“Power Trip: Part 2 of 4”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Amanda Conner (p), Jimmy Palmiotti (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Who is Power Girl? That’s the question on everyone’s mind, including the JSA, Checkmate, and the DEO. While they discuss their findings, Kara sits atop the Daily Planet waiting for Superman to come along and help her figure things out. However, our favorite photographer Jimmy Olsen shows up instead. While they chat, members of the Legion of Superheroes show up to tell Kara that she’s from their time period, but that conversation is interrupted by a crashing jet. By the time Superman shows up, it all once again seems to be in Kara’s head, and by the end of the issue we are shown who’s been behind it all.
I don’t know exactly where this is going, so it’s tough for me to know if I really like the storyline overall just yet. I like that Johns is trying to include all the various theories about who Kara might be (although you’d really have to be familiar with these theories beforehand to even know who characters like Andromeda are), but the whole “all in your head, it was just a dream” type of thing always leaves me with a slightly bad taste in my mouth because it doesn’t really seem to mean anything. I’m just hoping that this time is different, and that these folks ARE real in some form, even if that means that we’re talking about parallel Earths. In fact, my theory still stands that Kara is really the Earth-2 Power Girl and Psycho Pirate is trying to get her to remember that so that he will no longer be the only one to remember the pre-Crisis multiverse.
The art is fun in a “JSA: the Animated Series” type of way. I really liked Jimmy’s t-shirt since, in the old days when I was reading the Superman lines religiously, Jimmy’s shirts often reflected the latest trends or popular bands. The coloring is also terrific, really giving the images a 3 dimensional feel, as on the splash page with the Legion. My only artistic complaint is the last page featuring Superman makes him look like some buff drunk guy in a Superman suit.
One question regarding the story would be: what’s the deal with the ring found by those examining the rocket? If it’s supposed to be a Legion flight ring, then that seems like an error, since so far everything that the Psycho Pirate has thrown at Kara has only been seen by her. Hopefully there’s something else going on with that ring. Obviously there are things we do not yet know, because I’ve never known Psycho Pirate to be able to construct illusionary people out of thin air. Who is the third party behind the illusions? I’m looking forward to finding out!
Plot: “Karen’s still a kid, with something left to prove,” says Flash, and the other men in the JSA find that even Mr. Bones of the DEO wants to figure out just who or what she is. Woman, thy name is enigma. Make that Girl. The Legion of Super-Heroes think they have some answers, but Karen doesn’t buy that, either.
Comments: This is a solid follow-up to the debut issue; 2 of 4 is the time to complicate matters, rather than solve them, and it’s always pleasant to see the diverse and complicated Legion interact in a 21st century context. Connor is up to speed on the new Waid/Kitson versions, and ably abets Johns’s script as Karen resists their interference.
There are also many other nice art moments, like PG perched on the edge of the Daily Planet globe, visually dwarfed by her burdens. The forlorn sequence where she tries (rather disingenuously, if also poignantly) to explain the empty place in the center of her chest to Superman is also compellingly portrayed. She comes to the conclusion this issue that we did last issue, that without Clark in her life she doesn’t know who she is.
This psychological struggle is complicated by the almost meta-textual presence of that irritant, Supergirl. Angels and robot matrixes have been abandoned for a return to a Kryptonian cousin, and even her vile poster of the pandering Michael Turner cover seems to taunt Karen from the ad pages across the flow of story panels. What’s a big-busted girl to do when confronted with a perky waif cheerleader?
Conner plays on this problem by never showing Supergirl up close in the airplane rescue sequence. She’s just a squeaky voice in the distance that Clark quickly dismisses, but Karen’s problems are beyond his means, too. I take a lot of solace from the final panel, though, as I’ve enjoyed many previous appearances of PG’s revealed tormenter. Second issues are good places to get the villain in place; let’s hope their antagonistic tussle results in more, rather than less, definition for our threatened heroine.
She was originally the girl from the Earth-2 Krypton. In a post-Crisis world, she became the granddaughter of Arion, ancient Atlantean sorcerer, and sent into the future to protect her from Arion’s greatest foe. Some time later, that origin was established as false, yet no true identity has taken its place. She carries a lot of strength, this Power Girl, and has proven quite capable as a full-fledged member of the All-Star Super Squad, the Justice Society of America, Infinity, Inc., Justice League Europe, and the current JSA. Now she sits on the giant globe atop the Daily Planet building wondering who she really is. Just as a tease, we are given a distinct possibility: that she is Andromeda of the Legion of Super-Heroes, sent back in time to our 20th-21st Centuries. Wow! Now THERE’s an idea! But wait, all is not what it seems. (SPOILER WARNING!) The mysterious figure behind the curtain makes his play! Psych! Psycho-Pirate, that is!
Be forewarned, gentle reader, “Power Trip” is not a stand-alone four-part comic book series. This particular chapter, part two, has serious ties to DC continuity: past, present, and future. If you’re not familiar with DC history, you might get a little confused. Fortunately, Johns grounds his story with Kara’s personality, and it really shows here what a likable woman she is. Yes, she’s sported attitude in the past -- she’s had it from day one in All-Star Comics #58 (January-February, 1976; hard to believe, but she’s been around for thirty years) -- but a lot of it stems from a desire to be accepted by her peers. Always feeling the outsider, she plays tough. Underneath the headstrong exterior she’s vulnerable, and given the way her one “true” history keeps getting discarded and in this case with no new identity straws to grasp, it’s easy to understand her frustrations.
I must admit I liked the big “reveal” of why a part of her costume has that noticeable lack of a costume. It’s because she wants to fill the “hole” (her word, not mine) with some kind of symbol, ala Superman’s big red “S.” Nice touch in the story, yet I find the historical truth much more acceptable. Legendary artist Wally Wood, who inked the first eight issues of the 70s All-Star comic (and also penciled two issues, well worth tracking down), was famous for depicting well-endowed women. It was a personal style, and Power Girl was no exception. Sure, her breasts are more played up these days. It’s been the unfortunate nature of the breast in comics for years now, but in Power Girl’s case the emphasis has been there from the start.
I originally felt that Amanda Conner’s artwork, both here and in JSA Classified #1, conveyed a slight Manga style that I am not exactly comfortable with. Then I began to study a few of the individual panels and discovered more subtle details. I’m warming up to it. The key sequence on page 19 involving Power Girl’s openness with Superman atop the Daily Planet building is particularly emotional, especially when Kara’s eyes begin to well up with tears. That got to me. Here’s hoping she gets her due. It’s time to give Power Girl a real history, a solid identity, and comfortable sense of self. She’s always been a power girl, now let’s see her as a power player.
As the Justice Society investigates the shuttle that brought Power Girl to Earth for clues to her origin, the heroine has a heart-to-heart with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. Then, the Legion of Super-Heroes attacks. Is PG a time-tossed legend of the 31st century? Even though she has no home in the present, Power Girl’s not about to let herself be dragged one thousand years into the future.
JSA: Classified #2 begins strong and ends strong, but the middle is a wash. That Checkmate and the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations, DC’s governmental squad for investigating the cape set) are suddenly interested in our star raises some interesting questions, and the final-page reveal is quite exciting. But the whole Legion episode is hollow. From the appearance of Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad at the end of issue one, there was already doubt about their true role in the story. With the expectation that this is all a set up, that, if this really is the Legion, they’re somehow being played, makes everything they do seem superfluous. Thus, the “revelation” of Power Girl’s true identity invokes a noncommittal, “eh, that would be cool,” instead of the eye-popping “That’s so cool!” Johns most likely hoped for.
The few pages following the Legion’s departure are simply too silly to believe. Calling the circumstances cliché is missing the mark by half. Luckily, Superman seems to recognize how poorly things are going and talks PG into an emotional scene instead.
Much has been made of Power Girl’s breasts, largely because the artists tend to make much of them. Amanda Conner goes beyond the call, giving the heroine the kind of comically large rack one might see on Spencer’s birthday cards. It’s not sexy, but the look does play in well with Conner’s over-the-top style. And really, anyone who’s looking to comics for titillation deserves to be confronted with this type of parody.
There are seeds, here, of a good story. Heroes from the future, who may or may not have sent one of their own to protect our era; covert government agents vying to find the truth only to suppress it; Superman and his extended dysfunctional family; a villain whose presence means a very certain brand of trouble. But nearly every punch here is blocked, and the roundhouse blow misses by a mile. Readers want to know Power Girl’s origin, and they want it to be a blockbuster. Here, though, what is meant as plot-thickening mystery and misdirection instead comes across as jerking the reader around. At some point, fans may just decide to cut their losses and choose to believe in the Silver Age story that PG is Superman’s cousin from Krypton, or even (God forbid) the more current version that she’s the granddaughter of an Atlantean sorcerer. Of course, a more compelling origin is much desired, and it should not be beyond the talents of this creative team to deliver. And if Johns and Conner can work in Power Girl’s son, all will be redeemed. Two more issues, it’s not impossible.
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