Monday, March 7, 2016

Back Issue Review: Adventure Comics #285

You know we are living in good times when Monday night is 'Supergirl night'. The show has become that ingrained in the fandom.

And that is great ... except for the times that there isn't an episode being aired on Monday. There is no show tonight.

Realizing that there'll be something of a 'show hole' to fill, I thought I would look into the back issue box to see if I could come up with something relevant. And given that the Kara/Alex relationship is such a key component of the Supergirl show, I thought I would review Adventure Comics #385. It is a cover which dares to see if you "Can solve the secret of Supergirl's Big Sister!"

A big sister? Read on, true believers!

"Supergirl's Big Sister" was written by Cary Bates and drawn by Supergirl legend Kurt Schaffenberger.

The opening splash page is a nice set up for the story. Here is a young woman claiming to be Supergirl's big sister, juggling the whole spectrum of Kryptonite. Who is this woman? And can she really be who she claims to be?

That image of Kara cowering is perfect. It could be just from the Kryptonite threat (heck, one of them is supposedly gold Kryptonite!). But it also could be that she is unnerved from the idea that her whole life, her history, up to this point has been a lie.

A quiet day patrolling for Supergirl is interrupted by a flying orange rocket. The rocket is on a collision course from a American rocket fired by a nearby launchpad. Using some quick wits and physics, Supergirl is able to heat the air up below the American rocket to force it to rise over this apparently extra-terrestrial rocket.

The orange rocket lands and it's pilot walks out.

"I am Kranna, your older super-sister!"

I actually like the costume she's wearing here.

Immediately, Kranna starts to show some powers, a way to prove to Supergirl she is indeed Kryptonian.

She uproots a huge tree and easily tosses it across a river.

Kranna notices that the tip of her rocket is glowing red, most consistent with red Kryptonite. Kranna states she is immune to Kryptonite and uses her heat vision to melt away the red K contamination.

Not only is she Supergirl's older sister, she is also Supergirl's superior sister.

Despite the powers, Supergirl still isn't buying it. She never knew an older sister and certainly her parents Zor-El and Alura would have told her about one. This prompts Kranna to tell her origin story.

Even on Krypton, Kranna was evidencing super-powers. I suppose that would make her a mutant even within her race. At five, she was already lifting tremendous weights. This is sort of reminiscent of Superman's origin where we saw him lifting heavy things at the orphanage and around the Kent farm.

Her tremendous power got the attention of the people of Astrid VF-1. She is already superior. She is kidnapped and Alura and Zor-El is mindwiped. Kranna is then brought to that planet to be raised there. When of age, she will be forced to marry the planet's prince.

I do like that Schaffenberger drew Alura's outfit to be similar to the one Kranna is wearing now.

Initially Kranna is kept on the planet by a green Kryptonite cloud. But over time, she develops immunity to Kryptonite, perhaps as part of her presumed 'mutation'?

With nothing stopping her from leaving Astrid, Kranna blows away her captors and escapes in her rocket. She knew the fate of Argo City but also knew of her little sister Kara. And so, she guides the rocket to Earth.

There is a feeling of smugness to Kranna's interactions with Kara initially. She doubts Kara could wring diamonds from the extra-hard coal from planet Astrid.

Sick of being one-upped, Supergirl shows just how powerful she is. She easily turns a large pile of coal into a whole hoard of diamonds.

Suddenly, Supergirl is summoned to an emergency. She leaves Kranna to deal with it, promising to return.

So true believer, do you believe Kranna? Is she Supergirl's big sister?

As soon as Supergirl is out of sight, Kranna cackles and does a bit of monologuing.

She isn't from Krypton. She isn't Supergirl's big sister. She has arranged an elaborate hoax to trick Supergirl into making her a pile of diamonds.

She is Carol Benton, the daughter of a rocket expert and she had the rocket built for her. She then arranged it to land at a specific site to trick Supergirl.

The tree is paper mache. The 'red K' was simple glittery chemicals which self-disintegrated. And she even 'lifted' the rocket by using opposite magnetic fields

All to try to trick Supergirl into making diamonds to hock.

That sounds like a long way to go ... but it worked!

Except it didn't.

Supergirl suspected something all along. Supergirl faked the emergency call to fly away. She wanted to see if Kranna would give herself away and she did. But Carol is unfazed by Supergirl returning and confronting her. After all, she hasn't committed a crime. Supergirl can't arrest her. She'll just keep the diamonds.

Except Supergirl isn't going to let her get away with it. She melts the diamonds with her heat vision. Carol will have no prize.

The clue that Supergirl noted that made her suspect from the beginning? Kranna never flew. If she had Kryptonian powers she wouldn't need a rocket. I mean, why would God need a starship?

So Kranna is no Alex Danvers. But hopefully this story of Supergirl and her 'sister' will fill the show hole.

For me this is a silly story which is of interest to me because of its timing. Supergirl is in a bit of a transition at this time in DC. Each issue is a mix of old school silly Silver Age stories and some more 'modern' Mike Sekowsky stories. Pretty soon, she'll be off to San Francisco as a member of a mobile news team. But it is of little importance overall.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

Such fun nonsense, I adore Schaffenberger's cackling Carol. And how fab that Kara knew she could rely on a person, if a villain, to start monologuing and cackling the minute she was out of sight.

Was Supergirl's origin public knowledge? Or did people just know the name Argo City and bare details? Does she use the names Zor and Alura?

Anj said...

She does in a flashback name drop Alura and Zor-El.
I suppose after Supergirl was introduced to the world in Action #285 that Argo was a known aspect of her origin.

I agree this is silly fun. But, like you, I love Schaffenberger's clean style. So good!

Unknown said...

I have it!

Anonymous said...

> I mean, why would God need a starship?

Hahahaha, nice shout out to Star Trek on that Anj. Indeed, a bit of a silly story, and thanks for digging up this story to review
till a new episode of Supergirl airs next week. Can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Ghod but Kurt Schaffenberger could take the most meshugginah DC script and make it look amazing....him and Curt Swan were the masters of emotional content, when Kurt's character's cackle you could literally hear their nasty giggling.
And obligquely let me note that he drew very very pulchritudinous women indeed, Kara's slow drift to "Bombshell Supergirl Status" started under Schaffenberger's tutelage.

When I was a wee Justin I used to make fun of Schaffenberger's old fashioned cartoony layouts but I had the good fortune to meet him at a convention when I was 17 years old and he made such a positive impression that I 180'd on him and became his most ardent defender....


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

My guilty pleasures are the Supergirl stories that ran in Adventure, even the ones with that weird woman with the eye patch. Maybe its nostalgia. I bought most of those from a vending machine that had random comics piled on top of each other.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

I couldn't agree more about the genius of Kurt Schaffenberger. Not just any artist could have successfully followed definitive Supergirl artist Jim Mooney on the character. Much as I love Swan and Kirby, Schaffenberger is also my favorite Jimmy Olsen artist. Anj, the DC Superhero Girls action figures are on sale now at Target. I llok forward to your review of the Supergirl one.

Anj said...

I have to echo some of the sentiment I have heard here.

When I first saw Schaffenberger's art I thought 'too cartoony'! But I was young.

Since then, I have come to completely appreciate the clean and beautiful work the man produced. His stuff is gorgeous.