Monday, December 21, 2015


Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti | Artist: Amanda Conner
Colorist: Paul Mounts | Letterer: John J. Hill
Assistant Editor: Rex Ogle | Editor: Brian Cunningham

My Thoughts: Palmiotti and Gray begin Power Girl's continuing adventures by setting her up in Manhattan and restoring her secret identity as Karen Starr, CEO of Starrware Labs, a company dedicated to bettering the world through technology. The opening issue introduces us to Karen's employees, Donna Anderson and Simon Peters, as well as the newest member of the Starrware team, Dexter Nichols. We also get an ominous appearance by Xander Blevin, a callous researcher with designs on reprogramming the minds of the world's citizens.

But the main threat in this opening arc is the Ultra-Humanite, a brilliant scientist whose brain resides in the body of an albino ape. Here, the Humanite's plan is to lift Manhattan into the sky with his airship and hold it hostage in order to force Power Girl to give him her body as the new receptacle for his brain. While Power Girl struggles against the Ultra-Humanite aboard his craft, her teammates from the Justice Society are busy on the streets of Manhattan, fighting against the Humanite's robots.

I'm only familiar with Ultra-Humanite, as with many DC characters, via his appearances in the JUSTICE LEAGUE TV series, where he was generally played as a comic relief villain; or at least as a foe not taken overly seriously by anyone. But this version of the Humanite is quite deadly, using his mental powers to warp the people of Manhattan into a violent frenzy, and causing the deaths of over sixty people during his plot -- which seems kind of thematically out of place given the very "Silver Age" nature of the scheme.

We get a bit of his backstory here, learning that the Humanite was a prodigy with a terminal illness who survived by voluntarily transplanting his brain into the ape's body at the suggestion of his assistant, Satanna, who had a brief appearance in the TERRA limited series and who here has sex with the Humanite after his transplant. Because no mainstream superhero comic is complete without some casual bestiality.

But I digress. Power Girl eventually breaks free of the Humanite's trap and defeats him by hurling him into his own equipment, which results in horrific burns over his body. Then, with the aid of Terra, she returns Manhattan to the ground, saving the day. Terra has no real introduction here; she just shows up out of nowhere in the third issue, with a direct comlink to Power Girl. Readers of the TERRA limited series would have no problem with this, but a casual fan would probably be a bit confused by her sudden appearance.

At any rate, this is a decent opening to the series. Palmiotti and Gray handle the script well enough, though their all-consuming hatred of contractions remains as strong as ever. But the real draw is Conner's artwork. I didn't speak much to it when talking about the JSA CLASSIFIED issues because I wasn't all that impressed. There was some decent work, but it looked sloppy in places. Here, following from her strong showing on TERRA, the work is roundly beautiful and cartoony. I love it. I can't help feeling it's not the right fit with this story, however. As I touched on above, based on the more light-hearted nature of TERRA, I had expected something less dark from Palmiotti and Gray here. I hope the series moves away from that tone going forward, and the final page appearance by three women aboard a spaceship, on their way to Earth to "party like it's the end of the world," gives me hope this will be the case.

Lastly -- and this is another thing I wanted to touch on in the JSA CLASSIFIED review if I hadn't been running long -- this is something I've wondered about for years: why does the Justice Society of America still exist in modern day DC continuity? They were the superheroes of World War II. They were succeeded by the Justice League. Do we need both? Shouldn't the JSA remain in the past? I mean, I'm all for DC keeping the name alive and telling stories about them, but why not set that series in World War II, instead? Keeping the JSA in existence in the modern day, alongside the JLA, including the original Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern, who should be octogenarians at the youngest by now, strikes me as a peculiar exercise in redundancy.

So far, aside from the absolutely beautiful artwork of Amanda Conner, I can't say the adventures of Power Girl are lighting my world on fire. But I hold out hope that Palmiotti and Gray can change that soon. They've always been a very hit-or-miss writing team for me; perhaps this arc will be the only miss in their run.

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