Tuesday, July 7, 2015

30th Anniversary Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 Part 2

Yesterday I reviewed the first half of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 which reviewed the origins of the multiverse, the anti-matter universe, and the threat of the Crisis.

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.

Overall grade: A


John (somewhere in England) said...

On a slightly different subject, I've noticed that the Amazon websites are advertising two new Supergirl books. One is called "Supergirl 1" by Jeph Loeb and is due to be published on 9 February 2016. The other is simply called "Supergirl" by Peter David and Gary Frank and is due on 15 March 2016. They may be reissues, prompted by the Supergirl television series, but no further details are given.

Anonymous said...

When I first read this story from a huge collected edition of COIE lent to me by a neighbour's friend, I think I was definitely blown away by the scope, epicness and grand stakes of heroism and villainy set up in this particular issue. Supergirl's sacrifice remains a powerful and emotional scene and your analysis shows how poignant it was for Supergirl fans to be losing one of their favourite comic book characters in the heat of battle. It might have been unfair to deprive DC Comics of the real Supergirl for nearly 2 decades but as you say, there are worse ways a character has been killed off in the comics. This was Supergirl's last stand and showed her true heroism, courage and selflessness, so regardless of the aftermath, it can't be a bad way for a character to bow out.

If I may though, there are a few things regarding one of the characters you call having a terrible death, Martian Manhunter. Firstly, it was Libra who technically killed J'onn with a flaming spear. And secondly, a Final Crisis tie-in called Final Crisis Requiem covered J'onn's final moments and funeral. Although the main series makes it look like J'onn is casually taken out, he puts up a brave fight in that tie in by telepathically assaulting the Secret Society and makes them think the Justice League has come to finish them off. And before he dies, he transmits Mars' history and his own into the minds of Superman, Batman, Hal Jordan and Gypsy to be recorded and preserved after his passing so it isn't lost. Sorry if this sounds nit picky, it's not meant to be, but I thought it might interest you in case you haven't read it.


Godzylla said...

Even your recap here brings up all the emotions I had reading Crisis 7 for the first time (and indeed, each rereading). Not being a fan of late Infantino art, I didn't enjoy her last series as much as I'd wished, but her death still hurt, and though she was being eliminated to streamline Superman's broader legend post-Crisis, this is definitely not an early example of WIR.

Supergirl's death was the central pain, the linchpin of the series, as Barry Allen's death in the following issue, though well-written by Wolfman, was almost a relief after years of DC killing any interest in the character with the abominably poor and seemingly never-ending "Trial of the Flash." Everything that Kara was, represented, and could have been was encapsulated in her arc through Crisis on Infinite Earths. Which almost made up for losing her.

But not quite.

I haven't read any of the other Crisis events you've mentioned (including Convergence), and I've heard too much about them to ever have any interest in doing so. Crisis on Infinite Earths established how to do a company-wide crossover: a tight plot that makes sense, and allowing the characters to shine. Unfortunately, company crossovers since have followed the Secret Wars formula (no real story but a major slugfest setting up whatever corporate has dictated must change in the line), with poor writing, concepts, disservice to fans, and generally insulting the audience.

Excellent post.

Anj said...

Thanks for the great comments.

I see your point Louis. There is more to that J'onn death. But i still think that was a footnote in Final Crisis and not the major turning point Kara's sacrifice is.

And you are right Godzylla, this was a great death ... but a death nonetheless.

Count Drunkula said...

I have complicated feelings about CRISIS because I appreciate the story on a historical level, but when I read it for the first time (only ten years ago) it failed to impress me. Listening to Michael Bailey and Scott Gardner talk about it on the Tales of the Justice Society of America podcast inspired me to look at the book again and as I've been revisiting it, (some of) my feelings are changing.

The one thing from my original reading that always resonated was the death of Supergirl. I really wasn't that familiar with the character before this book, but Wolfman made me like her in a very short amount of time. And then he killed her. I knew it was coming, of course, but it still felt like she was stolen away by the cosmic forces of publishing edict rather than story. Also, I've never liked Doctor Light because of her total inaction during the scene.

Great review, Anj. Your passion and sentiment is easily felt in these posts.

Unknown said...

Excellent two part review of Crisis on Infinite Earths 7. It was interesting to read the thoughts of someone who read the issue in 1985.

I read this issue for the first ime around 2007. Prior to reading Crisis, I always wondered why Kara had no appearances in different media. After I saw the Supergirl movie I wanted to see more of the character. This issue explains so much why Kara never appeared on TV's Superboy or Lois and Clark. And it explains why Kara In-Ze was from Krypton's sister planet Argo.

Supergirl continues to be a great character, and the Crisis story is one of many moments where her greatness shines.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

Its funny Count, I have read the issue too many times to count. But reviewing it added a layer of passion I hadn't felt in a while, as if words that have been waiting 30yrs to come out finally had a venue.

And yes John, the In-Ze/Argo/Pocket Universe is all a way to keep Superman singular.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

"Superman with boobs" seems a little harsh. Considering Barry Allen stayed "dead" for a few years longer than Kara did, I do put a lot of weight into believing that DC had to kill off Supergirl if they were going to do a proper reboot of Superman. Aside from the "pocket universe" silliness, none of the Matrix.Luthor with the beard/great Peter David series happened until long after the new "Byrne-Superman" had been around.

Put that against Flash, whose character seemed to have run its course. There was even a different JLA at the time.

And there were some decent stories related to her death involving Brainiac 5 grieving in LSH, and that wonderful Pulp Heroes annual from the mid-90s with Supergirl and Brainiac 5.

I'd be curious as to what editorial edict was then as compared to the new52, and if there was any back and forth over Supergirl's death as little (I assume) as The Flash's death.

I was extremely saddened by the issue, and surprised that the two deaths would follow each other just an issue apart. But I understood their reasoning, whether I was right or wrong at the time. It had to be a clean slate for the Superman reboot.

Anj said...

Wayne, I completely agree that 'Superman with boobs' is rough! That's not my quote, that is a quote from one of DC's executives.

I don't think Byrne had specifically signed on for Superman when this was done. But I think DC saw the writing on the wall for a reboot.

And I have reviewed that Legion issue here (and all the crisis crossovers she was in over time). But I never did the Pulp Hero one. Hmmm ....

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

As artful as her death is, Supergirl's death is always overshadowed by capricious & malevolent editorial trends at DC Comics that the COIE ushered in.
And while we are discussing "the rough" don't forget that Marv Wolfman dismissed Supergirl as a "Barnacle on Superman's Hulk" (left undiscussed the relative mollusk attributes of Batgirl, Wondergirl, Lady Blackhawk & Tula the Aquagirl).
Thirty years and my blood still boils...until I recall that Kara is at last getting her shot at redemption on TV!
FIngers crossed!


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj: the Pulp Heroes one, I'm guessing 1995, was great. And you really need the cover art by the late Glen Orbik. He died a few months back, much too young. Supergirl and B 5. I'm sure you can Google Image it, just type in s, B5 and Orbik, maybe even DC Pulp Heroes.

Yeah, I know the comment was made by someone at DC. Harsh and d!ckish. They haven't changed. I didn't mean so much that Byrne was already signed on to Superman--I actually never thought about that--but it made sense to get a fresh start that meant taking away almost everything. Though there could easily have been a Supergirl arriving on Earth before Matrix showed up, so I still call foul on DC.

It would be great to see an analogue of Brainiac 5 on the show! Find that Orbik cover. I'd have to look in my crawlspace to find my copy, so I can't tell you what Annual# it was for Supergirl.

FYI: Orbik did all of the Pulp Heroes covers. I'm sure a lot show up on Google Images. Met him a few times. Sad he's gone so young.

Anj said...

I have the Pulp Heroes annual in the long box, don't worry!
That hasn't been on my radar to do a review of, I'll be honest. But now I think I need to pull it out and reread!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

You still have to look up the Orbik covers! Martian Manhunter was great. Glen later moved on to doing the covers of the Hard Crime pbs. I thought he was the next best cover artist to Alex Ross.

Anj said...

I got Amercan Century, a Chaykin book where he did covers. He was a genius.

Will look up Pulp Heroes!

Anonymous said...

Here are the pulp heroes covers:



Nobile said...

Well, we can argue a lot on why Kara was "sentenced" to death: was it just fridging, or making her legacy count after a few attempts to properly launch the character - solo movie included.
But I keep on repeating this concept, COIE was NOT done to reboot the characters, actually, the very concept of reboot was still years away. There was just one continuity, previous attempts of "rebooting" characters had been done just not caring that much (no more Jay Garrick, here comes Barry Allen) or forcing them into continuity (Kryptonite No More).
The purpose of COIE was to clean up the continuity and remove the doubles, the reboot came almost two years later with Legends and it was a total continuity mess, as we all know. So we had two Supergirls, and one had to go, we had to Supermen and one had to go, we had two Wonder Women and... Oh, well, we don't need them at all!
That was the idea, and, to say it out loud, Earth-1 Superman, was the one who was supposed to die, with Kal-L taking his place, but then they reverted to his cousin. There was no reboot, we had about one year of Superman stories with Supergirl dead and one single Earth before Byrne, Miller, PĂ©rez weighted in, the reboots started and Legends happened, and, actually, the Crisis was almost never mentioned as it never happened for many years.

Anonymous said...

"The purpose of COIE was to clean up the continuity and remove the doubles, the reboot came almost two years later with Legends and it was a total continuity mess, as we all know."

Well, some fans defend the Crisis and the subsequent reboot, claiming that the DC universe would be even more convoluted without COIE.

Given that the Post-Crisis universe became a convoluted mess specifically because of the Crisis, I highly doubt that.