Monday, March 5, 2012

Argo City - Silver Age Part 2

I am in the midst of doing a series of posts on Argo City and it's incarnations in the various DC Universes. Last week I did a review of Argo in the Silver Age but after some more research and a reminder from a Supergirl fan in the comments sections I realized I had a couple of more Silver Age moments to cover.

First up, the Supergirl story in Superman Family #207, "Look Homeward, Argonian!" by writers Jack C. Harris and Roy Thomas and artists Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta.

In the story, Supergirl is lured to a halluciation of an intact Argo City in orbit around a yellow sun. The citizens beg her to show them the site of powerful weapon that Zor-El had created. After showing them, the vision fades and Supergirl knows she has been duped.

To investigate who might be after the weapon, Supergirl travels to the real Argo City.

There it is, intact, floating around a red sun. So Supergirl can see her past but only from a distance. So I guess my hope of the 'floating gravestone' is intact.

It would have been nice to see the dome a bit more broken and shattered here, as it was the meteor strike which damaged the dome that was part of Argo's tragedy.

It turns out that the visions were planted in Supergirl's mind by Universo, who traveled back in time to obtain the 'density intensifier' but needed Supergirl's help to find it in the ruins.

In yet another twist of the tale, the ground is once again Kryptonite, not anti-Kryptonite. I think the anti-Kryptonite piece of this story was only around in the earliest parts of the Silver Age.

Turns out Supergirl knew all along she was being played and told Universo the wrong item to go for. Universo tries to attack the Legion with the intensifier which turns out to only be a table lamp! The real intensifier is still on Argo, safe and sound.

As she travels home, Supergirl sheds a couple of tears thinking about the tragedy in her life. In most stories, Supergirl doesn't dwell on the sadness in her past (let's say like Batman does). So this wasn't a bad ending.

And the ultimate fate of Argo is seen in DC Comics Presents #97, the final issue of that title. "Phantom Zone, the Final Chapter", written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Rick Veitch, is a crazy story for many reasons. It is a primer of the Phantom Zone's history and occupants. It is a sort of epilogue to the Phantom Zone mini-series, a story where the Zone is shown to be a living chaotic entity call Aethyr. And it is a pre-Crisis tale told in the early post-Crisis DCU. As a result, since this history has been wiped away, Gerber has some free reign to go crazy.

The story is barely comprehensible. In it, Aethyr feels violated and attacked by the presence of the Zone villains within its psyche. It therefore merges with Mxyzptlk to enact revenge on their common enemy, Kryptonians.

The Aethyr-Myx brings a massive Kryptonite meteor down on Metropolis which is only spared total destruction because Superman somehow is able to shatter it.

But look at what comes down with the chunks of Kryptonite ... bodies.

The 'meteor' is actually Argo City! It is a brutal and fantastic attack ... both physical and psychological. I mean, there is something downright Sauron-ian about raining bodies of friends and loved ones down on your opponent. On top of that, the ground is Kryptonite! Look at the devastation!

But the story takes another twist. Mxyzptlk was needed as a temporary anchor to bring Aethyr into our dimension. Aethyr fries Mxyzptlk, becomes a sort of crystal, once again takes the Phantom Zone villains back into itself, and takes off.

Look at the confused Superman!

"Wait! I still don't understand!" Frankly Supes, you and me are in the same boat.

So, if this story is canon, Argo's ultimate destiny was as a weapon, a bomb from space. And while it is a devastating and crazy ending to the city and a deliciously malicious blow to Superman's body and mind, I still like the silent tomb in space angle.

And that was Argo in the Silver Age.


Anonymous said...

Over and above the death blown dealt to the Bronze Age in COIE #7, I sometimes think the era simply self destructed under the weight of so many bad scripts and worse artwork.
Win Mortimer being Exhibit A IMHO....

As for the Phantom Zone story DC was intent on besmirching and then eliminating the memory of Supergirl, first with her "secret marriage" and secondly with this "Argo City" as a doomsday weapon mishaugas.
In all it was tough time to like Kara Zor El, DC was vound and determined to expell us from the ranks of fandom.


Dave Mullen said...

I'm going to have to read DC Presents #97 again, I certainly remember it as a very dark story and it struck me that it's canocity was open to question.
This was possibly the very last pre-crisis Superman story that was published and while it has its merits I think it was way way too dark and out of character to be any sort of fitting end for that era. It always surprised me DC would commision it.

On the other hand though during the last year or so before the big revamp the Superman books had become notably more dark and sombre in subject matter and tone - stories on nuclear war, the Devil, werewolfs and ultimatly the death of Supergirl. The tone of that last year of Superman was downright depressing, but as with the Superman/Batman schism over in Worlds Finest it was just a sign that times were most definitly changing, the world was moving on from that old fashioned Superman.

Dave Mullen said...

I knew I'd reaad about the origins of this story!

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

It is a weird capstone for the Superman Silver Age. Moore's 'Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow' is a much better love letter to the mythos than this inscrutable and dark story in DCCP #97.

And thanks for the link Dave. Great stuff!