Friday 5 February 2016

The Best of Huntress and Power Girl: Infinity Inc #2 Review

Title: Infinity Inc #2
Story: Generations, Part 2: A Gauntlet Hurled
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: April 1984
Available In: Print | Digital

Summary: Picking up where the last issue left off, Hector Hall, Lyta Trevor, Norda Cantrell, and Albert Rothstein depart with bitter feelings of rejection from the Justice Society. They especially resent being told they lacked the level of experience the team needs to handle the kinds of threats they regularly deal with, noting that they can only obtain it by actually working alongside them. The group is joined by Jennie-Lynn Hayden and her brother Todd Rice who arrived at the JSA's doorstep to find out if Alan Scott (the Green Lantern) was really their father.

As the group discusses the turn of events that occurred inside the JSA building, they decide to stop at a fast food joint called MacTavish's (a play on McDonald's) for lunch. The fact that they arrive in their costumes draws the attention of the customers inside, most of which happen to be criminals. One of them (a woman) tries to approach Norda to tease him, but is promptly attacked by Jennie-Lynn Hayden in a knee-jerk reaction when she perceives her as a threat. The attack on the woman sparks a brawl inside the fast food joint within seconds, and the brawl is only stopped by the timely intervention of Huntress and Power Girl, who left the JSA emergency meeting to reach out to them. The group of young heroes depart to Power Girl's apartment in Gotham just as the police arrive, but not before Hector leaves cash to the MacTavish's staff to cover the damages.

At Justice Society headquarters, the older heroes are soon confronted by Henry King Jr., whom they mistake for his father (the villainous Brainwave) who previously used his physical appearance. They JSAers waste no time in attacking him, but they are quickly subdued by the younger Henry King. The brawl is ended by the intervention of the Star-Spangled Kid, who proposes that they listen to what the younger King has to say. Unfortunately for the group, the young King lost interest in wanting to communicate with them after their brutal attack on him, and is only willing to talk to the Kid alone. Both the Kid and the younger King depart to discuss the issue at hand, but King is not convinced the Kid just wanted to leave out of some super-heroic sense of 'fair play' and wants to know what his real motive is. The Kid reveals that he does have an ulterior motive, but won't discuss the details of it until they arrive at Huntress' apartment, or Power Girl's if she doesn't turn out to be home.

At Power Girl's apartment, Hector and Jennie-Lynn continue to have an argument about her (and Todd's) parentage, which is ended by Power Girl who reveals that they are not the only ones with messed-up childhoods. Power Girl reveals herself to be Kara Zor-L, the last daughter of Krypton who was rocketed off the dying planet as an infant along side her cousin, Kal-L, but her ship took longer to arrive than his. As such, she spent her entire childhood inside her symbioship, living a virtual life in a virtual-reality version of Krypton, completely devoid of any real life experiences. Huntress then reveals herself to be Helena Wayne, the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. She acknowledges that her childhood was considerably better than Kara's, but lost them both to criminals who knew them as Batman and Catwoman. Despite finding justice for them as the Huntress, she found that avenging their deaths didn't bring her the closure she wanted, and continues to fight as the Huntress in their honour.

The meeting at Kara's apartment is interrupted by the arrival of the Star-Spangled Kid and Henry King Jr, whom Kara recognises as a disguise the more villainous Brainwave used in a previous JSA mission she was apart of. She is upset to find out King is in fact the son of a villain, and is not too pleased to learn that the Kid inadvertently revealed her identity to him by bringing him to her apartment. The Kid apologises for the indiscretion, but reveals the real reason he left the JSA: to create a superhero team of his own called 'Infinity Inc.' He invites all to join, but with the condition that they must be willing to relocate to California where he plans on setting their base of operations. Lyta and Hector are already living there for uni and immediately hop on board, as does Albert Rothstein and Norda. Kara isn't sure if she wants to relocate having started a successful career in computer software on the East Coast, but expresses interest at least. Helena is similarly not sure she wants to relocate since she has a hard time letting go of Gotham as her home, but does consider going to the West Coast on vacation.

Before the group can finish discussing the details of the Kid's idea of a new superhero team, Henry King Jr. interrupts the discussion to reveal the reason he needed to talk to the JSA: ever since the Justice Society heroes placed the Secret Society of Villains into a limbo dimension in a previous mission, he's been receiving images of the Ultra-Humanite trying to force his way back into their world using his own stream. At this moment, the Ultra-Humanite manages to incapacitate the younger heroes by blasting a wave at them from the other dimension. He then awakens six of the members he needs (Lyta, Hector, Albert, Jennie-Lynn, Todd, and Norda) to send them back in time to 1942 to change the outcome of the war, as well as Earth-2's history itself.

Review: One thing Roy Thomas has always been skilled at is world building, which is exactly what he achieves with this second instalment of Infinity Inc. After presenting the origin stories of the core characters of this title, Thomas starts to further flesh out their characters and explore their place in a world where the Justice Society is universally acknowledged as this world's protectors.

Among the themes Thomas explores in this second issue is the theme of rejection on the basis of age. It's a reality that many young people can relate to because age discrimination is often the barrier that prevents aspiring individuals from being able to pursue the careers they want without the 'matching experience' to showcase for it. In the real world, many young people often have the matching education and experience that qualifies them for the jobs they want, but rarely within the setting or timeframe that most organisations want for employment.

For example, one may have experience with graphic and website design from doing these things as a hobby. However, if that individual doesn't have the experience of doing these things within the context of a business where deadlines have to be met and the work has to be done to the satisfaction of the client, that alone may disqualify an individual for a job they otherwise qualify for. If a portfolio similarly doesn't come with professional references, that too could count as 'lack of experience.' On the flip side, if one does have the matching education, but didn't intern with an organisation for a lengthy period of time, or pursued their own clients as a way of building experience, that too can disqualify a qualifying individual from the job they want. That is exactly what the Infinity Inc characters experience when dealing with the rejection of their membership into the Justice Society.

Characters like Hector Hall and Lyta Trevor are already the children of superheroes and already know what comes with the lifestyle. Lyta was trained as an Amazon as part of her upbringing, and felt she had the skills necessary to succeed her mother as Wonder Woman before Diana rejected the idea in favour of seeing her daughter pursuing higher education. When Lyta later emerged as the hero known as Fury to apply for Justice Society membership, she was just as burnt at the thought of her mother still lacking confidence in her ability to continue her work. The character who felt worse on this front was Hector, who's father (Carter Hall) broke the tie by refusing admission to both himself the other five new heroes who joined him, adding to his already existing resentment of him. Hector additionally questions how his own father can expect him to gain experience as a superhero when he's not given the opportunity to learn these skills by doing it?

Going along with the theme of rejecting new members on the basis of their age and lack of experience is the theme of setting double standards. This is most evident by the fact that membership was easily granted to the Huntress, Power Girl, Robin, and the Star-Spangled kid despite being quite young and relatively new to the superhero lifestyle themselves. A legitimate question was asked within the last instalment regarding this very issue, especially since Robin was granted membership when he was the 8-year-old sidekick of Batman, and the Atom joined when he was barely 20 in college. Another thing that challenged this idea of age and experience was how the older JSAers themselves behaved when Henry King Jr. arrived at their doorstep to inform them about the threat of the Secret Society of Villains. Instead of hearing him out, they were all quick to attack him thinking he was the original Brainwave (who used his appearance years earlier), effectively showing that age and experience didn't necessarily mean less impulsive and more strategic.

A culmination of both of these themes resulted in the setup for the rest of this series, which is the formation of Earth-2's second generation of superheroes. Aside from the six main characters who will undoubtedly undergo a lot of transformation and self-exploration as they gain experience as costumed heroes on Earth-2, Huntress and Power Girl also begin to question their place in the Justice Society and decide for themselves if they belong with this group, or the new group that's comprised of heroes closer to their age. Roy Thomas really does an excellent job at exploring these very real human themes that make these characters so easy to identify with, and he doesn't do it alone.

Artist Jerry Ordway contributes as much to Thomas' script through his pencils, and he doesn't disappoint in the way he lays out the story. He especially sells these characters on their body language and use of facial expression, which have always been some of Ordway's strengths as an artist. It will never cease to impress me how much heart and detail goes into his work, even on this title, which he illustrated when he was closer to my age! The character I am most sold by is his Power Girl who is fierce but isn't presented in a sexualised manner, nor does he ever draw attention to her cleavage the way many artists do. The character is drawn with respect, as is the Huntress who (at the time) also wore a revealing outfit. His Helena Wayne in particular is very calm and collected, which does befit a character who is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. His take on Lyta Trevor is equally impressive since he does a great job at capturing the fierce Amazonian side of her character while at the same time presenting her as outgoing. Ordway also does great at presenting Jade and Obsidian as two playful and confident teenagers who have a rebellious side to them, most notably with Jade's character.

On the whole, Infinity Inc is a comic that did a lot to build upon the mythology of Earth-2, which brought a natural sense of evolution to this continuity from the Golden Age. The story is told with a lot of love for the Justice Society characters and a strong desire to further develop their characters by expanding their families. That is something that was truly special about the pre-Crisis Earth-2, that was regrettably never replicated with the current incarnation of this world.


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