Tuesday, 26 July 2016

[Comic Review] - Power Girl - Power Trip Trade (JSA Classified #1-4 / Power Girl v2 #1-12)

Power Girl - Power Trip

Power Girl is not the kind of comic I usually read. I tend to gravitate to the darker side of comics. Things that are more serious with strong story driven focuses (my favourite) or, and lets be honest here an adolescent hyper violent genre book full of gore, sarcasm and subversiveness. These are the kind of things I usually read. It has come to my attention that maybe I'm missing out on a side of comics which I have basically written off as not worth my time. I think it was "I Hate Fairyland" that really showed me that I could enjoy a different kind of comic. The stupid comics. Comics that are just lighthearted fun, some action, some jokes, some pretty colours.... you know, entertaining and fun. The Power Girl Vol 2 run is one such comic. This is not a comic to be taken seriously, but is it a comic that I can enjoy?
Power Trip is a trade collection of "Power Girl V2 #1-12" as well as "JSA Classified #1-4". The glue that connected these prints, besides the obvious fact they are all Power Girl stories is that they share the same artist, Amanda Conner. Who has been streaking a bright coloured mark across comics since the 80s, most recently adding her charm to the popular Harley Quinn volumes.

"please stop messing with my globes." - Karen Starr

Before we really get into it, lets talk about the elephant in the room.

Power Girl is drawn with an eye towards light eroticism. The entire art direction is bold with bright fun colours but it can not be denied that the drawings and poses are sexualised. Men are muscled and hyper masculine and the females are hyper feminine. There is a third class of "normal people" who are powerless but the focus of the book is on the super powered. So if sensualisation is something that you dislike, then this is not the book for you. Not only dose it not shy away from this aspect, it is in some ways part of it's main focus. There is nothing really overt but it dose ride the line pretty close sometimes.

Slightly erotic drawings are nothing new in comics, but Power Girls design means there is no hiding this fact. There is no clever justification, it is what it is. They could either run from it, or run with it. Wisely they have chosen to run with it. The book is well aware of itself. Not exactly self-aware in a Deadpool type way, but enough to make many jokes specifically about how Power Girl is perceived by men and women. Even using sight gags (pictured above) among other techniques to not only justify the content but also play with the idea of exactly why someone who gets pleasure form the female form could be reading this book in the first place. You know, for the "feels".

The book has a frenetic pace. The idea of realism is not even considered. This is the kind of book that dose something for fun and some misguided fan will latch onto that as some ultra important cannon information about Power Girl. The amount of alien invasions and horrific events in this book are beyond my ability to take seriously and I'm sure this is by design. What we really have a a series of loosely connected sketches / stories involving Power Girl that are designed for one thing, to be amusing. It isn't uncommon to have a full scale battle by panel two.

That is not to say that Power Girl has no character in these books. In fact it is Power Girls exceedingly charming personality and general vibe of the comic that makes it so pleasant to read. While the JLA story starts off a little heavier than the rest of the book as it tries to untangle the web of Infinite Crisis, by the time her named serial is around it has found its feet firmly in tongue in cheek double entendre, as a strait up comedy publication.

Zed visiting from the cult film Zardoz shows the kind of silly this book has!

A great example of this for me is the story "Lust in Space" #7-8, remember this is a collection of the early part of Power Girl Vol 2 so there are a number of stories in this book. Anyway in this story Power Girl gets visited by none other than Sean Connery from the cult film Zardoz. He comes to Earth, for various reasons to breed with Power Girl. Do not worry this is not a spoiler it is stated very early on in the story. As the story concept got laid out I was immediately started switching off but the sheer zesty writing and the charming characterisation of Power Girl give the author time to turn the story around to something where there is little to complain about. This happens all the time in this book, I am loath to give more examples, but like Power Girl herself the book presents you with enough detail to make broad assumptions, or even judgement, and then shows you that all is not what it seams and maybe you should just lighten the hell up.

What makes this book truly work and elevates it a great deal is the small, admittedly spare moments of Power Girl as a normal woman in her alter ego of Karen Starr. Doing laundry, going to the movies with her friend, playing with her cat and other aspects that are all about her as a person. With out these moments I really feel that there would be no base for this book and it would in fact be exactly what it appears to be at first glace.

Even so, I can not help but wonder what this character could do in a more serious setting. This book is a steady diet of desert, but as Harry Kim would say "Eventually you want some meat and potatoes". The sheer force of personality that Power Girl shows makes me as a reader crave for her to be taken seriously, to see her grow and be affected by events like a real person. For while she is much more developed than I thought she would be she is still a cartoonish character in a cartoonish book. While all the characters flippant attitude to the violence could make them all look like sociopath, hardly batting an eyelid as people get decapitated left and right, it comes off in a more Bugs Bunny way. To put simply they are off and on the way to the next joke or plot mover, this is what gives the book its cartoony feel. Though with bestiality jokes, casual sex and a steady dose of violence this is not a book I would let my kid read at a young age.

I enjoyed this book, and I enjoyed the style, I smirked at the humour and some of the "special guests", like the stories first villain, after the JLA introduction story, was  especially enjoyable. Still towards the end I was starting to really wonder where Power Girl could really go. I think she would make a great subject for a gritty graphic novel. I want to see her in stories that are not just a joy for the sensors but stimulate the mind with deep and interesting story telling. Supergirl has evolved into a character that receives these serious treatments but Power Girl is still relegated to this wacky comic. It seams a shame.

VERDICT : Recommended, with a warning

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