Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #58

This week in Superman #23, the Man of Steel calls upon Dr. Fate for a mystical checkup.

With that guest spot happening, I thought I would take a look back at Supergirl's interactions with the good doctor. Now a comic with a version of Fate helping Kara with here psychiatric issues occurred in the excellent Superman/Batman Annual #5 from way back in 2011. But I covered that way back when!

So instead I thought I'd dip into the Peter David run on the title again and look at Supergirl #58 in which Linda calls upon Fate to help her with Buzz.

Okay, a little background. At this point in the book, Linda has been stripped of the Earth Angel aspect of Supergirl and basically has the powers of the 1938 Superman (jump far, relatively invulnerable, relatively superstrong). She is following a chaos stream to try and reunite with the angelic spirit. And Buzz, a demon who has vexed her throughout the book, is now human, mentally tethered to her, and her guide. He senses the stream and finds the path.

In the issue before, Buzz was poisoned by his daughter, also a demon. He is dying. And if Linda wants to become the Earth Angel Supergirl again, she needs Buzz to live. Enter Dr. Fate.

This is an interesting issue because it gives Buzz a sympathetic back story. Before, he was all Constantine-cool with his evil intentions. Here we see how he fell and became lost. In many ways, this second long arc in this volume is a redemption story not only for Linda (again) but for Buzz.

On to the book.

 'A Rose Among Thorns' was written by Peter David with art by the long-running art team of Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs.

We start out with Buzz dying and Supergirl wondering if, given his past, she should let him die. But then she wonders just what could have happened in Buzz's life that could have made him into the demon he became.

Throughout the book, Supergirl remembers just what type of person Linda was before Matrix Supergirl merged with her. Linda wasn't exactly a saint.

But interesting that in the above sequence Buzz says that Linda is as beautiful as the day he married her.

Turns out Buzz was originally Gaius Marcus, the most pious man in Rome during the time of Caligula. His wife Valeria looks exactly like Linda.

Marcus refuses to join an assassination cabal against Caligula. That evening, Caligula comes and takes Valeria away for the 'amusement' of him and his troops.

Pained that he did nothing to stop Valeria from being taken, Marcus prays to Jupiter to help the assassination attempt he originally rebuffed. Instead Baalzebub arrives and says that he will help Caligula be killed if Marcus will serve him forever in the after world.

Thinking Baalzebub is an angel, Marcus agrees.

And sure enough, Caligula is assassinated.

But a deal with the devil is often troubling in the details.

Remember, Marcus asked that the assassination attempt be successful. But he didn't say 'and keep my wife safe'. 

Sure Caligula is dead. But Valeria was still violated by him and his troops. She is hardly happy to see Marcus, who sat and watched her dragged away.

She kills him.

And this after he turned from his 'most pious' ways.

And it turns out that Baalzebub isn't an angel. He's a devil.

So Marcus truly went from being the most pious man to being damned.

This is a great set of panels by Kirk, as we see Marcus' body devoured by flies and thus earning his name Buzz.

Like, that is almost as horrifying at the Mnemoth hunger demon stuff in Hellblazer. I have always said that this book was Vertigo-esque.

With that origin story behind us, we get to present day where Linda has called on Dr. Fate to purge Buzz of this poison.

He is bound to do this by his oath.

But he asks her if she cares about Buzz. Does she want him saved?

And she has to reluctantly say yes. She does care about him. And that look on her face says it isn't just as her Chaos Stream guide. She seems to truly care.

And so begins the cure spell. Fate blasts Buzz with his mystic energies to rip the poison from his system.

Another cracker image from Kirk. I love this version of Fate's costume. I love the use of the Ankh energy as a sort of rack for Buzz.

And Linda's words as she sits and observes, wondering since she got a second chance that Buzz doesn't deserve the same.

Again, this whole mega-arc, from issues 1-74, is truly built around sin and redemption.

As for the lower demon Buzz, we see him throughout time spreading evil.

He helps John Wilkes Booth.

He spurs Jack The Ripper to go on his slaughter spree.

Ahhh, but a deal with the devil is still vexing.

Here we see that his beloved Valeria has been reborn but is a victim of Jack the Ripper's. In essence, Buzz has once again unwittingly led his 'wife' to tragedy.

And yes, if you are thinking foreshadowing given Linda's resembling the ever-doomed Valeria, you should be.

Fate is able to purge Buzz of the poison, saving him.

One of the things that David did so well in this book is repeatedly challenge Linda/Supergirl to rise above. Here, she truly needed to admit to herself that she cared for Buzz and that he deserved this shot at redemption.

But immediately after he is cured, Buzz turns on her. He screams at her that she only wants him as a pawn, in essence no better than how Baalzebub treated him.

And flustered, she simply walks away. Just as she opens up, he hurts her.

Again, solid art by Kirk, especially Supergirl looking down and trying to remain calm.

Then ... a twist of Fate.

Remember, Buzz thinks he has been mystically linked to Supergirl's quest. If he tried to stray he was hit with some mental whammy, crushed with pain.

But then it turns out to not be something magical. It is his conscience. He has a conscience. He isn't totally evil. Linda cares about him. And maybe he should care about her.

I am not a big fan of having every villain have a sympathetic backstory. I don't mind villains being evil just for evil's sake. But given the overall theme of this title, Buzz having a redemption arc folds in nicely to everything else that happens.

I love this volume of Supergirl even though it isn't a Kara Zor-El book. This middle arc, issue 51-74, has grown a bit in my mind as I have revisited it. It isn't the amazing super-long first arc. And it isn't the fun Silver Age revisit of Many Happy Returns. But it is very good. And it truly builds on the themes David was exploring.

Overall grade: B

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

This was a pretty good issue, although by this time the idea of Buzz getting a shot at redemption turned my stomach, the guy was so evil. I think, at a certain point, comic book villains don’t deserve the second chance, they need locking away to protect people; if, while they have time to think, they begin to be a better person, then we’ll talk.