Monday, August 24, 2015

Repeat Review: Supergirl and Team Luthor

How do you know you have been blogging about a character for a long time? When you realize you want to revisit an issue that you have already covered.

Back in 2008, I reviewed the stand-alone issue Supergirl and Team Luthor. It was my 12th post ever. That is a long time ago. The review was brief and too the point.

With recent announcements of supporting characters and super-villains coming to the Supergirl show I thought I would dig up a back issue that highlighted one of the guest reveals. I have already covered a lot (if not all) of Reactron's appearances. I already covered all the recent Lucy and General Lane stuff. I even have highlighted some old Lucy Lane. That left Livewire and Hellgrammite.

Now neither have had any major interaction with Supergirl but Hellgrammite comes the closest. With that in mind I thought I would look back at Supergirl and Team Luthor and review the longest story in the issue a bit more closely.

"The Future of Metropolis!" was written by Roger Stern with pencils by June Brigman. Brigman's art is inked by Butch Guice and Dennis Janke.

This feels more like a Luthor story than a Supergirl one. This is a dense read at times of Luthor's state of mind. From corporate espionage to Lexcorp's entertainment division's annual projections to his dealing with own sense of immortality now that he is in a younger body, we really get a lot of Lex. There are pages of what read like business meetings which, while giving me a very good sense of Lex, are at times ponderous. Luckily, those pages are split up with some action sequences with the Matrix Supergirl.

This story takes place right after the death of Superman storyline. Superman has died at the hands of Doomsday and Metropolis is still recovering, both physically and emotionally. And Lex Luthor II, the cloned young version of Lex, isn't going to let a moment like that pass without taking advantage.

The first advantage Lex will press is replacing the presence of Superman with Supergirl and a Team Luthor security squad. The opening pages are a propaganda piece about Supergirl where Lex co-opts some of the most famous Superman beats, making them Supergirl descriptors. Now it is she who is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

And Lex pours on the sentiment, showing Matrix not only saving lives, helping with fires, but even saving kittens. It is an almost perfect rewriting of the Superman legend, substituting Supergirl into the mix.

And so we see him unveil the titular group of Supergirl and Team Luthor, a sort of Red Rocket squadron or phalanx of low-level Iron Man analogs who will protect the city in this time of crisis.

You can see how Lex is using the Crisis to further insinuate himself into the workings of the city. He is showing this movie to the city council and mayor. He wants to suddenly be part of the inner workings of the city. I am sure this isn't all magnanimous.

I thought this promotional video was a great opening sequence. We see how heroic Supergirl can be. We sense how earnest she is in wanting to help people. But we almost immediately get the sense that she is being used by Lex.

While Luthor does dominate much of this story, there are some great Supergirl moments which are worth reviewing.

This story is in the immediate aftermath of Doomsday's attack. There are demolished buildings in the streets. There are people missing. The city is still cleaning up. And Supergirl is helping out as much as she can.

We see her lifting sections of a destroyed building and rescuing a man who has been trapped in the rubble for three days. But this living man rushed away in an ambulance is contrasted by a huge group of shrouded dead, victims of the attack.

Showing the cynical times, reporters swarm Supergirl asking her if she is doing this for glory, to overshadow the hard working police and fire departments. Supergirl simply says she wants to help and that everyone can in many ways.

And then there is a great moment with Lois.

Lois is working the stories. But she is grieving.

In a nice moment of humanity, Supergirl wonders if her flying around wearing the S-Shield is appropriate. Does seeing Matrix as Supergirl make Lois hurt more?

I love Lois' response. The city needs someone super. And Matrix is honoring the name.

I had a lot of issues with the early Matrix Supergirl. But I have always felt that it is around this time, especially in Funeral For A Friend, she sort of turns it around, becoming an independent hero.

But Anj, wasn't this supposed to be some sort of look at Supergirl and Hellgrammite?

Hellgrammite is Roderick Rose, an entomologist who mutated himself into a bug-like monster. He has super-strength, jumping ability, and the ability to make webs/cocoons. He also was hired by a LexCorp manager Markham to kill Luthor and ended up being imprisoned in S.T.A.R. Labs.

And here he is, trapped at STAR in a rather public cell.

STAR is taken over by a terrorist cell who wants to steal the lab's body armor prototypes and destroying all electronic copies of the IP. And Hellgrammite is there to witness it.

Within moments of this attack, LexCorp gets wind of it and so in comes the cavalry. Supergirl and Team Luthor swoop in and save the day. But in this attack, Lex is injured, his leg broken by falling debris.

We learn however that Lex actually arranged the terrorist attack so that Team Luthor could swoop in for the rescue. Lex was hoping that such a show would convince the city council to put Team Luthor on the payroll. As Lex says, he wants Team Luthor to be the security of the city working with his 'own super-hero, a gorgeous young Supergirl who worships the ground he walks on!'

Lex makes it so easy to hate him!

As I said, these early Matrix stories are hard to read. And as a Supergirl fan, this was a tough time. She had gone crazy. She had banished herself to space. She had become a Brainiac slave. And now she is in this weird relationship with Lex.

In a scene that gets played out a couple of times, we see her change shapes to try to please him. Lucille Ball? Princess Leia?? Bettie Page???

It is creepy. And it shows just how little this Supergirl thought of herself.

But with Lex it is all about control. He will 'mold' Supergirl. He will control her. She will follow his agendas.

At the very least, despite all this, Stern continues to show that, at least for now, Supergirl still has her heart in the right place. We see her doing what is right, earning the respect of the other Team Luthor members, and acting as a leader.

Finally we get to the Supergirl/Hellgrammite part of the story.

It seems Hellgrammite escaped during the STAR labs attack. And his first stop is the home of George Markham, the Lexcorp employee who hired him to kill Luthor. Hellgrammite wants some of the money Markham promised him. Hellgrammite wants to know if Markham's contract is still valid on killing Luthor II (since the original target Luthor I is 'dead').

Hellgrammite is unbelievably creepy, all tail and clicks and violence.

Markham shouts that yes his contract is still valid. He wants Luthor dead.

Suddenly the lights go on and we see Lex and Team Luthor in the house, taping this admission.

And Hellgrammite?

Well 'he' turns out to be Supergirl. Matrix morphed herself into the shape of Hellgrammite to coax out the confession. But it wasn't easy. It is painful for her to so dramatically change shape. But she so loves Lex she was willing to suffer.

We end with some ominous foreshadowing, a plot thread followed up in the Supergirl mini-series. Lex would love a hundred Supergirls.

Okay, this was a lame excuse of a Supergirl/Hellgrammite issue. But there aren't many (or any) to choose from! And as I said, this as much Lex's story as Supergirl's.

As I said before, this is a good issue to have in a Supergirl collection as it highlights a sort of time where she was changing, becoming a more solid member of the DCU, a hero in her own right. We get two more stories and some pin-ups in the back. And it can be found in $1 boxes if you look hard enough.

Hope you enjoyed this look back at a world without Superman.


mhunt said...

I've never consider 'Matrix' as Supergirl.. never will.

Stephen M said...

The latest from the Sideshow Supergirl figurine.
It was shown at SD Comic Con.There are pictures and videos online.
Many military people complained that it looks like she is saluting with her left hand. Others thought she was just waving hello. Many others (everybody!) thought she looks too old and not like a girl at all. Sideshow says they are already changing these problems.
They are also going to do a print.
This morning the artist painted it online:

This was this morning but you can watch the replay.
I think she turned out beautifully. I've been reading Supergirl since 252 and this is the first time I think someone really did a good job with her. Bright, young, optimistic. Hopefully Sideshow will be able to sculpt that face.

Anonymous said...

The dark-haired woman you called Bettie Page is more likely Milton Caniff's Miss Lace, the main character in his WWII Stars and Stripes strip Mail Call. She was friendly with soldiers, sailors and marines always calling them either general or admiral.

Anj said...

I was trying to place that 'Page' girl. I was looking at all the characters from The Spirit!

Thanks for the info!!

Anonymous said...

As always, thanks for the reivew Anj. While I have most of "Death of Superman," this title I don't
recall picking up or being collected elsewhere. Will have to look out for it now :) And yeah, I
still shudder at how smitten and beholden Matrix / Supergirl is to Luthor II, and that "a hundred
Supergirls" comment now makes sent when Matrix meets all the protoplasmic clones in the 4issue
miniseries right before PAD took over. How the wheel turns... for Berlani and co. turning Hellgrammite into a Supergirl rogue, I don't know how that's going
to play out on screen, especially at least based on this issue, Supergirl didn't fight Hellgrammite
only pretend to be him. We'll see.

Livewire'll be more interesting... she took on Batgirl and Supergirl in "Girls Night Out," and I want
to say 2004 reinto Supergirl tangled with her as well, but only because (of course) Superman was "too
busy" to take her on.


Anj said...

Thanks for comment.
I am pretty sure I covered Girls Night Out at some point here.
I wonder if the Hellgrammite on the show will be an alien.

Glad it was worth me revisiting this!