Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back Issue Review: Supergirl #13

We recently learned that Supergirl is undergoing a creative change with new writers coming on board in a couple of months.

That led to my looking back at the writers on the last incarnation's  67 issues: Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly, Tony Bedard, Kelley Puckett, Will Pfeifer, James Peaty, Sterling Gates, Nick Spencer, and Kelly Sue DeConnick. 10 writers in 67 issues!

And now looking at the current incarnations (looking forward to Supergirl #36), here are the writers: Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Frank Hannah, Michael Alan Nelson, Scott Lobdell, Tony Bedard, and now Kate Perkins. 7 writers in 36 issues (and I'm not even counting Justin Jordan's credit on one of the Krypton Returns issues)!

It is an amazing amount of turnover of creators and I think speaks that the current DC management doesn't understand Supergirl or know what long term direction they want her to go down. Will newcomer Kate Perkins and her space school concept last any longer?

And so that brings me to this back issue review: Supergirl #13 from 1997. Why am I reviewing this issue? Because it is written by Darren Vincenzo. It is the only issue of that run's 80 issues (and the 1,000,000 issue) that isn't written by Peter David.

One issue! Out of 81.

You might not like the 'protoplasm from other universe merging with a human girl and gaining angelic powers' idea. But it had legs. And DC trusted Peter David to complete a story arc and idea. As for me ... I loved it.

So I thought looking back at this 'other writer' issue of that volume of Supergirl was worth looking at, if only to contrast it to the merry-go-round of directions the character has been on since Loeb first brought back a true Kara Zor-El.

One thing to note here is that Vincenzo walks in stride with David's vision, enhancing the subplots and characters that David introduced. This wasn't some weird, 'is it in continuity' issue like Wil Pfeifer's 'who the heck is that Zor'El' issue from the last incarnation of Supergirl in issue Supergirl #30. Vincenzo only wrote a handful of issues in his career as a writer but appears to be a pretty prolific comic editor.

And this issue marked the first time Leonard Kirk was artist on the book. He did the bulk of the title up until Ed Benes took over with "Many Happy Returns".

On to the issue.

Now at this time in the book, David had set up Leesburg as a quiet sort of middle America small town. Linda Danvers was a troubled soul who was redeemed/revived by merging with the Matrix Supergirl. And while there were definitely the beginnings of religious overtones (demons, Wally the god-boy was showing up, souls), Supergirl hadn't fully manifested her angelic powers.

So to see a story called Incubus, with an opening image of a ghostly figure caressing a young woman, was sort of par for the course here. Vincenzo is building on the tone of this book already.

But there is definitely a Twin Peaks feel here, this undercurrent of weirdness bubbling beneath the quaint innocent little town. In fact, at this time a 'chaos stream' was flowing beneath the place.

Three young girls in the town have been having the same odd dream. A sweet/creepy suave/scary latin speaking Lothario named Daemon appears in their dreams. It feels oddly pleasant but also draining. The girls are scared and aroused. But they worry what it all means.

Now it feels a bit retro, even for 1997, to think that three high school girls would run to Mrs. Danvers, a religious woman working in the local church, for help. (I never lived in a town like Leesburg so maybe it does happen.)

Linda overhears them talking to Sylvia and decides to follow them and ask them some questions.

She knows about Daemon. In this flashback to her pre-Matrix days, hanging out with Buzz and his devil cult, she saw Buzz call for Daemon. Linda saw the succubus/incubus swirl around this namely girl and feed on her psychic energy.

These flashbacks are key to building up who Linda was, how flawed and quasi-evil she lived. It makes her redemption by Supergirl that much more powerful. It makes her turn to heroism and optimism that much more significant.

We don't see too much of these pre-Matrix days. So seeing this adds substance to Linda, even in this rest issue.

Daemon's powers are relatively vague. But one thing we know is that he can induce sleep. This is actually a dream sequence with Linda bewitched and sleeping under a tree. Within those dreams, Daemon can be throttled. But he also can shapeshift, become smoke, etc.

Here he tells Supergirl to stay out of his business or he'll harm her family.

This also is significant. We have learned that the pre-Matrix Linda had a very rocky relationship with her parents. For this to be a threat she needs to care, a moment of growth in the character that we had seen growing in the earlier issues of this book.

We do get a very nice conversation between Linda and Sylvia in the middle of the book. Sylvia has some working knowledge of demons, gleaned from the bible. She wants to help and isn't sure how. She turns to prayer.

And Linda is supportive of her mother. Sylvia is a bit 2-dimensional here but we know that David has her as a complex character in the book, dealing with addiction, crises of faith, and anger.

But Linda doesn't want to leave things just up to prayer. She wants to help. You could say this is a foreshadowing of her angelic state.

This scene smacked a bit too much like early episodes of Buffy with Linda hitting the local collection of occult books and doing some research. Would a place like Leesburg actually support McGavin's Occult Books? A place with skulls and tarot cards?

But McGavin seems like a nice guy, allowing Linda to borrow the books rather than buying them. He knows she is using them for good. We never see him again and in some ways I'm happy. A local repository of occult facts might be too easy of an deus ex machina.

And so Linda researches and reads and learns some things before falling asleep.

I used to love these scenes in this title. Remember, Linda 'becomes' Supergirl, a taller, blonder, more curvy and adult appearing person. (There is a running gag later in the series where Linda is simply Supergirl and people are wondering why she isn't as 'chesty'.)

There are a handful of scenes where we see Linda in the Supergirl costume, the shirt loose and hanging on her. It is a subtle way to highlight the physical differences.

I really miss Linda.

It turns out that Linda/Supergirl figured out Daemon's weakness. And so she lured him into this dream-trap.

Within Linda's dreams, Linda controls things. And so she tells Daemon to be quiet and hold still. And then she says the sprinklers in her dreams spew holy water.

And that is the end of Daemon.

I suppose it is an easy sort of answer but it does show a thinking Supergirl. She didn't outpunch this demon, she trapped him with her smarts.

So, despite, being the one issue on this title by a writer not named Peter David, this 'rest issue' slips into the mix nicely, bolstering a lot of what we were learning about the town and characters while having Linda be a hero once more. For that I give kudos to Darren Vincenzo.

And Kirk's work is beautiful here. While I missed Gary Frank's work on the title, Kirk was great on the book.

For Supergirl collectors, outside of this being Kirk's first issue, this is of pretty low importance. But I appreciated it for what it was ... a rest issue that didn't upset the apple cart and flowed nicely with the tone of the book.

If only DC would run with a Supergirl idea for a long enough time for the readers to feel comfortable. Even long term fans of the character are starting to get twitchy. Why should we care when things are only going to be different in half a year.

Overall grade: B


AndNowInStereo said...

Will they last a year? Will they make it to issue #50?

Place bets now!

Anonymous said...

I have my doubts...dozens and dozens of writers each with their own Monumental Creative Vision...and then the book gets canceled...then revived and the whole stupid cycle repeats itself. Sad...It makes me nostalgic for Peter David (and I was never fully invested in his version of SG)...hell it makes me nostalgic for Bob Oksner and Steve Skeates...


Anonymous said...

Couldn't've said it better myself Anj. I understand that TPTB think that they need to shake things up a bit / introduce new blood,
but it's telling with your count on both pre-New 52 and New 52 that this game of musical chairs has been done too many times, leading
to alienation of us fans and/or a big "what is going on here?" mood.

On the other hand, having too long of just a few people on the title can have negative effects as well -- trick is finding that happy
middle ground... and I think TPTB have had more than enough time to figure this out...

Overall this entire series of Supergirl is definitely on my "to collect one day" list, just to see what it's like. I did get a chance
to pick up Many Happy Returns TPB, and while not groundbreaking, definitely had its enjoyable moments. The line "What the hell--? Auntie
Monitor?! Who's her partner, Uncle Screen Saver?" always brings a chuckle to my face.


Anonymous said...

That's a good one, Supergirl using lucid dreaming to beat a foe.

Martin Gray said...

That was a very decent issue, with beautiful art. I don't remember it being quite so Benday-dotty, I love them as much I miss Linda - hugely.

As names for occult experts go, 'Mr McGavin' is a bit on the nose, but I like it.

Anj said...

I'll be shocked ... happily ... if this new take holds until #50. If we make it that far. Things seem so shaky.

Like you all, I miss Linda.

Anonymous said...

"You might not like the 'protoplasm from other universe merging with a human girl and gaining angelic powers' idea. But it had legs."

No, it really didn't. Yes, 81 issues. So what? "Spider-Girl" first solo book was a 100 issues run and it was always on the verge of cancellation until the plug was finally pulled. and I happened to like that book.

As writing "Supergirl", Peter David was always complaining about dismal sales and fans asking for Kara Zor-El's return every month. It lasted long because DC needed to keep a Supergirl-named character around but they refused to bring Kara back because of an arbitrary rule. As soon as that rule was repelled, Linda was shelved.

"And DC trusted Peter David to complete a story arc and idea."

Or rather no one else wanted the job or cared for the character. The fact that her only appearance post-"Many Happy Returns" (a 2003 storyline) so far has been 2009 mini "Reign in Hell" and no one -not even Superman or Superboy- brought Linda up speaks volumes about editorial regard or lack thereof.

She wasn't even killed after an epic, universe-changing battle. She just disappeared quietly, which doomed her to irrelevance. Apparently DC finally learned how to do away with characters you want gone and forgotten: no dramatic deaths, glorious battles or epic last stands. Just stop writing them.