- Posted by Ed Sizemore on August 13, 2010 at 8:25 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- CREDITS: story by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti; art by Amanda Conner
- PUBLISHER: DC Comics; $17.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Let me begin the review with a caveat. For the past ten years, the majority of my comic book reading has been manga. I do enjoy some of the all-ages books by DC and Marvel. The only superhero books I’ve read are either Silver Age reprints or the ones I’m given on Free Comic Book Day. So some of the my complaints will likely be tropes of the genre that are known but have become ignored by regular superhero readers.
Power Girl has relocated to New York City to begin her life over. She is reestablishing her secret identity, Karen Starr, and reopening her old company, Starrware Labs. The series is meant to be a balance between Power Girl’s superhero life and her personal life.
I’ll start off with some nitpicking. There are inconsistencies with how strong Power Girl is shown to be. She’s able to rip apart robots with her bare hands and stop a falling aircraft, but she gets knocked out by Ultra-Humanite. That doesn’t seem right. Surely, she should be able to shake off a punch by a gorilla. For comparison, the robot on the alien spaceship cold-cocks her, and she brushes it off with no problem. I know it’s convenient to the plot, but it came across as contrived.
I don’t like Power Girl’s costume. Why can’t she have pants? She does have sleeves after all. The “boob window” seems ridiculous, too. I keep thinking about the male costumes like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, etc. They are all fully covered except for their heads. The only male I can think of with exposed legs was Robin. It looked dumb on him, too. By the way, same goes for Terra’s costume. Given how modestly Power Girl dresses as Karen Starr, her superhero costume seems out of character. Pants, people, I’m just asking for some pants.
My other complaint is that there is too much exposition. Power Girl’s interior monologue at the beginning isn’t realistic. The problem is the writers are using it for both narration and for telling us what Power Girl is thinking. The way it’s set up, it fails at both. Better to go with the old cliche that we are reading Power Girl’s diary or audio journal.
These aren’t major flaws in the work. In fact, once you get past the Ultra-Humanite story, the narration problem and power inconsistencies actually disappear. It’s like they wrote this first story to get the regular superhero readers into the series before setting down and getting to the real storytelling. It’s just a shame you have to wade through three issues before the writers find their own voice and break away from some of the genre conventions.
The best parts of the book are all the moments that seem atypical for a superhero comic. In issue four, Power Girl doesn’t turn over the villian to the police. Instead, she realizes that here is a girl who let youthful passion override common sense and has the potential to do a lot of good, if her energies are properly redirected. It’s the first moment when I became interested in the series.
I enjoy watching the interaction between Terra and Power Girl. It’s fun seeing Power Girl serving as mentor. She offers practical advise, like always wearing your costume. She’s patient as Terra tries to create a secret identity. Terra is a wonderful character. The writers do a marvelous job of creating a naive character who isn’t stupid or foolish. Very few who try succeed, so it says something of Gray and Palmiotti’s skill at characterization. The few moments these two are given together just hanging out are a true delight.
In fact, I was much more interested in the non-superhero sections of the series. I preferred reading about Power Girl trying to find a place to live, hiring people for her company, her love of really gory horror films, etc. The writers crafted a fully realized world for Power Girl’s everyday life. The series has a nice light tone with a good sense of humor. Power Girl chastising a potential employee for focusing on her chest is a subtly done and genuinely funny. These everyday moments are the true heart of the series.
Amanda Conner’s art is fantastic. She’s able to draw attractive women without being salacious. Her female characters have realistic bodies. Power Girl is not only busty, but she also has a fuller figure that is typical of such women. Conner also does a great job of inserting visual jokes. There is one frame where a character is holding up snowglobes that line up nicely with Power Girl’s chest. Also, I love watching Power Girl’s cat steal a shrimp from her Chinese takeout. It’s nice to see an artist having fun with a comic, too.
The last half of Power Girl: A New Beginning made this book an enjoyable read. However, I didn’t like it enough to continue reading the series. If this were a series about a CEO trying to build a state-of-the-art technology company, I’d probably follow the comic. The superhero elements get in the way and turn me off the series. Gray and Palmiotti are gifted at characterization and making everyday life interesting. I think their talents are wasted writing superhero comics. I wish they were doing independent comics instead. That said, Power Girl: A New Beginning would be a good place for someone new to sample the superhero genre.