Reviewer: Kevin S. Mahoney
Story Title: Powertrip Part I of IV
Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Amanda Conner
Inked by: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colored by: Paul Mounts
Lettered by: Rob Leigh
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
This is the first issue of the JSA expansion book, JSA Classified. It’s tough not to read it without thinking about the high level of excellence of its parent periodical. The excellent characterization, first-rate art, and gianormous and cameo-filled plots of JSA are a tough act to follow. This series, created as a spotlight for individual members of the team that are not getting as much attention in the main magazine, will supposedly focus on one hero per arc, most likely with lots of variation in the time period examined. A JSA fan might hope that the initial tale would star one of the mainstays: Alan Scott, a Tyler, Ted Grant, or Dr. Fate. Instead, this arc is devoted to the untangling of one of the newest members, Powergirl. While the inaugural choice might seem downright odd, it has a couple things going for it. For starters, Powergirl has fans from her previous team series like Birds of Prey or JLA. Second, her upcoming origin has been hinted at in JSA for months and months. If this story wasn’t told soon, readers would begin having the seizures that result from being promised something which gets delayed and rescheduled to the point of ridiculousness.
The issue itself seems more intent on tearing apart previous explanations for Powergirl’s abilities than providing a theory that might explain her convoluted history. While that approach helps unfamiliar readers understand exactly how big a mystery her past is, it’s old hat for her fans. The appearance of powers and weaknesses she ought not have (X-ray vision, super hearing) muddies the water even further, if such a thing is possible. While these occurrences certainly help the reader sympathize with Peeg, it neutralizes the plot’s momentum. Combine that stutter-stepping series of events with a late appearance by a few members of the Legion, and any continuity-obsessed fan would be in the market for a rubber room for an extended time out. An issue of a series might forgivably lack direction now and then, but it’s a lot more noticeable (and unfortunate) in a first issue. It’s tough to root for a series when there’s no indication of where it will go.
The art in this issue exceed the standard in an atypical fashion. The simple and cartoony style suits the arc’s protagonist. She seems a holdover from a less complex time. The art isn’t content to just present a nostalgic interpretation of the modern DCU. There is nifty dropped in written content that actually drives home a plot point. There are a couple of absolutely intentional cheesecake shots for the theoretically older readers among us. Even the sunny and bright color palette informs the reader about the way of life of Power girl. All in all, the art succeeds far more readily and completely than the story. This is well below what most readers expect of Geoff Johns, the arc’s writer and mastermind behind JSA.
The Final Word: Pretty pictures cannot rescue a confusing tale that’s supposed to work towards ending confusion. Fan faith might keep readers onboard for the rest of the arc, but if the individual installments do not improve, this book will not last.