I recently guest starred on the Waiting For Doom Podcast where Paul and Mike and I reviewed the times Supergirl crossed paths with the whole Patrol. Two of the issues we reviewed were Superman Family #191, #192 and #193. Within that story there is a disembodied foe, manipulating events to destroy Supergirl.
On that podcast, I reveal that the spirit villain is none other than Lesla Lar, an old time villain in the early Supergirl issues of Action Comics, #279, 280, and 281. Given that Lar works her way through much of Supergirl's Superman Family stories, I thought I owed it to folks to review her eventual defeat.
I actually love that Lesla Lar was a part of this long play arc. Supergirl, at that point (and some might say even now), had very few true rogues. Lesla appeared in a three parter back in 1961. That could be considered a 'major arc' back then. So bringing her back was a very nice homage to Supergirl fans. I also find it interesting that Lar was such a big part of these Superman Family books, spanning several different writers! I wonder if there was some editorial control about this.
All that said, despite being a major part of Supergirl's Superman Family stories, the finale to her story isn't great. So let's review it.
'Strangers at the Heart's Core!' was written by Jack C. Harris and drawn by Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta. Harris wrote a bulk of Supergirl's stories in Superman Family and had first reappeared way back in Superman Family #186, 20 issues earlier! Now all of these reappearances are either in flashbacks or as a disembodied energy blob. But still ... she was a villain working her powers against Kara for nearly 20 issues!
We start out with Supergirl having a nightmare, where her two sets of parents are trying to claim her. This is unsettling to Kara, causing her to toss and turn in the night until she is awakened by a phone call. It turns out that Edna Danvers, her stepmother, is calling to let her know she will be appearing with a surprise for Linda the following day.
Now certainly, when Kara first learned that her parents survived Argo City in the Survivor Zone, she had some emotional issues of loving two sets of parents. But she had come to grips with that in the past. So this is revisiting some more juvenile issues within Supergirl's life.
As for the art, I think Win Mortimer drew a fine Supergirl. Here he gives us some fan service, having her appear rather buxom in lingerie for the first few pages.
Heading to work, Supergirl is distracted by Superman flying around the New Athens Experimental School campus. Supergirl discovers that the 'Superman' is an actor who will play Superman in an upcoming movie on wires. This irks Supergirl, wondering why fake heroes get more adoration than real heroes.
This seems a bit catty for an established super-hero.
I also have to say, these felt like wasted pages given how insanely fast the rest of this issues rolls out.
The surprise of Mrs. Danvers is a drop-in visit to see Linda and have lunch.
But then something strange happens. Slowly, Fred and Edna Danvers morph into Zor-El and Alura. From their looks to their clothes to even there fingerprints, Supergirl's adoptive parents become her birth parents.
It is insane. And suddenly, perhaps weakened by this craziness, Supergirl finds herself attacked on the astral plane.
It is Lesla Lar! We see in a nice flashback panel all the plots that Lesla was involved in during Supergirl's recent adventures, all the times she was manipulating events to weaken Supergirl.
Now I suppose a brief history of Lesla Lar is warranted. Lesla lived on Kandor and looked exactly like Kara. She was also a brilliant scientist. Looking on from Kandor, she became obsessed with hate for Supergirl. Why should Kara live normal sized as a hero while she was stuck in the bottle city. In those early adventures, Lesla traps Kara in Kandor and then replaces Kara as Supergirl on Earth. While posing as Supergirl, Lar releases the Phantom Zone villains. Those villains then vaporized her with some weapon.
But apparently she survived.
She survived, evolving into living energy and psionic power, and still loathing Supergirl.
But then things get even nuttier.
Lar has become more deluded, thinking herself to be Kara's twin sister who was abandoned by Alura and Zor-El. And therefore, to reclaim her life, she will fight within Supergirl's mind to control Kara's body. And then she will confront Zor-El and Alura about leaving her in Kandor. So she used the powers she now has to mutate the Danvers into the Els.
Now there is so much that is bizarre here. The idea that Lar thinks she is Supergirl's twin is crazy (although Kara does admit they are identical - a cosmic coincidence). But it also is wild that she has enough power to transmute the Danvers effortlessly ... some power. If she has that much power, you would think she would have a better way of exacting her revenge.
Lastly, I don't know why Mortimer has Lesla and Kara fighting with glowing psionic rocks.
The battle weakens Kara enough so much that Kara's astral presence is kicked out of her body and Lesla takes over.
It appears that Lesla Lar has won!
Lesla then confronts her 'parents' calling them Zor-El and Alura (remember they are actually Fred and Edna Danvers).
Of course, a daughter would never call her father by his first and last name, nor her mother by her first name. So the fake Zor-El and Alura make Lesla confront her own mistake. (But since this is really Fred and Edna, is this Lesla making them say this?)
Distraught that she might not be Supergirl's sister, Lar's hold on the body weakens.
And so, mentally anguished, Lesla's control on the bodies of "Zor-El and Alura" dissipates. Suddenly Fred and Edna are back. And with that Kara is able to cast out Lesla and regain control of her body.
That attack destroys Lesla's energy integrity. She dispersed in the astral plane, utterly defeated. So did Kara kill her?
I also don't get Linda's last statement, saying Lesla gave her some 'last moments' with Zor-El and Alura. They are alive! She's had plenty of moments with them!
And that panel where Linda has inhabited her body is odd. Why cover her face?
So what do I think of this issue? I love that Lesla Lar was the mastermind of all these issues. That was a great callback to Supergirl continuity. But her powers are immense and her plot seems foolish if she wields such command of reality itself. (Of course, she is insane ... maybe it makes sense to her.)
I also think the battle with Lar feels rushed. It is crammed into 6 pages! The first 5 are the set up of the bad dream and the Superman movie star. The Lar battle deserved some of that time!
Still, overall, a long winding plot done in an anthology book is pretty cool, especially when it leans on a character's past. I don't know if you need to have this in a Supergirl collection but it does show how some Silver Age elements worked their way into the Bronze Age.