Reading Some Comics: Power Girl

Power Girl: A New Beginning

Over the last year, the best superhero comic has been Power Girl, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and drawn by the incomparable Amanda Conner.  Despite the high number of other quality titles, like Invincible Iron Man, Incredible Hercules and Batman and Robin, this was not a close race.   PG has great art and a great combination of humor and ludicrous superhero action.  Power Girl is the reason I read comic books.  So when the trade collection of the first six issues came out I made a point of purchasing it as quickly as possible.  And if anyone has even the vaguest interest in DC comics or in superhero comics in general I recommend you do the same.

The best part of this title is easily the art.  That is not meant as a slight to the writers, but more to highlight how incredibly great an artist Conner is.  Incomparable, as I previously called her, is right.  There is no one else that does work of a similar style and quality in comics.  Her art is expressive and full of personality.  Power Girl’s facial expression in fights is not the bland stare or scowl common to superheroes, but a sort of Indiana Jones-esque exasperated frown.  PG has powers similar to Superman, so she is rarely in physical danger.  When she is in a fight, she is more annoyed than angry.  She is not personally in danger and is irked that the villains are stupid enough to endanger other people.  The art tells the story clearly and the colors, done by Paul Mounts, really complement the art.  Conner is one of  the best comic artists working today.

The story is as fun as the art.  The writing, by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, is not award-winning quality, but its tone perfectly complements the art.  Most of the conflicts, as most superhero conflicts are, are ridiculous and Power Girl reacts as such.  Here are the situations and enemies that Power Girl faces in these six issues:  the Ultra-Humanite, a genius with a debilitating disease so he had his brain transplanted into the body of an Albino Gorilla (I love comic books), rips Manhattan island off of the earth and holds it for ransom unless Power Girl agrees to switch bodies with him, a nerdy girl who found a magic book and uses that magic to tear up New York City to get people to care about the environment and finally party girls from space crash-land in NYC and attempt to go clubbing, causing quite a lot of collateral damage.  So overall a lot of ludicrous fun.  The tone is not deadly serious drama, it is action-comedy and the fights perfectly embody that.  But the fights are at best equal the out of costume side of Power Girl.

Palmiotti and Gray gave PG, also known as Kara Zor-L and Karen Starr, one of the most important parts of a successful superhero or heroine:  a supporting cast and a non-hero identity.  Clark Kent is as important as Superman is, and the supporting cast is nearly so.  Characters like Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are vital to Superman’s success.  As are Robin, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to Batman.  Power Girl, an alternate reality Supergirl transplanted into the “real” DC universe, had neither a real secret identity nor any sort of supporting cast, so the writers used large parts of this collection to set that up.  Power Girl starts using her Karen Starr identity in earnest, and gets a business, Starrware, set up as well as a group of employees, that while there are no real stand outs if the writers were to stick with them could become PG’s Jimmy or Gordon.  (Though odds are new writers will probably junk this set up for something much less interesting.)  And best of all Power Girl got a sidekick, Terra.  The same team that did Power Girl also did a Terra miniseries that is almost as good as Power Girl and sets up who Terra is, where she came from and how she met PG.  Terra is not from this world (all right she is from inside the earth but she is unfamiliar with our customs) so Power Girl gets to teach her how to live in “normal” society and how to be a hero.  The best parts of these issues are Power Girl and Terra palling around shopping and going to the movies.  PG is established as a person who fights crime, not just the cape she wears, as has been the case in the past.  By showing her life out of costume really goes a long way toward fleshing Karen out as a character.

The combination of enjoyably ludicrous super fights and entertaining plain clothes exploits make for a truly satisfying read, especially with the beautiful artwork.  The humorous tone is exactly what superhero comics need more of.  Yeah there is room for serious and gritty stuff, but there should be more books with the tone of Power Girl.  It doesn’t  focus on the humor enough to be a true comedy book, but like Indiana Jones, it is action that gives the audience a near permanent grin.  Power Girl:  A New Beginning is as good as comics, nay entertainment, gets.  I cannot recommend anything more than this.

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