Sunday, 20 February 2011

Adventure Comics #415. Rolling the ball but rarely dropping it.

Adventure Comics #415. Supergirl, Animal Man and Zatanna
The good news is Supergirl finally has her powers back. No more of that exo-skeleta-cyborg or whatever the hell it was called.

The bad news is her battle to find a decent costume continues as the first tale in this 52 page comic sees her wearing an outfit as cluttered and badly assembled as the front cover's masthead.

After peeking through his interplanetary telescope, an outer space pirate's decided Linda Danvers is the only woman in the universe for him. Not knowing she's really Supergirl, he orders his Mister Spock lookalike lackey to kidnap her.

That's when it all starts to go wrong for the pirate. First, Supergirl rejects his advances, then his death-ray doesn't kill her. And then his Mr Spock lookalike lackey - upon discovering his commander's a wrong 'un - responds by disintegrating himself. Needless to say, within a few panels Supergirl's mopped up the bad guys and handed them over to the space police.

In the issue's second tale we're introduced to Animal Man. Now, up until reading this issue I knew nothing of Animal Man other than that he existed but it transpires he has the power of any animal on Earth but can only use the powers of creatures that're near him at the time. Round my way that means he'd have the power of kittens and hedgehogs but, in the story, this somewhat clumsy condition's got round by having the villain just happening to hang out on an island he's filled with deadly animals, giving Animal Man plenty of opportunity to use his abilities. It may be harsh to say it but, given the unwieldiness of his powers, and a certain sense of sappiness about him, I don't feel any great desire to see Animal Man again.

Next we get a second outing for Supergirl. It's supposed to follow directly on from the first but the fact she's wearing a completely different costume telegraphs that they were never meant to be linked. Mercifully she's now in what those of us of a certain age regard as Supergirl's real costume. You know - the one with the hot-pants and cleavage. After all the horribly fussy and seemingly randomly thrown-together outfits we've seen her in lately, it's a relief to see her in something that at least feels coordinated.

Sadly the story itself isn't of similar classic status as, returning to Earth from her adventure in space, Supergirl comes across a mad scientist in a satellite who wants to launch its missiles at us. It all goes belly-up for him when Supergirl destroys the missiles while he and his satellite burn up in our atmosphere. In just six pages, there are at least eight panels with the "camera" pointed straight at Supergirl's backside. DC were clearly determined to make full use of those hot-pants.

Finally, we get Zatanna.

I can't deny I have two problems with Zatanna. One is she keeps saying everything backwards.

The other is I can't see her without thinking she's Kate Bush.

For those unfamiliar with the Wuthering Heights singer, in her early days it wasn't altogether unknown for her to appear on TV in an outfit noticeably similar to Zatanna's, as she warbled away. Thankfully, she didn't insist on singing everything backwards, which, given Kate Bush's eccentric nature, is pretty much the only thing she didn't do.

No time for singing, Zatanna has to confront her father Zatara who's turned evil and is using his powers to destroy a city. It all ends happily when she kills him.

I seem to recall from childhood that Zatara was almost as big a source of problems for Zatanna as Odin was for Thor, so his death might be no bad thing but, as it turns out, she hasn't really killed him. She's just tricked the evil elemental who's possessing him into thinking she has, so it'll flee his body. Hooray to Zatanna - and well done to her on keeping her hat on through thick and thin.

Apart from the fact that I'm really not that interested in Animal Man, there're two things that strike me most about this issue. One is that - terrible costumes aside - Win Mortimer draws a rather lovely Supergirl. The other is how conventionalised the Supergirl strip's become by this point. There was a time when to open a Supergirl story was to know one was to be plunged into a whole world of socially irresponsible lunacy. By the time of Adventure Comics #415, nearly all that madness is gone to be replaced by an earnest sort of blandness. It's a shame. Although the more sensible stories don't threaten to damage the brain as much as their predecessors, there was something you couldn't help but like about those older tales.

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