Friday, June 22, 2018

Supergirl #18

Superhero vs Superhero
Supergirl #18
Supergirl vs. Supergirl?

Part 1 of “Stop Hitting Yourself!”

“Little Miss Perfect"
Writer – Joe Kelly
Pencilers – Adam Archer and Ale Garza
Inker – Sandra Hope
Letters – Rob Leigh
Colorist – Rob Reis
Assistant Editor – Adam Schlagman
Editors – Eddie Berganza
August 2007

I so love subdividing the crapbox. It’s so much fun to find all the tropes and cliché’d tales and recycled/upcycled/homaged ideas. We keep telling the same stories over and over again.

For this part of superhero vs supehero we are going to do a sub-set called “Stop Hitting Yourself!” where the primary antagonist is also the primary protagonist. The standard tropes of mind control and mistaken identity can’t apply when the hero appears to be fighting themselves, so I figure this should spice things up a bit.

We actually kicked off Superhero vs. Superhero month with a tale very much in keeping with this back when we showed the Avengers vs the original Avengers. So, it is only fair that we start this section off with DC. And while we are on the subject of Supergirl, I figured this more modern take on the hero from 2007 would be as good a jumping on point as any.

As for this version of Supergirl, she popped up via the World’s Finest replacement book called Superman/Batman. She was a Kryptonian also from the house of El. Her spaceship got stuck in an asteroid from the dying planet and ended up in Gotham Harbor many years after Kal-El’s spaceship crashed. Thus she started out older than Kal, but due to being in suspended animation longer, she is now his junior by over a decade.

This Supergirl had a bunch of detractors. Fans complained about her mid-drift baring outfit, her sassy style, and her subconscious dark side. And speaking of that dark side, she’d already fought a physical manifestation of herself earlier in this same series. It was a goth version of Supergirl that sought to make her kill her cousin Superman. That ended with the two of them being merged together, which was fitting as I think the goth Supergirl was somehow a part of her that got separated. Not real sure, as all I know is what I see on the covers.

This time, the aspect attacking Supergirl (that just appeared last issue), seems like she’s a holier than thou-type of manifestation. In fact, her entire beef with Supergirl is…you know what? I should let her explain it…

Supposedly Supergirl (mid-drift) has stolen Supergirl’s (unitard) life. And I can see already that this tale is going to be difficult to narrate if I have to type out their names and outfits every time I want to refer to one of them. Let’s take a word out of the title and see if we can make this easier for everyone.

So here’s “Perfectgirl” slugging the snot out of our title character, Supergirl. Page two, folks and the battle is already joined.

For all her perfection, Perfectgirl doesn’t seem to mind tossing Supergirl into buildings and doing the whole “Zod in Man of Steel” thing. She does make some points though: Supergirl did, due to the influence of that goth version, have to work out some anger issues that had her looking to kill the popular Kal-El dude. 

Supergirl is out for blood though and it seems she’s dealing with some Red Sun issues causing her to not be operating at max capacity. Perfectgirl doesn’t seem impeded, if this panel is anything to go by.

And as much as Supergirl might not be the nice, girl next door we’ve had for years, Perfectgirl is soooooo much worse. Everything from her smug facial expressions to her smart-ass back talk and her inane puns…

Even fans who hated the new Supergirl had to be rooting for her at this point. And perhaps that was the REAL reason for this confrontation: to put at odds fan's perceptions of the “classic” Supergirl who was perfect at everything and the new Supergirl, who had to work harder but was more stressed out and PTSD. And some of that personality begins to shine through right about here with the part about going insane.

Also no clue what the problem is with those two members of the populace. Chalk that up to the random nature of what the crapbox provides.

Unfortunately, when Supergirl tries to go after the source of whatever is turning people into rejects from a Romero film, Perfectgirl turns the tables on her. She not only accosts her, but she psychologically torments Supergirl, giving rise to doubts that she might be the reason everyone is having problems. 

The best time to consider her words is not while standing in the middle of a live subway track, however.

That surly would have killed someone in real life. 

And while we see people there at the moment, the next they dissipate  leaving Supergirl dazed and disoriented. Perfectgirl continues to press the advantage, pulling her out of the train tunnel and taking her on a joyless joyride.

She drives home some of Supergirl’s shortcomings, almost as if Perfectgirl is one of the very comic book fans who have been complaining about this new Supergirl. The issue being Supergirl’s dark side and her discovery that her father wanted her to kill Kal-El instead of saving him so he wouldn’t tarnish the House of El’s good name. It put her legacy at odds with the first incarnation of the character.

Each of these points is kind of an “FU” from the writing staff to the Supergirl detractors, in some ways it is a deconstruction of the character done up to this point since she had not really been that successful. She got better once they moved her into the Legion of Super Assholes later on, if only because she was the nicest character in that group. For now though, by trying to make her relatable with lots of mental problems the writers had kick many fans to the curb.

I have to admit that I like a more simple “good girl” Supergirl. She falls into the Superman Family and like him, should have that same solid moral code. The Superman books have always been bold fantasy sagas that are more about his humanity than they are about his power set. Creating a character with the same powers but a messed up moral center will probably go dark and gritty quickly, which is not a path I want a DC Super- title to go.

Whatever my feelings, Perfectgirl in the storyline amps up the head games. At this point she’s almost got Supergirl on the ropes thinking of herself as some kind of messed-up Crisis anomaly or divergent-universe remnant. 

And man! Does Perfectgirl lay it on thicker than steel.

She has Supergirl compare herself to Superman and to Conner Kent/Superboy. And while the latter had gone through man many years and trials that would fit him in the less than perfect category, his sacrifice at the end of Infinite Crisis placed him undoubtably at the pinnacle of herodom. Her cousin Superman needed no such redemption given his flawless past.

It’s here that we see Supergirl give in to the doubt that Perfectgirl has nurtured. She tried, but like everyone who stumbles, she counts only her missteps and not the great strides she’s made over the two years she’s been around. 

So when Perfectgirl offers to fix all of Supergirl’s present and future mistakes if she will just step aside, we the audience are really rooting for Supergirl to say “No.” Even in the realm of comic books, no one is that “perfect.”

Sadly, she gives in to self-doubt and accepts Pefectgirl’s pro-offered handshake. With it, she fades into nothingness, bemoaning the fact that she screwed everything up.

And having fully absorbed the essence of Supergirl, Perfectgirl flies off to take her place, stating that the REAL Supergirl…

…Doesn’t GIVE UP! Which she doesn’t, even at her low point. Supergirl allowed herself to be absorbed by Perfectgirl and then shatters her from the inside. 

And with Perfectgirl in a million-billion shard-like pieces, Supergirl lectures her on what it truly means to be a superhero. How setbacks always happen, but how you handle them is what makes heroes great.

Perfectgirl is quite beside herself over Supergirl’s surprising strength and revelations. After this sudden turn, the poor thing just can’t seem to pull herself together. 

And it is then that this dark demon chick shows up to tell Supergirl that she WILL fail and to sort of admit by her very appearance that she was behind the Perfectgirl ruse. More and more of the real world shatters as the red-eyed witch starts to attack Kara.

Supergirl fights back, frustrated with all she’s been put through and at that point an arm belonging to a Monitor appears and drags his “agent” away. While doing so, he makes it appear that the prior 17 issues of this series might have all happened in Kara’s head. 

Remember that season of Dallas they wiped away by having Bobby, who had been shot dead, just appear in the shower at the end of the season? Then they said an entire year of the show that you wasted time watching was a dream. The entire thing a dream. Yeah, sort of like that, but in your anger you can take 17 issues of Supergirl to the shredder.

And you even get to listen to the Monitor explain all of that in detail…

…and absolve pretty much all of Supergirl’s past up to this point, including that her father sent her to Earth to kill Kal-El. 

Dark Angel still thinks Kara isn’t right for the job, but the Monitor forcibly removes her and himself from Kara’s life, leaving the girl in deep, deep space.

But weirdly, not alone. 

And thus the issue ends on a cliffhanger, but not one that makes me feel like searching through back issues to find out the answer.

After reading this, I do feel that fans were at least partially justified in how they felt about Kara. Her character was always confident, stable, and self-assured all the way up to the 80’s. Even after the introduction of Matrix Supergirl, she had many of those same qualities, if her loyalties were a bit of a problem. But this Supergirl constantly puts herself down and calls herself crazy. And I’m not too keen on her trying to stab people with sharp objects like she did in the start of this issue.

As for where she goes from here? I don’t know and frankly don’t care too much to find out. I’ll wait until they reboot her again, which they did in The New 52. We will check in on her later, I promise.

For now, we have other superheroes to watch as they punch themselves.

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