Saturday, August 19, 2017

Supergirl #1 (November 1982)

Supergirl. The Girl of Steel. The Maid of Might. And she has come to this here blog before, but at the same time, she has not. You see, like many characters, there have been several incarnations of Supergirl. On my blog, I covered a couple appearances of the Matrix incarnation, as well as the birth of the Linda Danvers incarnation, but I have never reviewed a comic featuring the original Supergirl: Kara Zor-El.

First appearing in 1959, Kara would eventually go on to be one of DC's most iconic heroines. During the character's career until her death in the 1985 maxi-series event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kara would regularly appear in the comics in some form. She had a back-up in Action Comics, and the end of the 1960s would eventually see her be the lead in Adventure Comics. The 1970s would see her get her own magazine, but it would eventually be merged with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen's titles to become Superman Family. Yup, the Superman mythos became so popular in the 1950s and 60s that Jimmy and Lois got their own titles. I distinctly remember reading one old Lois Lane issue when I was a kid. The comic was my father's. However, when 1982 hit, Kara got another shot at a solo title. And the first issue of that is what we'll look at here.

When it comes to the cover, I do have to say something first. I really like the masthead logo for it. It is remisicient of Superman's famous masthead logo, but it also is rather different, showing Kara Zor-El's desire to be her own person. The cover itself is pretty basic, Supergirl flying over a city. However, I think it does kind of fit. The cover puts Kara front and center, showing that yup, she's flying solo, baby! The late great Rich Buckler drew this cover, and he makes Kara look purdy.

Something funny about the city in the background, though. It looks like they took a photograph of a skyline and put it through some filters. The neon coloring kind of clashes, and I think it draws the eye away from Supergirl herself.

"A Very Strange and Special Girl!"
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Penciller: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Bob Oksner
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colorist: Ziuko
Editor: Julius Schwartz

The comic begins with a spread of Supergirl flying, and the text boxes basically saying who she is and where she's from.

The comic then begins proper on a train, the Lake Shore line heading from New York to Chicago. The ride is a long one, about twenty hours. The narration then goes on a weird tangent about how people prefer to fly because its faster, and how the modern trains didn't have the glory of famous trains like the Orient Express. Okay. But we finally focus on one passenger.

The young lady is in no hurry to get anywhere, hence the train. She marvels at the sights out the window, thinking that one can miss so much when flying. A fellow passenger asks if she flies a lot, and she says...a bit. You see, this is Linda Danvers, aka Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl. Back in my review for the first issue of Supergirl's 1996 series, I remarked that Peter David wanted to bring back elements of the Silver Age Supergirl's mythos. And among those elements, her Linda Danvers civilian identity.

She asks her fellow passenger if she wants anything from the dining car, and the passenger says he's waiting until he arrives in Chicago. The train ride is twenty hours. I hope he had a big breakfast before this trip, because after twenty hours, he's going to be hungry. He must really want to try that Chicago deep-dish pizza.

She leaves the car and ditches her outfit, revealing her blue-and-red Supergirl costume. She flies out of the train and heads towards what I think may be a foundry or a steel mill. The comic isn't very clear. She saves some workers from some molten metal...which takes the form of pink cotton candy, evidently.

She uses her super-breath to freeze the cotton candy steel. The workers thank her, and she flies off. She returns to the train, to find her car-mate asleep. She takes the opportunity to stare out the window and ponder her life and origin.

The scene then shifts to a building in Chicago. A newscaster has announced a blaze has ripped through a south side tenement, killing three. There's also a gang war going on at the Cabrini-Green area. A man is watching this, and is happy with what he sees. A woman approaches him, saying that it's rather ghoulish that he's so happy about this. It's revealed the man is known as Mr. Pendergast. Pendergast reminds the woman, Gayle Marsh from Skokie, Illinois, that this is what they have worked for.

Gayle sates that she has trouble handling it all. Every time someone dies, she claims she can feel it, like she was there. Pendergast reminds her that she's a "sensitive". I know that the story is trying to hint that Gayle may have some unique ESP-esque powers, but to me, it could also be interpreted that Gayle is just very empathetic towards the victims. Pendergast then states that humanity is basically in bad shape, and that through her, mankind has a chance for survival from the decay that is slowly overcoming it...but only if it's followed to its natural progression.

...Am I the only who thinks this plan is a I get what they're going for here with this guy, but it still feels a to me. Anyway, Pendergast only needs Gayle to do one thing...destroy Chicago.

While this is going down, one Linda Danvers is walking down a street in Chicago, heading towards a college. Yup, our girl Kara is college-bound, and she's heading to the Windy City to earn her degree. Particularly, Lake Shore University. Which is not a real university. I really didn't get why they didn't have her go to an actual one in the Chicago area, like the University of Chicago or Northwestern University. There's a lot of colleges and places like that there.

On the taxi ride there, Linda/Kara thinks back on her being adopted by the Danvers and them helping her grow to love her new home. She arrives at the college, and tries to tell the blonde secretary at the admissions office she wants to apply at the psychology department, but the secretary doesn't hear her. However, it turns out that she wasn't being rude...she was just wearing cotton balls in her ears.

Yeah, I have never worked in a college admissions office, but you'd think that her boss would be frowning on her wearing cotton balls in her ears. I doubt the office is THAT noisy, and it would prevent her from hearing people asking for her help. Not to mention it could give a poor first impression of the university.

Anyway, the girl introduces herself as Joan Raymond. Linda remembers that she has to get to the housing office, but she doesn't have much time. Joan then literally grabs her and drags her to her own building, saying that there's a nice apartment open there, and it's better than the dorms. It's kind of funny to see this human woman dragging a Kryptonian around by the arm.

Linda ends up accidentally colliding with Gayle. Linda tries to take her hand to help her up, but Gayle freaks out, and Linda feels a strange sensation of pain. Gayle then runs for it, and Joan helps Linda up. Joan remarks that Gayle is a bit of an odd duck, but it's not typical of other students. Linda thinks Gayle deserves watching. Gayle wonders why Mr. Pendergast didn't warn her about Linda, thinking that she's one of "Them".

In Rogers Park, Joan introduces Linda to Ida Berkowitz, the landlady of the building. When she learns Kara originally came from New York, she remarks she and her husband Hymie lived there in 1933. She also reveals that she is Polish. Neat, you don't see many Polish-American characters in comics. Ida takes a liking to Linda and gives her the apartment.

An apartment that nice can't be cheap, even in 1982. It's also got no furniture, which I'm sure doesn't help. She then meets a young man.

He introduces himself as John Ostrander. Wait, the John Ostrander? The comic writer? Is this a cameo? Did he look like this back in 1982? Ah, this is going to confuse me. While Linda is checking out her new digs, we look in on Gayle and Mr. Pendergast. Pendergast wonders how "they" could possibly know? And what powers could Linda have to match her own metahuman abilities. It's also revealed that Gayle and her powers were trained since she was a small child to fight the "Decay". I imagine Gayle and Laura Kinney would have a lot in common if they ever met. As such, Pendergast feels they must begin their mission, and they make some preparations.

The day is ending, and Linda is spending it chilling at...I think at some body of water. My geography knowledge fails me here. She feels a strange chill, and sees something in the sky. She changes into Supergirl, and checks it out. During her trip, she lampshades that trouble seems to always follow superheroes around. Heh heh. The strange sight is revealed to be Gayle, clad in a little golden number from the Red Sonja Collection.

Seriously, she'd fit right in if she found herself in Cimmeria. My only complaint? She needs a mask or some way of concealing her identity. She hits Supergirl with a psi-blast which sends the Maiden of Might flying. Supergirl rebounds and tackles Gayle, demanding to know more about this "Decay" Gayle responds by hitting her with a more powerful psi-blast. The two continue to fight, Supergirl pitting her Kryptonian muscle against Gayle's powerful mind. However, there's something else going on.

Mr. Pendergast makes Gayle combine her power with his own, hinting he may have psionic abilities of his own. Gayle begs for this not to happen, as she feels that Supergirl could be an ally against Decay. Pendergast wants to kill Supergirl as she may be aligned with "Decay", but Gayle convinces him to let her live, as she can use Supergirl's power to amplify her own powers...somehow. The comic ends with Gayle psionically holding up an unconscious Supergirl, Pendergast saying that she shall live until her husk can be returned to Decay.

This issue was...rather okay. Technically, it does do a lot of what a first issue is supposed to do in my opinion. It sets up Supergirl's new status quo, gives us a taste of a new supporting cast, and gives her a threat of her own to face, while planting seeds of future stories and obstacles for Supergirl to face. Pednergast seems to be a generic villain, but I do like the twist of Gayle showing reluctance to doing what he wants at times. One thing did annoy me about this issue, and that was John Ostrander. I read ahead and it turns out he's an actual supporting character. So there is a supporting character in this book named after an actual comic creator. That is confusing.

I'm also not quite sure what to say about the art, to be honest. It's not bad art, or anything like that. It does its job.

Next time, we check in on Earth-712 and the Squadron Supreme's attempt to fix their ruined world...

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