Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Action Comics #291

The news came out recently that everyone's favorite 5th dimensional imp, Mr. Mxyzptlk, is coming to the Supergirl show!

While the show does seem to be leaning on Superman's rogues gallery for the villains of the episodes, I don't have too much to complain about here. Mr. Mxyzptlk has a relatively deep history with Supergirl, especially in the Silver Age. He was responsible for giving Kara her powers back (and a temporary immunity to Kryptonite!) early in her Action Comics run. But Supergirl hadn't been revealed at that point; Mxy thought she was just a 'normal girl'. He bothered her in the Adventure Comics run. And he was the big bad in Supergirl:Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade.

But I thought it would be appropriate to review his first true battle with Supergirl, Action Comics #291!

The cover comment for the Supergirl story is that she meets her Kryptonian parents and that is true. But it is in the context of the story 'The Bride of Mr. Mxyzptlk!'. Written by Jerry Siegel with art by Jim Mooney, the story is a wild romp stuffed into 12 pages. I am always amazed at just how much the old creators could put into a back-up feature! This would be a 6 parter these days.

And it opens up with this fantastic splash page. There is Mxyzptlk, looking dapper in his day tuxedo (while maintaining the purple derby and gloves), waiting outside the Justice of the Peace. And there is Kara, in a veil, being brought to the celebration by her Kryptonian parents. Say, aren't they dead? Despite Kara's protests, they are forcing her to marry the 5th dimensional trickster.

Whew ... there is a lot to digest in this one picture! But does the story hold up to this opening hook?

The story opens up with Linda and her adoptive parents Fred and Edna Danvers bring toys and supplies to the Midvale Orphanage, the very orphanage where Linda (Supergirl) Lee once lived. Supergirl is just thrilled with this. She knows how lucky she is for having such a loving family on Earth. It is relatively rare for Supergirl to be happy for a prolonged time in the Silver Age, so seeing her smile in that first panel is fantastic.

But I said, her happiness is often fleeting. We see Mr. Mxyzptlk looking on from his home dimension. He decides that Supergirl will be a great new target for his silliness.

Remember, Supergirl has only recently been revealed to the world, just 6 issues earlier. So it makes sense that he might eye her as a new foe to pester.

And he starts out with a wild premise. Mxyzptlk comes across a military plane about to perform a nuclear bomb test run. Supergirl is present to fly beside them to make sure everything goes well. Mxy turns the pilots into Bizarros requiring Supergirl to backwards talk them into not dropping the bomb on someplace populated. (Ah, the carefree days of atomic bomb testing!)

Flying back, she finds that New York City has been turning into Bizarro City. We get classic Silver Age Bizarro panels - a man eating a cereal box, a postman biting a dog. The UN Peace Council declares war on everyone. The whole thing is perplexing.

I love the Bizarro lying in the middle of the street reading a newspaper.

Finally, Mr. Mxyzptlk reveals that he is behind the 'hilarious hocus-pocus'.

Kara knows who he is but his magic makes him a tough character to grab hold of. And he is thrilled with how much he is bugging her.

I like the second panel showing both Kara and Mxy's speed with after images and action lines.

And so Kara begins trying to trick him into saying his name backwards. First she tries by leading a football game cheer, throwing letter cards in the air and asking the crowd to cheer the word they make. Mxyzptlk is taken by this game, smiling and playing along.

But when she tosses up 'Kltpzyxm' he turns the cards to snakes. He isn't that gullible.

And he continues his nonsensical pranks. He makes a swarm of bees huge, hoping they will frighten people at a policeman's picnic. Luckily, Supergirl is nearby to create a giant vat of nectar to distract the giant insects.

Realizing that trickery may not work, Supergirl dons a mind-control helmet and tries to force Mxy to say his name backwards. But his magic is more powerful than 'any mechanical gadget'. He is such a pest that even sweet, kind Supergirl loses her patience.

Check out that second panel showing an exasperated Supergirl calling Mxy the greatest creep there ever was.

I absolutely love it!

But Mxyzptlk doesn't quite get the message. Instead, we learn he has fallen in love with Kara. He is all a-tingle when in here presence. On one knee, he proposes! Disgusted, Kara rejects him.

In hopes of proving his love for her and hoping to win her heart, he uses his magic to bring back Zor-El and Alura, Supergirl's birth parents.

The return of Zor-El and Alura gives Siegel and Mooney the opportunity to retell Kara's origins. We once again see the sad story of Argo City.

But these are truly her parents. Kara brings them to the Danvers so both sets of her parents can meet each other. In what would become a recurring story later, the parents seem to vie for Kara's love and attention. Zor-El thanks the Danvers but it is time for him and Alura to raise their daughter. The Danvers are crushed.

And Kara? She is devastated. She loves both of her families. She doesn't want to be a problem. She sobs.

As I said, Kara being truly happy is usually shortlived in the Silver Age.

Living with her parents, Kara sees Zor-El tinkering in a lab. But then, surprisingly, he and Alura tell Kara it is time to meet back up with Mxy. He would be proud to have the imp as a son-in-law.

It makes no sense. Zor knows Kara doesn't love him. But both parents are forcing her into this wedding.

Suddenly we are at the justice of the peace. There is Mxy in his tux. And there is Kara with the veil and flowers. But before the vows can be exchanged, Zor brings out some punch.

Is this the first time we saw Zor-El acting like a jerk??

Claiming it is a Kryptonian custom to toast before the wedding, Zor has everyone drink up. Look at how happy Mxyzptlk looks! He says his zillions of pranks will make sure Supergirl doesn't get bored! That doesn't sound like a recipe for a happy marriage.

But Zor-El turns the tables. The experiment he was working on in the lab was a Kryptonian truth serum (!!) which he slipped into Mxy's punch. Compelled to answer by Zor-El's question, Mxy says 'Kltpzyxm' and returns to the 5th dimension.

Hurray! Zor-El isn't really the kind of dad who would force his daughter into an unwanted magic.

With Mxy gone, everything returns to normal. In fact, no one effected by Mxy's magic even remembers what happened (outside of the Kryptonians because of their super-minds). So the Danvers don't recall meeting Zor-El and Alura.

The last panel is filled with portents. Supergirl wonders what would happen if her parents were alive. The writer asks the readers if they would want to see that more.

The answer ends up being 'yes'. Zor-El and Alura turn up alive in the Safety Zone. They return. The Danvers and the Els compete for Supergirl's love. The Danvers move to Kandor. They meet a lookalike named Dar-Lin. Edna goes kind of crazy. But I guess more on that later.

Overall I loved this story. These early Mxy stories are brilliantly goofy. And having him fall for Supergirl is fantastic. Who hasn't fallen for her like that?

 What I do wonder is how will the show portray him? Silly imp? Evil magician? Somewhere in between? Can't wait to find out!

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

"everyone's favorite 5th dimensional imp,"

Superman: (folding arms) Not mine.

Supergirl: (clenching fists) And defitely not mine!

More seriously, when I heard about this, I thought: "Mr. Mxy? This may be interesting". Then I thought: "Will they ever use a Supergirl villain -other than Reactron and Bizarrogirl- instead of borrowing her cousin's?". And then I thought: "Oh, well, at least Mxy has pestered Kara since the Silver Age".

I remember that time Mr. Irritating Imp amped Kara's powers up and removed her weakness to Kryptonite, expecting to put Superman down. How ironic Clark thought he should become his cousin's sidekick.

Moving on. This issue was definitely very funny. Kara losing her patience and chewing Mxy out? Very funny. Mxy feeling so awed by Supergirl's tsundere-ness he pops the question? Hilarious.

... Or creepy.

From what I can tell, Siegel wrote Kara very well, even if he didn't create her. I find this ironically amusing because I've come across some fans who want Superman to be the last survivor of Krypton -again-, want to eliminate all "rip-offs" and declare that DC should respect and follow Siegel/Shuster's intent and Byrne's vision. Still Siegel wrote Supergirl stories, including one in where Kara became Superman's sucessor.

I always love when you review back-issues. May I suggest Action Comics #252, Elseworld's Finest and World's Finest #169 -first Kara/Babs team-up and another MXY story!- for future back-issue reviews?

Anonymous said...

Kara looks cute as a teenaged bride in her veil and cape Jim Mooney nails it again...but she had much more decisive tangles with Myxie where she did not have to rely on her Daddykins to rescue her. I seem to recall two mix ups with Myxie in the Adventure Comics run....The Nice Thing re Myxyztpllk is that he shows both cousins to such advantage, Superman gets to betray a sense of humor while Young Ms Kara gets to show her innate braininess by outwitting the Inane Interdimensional Pixie.
Hopefully Team Berlanti will cleave towards that Supergirl Trope and not write this as yet another "ALEX SAVES THE DAY" teleplay (I am getting sick of that meme quite frankly, its not "The Adventures of Alex Danvers" after all).


Anonymous said...

> While the show does seem to be leaning on Superman's rogues gallery for the villains of the episodes

I don't have too much issue with that either... but sometimes I'd wonder is it a specific consideration why
TPTB can't bring back Reactron, Silver Banshee, or even Maxima? Or to go back to your list of Supergirl
rogues you listed before the pilot aired, any of those?

In either case, thanks for sharing this. Puts a grin on my face that "[Mxyzptlk] is such a pest that even
sweet, kind Supergirl loses her patience." I don't doubt for a second Melissa B can do fierce, I wonder
how she does "ROYALLY PISSED!!"

...and lets not forget the inane Mxyzptlk fun in Landry/Walker's run of Adventures in the 8th Grade!