REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS POWER GIRL
It's a bird, it's a plane it's -- whoa, that's not Superman! That's not even Supergirl, although there's certainly no mistaking the gender!
No, it's Power Girl, a popular character within the DC Comics Universe, and recently inducted into the DC Universe Classics line of action figures.
Some time ago, Walmart offered an exclusive assortment of Mattel's excellent action figures. Dubbed "Wave 5", this assortment proved -- elusive. To put it mildly.
So it was with some understandable concern when I heard that Wave 10 of the DC Universe Classics line was also destined to be a Walmart exclusive, especially given the extremely impressive character line-up. Fortunately, this particular wave is proving somewhat easier to obtain -- as easy as any of the waves are, anyway, which isn't saying much. Nevertheless, I did come across the majority of Wave 10, including Power Girl!
As to her origin -- well, that gets a little tricky. She was originally the cousin of the Superman of Earth-2, which represented the Golden Age heroes. But when the Crisis on Infinite Earths merged the one-time multiverse into a universe, and Power Girl survived, her backstory was significantly rewritten. Then along came the Infinite Crisis, which brought back the multiverse -- in a somewhat different form -- I'll just let Wikipedia try to explain it:
Power Girl (real name Kara Zor-L, also known as Karen Starr) made her first appearance in All Star Comics #58 (January/February 1976).
Power Girl is the Earth-Two counterpart of Supergirl and the first cousin of Kal-L, Superman of the pre-Crisis Earth-Two. The infant Power Girl's parents enabled her to escape the destruction of Krypton. Although she left the planet at the same time that Superman did, her ship took much longer to reach Earth-Two.
Possessing superhuman strength and the ability to fly, she is a member of the Justice Society of America and the team's first chairwoman. Power Girl sports blond hair; wears a distinctive white, red, and blue costume; and has an aggressive fighting style. Throughout her early appearances in All Star Comics, Power Girl was frequently at odds with Wildcat, who had a penchant for talking to her as if she were an ordinary human female rather than a superpowered Kryptonian, which she found annoying.
The 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths eliminated Earth-Two, causing her origin to change; she became the granddaughter of the Atlantean sorcerer Arion. However, story events culminating in the 2005-2006 Infinite Crisis limited series restored her status as a refugee from the Krypton of the destroyed pre-Crisis Earth-Two universe.
Kara's father discovers that Krypton is about to explode, and places her in a spacecraft directed towards the Earth. Although this occurs at the same time that Kal-L's ship is launched, Kara's ship travels more slowly, and she arrives on Earth decades after her cousin has landed. Kara's Symbioship is designed to keep her in stasis during the journey and provide her with life experiences and education in the form of virtual reality. The Symbioship allows her to interact with virtual copies of her parents and fellow Kryptonians within her home city of Kandor. By the time she arrives on Earth, Kara is in her early twenties. As mentioned in JSA Classified #1, her age at arrival has been retconned to about eighteen in post-Crisis continuity.
Power Girl's existence is not revealed to the general public until much later; her cousin Clark and his wife Lois Lane provide her a family environment to assist her transition towards real life relationships. In her first recorded adventure, Kara assists Justice Society members Flash and Wildcat with containing an artificially induced volcanic eruption in China. She then joins Robin and Star-Spangled Kid to form a Super Squad to assist the Justice Society in defeating Brainwave and Per Degaton. Later, she becomes a full member of the Society when Superman retires from active membership.
Having been raised by the Symbioship with artificial Kryptonian life experiences, Power Girl finds it difficult to adapt to life on Earth. However, with the help of reporter Andrew Vinson, she adopts the secret identity of computer programmer Karen Starr. On the pre-Crisis Earth-Two, Power Girl's closest friend is the Huntress, the daughter of the Earth-Two Batman and Catwoman -- Sort of an Earth-2 version of the friendship between Batgirl and Supergirl.
Now here's where things get weird...
The 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series erased the existence of Earth-Two, and Power Girl's continuity was thus substantially disrupted. Initially she believed herself to be Superman's cousin, as she had been before the reboot. However, her background was retconned; she was told that she was the descendant of the Atlantean sorcerer Arion, a character who had participated in the Crisis and who had had his own comic book series, but was from an ancient time and as such didn't interact with the modern-day heroes, and was frozen in suspended animation for millennia until the present day.
After the Justice Society disbands, Power Girl would join the Justice League. Later, while a member of Justice League Europe, she suffers a near fatal injury while battling a mystical being. Superman must assist in her medical treatment, using his heat-vision to perform surgery on her otherwise-invulnerable tissues. Although she recovers, Power Girl is significantly weaker, as she lost her vision powers and could not fly for a time.
Power Girl was one of Oracle's first agents. Their short-lived partnership ended after a disastrous mission which resulted in a large loss of life. Power Girl believes that Oracle's poor leadership was responsible for the tragedy. Although she has worked with her again on a few occasions when needed, the relationship between the two is tense. In Birds of Prey #35, Power Girl admitted that she is primarily to blame for the tension, but is unable to overcome the memories of the deaths.
Power Girl is a key member of the Justice Society, which she joined when it was reformed in the late 1990s. During an adventure with the JSA, she meets Arion, who reveals her Atlantean heritage to be a lie he concocted at the behest of Power Girl's "mother".
Leading up to the events of Infinite Crisis, the Psycho-Pirate shows Kara multiple versions of her origin in an effort to drive her insane, including some that never had any bearing on the character, including membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. Eventually, he reveals the truth: Power Girl is a survivor of Krypton from the dimension which contained the pre-Crisis Earth-Two.
In the pages of the Infinite Crisis limited series, Kal-L, the Earth-Two Superman, himself returns to the post-Crisis DC Universe after breaking down the walls of the dimension in which he, Lois Lane Kent, Alexander Luthor, Jr., and Superboy-Prime had been living since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Kal-L's first order of business is to track down Power Girl and explain the events of the original Crisis to her. Kal-L also reiterates her pre-Crisis history as his cousin. A touch from the ailing Lois of Earth-Two inexplicably restores Power Girl's memories of pre-Crisis Earth-Two.
Power Girl remains a core member of the Justice Society. She was selected as the chairwoman of the team after Mr. Terrific stepped down.
Power Girl recently (as of this writing) gained her own comic series. After deciding to once again use the Karen Starr identity, she moved to New York City and began rebuilding Starr Enterprises while continuing solo superheroics. She has taken teenaged hero-in-training Terra as her sidekick following the events depicted in the Terror Titans mini-series.
As to her powers and abilities: Power Girl exhibits all of the classic Kryptonian powers of Superman: super strength, flight, super speed, invulnerability, x-ray vision, heat vision, and super-hearing.
Although Power Girl is a survivor of an alternate universe, her biology is similar to Superman's. As one of a handful of alternate-universe characters who survived the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Power Girl's abilities have fluctuated in the period after 1986. For some time, Power Girl believed herself to be an Atlantean. At one point, Power Girl possessed telekinesis; at another she was vulnerable to attacks by earth and nature elements (for example, she was vulnerable to wooden weapons). After sustaining severe injuries from a magic attack during her Justice League Europe membership, Power Girl retained only a degree of super strength, super speed, and enhanced durability. However, she later recovered her ability to fly, and writers have gradually restored her panoply of superpowers.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. Female figures in the DC Universe Classics line have been relatively minimal, which perhaps is no great surprise. Most of them have used, to one degree or another, portions of a common body mold, including Harley Quinn, Starfire, and to a lesser degree, Catwoman. Others, such as Big Barda, have been entirely unique.
Almost without question, the most impressive female DC Universe Classics figure is Wonder Woman. Taller and moderately more muscular than most of the others, the Amazing Amazon was clearly designed to represent someone who could stand aside the great male heroes of the DC Universe as an equal.
Power Girl, not exactly a shrinking violet (no offense intended towards the Legion of Super-Heroes member of that name), shares at least some of the same body molds as were used on Wonder Woman. This would include the upper arms, mid and lower torso, and upper legs.
As for the upper torso, let's just say that even if she didn't have super-powers, she wouldn't exactly be at risk of drowning. Power Girl is quite -- ah -- well-endowed, to the point where it's become a mild recurring gag in the comics. Even WikiPedia addresses it:
Power Girl's costume design has varied greatly over the years. Her classic costume design from All-Star Comics #58 is that which is in use today: a red cape and belt, blue gloves and boots, and a white bodysuit sporting a cleavage exposing window on her chest.
Between that and her -- physical properties -- it's unavoidable that the matter has been addressed from time to time. WikiPedia continues: The character is consistently depicted as a large breasted young woman, and her physique is one of her most recognizable attributes — to the extent that various writers have acknowledged it in both serious and humorous ways.
For example, Justice League Europe #37 attempts to explain Power Girl's revealing costume by having Crimson Fox question her about it; she receives the reply that the costume "shows what I am: female, healthy. If men want to degrade themselves by staring, that's their problem, I'm not going to apologize for it."
Conversely, in JSA: Classified #2, writer Geoff Johns has Power Girl explain her cleavage-window to Superman, revealing that "the first time I made this costume, I wanted to have a symbol, like you. I just…I couldn't think of anything. I thought eventually, I'd figure it out. And close the hole. But I haven't."
How well known is this particular attribute of Power Girl's? When Mattel announced that the character was going to be featured in the DC Universe Classics line, they had to subsequently assure fans and collectors that a distinct upper torso WOULD be sculpted for the figure, and indeed it has been.
Overall, the figure is truly an excellent likeness of the character. The headsculpt is very nicely done. Power Girl has a very pleasant expression on her face, but there's just a bit of a look there that the first person to make a wrong move or say the wrong thing is going to wake up in a hospital. Her relatively short blond hair is a separately-sculpted piece that is very well detailed and painted.
The costume is excellent, and clearly had to include distinctive lower arms and lower legs to compensate for Power Girl's distinctive blue gloves and boots, which have cuffs.
Power Girl has a fairly short red cape, attached to a gold rope which actually goes over Power Girl's left shoulder and under her right arm. The cape, although somewhat "pre-posed" to look like it's mildly wind-blown, is actually made from a far more flexible plastic than some capes I've encountered in this line. I still hold up as an example here Mister Miracle, whose cape is so stiff it actually hinders the movement of the figure.
Bizarrely, the cape is just heavy enough on Power Girl to tip her balance a bit. On a figure whose -- reputation would have you think that she's a little front-heavy, she's actually a bit back-heavy because of the cape! Come on, Mattel, you didn't need to compensate for it that much! ;)
Power Girl is, of course, superbly articulated. She is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Any complaints? The legs are a little looser than I'd like, and this can affect what it takes to get her to stand up. Granted, I would prefer slightly loose legs to "so stuck they'll break clean off if you try to move 'em", a problem that has plagued this line far too much, but I think there needs to be a median point here, and Mattel's still trying to find it somewhat. The "loose leg" scenario has been turning up more and more lately, and it worries me.
However, I would have to say that Power Girl is a superb entry in the generally excellent DC Universe Classics line, which to me represent the finest super-hero action figures that have ever been crafted for the standard retail market. There are still a few matters that need to be addressed, but I am trying to be confident of Mattel's ability and intention of doing so. Clearly, based on interviews with Mattel personnel, there is a sincere love and respect for this line within Mattel, and a determination to do right by these legendary characters.
So, what's my final word here? Power Girl has been an interesting part of the DC Universe for quite a few years now. Granted she's not as well known as Supergirl or Wonder Woman, but she's still an impressive character, and current reports indicate that her own title is performing admirably well.
And there haven't really been that many action figures of her over the years, either. So here's your chance to get a really superb figure of this distinctive character from DC and Mattel -- start checking every Walmart in your area!
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of POWER GIRL definitely has my highest recommendation!