Change of Pace 8: POWER GIRL is Fun, Irreverent

Best Shots Extra: Power Girl #1
Yes, it’s a book that’s gotten some press.  Yes, it’s a book by one of the Big Two.  Yes, it’s a book that stars a character that can be seen in other books.  Nevertheless, I believe that Power Girl qualifies as a Change of Pace.

Why?

I would say that the primary difference between this title and a number of other books currently being published by DC is, quite simply, humor.  Power Girl manages to have a fun, irreverent style that makes it stand out among a multitude of extremely serious super-hero fare.  Honestly, the moments of wit are one of the primary reasons that Batman and Robin is so enjoyable as well, despite other moments of abject horror.  Whereas Marvel is putting out a lot of books of various temperament (Models Inc., Marvel Divas, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredible Hercules), much of the mood in the DCU has been quite dour for some time.  That’s one reason that Power Girl is a breath of fresh air.  It possesses some clear sitcom-style elements, but doesn’t skimp on grand-scale action.

The writing team on the book, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, also happen to be the driving force behind another of DC’s offbeat titles, Jonah HexHex displays its own extremely dark and wicked humor, but that’s typically grounded in the revisionist/”Deadwoodesque” sheen that the creators have put on DC’s Western continuity.  Therefore, the use of humor as a creative engine is not unusual for the writers, but they are in the position of playing that against a larger universe that’s grown pretty dark.

Of course, treading the line between laughs and action can be a difficult proposition for the artist.  Fortunately, Power Girl has one of the best around: Amanda Conner.  Even with the praise that she’s gotten from various quarters, I happen to think that Conner is diabolically underrated.  Her style seems to fit squarely in the middle of a number of influences without looking exactly like anyone else.  That’s probably a function of having artist parents, attending the Kubert school, and working in a variety of disciplines from advertising to magazine illustration.  Historically, she’s worked on a number of iconic female characters, including Barbie and Vampirella.  All of these things make her extremely well-suited to Power Girl, which has some of the smoothness of slick animation without sacrificing detail or expression.

That brings us to the character herself, and any number of puzzlements and contradictions.  Power Girl has been saddled with a confusing continuity over the years (here’s me sorting it out in 2005), but these days her story is much as it was when she was originally introduced: she’s from the Krypton of the Earth-2 Universe, where she was Superman Kal-L’s cousin.  While some have questioned Power Girl’s status in a universe that also has Supergirl, there are two ways in which Power Girl fits perfectly.  The first is that her story is inextricably tied to the Justice Society, with whom she first appeared in the ‘70s, and they’re already a team loaded with dopplegangers, alternate versions, and legacy heroes.  The second is that the current incarnation of Supergirl has been established as a teen finding her way in the world; Power Girl, despite the more diminutive nomenclature, is a confident post-collegiate businesswoman that is comfortable with her powers and abilities.

Obviously, one of the trademarks of Power Girl as a character has always been her pin-up girl physicality.  While that’s been part of the character since her first appearance (see her introduction by Wally Wood to your left), the emphasis on that buxomness has unfortunately reduced the validity that the character has in the minds of some readers.  I would say that Power Girl’s defining trait is not in fact her body but her confidence.  Granted, much of her history was consumed with her identity crisis in terms of discovering her past, but that does not mean that the character’s self-belief and confidence have been affected in the negative.  Some of the humor in the series does in fact play off of Power Girl’s looks and build, but it’s done in a manner that lets Power Girl be in on the joke rather than being the brainless receptacle of the humor.

I enjoyed this series out of the gate, but I’m enjoying more as it moves along.  The art really is terrific throughout, and the situations can run from the everyday mirth of washing an unruly cat to pitched battles with giant robots.  The one certainty is that Power Girl has its own vision and voice, and those qualities separate it from many other books on the rack.  Check out Power Girl; it is definitely a Change of Pace.

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