Thursday, October 13, 2016

Back Issue Box: Supergirl #20

My copy autographed by Paul Kupperberg
The Supergirl Season Two premiere is behind us and it was great to see Superman and Supergirl working together! But before that, given the team-up nature of the super-cousins on the show, I thought I would finish my look at one of their final team-ups in the pre-Crisis era, a celebration of Supergirl's 25th anniversary in comics. I covered the first part in Action Comics #555 last week. Today I'll cover 1984's  Supergirl #20.

Much like Action Comics #555, this is a 'sort of' team up. The cousins only get together at the end of the issue. But the stories are closely linked as the villainous Parasite is coordinating a simultaneous two pronged attack on Superman and Supergirl. In my review of the first part, I talked about how confusing the Parasite's plan was. It didn't make much sense to me then and I hoped it would be better explained here.

Unfortunately, I am still confused. This chapter does explain some of what is happening. But I still don't understand the Parasite's plan, why it needed to happen the way he plans it, and why it ends the way it does.

These books unfold similarly, sometimes with the same scene played out from each character's perspective. People who visit here know I have tremendous respect for writer Paul Kupperberg. And I like the idea of two similar plots unfolding against the heroes at the same time. It is a nice plot idea when you take a step back. But the devil is in the details. I can't think about this too much or it unravels and my headache returns. And, like in the Action chapter, this book has a healthy dollop of supporting cast subplot, something I always enjoy.

The art in the book is done by the standard team for this volume, Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner. I think Oksner softens Infantino's line work nicely. Supergirl looks young, vital, beautiful, and strong.

So happy anniversary Supergirl! On to the story!

"Celebration" starts out with Supergirl rescuing a helicopter which is falling from the sky above Chicago. It isn't clear, but it is implied that Parasite absorbed the pilot's energy from a distance to lure Supergirl into action. I don't think Parasite can absorb energy by simply viewing someone so it might be that the copter is just crashing on its own.

This is a forced perspective shot with Supergirl holding onto the helicopter's tail. The rest of the copter seems too small despite the angle. And we get a little bit of an upskirt shot. Around this time it was clear that this was a leotard with a dress over it. So this doesn't seem salacious.

But it is a nice opening action site. And it mirrors Action Comics #555 nicely which opened with Superman stopping a construction disaster.

The Parasite is wandering through the city and gets close enough to drain Kara making the end of the rescue a little dicey as she struggles to hold the helicopter aloft.

Supergirl is lost in her own thoughts about this. In a nice bit of continuity, she recalls losing her powers to radiation sickness about a year earlier in the book. This doesn't feel the same but it bears watching.

I love the shocked pilot telling her he wants to kiss her for the rescue. Her being beautiful is bonus.

And the art here, as well as the nifty page layout is very nice.

And then we see the phone call scene from Action now from Supergirl's point of view. He tells her that he needs her at Midvale at 12:17PM. Kara wonders about the mystery but agrees to be there.

When Kara's friend and neighbor Joan knocks at the door, Supergirl quickly switches to Linda Danvers. And she uses my favorite device of this era's Supergirl, the 'hair-color-changing comb'! The comb can alter structures at the molecular level, changing Supergirl's lush full-bodied blond locks to Linda's straighter brunette hair.

After a brief talk with Joan where we are reminded just how man-crazy Joan is, Linda heads off to talk to her semi-boyfriend Peter. Peter is a orchestra conductor but at times he has been dodgy with Linda, cancelling dates at the last minute and not being where he said he would be.

Linda catches him in one too many lies about his whereabouts and storms off. If he isn't going to be honest with her, she wants nothing to do with him.

I suppose romance never works out well for Supergirl.

Then, again like in Action Comics #555, the Parasite shows up where Linda is in her secret identity and drains her until she falls unconscious.

And, as in the first chapter, rather than killing her right then, or bringing her somewhere, he simply leaves. What is his long plan?

Thinking she might be ill again, she heads to the Fortress where its medical droids give her a clean bill of health. She ponders, bringing her finger up to her lip, a classic Kara pose!

With the weight of a medical issue of her mind, she recalls the odd man in a trench coat and fedora who was there. He must be who is behind this.

I love everything about this scene. I love that she feels comfortable heading to the Fortress. I love her classic thinking pose. And I like that she was able to use her memory to uncover the truth.

But this is when things get a little crazy.

Much like in the Action issue, the Parasite seems to drain Supergirl immediately. And, like in that issue, the hero decides to fight a super-powered being despite having no powers.

The problem here is that somehow the Parasite, despite having drained Kara, seems human at times. He can be hurt by her blows. And yet, at other times, he shows that he has full powers, using flight and heat vision.

And isn't he in Metropolis fighting Superman at this point. We know, based on the phone call, these things are happening concurrently. He isn't that fast to be in two places at once.

And, like in Action, the Parasite deploys a floating casket. He needs to time things perfectly. Supergirl, trapped in the coffin, will die at exactly the right time, completing the ultimate plot.

Inside, Supergirl realizes that she needs to somehow get out or she'll suffocate. Using her Kryptonian comb, she uses it's powers to destabilize the metal and breaks free. She falls into the lake, using her invulnerable costume to blunt the trauma, until she regains her powers.

Just like Kal used his glasses lens to scratch out, she uses her Kryptonian relic to escape.

And then the insanity. This wasn't the Parasite. It was a clone who could absorb powers and send them to the real Parasite. That explains why at times he was powerless. He had sent Supergirl's strength to the real Parasite. The hope was that both super-cousins would die at exactly noon together. The thought was that at noon, Supergirl's powers would be at their peak. (I don't think Kryptonian powers work that way.)
Somehow the real Parasite wanted to use Supergirl's powers to defeat Superman as opposed to ... I don't know ... using his own powers and killing Superman the number of times he could have in Action.

Anyways, with this plot over, the clone disintegrates. Don't know why that happened either.

In fact I don't understand any of this. Why this insanely complicated plot? Why not just kill the cousins when they were unconscious and powerless?

Anyways, with the Parasite defeated, Supergirl streaks to Midvale and makes it at exactly 12:17, the time she landed in Midvale. Superman is celebrating Supergirl's anniversary and he brought the whole gang. The Titans and the Justice League is there. A floating statue of Supergirl, imbued with Nth metal, is unveiled. And everyone tells Supergirl how great she is.


It's about time she gets the credit she deserves!

Just fantastic!

Supergirl tries to explain why the plot failed ... I guess. While it was noon in Metropolis, it was only 11AM in Chicago (damn you confusing time zones!). That meant Supergirl wasn't at her peak power. So Superman could defeat his Kara-powered Parasite.

Let's simply forget about the wonky details. It was very fun to see the super-cousins involved in very similar stories. I liked seeing scenes played out from both perspectives. I like Superman honoring his cousin. And I love that this is a mature, respected, recognized Supergirl. She is a hero that other heroes admire.

As this is an anniversary issue for Supergirl, I would consider this an important issue for a Supergirl collection. I have become more enamored of this volume the older I get. Kupperberg understood Kara and made her a confident young woman. And I am grateful that Oknser was inking Infantino. This art is lovely.

So how did the cousins interact on the show?

Overall grade: A


John (somewhere in England) said...

To change the subject, I notice that Amazon are advertising a Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes hardback containing stories by Cary Bates and Mike Grell. The book is due for release in June 2017. Something else to look forward to!

Anonymous said...

She hacked her way out of a flying metal coffin with her comb.....that is the most ludicrous escape from a death trap since Adam West simply burst his chains and pulled Robin out of a giant carnivorous clam circa 1967.
So of course....I LOVE IT!!!!
YEah agreed this particular script is preposterously convoluted, but regardless it is still "Supergirl At The Top of Her Game" someone who can take down a solid B-List Brawler like Parasite stands assistance....(I've always located Parasite on "The Super-B List" feel free to debate).
Hard to believe this book had about three or four more issues to go before The Crisis and Oblivion.....


Anj said...

Yeah, Kupperberg gave us a fully formed superhero Supergirl. It is odd that the Crisis is looming a couple of years away.

Anonymous said...

The final panel of Supergirl, Superman, et al. and the floating statue.
I'd LOVE to get that as a wallposter! Just beautiful!

Thanks for sharing, Anj!


Anonymous said...

A rat-tail comb I might add AND THEN she tries to parasail using her bright red cape into a safe landing in Lake Michigan.....Oh The Bronze I love it.