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Voodoo #2 – Review

By: Ron Marz (writer), Sami Basri & Hendry Prasetya (artists), Jessica Kholinne (colorist)

The Story: One minute you’re making love, the other you’re at each other’s throats.

The Review: Some people gave this title’s debut issue a hard time for its starting choice of setting, and perhaps this turned off readers from the series early on.  That seems an unjust gut reaction to the storytelling choices Marz is making here, since at its backbone, the title has much more to it than a lurid excuse for sexually-exploitive scenes.  But now that we’ve gotten past that hump, we can set aside that distracting controversy and speak to the issue on its own merits.

Voodoo seemed a little one-dimensional when we first saw her—for good reason, as she spent most the issue dancing and taking her clothes off (not exclusively in that order).  The most you could surmise was that she was an alien trying to fit in among humans.  Here, she makes it clear that assumption may be true, but “…I’m not one of them.  I’ll never be one of them.  And I’ll make them pay.”  Clearly, she has a purpose for being here, and it may not bode well for us.

Her vengeful agenda may surprise you, likely because we’ve been conditioned by the likes of Superman, Starfire, and Martian Manhunter to believe that all outer space visitors just want to be like us.  To have a protagonist who not only doesn’t care about acceptance, but who may actively seek our destruction certainly sends this title in an interesting new direction.

We don’t know what motivates Voodoo (certainly not our moral code, which she dismisses), but clearly, it’s enough to keep her courting danger for the sake of telepathic data-gleaning.  Though she knows her enemies are onto her, she not only sticks around, she actually goes into the lion’s den, usurping the identity of Agent Fallon’s partner (both in business and lovemaking), whom she just killed last issue.  A twisted move by any standard, but she seems completely impenitent.
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Power Girl #27 – Review

By: Matthew Sturges (writer), Hendry Prasetya (artist), Jessica Kholinne (colorist)

The Story: You’ll have to excuse Power Girl; she doesn’t usually make waves.

The Review: If you’ve ever taken a philosophy or ethics class, you’ve no doubt experienced the fictional, but strangely fraught and disturbing perils of the hypothetical question.  You were likely asked to choose between two equally awful actions, and the moral acrobatics you take to do so will probably make your soul curl into a fetal position.  As the titular character from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next says, “The only way to win the game is not to play.”

Power Girl takes that advice to heart in her last issue, which works on the ol’ ticking-clock gambit, the meatier sibling of the hypothetical question: some villain sets into motion a series of conflicts for the hero to handle in a limited time frame, both to ensure failure at some point and to test the hero’s priorities.  Karen, being no dummy and stranger to this kind of ploy, rises to the challenge by changing the rules of the game.

The success of these kinds of plots usually land fifty-fifty.  Some turn out truly tense stories which place the characters into some shady gray areas (see Secret Six #19), and others produce a functional story, no more.  This one easily lands in the latter category.  Suspense is impossible if the character in question feels no danger, and at no point, really, does P.G. even entertain the notion that she might fail—and neither do we.
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Power Girl #26 – Review

By: Matthew Sturges (writer), Hendry Prasetya (artist), Jessica Kholinne (colorist)

The Story: Showing up somewhere in the same outfit as 5,000 other people sure is awkward, ain’t it?

The Review: I’ve said my piece about women and comics this week, but considering the story we get in this issue, let me put in a couple more cents.  Even though it’s a no-brainer that women should have equal standing to men, there should be a few conditions on that point.  The most important is we shouldn’t merely promote women for the sake of promoting women, an act as false as choosing a man over a woman simply because he is a man.

On that note, Power Girl’s fourth wall-breaking speech works on a lot of levels.  In context of the story, where she attends a convention dedicated to her, it’s a very appropriate speech for the attendees.  But her words have a lot of value to us readers as well, particularly those of you who are women.  Her advice is right on the money: “…be vigilant, be true to yourself, and have the courage to speak out and to confront evil…”

Left as is, Karen’s discourse would seem to encourage the self-righteous stridence that marks most feminists, but as the rest of the issue shows, this story is less about women as heroes, and more about what makes a hero.  Once the action gets going, gender becomes irrelevant.  Whether you or the characters are male or female, anyone can appreciate “ a hero doesn’t hurt people…to get what she wants,” and “I could do more than just wear the costume…I want to deserve to.”

All very well and good, and accompanied by a rather fun premise.  I’m always curious to know how our heroes would deal with the otaku culture that would undoubtedly spring up in their wake, and really, it all works out much as you’d expect.  P.G. acts the reluctant celebrity, coming as a guest only for charity, and deals with her adoring and at times awkward (love Marnie’s paralyzing shyness just as she gets the much awaited chance to talk to Karen) cosplaying fans.
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Power Girl #25 – Review

By: Judd Winick (writer), Hendry Prasetya (artist), Jessica Kholinne (colorist)

The Story: If he can make it rain, can we say it’s literally raining men?

The Review: Just because someone’s the star of the show doesn’t mean other people can’t take a turn in the spotlight now and then.  At a certain point along the road, you’ll find the lead just can’t sustain a consistent story output anymore.  But spotlighting a guest character requires some extra work; they really have to wind up making some lasting change to the story at large to make their temporary presence worthwhile.

So does Winick make the most out of Rayhan?  Well, his love of the character is obvious, as our Quraci friend gets quite a lot of solid scenes in the issue.  It seems the more down-to-earth the story, the better Winick gets at writing it, especially when it involves characters embracing their emotions.  Rayhan’s interactions with his father, both as a newly immigrated family and on his father’s deathbed, predictably pile on the sappiness, but you can’t deny the heart in them.

Actually, Rayhan’s unassailable virtues end up a kind of pitfall for the issue even as they esteem his strength of character.  He takes such extra pains to purposely not hurt anyone that the action never reaches the adrenaline-levels you’d expect from a brawl between a metahuman of his level (basically the male Storm) and a team-up of Batman and Power Girl.  The Dark Knight and the Mistress of Might do little more than chase after him in a distracted fashion the whole time.

As a result, our two established heroes become accessories to Rayhan’s story, which would be fine if you felt a real sense of resolution from his end.  But aside from some gratifying words from the duo that basically tried to keep him from seeing his dying father, you don’t get to see Rayhan get the justice he is due.  No one expects a Hollywood ending with Rayhan stepping down a courthouse in triumph into the sunset, but considering what his jailors put him through, a few vague promises of restitution fails to satisfy.

By the same token, we should’ve also seen P.G. introduce Rayhan to the Justice Society as she offers.  That scene would have both made Rayhan’s trials worthwhile and sell Kara and Bruce’s heartfelt moment at the issue’s end.  Instead, their talk comes off rather self-congratulatory (“Kara…you’re among the best, too.”  “Yeah…I am one of the best.”), which is just a tad laughable in the face of their enormous blunder.
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Power Girl #24 – Review

By: Judd Winick (writer), Hendry Prasetya (artist), Jessica Kholinne (colorist)

The Story: Don’t try to be a hero, man.  Seriously—you could go to jail for it.

The Review: Fiction has always been and will always be a product of its period; no surprise then that the stories you indulge in will have echoes in the current events of the year.  Lately Muslim-American relations are very much on the forefront of our consciousness, so small wonder we get treated to more fiction on that subject than we’ve been used to.  But considering the topic’s volatile nature, it’s that much more important for writers to tread carefully in their storytelling.

Winick falls into the trap of telling his story of a newly exposed metahuman Muslim-American the way we want to hear it, or at least, the way we expect to hear it.  This means the use of a lot of stereotypes—interestingly enough, less with regards to Quraci Rayhan Mazin, weather wizard, and more with his US federal captors.  Suspicion against the government has never been greater, so it’s quite the rage to portray any gov official as ruthless, controlling, corrupt, or all the above.

Just look at the unfair detainment and treatment of Rayhan (no lawyer, no outside access, etc.).  To his credit, Winick does set up a fairly sticky situation which would sensibly result in some woeful misunderstanding, especially on the crest of such primal emotions.  And he does allow Rayhan’s interrogator just a smidgeon of humanity, but his apparent total lack of sympathy or open-mindedness still leans on the military caricature side.

But in pursuing his agenda of demonizing the military and (figuratively) martyring Rayhan, Winick creates and ignores a significant point: Power Girl and Batman’s presence at the scene of the “crime.”  It stands to reason they would never simply let a brand-new metahuman villain of such power be taken into government custody, no questions asked, without confronting or researching him themselves (Bruce especially wouldn’t let that pass).  Most likely, Winick will play this out to wrap up this arc with a suitably just ending, but it’s still a major plot hole.
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