Saturday, February 15, 2014

Psi Sighting 1: Daring New Adventures Of Supergirl #2

I am simultaneously running through two back issues themes on the blog so you have to bear with me. I am in the middle of a look at times Supergirl met Supergirl. But I am also running through a look back at the Supergirl rogue Psi since she returned to the New 52 DCU in Forever Evil: ARGUS. (You can read my first part here.)

Back in 1983, Daring New Adventures of Supergirl came out with the creative team of writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Carmine Infantino. The title opens up with a three part story with Supergirl fighting Psi and her mentor Mr. Pendergast. These early issues of Supergirl have the lead stories lasting 2/3 of the pages with a Lois Lane story by Tamsyn O'Flynn and Bob Oksner. So this three parter feels more like a two-parter in length.

One thing I like about Psi is that she seems to be bullied into being a villain. She herself seems innocent, led down an evil path by someone she thinks loves her. She also seems to have a mean streak in her, maybe because she is so abused that there is some wrinkle of retribution built into her. And she has powers enough to challenge Supergirl. It is a shame that her costume is so bad.

Rich Buckler does the cover here, a nice action shot. I will say that Supergirl escaping a pink energy silhouette of herself is a bit bizarre without knowing the story. The first year of this  book has a revolving door on cover artists. Buckler does the first two issues. Keith Giffen does the next cover. And then we have Ed Hannigan, Mike DeCarlo, Gil Kane, and Paris Cullins!

Onto Psi!

Last issue ended with Psi trashing Supergirl, leaving her unconscious, floating in a cocoon of psionic energy.

Remember, Psi is doing the bidding of her mentor/father figure Mr. Pendergast. And Pendergast is clearly insane, worried about the erosion of society at the hands of Decay. And Pendergast thinks the best way to eradicate this decay of civilization is to send Psi out as a weapon to level the city.

In some ways, it reminds me of Ra's Al Ghul's sentiment in the movie Batman Begins. When the decadence of society makes it lose its moral compass, only destruction will set things to right. Bizarre.

Now this is an odd splash page to begin the issue as both Psi and Supergirl are small components, in the background. Instead the foreground is rocky debris from Psi's attacks which are used to write some exposition. Still, I wonder if this would have worked in the reverse angle, Psi and Supergirl in the foreground with the readers looking over their shoulders down at the carnage below.

Pendergast is psychically linked to Psi as this battle going on. It is clear that Psi is uncertain if what she is doing is right while Pendergast continues to browbeat her into doing his evil work.

One thing that I love about the Kupperberg Supergirl is that she is very confidant and very determined. This is a fully actualized Supergirl, at the end of the journey and a hero.

So when seeing the destruction that Psi is causing, Supergirl struggles against the psionic bonds and smashes her way out. Throughout Daring New, Supergirl is pretty chatty in combat and here she continues (starts?) the trend by talking how she has power. Nice panel.

And then Supergirl tries to talk some sense into Psi.

How can Psi be trying to save the world by destroying it? By killing people??

And then Supergirl tells Psi that others have claimed to be trying to cleanse the world but were really only after power. Insert your genocidal dictator name here.

It is a great scene with Supergirl laying the smack down physically and verbally.

As I said, Psi seems unsure about this whole thing. And after hearing the wisdom of Supergirl's words in one ear and Pendergast's rhetoric in the other, Psi basically becomes unhinged. And with that internal tension, Psi lashes out, blasting Supergirl away from the fight scene and disappearing.

Praise to colorist Ziuko for using a nice palate of pinks and purples when showing Psi's powers.

With the battle over for the time being, Supergirl heads back to her apartment to relax a bit.

And look what we have here!! A supporting cast!!!

We already met housemate Joan Raymond and building ne'er-do-well John Ostrander (!). Now we meet Joan's roommate Cheryl and her boyfriend. This sort of connection to the world is what has been missing in the current title and the first portions of the last incarnation.

And Kupperberg does a nice job of always fitting in some of the more quiet moments in Linda's life. So we see her in class, working as an assistant to a professor, and here collapsing from exhaustion after the fight with Psi.

I think these small moments add such depth to comic characters. It is why I like Clark moments in my Superman. It is why I liked the Wally West Flash so much.

It turns out that Pendergast is more than just a little nutty. He has raised Psi since she was a little girl. She has tremendous power. He has basically brainwashed her into believing his warped view of the world.

But after one failure he decides she isn't worth the time any more. He decides to absolutely berate her, calling her a failure, beneath him, and not worthy to be his agent.

Then he pulls a gun on her!

Seems a bit shortsighted no? First off, Psi just went toe-to-toe with a Kryptonian. One loss doesn't mean she is worthless. Maybe she just needs some more indoctrination into his beliefs. She seems the perfect weapon!

Secondly, she just went toe-to-toe with a Kryptonian? Did he think a pistol will be effective? Did he think she would allow herself to be killed??

As expected, a psionic as powerful and frankly as unhinged as Psi is, isn't going to allow herself to be shot.

She unloads all of her hate and uncertainty and pain into Pendergast. Again, great use of color here. And you really love the art of that second panel. You really feel Pendergast blistering away under Psi's blast.

But, like many times in comics, this doesn't turn out the way Psi anticipated.

That's right! Instead of it killing Pendergast ... it transforms him.

And Pendergast, who has spent his life fighting against Decay, becomes Decay himself!

That is crazy town!

And now that he has power, Decay lashes out against his former protege. The design of Decay works though ... he looks like a gloppy pile of feces. I bet he stinks to high heaven!

I have to say that while these stories feel simpler, my appreciation for them has grown immensely over the years. Supergirl is independent and strong, loves her cousin, has a supporting cast, and a rogues gallery. Kupperberg is able to inject human moments nicely with superhuman.

But the purpose of this post is to discuss Psi and I think this issue shows what she can do nicely, why she made a great villain for Supergirl. She is immensely powerful. Her psionics can be used for physical attacks and mental attacks. And she is just innocent enough and unhinged enough to be dangerous.

I have a couple more Psi sightings to go through, including the finale of this story! Thanks again to Sterling Gates and Neil Edwards for bringing her back.

Overall grade: B+


Unknown said...

Interesting , What volumen of Supergirl is this ?

Dave Mullen said...

I'm fond of this series for much the same reasons as you are too Anj.
It is the one Carmine Infantino drawn series I unreservedly like his art, there are a lot of subtle touches to it which he brings.
Paul Kupperberg writes an independent and self reliant Supergirl who feels competent and believable, in a way other Supergirl's do not. I think the key element of her is her emotional stability - she isn't given to temper tantrums or undue self doubt, in many instances she is allowed to be the one who sees things from a more rational stance than Superman himself does. Particularly by this stage of her life.

'The Daring Adventures...' was a series that didn't get good distribution, my memory of it was that the issues I found at the time weren't found on the newsstand with the rest of DCs monthlies but rather from second-hand sources. If it isn't on the shelves then it isn't going to sell, thus I have always regretted the books short run as it really was/is as good as anything DC put out at the time. This is the era where The Outsiders, the Titans, Firestorm, and to some extent Amethyst, were all making an impact for DC and yet Supergirl was allowed to go by without any advertising or support that I remember, but as I say if it isn't on the shelves with the rest of DCs output of course it isn't going to get noticed, much less sell.

Martin Gray said...

Such fun times, it's great to see Joan again, and how funny that a character was named after Ostrander - wasn't that before he began writing for First Comics, when he was still a Chicago actor? No wonder Linda ran into him. And I just love Infantino's stylings, that shot of Linda on the bed is a hoot. I wish Kupperberg would pop across from Archie, sometime.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree Dave, this Supergirl series has aged well and shows the strongest and most confidant Kara. No temper tantrums ... but righteous fury. Such good stuff. And it is amazing how many 'young heroes' DC had on the shelf around this time.

Mart, I think this is before Ostrander began writing. And I really like Infantino on this book as well. And Oksner was a great choice to ink him.

Anonymous said...

TDNAOS Kara would not think twice to exile the current Supergirl to the phantom zone...having an rage addicted teen kryptonian on Earth is a formula for disaster would be her justification. As a matter of fact, "Current Supergirl" is so dangerous and immature she just about qualifies as a Kupperberg era VILLAINESS. "The Girl Who Thought She was Supergirl"...