Superman (vol.2) #21 (1988)

Superman (vol.2) #21 (September, 1988)
“The Supergirl Saga, Part I: You Can’t Go Home Again”
Story & Pencils – John Byrne
Inker – John Beatty
Colors – Petra Scotese
Letters – John Costanza
Asst. Editor – Renee Witterstaetter
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $0.75

A few weeks ago, Reggie and I covered Action Comics #252 for our Cosmic Treadmill segment on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast.  We talked at length about the Supergirl story inside as well as other incarnations of the character over the years.

When we approached the subject of the “Matrix” version of the character, I found myself at something of a loss… much to my surprise.  It had been awhile since I read the post-Crisis Supergirl Saga… figure there’s never a bad time to remedy that.

We open on a nearly barren planetside.  There appears to be something of a city being protected by a clear dome… which is being bombarded by… meteors?  Either way, there are explosions occurring on the dome.  Inside we meet a crew of folks dressed in a sort of turtle-necked armor.  They are discussing their current predicament, and lamenting the loss of their “greatest hero”.  Not to worry, however, “she” is about to make contact.

Back on Earth, Superman is heading home after having an adventure with the Doom Patrol last issue.  He notices that he’s being followed… and has been for quite some time at this point.  He zigs and swoops in behind his pursuer, grabbing their foot… boy is he surprised when he sees whose foot it is…

It’s Supergirl… but then, it’s Lana Lang… a girl with powers she claims to have been granted from… Lex Luthor?

We shift to the Daily Planet where Jimmy Olsen is petitioning Perry White to send him off to Ireland so he may do some research on the Silver Banshee.  After a bit of guff, Perry gives in… Lois Lane finds herself drafted into the trip as well.

Back in the sky, Superman is trying to talk some sense into “Lana Lang”.  He reminds her that Luthor was… ya know, kind of a bastard to her a few months back.  He offers to take her to Metropolis… but, she’s troubled… for some reason she thinks that Metropolis has been destroyed.  Thinking Superman a liar, she hauls off and unleashes a “psycho-kinetic blast” in Superman’s general direction.

He attempts to reengage… and (after Supergirl makes herself invisible) gets another blast for his troubles… right into the ground!

Superman takes advantage of being underground, and decides to tunnel to Lana’s farm to see what’s up.  Much to his surprise, he finds not only Lana, but his parents tied up and gagged inside!  Lana tells him that there’s a lookalike (lanalike?  langalike?) on the loose.  Superman is confused, as the impostor is an exact duplicate of Lana, even down to the molecular level.  He suddenly realizes what’s up, and uses one of my very favorite sayings “if it were a snake it would have bitten me!” before taking off.

Superman hits the skies and engages in a bit of “catch me if you can”.  This causes Supergirl to reveal herself and give chase… all the way to Metropolis.  She’s is shocked to find it still standing, and begins to believe what “Clark” is saying.  Yup, she calls him Clark… much to his discomfort.  He tells her ixnay on the entKay, and they go pay a visit to Lex Luthor.

Supergirl is a bit surprised that Lex Luthor is kind of a jerk.  This isn’t the man she thinks of when she hears the name “Lex Luthor”.  I can’t remember if this is after Luthor loses his hand due to poisoning from the Kryptonite ring… either way, he appears to be hiding his right hand inside his suit jacket in something of a Napoleonic pose.

The Supers take their leave and head off to a rooftop to reconnoiter.  Superman shares his story of entering the Time Trapper’s pocket universe some months back, and meeting the Legion of Super-Heroes, and battling a younger version of himself.

Supergirl tells Superman that she remembers his visit!  They may have not have met at the time, but she was there and knew of his presence.  Superman says the Pete Ross of the pocket universe had mistakenly thought that Superman was a rapidly aged version of Superboy due to exposure to Red Kryptonite!  In the current port-Crisis landscape, if I’m not mistaken… there’s only one kind of Kryptonite… green.

Supergirl claims his visit occurred ten years ago… when in “real” time, it was only a few weeks.  She summons a dimensional portal, and before we know it… we’re in the pocket U…

… where Superman meets Lex Luthor… [to be continued…]

I’m still surprised at how much of this story I’d forgotten.  That’s not a criticism, mind… just a strange anecdotal observation.  I found myself really enjoying this… and I’m fascinated by just how quickly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths DC/Byrne decided they needed/wanted a Supergirl in the canon.  This is only a few years into the new continuity… I gotta wonder if this confused fans who were following the books at the time.

Were longtime readers given a flash of hope, kinda like people of my comics-generation were during 2015’s Convergence storyline?  Where “our” Superman showed up… where Hal Jordan as Parallax showed up?  Gotta wonder… 

I enjoyed how Superman had to resort to out-thinking his opponent here.  Making her reveal herself when she chased him into Metropolis was a great move.  Introducing her to Lex Luthor was smart as well.

I’ve never been entirely clear on the Time Trapper’s pocket universe.  I know it was put in place to fit into Legion of Super-Heroes origin lore… wherein they assembled due to taking inspiration from Superboy… and in the post-Crisis DCU, Clark Kent never was Superboy.  It’s still so weird to see them tinker with pre-Crisis continuity in issues of this vintage.

Overall, a great start to the Supergirl Saga.  More Byrne-goodness, including a very interesting panel layout throughout the book.  Looking forward to reintroducing myself with the remaining two-parts.  If I’m remembering correctly, the next issue of Superman (vol.2) is kinduva big deal…

Letters Page:

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0 thoughts on “Superman (vol.2) #21 (1988)

  • In answer to your question, yes, fans were confused. I am reading the post-Crisis books now, and in the letterpage, people are overjoyed that Supergirl (Supe's cousin) is back! Little do they know…

    I don't know if these tease/reversals made people disgruntled enough to quit reading. I know I would have been quite angry. But I already gave up on it when the Crisis happened. I have never been good at reboots. Kind of like Star Wars. In my head, the books I've been reading since 1991's Heir to the Empire are the continuation of the story after Return of the Jedi. I have the Disney stuff blocked out. So I haven't seen the Mandalorian for instance, and I have no plans on seeing the sequel trilogy again (I saw them in the theaters)


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