This week sees the release of Power Girl Special #1 with a lead story that concludes the “Head Like a Whole” arc that’s been serialized in Action Comics #1051-1053 and which spun out of the events of Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1. Leah Williams (Story), Marguerite Sauvage (Art and Colors), Marissa Louise (Colors) and Becca Carey (Letter) pit Power Girl and Omen in a showdown with Johnny Sorrow that follows directly from the cliffhanger in Action Comics #1053. While the actual resolution is not bad, and the story focuses on how Power Girl sees herself, there’s a major disconnect between who this Power Girl is supposed to be and who Power Girl has actually been in the comics. More than anything else, this storyline feels like a rebranding/ reinvention of the character just for the sake of doing it. And, by the end, it feels like Williams’ familiarity with the character comes solely from Power Girl’s Wikipedia entry.
Who is Power Girl?
Rebranding is not new to Power Girl. This happened before after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Originally, Power Girl was the original Earth-Two analog of the Earth-One Supergirl. Kara Zor-L (original Earth-Two Kryptonian name) was launched towards Earth from Krypton but arrived later than her cousin Kal-L (Superman). She didn’t make a public appearance immediately and was instead transitioned into real life by Lois and Clark who were married by this time on Earth-Two and who provided a family environment for Kara. After the Crisis, and the elimination of the entire Earth-Two universe from DC continuity, Kara would be retconned to be a descendant of Arion Lord of Atlantis. She even had some telekinetic powers. Is this where Williams got the idea for her new psychic abilities? While the Atlantean connection stuck for a while, eventually Kara was returned to her original origin. In JSA Classified #1-4, Geoff Johns restored her pre-Crisis history in a story drawn by Amanda Conner. Fans had been unsatisfied with Kara’s Atlantean origin ever since it first debuted, and the return of her original continuity was greeted joyously! Power Girl went on to star in her first ongoing solo series also drawn by Conner and co-written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. It remains a great series and one of the high points of her published adventures. This is all to demonstrate that rebranding Power Girl into something she isn’t goes against what many people like about the character. Attempting to rebrand the character with psychic abilities moves her further from who she is, from who she’s supposed to be. The fact that this series doesn’t seem to know which version of Power Girl this is doesn’t help.
What I mean by that is that most of the character beats and the history of the Power Girl in Power Girl Special #1 indicate that this is more likely the New 52 version of the character. Both histories have some commonalities- cousin to Superman, best friends with Helena Wayne Huntress, but Johnny Sorrow who’s targeted PG indicates that he and Power Girl are the last two survivors of their world. This seems to point to the destruction of Earth-2 in Earth-2 World’s End. Conversely, if this is supposed to be the New 52 version, Power Girl references an incident that she witnessed between Sorrow and Stargirl which took place pre-New 52. This only confuses the issue more as it seems as though this Power Girl could be some amalgam of both Power Girls. Furthermore, this particular incident is not a major point in Power Girl’s life that Williams references, although it is something that is noted on the Wikipedia page for Power Girl. Reliance on the Wikipedia page would also explain why there are conflicting aspects of the history that have been presented in this story arc. If the writer really doesn’t have an understanding of either version’s history, it could be easy to pick the highpoints on the Wikipedia page to make it look like the writer knew the character. Why would Psycho-Pirate show up in Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1 which clearly indicates she is the original Earth-Two version and Johnny Sorrow also claim he and PG are the only two survivors of their world in Power Girl Special #1? She can’t be from both iterations of Earth-Two/ 2!
Though it first appeared in Action Comics #1053, giving Kara a new name, Paige, falls short. It should be noted that in Justice Society of America, the title that is currently reintroducing the JSA to the DC Universe, she’s still called Karen. Even the new main Earth Huntress who comes from the future and knows PG IN the future calls her Karen. Rebranding and making her someone she’s not doesn’t draw readers in. There is an audience for Power Girl, and it’s because of her connections to the original Earth-Two and DC history which is why she’s a member of the Justice Society. Rebranding tosses away the life she had as Karen Starr quite flippantly. It claims that Karen’s identity didn’t really exist. It’s important to show what’s transpired instead of telling long-time fans that what they know just…isn’t. When did this happen DC? Karen Starr was a viable identity that PG used both pre-52 and during the New 52. She owned and ran a successful computer software company in both versions. Was Karen Starr declared dead at some point? Hopefully, Power Girl’s appearance in One-Star Squadron is an out of continuity appearance, her characterization is woeful and way out of character. Mark Russel can be brilliant, but it’s better to use analogs than the actual characters you’re satirizing.
DC may want to try and distance Power Girl from her original incarnation with new powers and a new identity, but it’s been tried before and didn’t work. The root of this seems to be that DC and presumably Leah Williams don’t really know who Power Girl is in continuity or what matters to fans of the character. People aren’t drawn simply to a costume (although the classic is much better than this new one- the ’90’s called, they want their jacket back!), readers are drawn to WHO the character is, a personality, the established relationships- why do you think Spider-Man readers can’t let go of the Pete/MJ relationship? Readers know they are supposed to be together, PG readers know who she is and how she acts, and it’s got nothing to do with psychic powers or insecurities that have already been dealt with. And, they’ve been dealt with much more effectively and in line with her established characterization and history. Re-hashing how she sees herself has already been done and done better. The whole purpose of JSA Classified #1-4 was to wrap up inconsistencies and have Power Girl come to terms with her memories of her pre-Crisis life. She thought she was going crazy, but her memories WERE her true history. She really was a survivor of the original Earth-Two, a world that no longer existed. The only other survivor of that world was Psycho-Pirate, not Johnny Sorrow.
Ingenue? Kara Didn’t Arrive on Earth Yesterday
With the collapse of The New 52, “Rebirth” saw the New 52 Power Girl (and Huntress) disappear. A Power Girl returned from limbo with the Justice Society of America in Doomsday Clock, indicating that this is the original version of the character who was a member of the JSA for years. The New 52 version wouldn’t have any connection to the main Earth JSA. Neither version of Kara would have any of the identity hang ups the one we see in Power Girl Special #1 working through. The original PG already did that, as mentioned above in the JSA Classified arc, and the New 52 iteration NEVER had an identity crisis of sorts, because she ALWAYS knew she was from a different Earth. It was part of the character’s status quo.
This Kara or Paige (yuck) appears to be an ingenue. One particular moment in the story recapitulates the notion that this PG is new to this world, really new- she tells Omen she’s her best friend. Didn’t they just meet five minutes ago in Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1? This single line indicates that neither Kara pre-New 52 or New 52 had much in the way of friends. This is wholeheartedly incorrect. While Huntress (Helena Wayne) and PG are together again for the first time in last week’s Justice Society of America #4, we’ve seen plenty of flashback scenes in that series with Power Girl as a member of the JSA, clearly indicating that this is the original Power Girl from the original Earth-Two in the JSA book. Even if Kara had a hard time reconciling her place in the world, she had friends on the JSA. Furthermore, Power Girl has almost always been linked with the JSA even during her Atlantean heritage days instead of the main Earth Super-family. It seems odd that she’d wish to suddenly have a new relationship with them since the JSA which has long been her true family has returned. She actually returned WITH them. She has long history with the JSA, she’s not new to this world. In the current Justice Society of America comic, we see Power Girl as part of the team. The book jumps between different times and PG is ALWAYS there. She isn’t struggling in her identity or confidence. She even explicitly states that the situation they’re investigating is a JSA matter, and it’s always been a JSA matter and is the first to say they SHOULDN’T involve Superman. She clearly doesn’t need his sanction or a connection to his family to feel validated. She also wouldn’t wear the “S” shield on her costume, she made peace with that ages ago, besides she’s never looked for approval from anyone. She’s always had a streak of independence that’s an iconic aspect of her character. Seeking this from the main Earth Super-family demonstrates a lack of understanding of the character by Williams.
Crisis of Infinite Power Girls
How can these inconsistencies, continuity errors and sketchy character moments be reconciled? There are essentially three options. The character we see in Power Girl Special #1 could be the original Earth-Two version, the New 52 incarnation or a third iteration that has elements from both other versions, but is actually neither. Ultimately, without any expanded exposition it’s impossible to tell. There’s a fourth option I hazard to mention, perhaps two Power Girls exist on the main Earth now. We know she returned with the JSA in Doomsday Clock #12 (2019) and she was seen in Deathstroke Annual #1 (2018) “trapped between worlds.” Are these two different Power Girls? Or, is this a third version with elements of both histories? Or, is a literal merged version? There’s also the possibility that Williams, or DC AND Williams just don’t know what they’re doing. Most significantly, the Power Girl we see in this storyline doesn’t feel, act or sound like the one currently appearing in Justice Society of America. Whatever the case may be, it begs a certain question-
Will the real Power Girl please stand up?
Thanks to Sasha Wood of Casually Comics for pointing me in the right direction for specific issues for appearances as seen in this video on YouTube. Power Girl Returns & It’s Strange…Yes She Was Gone