Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Power Girl #12

Power Girl #12

Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Amanda Connor
Released: May 26, 2010

Years ago, I attended a fashion show in San Francisco as part of a benefit for AIDS research. As befitting a cause such as this in a city of such charm and grace, the event lured much star wattage. Magic Johnson co-hosted, and the surprise musical guest to end the evening was the one and only, the inimitable Liza Minnelli. And before you click the back button on your browser to double-check what the hell it is you are actually reading, yes, this is a review of Power Girl #12. Back to my story. There she stood, Liza with a Z, all in endless drapes of black sequins, short jet-black hair chopped in a ragged version of her Sally Bowles cut, to the rapturous applause of a grateful, gleeful, and predominantly gay, crowd. Then she sang. A small medley of her hits, ending, of course, with a full rendition of Cabaret. And while the old chanteuse warbled and labored, it was grand spectacle, and a wonderful reminder of what glorious and amazing work we as an audience had been blessed with because of her.

This is sorta, kinda, how I felt upon reading Power Girl #12, the final issue of the year-long run on this book by writers Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and artist Amanda Connor. It is a medley of greatest hits, the type of set-piece performed by a mega-star musician for a Super-Bowl half-time show. There is the chorus from Little Red Corvette, followed by a few bars from I Would Die For You, then maybe the bridge to Get Off, ending with the crescendo from Purple Rain. It's glorious, sure, but choppy, and makes you want to just go and listen to the original tracks in full. So, here we get a beautiful scene with Terra in her home-world; then some villains engaged in some post-coital banter that tells us the coitus was perhaps not completely consensual; a day in the life of your average house cat; then there's a little red-haired kid; and then Vartox makes a triumphant return to fight with a cuckolded space alien somewhere in mid-town Manhattan. It all ends as things should end, with cake. Glorious, but choppy, and immediately I wanted to reread the entire run.

What is amazing about this issue is how exuberantly fun it is to just behold. Talking about any slight perceived flaws feels ugly, in fact, because the overall effect of the issue is one of such intense goodwill and joy, complaining about anything feels like pointing out gray hairs on Bob Barker, after he's just given you the keys to a BRAND NEW CAR! Get in the damn car, already!

So, let's talk, instead about all the great things, like that scene between Terra and PG as they lounge at an underworld "spa", bonding emotionally while wearing rainbow-colored, 'mood-ring' bikinis even the most liberal Brazilian sunbather may find revealing. Here, the absolute youthful uninhibited nature of Terra shines as she declares with such effusiveness that PG is her best friend. It's deeply touching and genuine, a magical feat given how surreal the scene itself actually is. "You're my best friend, Kara." I believe her, and it's the best line in the entire book.

And, of course, what Power Girl mix-tape would be complete without a Vartox appearance. It would be like peanut butter with no jelly or Jay-Z with no Beyoncé, just plain not right. So, the greatest character ever created drops his science on the second best track, as he battles with a space husband whose wife he may or may not have taken aboard his headship, if you know what I mean. (*wink) I now begin my campaign to implore DC to give Vartox his own solo monthly, with a back-up feature entitled Space Husband.

"Wait a minute", I hear you saying... "is he going to write a whole review about Power Girl, Liza Minnelli, Prince, and Vartox, and NOT mention the one and only, the endlessly talented, the seemingly indestructible, always irresistible, international super-star artist, Amanda Connor?!?" Of course not, but saying Ms. Connor is in possession of remarkable skills as both a draftsman and storyteller is like calling New York the greatest city in the world, it's stating the obvious. Every single page of the issue absolutely vibrates with life; actual honest-to-goodness, hot-blooded life. Her characters seem to barely contain themselves. Every emotion, every word of dialogue manifests itself in bold expressions of both face and body. If this were a film, the actors would be labeled fully-cooked hams (water-added) and would be laughed out of the industry. This is a comic book, though, and a superhero book at that. There are capes and masks and robots and women with animal parts and space aliens with dreadlocks and a sex scene with Grant Morrison (or is that Dr. Sivana?) and Ms. Connor turns the volume all the way up to eleven. My windows shook with the turn of each page. I felt like the guy in the old Memorex adverts from the '80's. Is it live or is it Amanda Connor? Amazing.

Sadly, children, as stated, this issue is the last in this amazing teams' run. This medley, this mixtape, this greatest hits collection with bonus track, is the swan song of this fine trio of Gray, Palmiotti, and Connor. Worn, battered, and bruised from a fine year of recording and touring, these valiant artists take a final bow as the curtain lowers on the first year of Power Girl. Yes, a new creative team is taking over the reins, and the character has been given a strong new life that seems built to last, but still it will not be the same. It never is. As I reflect on this, my mind wanders back to Ms. Minnelli and her signature tune from that seminal play of Berlin in the 1920's, Cabaret. At the end of the show, as our intrepid writer stands at customs ready to board a train to leave Berlin, the passport agent wishes him well and a speedy return to Germany, to which Bradshaw replies that is "not very likely". "You did not find our country beautiful?", the agent retorts. Bradshaw's simple reply to this, "Yes, I found it beautiful."

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