Friday 10 May 2013

The Best of Huntress and Power Girl: Infinity Inc #1 Review

Title: Infinity Inc #1
Story: Generations
Characters: Power Girl (Kara Zor-L), Huntress (Helena Wayne), Fury (Hippolyta Trevor), Jade (Jennifer-Lynn Hayden), Obsidian (Todd Rice), Silver Scarab (Hector Hall), Star-Spangled Kid (Sylvester Pemberton), Northwind (Norda Cantrell)
Creators: Roy Thomas (writer), Jerry Ordway (artist)
Publication Date: March 1984
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: The issue begins with a meeting of the Justice Society during the holiday season and Hawkman begins session by calling roll. Just as he mentions a shortage of help due to both Sandman and Superman's absences, a group of new costumed superheroes barges in offering to lend their help.

The actual JSA members are surprised--even annoyed by the disruption--and an all out brawl breaks out between the older JSAers and the new young heroes. Eventually things calm down when the JSAers realise that the young heroes they're fighting are their own kids and everyone takes a moment to adjust to the situation. The young heroes identify themselves as Hector Hall and Lyta Trevor (the children of Hawkman and Wonder Woman respectively), Albert Rothstein (The Atom's godchild), and Norda as the only outsider.

Hector explains that they disrupted the JSA's high priority meeting in order to apply for membership, though Green Lantern and Flash explain that the enemies they're about to face off with are the Secret Society of Super-villains who have recently escaped from their dimensional limbo (hence the high priority status of the impromptu meeting). They reject the young heroes' application for membership, implying that they lack the necessary experience they're looking for, which leads them to another kerfuffle. Eventually, Robin steps in to diffuse the situation, and all agree to take five minutes to 'debate' the issue. The younger heroes are given the condition of abiding to whatever decision the JSA members agree on with regards to membership. All four young heroes exit to the 'green room' where they discuss their origins to one another and subsequently fill the reader in on their backgrounds.

Hector goes first and confirms to his comrades that he is the son of both Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders respectively) and doesn't really describe his childhood as being a particularly happy one. When his parents weren't fighting alongside the JSA on both Earth-2 and Earth-1, they were usually travelling around the world excavating sites as archeologists, often leaving the young Hector in the care of babysitters. By the time he was old enough to go to uni, Hector saw no point in staying on the East Coast where his parents lived, and moved to California to study medicine at UCLA.

During his time as a student there, Hector participated in science research in order to gain access to the labs and be able to conduct some unauthorised research of his own. It is also at UCLA where he reunited with Lyta Trevor after years of not seeing each other. He didn't recognise Lyta right away and only realised it was her after she helped rescue one of their professors from being pancaked under a wall during an earthquake. We also learn that Lyta--like her mother--possesses the above human-average strength of an Amazon.

From there we switch over to Fury's origin and she too confirms that she is the daughter of WonderWoman and General Steve Trevor. She is actually called Hippolyta (obviously after her grandmother) and describes her life as considerably more extraordinary than Hector's. While most girls her age rode horses and talked about boys, she spent her summers on Amazon Island, and even had the chance to meet the Earth-1 Wonder Woman, leading her to consider becoming the next Wonder Woman in her mother's place on Earth-2. Diana was against the idea mostly because she wanted her daughter to go to college. Lyta was then given the choice of either going to school or spend the next few years of her life training hard for the work that being Wonder Woman actually demands.

Lyta ultimately settled for going to college instead, and applied to attend UCLA to study kinesiology. Upon reuniting with Hector, the two began a romantic relationship and Hector eventually showed Lyta what he was really working on in the school's labs. He revealed a suit he had developed from his father's anti-gravity ninth metal, which he modified with solar-power improvements. Together, they both decide to become the Silver Scarab and Fury respectively, and discuss joining the Justice Society.

The narrative then switches over to Albert Rothstein whose origins go back to Cyclotron, a villain of the Atom (Al Pratt). On Earth-2, Cyclotron had a daughter named Terri Kurtzberger who later married a man named Phil Rothstein and the two later became Albert's parents. Al's father was eventually killed in the Vietnam War, leaving Terri to raise her son her own. Al grew up to be exceptionally tall and strong, and at some point, met both Lyta and Hector, both of whom recently invited him to join them during Christmas break. Together they discuss with Al their plans of getting their parents (Hawkman and Wonder Woman) to sponsor them in the JSA, and they feel that if Al joins them, they may even get the Atom's sponsorship as well. Al is hesitant at first, but is ultimately persuaded to become a costumed hero. Fury develops a costume for him, and Al shaves his head into a mohawk, deciding on Nuklon as his codename.

Back in the present, Hector grows inpatient with the JSA, and rants that it didn't take them this long to admit Power Girl and the Huntress into the JSA. This is especially true considering that they're not that much older than they are, except by maybe a few years. Norda thinks they should all be patient and proceeds with sharing his origin.

In huge contrast with his other three comrades, Norda is half-human and half-Feitheran, a type of humanoid bird species on Earth-2. His story began in 1946 when Hawkman and Hawkgirl first discovered the hidden city of Feithera in Northern Greenland, and swore to protect it from the exploitations of men. As a result, the Hawkman family were the only humans allowed to set foot on Feithera, and at some point, Hawkman introduced a friend of his (Fred Cantrell) to Worla, the leader of Feithera. Fred met Worla's daughter Osoro, with whom he fell in love with. The two eventually married and had Norda, who later on met Hector as a young boy from his parents' visits to Feithera. He admits it must have been hard for Hector to be around him since he got to do things with Carter and Shiera that Hector never got to do with his own parents. It is further implied that Hector came to resent Norda for that, even though Norda himself has faced a whole other array off issues throughout his life as a result of his mixed heritage. Fury reassures him that he has nothing to worry about since he is amongst friends.

After a long wait, the JSA has finally voted on the decision to grant their children membership. The votes are tied seven to seven with Hawkman left to cast the final vote. The Star Spangled Kid allows the four young heroes in and Hawkman tells them that their admission to the JSA isn't granted on the grounds that they are all young and inexperienced, which sends his son Hector off on a tangent. Just as they're about to leave, two more teens show up with the intention of applying for JSA membership as well. They reveal themselves as Jennie-Lynn Hayden and Todd Rice (Jade and Obsidian respectively) and claim to be Alan Scott's children, which catches him by surprise. Jade and Obsidian challenge Alan Scott to a fight, which he accepts but is easily defeated by Jade's power pulse in her hand.

Hawkman interrupts the confrontation stating that they have a very specific reason for the meeting that's taking place that can't be further put off by disruption. He asserts that they can reapply once they gain experience, which leads to more arguing. Eventually, all six young heroes decide to have their own powwow to decide whether or not the JSA is really for them. All six depart, much to Alan Scott's dismay since he wanted to know more about who Jade and Obsidian were, especially after dropping a 'bomb' such as that on him and not provide more details. Jade and Obsidian confirm that they know he's their father, but that didn't mean they knew who their mother is.

Green Lantern starts to reflect on the JSA's decision to turn down the youngsters, though Wonder Woman feels they have a more pressing matter to discuss and that is the potential escape of the Secret Society. Huntress and Power Girl decide to depart as well finding the ageist attitudes of their senior members very off-putting. Star Spangled Kid and Robin also take notice of the JSA's hypocrisy by stating that Robin was himself admitted to the JSA when he was only a kid, and the Atom was only a college student when he joined as well. Being children of former JSA members themselves, Huntress and Power Girl decide to go talk to their six peers that were rejected, only to be stopped by Star Spangled Kid. Power Girl asserts that if she doesn't let them leave, the room they're in will 'soon have a Star Spangled wall.' With that, they both storm out. Kid admits to being half-tempted to join the walkout, much to Wonder Woman's dismay. Before they have the time to further react, their first villain, Brainwave, shows up to attack them with the rest of the Secret Society not too far behind.

Review: When it comes to Infinity Inc or any of the pre-Crisis stories that Roy Thomas wrote in the 1980s, I can never find anything to complain about (which is a good thing). Everything that he writes is so damn perfect, and the quality of his narratives are so state of the art, I never know where to begin.

With this first issue alone, Thomas manages to introduce six new characters in just 24 pages and tells the reader everything we need to know about their respective backgrounds without losing anyone. Throughout the origin stories, Thomas references previous stories that were written decades before anyone from the 1970s was born, but he also fills in the necessary details that are relevant to the story he's telling. So regardless of whether or not you've read any of the referenced stories, it doesn't really matter because Thomas fills you in on what happened in those respective narratives in ways that tie into the origins of these new heroes.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this first issue as well is how maturely everyone is written here, which is saying a lot for the era with which this story was written in. His characterisations of Huntress and Power Girl (although brief in this issue) were very spot on for two characters who were raised by Batman and Superman respectively, but I especially love the way he writes Power Girl in particular.

His version of Power Girl is my generation's version of Power Girl: she's intelligent, she's sharp in everything that she says, she's impulsive, and she's aggressive. She also has strong opinions about things that matter to her, and she never restrains herself from saying what's on her mind. She almost reminds me of Lois Lane in that regard, and it may even be a reflection of her upbringing on Earth. More importantly yet, I do love that she is written has having a lot of compassion for others, as evidenced by the fact that she was very quick to sympathise with the six youngsters who tried to apply to the JSA. She was also not afraid walk out and say 'no' when something rubbed her the wrong way. I can see why Helena Wayne loves being in her company and views her as her best friend.

The final great thing about this first issue is Jerry Ordway's gorgeous artwork. I can never stop feeling amazed by Ordway's glorious talent for realistic portrayals of people, and all of the emotion and detail that he puts into these characters as he draws them. The fact that he was only in his mid to late 20s when he started drawing comics professionally floors me every time. As an artist myself, I've been drawing most of my life ever since I was old enough to pick up a pencil and hold it. But even I don't think I've achieved the same levels awesome that he has, especially since I lack the patience to put in all the work that drawing a comic actually requires. (I know cause I had to draw three comic pages (industry standard size) for a school project once, and I got burnt out on that alone).

The only weird thing I can nitpick with this first issue was the bit about a bell ringing at the end of class at a university. I always thought that was more of a secondary/high school thing, but then again this story was written two years before I was born. So who knows if there was any truth to that. All I know is that no bells ever rung in any school I've been in growing up, so for all I know, that may have been a thing at one point. It's just one of those things that got my attention.

All in all, Infinity Inc is among the best Earth-2 books from the pre-Crisis era of comics. There's a quality to Roy Thomas' writing that goes unparalleled today, especially since the standards these days is 'be as violent and shocking as you can be---kill whoever you need to to sell the story.' In huge contrast with today's modern narratives, heroes back then were not motivated by death and tragedy and were actually inspirational people. They weren't perfect, but their hearts were always in the right place, regardless. Heroes always did what they did out of love of life and a strong desire to protect that life. This is how I feel superheroes should be like. It actually makes me sad that ALL of these positive developments went away with Crisis on Infinite Earths and never came back with the New 52 under James Robinson's direction.

While I do feel that James Robinson did make some positive changes to Earth-2 continuity, I also feel that he missed a very good opportunity to actually do something different with Earth-2 that really set it apart from the mainstream DCU Earth. No doubt he has told good stories on the current Earth-2 and has done a great job at modernising the JSA characters for a newer generation of comic readers. But! In removing the history and legacy aspect of Earth-2, in marginalising the female heirs to the Earth-2 trinity, and in downplaying the importance of relationships to the Earth-2 heroes, he consequently removed all of the unique qualities that actually made Earth-2 standout as its own world. Instead, it just literally feels like an alternate version of the mainstream DC universe. Story-wise, there's really nothing happening on the current Earth-2 that isn't already happening on Earth-Prime in some way or another. So no doubt, every time I read a pre-Crisis Earth-2 JSA story, I am immediately reminded of all of the good things that were lost in two major reboots, and never came back. It also gives me hope that others may come along the way to tell quality stories to the calibre of Roy Thomas' JSA work.


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