Monday, June 5, 2023

Bullet Review: Power Girl Special #1

Last week, the Power Girl Special #1 came out and it took me a couple of days to wrap my head around it. Thus, the review is up today on Monday instead of last Friday. 

I was pretty unimpressed with the Power Girl story which unfolded in the recent Action Comics. In that story, writer Leah Williams changed Karen to Paige, changed her from a physical, confident, brash hero to a psychologically damage, isolate, psionic. It just didn't read like the Power Girl I have known for the last 40 years. Whether it was the original in All-Star or the JLE hero or JSA All-Stars leader or the Palmiotti/Conner version, they all felt recognizable. This version by Williams just didn't. Marguerite Sauvage was on art and I think her style is a 'love it or hate it' one but I love it. And her pastel pastiche does work well with psychic landscapes.

That story ended with Johnny Sorrow arriving. 

Anyways, all that meant I went into this special with almost no expectations. Like zero. 

So when I read this special the first time, I actually thought to myself 'hey, that wasn't that bad'. A lot of that was built on a couple of Supergirl moments where Kara is portrayed very well. And hey, Streaky is back. Sauvage's art is very good if you like it. I even tweeted that I thought it was better than I anticipated.

But then, when going back into the book to try and get this review ready, I realized it isn't really a good Power Girl book. Because, once again, this isn't the PG, the Karen, that I know. For a second, I thought much of the new stuff here would be swept under the rug. Throw in some other moments that don't make sense and I think in the end, this isn't a very good story. The art is wonderful.

Now if you have no sense of PG history, you might love this. And I honestly wonder what long time PG fans think. 

On to some moments.

The book opens with Johnny Sorrow having trapped PG and Omen in a mental dreamscape. The two are 'fans' of Sorrow but debate the merits of bubble gum flavored ice cream. (These walking and eating moments seem de riguer for comics these days and always make me cringe.)

Sorrow has released his 'Four Horseman', demons from subtle realms who will psychically ensnare the cities they are unleashed in, spreading to the entire country, and then the world. All because Sorrow wants to be with PG.

Here is another sort of cringe moment. Power Girl is sad because she says everything is her fault. She is responsible for the evil unleashed. She needs Omen to tell her not to 'victim blame' herself. That last panel of Omen pushing in PG's cheeks like a toddler is also cringey.

But the big thing here is that Power Girl would never and should never even pause to think this. This isn't the way she has been portrayed ever.

Sorrow's powers are so profound that even super-heroes, like the entire super family, are asleep in his clutches. 

Karen ... I'm sorry ... Paige goes to seek them out. We have already seen how PG feels isolated from the supers. She thinks they want nothing to do with her. And she also thinks she is somehow inferior to Supergirl. I'll say that this also doesn't sound at all like Power Girl.

Flying to Supergirl's apartment, she finds Kara asleep.

She then reads Kara's diary. Is that okay these days? Or is that some violation of privacy.

Regardless, it is nice to see these words where Kara is very positive about PG and wants to be close. We could have very easily have seen this go to a bratty Kara a la Jeph Loeb and Joe Kelly. So I was grateful for this. I think Phillip Kennedy Johnson's portrayal of Supergirl has helped. 

And then we learn Sorrow's weird motivation. He wants to take PG to Earth-2 where they can live forever. And he'll stop this attack on Earth-0 if she agrees.

But here is why. Some quotes from Sorrow about PG.

"I could hear your pain and loneliness. It was so potent that it reverberated even so far as the subtle realms."

"You think you don't belong anywhere."

"I have never experienced my own anguish mirrored in a manner so agonizingly pristine ...'

All that is missing is a Tom King Supergirl line about how PG has lived her life in constant pain. 

Power Girl feeling pain and loneliness and anguish? I think I have kept up pretty well with PG and this seems wrong. 

What is it with everyone wanting to twist Supergirl and Power Girl into damaged beings?

Retreating to her apartment, Paige is visited by a dream version of Kal-L. 

Here we learn that Power Girl is overwhelmed with survivor's guilt saying she'll never feel worthy of that love.

I know I sound like a broken record. But this also doesn't sound like the PG I know.

I don't mind character growth but this is like 180 degrees away from where I think PG has been.

I'll remind you that every super-hero has succumbed to the powers of Sorrow and his horseman.

So it seems weird that Catwoman is not only unaffected but able to take down an avatar of conflict. 

No sense.

In the end, PG is able to get her act together and simply punches Sorrow back to where he came from. This catastrophic, world threat is removed in literally 3 pages with Catwoman, Omen, and PG dissipating the horsemen and Sorrow.

Nothing left but the wrap-up now that everyone is awake.

There is this very nice moment between Supergirl and Power Girl. I wouldn't mind seeing these two team up soon.

Sauvage makes all these emotional moments powerful through expression and body language. 

Superman arrives and says outright that he would love to spend more time with PG.

But look at that top panel. PG talks about how she will be making mistakes and she isn't perfect and she isn't 'used to' this world. 

That is not the confident, 'I have been a member and led the JSA', Power Girl I know. It just feels so wrong.

Streaky decides he wants to live with Power Girl as well. I like that we have a male, lightning bold adorned, super-cat back in continuity. And with Kara and Krypto being so chummy, I am glad Streaky has someone new to love. 

PG has a history with cats anyways so that fits.


Earlier in the story, PG says she drained herself of all the "lazarus energy' when she punched Sorrow.

For me, that seemed like the perfect out to take away these psychic powers and go back to the PG we knew. But I guess it was a feint. She still has 'astral punches'.

So is it a decent Supergirl story? Yes. In a couple of brief moments we have an empathetic and caring Kara. (I don't always get to say that so it is worth highlighting.)

Is it a beautiful book. Without a doubt. The art and colors here will raise the book in grade.

But does this read like a Power Girl book? Not one I recognize. Maybe Williams was asked to take things in a bold new direction. But You wouldn't make Batman a coward. You wouldn't make Superman a creep. I don't think you should make Power Girl lack confidence and feel sorry for herself.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

I read an interview with Leah Williams and she really seemed to think she’d written a Power Girl story.

New name, different powers, unrecognisable personality… this is Power Girl? She doesn’t even remember that she has a great friend in Huntress. Why didn’t DC just have Williams and Sauvage create a new character and showcase her? Heck, with some tweaks they could have plugged Thao-La in there - I could see survivor’s guilt, she’s new on the planet, her powers are so new as to be mutable… again, why use the Power Girl name at all?

Thanks for a very fair review. I’ve nothing to add, and nothing with which to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this doesn’t feel like Power Girl in the slightest. This “Paige” person really feels like an OC at this point running around as Power Girl.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I am more of a peripheral Power Girl fan so I do hope to hear from her bigger fans to see what they think of all this.


H said...

I may not be a bigger fan, but I'm definitely a long time fan. This really only resembles Power Girl from right after the Crisis, when they weren't sure what to do with her and connected her with Arion. But yeah, not very PG at all.

I feel like they've done 'coward Batman' and 'creep Superman' before, though. It might have just been an Elseworlds or mind control or something but they've played with that sort of stuff before (again, right after the Crisis comes to mind). Not a good idea for long term but they've done it- let's hope this isn't long term either.

Anonymous said...

"What is it with everyone wanting to twist Supergirl and Power Girl into damaged beings?"

Ask editor Brittany Holzherr, who edited this story, and has edited every Supergirl story, starting with the Infected arc (Jessica Chen handled the first issue of that arc, then handed it to Holzherr) continuing through Tom King's book. It is Holzherr who has overseen all the things done to Supergirl over the last several years, and now has to take responsibility for this.

"Maybe Williams was asked to take things in a bold new direction"

Not exactly. In an interview, she described asking Paul Kaminski (group editor) what version of Power Girl to work with, who Power Girl was, and he told her to just do what she wanted.

Ignoring that this isn't Power Girl, I thought this story was incomprehensible even as it was boring. This is supposed to be followed by a Power Girl series, but I'm not going to buy it, because I think Leah Williams is not a good writer. This is what you're going to get. I also didn't like what Margueritte Sauvage drew. So many panels lacked context or detail, so both the script was vague - what was Power Girl doing? - and the art didn't help at all. Power Girl was just smashing colored inner or outer space so much of the time.

Sauvage also dressed up Supergirl as a tulip in that awful Future State story. I'm not really a fan of her work. Interesting water color effects, that's about it.

Williams doesn't know much about continuity. And neither she nor the editors even realize we live on Earth-0, not Earth-Prime (which is mentioned a few times). Earth-Prime is now probably Earth-33, and perhaps still the home of Superboy-Prime (he was last seen in Death Metal). But the problems with this story don't begin or end with this mistake.

I've seen others observe that Power Girl constantly curses like a sailor, even right in front of the super twins.


Anonymous said...

I’m not even that big of a Power Girl fan, but man was this 90% garbage. I don’t get the changes they want to make to Power Girl’s powers. It doesn’t make her a more interesting character. It almost feels like they saw Marvel change Ms. Marvel’s powerset and thought “who can we do that to?”. She might as well be Superboy Prime. The name change is also stupid. Hey PeeG sounds like Paige so you’re Paige now. Like, she’s just cool with that?! Someone else just throwing a name at her with no say on her part? Power Girl doesn’t feel like Power Girl. This feels like every freaking Hollywood movie where they have a story they want to tell, but they also want name recognition and sales, so they just pick out a character and twist them how they want to fit their story even if it doesn’t fit the original character at all. They throw out references to say, see it’s the character you know and love, but even those didn’t make sense. They referenced her past so much, but then she’s like animated Teen Titans Starfire not used to earth? What the heck? Like I said I’m a casual PG fan, and I’m this annoyed. I feel bad for the long term PG fans.

Anj said...

Thanks for continued comments and making me feel okay about my response.

And TN, great call out on Holzherr ... a common denominator for a number of missteps.

SG Fan said...

I think you might enjoy this Anj. Sasha, from Casually Comics share I think pretty much your same views not just on this special, but the whole recent run on Power Girl.

I've not read these myself, just followed Casually Comic's thoughts, but pretty much they echo my own as a casual PG fan. This doesn't 'sound' or 'feel' like any version of Power Girl I know. It's not the kick ass and I don't put up with BS version of when she first appeared. Nor the Karen Starr, I've got my own company version. And definitely not the awesome Amanda Connor version of the character. I don't suspect these changes to have much sway. Unless the name thing was done for a right's reason (and I wouldn't put it pass DC) I don't see that sticking either. She's been Karen Starr for a long time. Sure, Kara went from Linda Danvers to things like Kara Danvers, Linda Lang, etc; but those seem to fit more. While not PG becoming Kara Kent or Karen Kent or whatever?

No hate or anything on the creator but feels like this whole idea wasn't very fleshed out. Also, don't think this costume or look for PG will last much longer either. I'm not a 'duh need her boobs' for PG but like her more traditional look, boob window or no, is the one connected with the character. So, I suspect these changes only last as long as this creative team is on the PG character. And then the old power of retcon will strike again.

The bits of Kara trying to promote a better relationship with PG were good, and frankly IDK why that's not a pairing that happens more often? There's good stuff to work with between the differences and similarities of the two 'Kara's' and as she wrote, they're not quite sisters, but something more. Wish there was a DC mini where they could be together for an adventure (and I know they did the Flamebird/Nightwing thing but I mean something with Supergirl/Power Girl).

So, TLDR, I think you're not alone in your opinion of all this stuff.

squidd82 said...

DC FUBARED Supergirl now Fubared Powergirl, not Paige, but Karen Starr. I am a long Supergirl and Powergirl fan.

Anonymous said...

I picked this special up, with the Amanda Conner cover, because I like the cover and I liked Conner's run.

I was confused with Power Girl's new powers and why she was named Paige. Made me feel disconnected from a character I thought I knew- and still enjoy in the current JSA series.

I didn't like the art but that's just a preference. My real issue is with how Power Girl is presented. As said above, "Power Girl doesn’t feel like Power Girl." Nothing about her seemed to be what I ever thought she was.

I did like the bit with Supergirl's diary and their interaction. I'd read a book focused on them together but I hope it would be much better than this special. Power Girl would need to get back to what she was. They are strong women. I don't know why in 2023 this is happening.

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way, at least Streaky the Supercat is back in continuity...can't be all bad can it?
But Powergirl the ethereal therapist that smacks of late 1970's Don Heck Superman Family Dollar Book level desperation. This is all starting to be a barnacle on Captain Marvel I mean SUPERGIRL'S
otherwise sleek hull...


Anonymous said...

Incredibly disappointed. Long long long time fan of Power Girl. It's as if the writer read a quick summary of the character and then wrote the story. It sounds like neither she nor the editor care about the character very much.