlessly complicated 'I was born on Krypton before Kal but landed decades later' wrinkle that was added this century.

I have to admit there is a completely surreal feel to this issue as we see these tiny evil Supergirls buzzing all around Kara. Here they carry her limp form to the Atomic Cauldron to end things.

One of the things I love about Supergirl is that she is still learning, that she isn't infallible like Superman, that she still can make mistakes.

So initially when she is tossed into the super-incinerator and feeling searing agony, she actually seems to accept her fate. But then she shakes off that nonsense and fights for her life. It is these small moments of learning, of growing, that make me love the character.

I also am pretty impressed with Infantino making a page that is only four page-length vertical panels. It adds to the feeling of the depth of the cauldron, particularly the first panel here (third on the page) where Kara is a small element.

And Ziuko shines here with a variety of pinks and reds.

Deep in the swirling radioactive elements, Supergirl struggles with the pain to claw her way out.

But then a miracle happens. The lethal radioactive elements in the Atomic pile somehow negate and counteract the lethal radiation by Reactron. In this two wrongs not only make a right ... they make a cure!!

Okay, it is an easy solution to the problem. But I like Supergirl's tenactity here, fighting for her life.

And again, the pinks, scarlets, and magentas here all paint a great scene.

I have to include more panels of Supergirl fighting tiny versions of herself. Moreover, these clones think like Supergirl, strategize like her.. As a result, it is tough for full-size Kara to outmaneuver and out-think them because they think like her!

Well ... maybe they don't think just like her.

Supergirl is able to lead the clones on a wild goose chase through the Fortress, tricking them into a room where Kara can expose them to Gold Kryptonite.

Even if this is something of an easy fix, I like that Supergirl used her brains to achieve this win. But what do you do with 6 miniature depowered clones? If you are Supergirl, you simply leave them where they are and fly off! (They do make an appearance of a sort later on in the series.)

Cured, Supergirl heads back to Chicago to go after The Council, the large super-crime syndicate operating in her town. And the 'Chairman' of The Council is none to happy that she is alive.

While Kara works her way through their headquarters, bashing skulls and ripping her way through the walls, The Chairman kills Professor Drake, the scientist who cloned Supergirl earlier. It obviously isn't good for your health to cross the head of a super-crime syndicate.

It does seem short-sighted. This guy successfully cloned a Kryptonian!

As I have said before, I love Kupperberg's characterization of Supergirl in this run. She really felt like she had made it and was close to being a complete hero.

Despite having shut down a major crime cartel ... or at least their biggest operating site ... the police, particularly Lieutenant Peters, isn't happy. In perhaps a foreshadow of much of the feel of the DCU now, he complains that Supergirl got involved. He wonders if she was responsible for Drake's death. And he doesn't like her strolling around the crime scene.

This is Supergirl we are talking about though ... not Superman. She doesn't try to explain things away or cooperate fully. She sits there irked, arms crossed. She has a bit more fire in her than her stodgy older cousin.

And then she basically tells him that he can shove his badge up his ... you know where. It is the sort of snap response I would expect from a younger hero, upset at not being recognized and appreciated.

It is that learning process that I love about the character. Immediately she realizes that antagonizing Peters isn't helping anyone. Who among us hasn't blown up at someone acting rude and inconsiderate only to regret it. Supergirl isn't perfect but is always striving to be better.

But she also has that passion inside her to do what is right.

Over the years, I have come to love this particular Supergirl series. This is really about the most established and most confidant Supergirl you will ever read.

And so concludes my brief review of Supergirl in peril in the Fortress and the Kryptonian Atomic Cauldron.

This issue is of low importance from a Supergirl history viewpoint and therefore isn't crucial for a Supergirl collection. That said, these issues are routinely available in dollar boxes and worth picking up.

Overall grade: B+ (maybe upgraded for nostalgia)


Martin Gray said...

Thanks Anj, I can't get enough of your DNAOS reviews, it's amazing how much affection I have for this book. Or maybe not - my favourite heroine getting her due via prime Paul Kupperberg scripts, the wonderful art of Carmine Infantino, the soft, rounded brushwork of Bob Oksner ... I'd love to see how these three chaps would approach Supergirl today, were all still with us.

Now, who was the leader of the bad guys, I don't recall? He looks like one of DC's Manhunters.

Anj said...

Like you Mart, my affection for this title grows as time goes on. It really is a wonderfuk book with a strong Supergirl.

Anonymous said...

It is a funny thing, the Bigger Supergirl's Hairdo, the More Confident She Is....Big Hair=Big Spirit apparently. This accounts for the lamentable H'El episode Kara's do is too damn modest and unassuming, undercut her natural shrewdness.