|My copy, autographed by Peter David|
Believe it or not, there was some defense for the idea and some actually tried to equate the move with Peter David's Supergirl comic in which a pure but soulless Matrix merges with the flawed and evil Linda Danvers. Isn't Supergirl merging with a satanic murdering cultist just as bad? And don't I and many Supergirl fans love that run?
I found it ironic that this defense was brought up because when the Red Lantern announcement was made, I immediately thought of Supergirl #9, the ending of the first arc in David's Supergirl with beautiful art by Gary Frank. Because despite Linda being a 'bad girl', there was always hope in this comic, there was always Supergirl striving to do what's right. And the brightest glimmer of that ... and (for me) one of the most powerful panels in comics ... occurs right here in issue 9, an issue where hope and good overpowers rage and angst leading to redemption. Issue 9!
We are two years into the current Supergirl and we haven't seen any hope like this.
Yes, merging Supergirl with someone as flawed as Linda was a bold move. And I can only imagine the backlash if this was done in this age of social media. The name Linda Danvers alone is a sacred one for Supergirl fans. And we always want a optimistic, heroic, and inspirational Supergirl. The early issues of this run we learn some pretty awful things about Linda.
But ... and this is key ... throughout this early time, despite the grimier details of Linda's life being revealed, Supergirl strives to rise above. And nowhere is that better seen than in this issue. This is one of my favorite issues of this run ... and maybe overall ... so if you haven't read it, you are in for a treat. And you are about to see hope overpowering evil.
The issue opens with a bang in the shattered Danvers' house.
On the left is Buzz, the agent of Chaos who led Linda down the path of evil and then tried to sacrifice her to a higher demon Lord Chakat. He is there as a 'blind date' set up by Mrs. Danvers.
On the right is Linda, now merged with the Matrix Supergirl, trying to discover who (or what) she is on this world, dealing with the foibles of humanity, and trying to understand Linda's heinous past and redeem herself from it.
And there in the middle is Tempus Fugit, Linda's boyfriend Dick Malverne possessed by an evil spirit and working for Buzz.
Linda spent all of last issue trying to play it cool with Buzz in her house, trying to protect her family, only to see it all go awry. She's angry at herself for not taking matters into her own hand.
And this is so key. For this beginning arc, Buzz is trying constantly to have Supergirl lower herself, lose herself. He is taunting her, trying to goad her into evil. Hurting her parents is a good start.
Before we go further, I just have to say that this is my high water mark for Gary Frank. His art here is just beautiful, smooth and powerful. Knowing the intensity of this issue, he gives us several splash pages and near splash pages, big moments given big art. Even here, we have agents of evil and good (Buzz and Linda) with an anti-Christ-like crucifixion posed Fugit in the background.
Fugit and Buzz take off and Linda tries to follow, hoping to battle them as Supergirl. Luckily, both Fred and Sylvia Danvers are alive.
Part of Linda's troubled past is her prickly relationship with her parents. With Supergirl in the persona, that rift has been slowly healing. Her parents seems doubtful of her 'transformation' but are happy.
I loved this scene where Linda's father finally embraces his new daughter as someone who is good. He tells her he loves her and she tells her father the same. Our flashbacks of their relationship show this relationship strained to the point of impending violence. So to see that hug, that shock softened to loving expression, is a giant moment.
Remember though, Buzz and Fugit are piling on, hoping to make Supergirl so angry she forgets herself and does something evil. Immediately after that hug scene, Fugit levels the Danvers' house, most likely killing them.
Whoever is pulling Buzz's strings takes control of Fugit and says that Buzz was supposed to deliver a 'fallen angel'. Buzz, who has always been a cool character, loses control and shows emotions here. It turns out that Buzz might be just as conflicted as Linda.
The 'Angel' term had been bantered about in this book, the religious overtones infused in the story. But this is months before the emergence of flame wings and meeting the other Schechina. The ultimate ending of this story appears in Supergirl #50, which means David had a 4+ year plan for the book! I can't imagine that sort of patience by DC these days!
As I said, not only are we given splash pages, we are given hints of the future, and we are shown the struggle that Supergirl is having internally, how easy it would be to stray from the light.
Here, high above the city, we begin to see some licks of flame, the beginning of her life as the Angel of Fire, of Judgment. At the time, I thought it was residual flame from the Danvers' house. But now I know.
Listen to her thoughts though as she veers close to crossing a line. Linda was evil and knows that evil must be punished. Evil only understands death.
Bringing the fight to Fugit, Supergirl's mind is opened up to the 'horror' of the world. Everyone she knows appears before her as someone evil, monstrous - the Danvers, the Kents, Superman.
And that assault on her senses, again brings a warped understanding of the world. Internally she now believes Supergirl is the being that died when they merged; it was Linda who lived. Linda ... who was evil. The universe is a sick joke, we need to face it on its own twisted and depraved level. "Heroes" and God are laughing at us.
Maybe not in those words but isn't this a similar attitude that the current Supergirl has, that nothing is right in the universe, that the cosmos is laughing at her and her tragedy.
And then we get this ...
That top panel gives me chills. It gave me chills the first time I read it and it gives me chills now.
The bruised and battered psyche of Linda shows up. She says that Supergirl is wrong to believe that, that she was wrong to believe that. Supergirl sees the world through different eyes, seeing what humanity can aspire to be. If anyone is human ... it's Supergirl.
Man, those piercing eyes of Linda, her body and soul injured, is so powerful. She has changed her mind, asking for absolution. She now realizes that Supergirl's way - of optimism and light - is the right way. And look at how she dominates the panel, the sheer size of her in contrast to the horrific visions in the prior splash, as if her view if bigger, more important.
But Supergirl isn't quite ready to hear it. Bleeding from her eyes, aflame, claiming she will leave bodies in the ruins without mercy.
As I said, Frank is simply at the top of his game. David does not shy away from religious iconography.
Now we see Supergirl in that Christ-like pose, complete with the stigmata suffered in battle.
And now Fugit is crying for mercy.
Will Supergirl give in to that desire for revenge? Will she be not only judge but executioner?
And just as she is about to land the killing blow, sealing the deal, having her 'fall' completely, it is Buzz who asks her the important question.
Does she want to live life Linda's way? Or her way? What does she want to be in this world.
And just like that she stops.
She isn't going to complete her journey by turning to evil and darkness. Evil isn't relative. Evil is evil.
She stops and decides to embrace goodness. She decides that adopting the ways of evil to fight evil isn't right.
Battle not monsters lest ye become a monster.
Good triumphs over evil. This is the first big step onto the path of redemption for Linda/Matrix. And it is wonderful.
And so different than the current Supergirl, who joins the Red Lanterns - a group Charles Soule says is a group trying to do overall good by doing evil. The exact opposite of the lesson of this issue.
That does mean that Buzz helped, showing the conflicts he has in his own soul (or lack thereof). You might not have all the answers. Some things need you to have faith.
When she doesn't kill Fugit, the endgame of all this, reality swirls around them. Buzz is taken away. The Danvers are alive, their house in one piece, Dick Malverne returned to normal and recovering in Linda's apartment.
There are 41 more issues to this story. And throughout it, Supergirl is tested, seeing if she will succumb, seeing if she will give in to hubris, will she turn to evil? Or will she ultimately be redeemed? But this was that first step.
Was this title going to wallow in angst, perseverate about the inequities in life, and be an anti-hero? Or are you going to turn the corner and simply do what's right even if sometimes that is hard? The answer for Supergirl should always be the latter.
Supergirl should be the optimist, the one who sees the best in things, a warrior for justice.
Will we see something like this just 9 issues into Soule's idea? Will we see something like this in the THIRD year of this character? Or are we going to have to suffer through the darkness for longer?
The Supergirl in this issue wasn't Kara Zor-El. She wasn't Kryptonian. But she was far and away more Supergirl than the current incarnation.
And that Linda panel is what comics is all about.
Overall grade: A+