Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #306

A Kryptonian is somehow cursed with a death field, killing those they love the most when approached. With little choice, the Kryptonian is banished to the Phantom Zone until a cure can happen.

Sounds like Superman:Doomed, doesn't it?

In fact it is the Supergirl cover story in 1963's Action Comics #306, in a story by Leo Dorfman with art by Jim Mooney. We don't get to see the plot on the cover as Supergirl was the back-up feature.

But we get a cover when the story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #398. Look at this great piece by Dick Giordano!

One of the things that I love to do on this site is look back at Supergirl's history and review past issues that resonate with current stories. And this story sure does resonate!

It is a classic Silver Age Superman/Supergirl interaction on this cover with Superman chastising Supergirl. And look at that word balloon. "I have to do this Supergirl -- because everything you touch dies!" Replace Supergirl with Superman and you could have a line from a comic from this month - 51 years later!

Even the title of the story, "The Maid of Doom" reminds me of Superman:Doomed!

In the last chapter of Doomed, Superman gives Steel the key to the Phantom Zone projector, telling his friend to send him to the Zone if things get out of control. And here in this title panel we hear Superman sharing a similar sentiment.

I love the peaceful sort of angelic look on Kara. You know she is going willingly, to protect people.

The story starts out a bit dated, with Linda Danvers on a date with Dick Malverne. At the movies, she pretends to be scared of the monster to show she is a 'normal member of the fairer sex'. Okay ... you have to consider the timing of this story. But very quickly we see just how brave and strong Supergirl is.

She has been given a mission from the U.N. to deliver messages of peace to three war-mongering planets. One of them is the planet Mutor, ruled by the shape-changing Plasmos race.

Despite the harsh environments, Supergirl delivers the treaties.

When she returns, Supergirl approaches her cat Streaky. Suddenly, Streaky keels over dead, emanating some odd blue glow.

It pains Supergirl to see her beloved pet dead.

Almost immediately thereafter, Krypton arrives. When he is touched by Supergirl, he also suddenly dies and he also glows with blue energy.

Surmising that she must have picked up some odd form of radiation poisoning from one of the planet's she visited, Kara speeds home to tell her mother Edna.

Amazingly, when Edna rushes to comfort Supergirl, she touches Kara and doesn't die.

And when the two go to investigate further, the two dead super-pets are gone.

Did they disintegrate from the radiation? Turning to ash like those Superman kills in Doomed?

Or was this all some odd hallucination.

Supergirl heads to the Fortress. After some investigation she learns it isn't a Red Kryptonite fugue.

Heading back to Midvale, Supergirl runs into Mr. Mxyzptlk. She accosts him thinking that he must be behind the apparent deaths of the pets.

But this really isn't a hallucination. When Supergirl grabs Mxy, he dies ...glowing eerily blue as well.

There is nothing left for Supergirl to do but admit to herself that she kills any super-powered being she touches. She is a murderer.+

She begins leaving a taped account of her problems for Superman to find explaining what has happened. She has no choice but to banish herself to the past.

But before she can leave, Comet shows up. He talks to Kara telling her that he can help. But as he approaches ... you guessed it ... he also dies. Glowing blue, he has an odd last statement, noting the irony of wishing to help her but getting himself killed instead. 'What did I do ... to deserve this?'

Perfectly odd.

And as Supergirl tries to figure out what to do next, the dead bodies seem to disappear, a side effect of the radiation.

Finally, Superman shows up, ambling up to Supergirl. He convinces her to not go to the past because she could still kill people there. The only choice is to banish herself to the Phantom Zone until a cure is found for her affliction, similar to Mon-El. He tells Kara to fly to the Fortress and return to with the Phantom Zone Projector.

And, like the hero she is, Supergirl agrees that for the good of the world, she must leave. She is sent to the Zone. (Funny, why doesn't Superman know to do the same in Doomed?)

But why is Superman gloating? Have you figured it out?

It turns out that Superman is one of the shape-changing Plasmos from Mutor. When Supergirl delivered her statement of peace, they decided to attack. They sent their cleverest warrior to rid the world of Supergirl and Superman so they can invade.

We flashback to the beginning of the story. While Supergirl is still in space, the Plasmo comes to Earth and mimics Supergirl. He is able to convince Superman to take Kandor and the Super-pets into the future where a scientist has learned how to enlarge it.

Suddenly Supergirl is the only Super left on the planet.

Then the shapechanger begins his nefarious plot. He splits his body in two, becoming Streaky and Krypto. When Supergirl touches each 'pet', the Plasmo pretends to die, changing part of his body chemistry to glow blue.

As for the bodies disappearing, the alien changes into something else to reappear later. First he is the tree trunk near the trapdoor leading to the Danvers. (Hmmm ... I wondered where that came from.) Then he became Mxyzptlk and then Comet and then Superman.

With Supergirl in the Zone and now in possession of a Phantom Zone Projector, nothing can stop the evil invaders from Mutor!


Supergirl can stop the Mutor war mongers!

She arrives on their planet as they are planning their attack. The Phantom Zone projector is nothing but a flashlight. She never was sent to the Zone. She had figured the whole plot out beforehand. And know that the Mutorians know that their best agent was outwitted they need to sign a peace treaty.

And incredibly, the Mutorians roll over pretty quickly. Not only do they agree not to attack Earth. They agree to destroy all their weapons! Such is the power of Supergirl!

But how did she figure it out?

Well for one, Comet actually spoke to her ... like Mr. Ed! But Comet always telepathically talks to Supergirl.

For another, none of the 'supers' ever flew to her. Superman walked up to her. And asked her to get the projector. There is no other conclusion to reach other than Superman being an imposter.

Armed with that knowledge, she brought the fake Phantom Zone Projector and 'disappeared' so she could follow the phony and uncover the whole plot.

If there is one thing I love from the Silver Age Supergirl, it is the personality quirk of putting her finger to her face when thinking things through.

The other members of the Superman family return from the 40th century ruse to discover all that Supergirl has done. Not only did she figure out the plot, she got the peace treaty signed leading to peace.

And a proud Superman ... a proud world ... raise an S-shield flag to honor Supergirl!

Okay, so she didn't really have a death touch like Superman in Doomed. But I thought it was close enough to review here.

This is an interesting story. There is clearly an 'old school' feel to this story.  And yet the second half of the Adventure Comics issue is one of the Mike Sekowsky Supergirl stories. The cover is the 'New' Adventures of Supergirl. This was a time when Superman was being depowered by the sand creature Quarmm. This was a time when Wonder Woman was depowered and fighting with I Ching. And DC was trying to bring Supergirl into the modern world. Soon these quainter stories and reprints soon disappeared for a more 'modern' Kara, albeit one where she was depowered.

Still, I love this story showcasing a caring and self-sacrificing Supergirl who is also smart enough to outwit the villains and strong enough to make them change their ways. I really think this a great look at the maturing hero.

Overall grade: A

1 comment:

Count Drunkula said...

This sounds like a really fun albeit morbid and disturbing story if you're an animal-lover. Thanks for posting this review.