Thursday, December 21, 2017

Reboot: Supergirl Annual #2

Supergirl Annual #2 (1997)
title: "Secret Hearts"
writer: Tom Peyer
penciller: Anthony Castrillo
inker: Jordi Ensign
lettering: Albert DeGuzman
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
assistant editor: Maureen McTigue
editor: Mike McAvennie
cover: Joe Chiodo
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Andromeda (flashback), Apparition, Brainiac 5, Gates, Saturn Girl, Spark, Ultra Boy

Aztek (cameo), Fred Danvers, Koko, Shvaughn Erin, Supergirl, Superman, Sylvia Danvers; hospital staff (Mattie) and patients, Leesburg citizens, Leesburg police

Unreality fatigue; Brainiac 4 (flashback)

Part of the Legion is stranded in the late 21st Century. They've met other heroes, like Superman, but not yet Supergirl, who at this point, is the Matrix organism merged with Leesburg's Linda Danvers, and transformed into an "Earth-born angel". She has been dealing with demonic incursions in her home town for some time...

After seeing Supergirl on TV, Brainiac 5 is in love.
In Leesburg where Supergirl lives, things have gone completely crazy. Stoves are exploding with water, hummingbirds are nesting in hospital I.V.s and Supergirl's telekinesis is going haywire. She quickly discovers her presence is setting it off. She needs someone smarter than she is to figure out how to stop it, and calls Clark Kent. He recommends Brainiac 5. When he discovers magic is responsible, he refuses to help any further, but Supergirl trades on his obvious crush to manipulate him into studying magic.
Spark is having a great time mocking Brainy's crush and thinks it has to do with abandonment issues, much as did his crush on Andromeda. He has come up with a ritual to find the demon responsible for all the trouble, but finds it's no one at all. Leesburg is just suffering from unreality fatigue, a magical phenomenon that tends to happen where reality is weakened by too many magical incursions. He further determines it can be fixed with objective truth, but physics texts don't seem to do the trick. Before going any further, his force field starts to malfunction and traps both him and Supergirl into a crushing trap!
Looking for truth where she can find it, Supergirl admits she's been leading him on, and the gap between them widens. When he admits, to himself as much as to her, that he can't be sure whether he loves her or loves any tall blond woman, they are freed and Supergirl is apparently freed from the curse. They part as friends, but with a surprising kiss.
My first encounter with Supergirl. First thing I notice about her is her human appearance. At least, for once, the civilian disguise is actually different from the superhero appearance. Especially her hair. Like how? Just... how?!? I just don’t get it. She has such long and voluminous blond hair when in action. How can they become short, flat and brown? What is this sorcery? Speaking of sorcery, they never really explained what or who made this happen to her? A natural phenomenon called “unreality fatigue”. I read a comic filled with super beings, magic and incredible technology and yet, this is too farfetched for me. It just sounds stupid... Anyway, I’m not a fan of the way she’s using Brainy to solve her problem. I guess a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, but there must’ve been another way than to play the helpless and needy part.
I knew Brainiac 5 was crazy for Supergirl in other continuities since it was explained to us when we rated his hotness a long while ago. What I don’t remember is if they were dating though. I’m also wondering if the strong, blond female type is only a thing in this continuity to explain the way he feels for Andromeda. His obsession is pretty funny to explore. What he wouldn’t do for that girl. Passion is such a powerful thing! I don’t understand why he must cling to her instead of using his own flight ring though. Is she too fast for him? Or is he pretending to get closer to her? Either way, it’s not a sight I’m used to seeing! Is that what he meant in the beginning of chapter 2 when he said he played her? Because except for doing everything she wanted and needed, and getting ridiculed in the process, it doesn’t feel like he was stalling or using her in any way. She definitely isn’t the victim in this story. I’m glad he hung out with the group afterwards. He needs to socialize more and become an actual member of the team.
Some answers for you: At this point, Supergirl was a synthetic being called the Matrix, having taken on a "Super" form as homage to Superman, who merged with girl-next-door Linda Danvers to save her life, becoming an Angel in the process--as soon as I read the Annual, I knew I would have to explain it, and was sorry this was going to be your first encounter with the character. It was a strange time at DC Comics, is all I can offer. You should totally watch the Supergirl TV show!

Now, as a romance - and this is nominally trying to do a story in that style of comics - it's pushing it. The confessional narration (one half Supergirl, one half Brainiac 5), and the chapter titles, are about it. Even the final kiss fails to be special, because two splash pages have already spoiled it. Otherwise, it's a superhero fluff piece (a weird one, especially if you're not reading Supergirl), and the romance is tepid at best, trading on older fans knowing other versions of these two have a history together. In this reality, it's one-way at best, and even Brainy has to admit his crush is probably just an Oedipus complex.
That said, this Brainiac 5 is such a jerk, who doesn't like to see him get romantically humiliated a little bit? When he sees Supergirl, he drops things, he melts his pants off. By the end, he's put in a killer forced hug. The only way out is to expose his insecurities. That's at least interesting, and Spark mocking him is a reasonable extension of her close relationship with him. I'm not a 'shipper, but I kind of wonder if there's something in the cards for these two. Oh romance-ish comic, you're to blame for making me think that!
Science Police Notes:  
  • As with all 1997 DC Annuals, the issue sports a painted cover, the "Pulp Heroes" banner, and trade dress that evokes old pulp magazines, in this case one called Young Romance, after an early DC romance series. The first person narration evokes the confessional style of many romance comics.
  • The story is inaccurately called "I Lied for Love!" on the cover; it is only the title of "Secret Hearts" Chapter 2 (the first chapter is called "I Led Him On".
  • The Annual also contains a second story, "Object of Desire", by Chuck Dixon, Greg Land and Prentis Rollins, which does not feature the Legion.
  • The story harks back to the long-standing romance between Supergirl and Brainiac 5 is the previous continuity. In the 5YL and Reboot eras, he had feelings for Supergirl stand-in, Laurel Gand/Andromeda.
  • Aztek appears on S.H.X., the superhero news channel, after a segment on Supergirl.


  1. Shotgun, Siskoid's explanation missed one tiny detail. Among this version of Supergirl's powers was shape-shifting. As he said, she was the product of merging two people -- the "Matrix" Supergirl and teen delinquent Linda Danvers -- who were both dying, and as part of the merge she could shift back and forth between the two forms.

    It was an odd -- but fun -- time for Supergirl. She wasn't Kryptonian, but had Kryptonian-like powers, and had a sort-of cousinly relationship with Superman.

  2. "Some answers for you: At this point, Supergirl was a synthetic being called the Matrix, having taken on a "Super" form as homage to Superman, who merged with girl-next-door Linda Danvers to save her life, becoming an Angel in the process--as soon as I read the Annual, I knew I would have to explain it, and was sorry this was going to be your first encounter with the character. It was a strange time at DC Comics, is all I can offer. You should totally watch the Supergirl TV show!"

    And this is because killing off Kara Zor-El and expunge her from continuity due to an arbitrary and creatively-bankrupt rule was such a bad idea as well as a pointless change. Not because Matrix or Peter David's Supergirls were bad characters -they weren't- but because so many pointless changes, retcons and reboots made the DC universe hopelessly and dumbly confusing!

    Whoever reads these issues for first time needs additional explanations because even before her live-action show, "Superman's cousin" was the only Supergirl people who don't read comics have ever heard about. So, imagine a new fan who opens this issue, meets a Supergirl who shape-shifts and fights magical beings and then is told this version of the character was a synthetic being who merged with a dying Satanist to become a flame-winged Earth Angel... Said new fan is bound to get hopelessly puzzled.

    Similarly, I find funny how DC worked hard to remove Kara from the mainstream universe but then publishes stories which rely on veteran fans remembering the old universe. Unless you know about Kara and Querl's on-and-off romance prior to the Crisis, this story loses most of its emotional impact. So Brainy gets obsessed with a blonde girl. So what? It's funnier or more meaningful if you are aware that other Brainiac-5 was infatuated with other Supergirl and mourned her death.

    1. Honestly, I can understand the decision to remove Kara, Krypto, Kandor, et. al. from continuity, and I can't fully disagree with it. Superman is supposed to be "The Last Son of Krypton", the last survivor of a dead planet. But then it was revealed that his cousin survived! And his dog survived! And an entire city survived! And about a million villains in the Phantom Zone survived! Seriously, at one point, it seemed that the only people who died when Krypton exploded were Jor-El and Lara... and then it turned out that THEY survived, too! (But they had severe kryptonite poisoning and were in suspended animation and would have died if they were revived. Still... survived!)

      So the choice really came down to either keeping all of that, which inherently weakened Superman as a concept, or getting rid of it all and making Superman unique in the universe again. But it really was kind of an all or nothing thing; once you allow one other aspect of Krypton (say, Supergirl) to remain, it leaves open the door to introduce everything else, and you end up back in the situation where basically no one died when Krypton exploded.

      So, honestly, I can't say the decision was either arbitrary or creatively bankrupt. The only real problem is that no one bothered to think through all the implications of the changes in regards to the DC Universe as a whole. (Like the fact that Supergirl never existing and Superman never being Superboy invalidated large swaths of Legion history.) (And then DC decided to allow major post-Crisis changes years after the fact, again without regard to the implications, especially when it came to stories published after Crisis but before the post-Crisis retcons - hi, Hawkman! - but that's a whole different essay.)

      I can't say I particularly liked the decision (I like Supergirl more than Superman), but I also can't say I disagree with it, either. (Though I also can't disagree with your assessment on how much of a mess DC made for themselves in trying to bring Supergirl back without making her Kryptonian...)

  3. Late note (I'm catching up after not having visited for a while), but for the SP Notes, "Secret Hearts" was the name of the Soap Opera that pre-crisis Linda Danvers worked in during the 'actress' phase of her secret identity.