Many Happy Returns
by Peter David, Ed Benes
(DC Comics, 2003)
Supergirl has gone through many changes in the history of the DC Universe, from Superman's naive alien cousin to a shapeshifting blob of protoplasm from an alternate reality to a fashion-conscious young woman with powers thrust upon her. Supergirl has died (most notably in the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series) and been altered in various ways, with differing identities and origins. In 2002, with the ongoing Supergirl series on the verge of cancellation, writer Peter David introduced a new (and surprisingly popular) twist: the arrival on Earth of Kara Zor-El, the original Kryptonian incarnation of Supergirl, in the same reality with current incarnation Linda Danvers, who came by her powers through an alternate universe and, later, Earth-based "angel" powers.
It's a hoot of a story, dealing at first with Kara's lack of understanding of the world and a hero's role in it -- she tries to shift the Earth's orbit, for instance, to take it out of the path of a meteor, ignoring the cataclysmic effects such a shift would cause ... as well as the physical impossibility of moving the planet you're standing on -- as well as Linda's initial jealousy and eventual camaraderie with the new kid on the block.
But the story twists in unexpected directions when the Supergirls learn Kara was diverted from another reality, one in which she was destined to die. Linda nobly takes her place, developing an entirely different relationship with Superman in DC's pre-Crisis universe ... but when the events of Crisis begin to unfold, it becomes apparent that only Kara's sacrifice will serve.
The resolution of the story is touching, and a bit sad. The book ends on a world with no Supergirl ... making way for yet another version that was introduced in 2004. But that's a story for another time. As for Many Happy Returns, it's a grand finale to the series and boasts some excellent good-girl art by penciller Ed Benes. It's certainly worth checking out.
by Tom Knapp