Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #70

There's a global pandemic!

We just passed Easter and Passover!

There are no new comics on the shelves!

So today I bring you a back issue review of Supergirl #70 from 2002! It encompasses all those things! Plagues! Supergirl heroics! Fun!

This was an odd time for Supergirl to say the least. Where the first 50 issues of this Peter David run hold up as an amazing super-longform look at religion, redemption, and sacrifice, the following 2 year run (which this issue is near the end of) was a bit rougher.

Linda Danvers, a deeply flawed human who is trying to be better and has come far from her darker past, is trying to reclaim the angelic portion of the Supergirl Earth Angel. She has been depowered, having the abilities of the earliest Superman (leaping not flying, bursting shell invulnerability, etc). She is following a chaos stream to Hell to find that aspect. She needs Buzz, a demon turned human which she loves/hates to get her there. Meanwhile, Lilith, the original wife of Adam, is on a revenge tour against Supergirl. Supergirl defeated her son The Carniverean, the first vampire in those forst 50 issues. To torment Supergirl, Lilith is sending demons to fight. Luckily, Linda has Mary Marvel as a pal who can see demons even when they are disguised. It's a road trip!

Whew ... a lot of back story there.

But an underlying theme here is that Linda is unsure if she is worthy of her powers or the angelic nature of Supergirl. Does she deserve to be reunited with that holy being. And Mary, while helpful, is so pure that Linda is constantly reminded of her own shortcomings. No doubt there is a twinge of inferiority and of self-loathing here.

God, I miss this Linda Danvers, as complex a character as you will find. Peter David was really at the top of his game here.

 The art is done by a guest penciller, Todd Nauck, whose style goes well with the youthful heroes. You may notice the cover being signed by Nauck when I saw him at a con in 2009.

On to the issue!

We start out with Buzz ordering fancy food in a restaurant in Nevada. He and Linda recently had a falling out when she falsely believed he had done something bad. So he took off.

Through sheer luck, she and Mary run into him at this place. Buzz had nicked Jason Blood's wallet and was running up the charge bill when Linda and Mary run into him.

I thought this scene was an efficient way of David to catch up any new readers on what was happening here. Yes, it is a little exposition heavy. But it works in the context of the story and is way better than a wasted 'recap page'.

With the team back together, they all jump into a convertible and get back on the Chaos Stream trail.

Meanwhile, in England, we see a tour of the Cottingley Woods where an early 20th century fairy sighting supposedly happened. The guide bring up not only the story but also the 'recent movie' about the events.

The troop even find a Fairy Circle.

But before we get much farther, some real magic happens.

Queen Mab, queen of the fairies, blips in, safe in the mushroom circle. And she is followed by Lilith.

The two have a harsh exchange. Lilith thought Mab was working with her to smite Linda/Supergirl. But Mab has her own agenda. And it was Mab who gave Mary her 'demon vision'.

When it seems like Mab might not fall in line, Lilith simply threatens the nearby mortals, in particular a fetus inside a pregnant woman on the tour. With mortals endangered, Mab she will go back to helping.

I like this design of Lilith with her antlers/branches crown. She seems quite pagan, which works well.

On the road, Linda and Buzz continue to snipe at each other. Earlier it was described as a love/hate or a redemption/hate relationship.

Mary meanwhile is in the back seat and squirming in the awkwardness of it all.

But then we start getting some old school, Old Testament plagues!

First off? Water to Blood!

Then? Swarm of locusts!

It is time for some action. And Linda does the right thing. If these plagues are targeted at her, she needs to remove herself from Buzz and Mary. This will save them.

So off she goes. Even though they are just bugs, the cloud is dense. So dense it is hard to even breathe.

Nice action shot here with a 'jacket rip'.

When Mary sees Linda in danger she decides she needs to spring into action. And a good thing too because the car is beset by the next plague! Frogs!

How funny that the magic lightning fries some of them.

This is the Mary I love, white costumed and the definition of pure. I don't need any Countdown darkening or nonsense. Mary should forever be goodness. And that is why she is a great contrast to Linda here.

And then another plague! The thunderstorm of hail and fire!

Mary shows up to 'save' Linda and that doesn't go over well.

Remember, Linda is in a vulnerable space here. She wants to be the hero. She wants to prove herself. So being rescued and being called Linda and not Supergirl must be particularly stinging.

At the very least, Buzz seems to know what's up.

He knows that Hurmizah, one of the co-rulers of Lilith's level of Hell. He is the master of plagues and so it must be him that is attacking.

David always did a good job of injecting some religious elements into this whole series. And this is a nice addition.

And I love how Nauck has Supergirl emptying the car of the frogs in the background. Too funny.

Finally, Hurmizah shows himself, a dark Angel like figure with claws and daggers and a thorny crown. You know, demon stuff.

There is a typical throwdown between him and our heroes. And he does sneak in one more plague! The plague of boils! Brrrr ...

It turns out that the only things that can hurt a demon are the very weapons they carry. And when his dagger falls to the Earth, Buzz is able to fling it into Hurmizah's back, abruptly defeating him.

It feels like a holy Deus Ex Machina ... but there we are.

With Hurmizah slinking back to Hell, all the plague remnants disappear.

Has this redeemed Buzz in Linda's eyes? Maybe a little.

But then Buzz gives a cryptic response about how he will do what counts. It feels a bit self-serving. And he has every right to still be a bit ticked at Linda. So we end this issue with a sense of unease between our protagonists.

This is a fun little chapter in this portion of the Earth Angel Supergirl saga. The ending is a bit to pat and fast. But Nauck's cartoony art is perfect. His Linda and Mary are very young appearing, appropriate for the story. And heck, it is a plague issue around Passover/Easter/COVID19!

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Wait this Supergirl has the yellow shield in the cape, I remember she doesn´t has it in the comic series until many happy returns.

Anonymous said...

The yellow shield must be a mistake by Todd Nauk, as guest artist. Even in Many Happy Returns, neither the unmarried Linda nor Kara Zor-El have the cape shield.

It does show up finally on the much-older Linda's cape, after she's married and has a kid. Her costume by then is different in numerous other ways, and perhaps the shield on the that cape reflects that she's now Mrs. Linda Danvers-Kent-Superman or whatever her marriage certificate shows.

It always comes up here - it's a pity DC stopped publishing the trades of this title. The 4th volume ended with #43 - a strange place to end. The next trade would have gone past the point where the Supergirl Angel split with Linda, and advanced a bit into the next arc.


Martin Gray said...

It’s weird, I know I bought every issue but have no memory of this at all; I do know I got tired of the constant angel/devil business, that should have ended with the Earth Angel business. But still, a PAD/Nauck comic is never not going to be entertaining.

Bob Oksner, who drew both Supergirl and Mary Marvel in the Seventies, died in 2007... if only he’d been able to do at least the cover here!

KET said...

Always liked that cover...Linda's eye expression is just perfect. Thanks for the recap....and yes, it's a shame DC stopped publishing trade collections of this run, as I would have bought them all (even though I have extra copies, just in case I wear an issue out). :)


Anonymous said...

Its a funny cover but the interior artwork doesn't sustain over the course of the issue, Linda and Mary's noses seem to vary in size & proportion from panel to panel. At this point in the PAD run, Supergirl's origin had become so hopelessly convoluted and qualified that it made Otto Binder's "Domed City in Space" hokum look like the very Beau Ideal of Simplicity.
Agree with our host, Mary Marvel should always been the nicest person in the room, even if she strains credulity its the only way she works...DC tried to "Darken Her Up" but it only made her Painful to Read not really Interesting...sound like anyone we know??



KET said...

"Its a funny cover but the interior artwork doesn't sustain over the course of the issue..."

Concur on that. Cover was by regular penciller Leonard Kirk, who was always trying some new drawing ideas as the series went along. Nauck's more cartoony style seemed better suited for PAD's YOUNG JUSTICE run, which was going on concurrently with this title much of the time.

"At this point in the PAD run, Supergirl's origin had become so hopelessly convoluted..."

Not really. The real problems post-50 often came from editorial, which was foisting in numerous guest characters, and the Superman animated TV show costume onto Supergirl, which made her depiction more confusing (as Linda had been reduced to having Superman's Golden Age abilities during her search for the Earth Angel...super leaps instead of flight, no vision superpowers). Crossovers with whatever random DCU event was going on during this part of the run seemed more like a hijacking, and it often bogged down the flow of the road trip aspects. However, closing issues of this story arc did become more like a rush to get to "Many Happy Returns" and its intended culture clash between modern era and Silver Age Supergirls.


Anonymous said...

"Not really."

Yes. Yes, really. Matrix/Linda's "Artificial lifeform from a pocket dimension which merged with a dying Satanist to save her life, who later turned out to be an 'Earthborn' angel" IS objectively hopelessly convoluted, to the point it became the character's downfall, and editorial-mandated costume changes and crossovers have nothing to do with it. And even disregarding the crossovers, the story had become real convoluted, too.

Martin Gray said...

I’ll ‘’amen’ that sentiment. Good as PAD’s run was, it was very much a run, one that rewarded the committed reader; a person couldn’t just pop in for an issue and understand who this Supergirl was, with her different powers and confused nature.

You cannot beat the purity and power of ‘Last daughter of Krypton’.