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Power Girl
Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, and others
Titan graphic novel £7.99

review by J.C. Hartley

The blurb on the back of this book asks, "Who is Power Girl? ... Superman's cousin? ... Granddaughter of an ancient Atlantean sorcerer? ... Pawn in a game of cosmic chess?" My wife suggested there was another question that might be posed about the super heroine, which I correctly guessed to be, "Why are her boobs so big?" This compilation of stories from the late 1970s to, almost, the present day, engages with the various origins of Power Girl, and suffers from the fact that what we might really prefer is a single coherent narrative from some point in her career.

Originally Power Girl was the golden age Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-L; like her cousin Kal-L she was rescued from the destruction of their home planet of Krypton by being blasted to safety in a rocket made by her father. Kara's dad wasn't the scientist his brother was, and Kara's rocket took longer to reach Earth by which time she had achieved young adulthood, both in reality and in a virtual world projected during her suspended animation by the Symbioship that brought her to Earth. Of course the Earth that Kal-L and Kara arrived on was Earth-Two, the parallel world created in the DC multiverse to account for continuity lapses between golden, silver, and modern age versions of their heroes.

The first storylines in this collection feature Power Girl learning the secrets of the Symbioship, and her off-world origins, teaming up with nosy journalist Andrew Vinson, who supplies her with a secret identity as software expert Karen Starr, and her rescue of fellow Justice Society of America members Green Lantern and The Flash, from cranially-extended super-villain Brainwave.

In 1985 DC tried to rationalise the multiverse in its Crisis On Infinite Earths series, which resulted in the merging of Earths One and Two and the death, disappearance or exile to Paradise Dimensions of various heroes. Power Girl survived the cull, but was in need of a new origin. Power Girl's Kryptonian origins were revealed to have been a protective illusion, as she emerged as granddaughter of Arion, one of the magical Lords of Atlantis, in a storyline supplied by writer Paul Kupperberg.

Just shy of 20 years later DC, under the control of Dan DiDio, decided to stir the plot again, in the Countdown To Infinite Crisis, sequences and spin-offs, and the eventual time and universe spanning Infinite Crisis series itself. Power Girl's original origin came back into play as Kal-L, Superman of Earth-Two, escaped from the Paradise Dimension, and Power Girl herself suffered a period of fluctuating power levels, and almost schizophrenic identity problems, exacerbated by the interference of the Psycho Pirate who was trying to drive her insane.

That's the background to the storylines, which, it has to be said, you don't really need to know to be able to follow the stories, although things do get a bit hectic in the latter section of the book. The big question remains, what's with the tits?

Geeky mid-teen boys have always been attracted to the sexy super-powered cartoon women they found in comics, just as their elders are attracted to the flesh and blood cartoon women they see on TV and in the movies. The proportions of the females portrayed in the comics have become ever more unlikely, and this was something Marvel tried to exploit with its notorious 'swimsuit' editions in the 1980s. Park Cooper in 'With Great Breasts Come Great Responsibility' (Sequential Tart), makes a witty analysis, and it would be nice if the trend, and the associated profusion of amateur and professional art to be easily found on the Internet, could inspire a scholarly study, but really what is there to say?

From busty beginnings in the 1970s, Power Girl has just about reached maximum inflation in our own decade but, and here is where post-modernism comes to our aid, that's okay, because some of the most fast and bulbous portrayals are by a female artist, the talented Amanda Conner, and Power Girl has taken to passing comment herself. Why wear a mask when no one's looking at your face? She even catches the female super-types copping an eyeful; this has an authentic ring, my wife describes how she and her friend are regularly rendered speechless by their work colleagues' ever more visible bosoms. We're lucky in the early part of the 21st century, it's okay to read comics and it's okay to like pictures of attractive women, but it's best not to go on about art and sociology, and it would be wise not to imagine that this state of affairs will last forever.
Power Girl

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