Monday, July 27, 2015

30th Anniversary:Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 - Fallout In Future Incarnations

We are nearing the end of July 2015 and my 30th anniversary review of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

One of the things I have discussed over this month has been how I am conflicted about this issue.

On the one hand, DC felt that Supergirl was something of a superfluous character, someone which could be easily erased from continuity without too many people being upset. It was a slap in the face to Supergirl fans who loved her and grew with her.

On the other hand, it is a huge moment in comics. It is a great heroic death for the character, saving the universe and inspiring others. The cover of this issue is the image for the Crisis, the series which forever rewrote DC continuity. There is no doubt that this story gave Supergirl something of a legacy which could be built on, even in other incarnations!

In the end, especially given the return of Supergirl a couple of times, I have definitely fallen into the latter disposition. This was a huge moment for comics. And it is Supergirl's moment. This happened 30 years ago and people still talk about it.

Unfortunately, one of the problems with the Crisis is that once the multiverse was reborn as a true universe, once Supergirl got erased from history, then no one remembered her sacrifice. No one remembered she even existed. It was this fallout that led to Alan Brennert's famous Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot story. She saved worlds, the universe, but no one knows.

One of the things that I found interesting was seeing how Supergirl writers in the post-Crisis landscape commented on the Crisis and her sacrifice. This was a major comic moment that resonated even into the new DC universes and different Supergirls.

Peter David took over Supergirl in 1996 and created a very weird, almost quasi-Vertigo, super-title. In it, the Matrix Supergirl being merges with a tormented, troubled, young woman named Linda Danvers. This sacrifice by Matrix, saving someone beyond redemption, leads her to become an Earth Angel, walking a sort of mystic, religious line in her adventures.

David really infused this series with a ton of Supergirl Easter Eggs, nods to Supergirl's history in ways that old time fans could appreciate and new time fans might not notice. From the Danvers to Comet to Leesburg to Satan Girl ... there is a lot of Supergirl mythos here.

But in Supergirl #49, we get a bombshell. Written by David and drawn by Leonard Kirk, this issue opens with a despondent Supergirl, beaten down by the events of her life, questioning herself and a bout of hubris which led to a death, imprisoned by her enemy The Carnivore.

Supergirl is really beating herself up here. She basically has imprisoned herself and is wallowing in self-loathing when a vision appears before her to help her recognize herself as a being of goodness.

This being, glowing gold, tells her that she holds herself to a standard that no one can maintain. As Linda nothing was worth anything. As Supergirl, anything is worth everything. No one can be that good.

I love that Supergirl's response is that Clark can. It is a throwback to the old stories where Supergirl was living in the shadow of Superman, constantly trying to be like him, emulate him, be perfect like him.

The S-shield has power, is a symbol of immutable and perfect goodness. One can't look too long at the sun. I love how this being tells Supergirl that even when Linda won, she wondered if she could have done more.

Again, think to those early Action stories where Supergirl is constantly doubting herself, constantly worrying what Superman will think. It is this element of an inferiority complex, that concern that she isn't a real hero, which has been an undercurrent in the character.

This being was unseen in the title before this. Although twice before Supergirl basically prayed for some intervention and it happened. It was this being who did those.

And then we learn about this 'figment of imagination', this 'second thought', this 'guardian angel'.

Her name is Kara!

When I first read this I got chills. When I read it just now to write this post, I got chills.

Even the line of 'guardian angel' is an homage to Action Comics #252 were Supergirl calls herself Midvale's guardian angel.

But an imaginary friend? An invisible playmate? It is a way to discuss the first Supergirl, rewritten forgotten, only part of an imaginary continuity that doesn't exist anymore.

Brilliant use of Kara by David, a way to both honor the first Supergirl and strengthen the current one.

Of course David really delved into the impact of the Crisis in Many Happy Returns but I loved this nuanced look at a Supergirl that no longer existed.

David goes one step further in Supergirl #50, the final chapter of a story which has been working it's way through this title since the first issue. I have said it before ... I will say it again ... I believe the first 50 issues of this title are one of the strongest and best long form stories in comics.

In this book, the Carnivore, the first vampire, has been given the power of God and has rewritten the universe into a dark, evil version of itself. Even heroes like Superman become demonic.

Supergirl, in one of the best and most understated victories, defeats the Carnivore. Without his malevolent desires, the universe reverts to normal.

She saves the universe!

That victory strips the angelic portion of Supergirl from Linda. She has limited powers.

But then David injects some of Crisis into this story. We just saw her save the universe like in Crisis #7.

Now we learn that the world 'knows' that Supergirl 'died in mighty combat against a foe of unimaginable power.' You could use that sentence to describe Crisis #7 without batting an eye.

David hammers home the point just to make sure that it isn't lost. It is an 'inherited, implanted memory', a 'retroactive bit of continuity'.

This is a nod to the crisis without a doubt, giving this Supergirl the recognition for saving the universe that the original didn't get to savor.

Again, brilliant use of the Supergirl mythos put into this version of the character.

But Peter David isn't the only writer of Supergirl who looked back and played on her death in Crisis.

Sterling Gates also looked back. Gates certainly appreciated Supergirl history. We see Gates insert a lot of older Supergirl history into the incarnation he was writing. From her relationship with Brainiac 5 to peek-a-boo shots of The Gang to Satan Girl, Gates honored what came before while making it new and fresh.

Supergirl Annual #2, with art by Matt Camp and Marco Rudy, is a treasure trove of Supergirl and Legion Easter Eggs, definitely worth reading. But there is one moment that really sticks out.

Here Supergirl has been thrown into the 30th century and is working with the Legion.

She heads to the Superman Museum and rushes to the Supergirl wing to learn of her own history.

She learns how she dies.

That second panel, the look of sadness on her face, her hands together in front of her mouth, you can just tell that this wasn't a peaceful death, of natural causes while lying in bed. This is something weighty, maybe horrifying.

The death of Supergirl was basically revisited even without giving us the details. It shows how that legacy of her dying is still part of the character, even two incarnations past the original's death.

We are nearing the end of this month of review of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. I hope I have given this paramount issue the coverage it has deserved.


collectededitions said...

Great overview. Really enjoyed it, especially the look back at the Peter David series.

Anonymous said...

"I'm so many things to you. Your childhood invisible playmate... your conscience... your second thought... a figment of your
imagination... your guardian angel... heavens, I've hd such a variety of names... although the name I'm most fond of is Kara."

Yeah, still sends a shiver down my spine and a brings a tear to my eye... like the "My name is Kara, though that won't mean
anything to you" from the one Christmas special.

Thanks for reviewing, Anj.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

One more Crisis #7 post to come.