Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Showcase '96 #8

Convergence Supergirl Matrix #2 comes out today, looking back at a time in her character where she still seems to be entranced by the cloned Lex Luthor, an unwitting dupe to his evil machinations. This puts us firmly before Reign of the Supermen in the continuity timeline. It is a rougher time in Supergirl's history, a time when Matrix wasn't independent or stable. 

As a Supergirl fan, I actually came to like the Matrix Supergirl character quite a bit. When Superman died, her character took a big step forward, protecting Metropolis and becoming a hero into herself. Then she was betrayed by Lex, left him, and became a solo hero while remaining part of 'Team Superman'.

But the biggest leap in her story was when Peter David took over the character, sending her down a darker, more complex path which included religion and redemption as well as more Easter Eggs than a Kara fan could count.

That story all began here in Showcase '96 #8 in a story by Peter David with art by Terry Dodson (!!) and inks by Karl Story. It served as a prologue to Supergirl's solo title and definitely hinted at the more substantial nature of the themes we would be exploring.

Dodson and Story provide beautiful art on the story. This was the first time I was exposed to Dodson, an artist I love.

And I had to include this scan of the cover from my collection, signed by Peter David at a local convention I met him at.

'Limited Resources' starts out with Supergirl looking in on a baby in a NICU isolette at a hospital. But we see Supergirl in the reflection of the plastic. It is subtle but it let's us know already that this is going to be a reflective tale, a story of Supergirl looking at herself.

The questions she is asking herself are reflective as well. She wonders what it likes to truly 'live', to be born, to die.

Despite her years in comics by this point, we haven't ever seen her thinking about what her life as a 'protoplasmic creation from a pocket universe with the implanted memories of Lana Lang'. What is it like living on Earth like that? We have seen Mae be mentally unstable at times. And it may spring from her feeling completely alone.

A nurse kicks her out of the unit. Only certain people are allowed there.

But we learn that somehow this baby is alive because of some heroic act that Supergirl performed. Breech and premature is a tough combination to enter this world. But there the baby is stable and alive.

And yet you sense that Supergirl isn't congratulating herself over this save. We hear that the mother didn't survive. Supergirl seems lost in thought about the whole thing.

There has been a hurricane in the area, a natural disaster, and Supergirl has been rescuing people all day. But once more, we see that she seems almost dissatisfied by her work.

When a local reporter on scene at the hospital looks for a sound bite, to have Supergirl talk about how many people she has saved, Supergirl simply walks away.

Instead of staying among the living, among those she saved, Matrix ends up heading to the morgue. She is instead lingering over someone she was unable to save, a dead man she wished she could have done more for.

It is a fascinating scene for a comic. This isn't what we usually see in 'super-hero' comics. The nameless dead in disaster books are just that ... nameless, forgotten.

We start with Supergirl looking at a newborn in the earliest hours of life. We head to the morgue to have her looking and regarding the dead. Life and death, the extremes of existence, and the very things she was asking herself about in that opening splash.

Finally, the reporter tracks Supergirl down and tries to pin her down for some questions. The reporter thinks it will be a good opportunity for Supergirl to get some publicity.

Despite being un-human, Matrix is floored by the question. Isn't it the 'right' thing to do to save people, to help. But it seems foreign to the reporter who is only looking to tell something juicy.

Hoping to get Supergirl to talk, the reporter asks Supergirl to talk about a 'typical day' in her life.

So Supergirl tells the story of the baby and the dead man.

The hurricane is raging. The baby's mother is in active labor, trying to drive herself to the hospital. Luckily Supergirl arrives, hoists the car up and heads to the hospital. On the way there, she sees a car swerving on the road, a telephone pole about to fall down and crush it.

Using a psi-blast, Supergirl diverts the pole. But the car nevertheless slams into the mountainside. Supergirl has to make a choice. Does she stop to check in on this driver knowing it will delay getting the mother to the hospital? Or does she fly on?

Triage is tricky. And people can second guess themselves over those decisions. Supergirl makes the tough choice. She doesn't delay flying the mother in for care. Was it the right choice knowing that the baby survived?

On returning to the car, Supergirl sees that the driver is dead, crushed against the steering column. Would stopping before have saved his life? Did she make the right choice? Can you be everywhere? Do everything?

She gives the reporter a blurb. "I don't have anything outside of trying to help people. My 'life' is nothing like yours. Life is a concept I'm still trying to wrestle with. Sometimes I wonder if I even am alive ... if any of us are ... and what it all means.:


But that idea of life. Of having a life. Of living. Of helping people. And being real. All those themes are touched on, are ruminated on in the Peter David title. We see the reporter say that this Supergirl isn't looking for answers right now. She is looking for the questions.

The back of this Showcase shows us that Supergirl #1 is coming out soon.

From the first issue, when we learn that Matrix has merged with Linda Danvers, is now 'alive', David jumps into this sort of philosophical look on good and evil, life and death, sin and redemption wrapped in a super-hero book. I have said it before and I will say it again. I will hold Supergirl 1-50 by Peter David against any book as a long form superior comic arc. Brilliant.

As part of a Supergirl collection, I would say this issue is a key prelude to the solo title. If you are a fan of the David book, you should look for this. Plus, it is Terry Dodson drawing Supergirl!! And while hard to find, my guess is it is simply in a $1 box waiting to be discovered.

It reminds me of how great this character became over time. It also makes me wonder why DC decided to revisit her at one of the lower points of this Supergirl's career.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Wow Anj, I have no memory of this comic, I guess I missed it. What a splendid precursor to the solo book. We just had no idea what was coming...

And I stil love that costume. I do, though, wish the default position for any non-Planet hack wasn't 'jerk'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the bullet review, Anj. I recently came into possession of the 4issue miniseries of Matrix Supergirl and the full PAD Supergirl series, and
when I read both, I couldn't put either of them down! But yeah, there was quite a gap between what happened between the two, it felt like I was missing something.

"I don't have anything outside of trying to help people. My 'life' is nothing like yours. Life is a concept I'm still trying to wrestle with. Sometimes I

wonder if I even am alive ... if any of us are ... and what it all means."

Between this and the other bits I've been able to piece together -- like the comment of Matrix going crazy and thinking she was Superman -- explains the
first intro panels to Matrix of the PAD arc.


Jae said...

This was included with the first TPB of PADs Supergirl series. I read it recently as I was rebuying all of his run (lost it when I moved). Good memories!

Dr. Thinker said...

News flash! Comic Book Resources had reveal that TV show, "Supergirl", is going to be airing on Monday nights at 8:00 PM.

Dr. Thinker said...

News flash! Comic Book Resources had reveal that TV show, "Supergirl", is going to be airing on Monday nights at 8:00 PM.

Manu said...

Anj, I just have watched the Supergirl trailer : it is even better than I expected ! It's a true killing, man, you will have a heart attack ! :D

I don't post the link and let you the honor. Regards from France :)