Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #276

Later today Supergirl #52 is being released. I think most Supergirl fans are eager to see a modern take on the classic romantic relationship between Supergirl and Brainiac 5.

In particular, I have been interested in seeing how Brainy's knowledge of other Supergirls in other timelines affects him. We never saw a Supergirl/Brainiac 5 romance materialize during the Waid/Kitson reboot of the Legion. In fact, I think the closest we have seen one recently was the Brainy/Laurel Gand relationship in the '5 Years Later' run ... and let's face it, that wasn't really Supergirl even if some of the story beats echoed the Kara/Querl dynamics. So I am looking forward to seeing this part of the Supergirl mythos re-explored.

After reviewing the last Supergirl/Brainy stories from the Levitz/Giffen years on Legion, I thought I would take a look way back to their very first meeting ... the very first Brainiac 5 story. Action Comics #276 includes a Supergirl story with a creative team picked from comic book royalty ... writer Jerry Siegel and artist Jim Mooney. The story tells how Supergirl met Brainiac 5 and joined the Legion.

Here is Action Comics #276 and 'Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends'.

The story starts off at the Midvale Orphanage where two of the other girls are chatting about their boyfriends and favorite TV stars.

Linda (still in hiding as Superman's emergency secret weapon at this point) feels isolated because she has no one to talk to about her 'hopes and worries' without endangering her cover as Supergirl. She has bigger concerns than the mundane ones her friends have but they have to stay bottled up.

This theme of loneliness in the early years of the Super-family members is well-traveled even to this day. We saw it as recently as Geoff Johns' Legion issue in Superman Secret Origin #2.

Shedding tears in the orphange garden, she suddenly receives a mental message that she is not alone.

She heads to the nearby creek where she is initially greeted by a mystery 'super girl-friend' who is wearing a lead mask to hide her identity.

Two more girls arrive making it a party. The mystery friend reveals herself to be Saturn Girl who brought along new Legionnaires Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl. They hope to convince Supergirl to try out for the Legion again. (She failed once when Red K made her too old for the age limit in the Legion Charter. Couldn't they have just waited the 48 hours?)

Supergirl is thrilled at the chance to not only try to get into the Legion again but also to suddenly have some super-confidantes, young women who can understand where she is in life and what she is dealing with.

It won't be easy to get into the Legion this time. Look at the competition she is up against! That's Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Sun Boy all trying to join.

And there is one other applicant ... Brainiac 5!

Brainiac 5 is up front about his villainous ancestor and seems ashamed of the original Brainiac's acts. But Supergirl isn't so sure just yet.

We then hear the original Brainiac's ultimate fate. He was shrunk to nothingness when he was hit by his own shrinking ray while fighting Superman. Funny how it played out like that in Superman #338 when Superman finally enlarged Kandor.

Supergirl aces the competition by digging up heroic artifacts from the past.

But as she is presenting the items, Brainiac 5 hurries and hands her his force field belt. He had seen a Green K meteor falling on to the group right at that moment! Serendipity?

Despite the risk to his own life by giving up the shield, he saves Supergirl. With that selfless act, Supergirl realizes that this Brainiac can be trusted. She even thinks he's sweet.

Despite going up against the three future Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 and Supergirl are chosen the winners of the competition and inducted into the Legion.

They are even thrown a victory parade!

At last we see the seeds of their romance. When Supergirl prepares to return to her time, Brainiac 5 begs her to stay and 'be his girl'.

But Supergirl's loyalty to Superman and her responsibilities in the past come first. She leaves him, telling him she'll return to see him again. Awwwww ...

When Supergirl returns to the past, she realizes she still has the force field belt. And Brainiac 5 made it so it would only work for her; suddenly she is immune to Kryptonite. She is mightier than Superman.

This plot twist, Supergirl being stronger than Superman, was seen several times in the early Silver Age. Remember when her powers were suddenly magic-based making her immune to Kryptonite? I wonder if this idea is the genesis of Jeph Loeb's early stories where Kara was said to be even stronger than Kal.

Alas, Supergirl cannot remain stronger than Superman for long.

The trip through time has weakened the belt so it can only work for a brief time.

Back at the orphanage, Linda stammers when she is asked by her friends if she has a boyfriend. She couldn't really tell them about Merro the Merman or Brainiac 5, the Coluan from a thousand years in the future.

So in one spectacular issue we have Supergirl join the Legion and meet Brainiac 5.


But there is so much more to this issue than just those things, no matter how big they are for a Supergirl fan.

We can start out with the great Curt Swan cover showcasing the Girl of Steel battling a swarm of tiny Superman. That is Silver Age goodness.

In the main story, Supergirl plays a crucial part in helping Superman preserve his secret identity after he accidentally revealed it to a gangster. So she plays a big part in both stories in the book. And we get to see legendary Superman artist Wayne Boring's version of Supergirl in the Superman story. Boring was the artist for Superman in the 50s and early 60s. That broad-chested Superman is the look for Superman in that period. So it is great to see his Supergirl as well.

And this issue is also the first appearance of a half-dozen (!) Legionnaires: Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Sun Boy.

Plus those key events ... Supergirl joins the Legion and begins her relationship with Brainiac 5.

When I review issues like this I try to place them in some sort of context of their importance to a Supergirl collection. Given everything that happens here, I would rank this issue as having the highest importance for a Supergirl collection.

The cover scanned above is from my collection's copy. I include that scan only to show that my issue is pretty beat up; I think it cost me $25. It is the only actual copy I have ever seen. So it might not be easy to find and it certainly will be pricey if it is in any decent condition. Luckily, it is reprinted both in Supergirl Showcase Volume 1 and Supergirl Archives Volume 2.

Overall grade: A (there is just too much happening here to grade it anything else.

1 comment:

TalOs said...

Heh, just gotta love the way these 2 initialy met Pre-COIE wise. ;-)