Saturday, 31 December 2016

Power Girl 40th Anniversary: JSA Classified #4 Review

Title: JSA Classified #4
Story: Power Trip
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Huntress (Helena Wayne), Robin (Dick Grayson), Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt), Psycho-Pirate (Roger Hayden)
Creators: Geoff Johns (writer), Amanda Conner (artist)
Publication Date: October 2005
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: The Psycho-Pirate has Power Girl in his possession, and he's more than happy to have her. But for what purpose? Power Girl is all but excited to be in his presence, but he does have the answers she seeks: why does Power Girl feel like a loner? Why does she constantly feel like an outsider? Could it be, perhaps, that she does not originate on the world she currently calls "home?"

Psycho-Pirate informs Power Girl that she is in fact Kara Zor-L, the daughter or another universe's Zor-L. Like the current Earth's Supergirl, Power Girl also made the journey from Krypton to Earth--a parallel Earth where the Justice Society originated, an Earth once known as Earth-2. He also informs her that her best friend was in fact the Huntress, but the Huntress who was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman on her world, Helena Wayne. One question looms, however. How come Power Girl survived the collapse of the multiverse when others like Helena Wayne and the Earth-2 Dick Grayson did not?

Psycho-Pirate continues to taunt Power Girl about her survival status and the fact that she unfairly survived the collapse of the multiverse when others did not. Power Girl finally feeling fed-up with the Psycho-Pirate's taunts defeats him, but he turns out to be a hallucination. On her way back to Justice Society headquarters, Kara ruminates about what the Psycho-Pirate has told her and believes he is right. That she doesn't belong on a world where her entire history, family, and friends were erased from existence.

Inside JSA headquarters, Kara tries to hold back tears as she avoids thinking about how the collapse of the multiverse has destroyed her life and made her feel less whole. Ma Hunkel sees Kara and approaches her to ask what's wrong. Kara at first tries to ignore her own feelings and pretend everything is alright, but eventually breaks down in front of Ma. After crying on her shoulder for a bit, she eventually tells her about Earth-2, Helena Wayne, and how the Justice Society was the only superhero team on that Earth. Power Girl then departs, not feeling any better than she originally did. She still feels alone.

In the epilogue, Psycho-Pirate reveals to Lex Luthor that he succeeded in breaking Power Girl's self-confidence, and that they are now ready to proceed with their plans. Psycho-Pirate, however, makes one request to Luthor: when all is said and done, he wants Power Girl as his prize.

Review: We are approaching the final day of Hanukkah, and with it, the 41st anniversary mark of Power Girl's publication. There could be no heart-wrenching way to end the year and Power Girl's 40th anniversary than discussing the final chapter of Geoff Johns and Amanda Conner's JSA Classified story arc that serves as a prelude to Infinite Crisis.

Without question, this is my favourite chapter of the series, and that is mainly for the final scene at the conclusion of this story arc where everything Johns and Conner have been building towards comes together. Nothing broke my heart faster than seeing Power Girl sitting by herself at JSA headquarters, being comforted by Ma Hunkel, and it was all in the delivery by both Johns and Conner.

When it comes to any narrative, it is never the "main plot" nor the conflict that hooks me. It is always the characters. When a writer spends time developing strong, believable characters who experience real thoughts and emotions, I tend to find those narratives more emotionally engaging. You actually have a reason to care about the characters and what they are going through. That is exactly what both Johns and Conner bring to the table as they wrap up Power Girl's journey through her turbulent past before setting her up for the events of Infinite Crisis where her authentic past is finally, explicitly revealed.

I really enjoyed how much thought Johns put into Power Girl's character and his careful execution of the complex emotions this character would experience as a consequence of losing a huge chunk of her personal history and family with the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot. It was even meta as it addressed how that particular reboot not only hurt Power Girl's history and legacy, but even resulted in the erasure of other fan favourite characters like the Earth-2 Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne, who were the legacies of the Golden Age Batman. In Johns addressing those problems, it put a stronger weight to Power Girl's feelings, especially when she started recalling how important these people were to her on the pre-Crisis Earth-2 to Ma Hunkel. And of course, he didn't accomplish this alone. Amanda Conner was staple to delivering all of those emotional beats in Johns' script.

Whenever I think of Amanda Conner's art, I always think about the comedic situations her characters are often put through, but here she actually does something very different. While there are still humorous moments in this issue (most notably during the Psycho-Pirate scenes), the way she delivers the sadder scenes really kicks you in the gut. Even the way she draws the hallucination of Helena Wayne is heart-wrenching.

When depicting the scene where Power Girl "encounters" her best friend for the first time in decades, Conner does make the hallucinatory Helena Wayne look authentic by accurately depicting how that character would react to the reality of being erased from existence and being forgotten by the most important people in her life. Even though Helena Wayne isn't really there, she still feels real because of the amount of detail Conner puts into depicting her sorrow.

The way Conner draws Power Girl in her most vulnerable moments are equally heart-breaking as well. You legit feel sad for her. In fact, I always cry at the scene with her and Ma Hunkel because of the way Conner draws Power Girl's emotional pain. When it comes to depicting Power Girl trying to hide that internal pain, it still shows through Conner's meticulous use of facial expression how Power Girl tries to kid herself into thinking she's not in pain before really cracking. She does that transition very well.

I don't know how else to say it other than the fact that Conner's page-by-page execution of Johns' script is superb, effectively demonstrating her versatility as an artist. Every panel is so fluid and on point, she helps to complete the emotional journey, not only for the character, but for the reader as well. If Conner wasn't nominated for an award for this comic, she definitely should've been because her artistic execution is perfect. Absolutely flawless work on her part.

On the whole, this is among the best Power Girl stories in the character's publication history, and one that's definitely worth checking out. Though set within the post-Crisis continuity and isn't still relevant at this point with the character now back in her native Earth-2 universe, as a standalone story, it still holds pretty well on its own.


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