Monday, March 18, 2019

Matrix Monday: Showcase '95 #1

 Last Monday I covered the finale of the 1994 Supergirl mini-series. In the end, the Matrix Supergirl finally left Lex Luthor and found a mentor with Lex's ex-wife Elizabeth Perske.

In the immediate aftermath, Action Comics #700 came out with Lex attacking Metropolis. Oh, yeah, and then something called Zero Hour happened. Matrix was involved like everyone was in that event but did not have a big role. She receded a bit into the background.

Then 1995 rolled around and early on Supergirl was a bit more visible. In January of 1995, she was the cover star of the David Michilenie/Butch Guice  Action Comics #706 , a nice fill-in which reminded folks that she was part of the super-family.

She also was the cover star of Showcase '95 #1. The Showcase books at this time had yearly themes and 1995 was the year of Superman characters to headline the book. So this issue we get not only Supergirl but Alan Scott Sentinel and Argus. This also was a sort of try-out book for DC. Not only were more minor characters given the spotlight but newer talent were given a shot.

It is a weird convergence that she headlines two books in one month.

That is a great cover by Tom Grummett sporting a beautiful Supergirl.

And yes, I had this one signed by Tom Grummett a couple of years ago in Boston.

On to the book.

'Perfect Form' was written by Charles Moore with art by Stuart Immonen.

I know very little of Charles Moore and looking at his list of credits, I don't think I would have many other opportunities to run into him. I do wonder if he is a Dragon Ball Z fan given both the title of the story and the motives of the antagonist.

The art is done by Stuart Immonen and Wade Von Grawbadger. Immonen was certainly no newcomer and had been on the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes book for several months by this time. This story was clearly written within 6 months of its release because Elizabeth Perske is in the story. So I wonder how he got tabbed for this story. Maybe more importantly is when he got tagged. Of course, Immonen went on to be a superstar in the medium.

The book opens with an electronic sentience looking for a body to inhabit. Jumping from computer system to computer system, it finally finds a robot body to download its essence on a Khundian ship.

It is also unhappy and states in a very villainous way that he will find a permanent and perfect form and then rule the universe!!!

In an unnamed city, Elizabeth Perske is in a business meeting when her secretary, a brunette young woman who looks sort of like a prototypical Linda Danvers, leaps off the balcony of the skyscraper.

I like Perske's calm smile. She knows her 'secretary' is Matrix.

And halfway down to the pavement, she transforms.

And we get a lovely splash page by Immonen of Supergirl.

Remember, one of the main points of the mini-series was that Supergirl needed to find herself. She needed to stop defining herself by the man she was attached to. And Perske was the perfect mentor of the independent woman.

So I like that we get this quick recap. Supergirl is trying to find herself, define who she is in this new world. This whole crisis of identity will carry forward all the way to the PAD run.

Of course, she jumped out of that meeting to stop a disaster. Lasers were erupting from under the city streets, causing havoc. In heading below ground, she sees a construction crew firing a laser drill to try and mine some odd crystals. But the crystals are deflecting the lasers leading to the destruction.

Remaining invisible (maybe to remind people she had this power), she heads to the drill and deactivates it.

But by then, enough damage had been done that the 'roof' caves in. Using her psionic powers to throw the workers to safety, she takes the brunt of the collapse, including being skewered by a stalactite of crystal.

Moore seems to really lean into the 'otherness' of Supergirl. First we see that he treats her more like protomatter than a person, allowing her to basically remove the rock by oozing her body around it like Clayface. It felt a little like a stepback for the character. She isn't silly putty, even if every writer wanted to see her devolve to the gloppy purple protomatter back then.

An interesting side note is that the crystal seems to be trying to merge with Supergirl's protomatter.

On the surface, Supergirl confronts the miners, part of Bone Dagger Labs. They were called to mine the crystals as they have interesting properties - near indestructible, great energy conduction, and low friction.

In fact, the lab sensors show that Supergirl has some crystals on/in here. They scan her to get a sense of her life readings. Supergirl doesn't take too kindly to that and flattens the workers.

This really is great continuity, building off of the terrible ways LexCorp experimented on Matrix back in the mini-series. She isn't going to let that happen again. I am glad Moore pushed that story along.

And Immonen does a great job showing how angry she is, how big her response is, by having her shatter the panel walls. Really great art there.

But this tiff takes a back seat when the giant Khundian cruiser from the beginning of the story manifests above the city.

It seems that the sentient robot we met earlier thinks the crystals are the building blocks of his perfect form. He begins sending out tendrils/cables from this ship to try to get to the raw matter below.

Supergirl flies up to deflect the energy drills.

Recognizing that she is impeding his progress, our villain sends out android drones to attack her. And indeed, one claws her. But watching the fight, the villain sees Supergirl's body repair itself. Perhaps hers is a better form. She isn't even one of the 'carbon-based' organisms on Earth.

Now as a Supergirl fan, I was hoping that the mini-series would establish this as her identity. I would have loved for the shape-shifting and 'protomatter' to fade into the background.

But Moore has decided to push that to the forefront.

The robot's scanners show Supergirl is an 'artificial' lifeform.

He blasts her with a beam that devolves her to her purple, gloppy protomatter state. She looks like an unfinished art project.

Now the robot knows she is the ideal perfect form for its essence.

Meanwhile, the Bone Dagger crew see that she isn't 'human'?

So in the span of a page we as readers are now thinking that this Supergirl isn't real.

I know I say it all the time when discussing Matrix, but this theme of 'is she real', 'is she an automaton', 'is she alive', and 'does she have a soul' all bubble through until answered definitively by Peter David when she merges with Linda Danvers.

In so many ways, those questions are the theme of many Philip K.Dick science fiction novels. I love PKD's books and that may explain why I like Matrix so much.

The bottom line is that our villain is going to download his essence into the protomatter body, effectively ending Supergirl's 'life' (quotation marks are his).

I am a little torn by this issue. In some ways, I was glad that DC was giving her another solo story. I was glad that some of the themes of the mini-series, especially the Elizabeth Perske subplot, were carried forward. And I like that Supergirl seemed committed to this self-discovery. 

But I don't like that the thrust of the story is that she isn't 'real'. I don't know if I would mind the protomatter devolution as much of all this 'not alive' and 'sliding the spear out of her like molten metal' stuff didn't dominate the discussion. If we are supposed to be on the journey with Matrix, if we want her to discover who she really is, we shouldn't be dwelling on the fact that she isn't 'real'. And the unnamed sentience isn't exactly a noteworthy villain. 

All that said, I would have loved to have Immonen drawing Supergirl all the time if I could.

Overall grade: B- 


Anonymous said...

"Wade Von Grawbadger"

I thought I had heard that name recently, and yes, he has inked several issues of Supergirl's current run. Funny coincidence.

"Supergirl doesn't take too kindly to that and flattens the workers."

Hmm... On the one hand, I understand why she reacted like this. On the another hand, they weren't trying to hurt her. They were only doing their work, and she could have hurt them seriously.

"Really great art there."

Matter of taste, of course, but I don't really like that panel. What is she even hitting, exactly? Or is she slamming them into... something? A blank, blue limbo?

Oh, well. Opinions are opinions.

Regardless that, nice story.

"But I don't like that the thrust of the story is that she isn't 'real'."

I actually agree. I don't think it was a good idea to underscore Matrix's artificial lifeform aspect over and again. I think showing her so often as a glob of shapeless matter, and putting so much emphasis on her protoplasmic form, dehumanized her and made her harder to relate to... which was exactly why Peter David made such an extensive retool (and probably why half year after this issue's publication Dan Jurgens came up with his own Kara from "Argo City")

Off-topic: Anj, do you intend to cover up DCSHG episode "Adventures in Bunnysitting" featuring Kara "I can't let anyone see me gushing over bunnies" Zor-El? And Supergirl's brief appearance in Doomsday Clock #9?

Whatever else you can think about Geoff Johns, I'll give him this: he seldom overlooks Supergirl. Shes always make at the very least a cameo appearance or is otherwise mentioned in Johns' runs and events. As a Supergirl fan it places him above Scott Snyder (Dark Metal? It was mentioned an alternate Supergirl was brainwashed into killing her family by one of the evil Batmen. No Justice? She turned up and was stupidly shot down and forgotten one panel later).

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for the review, I'd forgotten all about this one, and you're right, it was time to move on from her Proty period. I can't recall what happened to Elizabeth, I wonder if she just faded after this story.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

I think her response to the workers made sense. They weren't analyzing the crystal, they were analyzing her without asking. Given her recent history, no surprise she snapped a little.

Perske showed up a little in PADs run. I don't think I have covered those issues yet.

I will be covering DCSHG at some point. That episode was too cute.

Anonymous said...

But isn't the debate about Matrix' humanity a sort of "meta discussion" about her as a character? How well or ill the writer's thought of her "realness" governed completely the relative worth of her storylines. "Kara Prime' didn't have this problem even if it is an interesting existential issue.


Anj said...

I get what your saying.

I suppose what I meant was the miniseries was a turning point. This felt more like the past. "Look ! (gasp) she's purple and gloppy!"