Earth 2 and World’s Finest: the Power Girl/Huntress Revamp

Two new DC comics launched in the last week or so, and they were the ones I had been hanging out for: World’s Finest, in which Huntress and Power Girl are refugees from an alternate version of reality, trying to get home; and Earth 2, the story of what happened in that alternate reality after a war that wiped out Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (and the loss at the same time of Robin and Supergirl, who of course… are busy in their own comic, calling themselves Huntress and Power Girl).

So how did they stack up?

I did enjoy World’s Finest greatly – the concept of the comic is fantastic, the pacing and dialogue are excellent, and there’s nothing in there yet that makes my inner feminist want to set fire to things. As with many fans of Power Girl and Huntress, I found the reading experience a bit unsettling, because of having to get used to these different versions of the characters, who are now all that we get. But this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do that.

My first Huntress was Helena Wayne, the pre-Crisis daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and I found it very hard to adapt to the cranky mafia princess Helena Bertinelli Huntress, though I came to love her very much. And while my first Power Girl was the cheerful-while-punching-things pre-Crisis version too, the first version of her I grew deeply attached to was the bitchy short-haired canary-costumed soda addict of the early 90’s in Justice League Europe, and giving her up to embrace the gorgeous, funny, actually-makes-sense Conner/Palmiotti/Gray version required a leap of reality all in itself.

I like these characters almost always, however they are written and drawn. I even loved Power Girl when she was being drawn like an elderly bulldog with a blonde wig and hunchbacked cape in the very early JLE, so… I’m not going anywhere.

The new Huntress revamp has been the most controversial of the two, because Helena Bertinelli has a huge fan following, especially among women, and DC has chosen to discard her in favour of bringing back Helena Wayne. While the original Helena Wayne Huntress was all kinds of awesome, and I will defend her mightily, I can see why Helena Bertinelli has won so many hearts.

She’s cranky and uncompromising, she is ruthless and unafraid to be angry. She stands up to Batman and has been known on occasion to call him on his bullshit. She was one of the highlights of Gail Simone’s beloved epic run on Birds of Prey. She has a massive, complex backstory, and she’s been around for more than 20 years, so it’s unsurprising that many Helena fans are responding with a sense of betrayal, similar to what happened when the decision was made last year to get rid of Barbara Gordon’s Oracle identity and put her back to being the young Batgirl.

It really doesn’t help that the opening pages of World’s Finest refer to Helena Bertinelli as a dead woman whose identity Helena Wayne has used and is now discarding. Further anger/resentment came because the gorgeous Huntress miniseries last year implied from the start that we were reading the Helena Bertinelli we knew, only for it to be revealed at the end that it was Helena Wayne all along.

See, Kara no longer has a boob window! What an awesome feminist choice on behalf of the artist...

So yes, lots of anger and understandable resentment bubbling, which is a shame, because this is a great action-based female-led comic that does so many things right. If DC didn’t have a long history of treating female characters shabbily, the ardent fans of the existing female superheroes would probably be a lot less defensive of their sweeties.

But let’s look at the Huntress we do get for a minute, because she’s all kinds of awesome. For a start, they are continuing the new costume revealed in the mini-series, and I am a touch sad for the comics world that I am this excited a character is still not showing her midriff, but come on! Let’s have a high five for the fully dressed woman in Kevlar, holding a crossbow!

The new backstory has also changed – back in the day, Helena Wayne discovered her mother’s past when Selina Wayne was blackmailed into being Catwoman again, and killed in the process. Helena, already an adult was inspired to become a superhero partly because of the sadness and strength of her widowed father (who had long since retired as Batman) but mostly because of wanting to avenge her mother. She worked as a lawyer by day, and a superhero by night, working to uphold justice in both areas of her life.

More of this please, Mr Maguire

This Helena Wayne, also presumably of the same parents, was a superhero alongside her father – not Huntress at all, but Robin. So YAY for adding another female Robin to the ranks, and I adore the design of the high tech gear we see her using in the glimpses of her Earth 2 life. I think that the character as we see her on the page has a lot of the personality and style of Helena Bertinelli, and I enjoyed reading her. I’d love to know more about her time as Robin, and I definitely want to know more about her relationship with her mother. But for now, while I’m sorry to see previous versions of the character go, I’m prepared to accept what we’ve got now, and to find out what happens next.

Power Girl has had less controversy, because her actual backstory and character haven’t changed noticeably at all. I was glad to see that the often-forgotten Karen Starr identity is being used cleverly here, and is a part of Power Girl’s personality. She seems very similar to the Gray/Palmiotti version of the character in personality, and I like very much that we see her ambition, business sense and corporate tendencies are all still there, as well as being used to support the main drive of the World’s Finest story – that is, the quest for them to get home.

I don't miss the boob window, but oh I DO miss the awesome Amanda Conner Peege faces

The main problem with the new Power Girl is the art – and it’s not just because it seems wrong for anyone but Amanda Conner to draw her now. The biggest complaint I’ve seen about the new Power Girl is the costume, especially the lack of her ‘signature’ boob window. I’m sorry, but that boob window has well and truly run its course, and I’m not remotely sad to see it go. It’s not an essential aspect of her character AT ALL, ACTUALLY, and while some great writers and artists have done their best to justify it, I think we can happily dispense with it now.

Unfortunately, the costume they have provided for her is ugly as 80’s sin, and there’s some quite odd looking artwork (by George Perez) going on in the book which I think suggests that there is not enough confidence in her character’s ability to be memorable without flashing her boobs through a hole. It’s a bit sad to me that she looks most like the Kara I know in the scenes where she’s half-naked, and I hope that the current creators will remember that apart from making cheesecake seem funny and awesome, the other thing that Amanda Conner did in her brilliant run as Power Girl’s artist was to PUT A FREAKING JUMPER ON HER.

I have hopes it will improve. When it comes down to it, this is a fun action comic about two women who are friends and share an important quest. I think the concept is great and I did enjoy the writing between Kara and Helena, even if they aren’t quite any of the Karas and Helenas I remember. I’m sticking with it.

And I really didn’t mean to write so much about that comic and almost nothing on the other! Earth 2 is mostly an extended flashback sequence, but the art by Nicola Scott is gorgeous, and more than makes up for that. Her Earth 2 Wonder Woman is one of the most fantastic Amazon designs I’ve seen, and I liked the way she drew Helena and Kara’s Earth 2 identities – I really wish she was drawing their book!

What interests me most about this comic is the last few pages though, when I finally started getting the hang of the concept of it. They seem to be rebooting the Justice Society characters – so far Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, but I hope for more – as contemporary young superheroes, as if they were starting from scratch now. This is quite exciting, and the sort of thing I really wanted to see more of in the New 52. I think part of the reason I’m not as angry as others about the reboot of Power Girl and Huntress is that their title seems to fit more with what we were told the New 52 would be – a grand revisioning of the universe, as opposed to an occasional revisioning of the universe, which fits badly and awkwardly in with all those Batman titles that get to stay exactly the same as they were because everyone loves Batman, right?

More and more I feel that it would have been better for them to throw EVERYTHING away and start from scratch, instead of trying to have their cake and eat it too. Because mostly, the parts that seem to have been sacrificed are the parts that had less mainstream fanbases, which is why so many female readers are punching walls and STILL asking where Stephanie and Cassandra Cain are. Also, so many of the new 52 titles seem to have changed by going backwards instead of forwards – do we really need to see the Barry Allen story again? And what happens to the characters who are part of that big, messy ‘not the original but not the absolute latest version’ puddle of DC history?

So yes, if we are going to have a reboot – and there it is staring at us from September last year – then the bigger the better. As long as we’re not chucking female and minority characters out with the bathwater. I think using Earth 2 as an excuse to play with beloved old characters, and give them a new lease on life Battlestar Galactica style, is quite fun, and apparently we’re getting a Nicola Scott Hawkgirl, which is BASICALLY ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW. This book and any associated titles might be the closest thing we get to a DC equivalent of Marvel’s Ultimate universe, and I’m all for that.

I’m still reading Batgirl, Batwoman and Wonder Woman from the New 52, I enjoyed the Ray and Huntress minis, and I have not OFFICIALLY dropped other titles which I was quite enjoying but haven’t been finding time to read on my iPad, like JLI, Superboy and Teen Titans. But these two comics, World’s Finest and Earth 2, while they are flawed and problematic in places, are still the most exciting titles I’ve come across yet, since the universe changed (again). And I’m really, really glad that one of the most iconic female friendships of the DCU is where it should be, front and centre in a regular title. So I’m keeping them.

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