With attacking tripods, pushy reporters, and grabby symbioship, things have not been running smoothly for Power Girl. But things are about to get worse as a mad scientist vaporizes Keystone City and all who dwell there…
One of the key things I want out of a Super Hero comic, or even an action story, is that the protagonist actually does something. That is, with certain exceptions, the protagonist acts and does not need someone else to swoop in and do the heavy lifting. Male or female, it doesn’t matter.
All rules have exceptions, of course, but we won’t dwell on that. Instead, let’s give a couple of examples, shall we? Ones that’s come not from comic books but television.
On the one hand we have The Girl From UNCLE, which is supposedly about the espionage adventures of April Dancer and her partner, Mark Slate. It is the sister program of the excellent The Man From UNCLE, a program which has two spies working and fighting side by side to protect the world. You’d think it would at least follow the same template, wouldn’t you? With Dancer and Slate side by side against the forces of evil.
Wrong. Dancer is about as worthless a protagonist as you could come across. Maybe it’s the episodes that I watched, but every time a fight pops up, she’s off to one side, cringing, while Slate is in the thick of things. I don’t recall if she came up with the resolution to her stories or not; as a rule, I changed the channel far before the end, tired of the fight scenes.
On the other hand, we have The Avengers, specifically the 1965 – 68 version (which makes it a contemporary of The Girl From UNCLE.) Again, we have a male/female team of spies (John Steed and Emma Peel) battling the forces of evil. What’s different between the two is that, technically, Steed is the main character. He is the constant, from almost the start of the series to the end. One could almost accept or excuse his partner of being short changed in some fashion or another.
But did that happen? Of course not! His partner was Emma freaking Peel! The woman knows martial arts, is brilliant, and doesn’t cringe against ferns when there’s a life or death situation. Cool head, that’s our Mrs. Peel, and bound to stay that way! Unless you want serious bodily harm to befall you, you don’t short change Emma freaking Peel!
Long story short, I want my female protagonists to act like Peel and not like Dancer. It makes me happier that way. Good for my ulcers.
Now, after around 398 meandering words (give or take), which is character is Power Girl like in Showcase #97 – # 99?
Well, she’s not Emma Peel. Not by a long shot. But she’s miles better than April Dancer.
With one exception, Power Girl handles everything by herself. She is brave, smart, and confident. When the villain of the piece demands her surrender least he kills a group of soldiers, she does so, despite the very real chance that she might not survive. Now that’s a super hero and, for my money, on par with her cousin Superman. Or, really, most of DC comics’ characters, come to that.
But, unlike her cousin, she has a bit of a temper and little problem acting on said temper. As an example, in Issue #97, she’s hassled by reporters. They demand interviews because “the citizens need to know.” Power Girl, however, doesn’t care. She wants to do her thing and be left alone. To underscore this, she at one point, she deposits one of the more aggressive reporters on the roof of a near-by building. Towards the end of the issue, Power Girl gets so sick of the reporters’ noise lot of them, she stomps on the ground, sending the lot of them flying.
Me, I wouldn’t have pushed around someone who can stop a train by herself. Little rule I’ve got. Helps me keep my bones all straight and even.
On this are the occasional quips she makes. As a Spider-man fan, I prefer my Super Heroes a little… smart-assed. Not a lot. Just a little.
All things considered, I liked Power Girl in these comics. Here, she was as interesting, as fun, as I’d hoped she’d be. Reading her story here made me want to read more about her. She’s not Emma freaking Peel, but how many characters are?
Not enough, frankly.
Writers should try harder.
Me too, I suppose.
So this is a praise of these comics, right? Everything hunky dory, peachy keen? Two thumbs up, way up, right? Right?
Oh hell no. See, there’s another key thing I want in my Super Hero comics. They can be silly, they can be dramatic, they can make no damn sense at all. But what they can’t do is bore me.
Showcase Presents #97 – 99 are about as boring a set of comics as I’ve ever read. I’m not quite sure why this is, exactly. A lot seems to happen, but with little real connection.
For instance, the end of Showcase Presents #97 this “symbioship” virtually pops out of nowhere. What is that, you ask? Well apparently it’s the ship that brought Power Girl to Earth. It raised her, taught her, and it wants to keep on doing it forever and ever the end. To clam her, it enters her mind and tries to convince her she’s still on Krypton.
Heh. Computer nannies. Don’t you just hate it when they get all clingy like that?
Power Girl spends the entirety of Showcase Presents #98 fighting this thing. While having her struggle against this pseudo reality might have had a certain resonance elsewhere (see Alan Moore’s For the Man Who Has Everything for a variation on this line of thought that works quite well), all of it is out of place in the story. Worse, the whole issue does an excellent job in making our favorite Kryptonian look weak.
Oh sure, she manages to first free the smarmy reporter Andrew Vinson then later herself from the symbioship’s clutches, but each time she’s pulled in, she’s shrieking like a stereotypical girl in distress. Something I don’t think the Superman of that period would have done.
But ignoring the symbioship, we’re still stuck with a story that… well… tries ever so hard. The villain of the piece is this loonie named Brainwave, who, as far as I can tell from this story, a wanna be Lex Luthor. His stated goal is the destruction of the Justice Society of America, a group which Power Girl is a part of. His men, armed with ray guns and tripods the Martians would be envious of, steals parts for a massive weapon that would… um… move things from one dimension to another.
Yeah. That’s frightening. Lex would be in awe
But for some reason, all of this is so… blah. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading so many Fantastic Four comics, where the villains were, well, villains. You do not compare Brainwave to Doctor Doom. It’s like comparing an unlit match to an exploding atom bomb.
And I might be understating things here.
Of course, understatement or not, the same comparison would valid when comparing Brainwave and, say, any criminal in comics. Dig this: In Showcase Presents #98 we discover that Brainwave managed to capture (off screen) two of Power Girl’s fellow JSAers (?), namely the original version of the Flash and Green Lantern. He then puts them into these ball-shaped containers designed around the two JSAers (??) individual weaknesses. Specifically, he made the walls of the Flash’s container out of a crystal vibrating at the same speed as its occupant, and surrounded Green Lantern’s container with a couple of planks of wood.
Never mind the fact you could have stuffed Green Lantern into a coffin and spared yourself the hassle and expense of building a second sphere. (How do they breath in those things?)
But it gets better! When he captures Power Girl (after the aforementioned self-sacrifice moment), what does Brainwave do? Does he act like he’s holding the female counterpart of Superman prisoner? Does he fill the ball with green kryptonite? Does he put her beneath a red sun lamp? Does he even threaten to put Lois Lane and/or Jimmy Olsen in there with her?
Of course not.
He just puts her in a ball container that he thinks is beyond her strength to break.
Might as well put a door in it while he’s at it.
And we won’t get into the Deus ex Machina ending. It’s so frustrating that I don’t even want to deal with it.
But there is a shining moment here in this issue! One bright bit of fun. After her “surprising” escape from her container, Power Girl discovers Brainwave made a monster (see right). It doesn’t get a proper name, so let’s call it the Asparagus Monster, or Gus for short. It’s got have a name, right?
As adversaries go, Gus isn’t that great. He lasts exactly three pages, counting the one shown here. But oh, those three pages. He gets Power Girl in his clutches, looming over her… all looks bleak… and then…
Well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. Except there are two more essays coming dealing with Power Girl. So you might guess who gets the stuffing beaten out of him.
The real problem with Gus, though, is that there’s such potential there. He’s a legitimate threat, one that Power Girl can really tangle with. But instead of being properly use, he’s stuffed right at the end. Meanwhile we get an entire issue of symbioship and it’s problems.
So, in the end, we have a disappointing story that contains an entertaining Power Girl. As a kid, this might have put me off. (Sure as hell put me off her cousin). As an adult, I can see the potential for good stories.
Now the question remains: Are the other stories in the collection any good?