Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #706

The Matrix Supergirl has been in the news recently with the Convergence:Supergirl mini-series and the possibility of her being a member in the Justice League 3001 book.

I have talked in broad strokes about the growth of the Matrix character from perennial dupe to independent hero. But I realize it has been a while since I reviewed one of her adventures. And while I could mirror the feel of the Convergence book, finding an issue where Mae was in thrall of the Lex. But I thought I would have more fun reviewing something right after she dropped him and started feeling like an individual.

The easiest way to do that would be to review the 1994 mini-series. But I feel that deserves a true issue by issue review, like a month of Mondays, and I have a bit too much on my plate right now. So instead I thought I would take a look at Action Comics #706, a book where Supergirl stole the cover copy from Superman, a solo adventure that led to her truly striking out on her own.

The issue was written by Superman scribe Roger Stern with art by Jackson Guice and inker Denis Rodier. Stern does a good job of giving Mae some moments in the story to express her new confidence even if the plot is somewhat cliched. And Guice is one of my all around favorite Matrix artists, drawing her during the heyday of the 90s.

I like the cover as a showcase for Supergirl but her expression is a bit flat. Something more dynamic might have jumped off the rack a bit.

'Saved by the Belle' is a great title for someone like me who thinks wordplay is a sign of high intelligence.

And we start out with some action. The Smallville county fair is opening and one of the rides is being erected by a lazy fair worker who isn't paying attention to details. As a result, the Hog Heaven ride flies apart during a trial run. Luckily Supergirl happened to be flying nearby to keep the damage to a minimum and the injuries at zero.

Nice opening panels here, a two page sort of splash of Matrix in flying in. And it showcases Guice's style with her as a lithe, leggy, athletic Supergirl.

Turns out Mae was heading back to Smallville to visit the Kents and spend some quality time with them. After all that time in Metropolis with Lex, she needed to reconnect with her loved ones and family.

I loved this simple exchange with Mae saying she will gladly take Kent hugs, anytime anywhere.

But this also shows how human she is getting to be. It makes sense to lean on those who love you after trying times.

At the fair, the Kents and Mae see the 'farm vehicle of the future', the Agro-Wonder, a fully automated rig which will sow, fertilize, reap, cropdust, and do just about anything else at the touch of a button.

It irks Pa Kent who believes in an honest day's work and farming by hand. But Martha knows that keeping things simple will help small town independent farmers like them.

We also get to meet the engineer of this thing. Cheated out of credit and royalty for his designs, he vows revenge. And the fair will make a great setting to discredit the company which is producing them while, in essence, robbing him.

There is nifty little subplot throughout the issue as well. Clark is being asked to cover the Smallville Fair as well. But he can't simply fly home as Superman. Perry is joining him in the field. That means a long airplane flight.

Initially Clark is worried he'll be bored to death by Perry's old war stories. But then, it turns out that Perry tells a good tale. Clark can't get enough.

I'd think Clark would already have a ton of respect for Perry. But I still thought this was a fun little side story.

Meanwhile at the fair, the fully automated farm machine is activated and begins attacking the crowd with high pressured hoses, bull dozing arms, etc.

So once again Supergirl has to make an appearance. (This version of the costume sur looks like the Supergirl in the upcoming JL3001. It's time for a 'Might Morphin' Power Rangerette' to bring this disaster to an end. I both groaned and smiled at the Rangerette comment. Kind of cute if outdated.

Things do get a bit dicey when the Agro-Wonder unleashes highly toxic pesticides onto Supergirl.

This story was done in a time when the best way to show how powerfully something effected Supergirl was to have her revert to her gloopy protoplasmic form. It seemed to happen every big brawl.

And so we see it again. Things look bad!

But luckily a couple of minutes later, she is able to literally pull herself together. A lot of it has to do with her sense of responsibility. If she doesn't regain her form (again both figuratively and literally), people will die. I think this again shows how much she has grown from the timid featureless Mae who lived with the Kents to this true hero.

And let's face it, the Agro-Wonder is basically a souped up tractor. She destroys it easily.

As for the engineer, he gets caught at the airport by Superman. All loose end tied up.

Except one.

With the adventure over, everyone enjoys a nice meal at the Kents. And there, Matrix has a heart to heart with Clark. It is a great moment of maturity and confidence for our young hero.

She has been beating herself up for having been taken in by the clone of Lex. And yet, despite all that, she did do good in Metropolis. She did act the hero. She shouldn't slight herself too badly. She should look at the bright side, accentuate the positive, and chalk this up as a learning moment. In other words, move along the hero's journey.

From here, she moves on to some solo adventures. She becomes part of Team Superman and helps out in multiple stories. And she really lives herself on her own terms.

I really feel like this was the first step of her believing in herself. And it was the first time that she didn't define herself by either Superman or Lex or Brainiac or someone else.

And that makes this a great story to read and own. Even if the big villain is a tractor.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing this issue because I didn't read it and it fills a hole between the end of the Matrix miniseries and the beginning of the Peter David series.

Anonymous said...

The Matrix-Lex Affair was gruesome tabloid sensationalistic fun I freely admit. But I wonder if it didn't degrade an already marginal character, so love him or hate him Peter A. David probably got there just in time...


Unknown said...

OOH I remember being a lil 10yo seeing this issue on the stands and going nuts to buy it. <3

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the anniversary, Anj, even if our visions of our girl couldn`t be more different, and I get deleted off about one in three.-

But the reason for this post is a little more pragmatic...and as SG fans we should all join hands now...
God. This feels religious...

This morning, according to Variety.com, CBS has green lighted the first Season of "Supergirl".
Not only that, but social media are bursting already with info like:
"Expect the first pilot trailer in May 14"

Free at last. Free at last.
Thank you, oh God almighty...
Free at last!