Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Supergirl #75 - Supergirl Meets Supergirl??

I try to keep things streamlined on this blog so I apologize for the simultaneous threads I have going. I am working my way through two back issue themes these days - Psi-sightings and times when Supergirl met Supergirl. And I seem to have picked an alternating pattern which means I am back for a Supergirl/Supergirl meeting.

And this is one of my favorites.

Supergirl #75 was the first part of the beloved 'Many Happy Returns' story arc by Peter David and Ed Benes which ran through the last issue of the series, Supergirl #80. Now there is a lot to cover about this issue before we even get to the story inside.

Peter David is obviously a Supergirl fan and had injected a lot of Supergirl history into this series despite the main character not being Kara Zor-El. This was Matrix merged with Linda Danvers, an Earth-born Angel, a more mystical character. The series was just wonderful, a look at religion in a world of super-heroes; a look at temptation, sin, and redemption; and a look at forgiveness. It is a testament to how great this series is that most Supergirl fans love this series, despite this being as far away from a Kryptonian Maid of Might as you can get.

David had basically put together 2 very long over-reaching story arcs. The first, covering the first 50 issues, reviews Matrix merging with the flawed Linda, accepting her role as an Angel of Judgment, being tempted to use her power in anger, and then forgiving herself and others. It is fantastic. The second arc, covering the next 2 years, has a depowered Linda looking to remerge with the angelic aspect of her persona which was stripped from her in the climax of the first arc. This arc has Linda comparing herself unfavorably to other 'good' people until she finally sacrifices herself to save the world again.

With DC getting a bit squirrely about the 'complicated' origin of a protoplasm from a pocket universe merging with an angry teenage girl and become something holy, David was nudged into bringing Supergirl back to her more Matrix-y powers. Gone were flame wings and judgment stares. We were back to psi-blasts and strength and flight.

But ... and this is key ... we suddenly had a Linda who was happy. A Linda that was glad to be Supergirl and had put her inferiority complex, her fears, and her anger behind her. We finally got a Supergirl who was ready to be a hero. It surely couldn't last.

Ed Benes was a newcomer when he started on Supergirl here and this is how I will remember his art, cleanly inked by Alex Lei. There is a healthy slab of cheesecake in these issues but the art is beautiful. Benes went on to greater acclaim soon, going over to Birds of Prey with Gail Simone.

The last issue was the ending of a long arc where Linda saves the Angel of Judgment. She then accepts that the angelic being would better be served merging with a cursed being called Twilight. That means she is back to being 'just Matrix' but she is happy to be defending Leesburg again.

As I said though, it is that happiness is key. The prior 74 issues had a lot of emotional turmoil and pain. We suddenly have a confident Supergirl, as close to the Paul Kupperberg Daring New Supergirl as I have seen.

In the opening scene, Supergirl stops a bunch of tech-powered robbers. But she does it with this feint. This is cute and humorous and shows how this Linda is going to have some fun with her 'job'.

And not only is she happy with her life as Supergirl, she has a new and happier relationship with her parents. Linda was a rebellious teen. When her parents discovered she had merged with Supergirl, it nearly broke them. While her father accepted it sooner, her mother abandoned her religion and hit the bottle.

Now those wounds have healed. There is love and acceptance here. I like this banter where Fred Danvers has to pretend to dislike Supergirl while he is proud of his daughter.

David doesn't leave anything to chance. He tells the readers just how Linda is feeling.

"I can't remember the last time being Supergirl was nothing but pure fun for me. And I am Supergirl."

This title is an interesting character study in seeing just how much psychological pain a person can take. Linda is really hammered on throughout the series. And so you knew that this happiness couldn't last. And a classic purple rocket heading to Earth was a harbinger.

But before life turns upside-down, we see more of how wonderful Linda's life is for just these few moments.

Linda's mother has not only turned her life around, given up alcohol and grabbed onto her love of her family.

And ... she's pregnant! Supergirl will be a big sister.

That smiling face of Linda as she grabs her mother in the lower panel is wonderful. It isn't a common site in this book.

That rocket crashes near Leesburg and Supergirl goes to investigate. And there she sees .... Super-girl (note the hyphen).

It is a nice homage to the classic Action Comics #252 intro. Here is a young, fresh, innocent, peppy, and incredibly powerful (in a pre-Crisis sort of way) Kara Zor-El who is thrilled to be on Earth. She even discusses how she lived on Argo City, watched Superman through a 'super-telescope' and is glad to finally be here as Super-Girl.

How can Linda Supergirl be happy as finally being 'Supergirl' if now this true Super-Girl is around?

And Kara Zor-El? She hadn't existed in the DCU since 1986. And there are a ton of references that harken back to the Silver Age origins? How did is this happening?

Well, the leader of the tech-robbers from the beginning of the issue - Johnny Reb - shows up trying to show Supergirl whose the boss of Leesburg.

But Super-Girl is there and being a Silver Age Kryptonian is incredibly powerful. And in about 2 seconds she takes out Johnny with heat vision.

I love her very sweet dialogue. "That'll teach you to pick a fight for no reasons!" How wonderfully sugary!

Remember though, this Linda Supergirl has been tricked, stomped on, and manipulated throughout this series. A Kryptonian Supergirl? And just at the point that Linda is happy with her life? It has to be a trick.

So she grabs Kara and asks the younger version who sent her?

Of course Linda can't be happy. That isn't the point of this book, really. That inferiority complex bubbles immediately to the surface.

And this is the Silver Age Super-girl Linda is throttling ... a young girl so prone to tears, so quick to feel inadequate herself, so fragile in her own way. This rant prompts Kara to collapse, sobbing about the sadness in her life, how she just wants to have a home with family. This is the sweetest most innocent young girl, a child of the late 50's, willing to acquiesce to whatever Superman wants her to do. Super-Girl flies off to find Superman.

This is just a taste of this bittersweet story. This truly is the pre-Crisis Super-girl. When it becomes clear that she needs to return to her world so she can die at the hands of the Anti-Monitor, Linda takes her place. It is another sacrifice for this wonderful hero. A Silver Age Supergirl is in the grim current DCU. The more modern Linda Supergirl is put into a 'Pleasantville' world of the Silver Age DCU. But things veer to the tragic in the end, breaking Linda down even further in the end.

This is just a fantastic arc. I will only review the first chapter here in this thread but I love this story so much. Both Supergirls shine here as David looks at all things Linda and Kara, contrasting them and showing how heroic they are. Linda's story has a sad ending but unbelievably perfect for the tone of this entire series. And Kara? She ends up back in the Silver Age DCU, working her way to Crisis #7.

If you are a Supergirl fan of any iteration or all iterations, I cannot recommend this arc more highly. The issues are probably a couple of bucks in the back issue boxes. It was collected in a trade with a wonderful foreword by David. It is a solid story - joyous and sad, funny and somber - with just eye-popping spectacular art. If you haven't read it, you need to.

And so ends my review of the opening chapter of my favorite time Supergirl met Supergirl. There is one more comic to touch upon in this thread ... my least favorite.

Overall grade: A+


Anonymous said...

Intriguing review. I have literally never heard of any of what you were describing, being a newcomer to Supergirl comics and comics generally, but it sounded very interesting and the Ed Benes art was gorgeous--sleek, colourful, with fantastic expressions and emotion.
If I'd never heard anything in the "Linda Danvers" era would this be a good jumping in point to try to figure out what all this sweet, positive, happy Supergirl is all about? ;) Or is there another run you could recommend?
(P.S. Sorry, but if it's possible I'm Oblique, rather than Clan, or just ClanOblique. "Origin story" for my screen-name is a long one. Sorry to bother)

elknight20 said...

Named dropped this post up on my Tumblr, Anj!:

Anj said...

Hey Oblique,

Well, this 'sweet' Supergirl is more like the 1950s Supergirl. If interested in that, I would get the Showcase 'phone book' collections.

If interested in the 'just now happy' Linda Danvers, I would start with the trade of the first nine issues of this run. The issues themselves are pretty cheap if you wanted to collect the floppies.

Anonymous said...

Starting with #75? I'll probably check out the first few from the back issues bin. :) I loved the art of Birds of Prey so Ed Benes would be fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I've sometimes been critical of Peter David, but his collaboration with Ed Benes with respect to this particular story arc is what gave the revival of "klassic Kara" a good solid addtional shove in the right direction.
Yeah these two and of course Bruce Timm who singehanded revived "The True Supergirl" and Made DC Like It...