Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #16 - Supergirl Meets Power Girl

With World's Finest #1 only a couple of weeks away, I thought I would take a look back at some of Power Girl's history, specifically her interactions with Supergirl.

Now Power Girl has always been an interesting character for me. She was Kara Zor-L, the Earth 2 Supergirl. But she was never Supergirl before. She never used that name. She appeared for the first time as Power Girl, confident and her own person, ready right from the start to distance herself from her super-cousin. She was tough, determined, and maybe a little bit edgy ... something which distanced her from her Earth-1 cohort. While I consider myself a Power Girl fan, she has always been a seperate character from Supergirl in my mind. They have felt only distantly connected.

After the original Crisis, Power Girl went through the ringer a bit as DC struggled to explain who she was in the DCU. She couldn't be Superman's cousin anymore. She had some relationship to him, maybe as an 'adopted' cousin. But who was she? Finally, DC decided she was the great-grand daughter (maybe a few more greats need to be in their) of Arion.

With that brief background, I thought I would review Supergirl #16, from Peter David's run. This is the Matrix Supergirl, and relatively early in this run. She hasn't quite manifested her angel powers yet. She just told the Danvers that she merged with Linda. And she is just starting a romance with Dick Malverne. As always, David knew Supergirl history inside and out and infused as much of her mythology into this completely new take on the character ... something I always have appreciated. That included acknowledging Power Girl somehow. I have said it before ... I love this run, especially the first 50 issues.

Leonard Kirk took over on art after Gary Frank left the title and is still finding his feet here.

The story actually begins in Supergirl #15 in which a villain known as Twilight (who played a very big role in the 51-74 story arc of this book) animates wax dummies of the super-villain group the Extremists and sends them out to destroy Charlotte North Carolina. Now Charlotte might not sound like a hotbed of super-villain activities, but it just so happens that Linda, in an attempt to get away from the familial heartaches she is suffering from in Leesburg, is in Charlotte. It is a romantic getaway weekend with Mr. Malverne and a chance for her to meet Dick's family.

When the Extremists arrive, Supergirl engages and unfortunately gets a bit of a rude welcome. Luckily Power Girl is there to help. This is the last page of Supergirl #15, a nice dramatic splash/cliffhanger. Note Power Girl's costume here ... solid white shirt, Arion magic symbol belt buckle.

But, as is often the case in comics, Supergirl 'mistakes' Power Girl for an enemy and lashes out.

Luckily, just about immediately, Supergirl realizes her mistake and apologizes profusely.

I do find it interesting that there are so many instances of the incarnations of these characters fighting each other.

Once united in their cause, the super women go about trying to stop Twilight and the Extremists.

While Power Girl tries to square off against the villains, Supergirl tries to help those hurt in the attacks. One of those people is Dick Malverne's mother.

This version of Malverne went through the mill. Peter David had him get possessed, get cancer, get cured by being possessed again, and ultimately die while being treated by a fraudulent faith healer.

But he loved Linda and those events often stirred the drink of this long opening arc.

As I said before, this issue takes place before Supergirl's angel wings and heavenly powers really manifested. But we saw plenty of evidence early on that they were coming. Those flame eyes sure look like her angelic 'judgment' vision. Here she shows a little of her righteous indignation as she tears the limbs off the villain.

Skulking in the background is Twilight. Throughout the issue we are given snippets of her backstory.

She is quite long- lived having been around during the time of the bubonic plague. But she was granted the great power to heal. She is shown traveling with her sister Jane, saving people  but always while keeping her powers semi-hidden so as not to be branded a witch.

As for Power Girl, she has been injured by the Extremists when she was skewered with a good sharp stick.

Poor Power Girl at this stage of her character; she can be injured by raw, unprocessed material. I suppose that somehow these 'natural' weapons are uneffected by the magical core of her abilities. Still, seems pretty silly.

The Extremists end up being relatively easy to dispatch once the two heroes team up. The Extremists are just robots after all.

But Twilight is a different story. She really can't be harmed and ends up leaving on her own terms. But not until she fills in the rest of her back story, how she went from healer to killer.

It seems while she was busy curing as many plague victims as she could, the disease took Jane's life. The only person she cared for died because she was too busy hurting others. Dealt this hand, she blames God and decides to turn her back on goodness.

These sort of stories were riddled throughout David's run. There were plenty of characters who did evil who were looking for redemption. There were plenty of people like this who did good but then were turned. Even the big bad, The Carnivean, had a bit of duality ... a bit of conflict ... in him.

And, of course, Supergirl herself fell into this category. Linda was no saint. All of these were done to show that from  a great fall can spring a great redemption.

This is perhaps my favorite panel in the book and the reason why I thought reviewing it would be worthwhile. Remember, for a while there was no Supergirl in the DCU. But there was Power Girl ... maybe for no clear reason. And a lot of Supergirl fans resented that Kara having been spared. And then Matrix ... a non-Kara ... showed up.

As I said before, Peter David knows all this history about the character and addresses this issue wonderfully. Power Girl wonders how people could consider her a replacement for Supergirl when there was no Supergirl. "It's complicated."

Yep ... that's an understatement.

And again, we see that theme of redemption played out here. Why would Twilight show that history if she wasn't looking for some compassion, looking for someone to help her deal with her pain.

I won't wax poetic about this series as I have done so countless times. But these first 50 issues were just magical to me, dealing with themes not often seen in 'mainstream' super-hero comics.

I guess I would put any Supergirl/Power Girl team ups as of moderate importance to a Supergirl collection. This issue is really right before this book really veered to the Earth Angel concept so reading it in retrospect and seeing the plotline seeds sprouting make me appreciate it more.

And Leonard Kirk really became the artist for the series. His stuff is solid.

If these issues can be found, they are usually quite cheap.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

Great issue & excellent review, Anj!!! I still miss this series and I hope that more issues will come out in trades besides the first one, and Supergirl: Many Happy Returns.-ealperin

Engel said...

I still think Leonard Kirk ruined the series, IMO. Great review as always! :)