Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bullet Review: Showcase #97

Last week I reviewed Convergence:Action Comics #1, a mashup of the Red Son world with the classic pre-Crisis Earth 2. The stars of that book were Kal-L and Kara Zor-L, the Superman and Power Girl of Earth 2. In that very review, I commented how I tend to stay away from straight-up Power Girl stories because I want the focus of this site to be Supergirl.

Well, I am going to buck that trend today, giving a quick bullet review of Showcase #97, what I believe to be the first solo Power Girl story. Showcase was a title DC used at the time to give characters and ideas a try to see if they resonated with the buying audience. A huge number of great characters emerged from the book. The Silver Age renaissance of the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Atom all started in Showcase. And other characters like The Creeper, Hawk and Dove, and Dolphin also premiered in the book.

In 1977, after about 8 years of being off the shelves, DC dusted off the idea of Showcase and used it as a testing ground for some new material. One idea was the New Doom Patrol, the Kupperberg/Staton group which included Celsius, Tempest, and Negative Woman.

Another was Power Girl. She had been introduced in the revival of All-Star Comics just the year before. And DC must have thought the had enough popularity and prowess to maybe warrant her own book. She got a three issue tryout in Showcase. But nothing seemed to come of it.

Still there is enough to like about this opening chapter that I thought I would review it and bring it back to the Convergence discussion from before.

While Gerry Conway is wrote the initial Power Girl stories in All-Star, Paul Levitz is at the helm here. I suppose Levitz's history with the character (as well as the Huntress) explains why he was tagged with writing the New 52 Worlds' Finest book.

The art here is absolutely dynamic. Joe Staton is on pencils here. The common knock on Staton is that his art is somewhat 'cartoony'. That might work for Plastic Man. But it sometimes seems off for straightforward super-hero books. (I will say I loved his stuff in the New Doom Patrol issues of Showcase.) Here that style is tempered a bit by the inks of industry legend Joe Orlando. The result is a very nice aesthetic which is dynamic and bold. They also do a good job of conveying the same sort of physical presence as Ric Estrada and Wally Wood had been giving us in All-Star.

I mean, look at this wonderful opening splash page of Power Girl leaping into action to stop a robbery of a technology firm.

Remember, this is Showcase. So Levitz realizes that this might be someone's first Power Girl story. He needs to introduce us to the audience as well as tell a story. So he does a good job here of letting us know she has all the powers that Kryptonians usually do.

For example, she is faster than a speeding bullet.

And as she is chasing down the crooks, she has to stop to make a quick rescue, stopping an out of control passenger train.

You guessed it ... she is more powerful than a locomotive.

And, it seems we are in a 1938 power mode because she can't fly. She can only jump over tall buildings in a single bound.

One of the main reasons I thought of pulling this book out of the long boxes and review it is because of the appearance of Andrew Vinson in the Convergence book. We meet Vinson for the first time in this issue. He worked his way into Power Girl continuity beyond this story, making some appearances alongside her in Infinity Inc.

But here he plays an investigative reporter who is a bit rude in his interactions with Power Girl. He doesn't just want to hear her story and why she does what she does. He demands it! And Power Girl isn't going to stand for that sort of demeanor. She says outright that she doesn't owe anyone any information about her. Funny how often from fire like that romance blooms.

That said, Karen has always been fiery and opinionated. But this seemed a bit too rough even for her.

Levitz then has Power Girl remember her origins, highlighting the differences in her Earth 2 origins and the mainstream Supergirl one. (Although he has her remember it while she takes a nap on the grass in a park. For someone who wants privacy and for reporters to leave her alone, you would think she wouldn't lounge in the open.)

The Earth 2 Kandor was never shrunk. Argo City was never freed from Krypton. Kara was born around the time Kal was. Zor-L made a rocket based on Jor-L's designs but tinkered with it a bit. As a result this young Kara took longer to make it to Earth. Hence, she is 'younger' than Kal.

This must be where the notion of Kara being technically older than Kal in the current universe came from.

Things get a little crazy as the tech thieves continue to come out, hoping to score more loot. They bring a small army to try to steal special electronic circuits.

But this issue is all victory for Power Girl.

I love this splash page. Power Girl is clearly the star, dominating the center of the page, in a great action pose, and just surrounded by the chaos of the soldiers, spider ships, and even the cops.

Love it! Love it!

In what I find to be an odd subplot, Power Girl continues to wage a war with the media. I suppose she simply craves her privacy. She shouldn't feel compelled to answer questions about her origins or even provide a sound bite for the news. But this reporter just asked if she wanted to make a statement.

Instead she talks about the reporters as being vultures who need to give her space. And then she stomps the ground to make sure she gets it!

Again, I like a brash Power Girl. I like her being opinionated and maybe a little rough around the edges. But this seems just as rude.

I think this is a great issue for Power Girl fans, taking a look back at her early personality and giving us some great art. While not a key part of a Supergirl collection, Karen fans should look for this run of Showcase.

Overall grade: B


Anonymous said...

I love Joe Staton's Bronze Age work....I would have loved it if he had been Supergirl's prime penciler in "The Superman Family" dollar book. Good artwork always elevates mediocre writing after all...


Godzylla said...

I confess I was not a Joe Staton fan at the time, and when he later did Plastic Man and returned to E-Man I appreciated his work on the humor series more. I grew to appreciate his work, but still think straight superhero action is, like the brilliant Frank Robbins, doesn't necessarily play to his strengths. But this was a fun series (Showcase and the Power Girl run).

Anonymous said...

Paul Levitz realized that Power Girl was not the same as Supergirl, so he made some changes so she would stand out, including having her being born on Krypton around the same time as Superman, but taking longer to get to Earth. That set a template for later Supergirl origin stories.
-- DW

Anonymous said...

Holding someone off a building and saying "The name is Power Girl : P...O...W...E...R...G...I...R...L" or causing a small
earthquake by stomping on the ground... New 52 definition of bullheaded loner? Or were sensibilities different back then?

I do appreciate the bullet review Anj, and the look into the early Power Girl, though.