Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: All-Star Comics #58

I have been running this site for almost 6 years and I have done my best to truly concentrate on Supergirl as a character, keeping Power Girl out of the spotlights intentionally. I truly believe that Power Girl is a separate character altogether.

However, with the new 52 Power Girl actually having been Supergirl on Earth 2, and with my reviews of Worlds' Finest appearing here, Karen has been nudging her way more and more onto the blog. And with the characterization of that Power Girl being neither Kara or Karen enough, neither classic Supergirl or classic Power Girl, I thought I would let Kara Zor-L bask in the spotlight again by reviewing her first appearance All-Star Comics #58. I was lucky enough to find this at a convention for $5 in decent condition.

It really is amazing how much of Power Girl's personality was already in place in this very first appearance! Writer Gerry Conway not only brings Power Girl around but also Star Spangled Kid and a new maturity in the Earth 2 Robin. Yes, this young trio becomes a Super Squad adjunct to the JSA. Karen is already shown to be fiery, determined, and strong. 

And as much as Conway shows the prototype Kara Zor-L, artists Ric Estrada and Wally Wood defined Power Girl's looks right off the bat. You can read this issue and immediately understand who Power Girl is and who she was for the next decades in the DCU.

The issue starts in a very classic way. The JSA has gotten word of three catastrophes that will strike the Earth simultaneously. Seattle, Peking, and Capetown are all in danger.

And in classic team comics style, the 6 JSAers split up into 3 groups of 2: Flash and Wildcat, Hawkman and Dr. Mid-Nite, and Dr. Fate and Green Lantern. Now I don't know if that is the best breakdown of teams. Fate and GL are the heavy hitters of this group. Maybe they should be on different teams.

And the villain of the piece is revealed early. Brainwave, the mad psionic, is going to lay waste to the world.

Some things that I love about this. Brainwave is obsessed with beauty since it was denied him in prison. So he is hoarding objets d'art on his satellite headquarters. At least it isn't a love of money driving him.

Second ... and 40 year spoiler alert ... this isn't Brainwave's real body. It ends up being a projection from his small spindly body. His love of beauty is so great he cannot deal with his real less-than-perfect looks.

But lastly, I love how this Brainwave look is eventually co-opted by his son Brainwave Jr. in Infinity Inc.

Now there is some fun stuff with Star Spangled Kid in Seattle and Robin in Capetown and the disasters thwarted there. But this is a review of Power Girl's first appearance.

In Peking, a volcano suddenly surfaces, spilling lava all over the place. I don't know just what Wildcat could do against something like this. And I don't know if the Flash could easily stop this. Hmmm ... wouldn't GL or Dr. Fate have come in handy here? (To be fair, GL and Fate fail in Capetown despite their combined might.)

Just when things look bleak, someone unknown appears on the scene, showing the lava back into the volcano, sealing it.

And there she is in all her glory, Power Girl. It is clear that how she looks has been defined from the very beginning. There are those urban legends about Wally Wood increasing Kara's pulchritude each inking session, baiting DC to tell him to stop (which they eventually did).

But there is so much to love here. She wants to be Power Girl to differ her from Superman, so there is no confusion. Unlike the earliest Earth 1 Supergirl, this one is her own woman from the get-go. And she also has been hidden away ... maybe as an emergency secret weapon?? She wasn't supposed to reveal herself quite yet!

Again, it feels like this is sort of the essence of Power Girl all in the first two panels.

The Chinese must take offense to the save, their military arriving and firing on the heroes. Despite Wildcat feeling like he can finally do something (slugging the Chinese soldiers), Power Girl ends the battle quickly with a super-stomp. Already Wildcat feels useless.

It set up an ongoing subplot of Wildcat being irritated at the 'liberated' Kara in the book. His 'old fashioned' attitude made him feel antiquated. Which was sad because I like Ted.

But things get even better. Power Girl. She sort of takes control of the whole situation. She already knows about the Capetown and Seattle disasters. And she can't understand why the JSAers can't handle the relatively mundane natural disasters happening. Hmmm ...

Again, this just is Power Girl.

She quickly mobilized Flash and Wildcat. It is time for them to regroup and attack Brainwave.

Something else great here. We are dealing with old-school Kryptonian powers. She can't fly but she can leap great distances. Fascinating ... and fun.

So there it is, the first appearance of Power Girl. And what a smashing introduction. It is incredible reading this to see just what a foundation this All-Star Comics run was for the character. I mean, this is a primer for Karen and who she has been ... that is up to this jumbled New 52 version. Impressive! She has grown as a character but the resolve and confidence has been a constant.

Overall grade: A+

But wait, there is one more treat in this book.

Holy cow there is a letter from Roy Thomas! A fan letter! From fan Roy Thomas!!

Okay, so Roy Thomas was already a prolific comic writer when this was released. But I love that he wrote to DC about this comic. Of course, Thomas ended up being 'the Guy' for Earth 2 writing All Star Squadron, Infinity Inc. and Young All Stars.

So this is obviously a key issue for Power Girl fans and I would say Supergirl fans and I would even add DC fans. It introduces Power Girl but re-introduced Earth 2 to a monthly comic world. The Huntress would be added soon after and the books kept coming.


Anonymous said...

great review. has Power Girl's first appearance ever been reprinted?

Count Drunkula said...

Great review, Anj! Thanks for posting this.

I never read many comics with Power Girl so I never took her seriously until a couple years ago. I'm come to enjoy and respect the character a lot more recently and it's nice to see her introduction to the world be more whimsical and respectful.

AndNowInStereo said...

That's pretty cool.

Diane Darcy said...

This is a great review Anj! Aside from this being Power Girl's first appearance, this is also one of my favourite Earth-2 stories of all time.

A bloody shame that THIS Earth-2 got replaced with the travesty that's passing for it these days in the New 52. :(

Anonymous said...

I remember this issue well, it was the first time an exciting new character was introduced in the staid Earth-2. Pity the old Power Girl only lasted until the New 52 roll-out (Power Girl #27 was her last issue).

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Anj: all of the stories are collected in trade like the Crisis on Multiple Earth books. Same lettering on the spine, only the two books are named JUSTICE SOCIETY. But there are faces on the spine, with Power Girl on each and Huntress on the second.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments. Sorry I didn't get back to this post for a bit.

Wayne, thanks for the info! I might have to find that trade!

Diane, I am with you. Loved this Earth-2. Have you ever covered Huntress first appearance?

Diane Darcy said...

Anj, indeed I did!

Funny thing is I forgot that I completely did this review almost seven months ago. :O