Friday, December 3, 2010

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #51 - Supergirl And Riot Pt 1

I enjoyed the recent and brief battle between Supergirl and Riot in Supergirl #58. I get the sense that Sterling Gates likes Riot as a villain. We have seen Riot in World's Finest #2 as well. Heck, he was even in Supergirl #42, when Agent Assassin used hallucinogenic gas to free Reactron. Riot is sort of a 'Madrox gone wrong' character, creating dupes and overwhelming his opponents.

But this Supergirl isn't the first Supergirl to fight Riot. So I figured in a slow news week, why not take a look back at when the Linda Danvers Supergirl fought Riot, back in Supergirl #51 and Supergirl #52.

Supergirl #51 was the beginning of a major new story arc in the Peter David run on Supergirl.

Supergirl #50 was the culmination of massive opus looking at religion, redemption, and super-heroics. The holy Earth Angel Supergirl had just battled the demon Carnivore and sacrificed herself to save the world.

David is clearly a big Supergirl fan and put in homages and twists to link this Linda Danvers to the pre-Crisis version. So here, he had the world recognize that Supergirl saved the world but believe that she had died in the battle. Basically, David sort of recreated the immediate post-Crisis #7 world. Supergirl was dead but had saved everyone.

Supergirl was and wasn't dead. The angelic aspect of her had been stripped away from Linda Danvers, leaving her mostly depowered and on a quest to reunite with that part of her she had lost.

The issue starts with us seeing Riot in a Metropolis lab/asylum/prison. He is slowly making progress with his therapy.

But there are evil powers at work in Metropolis ... powers that could use a villain like Riot working for them. And so, the Prankster arrives in the building and frees Riot, asking the duplicate man to join him in creating havoc throughout the city. It is clear that Riot is quite mad. While he might not be the most organized or efficient super-villain, Riot is enough of a nuisance that he would keep the heroes and authorities busy.

I really liked this title page. Linda is ruminating over the fact that she was once in touch with something celestial but now that part of her is gone, is far away. I thought this version of Supergirl as a constellation was a nice way of conveying that.

Linda is unclear of exactly who she is right now. She wants to recapture that aspect of Supergirl that is missing. She feels empty. Her quest involves following the Chaos Stream back to its source, supposedly where the angelic aspect is. And the only person who can sense the Stream is suddenly mortal demon Buzz.

But her first stop is Metropolis to let Superman know that she is alive and well.

This whole second arc, which ran from Supergirl #51-74 could have been called 'Who is Linda Danvers?'

Remember, Linda became Supergirl when her Matrix 'pure soul' sacrificed itself to save Linda's tainted one. Linda was an evil person. She describes herself as angry, bitter, homicidal. The first fifty issues of this run looked at redemption ... could the fused Supergirl overcome all of her prior faults, could she forgive herself ... and more importantly be forgiven. Linda had come a long way from that fallen soul from the early issues.

But here she wonders ... how much of that change was because of Supergirl. Without the angelic Supergirl, will she be 'good'? Will she revert to her flawed ways. It is hard to look in the mirror and wonder just which Linda is looking back.

Luckily, she doesn't have much time to dwell on that. Metropolis is currently flooded from a recent tidal wave. And now, Riot is running roughshod on jet-skis. It's time for Supergirl to jump into action.

But Linda has been de-powered. She can't simply transform into the statuesque Supergirl anymore. She needs a costume. And she knows just where to find it.

Running into a costume/super-hero based clothing store, she cobbles together a new Supergirl uniform including a blond wig.

And so we see the first shot of this version of the Supergirl uniform, based on the Bruce Timm designed DCAU Supergirl. I have to say, this version kind of grew on me.

In another way the David looked back at the past, Supergirl basically had the powers of the earliest Superman issues. She is nearly invulnerable. She can bend steel in her bare hands.

Dropping a lightpost onto the rampaging Riot stops them in their tracks. With their actions halted, the dupes disappear, reabsorbed by the original Riot who is suspiciously absent.

The Prankster turns out to be working for Lord Satanus. Satanus had a brief run-in with the Angelic Supergirl in the first arc. Like everyone else, he thought she had died in the battle with the carnivore.

I loved this description of Linda. There is a 'touch of the divine' here. She is sort of an empty shell. Whatever she is, Satanus doesn't want her in the city he is trying to take control of. He sends the Prankster out to see if this Supergirl is the 'two who are one' and try to split them off from each other.

In another fun scene, Supergirl has to try to explain to the police that she really is Supergirl. The world thinks Supergirl died fighting the Carnivore. So everyone assumes that this smaller Supergirl is a 'wannabe', a replacement Supergirl. Everyone keeps bringing up The Reign of the Supermen, and how they should expect other 'Supergirls' to show up. It ends up being something of a running gag in these early issues.

And she learns the hard way that she can't fly, only jump an eighth of a mile (again an homage to the earliest description of Superman's powers).

With Riot still free, Superman unaware that she is living, and discovering that Lex Luthor (her old lover remember) is ahead in the polls for President, Supergirl has a lot on her plate for her visit in Metropolis.

All that ... and the Prankster is after her. Sounds like this is 'to be continued'! I'll review the ending of this story tomorrow.

I thought the PAD Supergirl was a very original and innovative run. I have said it many times that I absolutely loved the first 50 issues. This second arc seemed to go on a bit too long for my taste. But the underlying theme of 'who is Linda Danvers' was a solid backbone for these issues. In the end, Linda learns that she has been redeemed, that she is good, as she makes a sacrifice of her own. This first part of a new direction was fun and engaging. I wonder if it was too enmeshed with the first arc to be easily accessible to a new reader who might have tried it.

Leonard Kirk's work is wonderful ... synonymous with this title, the way I picture the Linda Danvers Supergirl in my mind. And given that Gary Frank drew the first 9 issues, that is high high praise.

More riotous Riot action coming up tomorrow!

Overall grade: B/B+

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I despised Peter David Stripping Linda of her powers in issue 50+...but now I've come to learn that I should've respected his decision....Animated outfitreplica included.-ealperin