Friday, May 12, 2017

And No Dawn To Follow The Darkness (DC)
Supergirl #3 When: November 1996
Why: Peter David How: Gary Frank

The Story So Far...
When the life of young girl Linda Danvers was hanging in the balance -- Supergirl was there to save the day!

A failed demonic sacrifice resulted in the unlikely merging of hero and victim! Resettling in Leesburg, Virginia; Supergirl continues to live a dual life as loving daughter Linda - and protoplasmic Girl of Steel!

When a Sun-Eater plunges the world into darkness by consuming the Sun; evil forces conspire to take advantage - even in Leesburg! Supergirl is forced to protect the town's citizens from themselves as they devolve into a violent pack of berserk animals worshipping a beastly master!

The demonic cultist responsible for Linda Danvers' sacrifice has found a new ally in his corruption of Leesburg! Intent on remaking the town in his own image, Gorilla Grodd accepts a dark magic that threatens to destroy everyone - including Supergirl!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Supergirl 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Gorilla Grodd 5 (Professor)
Speed: Supergirl 5 (Super-Human)
Stamina: Supergirl 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Gorilla Grodd 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Supergirl 5 (Lasers)
Total: Supergirl 30 (Super)

You know the drill. It's the might of The Girl of Steel against the articulate aggressions of a super-intelligent ape. Two characters we've seen before and know well - right? Not so fast, hotshot! All is not quite as it seems!

Supergirl may look similar to the last daughter of Krypton, but in actual fact she is a shape-shifting creature from a parallel universe known as Matrix!

Coming from a reality where Superman died in his youth; Matrix was created by a benevolent Lex Luthor in the image of his deceased love. He gave her natural super-human abilities of telekinesis, invisibility, shape shifting, and much the same strength, speed, stamina and endurance of the Kryptonian he admired.

When Lex accidentally freed Kryptonian criminals General Zod, Zaora and Quex-Ul from The Phantom Zone, he sent Matrix to retrieve the Superman of the main universe to aid in their struggle. Life on the parallel Earth was decimated by the villainous trio before Superman made the difficult decision to execute them. With Luthor dead and nothing tying her to her universe, Supergirl accompanied Superman home to the main universe.

Kara Zor-El didn't arrive in the post-Crisis DC Universe until years later, leaving Matrix to serve uninterrupted as Supergirl for a decade or so. During that time, she encountered, and fused with, a dying young girl named Linda Danvers. She absorbed aspects of her memory and personality, becoming trapped in a dual identity of Linda and Supergirl. This greatly limited her more adaptable powers, too. A status that brings us to today's fight!

Gorilla Grodd is a super-intelligent ape hailing from Gorilla City. He possesses great strength, stamina, durability, and telepathic abilities!

He's best known as an arch-nemesis of The Flash, but has been involved in a variety of schemes that have brought him into conflict with the Justice League, and its individual members.

We saw Grodd manipulate the Ultramarine Corps as pawns against The League in JLA: Classified #3. He briefly held Batman on a spit before The Dark Knight managed to turn the tables.

Grodd himself has been a member of various contentious collectives, including The Society and Injustice League. We saw him present for the organized execution of Martian Manhunter in Final Crisis: Requiem #1, and a massive team melee in Justice League of America #15.

The latter example demonstrated Grodd can both endure the strength of Wonder Woman, and overpower a young Firestorm. Compelling evidence that he's a physical match for Supergirl - and a psychological threat!

Grodd's telepathic abilities could be the key to victory, able to discover and exploit the uncertain mental state of the Danvers-merged protoplasmic being. Her best bet might be a frontal assault at super-speed, but she's running in without knowing her opponent -- someone who is used to tangling with multiple speedsters. Let's see how it went...

The Tape: Supergirl Ranking: Gorilla Grodd (#844)

What Went Down...
Supergirl enters the town church just in time to rescue Sylvia Danvers from a mob of bestial parishioners! Danvers, mother to the girl Matrix merged with, sought refuge with the local United Methodist priest, but found only madness!

Reverend Varvel's mind is as clouded by The Heart of Darkness talisman that transformed his flock. Danvers preaches against their pagan worship of "The Beast", but a voice from above interrupts her pleas. It is no divine intervention.

Gorilla Grodd swings from his perch upon a cross, wielding the talisman that's turning the people of Leesburg into animals. He addresses a confused Supergirl with contempt, mocking her "Superman suit" in response. She attacks!

Supergirl tackles Grodd head-on as he notes the exception of her resistance to the talisman's effects. He intends to remake the town in his own image. A party, he calls it, before issuing her "invitation" personally.

Locked at close quarters; Grodd presses the magic talisman to Supergirl's head!

The mental impact of her absorption of human girl Linda Danvers cost Matrix control over her physical form. If these powers could've been of any use, they fail when she needs them most.

Supergirl doubles over on hands & knees as the magic takes hold! The Heart of Darkness only works at night, but with the Earth's sun consumed by an alien Sun-Eater, there is no hope of relief.

Sylvia Danvers cries out to Supergirl, but the moniker has lost its meaning. When "The Maid of Steel" rises, she sneers through the fanged-teeth of an animal. A bestial roar confirms her transformation: Supergirl belongs to Grodd!

The Hammer...
Shock! Horror! Gorilla Grodd claims quick victory with a single deft manoeuvre! A stunning and cunning tactic that brings Supergirl over to his side: to be continued in the pages of Supergirl (Vol. 4) #4 -- and perhaps another featured fight in the future!

Gorilla Grodd is one of the exciting new additions playable in DC fighting game sequel: Injustice 2! Officially out for home consoles May 16th; Injustice 2 is the inspiration behind this month's featured fights!

Real-deal Kryptonian Supergirl is another of the characters I've been excited to see join the game. She looks to have a fairly major role, thanks in part to her connection to cousin Superman, who infamously turned tyrant in the first game.

You generally won't get me to say much positive about Injustice as a whole. The core concept and plot of the first game is thoroughly lacking. As part of what I'm calling a Supergirl renaissance, however, I think the sequel is peachy keen!

I gushed a whole lot late last year, describing my personal about-face on The Girl of Steel. After watching that first season of the live-action television series, I'm still very much in a mood of enthusiasm.

I would've liked this week's entry to be another contribution to our mounting Supergirl file, but as you've hopefully picked up from previous sections, this is the Matrix creature who served as Supergirl after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Crisis rebooted the DC Universe without Superman's cousin. She'd sacrificed herself in the fight against the Anti-Monitor, famously mourned in Superman's arms on the cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. She was ultimately the other big death of the series, overshadowed by the themes of legacy carried on after Barry Allen's sacrifice in Crisis #8.

Flash could be succeeded by his second, Wally West, but Supergirl herself was the derivative taken from Superman. Even if the newly streamlined DC Universe would acknowledge her, there was a valid question as to whether it should.

The mythology of Superman as the last son of Krypton has always been a great tag line - but it didn't ring true. In a new, savvy, cohesive DCU, there was an opportunity to restore Superman to his unique roots, erasing the fumbling excuses that introduced a cavalcade of other Kryptonians. There was a chance to make Kal-El special again -- and they did... Sort of...

The oddball compromise of Matrix, soon to be Supergirl, was first introduced in 1988. Just a couple of years after the streamlining of Crisis and Superman: Man of Steel; John Byrne was responsible for creating a very strange cake-and-eat-it compromise. This Supergirl wouldn't undermine Kal-El's unique story of survival, but would allow DC Comics a marketable facsimile.

I've got to think Byrne created his Supergirl under direction from DC editors. His reinvention was suitably steeped in mythology of the past, but any Supergirl seems slightly incongruous with the rest of his work. He outlined a no Supergirl, no Superboy philosophy focused on keeping Superman special in an interesting UseNet post archived by DC in the 80s.

For a long time, I probably would've supported the notion Supergirl should be omitted all together, too.

Secondary derivative characters are rarely satisfying, and Supergirl as a concept can only diminish qualities in Superman. It's a cold logic I still think holds up, but ignores the enjoyable twists a character like Supergirl can offer. Especially when the narrow focus of a reboot dissipates and decades of story are the measure once more.

Kara Zor-El crash landed in the post-Crisis DCU in 2004. Her arrival quickly nudged the Matrix Supergirl toward irrelevance, leading to several years of confusion over whether or not she was completely erased. Despite conflicting accounts of editors, the character endured in relative obscurity, at least until the mess was made even bigger with the line-wide re-launch of The New 52.

With the benefit of hindsight, you might call the creation of Matrix completely extraneous. If you're going to do Supergirl stories, you should probably just do Supergirl stories. As we can see, the awkward compromise only ended in a tangle of confusing and frustrating inconsistencies. Exactly the kind of problems they set out to solve with the 1985 Crisis.

It would be wonderful if examples like these could inform a smarter approach to the big company's comics. Alas, events like Crisis on Infinite Earths only seem to grant more license to perpetual do-overs as solution to poor decision making.

I'm glad the real-deal Supergirl is back in circulation, but it seems a shame to discard so much else.

There's clearly a place for considered alternatives to Superman's Kryptonian story. Supergirl imbues the powers and responsibility with a uniquely youthful, socially connected perspective. A more fun, grounded take than Superman's high ideals. That's evident even in the work of writers like Peter David, who made the most of telling contemporary stories with the Matrix knock-off, but should've been canonized by a character that withstood the ages.

I'm sure we'll be revisiting this corner of the DCU some time in the future. In the mean time, if you'd like to experience the Matrix Supergirl in her entirety yourself - take advantage of the Amazon link provided! Doing so will help support the site at no extra cost to you!

If the classics are more your speed, be sure to check out the Supergirl tag, or links littered throughout this post. Be here throughout the month as we dive deeper into DC Comics!

You can also dive into the Secret Archive to find every feature fight listed in order of publisher, series, and issue number! For daily battles inspired by the topics of the day, follow on Twitter and Facebook. A like and share is always much appreciated!

Winner: Gorilla Grodd
#355 (+489) Gorilla Grodd
#841 (new) Supergirl (Matrix)

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