Power Girl feels lost, as a crisis has wiped her past away. But “fortunately” reality abhors a vacuum…
Origin Stories! The back bone of the super hero world. It gives the Hows and the Whys and sometimes even the What-the-Hell-is-Wrong-With-Peoples?
Examples! Let’s have some examples.
Who is Superman? Why, he is a stranger from another world, sent to Earth just before his home planet exploded. Posing as Clark Kent, he fights a never ending battle for Truth! Justice! and the American Way!
Who is Batman? Bruce Wayne, of course, Gotham’s richest playboy. Only a handful of people know that, after witnessing the murders of his parents, he vowed to wage war on crime.
Who is Spider-man? The science geek Peter Parker, who, on a while attending a science demonstration, is bitten by a radioactive spider and thus graced with spider-like powers. After a brief fling with using his powers selfishly, a tragedy strikes that he could have prevented, leading him to realize that with Great Power comes Great Responsibility.
Notice that all of them have one thing in common: They are relatively simple. A good Origin Story needs to be quick to summarize. Makes it easier to retell, doncha know.
Enough with the examples. What has this to do with Power Girl?
Well that’s a tale in and of itself. In 1985 – 86, DC Comics produced a majory story called Crisis on Infinite Earth that, in short, took a multiverse and collapsed into a single universe. Everything was wiped clean; even the contact between multiverses was forgotten/ erased. History, as it were, has been rewritten utterly.
The start of Ancient Histories finds Power Girl reflecting on her role in life. She remembers being from a parallel Earth, but now that Earth and it’s history is gone. And yet here she is. Where does she fit?
A couple of things are apparent in the first few pages of the story. First is how Power Girl is drawn. Gone is the young girl look, replace with a serious woman look (at left). While the art in the Showcase story didn’t bother me that much, this, I think, is a vast improvement.
The second is that there is a compelling idea here. Power Girl hasn’t just lost her home planet. She hasn’t just lost her second home world, or, bigger still, her universe. She has lost everything she has ever known, including her past. She is an anomaly, something that should not be.
Isn’t that compelling? I think it is.
And this story has been created to dump it.
While reflecting, Power Girl goes back to that damn symbioship of hers, which is the closest thing she has to home these days. Emotions swell and she strikes the ship, waking something within it. A force field surrounds her that she can’t break through. Our Favorite Hero is in a jam.
A voice calls out, saying that he could have been “gentler” in his approach and that he’s “startled” her. Brilliant piece of deductive reasoning, there, Sherlock. The “startled” Power Girl suggests that if her captor wants to avoid a lot of grief, he’d better let her go. This invokes a snooty “I shan’t tolerate being spoken to in that tone of voice” from the man as he materializes.
When that line for some unknown reason fails to mollify her, he casts a spell on Our Hero to make her more “cooperative.” At once she becomes docile and almost instantly “remembers” who the man is. He is the former Wizard King of Atlantis Arion, or, rather a sentient enchantment of the same. He has come to tell Power Girl who she really is (his granddaughter) and where she comes from (Ancient Atlantis.)
From this point, we move into flashback mode. Now me, unfamiliar with Arion and his story, I’m expecting a Origin like Superman’s. Atlantis sinking into the sea, only one person can survive, let it be the granddaughter. That sort of thing. I get a kick out of Jor-EL‘s story, I figure I might enjoy this. Although frankly by this point Arion is beyond redemption as far as I’m concerned. (More on that later.)
What we get instead is a whole lot of nothing. We begin with Arion entertaining the children of Atlantis. He cast a spell and the results are a bit disturbing. Look at it over to the left. The purple dragon at the top is what the Wizard creates. One child calls it a bird. Two of them (in the back) are looking and/or reaching for something that doesn’t appear to be there. Another comments on the sparkles which, to me, almost sounds like a “Whoa! The colors!” type of deal.
All together it gives the impression that the children proved to be less than co-operative and Arion cast a spell on them. Would you be surprise if he had?
We spend the next two pages twiddling our thumbs waiting for something to happen.1 We get introduced to (I assume) Power Girl’s brother Khater, who does what everyone reading the comic2 wants to do, namely stick a knife into Arion. Not a real knife (damn it) but a metophoric one; he makes his grandfather remember things he really would rather forget. The old guy gets all choked up, and I’m sure that this is supposed to make us feel a degree of sympathy for the Wizard. Except, of course, he does the same to another character not more than a page later. Kind of kills the empathy a little, really.
The net result is a whole lot of exposition that has nothing to do with the rest of the story. There might be some connection, mind you, but it’s so damn vague I missed it the first few times through. Now, were I familiar with Arion and his cast of characters, maybe none of this would be a problem. I’m not. Thus this failure to explain leaves me out of the loop and is, to my mind, one of the major flaws with the story.
With the reminiscence portion of our reminiscence now over, we move to ACTION! Something blows up really good back at the palace. Khater should be safe,but what of baby Kara/Power Girl? Arion rushes there… it takes a good two pages to do this… I’m sure it’s supposed to be thrilling… but come on.. did anyone think she was going to die?… and finds that someone from another dimension (called the Dark World) has come to play. And that some one is Garn Daanuth. Arion’s brother.
You know. The guy they should have at least mentioned four freaking pages ago! A little thing called foreshadowing might have been nice.
Daanuth has been able to return due to the “smallest” of genetic engineering Arion performed on Kara. Now here, he plans to take over all of Atlantis. And as magic is fading, there is nothing that can stop him. Unless, of course, Arion can work up the nerve to… kill his own granddaughter. Buahahahahaha!
But all is not lost! Arion manages to wrestle Kara away long enough to cast a final spell, hurling her via magic crystal into the future and out of Daanuth’s reach. Her powers are thus derived from a combination of a.) being in contact with Daanuth, b.) her trip through time, and/or c.) the “smallest” of genetic engineering thing.
Thus endth the tale. The Arion telling the tale is but an illusion, sprung forth by Power Girl’s need for “the truth”. The symboship was but the crystal in disguised.
And the reason behind Power Girl’s confusing past? The illusionary Arion crafted it from whole cloth and put it in her mind. Her true origin, he deemed, was too difficult to accept in the magicless age of the eighties.
Clearly there’s no magic in the 80’s DC universe. None. Not even a little. Really.
So how does Power Girl respond to all of this? Does she yell? On discovering the illusionary Arion is solid, does she plant a fist on the Wizard’s beak?
No. She hugs the big jerk and is now thankful to know her real past.
So, to recap, what has Arion and his magic clone done to Power Girl in this story? Well, he’s:
Imprisoned Power Girl as if a wayward child, instead of, y’know, talking to her first.
Talked down to her when she gets upset about the same
Cast a spell on her without permission
Messed with her genetic code (when she was baby, no less.)
Cost her her family because of the aformentioned meddling
Implanted a massive lie about who she is in her head.
Not apologized in any way, shape or form for any of the above.
I was disliking him by the time the first three happened. But all this? No. The guy’s no hero. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Couple this with 20/20 hindsight (where we learn that not only is all of things he told her a lie, but also 8.) he magically impregnates Power Girl) and we’ve got a real piece of work.
All in all not a good story. More to the point, it’s boring. So much so that I take back my earlier Power Girl review. That sucker’s an action masterpiece by comparison.
With this story, it seems like the Power Girl collection was a bust. Two bum stories. Man. May as well tell Brother Eric he wasted his money on me. Or not. Wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings after all…
Then I read the next story and…
…That’s a review for another time.
Finding out Arion was a King of Atlantis, I had a terrible thought. Aquaman is a king of Atlantis. Could he be…
But no. Aquafans can breath easy.
1 Or, at least, Power Girl fans are left twiddling their thumbs. I’m sure Arion fans dug this stuff to pieces.
2 Save Arion fans, of course.