Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #412

Philip Kennedy Johnson is about to send Superman off to Warworld, reimagined as a place where Mongul has coliseum style barbarian battles. 

With that storyline starting soon and having already covered Supergirl's fight against the actual Warworld in DCCP #28, I thought it would be fun to review Adventure Comics #412, in which Supergirl is brought to an alien world to fight gladiator style. 

Like many of these stories in Adventure, which slide from the Silver Age into the Bronze, it is a wild ride. There are more twists and turns in these 22 pages than in a year's worth of today's comics. Just when you think we are cruising to the finish, we take another swerve.

Despite the odd plot turns, Supergirl shines throughout. Whether it is fighting for what's right or teaching compassion or even giving folks the benefit of the doubt, she really shines. Writer John Albano really does a wonderful job giving us a true hero.

Art Saaf and Bob Oksner are on the art. Their art is beautiful, veering closely to cheesecake but not too much. From the compelling cover to the action scenes, the art is fantastic.

On to the book.

"The Battle For Survival" opens up in the middle of some crazy action. Giant alien insects are running amok in San Francisco. The police can barely hold them off. And the insects seem to be poisonous.

If that wasn't bad enough, Supergirl isn't helping hold them back. Instead we see Supergirl robbing a fine art gallery, swiping a painting worth millions.

And the news keeps coming, Supergirl is seen swiping another painting later.

Okay, giant alien insects and a robber Supergirl? Some opening splash.

Nasty Luthor is there hoping to scoop everyone about Supergirl gone bad.

The rest of the news crew, including Linda Danvers, shows up to hear what Nasty has discovered.

In the midst of the conversation, Linda's boss Jeff makes a joke, perhaps too close for comfort, that he knows that Linda is Supergirl.

Haw, haw!

I can't believe Kara was attracted to him. But between Nasty's machinations and Jeff's guess, nothing is easy for Linda.

Thankfully Linda is able to break away (she tells Jeff that she needs to go shopping! Just a little sexist and stereotypical.)

Once free and clear from her friends in the news crew, Supergirl sweeps the city until she sees the woman impersonating her.

The woman then attacks Supergirl tossing a handful of extremely powerful grenades, grenades with enough power to level the city. When Supergirl is able to shield the city from the grenades' destructive force. the woman knows she has 'chosen' her champion wisely.

She is Glynix from Liquel 2. Her impersonating Supergirl was designed to flush her out, as was the poisonous insects. And now that she has Supergirl's attention, she reveals why she has done what she did.

On Liquel II, Glynix's home world,  wars are settled by nations picking a champion to fight for them. She needs a champion to fight for her against the fascist Zogg's champion. And if Kara doesn't help, Glynix won't provide the antidote for the insect poison, dooming the victims.

On the Liquel II, Kara meets Largyn, Glynix's husband. It turns out that while Glynix's means to get Supergirl to the arena were terrible, her ends were noble. Zogg is a horrible oppressor. Glynix needed someone to fight Zogg's champion, a massive giant of a warrior, someone with the 'powers of a thousand demons'. 

I love this splash page! I feel like splash pages in Supergirl comics of this time were pretty rare. But big moments deserve big art. This opponent just towers over Supergirl. We needed this art.

And I like that Supergirl chides Glynix for doing the terrible things on Earth to blackmail Supergirl here. But she also says she understands her desperation. Maybe next time Glynix needs help, she'll just ask.

The battle is on and rages on for several pages. And Supergirl's opponent does seems to have tremendous powers including phasing and prodigious strength. But Supergirl realizes that perhaps the powers are more that she is hypnotizing Kara into seeing things. So she blinds the woman and wades in.

Without her hypnotic powers, this warrior is just big and strong. And Supergirl gives her a beatdown. 

Saaf and Oskner do a great job with the action. Even interesting panels like this second one show a good point of view and camera angle to display the action. 

Poison insects? A wanted Supergirl? A land where gladiator battles decide leaders? A lot so far.

But the next turn is that tradition says the battle isn't over unless the victor slays their fallen opponent in the ring. If Supergirl doesn't kill her fallen foe, Glynix will be killed instead.

So what do we get?

A hope speech!

Supergirl uses her words to persuade the crowds that practice is barbaric. Amazingly, she convinces the world to turn their back on this. She even gets a nice appreciative smile from the fallen warrior who knows Kara just saved her life.

Now that's Supergirl!

And then, the next turn.

Largyn made a deal with Zogg before the fight even started. Largyn decided to cede power to Zogg if in return he and Glynix were spared and placed in a position of power in the new regime. He just didn't think any champion could beat Zogg's.

So now if Glynix doesn't join Largyn and willingly give up her courtly power, Zogg will execute her.

Yet another turn. 

Supergirl speeds Glynix away and then takes matters into her own hands, flying circles around Zogg's troops and destroying their arms.

As I said, this is pretty dynamic work from Saaf and Oknser. This is another little segment where I like the art layout. The looks on the soldiers' faces are great.

Then yet another turn.

With his troops unarmed, Zogg turns to his ace in the hole, a shock ray cannon he has buried in the ground of the arena. The ray has been banned by the galaxy because it is so horrific. But Zogg doesn't care. He reveals the cannon and the robot sniper manning it.

Without much ado, he fires on Supergirl, nearly killing our hero.

It's finally too much for Largyn to take.

He finally decides to stand up to the tyrannical Zogg and engages in battle.

Suddenly, somehow, there is a nearby lake. Remember we were inside an arena for the bulk of this story. Is this body of water inside the ring?

Now why we needed Largyn, who has basically abetted Zogg this whole issue, suddenly become the chivalrous hero is beyond me. Really Glynix should've been the proactive one here.

Only one man leaves the water ... Largyn. I guess he drowned Zogg. So much for 'dissent to all forms of killing'. But Supergirl doesn't seem to mind. The good guys have won. Although Largyn seems like a lousy person to be leading.

And then, to tie up the beginning part of this tale, we get a panel that explains that the insect poison only made people nap for 15 minutes. Plus, she 'mailed' the stolen art back to the owners. When did that happen? And does that mean Glynis went to the post office before she threw grenades at Supergirl? I get it, we needed to just wipe away the blackmail part of this story. Remember, Glynix hasn't been so wonderful this story either. 

So this is a standard wild ride of a story from this era of Supergirl. But this is heavy on the action If you want to see her throw down and dust knuckles, the gladiator battle in the middle is very well done. Add in Supergirl defending the innocent, discussing the sanctity of life, and being a groovy seventies newsgirl, and you get a pretty solid tale well worth spending a couple of bucks on.

Plus, this is about as close as we'll get to the current Warworld.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Great review, this was the era of Supergirl when I was first buying new issues, but I never had this one - from the panels it looks like Glynix was wearing one of Kara’s other new outfits.

That gladiatorial outfit the champion of Zogg (of Albania?) has on, it’s not unlike the one being worn by the brat on the Gary Frank cover of the upcoming Supergirl book… perhaps Tom King is updating the story!

Anj said...

Yes, when Glynix impersonates Kara, she is in one of the other new costumes Kara had at the time.

And nice pick up on the Gladiator outfit and Ruthye!


Professor Feetlebaum said...

The Adventure Comics era was a highlight in Supergirl's history. It's always nice to see those issues reviewed.

"Perhaps Tom King is updating the story!"

Well, I couldn't help but notice that Kara is wielding a sword, as in the upcoming series. Also, her costume here anticipates the get up that Melissa Benoist is currently sporting. Maybe John Albano and Art Saaf were Clairvoyant?

You have to give credit to Joe Orlando for using artists not normally associated with super heroes. I believe Art Saaf mostly worked on DC's Romance line, while Bob Oksner was best known for humor (Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dobie Gillis).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need a collection of these Adventure Comics Supergirl stories! Knowing DC, it'll likely never happen.

"I can't believe Kara was attracted to him (Jeff)."

True. But you could say that about 98 percent of the men Linda dated in those days.

Anonymous said...

Compared to the assembly life of doofuses, criminals, centaurs, orchestra conductors etc, Geoff is surprisingly...normal, he just patronizes Linda in a era typical chauvinistic way, while Kara manipulates his sexism to her advantage. Oh 1971 was a lost world wasn't it??
I think this might be the only time Saaf/Oksner ever depicted Supergirl's original "mod costume" (chain belt, thigh high boots etc), and yes I had to laugh when the incels all erupted when Benoist shifted to long supertights on TV, its an old costume variant indeed long predating their grievances.
This was a pretty violent story, it's got "Deadly insects", doomsday grenades, a knock down drag out superfight that Supergirl wins exactly the way she should, courage, brains and raw strength! And then she gets zetzed and some Richard Deacon type has to save the day, I don't that planet long odds I am afraid. If this was the TV show Alex would've slain the tyrant and the gladiatrix...leaving the inspirational speech to Kara.
But I digress, I've always maintained that Supergirl is innately more charismatic than her older cousin, it's one of her special unique powers, she is very persuasive by nature, some of it is she is the more relatable cousin some of it is from her love of the job (as opposed to Kal El who IS the job)...
Good pic from the back issue bin, love me some Art Saaf Bob Oksner art those guys were always vastly underrated on Supergirl...good action, good emotional content, forgivable cheesecake...



Professor Feetlebaum said...

I must be missing something, cuz I'm not getting the "Richard Deacon" reference above. I'm thinking of the actor who played Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Fred Rutherford (Lumpy's dad) on Leave it to Beaver.

Anonymous said...

Richard Deacon spent a lifetime in Hollywood playing drab colorless office toadies and ineffectual authority figures, that seems to fit Largyn to a "T"....:) My secret belief is, he didn't kill Zog at all, a passing space shark gobbled up the would-be Tyrant, Largyn simply took all the credit.
Supergirl exited the planet at transwarp speed before some other mishaugas went down...