Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #313 And Satan Girl

With Satan Girl acting as the main antagonist in Supergirl Annual #2, I thought it was time to thumb through the back issue box and review Adventure Comics #313 and Satan Girl's first appearance. Satan Girl is just one of many homages and Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the Annual, but I felt she deserved a full story review. 'The Condemned Legionnaires' is a classic story by writer Ed Hamilton and artist Curt Swan. I have to say I was pretty surprised at the ending the first time that I read this.

Who is Satan Girl? And what does she have to do with the 'Crimson Virus' that is mysteriously afflicting the female Legion members?

From the opening panel, the stage is set. Supergirl is going to need to square off against Satan Girl who is 'killing the girls of the Legion'.

What is that withering red ray she is bathing the Legionnaires with. I have to say, Swan does a very good job showing the agony the ray is delivering. Some are fatigued. Others are holding their hands up, pained expressions on their faces.

The story opens up with quick vignettes showing the female Legionnaires out on missions and succumbing to a 'strange, crimson virus'. The symptoms appear to be fatigue, dizziness, weakness, malaise, and that crimson color to their skin.

It is enough to worry Superboy and Mon-El enough to have them pause before leaving on their urgent mission. Two planets on the far side of the universe are on a collision course and the two super-heroes need to prevent them from crashing into each other.

Even Night Girl, of the then secret Legion of Substitute Heroes is suddenly overcome with the symptoms. The male Legionnaires have no choice but to send their stricken allies to Quarantine World where they can be isolated.

With that, Superboy and Mon-El streak away, vowing to hurry and finish their mission so they can help with the Crimson Virus mystery.

Suddenly Satan Girl arrives at the LSH headquarters. She tells the remaining Legionnaires that she is there to replace their sick comrades because she is better than all of them combined. When Sun Boy says that the ill Legion women will rejoin the team once they are cured of their malady.

In a quick change in tone, Satan Girl states that a cure will never happen because she has released the crimson virus which will be their doom. And since the Legion has rejected her by not letting her replace their friends, she will go to Quarantine World and kill the members there. She is incredibly powerful and fast and invulnerable as well. She wrecks the Legion cruiser so the Legion can't follow as she flies off.

Luckily, Supergirl was already in the 30th century as she had been planning to visit around this time. With Mon-El and Superboy called away, Supergirl will need to battle Satan Girl. Only Supergirl has the power necessary to fight such a foe.

Just like that, Supergirl is named honorary leader of the Legion, in charge of this mission to stop Satan Girl.

At super-speed, she fixes the cruiser and the team is off to Quarantine World.

And it's a good thing the Legion is able to get there so quickly. Satan Girl has driven off the medical staff, turned off the 'curative rays', and is bathing the female Legionnaires with a 'Crimson virus ray', worsening their symptoms.

Supergirl flies into the fray and confronts Satan Girl. The crafty Satan Girl has made a lead-lined mask, thus her identity remains hidden.

In an interesting turn, Satan Girl declares that Supergirl is her 'greatest enemy'. Why is that? Isn't this the first time the two have met?

The two begin to brawl across the planet but are too evenly matched for either to get an advantage. Even if she can't defeat Satan Girl, Supergirl thinks she could at least unmask her. But Satan Girl isn't ready for that reveal yet. With her super-strength, she breaks free from Supergirl's hold and vows to 'bring doom' to Supergirl and the Legion.

Her powers are prestigious enough that Supergirl wonders if she could be a Phantom Zone villain who has escaped.

Figuring that Satan Girl must be a Kryptonian, Supergirl gathers some Green Kryptonite in a lead box to use against her.

But the Green K has no effect on Satan Girl. She mocks Supergirl and then runs into a cave on the asteroid she is hiding on. Satan Girl then escapes by flying through the asteroid and fleeing from the opposite side. We hear Satan Girl's thoughts that she has 48 hours to kill the female Legionnaires. Hmmm ....

But Supergirl is confused. Why does Satan Girl hate Supergirl so much?

Realizing that she cannot leave her girl comrades on Quarantine World, Supergirl takes them and the other Legionnaires to a hidden world in a dark cosmic cloud, a world only a few people are aware exists. The planet is populated by odd bouncing organisms and Supergirl had once saved them from extinction. The bouncing aliens feel so grateful to Kara that they will give the Legion refuge from Satan Girl.

In the meantime, Supergirl realizes that Satan Girl can't be a Kryptonian (apparently immune to Green K) or a Daxamite (apparently immune to Lead) so she must be a robot of some sort. Kara quickly cobbles together a gas gun which will shut down any android.

The secret world isn't so secret as Satan Girl arrives and again gives the female Legionnaires another dose of her virus ray. And Supergirl's gas gun is not effective. Satan Girl isn't a robot!

The grateful bouncing creatures of the planet help out, bouncing all around Satan Girl, distracting her long enough for the ill Legionnaires to be loaded on the cruiser. The Legion ship blasts off with Supergirl telling Sun Boy that there is a world Satan Girl cannot know about. The Legion can hide there as they try to get to the bottom of this.

But Satan Girl chuckles as they leave. She hates Supergirl ... but she also knows every secret in Supergirl's mind. Still, she needs to find the Legionniares before her 48 hour time limit ends. Another reference to a 48 hour window. Hmmm ....

In a brilliant piece of Silver Age wackiness, Supergirl brings the Legion to the 'Puppet Planetoid', a world where giant children from another dimension dangle and play with their marionettes. Why hasn't Grant Morrison used this before!

Supergirl is the only person who even knows the planetoid exists, so clearly Satan Girl cannot follow them there.

But Satan Girl does arrive carrying a armload of Green K which quickly incapacitates Supergirl. And she is too powerful for the other Legionnires to even slow down. Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, they simply can't stop her.

Supergirl somehow realizes that Satan Girl's virus ray won't work on animals. So while some of the Legion goes to her to help her escape the Green K, others go back in time to get the Legion of Super-Pets.

With their powers, they are able to hold her down. And they cannot be weakened by her virus ray either. And her 48 hours are up. She collapses.

And with that, Supergirl unmasks Satan Girl. Satan Girl is Supergirl!!

Nice twist!

How else could she have all of Supergirl's powers and memories unless she was Supergirl. When Supergirl arrived in the 30th century, she sped past a Red Kryptonite meteor.

The newly Red-K created duplicate realizes that in 48 hours when the radiation wears off, she will disappear. Rather than simply allow herself to fade away, this Supergirl decides she wants to live. And the only way she can live longer than 48 hours is to use her scientific knowledge to create a device to siphon off Red K radiation and put it into another human - those energies are the Crimson Virus.

So it isn't simply a clone. It appears to be an evil clone, someone willing to make someone else suffer so she can live.

But this is the Silver Age so the villainous Super-girl comes up with a bizarre plan. Rather than simply living in the shadows, dumping the energy into random humans, she decides that she will pump it into the girl Legionnaires. She hopes that by making the female Legionnaires ill that the real Supergirl will stay away for fear of contracting the 'Crimson Virus' herself. And she hopes to empty herself of the Red K energy entirely thus allowing herself to live on.

She doesn't want to encounter Supergirl and she doesn't want her identity known. So she then crafted the identity of Satan Girl as a way to go about her evil deeds.

With the 48 hours up and Red K energy still in her, Satan Girl dissipates, absorbed back into Supergirl.

But wait, what about her immunity to Green K? Well, she had created a complete lead armor suit that protected her. With Satan Girl gone, the female Legionnaires quickly recuperate.

So Satan Girl was Supergirl! I thought that was a nice wrinkle in this Silver Age story. Does it mean that evil streak is inside Kara? Was that just the standard 'evil clone' that things some time create, not an aspect of Supergirl at all? Was this the first version of the Dark Supergirl seen in Loeb's early issues? I don't know.

But I thought the tone of this makes it a perfect microcosm of the DC Silver Age - a marionette world where you take your dying friends to get treatment? A Red K meteor flying by just as Supergirl flies into the 30th century? Wonderfully nostalgic.

And I liked that Satan Girl used Supergirl's scientific knowledge and secrets against her. It shows just how formidable Supergirl can be.

Curt Swan is a master and I love his art here.

From a Supergirl collection viewpoint, I would rank this of low-medium importance. Satan Girl is a silly but memorable part of her history and has now been reimagined twice (both in the current annual and in Peter David's run). The issue probably runs between $20-$50 depending on condition (although probably much more in high grade shape).

Overall grade: B+


Nikki said...

Its also reprinted in Adventure comics when Supergirl becomes the star. I think its in the Supergirl vs The Mer-men issue. That could be cheaper.

Anonymous said...

That's right. It's in Adventure Comics #409, August 1971 which also has "Invasion of the Mer-Men!" and I picked up a copy off eBay for a LOT less than $20! :)

Anonymous said...

Ghod Curt Swan could draw couldn't he?
He makes Kara look slender, pretty & athletic without recourse to bombshell excesses.
And the story is one of my faves simply because it highlights SG as a sort of super scientist and initiate into arcane intergalactic phenomena...(planets of giant puppets...I mean that bit is positively surreal).
I also like the fact that the remaining Boy Legionaires abjectly sign over legion leadership to Supergirl at the first hint of trouble and follow her sans question to the ends of the universe.
What is Lightning Lad good for?
Disposing of kryptonite...ha!
The Silver Age Supergirl could've used a bit more of this kind of treatment quite frankly.

John Feer