Monday, February 8, 2016

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #6

Last week we saw Supergirl fight Rampage in Adventures of Supergirl #1, the new digital first comic linked to the television show.

But this isn't the first time we have seen those two fight each other. And since I like to tie in back issue reviews to current events, I thought it would be a good time to bring out Supergirl #6 from 1996.

Now anyone who has visited this site before knows that I am very fond of Peter David's Supergirl run. This was the Matrix Supergirl, a naive and optimistic protoplasm creature from a pocket universe, merging with Linda Danvers, a troubled and bitter young woman. And that mix of personalities led to a great story of redemption, humanity, and religion.

But this story is very early in that run. Supergirl is still trying to come to grips with her new life. Linda had a troubled relationship with her parents. She is trying to lead a normal life in Leesburg. Supergirl is trying to move away from the young woman who lived in Metropolis and was a dupe Luthor. Very few people know about this new reality. And since she is so unsure about it herself, Linda/Supergirl is keeping her new duality a secret from all sides.

The art here (and for the first 9 issues of the title) is done by Gary Frank and Cam Smith and is just gorgeous. This is before Frank began to draw everyone gaunt and overly rendered. I mean if I could drink Frank's art on this title, I would.

The issue starts with a great splash page of Supergirl and Rampage in pitched battle, falling from a bridge and into water. I always like when an opening page is grabbing, pulling me into the story. And there is a lot to comment on here.

First, you really feel the size differential of the two combatants. Rampage looks like she has twice the mass of Linda. And Linda's anguished face lets you know this is a true fight.

I love that the caption boxes are all askew, showing the frenetic and insane pitch of the fight.

And the Supergirl 'origin box' does a better job of explaining things than I did in the introduction.

After we see Supergirl and Rampage crash into the water and Supergirl left at the bottom of the river, David winds back the clock.

In Leesburg, Linda's mother Sylvia is trying to convince Linda to go out on a blind date that Sylvia has set up. We have seen that Sylvia is a devout Christian. Linda isn't sure if that is a good idea and declines. And that rather polite refusal fires up her father (homebound recovering from an injury he suffered in the field as a police officer).

Remember, we know Linda hung out with Buzz (a demon), was in a demonic cult, and may or may not have taken part in a murder. The Danvers has had it tough trying to reign in their daughter. But all that defiance and hate is gone now that Supergirl is sort of running things. So when Linda refuses the date, Fred assumes the worst.

I just feel for the parents here, waiting for the other shoe to drop, not knowing why their daughter is acting differently. They don't know about her new persona.

Meanwhile, Kitty (Rampage) Faulkner is in Leesburg for a science convention. We see Kitty talk to her assistant Christine, a young and beautiful woman. Kitty thanks Christine for helping get through a rough time period. Faulkner is still trying to deal with her reality of having a Hulk-like identity raging in her.

It is implied that these two are now in a romantic as well as a professional relationship.

This was 1996 and, for that time, David was incredibly inclusive in this book.

Meanwhile, Linda has stormed out of her house after her father's rant.

Sitting in park, she has an odd conversation with a young boy, someone we know, in later issues, is Wally/God. But here we don't know that he is going to be a recurring character.

Wally is wise for a kid. He talks about how people can be family or friends and still be strangers, hiding information. That strikes Linda/Supergirl who is still coming to grips with her reality. Is she play-acting Linda? Or living a real life?

It is moment of revelation, appropriate for a brush with the divine.

In the issue, we hear that authorities are after Kitty for having embezzled a large amount of money from her employer STAR Labs. Alerted about this Superman heads to Leesburg where he knows Kitty is.

STAR calls Kitty and lets her know about the missing funds. And then, putting two and two together, Kitty realizes that it is Christine who had access to all things and absconded the funds. Christine used Kitty, pretending to be something she isn't, fooling Kitty with faux romance in order to obtain passwords and account numbers.

This relationship is a sort of version of Linda's life. These two were lovers but really strangers. Christine was faking this life of enamored and respectful partner.

Coldly, Christine decides to walk out.
Angrily, Kitty turns into Rampage and begins stomping through Leesburg, chasing Christine who is racing away.
Heroically, Supergirl and then Superman fly in to stop Kitty.

And now we are caught up to that opening page.

Now I think David does at times force humor into his books. But I thought this was funny.

Rampage tosses Superman into the sign of a grocery store as he is telling her that stomping around as Rampage lacks subtlety.

Of course, subtlety only comes out in a panel with him next to the huge SUPER part of the store sign. It lacks subtlety as well.

Finally, the four characters of Supergirl, Superman, Rampage, and Christine, are together and talking.

Rampage wails about how she trusted Christine and let Christine into her life. She is betrayed. How can they understand.

But this Linda can understand. She trusted Buzz. She loved Buzz. And Buzz ritualistically killed her. She totally can understand. But there has to be a better way to deal with it than murder.

Surprisingly, Superman decides to let Rampage decide what to do. He says he won't stop her from killing Christine if she wants.

Luckily, Rampage does the right thing. She doesn't kill.

We learn that Superman would have flown over Christine if Rampage decided to kill.

But instead, he prayed that Kitty would do the right thing.

And that is another injection of religion into the book.

Kitty is distraught. Used, betrayed, presumed criminal, she doesn't know who to trust. Can she even trust Superman to help her.

But she needn't worry because Supergirl is getting the information out of Christine to get the funds back.

I liked this sort of fierceness in Supergirl. She doesn't take injustice lightly. She has a bit of fire in her. And while she doesn't threaten to drop Christine, this is unnerving.

Is this Supergirl? Or maybe some of Linda peeking through?

Earlier in the issue, we saw that the Danvers are in the dark about Linda's nature.

Here we see that Supergirl keeps the Superman side of her family in the dark as well. She says she simply decided to live in Leesburg. Even though Superman says that the Kents are worried about 'Mae', Supergirl just flies off saying there is nothing she needs to tell. She is lying, being a stranger, not trusting anyone with her new identity.

So this isn't much of a book if you are looking for a wild brawl between Supergirl and Rampage. But if you want to read a layered story about honesty and identity, this is a great story. Reading this again, I reminded of all the issues of this first year. The Chemo issue where she talks about what it feels like to be a 'thing' wondering if it is truly alive. We see the origin of Linda and her descent into evil. We see how civility can be scrubbed away to reveal the beast in all of us. And we get the ultimate redemption when the soul of Linda says Supergirl is more human than most.

I loved this book.

This is reprinted in trade, a trade resolicited soon. The issues are probably in dollar boxes. And they are worth it for the art alone. I can't gush enough about Frank in this time. But the story is deep and complex and meaty. Well worth it.

Overall grade: A


Unknown said...

Fire in her. Heh. Word play.

KET said...

BTW, Gates provides a shout-out to the PAD/Gary Frank run in issue #2 of the digital-first Adventures of Supergirl, which came out today.


Anj said...

Didn't even think about the fire comment! Freudian slip?

And yes, loved the homage in AoS. Think I saw another comic Easter Egg too!

Anonymous said...

I met Gary Frank at a comic book convention, very nice guy always likes his pencils vaguely suggestive of Brian Bolland...