Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Review: Supergirl #15

Today I complete my look at the three part Blackstarr story which took place in the (Daring New Adventures of) Supergirl #13-15.

Supergirl #15 is the conclusion of this arc which has pitted Kara against an immensely powerful super-villain in Blackstarr as well as the evil of prejudice. We have a story which has both intense personal level events (Mrs. Berkowitz, a concentration camp survivor dealing with her daughter being alive and a Nazi) as well as super-heroic events of Supergirl battling someone with the entire universe's energies in their arsenal.

By flipping back and forth, from the planet-level threat to the personal emotional trauma, writer Paul Kupperberg is able to weave a solid story. It is easy for Supergirl to fight someone throwing energy blasts. It is harder for Supergirl to fight racism. You can't punch that as a whole. But we know how Supergirl feels. We know she will battle prejudice in all forms. And for that alone I love this story. It does wrap up a bit easily but it is satisfying.

The art by Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner is once again up to the task here, mixing in civilian scenes of Linda Danvers with impressive scenes of elaborate galactic level energy. I can remember disliking Infantino's work on this when I first read it as a kid. But as a 'grown up', I have really come to appreciate it.

On to the book.

 Last issue ended with Supergirl and Blackstarr pitched in battle, one neither seemed to have an obvious upper hand in.

But then that shocking finale.

Blackstarr is Rachael Berkowitz, long thought dead and seemingly too young to be true.

This is a dramatic splash page for the reader. Supergirl is there, but tiny in the background. This isn't here moment. This is a moment for the Berkowitz family. Moreover, I don't know if this was on purpose, gone is the fantastic starswirls on Blackstarr. She is in a jet black robe now. It humanizes her just a little. At least here, this isn't Blackstarr; it's Rachael.

It takes the battle down to the ground. Again, suddenly these aren't titans battling in the sky. They are people. And it is pretty tense. But it brings this huge fight down to a human scale again.

I do like this slip by Supergirl. She calls Mrs. Berkowitz by name and refers to a conversation she had as Linda in the past. Uh oh. 

We finally get an answer to the question about Rachael's age discrepancy. I thought for sure we would hear how she convened with the universe and this halted her aging. But instead it is simply that her powers give her complete control over her body ... so why not be young?

With the battle at a stalemate and the new reveal of her mother being present, Blackstarr teleports away vowing a rematch.

I have to say the page layouts in this book are quite interesting with inset panels, oddly shaped layouts and other interesting bits.

With the battle over, Kupperberg shifts us back to the civilian side of the book.

Linda's young housemates all care about each other and Mrs. Berkowitz. Ahhhh, the days of a Supergirl comic book having a supporting cast!

We see Linda waiting outside Mrs. Berkowitz's apartment to comfort her.

We get a very brief lesson in survivor's guilt, a trauma both Linda and Mrs. Berkowitz share. While genocide and planetary upheaval are two very different root causes, both have probably wondered if surviving is a blessing or a curse.

 And then we get more of Mrs. Berkowitz's back story.

In blood-stained colors, we see how her village was overtaken, her husband shot, her people rounded up, how she and Rachael were separated.

The coloring choices here are bold and work so well with the subject matter.

While this whole issue could be a heavy read, we do get a bit of a reprieve.

We see Linda and her new beau Philip getting together for some fun. Check out the mod 80s shades!

And we see Linda doing some office work with her professor, a nice little hint of a future plot line dropped.

Ahh, the days of simmering subplots!

Finally, we get Rachael's backstory. She confronts her mother with what happened.

Within the concentration camp, she begged the Nazis to rescue her as someone captured by mistake.

They took pity on her. They educated her, cared for her.

And when the camp was freed, she ran, pretending to be American and heading to the states.

She is brilliant, unraveling the Unified Theory and getting control of the universe.

But she also had self-loathing, hating her family for allowing her to be taken, and hating her Jewish heritage for that.

I would love to hear what people think of that turn. She witnessed the horrors the Nazis were committing but still became sympathetic to their beliefs?

But a being as powerful as Blackstarr can't use her powers without triggering changes in the environment, changes that Supergirl can detect.

It's time for round two.

I do like that Supergirl was scanning for Blackstarr. And that middle panel is gorgeous.

So now what?

Well, we got a couple of beautiful pages of battles, real Ditko-style wonkiness.

But there is a wonderful sentiment at the top. No matter what Blackstarr throws at Supergirl, Kara keeps coming. She will not relent. I love that top row showing her determination.

In the end Blackstarr is her own undoing. She throws so much gravity at Supergirl that she unwittingly opens up two black holes which tear her apart.

That is some wild art by Infantino. So good!

The Nazi party in Chicago and the terrorism isn't commented on again. Perhaps that is too pat an answer, or non-answer, for such a problem. Still kudos to Paul Kupperberg for bring the topic into the book. 

So a lesson on racism and prejudice, a formidable opponent added to Kara's rogues gallery, and gorgeous art.

No complaints.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Blackstarr was working for me as a Racist Superhuman Bully until she somehow became a Self Hating Jewish Nazi Sympathizer...the concept is legitimately hard to sell, there are a dozen ways to make Rachel perversely sympathetic, but that notion never worked for me. And its a shame because although Blackstarr would only make one more appearance (in DC Comics Presents as a curtain raiser on the Crisis), she had to have been Kupperberg's most powerful additional to Kara's chronically anemic rogue's gallery. If fate and Jeanette Kahn had been more discriminating, who knows how many more battles BS & SG could have had....?


Martin Gray said...

I agree, Blackstarr had plenty of potential, the visuals alone made me want to see more of her. I like that Oksner went scratchier with the inks for the flashbacks, maybe he was going for a Joe Kubert war comics vibe.

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

The classic trope of the bad (guy) girl who gets killed by his own powers. We rarely have the redemption of the villain who must live with what he did.

But it's a good story, we have a godd complementarity between supergirl and linda lee. Dc comic easily forgets the importance of secret identity.