Thursday, April 7, 2016

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #212

Over in Superman:Lois and Clark, writer Dan Jurgens and artist Lee Weeks have been reintroducing some old time baddies to the (for now) current New 52 universe. We met the 'new' Hank Henshaw. We finally saw the re-imagined Hyathis. And now we have the latest incarnation of Blackrock.

This version of Blackrock is an ex-con trying to make some money by putting on a battle suit and demolishing things for reality television. Unfortunately, the bridge he is told to smash hasn't been closed to drivers, setting up a disaster where Superman needs to intervene. This guy doesn't seem malicious. If anything, I think this is him being set up by the television show to get footage of him fighting a super-hero.

With a new Blackrock now out there, I thought I would revisit the old Blackrock and the time he fought Supergirl.

In Superman Family #212, Supergirl is front and center on the cover fighting the 'video villain' Blackrock. Ross Andru and Dick Giordano provide the cover which is a decent action shot, even if it is Kara seemingly losing to the villain. The casino setting is interesting as is the down angle of the perspective.

More amusing is the 'jogging your way into this issue' side bar of the characters ...well ... jogging. This was a time in the US where jogging was the latest fitness fad. Clark looks incredibly uncoordinated, perhaps on purpose.

'Payment on Demand' headlined the issue. Written by Marty Pasko with art by regular SMF team of Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta, the story starts out with a bang. Or is that a 'brakassh'.

Supergirl is peacefully flying around New York City when she sees a security guard tossed through the plate glass window of the WGBS building. Nothing like a good defenestration to start a story.

Kara's internal monologue is amusing in that she is pretty surprised at the daily goings-on in the Big Apple. There is little peace for a super-hero.

Flying into the lobby, Supergirl finds the villain Blackrock attacking the security force with his power stone. Kara seems to know of Blackrock and so brings the fight to him but she struggles a bit. He uses the stone quite adeptly, transforming himself into 'cohesive black particles' of energy, surrounding Supergirl in a dense energy bubble, and shooting force beams.

Realizing this wasn't a fight he planned for, Blackrock turns himself into energy, endangers the nearby civilians, and escapes while Supergirl saves the day. But what was he after?

It turns out the guards can't even help identify him. He had entered the building in his civilian identity so they should know his face. But he used his force bolts to give them selective amnesia.

I told you. He is handy with his weapon.

At work at Secret Hearts soap opera, Linda Danvers notices that her friend, script writer Greg Gilbert, is distraught. And the script shows it. The actors and producers are irate about plot turns and dialogue busting words like 'statistically', 'dilapidated', and 'particularly'. In an effort to help her friend, Linda says the two should go out as friends ('dutch treat') to talk things out.

Greg asks Linda to come back to his place first, hoping he can convince her to eat in. It is clear that he is broke. And going out, even dutch, is impossible.

Things get wonky when they arrive. A ruffian is waiting for Greg to take him to 'an appointment'.

Greg tries to fight the thug and, using her super-breath coyly, Linda helps his efforts. The goon runs off.

Linda then asks Greg what is going on. It turns out he has a major gambling problem. He is deep in the hole with a gangster, owing him thirty grand. He recently was trying to win his way out of the hole by doubling down at an all night poker game. Unfortunately, he only made things worse.

The reason the scripts have suffered is because while Greg was away, new writer Lena Thorul struggled a bit.

Linda promises she will try to help Greg out of his problems, both his debt and his problem. She promises to find him psychiatric help or group therapy. But first, the debt needs to be cleared.

Greg's problems don't supplant the presence of Blackrock. In a perfect showing of why the old comics work, Supergirl heads to the Fortress of Solitude to ask Superman for some information. After all, Blackrock is more of a Superman villain.

Kal gives us some nice exposition about Blackrock's origins. There have been several people brainwashed or blackmailed into wearing the costume. Blackrock was supposed to be network UBC's own super-hero to combat Superman's GBS ratings.

So who is *this* Blackrock? And what is he after.

Whatever it is he wants, it is in the GBS building. Blackrock decides that he needs an inside man to pull off the heist he wants. So in a different scene, we see Blackrock cut a deal with Greg Gilbert. If Gilbert steals something from GBS, Blackrock will eliminate the writer's debt. Gilbert initially agrees.

But then Gilbert realizes that Blackrock's solution will be to kill the mob boss. Not wanting to be complicit in murder, Gilbert tells his bosses and ultimately Supergirl of his problems. Supergirl takes off to the casino to stop the villain's murderous plans.

There is a nice skirmish where we see just how evenly matched these two are. Blackrock is untouchable. He can shoot immense force beams. He knows how to use collateral damage to distract Supergirl.

I liked this panel where we see Supergirl actually bounce off the force shield.

The battle heads outside where Blackrock blasts one of the city's famous arches. While Supergirl grabs the top of the arch so it doesn't crush pedestrians, Blackrock takes advantage, shooting Supergirl and knocking her unconscious.

Of course, this is a bronze age villain. So before he knocks out Kara, he tells her the whole plan. Gilbert will steal the blueprints for GBS' 3-D television technology.

And with that cliffhanger, part one ends.

This was a very fun story. We get both Supergirl moments and Linda Danvers' moments as well. So we get a nice feel for this Supergirl's whole life. Moreover, Blackrock is a good villain for her, someone who can actually stand up to her as a challenge.

So not a bad little chapter.

As a bonus, we get a Supergirl heavy Daily Planet as the back cover. First we have an add for Superman #365, one of the many stories where Supergirl fights Superman. I covered that issue way back when, here.

We also get an add for The Krypton Chronicles, a nice three issue miniseries which looks back at Krypton's history. That is a great mini-series for Superman and Supergirl fans.

So overall, a decent issue worth picking up if you find it in the cheap bins.

Overall grade: B


Danvers said...

I hope they collect the Superman family stories at some point as they are fun stories

Anonymous said...

BlackRock could very easily segue into the TV show with his "TV network sponsorship" origin entirely intact.

Kara is so much her cousin's de facto equal here. These are the years where their nomination difference in ages all but vanished in part because of Win Mortimer's underwhelming pencils but also because the writer's tended to default to an "all up experienced heroine" persona.

Agreed would love a SMF Supergirl collection...