Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Back Issue Box: Super-Team Family #11

Three has been a lot of recent talk about a possible television crossover between the current Flash program and the future Supergirl show. The Supergirl show is probable one and a half seasons away but the internet is already intrigued given the massive coverage of one sentence that *maybe* there would be some universal continuity between The Flash, Supergirl, and Arrow.

It got me thinking about the Flash and Supergirl crossovers in comics. While not a true team-up they are both well known for being the 'big deaths' in Crisis On Infinite Earths. And they tussled in the recent H'El on Earth arc.

But I thought I would cover this lesser know crossover from Super-Team Family #11, a story which also included the Atom.  "The Other Side of Doomsday' was written by Gerry Conway with art by Alan Weiss and Joe Rubinstein. It is something of a crazy story and that makes it perfect for a review. And it is a whopping 34 pages long for a mere 60cents!

As I said, the story is insane with feints, inconsistencies, the need to suspend disbelief even for a superhero story, and leaps of faith by the reader. But the art is just fantastic. I have always been a fan of Alan Weiss and he does not disappoint in this issue. I love his brash and confident Supergirl in this issue. The cover above is my book as I was lucky enough to meet Joe Rubinstein at last year's Rhode Island Comic-Con and got him to sign the cover.

On to the story!

I don't know about you all but a team-up of Flash, Supergirl, and the Atom seems a bit random to me. So I had to chuckle when this spectacular is called 'the greatest team-up blockbuster of all time!' That is a pretty big boast!

And that claim is even more dubious when the opening scene is the Flash and Atom beating up some low level crooks dressed up like pirates! Maybe we start at a ridiculous low point and build from here.

The Flash and the Atom are surprised to see Supergirl swoop in and end the fight in one panel. I was a bit surprised that the Leaguers were taking so long to dispatch these Smees. And I was not surprised that Supergirl wrapped things up quickly.

Unfortunately, since she wasn't invited to the party, Supergirl didn't know that the plan was for the heroes to let one pirate escape and lead them to the head of the crime family. It actually annoys The Flash and The Atom who think Supergirl is immature ... acting like a 'pushy teenager' even if she is older now.

The Supergirl in this issue seems brash, but always with her eye on the prize. She wants justice. She wants to punish evil. And she leaps into action. I don't mind that brashness. She is still learning to be a polished hero.

Supergirl is in Ivy Town for a Women's Career Symposium in her Linda Danvers identity.

More than just attending, Linda is on a panel, one which includes Jean Loring, the Atom's girlfriend and Iris Allen, the Flash's wife. But before the Q&A session can start, a strange beam bathes the three women and teleports them away.

Now I can understand Jean and Iris being on a panel together. Jean is a local accomplished lawyer and Iris is a national reporter. But Linda? A guidance counselor in an experimental school in Florida? Seems more like an easy way to keep the plot moving.

Barry and Ray are in the audience to support their significant others and spring into their heroic identities to investigate. And, not surprisingly, battles ensue.

Large mostly featureless metal humanoids appear on the stage and battle the Flash who dispatches them. And the Atom shrinks down to a submicroscopic size and ends up fighting similar beings but on that dimension. As if that isn't strange enough, the defeated metal men, whether big or small, decompose into some sort of soil like dust.

With a clue to follow, the heroes leave to investigate.

Meanwhile, Linda wakes up in a glass tube in what looks to be the laboratory of an evil scientist. With Jean and Iris unconscious, Linda switches to her Supergirl identity and decides to do some investigating on her own.

Weiss really draws her wonderfully. I loved this page with Kara being initially thrown around by a tank-like robot only to strike a pose and dismantle the thing.

She then frees Jean and Iris and they begin to look for a way out of this place. But, like some weird tesseract, the place seems endless.

Meanwhile, the Flash and the Atom are able to deduce that the bits of metal emit a certain radiation. By vibrating at a certain frequency, the Flash can see the trail of energy which leads to an electric plant in Central City. The two split up to enter in a flanking move.

I guess I just have to accept that the Flash can see radiation.

But the fact that this started in Ivy Town and heads to Central City, the fact that Jean and Iris were kidnapped. This is starting to see less random. This is a calculated attack on the heroes.

And the place that the women are in is a nightmarish land where nothing is what it seems. This lab is endless. It is filled with machinery and defense systems. This includes this rather icky tentacle scene where malleable metal like tendrils grow from the walls and ceilings and bind Supergirl, Iris, and Jean.

This place also seems to odd in that things like mere metal or machines should be so difficult for Supergirl to overwhelm. This isn't a normal evil lab.

In fact, the women are confronted by an unseen villain who is able to knock them all out with a beam of some sort. A ray that knocks out Supergirl?? What is this place?

Meanwhile, the Flash and the Atom have to fight more metal men who, again, dissolve into odd dust. But this time, the Flash is able figure out that these things come from another dimension. And vibrating at a specific frequency (again) he is able to teleport himself and the Atom to these automatons' homeworld.

And we finally meet the villain of the piece. It's T.O. Morrow! Now why Morrow, normally dressed in a white lab coat is now wearing a Spartan helmet and a festooned marching band outfit is beyond me.

It turns out that last time Morrow was seen in DC Comics he disappeared, apparently ceasing to exist.

Get ready for a big leap. This place isn't Earth. And Morrow was teleported there by forces he cannot comprehend.

In other words, Conway couldn't explain how Morrow got here. So instead it just sort of happened.

And then Morrow pulls out his weapon, a wand of some sort that gives him complete control over his environment. He can turn the floor to tar, make metal humanoid defenders, make tentacles come out of the walls.

And, strangely, he can make an anvil appear out of thin air to fall on the Flash's head. Talk about loony? Or should I say Looney?

Morrow wanted revenge on the Flash and the Atom for his losses against the League. And since he (somehow) knew their secret identities, he kidnapped Iris and Jean to lure the heroes here. Supergirl being taken with them was a mistake.

Against Morrow's new power, the heroes are quickly defeated.

Okay, the heroes are here. They are unconscious. Get your revenge Morrow! Do it!


Instead the heroes and Jean and Iris awaken in a medieval appearing dungeon, chained to the wall. So we went from a scientist's lab with incredible technology to a medieval dungeon?? What the heck is this place? And how can the chains be so dense or strange that neither the Flash nor Supergirl can break free. And how is Morrow able to warp the reality so easily?

One thing I have to note is that this was a time when Jean Loring was recovering from a 'nervous breakdown'. And this nightmarish place is frightening enough to send Jean into some sort of psychological shock. (I show this because Jean's psychological makeup is an important point in DC's history given the Identity Crisis series.)

The Atom figures the whole thing out. He has Supergirl blast the floor of the dungeon with her highest intensity heat vision. The whole environment shakes wildly and then the prison simply melts away to reveal this ... a living planet.

Somehow Morrow was teleported to this living planet in another dimension and figured out how to control the matter of this world. This explains how things act differently, how the surroundings can change, and why a heat vision blast shook the foundations. This place can be hurt.


I guess I just have to roll with this. Because there is no way I can explain it.

And the solution to this problem? To give this planet a seizure or a stroke by sending the Atom directly into it's brain.

That seems cruel. And unusual.

(And I had to cringe again as it reminded me that such an attack was how Jean killed Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis. I wish I would stop remembering that book.)

With the planet seizing, Morrow is powerless. And Supergirl takes things into her own hands, knocking him out with a left uppercut.

The villain is defeated. But things get worse.

During the attack, Jean suffered another nervous breakdown. And the planet, susceptible to mental anguish, teleported her away. What ??? Okay, one more thing for to me to just roll with.

And there is no way to know exactly where Jean was sent to. This is The Atom's quest. To find her.

In fact, this 'search for Jean Loring' continues for some months. I don't have any other issues of this arc but I have heard it discussed in the past and would love to hear from people in the know.

This issue is one crazy mess of wild ideas and insanity. It is hard to understand everything that happens. But it is fun to see these two staid veteran heroes work with the young and powerful Supergirl. And the artwork is just beautiful.

I don't know if this issue is an important one for a Supergirl collection from a continuity point of view. But it is a rare issue in this time when she had the spotlight and teamed up with other heroes. For that alone, I think it is worth owning. And if you don't love that page with the defiant Supergirl saying she's mad and then dismantling a giant robot, you aren't a Supergirl fan. That page alone is worth the $5 you'd need to part with at a con.

Overall grade: B/B+ (nudged up based on artwork)


Anonymous said...

I love this story, contradictions and all, it's Supergirl essentially self locating herself onto The A List and if Ray Palmer and Barry Allen can't shed their oinkerish condescension thats their problem.
You'll notice they have to adapt to her, she has no problem adapting to them in a team up situation...thats what made Supergirl such a great heroine in the Bronze Age she was adaptable without sacrificing her appeal.

Anonymous said...

Good review and good timely choice. While the story had inconsistencies as your review showed, it highlights the tremendous potential of Supergirl as a character. She is powerful and more powerful than she even realizes. That combined with idealism and a big heart can lead to many challenges in which she may act too quickly.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

I love this issue. Good point on Kara being ready to team up.

And yes, her big heart and quest for justice is a big part of her appeal!

Unknown said...

The Atom also appears in the next 3 issues of Super Team Family, 12-14.