Supergirl, generally, has been a female version of Superman, a physically (if not chronologically) younger cousin from the planet Krypton.
But there was a period where she was something else. I always liked that one. And then I found DC had collected the series into a couple somewhat thick trade paperbacks. I read the first one and was very pleased to see the series largely holds up.
I wrote somewhat extensively on Supergirl’s entire history once before, but here’s what you’d need to know to read this book: after the Crisis killed off the Superman’s cousin version, DC had a “only one Kryptonian” rule, so to circumvent that, a new Supergirl was created that wasn’t Superman’s cousin. Initially she was Matrix, a protoplasmic creation of a benevolent Lex Luthor from an alternate dimension. Matrix could change her shape at will, appearing as a wide range of people, had some telekenesis, invisiblity, and some standard Supergirl-type powers of flight, strength, and invulnerability.
But did she have a soul?
That’s the question that writer Peter David and initial artist Gary Frank ask in the series they ran with a new twist on Matrix. David has a long history of taking a comic company’s second (or lower) string heroes and twisting them around into something more interesting. That meant a “combined Hulk” that was always big and green, but also had Banner’s intelligence. That meant an Aquaman who lost a hand and replaced it, initially, with a harpoon before exploring what being an underwater king meant. What did he do with Supergirl? He made her a whole different person.
As spelled out in the first issue, Supergirl came across a girl named Linda Danvers. Linda had been attacked and was bleeding to death thanks to a demonic cult in her hometown of Leesburg. To save her life, Matrix Supergirl poured her protoplasm into the wounds and the two actually merged into a combined being. Supergirl lost her invisibility and could only shape shift between herself and Linda. Linda’s eyes changed color. And the new person had the memories of both women. After some confusion, Supergirl, now also Linda, settled into her new life. Linda had her own friends, family, and work (she was an artist), and Supergirl may have finally had a soul. That’s good because it turns out Linda may not have been such a good girl herself, and Linda’s maybe-boyfriend, Buzz, seems to be a particularly bad fellow, and possibly a demon.
But there’s also a mysterious little boy named Wally, and a lot of talk about redemption. Wally’s secret is only hinted at in this book, but the redemption talk is of key importance. Will Supergirl redeem Linda’s soul, or will Linda drag Supergirl’s down in the process?
I’ve long been a fan of David, but I also want to give a shout-out to Gary Frank. He’s the kind of artist who can actually draw distinctive people. There are physical differences between Supergirl and Linda, and not just the obvious ones of height and hair. Linda’s face is rounder, and she’s a curvier woman than Supergirl. Yeah, Frank does draw a few too many mini-skirts, but he’s not drawing the same woman over and over again. That helps.
As this first book is mostly about introductions, Supergirl has some appropriate team-ups. Superman, the Kents, and Mary Marvel all appear, and the new Maid of Might has some battles of her own against opponents that include Chemo and one of the best-looking Gorilla Grodds I have ever seen (Frank drew him to look like a real ape for once). And along the way, Supergirl’s real battles are against moral ambiguity, the nature of what it means to be human, and what it means to believe in God.
This series held up pretty well. I’m glad I got to read it again, especially since there was better stuff still to come. The down side to this volume? It also includes an annual from a “Legends of the Dead Earth” event, and none of those stories had anything to do with the rest of the work. As such, the grade will be only eight and a half out of ten cat demons.