Supergirl (vol.4) #1 (1996)

Supergirl (vol.4) #1 (September, 1996)
“Body & Soul”
Writer – Peter David
Penciller – Gary Frank
Inker – Cam Smith
Letterer – Pat Prentice
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Separations – Digital Chameleon
Editor – Chris Duffy
Cover Price: $1.95

Here’s one that I’ve wanted to discuss for a long while now.  One that I purposely avoided simply because I wasn’t sure which “volume” to mark this as.  Yeah, these are the things I worry about.  Like, do we count miniseries’ as volumes?  Are they something else altogether?

I went with volume 4 here… and to help assuage my own self-doubt, lemme ‘splain my process.  There was a volume during the 1970’s, which we’ll say is “Volume 1″… then the second half of the Daring Adventures of… series, which we’ll call “Volume 2″… then, it gets sticky… the Reign of Tomorrow era miniseries… I guess we’ll call that “Volume 3”, but I’m a bit wary.  Either way, I’ve droned on about this far too long, and it’s likely your eyes have already glazed over… so, let’s just get into the issue.

We open with a swirl of blood circling the drain.  The girl we will meet as Linda Danvers is knelt under the shower washing the blood off her body as she ponders who might have done this to her… and, just as importantly… who she is!  Moments later, a woman named Mattie enters the apartment… and she is gobsmacked to see Linda there and, well, alive!  I ought to mention that Linda knows Mattie’s name, so her’s is more swiss-cheese brain than amnesia at this point.  Also, despite the bleeding out… Linda’s body has nary a scratch.

While the ladies catch up… more like, while Mattie speaks and Linda gets her bearings, Mattie notices a puddle of pink protoplasmic goop in the bathtub.  What’s more, ready your gag reflexes, she scoops it up with a towel… blech… to ask Linda what it might be.  Linda’s too busy noticing that her formerly brown eyes are now blue… and her only reply is “I was empty”.

While Linda dresses, she happens across a pair of jeans with a hole burnt in them.  She has a memory flash to meeting a man called Buzz in a bar.  The hole was a result of his cigarette… which he put out on her leg.  Seems like a nice fella.  Linda leaves the bar, refers to Buzz the way I do the flu “creeping crud”, and is almost immediately nyoinked into a dark alley.  She is held by a pair of cultists with triangle-inside-circle markings on their heads, one of whom scratches her left arm… breaking the skin.  She is able to escape… or perhaps they let her go already having “marked” her.  Either way, as she runs, she catches a glimpse of Buzz.

Mattie shakes her out of her “zoned” state, and tells her they should call Linda’s parents to let them know that, ya know, their daughter isn’t dead.  This stirs up another flashback… in it, a markedly younger Linda is arguing with her father.  Just as it’s about to get physical, she storms out.  When we return to the present, we see that she’s also stormed out of the apartment.

We rejoin Linda as she is trudging down the streets of Leesburg, USA with a purpose.  She notices that she is continually moving faster… to the point where she is no more than a blur.  Nearby we find ourselves a jumper.  The police try and talk him down, but no dice… I dunno, maybe he’s got Superman up there telling him to “jump if ya want”, because the fella does just that.  Before he can go splat, he is saved by… well, that blur that Linda became!  Onlookers ask if it was the Flash… but he claims that it was an angel!

We catch up with Linda again as she skreeeeeeches to a halt.  She is, rightfully, confused.  She’s not fatigued, hell… she’s not even short of breath.  It’s at this point where she tries to put everything together… but the answers aren’t coming.  She recounts what she knows up to this point… but knows she’s going to need more information.

Her next stop is the Leesburg Tribune, where some old receptionist tells her she can’t read the paper for free.  Just then, the latest edition arrives… which Linda snags a bundle of (yes, a whole bundle).  The old woman yells that the news ain’t free… thankfully, all Linda needs is the cover.  I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to read the headline without paying… otherwise, I owe some back charges to a lot of newspapers.  Anyhoo, the front page reads “Supergirl Feared Dead”.

She can’t think on it too long because, um… ace reporter (?) Cutter Sharp saunters in to see what’s up.  He immediately recognizes Linda as “Linda Danvers” the girl everyone thinks is dead.  He begs her, literally… on his knees, for a news story.

We shift scenes to a burnt out building surrounded by police.  Off to the side is our new friend, Buzz.  Behind him in the darkness of the alley is… well, a pair of demonic eyes who claim “she” disrupted their “entrance to this sphere”. We’re gonna assume this is important.

Back at the Trib, Linda is answering some questions for Cutter.  Just as she’s about to mention that she feels like she’s really somebody else… Clark Kent’s face appears before her.  He calls her “Mae” (short for Matrix) and tells her not to say a word about anything.  Hmm…

She changes course, and asks Cutter if there’s anyway he can help her fill in the holes of her Swiss Cheese memory.  He mentions that the only thing Linda found meaning in was… Supergirl.  This flashes us back to Supergirl at the Danvers home.  Linda’s mother made a televised appeal for her to help find their daughter.  The meeting is… uncomfortable, contentious even… Supergirl ultimately agrees.  Her search leads her to the cultists.  The triangle-inside-circle logo is everywhere.

Back in the present, Cutter goes to light a cigarette… which appears to be a trigger for Linda.  She shoves him away, and boy howdy, does he go flying!  By the time Cutter pulls himself together, and proclaims that he’s gonna “marry that girl”, Linda’s already gone.  He runs outside, but neglects to “look up”… Linda’s totally on the roof, by the way.

While up there, she indulges in another flashback.  We see Supergirl fighting off cultists… a fire-breathing demon… and Linda, on fire?

We next see Buzz slashing Linda in the gut with a blade… well, we don’t actually see him stick a blade in her belly, but she recalls that he had.  With the blood on the blade, Buzz hurls it toward the gate the demon is emerging from… however, a psychokinetic blast from Supergirl causes it to shatter before it pierces the portal.  As the demon dissipates, Supergirl heads over to Linda’s bleedin’ and burnin’ bod.

They join hands… Linda is able to eek out a few lines about not being ready to die… and the unfairness of the whole thing.  Supergirl thinks about everyone who has helped her over the years.  The ladies lock eyes… and something begins to happen. 

Back in the present, the Leesburg Police Department is delivering a press conference… during which, they have no new information on Supergirl’s disappearance… just as they hold up Supergirl’s empty costume… it is snatched away!  We wrap up by learning that Supergirl and Linda Danvers have become joined in one body!

Now, I suppose I ought to get this out of the way.  This was one of my very favorite series from DC Comics during the 90’s.  It’s one that I’ve revisited time and again, especially the first 50 or so issues.  Not sure if that has more to do with Supergirl, or the fact that Peter David is writing it… though, if I were forced to choose I’d more than likely go with the latter.

Supergirl, the character, never really captured my imagination… heresy to say during these CW days to some, but true.  This radically different take on the character and concept was just what I needed to become invested.

With that said, let’s talk about the issue itself… and with my sole complaint.  It bugged me that the story didn’t start here… in issue #1.  It started in Showcase ’96 #8… and, while there’s nothing wrong with that… when you crack open Supergirl #1, it’s made abundantly clear that you’ve missed something… you’re not coming in on the “ground floor”.  Not that Peter David didn’t fill us in, because he did… but, I’m a completionist nutjob, so I like feeling like I’ve got everything.

I really like the way the story was told.  I thought the “triggering” events were very well done throughout.  Having things that helped job Linda’s memory made the story progress organically.  I also appreciate how we didn’t receive all the answers right away.  We didn’t even get to see Linda check in with her parents yet.  It’s been a little while since I’ve read this one, and I was could’a sworn she visited her parents during this one… because that’s the way things usually happen.

We meet our cast, and they’re all perfectly likable.  Mattie seems like she’ll be a good side character, and Cutter is charmingly annoying.  Buzz, outside of the silly name, will prove to be a pretty interesting fella himself.

Looking back now, it’s still a bit astonishing to me that this series lasted as long as it did.  It was just so different… so unexpected.  A fun evolution for the concept of Supergirl.

The art… wow, the art.  This is Gary Frank before all of his characters started crash-dieting.  There’s actually some meat on these bones, and it looks amazing.  I loved the David/Frank pairing on Incredible Hulk, and I love it here.  I really miss this Gary Frank… beautiful healthily-plumped faces instead of the sunken cheeks we get nowadays.  Awesome work.

Overall, I’d most definitely recommend this issue (and volume) of Supergirl.  In all my time reading comics it’s been the only one to hold my attention.  For your convenience, this issue (and volume) is available digitally and has recently been reissued in trade paperback.

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