Monday, February 5, 2018

Back Issue Box: Supergirl Annual #2

When Brainiac 5 was added to the Supergirl show's cast, I was thrilled. The Brainy/Supergirlromance is such a big part of her history. For many (including me), Brainy is her true love, her destiny. So to see it potentially played out on the small screen is a treasure.

Usually on this blog, I try to build on current Supergirl news by looking into similar stories in her past. So I wanted to cover some aspect of the Querl/Kara romance here. There was a problem though. When you have been blogging about Supergirl for nearly 10 years, you cover a lot of material. I have already covered much of this romance already. Just click the Brainiac 5 link and you'll get a ton of posts about Brainy and Supergirl, from his earliest appearances to team-ups and smooches in the Legion to his response to her death.

So with all those stories already covered, I decided to look at their relationship during a different sort of time in the DCU. Supergirl Annual #2, from 1997, was one of the PulpHeroes Annuals. These annuals riffed on the classic pulps in some way, whether it be pot-boiler hard-nosed mysteries to old school Sci-Fi to lurid romances. This issue focused on the latter, labeled Young Romance and looking at Supergirl's romantic relationships. What makes this interesting is that this is the Earth Angel Supergirl and (I believe) the Archie Brainiac 5. These two don't have the history of the Pre-Crisis pair. This isn't the classic Kryptonian Kara. And this is a Brainiac 5  stranded in the (then) 20th Century. It takes place in my ten years away from the Legion post-Zero Hour! So how could these two be in love?

Turns out they really aren't. The creative team of writer Tom Peyer and artist Anthony Castrillo play on the historical aspect of their romance by giving us a sort-of romance story. For old timers like me, at the time, it was like finally scratching an itch. I got to see Brainy and Supergirl together again.

The story is titled Secret Hearts which makes me smile for a couple of reasons. One, that was the title of a DC romance comic back in the day, tying in nicely to the Pulp feel. But also, Secret Hearts was the soap opera Linda Lee Danvers starred on in the pre-Crisis universe during the back half of her Superman Family run.

The opening page certainly is a grabber. There is Linda Danvers, the Matrix/Human Supergirl still unaware of her angelic powers, locking lips with a surprised Brainiac 5. But the chapter title is 'I led him on', a very appropriate somewhat lurid title also meshing nicely with the pulp feel. And Linda's dialogue is one of rationalization as she tries to explain how she used Brainiac 5.

I freely admit that I don't know much of this time in the Legion. It seems Brainy, Sparx (Lightning Lass), Gates, and others are trapped in our time.

Within their headquarters, the team is watching television where they stumble onto a TMZ style documentary on Supergirl. The show talks of her relationship with Lex Luthor and even highlights some of her costume variations, including the Berserker mode she had in her mini-series the year before as well as the 'Goth' look she had when under the spell of Gorilla Grodd.

It is clear that Brainiac likes what he sees, smitten by her looks.

Meanwhile, Leesburg (Supergirl's home town) has become a land of chaos. Things surreal are everywhere. Lamps become flamethrowers, saline bags in hospitals become fish tanks ... everything is insane.

And with some simple deductive reasoning, Supergirl figures out that she is the focal point. It is the area in her immediate vicinity that unravels.

Unable to figure out how to stop the madness, she calls Superman and asks him who the smartest person he knows is. And that person is Brainiac 5.

This sort of magical insanity is definitely in line with the town of the book. Leesburg was situated over a chaos stream, a hellmouth of a sort. But this was definitely something new.

At the Legion HQ, Supergirl plays with Brainy's pet Koko and tries to convince him to help her.

There is no doubt that he is absolutely taken by her. He is very attracted to her and in his mind calls her Goddess.

He always was a little immature when it came to his emotions. So to be this head over heels after just meeting Supergirl seems a little sophomoric.

But even he has his limits. When she admits that the cause of all the chaos is most likely magic, Brainiac 5 opts out. He is a man of science, of logic, of order ... and magic is none of those things.

But Supergirl is desperate. If she needs to feign a romantic attraction to get him to help her, she will.

All right, not exactly the best representation of either of these two from an emotional maturity point of view. But they're kids. Maybe they'll learn a lesson?

Chapter two is titled 'I lied for love' and this time it is from Brainiac's point of view. I do like that the opening page is the reverse angle of the first page. It is that even from a different perspective.

And this time we get Brainy's monologue. We hear how he became obsessed with the idea of Supergirl and was willing to do anything to be with her. Of course, this comes off as rather stalker-y in this day and age. But he is attracted to her and wants to figure out how to be with her. He just has ratcheted it up to Brainy levels of awkwardness.

Even his own teammates see how crazy he is acting and are willing to call him on it.

Here Sparx puts a mop on her head to mimic blond hair and a pseudo-cape to pretend to be Supergirl, fawning all over the place to tease Brainy.

When she sees what Brainy is doing to be with Supergirl, even she is shocked.

It turns out that Brainy falling madly in love with tall blond superwomen isn't a new thing. He has a type he likes. We get a brief recap of his doomed relationship with Andromeda. Laurel Gand was initially the Supergirl analogue in the 5YL Legion years. But she stuck around despite Supergirl returning to the DCU. He might even have a 'mommy complex'.

What is interesting is that Sparx truly seems to care about Brainy and his feelings. While she was about to tease him, she doesn't want to see him hurt either. And when Supergirl arrives with a chip on her shoulder, Sparx stands up to Linda. She knows Supergirl has no true feelings for Brainy. And Sparx won't let Brainy be made to look the fool or to be used too much longer.

Brainy seems to be doing a good enough job of being used and looking foolish all on his own.

Here he seems to cosplay like the wizard in the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. He tries to cast some spell to localize a demonic presence. All because he wants to look gallant and useful to Supergirl.

Amazingly, his 'spell' works ... sort of ...

On the good side, he learns that the chaotic field isn't a presence. It's a natural unsettling of reality, like weather. On the bad side, Leesburg is starting to disappear.

This is hysterical. To see Brainy in this ludicrous outfit, stirring a cauldron, and trying to act magical is just ludicrous. This is the exact opposite of him.

Finally, he is able to come to an answer.

There is an ancient myth called Af's Syndrome. When a land is faced with unreality frequently, something true for Leesburg, the very laws of reality can become fatigued. The only cure is a hard dose of the truth.

Even in a place like the library, even in 1997, there is enough #FakeNews to make this a harder task than anticipated.

Finally, the only thing the two can do is to reveal hard truths to each other.

Supergirl admits that she doesn't have any feelings for Brainy and was being duplicitous about romance.

Brainy admits that he  has been lying since they met to be more attractive to her. He also has an issue with tall, blond, super women.

The truth shall set you free. This confession to each other works, sealing off the unreality squall and resetting the natural order of things.

Finally, these two are honest.

But what about that kiss from the splash pages??

It finally happens. Supergirl plants one on Brainy's lips and says that honesty is the most important thing in a relationship. Perhaps that is a bit ironic given her own canards. But it did give shippers of this couple, even in this continuity, some hope that these two would end up together.

I am relatively certain they never met again.

If you are a Brainy/Supergirl completist, this is an issue to seek out. But it isn't a great story. In particular, the two characters faking everything feels a bit off for these heroes. And in this day and age, neither gender should be playing games around this stuff. Honesty is the most important thing ... and respect.

Still, back in 1997, I was thrilled to see these two together again, no matter how wonky the plot.

Overall grade: C+


Martin Gray said...

Good Lord, I'd forgotten all about this one. Gamesmanship aside, it would be a decent place to kick off a proper Linda/Brainy thing - I've never been convinced Supergirl and Querl were meant to be, they simply didn't spend enough time together, but it would be fascinating to see happen properly.

A million points to Tom Peyer for 'jocose'!

Anonymous said...

"Here he seems to cosplay like the wizard in the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon."

Are you implying I am not the only who watched it?

(And I really liked. A pity it never got a proper conclusion, but a script of the never-made final episode can be found online)

"The Brainy/Supergirlromance is such a big part of her history. For many (including me), Brainy is her true love, her destiny."

I wasn't exactly a Kara/Querl shipper... until I started to read more Legion issues. Now I definitely am. I wouldn't say Brainy is Supergirl's Lois Lane/Iris West/Jean Grey but I'd certainly call him her Carol Ferris/Selina Kyle. Not her only or first love interest but certainly her most prominent one.

And here we have two completely different versions of the characters who spent decades dancing around each other... and although it's a funny issue it feels kind of a bone thrown to keep old Legionnaire shippers glad which doesn't quite work because she isn't Kara, he isn't the original Querl and they aren't in love at all.

Funny issue, regardless.

"When Brainiac 5 was added to the Supergirl show's cast, I was thrilled."

I'm glad the present season is finally steeping in the Supergirl lore and making more people aware that the Worldkillers are some of her enemies, Brainiac 5 is her main love interest and Streaky is her pet cat (or she is his pet Kryptonian. Who can say?)

Anonymous said...

The panel wherein Brainiac Five (The Legion's in house "Mister Spock") sports a peaked wizard's cap...was my two bucks right there....

The reason Kara and Querl "work" is that they are so deliciously assymetrical, she's the charismatic alpha heroine, he is the twitchy super brain together they generate endless plot possibilities that the meta-context to their decades long romance.


KET said...

Collected in trade paperback form last year, as part of "Supergirl: Book Two". It's a fun, light-hearted romp.