Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #14

Supergirl #14 continues the Blackstarr storyline mixing incredible super-heroics with the backdrop of racism and prejudice. Feels like a good time in America to review this story.

Writer Paul Kupperberg focuses on Nazis and anti-semitism but the truth is any organized and systemic prejudice is villainous and this is just one example. and Kupperberg has a very goo approach. There are basically three levels to this story. One is the story of the Nazi party organizing in Chicago and how the city is responding. There is the superhero story of Supergirl fighting the immensely powerful Blackstarr, the leader of the Nazis. And then there is the personal story, how this is effecting Kara's landlord, Mrs. Berkowitz who survived the camps in Nazi Germany. By giving us all these perspectives, we get a full and enriching story.

The art is by Carmin Infantino and Bob Oksner who continue to bring their style to the affairs. They need to show their chops given the story layers as well. You need to convey crazy powers on top of personal scenes. These guys are legends so it flows seamlessly. But the show stopper is the Gil Kane cover which dazzles. I am not a Gil Kane fan usually but this one feels dynamic. Kara looks like she is feeling that blast.

On to the book.

We start with a nice opening page, three vertical panels showing Supergirl, Blackstarr, and then the beginning of the battle. The art here is fantastic. The panel of Blackstarr, sort of energy based in a cloak is frightening. Kuppernerg's succinct 'a Nazi' works in its starkness.

This new costume for Supergirl feels more like a figure skater's outfit. So even though we often see the blue bottoms under the skirt, it never feels like a panty shot as much as a unitard with an overlying skirt. This differs from the feel you got from the belly shirt outfit where the shots from below felt more like a creepy peek.

Blackstarr's powers seem limitless. From early on, we learn that her energy blasts can hurt Supergirl. Here we get a sort of layout of all her abilities. Black holes, photons, electromagnetic waves, and more.

She seems to have the whole gamut of cosmic energies at her disposal. And Infantino does a good job varying the looks of these attacks I particularly love the black hole energy blasts, inky tentacle-like blast.

Still, despite this array, Kara keeps coming.

And as I always say, Supergirl is fierce when battling injustice.

She challenges Blackstarr and the villain's belief that the Jewish people need to be eradicated. Kara talks about how she will never tolerate hatred and violence. Love this whole exchange.

It seems like the two combatants are evenly matched, maybe surprising Blackstarr a bit. With victory uncertain, she teleports away.

With the battle over, Supergirl slips back into her Linda attire and meets back up with Phil. He seems quite worried with Linda's disappearance. He was truly scared.

As usual, Infantino and Oknser make Linda quite lovely here. Too bad Phil is such a drip.

Back at her apartment building, Linda is struck by something surprising. In a family photo in Mrs. Berkowitz's apartment, Linda sees that Mrs. Berkowitz's daughter, presumed dead in the camps, is actually Blackstarr.

The math doesn't add up. Blackstarr is too young to be Rachael. But this is a DC world with magic, Phantom Zones, and aliens. So nothing is impossible.

Now this does have a bit of the serendipity of Bronze Age comics. Imagine that Linda's landlady is the mother of the villain! Crazy coincidence!

Upset at her defeat, Blackstarr arrives at her political party's headquarters and is quite miffed at her stalemate with Supergirl.

She demands that her ground troops go out and be violent in the name of their party. And these guys know how to follow orders.

This is how riots start.

Once again, we get a quiet scene with Phil and Linda. She looks quite fetching in a black shirt with an open white blouse over it. But how she can be so smitten with a guy who is dodgy and never around is beyond me.

But forget all that, how could I not include this panel with Linda getting some love and licks from Streaky!!

Blackstarr's men hear the word and go out ready to fulfill her mission.

The first act? To light a synagogue on fire.

Supergirl springs into action to save this rabbi who does everything in his power to save the most precious symbols of their faith from the place.

Again, putting things on this sort of personal level helps humanize this issue and also helps drive home the point. This is how comics can teach.

The fire brings out the fight again. Once more, Blackstarr comes out to fight Supergirl. The battle unfolds as before but this time Blackstarr seems to have the upper hand.

And then we learn how. She has solved Einstein's unsolvable Unified Field Theory. She understands how the universe works. And she can control it.

By battering Supergirl with zones of high and low gravity, she tries to tear the Maid of Might apart. And it looks like it just might work!

Great coloring here.

But then, a new wrinkle.

And I think this is pretty brilliant by Kupperberg. Blackstarr is distracted by the sudden appearance of Mrs. Berkowitz, her mother!

Suddenly the big story of super-powered gods fighting is interwoven with the personal story we have been seeing. We can see how prejudice impacts all levels of society.

How will it end??

I said last review that I learned a lot about what being a hero means from Supergirl. Seeing her here, so committed to her fight against Blackstarr, so adamant in her fight against racism, taught me a ton as a kid.

This series definitely cemented my love of Supergirl. And kudos to Kupperberg for continuing to layer in continuity into the book. Streaky!!!


Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Its a two fixed fight against racism from Supergirl, but I aways thought it was somehow compromised by making Blackstar both the daughter of Linda's Landlady and a young Jewish Girl who passed herself off as Aryan to the Nazis and therefore somehow inculcated their genocidal ideology. BUT In the grand sum of things, its no crazier than any three issue run of Spider-Man so....
again Kudos to Kupperberg for trying very very hard to dream up a worthwhile rogue's gallery for Kara (something she'd been lacking since 1962)...I'm not sure "BlackStar Berkowitz" works for me, but at least the character is more or less Kara's equal.
The other cute thing about Kupperberg's run on TDNAOS is that clearly Linda isn't suppressing her sexuality a'la Clark Kent, in some ways she is the embodiment of Kara's healthy libido leaving Supergirl free to get on with the job of beating up robots and fighting crime.


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

This story of supergirl illustrates both what i like and what i don't like about supergirl.

I like a god story, help for all and Streaky of course.

And i don't like a bad boyfriend and the panties under the skirt.

So the authors (comic and tv) always have trouble for the sexime in the stories of supergirl. even if the fight against racism and other forms of discrimination is well represented.

Superman has his "underwear" on his pants so why sypergirl does not have a skirt on her pants ?

Anonymous said...

"I am not a Gil Kane fan usually ...."

This appears to be a phrase using English words arranged with normal syntax, yet I can make no sense of it.

Anonymous said...

I've run into Kupperberg at a few conventions and I never thought to ask him what was up with Phil Decker, why was he always cutting out on Linda Lee Danvers at the apex of her winsomeness? Alas who knows when next I will be at a convention let alone one in which Paul Kupperberg is in attendance?


Martin Gray said...

Maybe we should ask him on Twitter, JF. Shall we all flip a coin?

I liked Phil, probably only because he was Infantino-dreamy. I know late-period Carmine isn’t considered the best but with Oksner as inker this is spectacular. And we can’t credit anyone but Infantino for that fantastically dramatic final panel.

Why isn’t this run better known, and so better thought of? Great characters, terrific villains, gorgeous art... Thanks for doing your bit, Anj.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments everyone.

I am trying to think of all the issues of this run I have covered.

Still quite a few to go.

Kane is one of those artists whose style has just never meshed. And unlike Ditko and Kirby, I still haven't grown to appreciate. Crazy I know.