Thursday, August 6, 2020

Back Issue Review: Superman Family #216

 Recently in DC Comics, two Superboys met each other. Jon Kent traveled back from the 31st century to visit Conner Kent in the present.

It made me remember an odd 2 parter from Superman Family when Supergirl from the 500th century travels back in time to team up (sort of) with the Supergirl from the present. It is a crazy story but classic for the Bronze Age. Last week, I reviewed the first part in Superman #215 .

Today, I wrap up the story by reviewing Superman Family #216.

There is a lot that makes little sense in this story. The Supergirls switch times to thwart two villains. But there isn't a clear reason why they have to do that. (At least the villains do have a decent reason to switch time periods.) A lot of the plot points are revealed in a long exposition section in the middle of the story in which one character explains the plot. And the ending is almost two easy.

Still, you have to give writer Marty Pasko some credit for trying to do this story in the constraints of two issues. We barely get a glimpse at the Earth in the 500,000. And in each part, Pasko mentions a prior story where the future Supergirl teamed up with Superman to defeat the villain Toxus. I wonder if Pasko hoped to eventually go back and tell that story.

Otherwise, this story is relatively forgettable. And even the usual steady work by Win Mortimer is diminished by the sparse inks of Vinnie Colletta.

On to the story ... settle in.

 'Victory is Only 5,000 Centuries Away!' has the creative team as discussed in the introduction.

We open with the dual cliffhanger from last month.

Our Supergirl is in the future fighting villain Tal Belok, who controls magma, a good power to have in the more volcanic environs of the far future Earth. With the Earth now under an orange sun, Supergirl has less flight control as before.

Meanwhile, in the present the future Supergirl, pretending to be Linda and still getting accustomed to greater powers and her new environment, has ripped the door of its hinges, exposing Linda's secret identity.

Now I still don't understand exactly why the Supergirls needed to switch times. Certainly it would make more sense for the Girls of Steel to fight in the world they are used to rather than adopt each other's secret identities, adjust to (basically) foreign worlds, and fight a super-villain.

 The cliffhangers are wrapped up pretty quickly.

Future Supergirl fixes the door and then super-hypnotizes the visiting soap opera writers so they forger the reveal.

A little easy ... but okay. Welcome to pre-Crisis Kryptonian power.

 Meanwhile, our Supergirl realizes that in the weaker gravity of the future, her gravity based powers (mostly muscle strength) is even greater. So she uses her more powerful super-breath to cool and solidify the magma blast.

When she goes to leap at Belok, she suddenly falls back, caught in the pull of a mascon, a place of higher gravity than usual.

Given that opening, Belok becomes magma and disappears.

Things like teaching a young Anj about 'mascons' made these books more appealing to my parents to keep buying them for me. Nothing like dazzling your folks with facts and vocabulary and saying that you 'learned it in comics' to have them keep feeding you.

 In the present, future Supergirl learns that Linda's soap opera character Margo Hatten will become a murder suspect and a bad girl.

From the future, this Supergirl can't believe that hatred and jealousy is considered entertainment.

 Meanwhile, in the future, our Supergirl tucks her blond locks under a pixie black hair wig and becomes 'Louise-L', the secret identity of the other Supergirl.

She heads to her job in some piece meal factory line and meets 'Lydia-T' a dead ringer for Lena Thorul and that Supergirl's confidante.

This is about the biggest peek we get to 500 century Earth. Cities of mostly stone, tethered to the planet by chains. And this job seems hardly futuristic. Some sort of cataclysm has happened.

I also have to say, I like how Lena became a commodity in the Superman Family run.

 Lydia-T becomes a font of exposition.

Tal Belok is not a scientist. He stumbled onto a lab with a cache of technology. The lab belonged to Rond Vidar! A Legion reference!!

Within the lab, Belok found a time viewer, a time rift creator, and the thought activated technology. Using the time viewer, Belok contacts his distant distant ancestor Virgil Belasco.

Belok sent Belasco a suit which controlled the elements of air pollution. Belok kept a suit that controlled lava. The thought would be both would benefit from this cross-time caper.

But that means the tech he found, the Rond Vidar tech, is almost 480 centuries old! Amazed it still worked!

 In the present, Toxus could create diamonds with his carbon powers. He could send precious vegetation into the future to pay Belok. It was during this first battle that the future Supergirl and the present Superman defeated Toxus.

So why were the two villains captured in the time rift, in opposite times, and kept in suspended animation? Remember, this is a key plot point.

Well, Lydia-T says that no one knows why. 'By trial and error' the future Supergirl discovered this is how to keep the two villains captured. That time rift just happened to exist in the day care center pillar ... randomly.

So it seems like a lot of this story happens so that Pasko can tell the story of the Supergirls as strangers in strange lands.

 Again we see that the Supergirls struggle with battling in their new setting.

The future Supergirl is still troubled by the increased gravity of the past, smashing through the floor of a flower shop Toxus is robbing.

Still don't see why they needed to switch.

 Both Supergirl have struggled because the tech the villains use are thought activated. That means they can escape as smog or lava.

In the end though, that isn't too hard a thing to overcome.

The present Supergirl tracks down Belok and moves at such superspeed she is invisible. Without being seen, she destroys Belok's tech.

 Meanwhile, the future Supergirl realizes that thought controlled tech is hard to use if it is hard to think. So she uses heat vision ... a new power for her under the yellow sun ... to give Toxus a headache and remove his tech.

This is risky. This is the first time she has used this power. Good thing she didn't fry his head!

However, when the two villains are unconscious, the time rift closes. (Prior to that, a couple of present day construction workers fixing the day care center fall through and end up in the future as well.)

Thankfully, Supergirl is aware of Rond Vidar tech. Using the time viewer, she contacts her counterpart. Our Kara knows how the two Supergirls can use the tech to open up the rift again. Each will return to the correct time.

However, to protect the future, the other Supergirl mind wipes Kara! I mean, I don't know about this either. Did she mind wipe Superman after the original fight with Toxus? If Kara can remember her Legion adventures which take place 1000 years hence, why shouldn't she remember Earth 500 centuries in the future, a future that is so remote she'll have less chance to change things.

Guess I'll shrug. This is an easy way for Supergirl to never mention this again.

All told, this is a crazy story with insane plot points and inane ideas. But this is Bronze Age. It is a reach and I don't mind risk. I like that Supergirl's legacy is still intact in the far far flung future. But while the idea is fine, the execution is rough. And the art is unfortunately pretty plain.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

I like Win Mortimer’s art, there’s a nice clean newspaper strip style to it.

This sounds like Pasko was trying very hard but the story never really came off.

Anonymous said...

Future Supergirl didn't want Our Kara to find out about COIE #7 and ruin the surprise for her 20th century doppelgänger.
Other than some fan service panels and his ongoing love affair with tight close ups of female faces, there just isn't much to praise about Win Mortimer's pencils. His backgrounds are crude when they aren't outright unprofessional work, his character designs are unmemorable, he conveys action sans imagination and at times he depicts the "superblouse" with a distinct hint of a middle aged muffin top. But then I doubt Neal Adams at his Imperial Height could overcome Vince Colletta's "always turn in your work a day ahead of the deadline" inks.
This is hardly Marty Paso's best work either the core contrivances are pretty thin, of course, compared to what we are getting now it's pure Ibsen.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

But...I thought that, by the 500th century, mankind is supposed to have evolved, and sport great big heads and long slender fingers....

Future Supergirl's friend Lydia has no tattoos, so I guess she's not the one Groucho Marx sang about.

The idea that some of Supergirl's (and Superman's) powers can be attributed to Earth's lesser gravity seems to have been forgotten these days. According to Superman #146, super-strength, super-speed and flying are a result of Earth's lighter gravity, while the yellow sun gives them their vision powers, super-hearing and invulnerability. Now it's all this "solar battery" stuff.

"And in each part, Pasko mentions a prior story where the future Supergirl teamed up with Superman to defeat the villain Toxus."

I thought there might have actually been such a story, but I looked it up and found nothing. Apparently, Superman Family 215 and 216 were these characters first and only appearances.

The two Supergirls needed to switch times "because"...just "because".

Win Mortimer drew the Superman newspaper strip for several years in the 1950s.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for that newspaper strip nugget, Professor, makes sense.

Anonymous said...

You'd never know it, but Marty Pasko wrote a great Four Parter in Superman 311 thru 314 in 1977 that made excellent use of Supergirl as a character. Yes in the fight against Amalek she took her lumps but she and Kal El functioned as a team and she gave as good as she got...You'd never believe the same writer composed the above cited script.