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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Supergirl: Wings

Writer: J.M DeMatteis
Artist: Jamie Tolagson
Colourist: Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Seperator: Digital Chameleon
Publisher: DC

What's it about?
A human so self willed.. so drawn to darkness..
                              that her soul stands on the brink of damnation...

It is her purpose to life rebels up..
               to bring them to the light...
      If only she didn't hate them so....

So states the blurb on the back of the book.

This is one of DC's Elseworld's titles.  The term Elseworlds refers to books where the characters are "taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places, some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't or shouldn't exist".

This is the story of a Supergirl - not Clark Kent's younger cousin, but a character called Linda Danvers who bonded with a creature called Matrix.

In this book, Matrix is an angel, and Amenlee.  Her role is to save those humans who are wallowing in despair and darkness.  Linda Danvers is the errant soul Matrix  is trying to save, but Matrix finds herself disgusted with humanity.  she questions her duties and the nature of a creator that would allow such festering examples of humanity to exist.  For Linda is not a nice person.  We don't see what she gets up to, but it is made clear that she walks with one foot in the dark.

How can Matrix reconcile her duty and her feelings?  What will become of Linda?  This book is only 48 pages and is a discussion of redemption, faith, love, hatred and confusion. 

What's good about it?
If superheroes don't appeal to you but you are interested in Western style religion or the big questions in life, this is a good book to pick up.  Supergirl as such isn't mentioned and superheroes don't really exist in this alternative universe.

The book operates mostly in a christian framework, that much is obvious, given the main character is an angel.  However there are some unexpected surprises.  Firstly, Matrix refers to God as 'hir' throughout.  Hir is a gender neutral pronoun used by those who wish to use language that doesn't enforce the male/female gender binary.  Other characters refer to God as he and she within the same sentence, as seen here:
For readers frustrated with the traditional patriarchal nature of the christian church these gender neutral referents are incredibly refreshing.

There are other non traditional aspects of religious mythology woven in as well - we see nymphs, naiads, nereids, angels who choose to fall and reflections of God (or Deva, from the Hindu Sanskrit) as spirits of the earth and seas.  DeMatteis is trying to present a book that covers many different religions, which adds to the alternative perspective first indicated by the use of 'hir'.

For readers interested in other spiritual characters from DC's universe, this book gives a cameo slot to a few of them, for example, Zauriel, an angel of the Eagle host who also served in the Justice League of America and the Spectre, God's spirit of vengeance.  Aquaman (see right) and Swamp Thing also get cameos appear as the spirits of sea and earth.

What's bad about it?
As it's so short parts do feel a little rushed, particularly at the end, which is a bit corny.  Most of it is nicely paced, but a few pages feel a little off.

What's the art like?
Well, the cover is gorgeous.  So gorgeous we should take another look at it:
Ahhh, isn't it lovely?  Wonderful colours, nice composition and just so pleasing to look at.

As for the art inside the book, it's quite heavy on the shading (the inks) and there's a lot of black sections in the art.  This is effective in highlighting Matrix's internal struggle:
The pencils are quite simple - just a few lines here and there to show shape and feeling.  The colours provide more of the emotion and often give the mood of the scene, as in these panels where the colours and lettering allow us to understand the anguish and turmoil Matrix is feeling:
The layout is simple, not showy, but very effective.  Tolagson hasn't tried to create anything showy or new.  He is telling the story in the best way possible, with no unnecessary flourishes or flamboyant gestures.

Other information
Sadly, this book is now out of print so if you want to read it your best bet is Amazon, ebay or a second hand book or comic shop.  Expect to pay about £8, at the most.

The first and last six issues of the in canon stories of Matrix and Linda Danvers have been collected into two trades. The first one is titled Supergirl and is currently out of print but can be bought from Amazon, see here.  We have reviewed the second trade here.  You can read the remaining uncollected issues online here.

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