Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #595

Yesterday, DC released the cover image for Supergirl #8, in whick Kara befriends a girl named Siobhan who also happens to be the Silver Banshee. I am glad that the Silver Banshee is remaining a Supergirl villain, someone who is a Kara-rogue first and foremost.

Throughout his work on the title, Sterling Gates had Supergirl and the Banshee square off, having her appear not only in Supergirl #34 but also Supergirl #48 and Supergirl #49.

Long ago, I even reviewed the PAD Supergirl's interactions with Banshee in Supergirl #11 and #12 .

With the Banshee now playing prominent roles in three incarnations of Supergirl, I thought I would take a look back at her first appearance in Action Comics #595.

Action Comics #595 was written and drawn by John Byrne in the early parts of his renaissance of the character. I always say that I really appreciate the Byrne run on the Superman books as he injected much needed vitality into the character. And it is amazing that he was able to handle all the creative pressures running so many books and still get things out on time.

This was during a time when we were still learning about this Superman. The post Man of Steel books were still less than a year running. And Action Comics was set up as a sort of DC Comics Presents book, with a different guest star in each issue and mostly 'done in one' stories. It was a brilliant way to re-introduce Superman to the DCU at large.

As for me, I have always been a sucker for '??' as a question mark as I try to figure out who it is before the story ends. I guess my favorite one was the original Brave and Bold #150. This was a decent cover with the Banshee standing over a dead Superman with his ghost in the background. Just what could be happening here! And who was the guest star??

The book starts with the Banshee walking down the streets of Metropolis. I guess if you have her power you don't need to skulk around.

She ends up being accosted by some construction workers who appreciate the female form regardless of the trappings. And, of course, that leads to them dying at her hand.

One thing I do like about this opening splash page is the panel border encompassing the men but not the Banshee. The guys' first comment is how tall the Banshee is and this accentuates her size. She seems to tower over them, even though they are in the background.

And the construction workers aren't the only one who face her wrath. She enters an antique book shop and promptly kills one of the workers as she searches for something.

It is an interesting first take on the Banshee. Initially it looks like her touch is deadly. But then we keep hearing about how eerie her voice is as well.

Her actions lead to the Metropolis police and Superman getting involved.

Banshee has killed a SWAT team style officer the page before. Here she is confused at seeing another similarly dressed policeman wondering why he is so resilient and why he isn't dead. Hmmm ....

She also seems to know a lot about Metropolis, commenting on their police force's tactics as well as recognizing Superman.

I do question Superman's flippant 'Pee Wee Herman' comment. Isn't there a dead cop on the sidewalk somewhere? A pile of bodies in the city?

And we learn that it isn't Banshee's touch that kills. It's her voice. She kills Superman right there on page 9!

Interesting that it isn't a banshee scream yet, just talking to the victim. More on that in a bit.

But Superman is apparently really dead. We see Lois' tearful response to hearing the news.

And we see the JLA' s response. Interesting to hear Batman call Superman almost a 'god'. And the League starts to wonder what their next steps should be. J'Onn thinks actions need to be taken.

I think I might be one of a handful of people who actually like that version of Black Canary's costume.

But my favorite response is Luthor's.

Like any arch-villain, Luthor is irate that someone else killed Superman. Superman was meant to die by his hand. That last panel is very good with a small Lex nearly sobbing. It adds to the feel that Luthor is a 'small' man. And it also shows just how much Lex defines himself as being Superman's adversary.

Byrne really plays up the 'Superman is dead' aspect of the story. We even get to see the funeral in Metropolis. Superman is placed in a glass casket so people can come pay their respects. Lois seems to be in charge here. I really liked Byrne's Lois.

The wake is interrupted when Superman's ghost rises from his body and says he cannot rest until his work is done, until he has stopped the Banshee.

Superman's funeral!! I almost wish this was 2 issues long to see more of this event.

Instead we cut to Superman's ghost tracking the Banshee down to another bookstore. And who else is there? Jimmy Olsen! Olsen has been trying to dig up information about what the Banshee is looking for.

As before, she is stunned to see Superman still alive, or at least 'partially' alive. She lets loose with her full Banshee scream. While the scream is deafening and painful, it doesn't kill Superman's ghost or Jimmy for that matter.

I like the lower panel's composition. First off, you feel her screaming through her body language. And adding the EEEEs adds to that power.

And when that scream doesn't work, she pulls out all the stops, screaming until she appears to explode, vaporizing herself. And yet despite the power of this scream (it blows out the windows of the store and levels the book shelves), Jimmy and Superman's ghost remain alive.

I like the feel of this panel as well. Has a sort of Steranko feel to it.

When the dust settles, Jimmy sees not only Superman but his ghost (and the issue's mystery guest star), the Martian Manhunter. That explains the shape change and the intangibility parts of the ghost's makeup.

But was Superman really dead??

Nope, her powers put him into a deep coma. And Superman doesn't even know if he would survive andother round of that scream. Okay, maybe that is a little easy.

J'Onn deduced that her confusion about the cops in the first brawl showed that she somehow needed to see the victim, or know who the victim was, to kill them. Since the second officer was helmeted and since she thought it was the first officer, the second was immune to that personal scream (targeting the first cop). Interesting. By convincing the Banshee that he was Superman, the Martian Manhunter was immune to the lethal nature of the scream (even if it did hurt him). See it was aimed for Superman, not him (despite his form).

In later incarnations, it turns out that the Banshee can kill you if she screams your true name. That is why Superman believing he is Clark first, or Matrix being Linda Danvers and not Supergirl, made them safe in future adventures. I like that wrinkle about her power more than this original attempt.

Jimmy, being the investigator he is, also realized she was looking for some books from the Castle Broen from Ireland. Later, the Banshee is linked more to Scottish roots.

So this first appearance lays down some ground rules for the Silver Banshee but her powers and origin evolve a bit.

But for me, the best thing about this issue is the fact it is over in one book! A new villain! Superman's death and wake! Reactions from the DCU! And a quick resolution! Amazing.

I can't wait to see what this new Banshee is all about. And we get George Perez on art! Not a bad sub for Mahmud Asrar.

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

Why do her legs look blue on the new cover? I hope this isn't a costume redesign.

Diabolu Frank said...

Very cool villain I've dug since her first appearance. This was a fun story!