Today, I'll review the second half of the issue which begins with the assault on the Anti-Monitor's fortress and leads to the death of Supergirl.
I suppose the question that I have asked myself for these last 30 years is 'Why Supergirl?' Why was it felt that Supergirl was a part of the DC Universe that should be expunged?
Was it that her solo series was cancelled?
Was it that her solo movie tanked?
Was it a way to show that the Crisis meant business, that someone 'big' could die?
Was it a way to clear the decks for an eventual reboot of Superman?
I suppose that fans of the Flash could ask many of the same questions a month later. But for me, I just didn't quite understand it.
And I suppose that any fan of any character who has been killed in comics can ask these questions.
And I suppose that I had to face reality that not everyone looked at Supergirl and saw the great character I see to this day.
Maybe, just maybe, that is why she was considered expendable. Too many people thought she was just 'Superman with boobs', or still thought of her as a super-sweet, perfect little girl. And without knowing her history and growth (and potential), the powers that be felt it was fine for her to die.
The second half of the issue starts with an extremely powerful group of heroes led into the antimatter universe by Pariah to attack the Anti-Monitor's fortress.
As I have said before somewhere, this was a dream team for me because it included two of my absolute favorite DC characters of all time: Supergirl and Wildfire. But I could also see the strategy behind forming this strike force. It is a great mix of strength and energy powers. It includes three Kryptonians and a Daxamite!
I always say that big moments deserve big art. I can only show part of a two page spread which shows the entire fortress, a stone structure with gargoyles, faces, and mouths built throughout. As Wolfman describes it, there is a 'cold, majestic grandeur' to it. And by giving this two pages, you make the heroes seem small. It is a visual cue to show the enormity of this situation.
As the heroes approach, the very fortress itself comes to life. The stone structure animates, reaching out to grab and fight the heroes. The threat is everywhere.
The gargoyles can't be destroyed easily. While the stones can be bashed and broken, they simply reform. The fortress seems invulnerable and impenetrable.
And what is worse, the physics of the anti-matter universe are such that characters that are invulnerable are suddenly quite vulnerable. Superman can bleed.
While the fortress being alive is a great threat, I wish that there could have been some Thunderers and some Shadow Demons there as well.
Now, as I said in the first half of this review, Supergirl does shine in this issue. She is the most effective fighter, using brains and brawn.
Knowing that the stone sentries will only reform when smashed or blasted, Supergirl realizes the real strategy is to delay that regrouping. So why not use super-breath to scatter the pieces.
I could gush about Perez's art with every scan. But what I really love in this is that second panel showing Supergirl drawing in a super-breath. It is clear that is what she is doing. And by putting those first three panels together, small and narrow, really makes it feel like a fluid motion.
While the heroes skirmish, Superman and Dr. Light are able to make their way into the center of the fortress. There they discover the giant device which the Anti-Monitor was using to slow down the vibrations separating the 5 remaining universes. It had to be destroyed.
But before Superman can smash the solar collector, the Anti-Monitor, standing guard here, lashes out.
As Kal cries out in pain, Supergirl hears him flies off to the rescue. "Supergirl is a hero ... and her concerns are not for herself ... but for the one she loves."
And it is a good thing she does, because we see the Anti-Monitor laying a beatdown on Superman. And just as the Anti-Monitor moves in to kill Superman, Supergirl flies in. I love this series of panels. By having the background stay the same but Supergirl change as she streaks forward, this really has a sense of kineticism.
It is her words that resonate. She talks about saving Kal, or standing in for him if he can't go on, and being true to herself and living up to her ideals.
But all those philosophical words change to harsh determination when she sees that it is the Anti-Monitor himself standing before her.
This is the very threat against life before her and Supergirl unleashes her fury.
It is a small inset panel in the middle but we see Dr. Light be impressed and inspired by Supergirl. Kimiyo has been presented as a harsh, egotistical, bull-headed person so far. So this is growth. And it shows the power of inspiration, one of those little known powers of the super-family.
The battle ranges on. Supergirl continues to stop the Anti-Monitor from killing Superman.
And then we see Kara reach her breaking point. She believes in the sanctity of life. But the Anti-Monitor isn't worthy of her care. It seems she is going to kill him.
Again, Dr. Light sees Supergirl's actions and is inspired. Dr. Light realizes that the contempt she has shown for people is foolish in comparison to Supergirl's selflessness.
And then it happens. Supergirl grabs the Anti-Monitor, flies him into the solar collector, destroying it.
In a darkly inked, brutal sequence, we see Supergirl punching away at the Anti-Monitor, smashing his protective suit. And just as it seems that Supergirl will end this whole thing, Dr. Light distracts Supergirl.
The Anti-Monitor lets loose with a lethal blast.
Again, Perez is a master here. The panel with the blast has jagged borders, unlike all the others. The inset panels of Supergirl's eye, the Anti-Monitor's glowing visage, Superman's scream ... it all adds weight to the main panel.
His machine destroyed and barely living, the Anti-Monitor flees.
Supergirl is given one last scene, a chance to tell Superman how much she loves him.
The middle column of panels, with Kara talking, the panels becoming smaller as her life ebbs, is just a perfect mix of words and art. That last panel colored red as Superman screams is incredible.
And with that, Supergirl dies, having sacrificed herself to save 5 universes.
There isn't much left to do but grieve.
Batgirl gives a powerful eulogy, brief but poignant.
"A hero is not measured by what her power may be ... but by the courage she shows in living, and in the warmth she holds in her heart. Let her courage give us courage. Let her love give us love, and let her hope give us hope."
I am glad we get the panel with Brainiac 5. It shows that Supergirl's history is being honored here a bit as well.
We also see Superman's private grieving. I feel this page was extremely important, showing the relationship the cousins had. To hear him say these words, acknowledging how much she has grown as a character and then saying how much he loves her, how much he will miss her. It is all a crucial part of her legacy.
And that is that.
I still wrestle with this issue and what it represents.
Let's face it, this issue is a great legacy for that incarnation of Supergirl. She is the star of the biggest issue of one the biggest series in DCU history. She died a hero, saving the universe. She has a spotlight on her, showing what a great character she was. And that legacy has impacted her character in each subsequent version. If you are going to die in a comic, this is the way you want to.
I think of the terrible ways other heroes have died in big company crossovers. I think of J'onn J'onzz killed by the Human Flame in Final Crisis. I think of Firestorm killed in Identity Crisis. I think of Hawkman and Hawkgirl killed in Blackest Night. Supergirl did well compared to these.
But, all of that happened afterwards. At the time all I knew was that DC felt Supergirl no longer needed to be around. And that had to be built on the foundation that her character was superfluous. Would I rather she never died?
The question came up recently with the murky ending of Convergence. I didn't want the Crisis to be undone. I didn't want that Supergirl to miss this moment.
But did she really have to die?
In the end, I can only stand behind the strength of the story and the quality of the issue. It is a masterpiece. Obviously, for any Supergirl collection, this issue is of the utmost importance.