Your Guide to Infinite Crisis:

“PowerTrip”

We’ve previously examined the convoluted history of Power Girl. We now turn to Geoff Johns’s revamping of Power Girl’s origin in the pages of JSA Classified, which in turn led directly into Power Girl’s appearance in Infinite Crisis #2.

JSA Classified #1
“Powertrip, Part I of IV”
Geoff Johns script; Amanda Conner pencils; Jimmy Palmiotti inks; Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti cover; alternate cover by Adam Hughes; cover-dated September 2005

For those aware of Power Girl’s history, the opening of this issue is a revelation. It begins with what would seen to be a flashback of a young Kara Zor-L in a rocketship on her way to Earth, presumably from an exploding Krypton — only this isn’t Supergirl, either in her classic Earth-1 form or as she was recently reintroduced to the DC Universe. Instead, it’s Power Girl — whose origin was originally an Earth-2 version of Supergirl’s but which has been radically changed over the years.

In other words, this supposed flashback shouldn’t be happening.

As Power Girl recalls what it was like to travel as a baby alone in the rocketship, chunks of green rock begin to collide with the ship. We recognize these as pieces of the recently exploded planet Krypton. The ship seems to accelerate away from the rocks. As baby Kara travels, she hears voices that educate her — which was part of Power Girl’s pre-Crisisorigin and an element that differentiated it from that of the pre-Crisis Supergirl.

The ship finally arrives on Earth, where its computers note that Kara has aged to the equivalent of eighteen Earth years. The ship seeks out Kryptonian life, presumably knowing that Kal-L (a.k.a. Superman) has also been sent to Earth. Finding him, it crash-lands beside him — and Kara emerges, clad as Power Girl, in a panel deliberately mimicking that of Supergirl’s original emergence from her own spaceship.

As Power Girl narrates, she notes how, in accordance with her post-Crisis origin, someone sent her in a rocketship to Superman. She understood herself to be Superman’s cousin, and she narrates that both Superman and the Justice League believed her. Batman, she notes, did not — and he ran some tests in the Batcave that proved Power Girl wasn’t Kryptonian. Power Girl was exposed — and though she hadn’t known that she wasn’t Superman’s cousin, she would always feel that she was a fake… and one without a past.

While some of this history comes from Paul Kupperberg’s post-Crisis origin for Power Girl, a good deal of it comes from Geoff Johns himself, who had begun to flesh out the character in the pages of his JSA. The whole idea that the DC Universe had, for a time, thought Power Girl to be Superman’s cousin had gone all but unmentioned for a decade and a half — and for good reason. For one thing, according to John Byrne’s revised history of Superman, Superman himself didn’t know he was an alien until he had already been a hero for years, and Power Girl’s arrival clearly occurred before that point — meaning that Power Girl had arrived and seemed to be Superman’s Kryptonian cousin when Superman didn’t know he was an alien, much less a Kryptonian. When DC reintroduced Supergirl as Superman’s cousin a couple years before this story, no reference had been made to how the DC Universe had heard a remarkably similar story years before that had proven to be false.

Despite this willingness to forget this episode of Power Girl’s revised life, Johns has embraced it as crucial to the character. Indeed, Power Girl might have seemed to be drifting previously, but it was only Johns who made this central to her character — codifying her feeling of being somehow fake at the center of her character. Rather than ignoring the contradictions, Johns seems to have embraced them.

Thus, the flashback does make sense. It need not have happened after all; instead, it’s merely Power Girl’s memories. The fact that Geoff Johns is having Power Girl remember this chapter of her history, which most consider best simply forgotten, remains remarkable.

But Johns isn’t done digging up this character’s unfortunately confusing past and putting it on display. As the story continues, Power Girl’s memory of Batman testing her Kryptonian heritage segues into Doctor Mid-Nite of the JSA testing her in the present. A frustrated Power Girl breaks the machine apparently designed to test her strength, displaying her usual disregard for authority. Now, however, that disregard is grounded in her memory of being exposed as an unknowing fraud by Batman.

As Power Girl rips off the electrodes and other machinery attached to her body, she asserts that she’s fine as long as she still has her super-strength. Dr. Mid-Nite isn’t so convinced, however. His tests have confirmed that Power Girl’s “vulnerabilities are absent again.” He notes that “anything in its natural state used to affect you,” a reference to her altered powers in the late 1990s as a result of theGenesis crossover and as seen in the pages of Sovereign Sevenand the then-current Supergirl (starring a different character than Superman’s cousin). Dr. Mid-Nite also notes that “Kryptonite has [also affected Power Girl] on occasion” — something that had been shown even in recent years, apparently due to editorial error.

Mid-Nite continues, noting Power Girl’s recent power fluctuations, as seen in JSA. He points out that she had heat-vision “last week” yet her eyes presently test normal. As he talks, Power Girl changes her clothes, getting back into costume — giving readers a little fan service.

When Power Girl suggests that her inconsistent powers may be the product of magic, it gives her and Mid-Nite an opportunity to reference Power Girl’s Atlantean origins — established, like her phony Kryptonian heritage, in Secret Origins #11 (cover-dated February 1987). Power Girl says that she was only kidding and knows that her magical origin, grounded in her heritage as an Atlantean, was a lie as well — given that Arion himself told her so in the pages of JSA. She echoes many readers when she says that her Atlantean origin “never felt… right.”

Mid-Nite suggests hypnosis to uncover her buried memories, but she refuses, telling him to turn and look at her. “Tell me what I’m missing,” she says, and Dr. Mid-Nite sweats to look at her bulging out of her uniform. While Johns is playing with the longstanding tradition of playing up Power Girl’s sexuality, he does so to drive home a point about her character: despite her feelings, she refuses to acknowledge that she lacks anything — a character trait consistent with her longstanding depiction as a strong, if not defensively bold female character.

The scene shifts as Power Girl returns to her apartment onManhattan’s upper west side. She says that the JSA set her up with it, along with her civilian identity as Karen Starr — though that name historically precedes her joining the JSA during Johns’s tenure. In any case, Power Girl clearly has little use for this civilian identity — or her apartment. She narrates that she hasn’t worn any civilian clothes in months, hasn’t worked a normal job in half a year, and hasn’t been to her apartment “forever.” She can’t find her key and has to tear the doorknob off the door, tossing it into a box filled with such doorknobs — apparently, this lack of concern for her apartment has been going on for quite some time. (Why she doesn’t fly in through a window, especially since she enters her apartment in costume anyway, is not explained.) In a nice touch, a brown cat wanders unattended through the apartment — a reference to the cat Power Girl adopted during her Justice League Europe days.

Inside the apartment, Power Girl looks at the front page of an old issue of The Daily Planet announcing Power Girl’s arrival as Superman’s cousin. Again, Johns is fleshing out this old material, giving it new life instead of discarding it. Power Girl recalls visiting the Kents, Superman’s adoptive parents, both after her debut as Superman’s cousin and after Batman had debunked her. During the second visit, Ma Kent explains that her son Clark believed Power Girl’s origin because he wanted not to feel so alone and that he deserves an explanation as to where Power Girl really comes from — which just makes Power Girl feel despondent, as if Ma Kent called her a con artist. Power Girl narrates how she’s kept away from the Kents since. She even narrates that she’s thankful that she didn’t take the name Supergirl, since her very name would remind her that she was a fraud — a nice meta-textual reference to Power Girl’s relationship to Supergirl.

Power Girl then hears a cry for help and sees a window-washer about to fall off his scaffolding some fifty blocks away. She flies through her window and saves him. Instead of thanking her, he stares at her chest as it bulges out of her costume. Directing his eyes upward, she asks for thanks and suggests that he get a girlfriend. In her narration, she points out that she doesn’t need a secret identity because all her friends wear costumes and because everyone just looks at her chest anyway, failing to notice her face.

Then a monstrous hand grabs Power Girl’s shoulder and throws her across a street and into a cab and a sanitation truck. The hand belongs to Garn Daanuth, Arion’s villainous, disfigured brother. As Garn stalks closer, the cabbie emerges and curiously asks “what the hell’s she doing?” — avoiding reference to the disfigured character in front of him. Garn says that his brother Arion thought that he was helping her by giving her a past, but Garn himself wants to strip that past away. He lifts a city bus with his magical powers and slams it down onto Power Girl, who feels the pain and notes that her strength is mysteriously fading. Garn then pelts her with some nearby I-beams, enraging Power Girl enough to turn her loose with her heat vision — which she’s not supposed to have — and melting the I-beams in mid-flight. Nearby civilians shield their eyes from the blast.

Power Girl then tackles Garn, knocking him into a hot dog stand. Garn doesn’t seem upset at her rage, instead encouraging it as a way for her to “show the world” that she doesn’t “belong here.” As she says to herself that she does belong, she pounds Garn over and over with her fists, unleashing herself in a rage.

Then another hand taps her on the shoulder. This time, it’s the JSA — or at least Wildcat, Hawkgirl, Stargirl, and Sand. Garn has mysteriously vanished, leaving Power Girl alone in a crater in the street, wreckage from the “battle” all around her. She implies that her head hurts, referencing another recent ailment, in addition to her fluctuating powers. In response to Power Girl’s explanation that she was fighting someone, Sand asserts that no one saw any villain.

Hawkgirl says they should get her back to the JSA’s headquarters, and Wildcat says that Dr. Mid-Nite should run some more tests. As the hot dog vendor cowers behind her, Power Girl asserts that she doesn’t “want to know” what’s going on — or, implicitly, her real origins. She reminds them that she’s not Superman’s cousin — and that no real origin (or, implicitly, person) can “live up to that.” Dismissing Stargirl’s concern, she flies away — mirroring the despondent look she had when flying away from the Kents in flashback.

The last two pages of the issue are consumed by a mysterious black figure moving among red curtains on a theatre stage. He seems to be talking to someone else, though we don’t see the interlocutor. Apparently talking about Power Girl, He observes that “her history is folding in over itself.” Straining, he then summons three figures — none other than Live Wire, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The figure in black says that it’s time for them to meet “your Power Girl” and to “show her the truth.”

While not explicitly stated, this would seem to suggest that Power Girl’s real origins have a connection with DC’s future, in which the Legion of Super-Heroes operates a thousand years from the present. But longterm fans will note immediately that there’s a problem here: the Live Wire, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy no long appear as they are shown here. In the original version of the Legion, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy formed the Legion, adding copious heroes over subsequent years — including Superboy, who was none other than the teenage form of Superman. Legion continuity was altered in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earthsbut not rebooted, though the resulting continuity became increasingly confusing. In the wake of 1994′s Zero Hour continuity, the Legion of Super-Heroes was rebooted, started afresh with Lightning Lad changed to Live Wire and forming the team anew with Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy. But in the end of 2004, Legion continuity was started again with a new series helmed by writer Mark Waid and artist Barry Kitson. The version of Live Wire / Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy shown here are thus no longer in continuity.

This certainly raises the stakes, as out-of-continuity characters are seemingly making appearances. Clearly, something big is up — whether Power Girl’s origin really has anything to do with this version of the Legion or not.

But readers had another reason to doubt this implied explanation of Power Girl’s origins, besides the fact that the Legionnaires seen here are no longer in continuity. The first four issues of JSA Classified were solicited as depicting Power Girl’s origin, and the answer was unlikely to come at the end of the first issue.

All in all, the first issue of the storyline is promising but not completely fulfilling. Geoff Johns delivers some nice character touches, and his even mentioning — much less exploring and confronting — Power Girl’s Atlantean origins is certainly ambitious. Amanda Conner’s expressive but cartoony art is well-suited to Power Girl’s story, though those accustomed to more realistic super-hero art might find it jarring. Even the issue’s play with Power Girl’s anatomy comes off well, given that it comes off as much as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the history of such play with the character as new exploitation along the same lines.

That said, there is a feeling that not all that much happens. Despite all of the reference to Power Girl’s past, false and otherwise, not all that much space is actually devoted to such a depiction — which may leave casual readers a bit lost. At the same time, the present story has as its climax a fight with an apparently imagined foe, causing damage — something that has certainly been done repeatedly in super-hero comics and which fails to be all that interesting. The return of Garn Daanuth as a means of sorting out Power Girl’s Atlantean origins might be interesting and productive, but an imagined fight with Garn seems a bit cheap. One has a feeling of wanting to get to the meat of the story — and of not being certain that the imaginary fights, stringing the reader along before Power Girl’s origin is finally given, are really over.

JSA Classified #1 alternate cover by Adam Hughes.

JSA Classified #1 alternate cover by Adam Hughes, sans titles and indicia.

Despite these criticisms, this issue proved an enormous success. When it was first solicited, JSA Classified seemed like just a JSA spin-off title. Before the first issue hit the stands, solicitations of future issues revealed that the opening four-issue storyline, starring Power Girl, would somehow tie into Infinite Crisis. Suddenly, everyone wanted a copy — and there weren’t enough to go around. For the second printing, the cover by interior artists Conner and Palmiotti was replaced with a stunning cover by Adam Hughes, famed for his drawings of women. His image of Power Girl floating in the air, relaxed with her arms behind her head miles above the Earth below, would become a classic portrait of the character. When the second printing also sold out, the issue received a third printing using Adam Hughes’ original pencils as the minimalist cover — a common way of generating a new cover for a reprinted issue at the time.

JSA Classified #2
“PowerTrip, Part II of IV”
Geoff Johns script; Amanda Conner pencils; Jimmy Palmiotti inks; cover-dated October 2005

The second issue opens in JSA headquarters in New York City, where Dr. Mid-Nite is talking on the phone to Mr. Terrific and Jay Garrick, who are at S.T.A.R. Labs in Kansas City. They’re there to get the rocketship that apparently brought Power Girl to Earth and bring it back to JSA headquarters for investigation. The ship was part of Power Girl’s supposedly Kryptonian origins, which were debunked in post-Crisis continuity. The three JSA members discuss how Power Girl’s powers have been rapidly fluctuating, and Mr. Terrific laments that Power Girl hasn’t turned to the JSA for help.

Arriving at the room containing the rocketship, Mr. Terrific and Jay Garrick find Checkmate officers blocking the door. A S.T.A.R. Labs staffer informs the JSA members that they’ll have to reschedule their meeting because of orders “from higher up.” Inside the room, we see men in radiation suits investigating the spaceship, overseen by Director Bones, head of the D.E.O., a U.S. government organization that deals with super-powered beings. One of the men has found something, and it looks like a ring.

JSA Classified #2, reprint cover.

The narrative then turns to Power Girl, who’s sitting on the globe on top of the Daily Planet building. She narrates that she’s been there for two hours and is waiting for Superman, who she hopes to talk to about her problems. She doesn’t know what she’ll say to him, and she knows she’s not related to him, but she knows she feels better when she talks to him.

Then a camera flashes. It’s Jimmy Olsen, who Power Girl narrates is, according to Clark Kent, just about the nicest guy. But she notes that he’s still a guy. What ensues may well be the most memorable sequence in the whole storyline: as Jimmy Olsen talks to Power Girl, she waits for him to stare down at her breasts. Everyone does, she narrates — even some women, such as Crimson Fox, with whom Power Girl served in Justice League Europe. Jimmy says that he comes up to the roof to have lunch and begins fixing a peanut butter sandwich. Eventually, though, his eyes wander down — which Power Girl notes with a smirk.

It’s another case of Johns playing with the character’s history of sex appeal and breast references. Amanda Conner does an excellent job illustrating the sequence, in which Jimmy’s glance is shown only by a change in the position of his eyes. Even innocent Jimmy Olsen, with his peanut butter sandwiches, can’t help at least glancing at Power Girl’s breasts.

Then there’s a flash in the sky and the three founders of the Legion of Super-Heroes, shown at the end of the last issue, arrive. Continuing the sexual references, Lightning Lad observes that she’s “grown up” and Saturn Girl telepathically tells him to “think nice thoughts.”

Jimmy recognizes them, but Power Girl does not. Cosmic Boy notes that Jimmy’s not a super-hero but was “the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily United Planet” — or that he will be. When Cosmic Boy refers to Lightning Lad, Power Girl points out that she thought he was called Live Wire. Saturn Girl, scanning Power Girl’s mind, notes that Power Girl is being confused by layers of false memories. Lightning Lad points out that time-traveling has apparently messed with Power Girl’s mind just as it did with Karate Kid.

It helps to know a little bit of Legion history at this point. The difference between Lightning Lad and Live Wire refers to the difference between the original incarnation of the Legion, begun in the 1950s, and the rebooted Legion, begun in 1994 in the wake of Zero Hour. The original Legion’s founding electrical member was called Lightning Lad. For the 1994 reboot, his name was “updated” to Live Wire. Power Girl is familiar with the rebooted Legion (some of whom spent some time in the present leading up to the crossover The Final Night). Karate Kid was a mainstay of the original Legion who traveled back in time and was indeed traumatized by it.

Of course, neither the original Legion nor the 1994 rebooted Legion should be appearing here. Both were no longer considered to be in DC’s continuity, which saw another reboot of the franchise in the end of 2004. Readers could guess that these Legionnaires, then, were merely inventions of the strange black figure, seen summoning them last issue. Readers might well suspect that his summoning of them in out-of-continuity forms is merely a coincidence, since DC has occasionally referenced pre-Crisis characters in dream sequences and in doppelgangers and the like.

Continuing with the story, the Legionnaires explain that Power Girl is actually Legion member Andromeda, the Daxamite named Laurel Gand. Daxam was a planet very much like Krypton, whose inhabitants gained powers just like Superman when under a yellow sun. Apparently, the Legionnaire known as the White Witch sent Andromeda back in time to help stop Mordru, an apparently immortal magical Legion villain. This makes a certain sense: Mordru made his first appearance in the present-day DC Universe in the first storyline of JSA, and the villain subsequently became a JSA villain in the present. One could guess that the Daxamite origins of her rocketship was confused for Kryptonian, leading to Power Girl being hailed as Superman’s cousin. Now, the Legion tells Power Girl that it’s time to come home to the thirty-first century.

The only problem with this explanation is that the Legionnaires who have come to collect Power Girl aren’t supposed to exist.

Before Power Girl can answer, she sees a plane overhead lose an engine. It begins to crash, and Power Girl flies up to save it, using her X-ray vision and super-hearing — which she only has because of her fluctuating powers — to detect the nature of the disaster. But Cosmic Boy suddenly doesn’t want her to meddle with the present any more than she has, and he uses his magnetic powers to wrap her in a radio tower — which she quickly breaks through. As she gets close to the plane, Lightning Lad electrocutes her to stop her.

In the wake of this shock she seems to remember fighting alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes against Mordru, then saying goodbye in her Power Girl costume as she boards the rocketship wherein she was discovered in the present.

Recovering from the blast, Power Girl reaches the plane and begins pulling up on its wing. Then a massive hand pulls her off. The hand belongs to Microlad — not Colossal Boy. Colossal Boy was a member of the original Legion who had the power to grow to massive size. Microlad is a member of the current Legion, rebooted at the end of 2004; instead of growing, he’s a member of a very large species and his power is to shrink down to normal human size. It’s thus no longer clear which Legion we’re dealing with — or, rather, which Legion the mysterious character in black is summoning or creating. Other Legionnaires are also suddenly present, all apparently out to stop Power Girl.

Power Girl isn’t having it, however. Despite her tiny size by comparison, she has the power to toss Microlad by the thumb, sending him into the water around Metropolis. In a brief battle with the other Legionnaires, all realize that she’s not the missing Andromeda. As she heads to the diving plane, Shadow Lass creates a giant shadowy hand to restrain her. She strains against it, almost reaching the plane’s wing.

Then Superman grabs the wing that Power Girl couldn’t reach, and the current Supergirl — i.e. Kara Zor-El — appears to take the other wing. They bring the plane down in the streets of Metropolis. There couldn’t be a greater display of Power Girl’s sense of irrelevancy as a phony Superman knock-off. Meanwhile, Power Girl stares back, wondering how all those Legionnaires suddenly disappeared — just like her Atlantean foe last issue.

Superman then talks to Power Girl. Apparently, he’s talked to the pilot and heard that Power Girl was flying erratically. Presumably, as with the fight last issue, no one else could see Power Girl’s foes. Superman asks if Power Girl’s been drinking. Horrified, she explains that she was fighting the Legion of Super-Heroes and takes Superman off to speak with Jimmy Olsen, who saw the Legion and could confirm her story.

Arriving at the top of the Daily Planet building, however, Jimmy Olsen is gone. Lest anyone think that Jimmy has simply gone inside, Superman points out that Jimmy’s “been in Washingston with Lois all day.” Supergirl then arrives, and Power Girl warns her to stay away lest Power Girl’s powers go crazy again — as they did in Supergirl#1. Superman suggests that Power Girl let Martian Manhunter examine her psychologically.

He then sends Supergirl away, and she complies. This leaves Superman and Power Girl to talk about the sudden emergence of his cousin — under circumstances suspiciously close to Power Girl’s own emergence as Superman’s cousin.

In this infamous sequence, Power Girl explains why she has a hole in her costume that exposes cleavage. Needless to say, it's less than convincing... and unintentionally hilarious.

In response Power Girl gives a moving speech that attempts to explain why she has an oval hole through which one can see her chest. She says that, after she was shown not to be Superman’s cousin, she couldn’t come up with a symbol to put on her costume’s chest — and so she left a hole. It’s a hole that she hasn’t been able to close, and as she speaks, she begins to cry. It’s painfully obvious that there’s a hole in this character deeper than her lack of a symbol, and this interpretation is reinforced by the fact that Power Girl’s hand is around her heart during her speech.

Superman offers to help, but Power Girl says that she has to figure things out on her own. She admits that she suspects that Superman has been so nice to her because of “some misplaced sense of obligation” because, at one point, he thought of her as his “Supergirl.”

Saying goodbye to Superman, Power Girl flies off into the setting sun.

As with the previous issue, this one closes with a scene featuring a mysterious character in black. The Jimmy Olsen that he conjured joins the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes that the mysterious character apparently also conjured. The figure in black says that they’re not going to be erased but will instead be “simply revised” — a clear enough reference to continuity revisions.

As the assembled characters seem to melt away, the figure in black says that Power Girl’s mind will soon break and “the secret will be out.”

On the last page, we see that the black figure is, in fact, the Psycho-Pirate. Suddenly, his summoning or creation of the pre-Crisis Legion of Super-Heroes makes sense.

To understand why the appearance of the Psycho-Pirate, a third-rate villain rarely seen in the last two decades, is so important, one has to understand his role in Crisis on Infinite Earths. In fact, the caption promoting the next issue plays with this fact, asking, “say… this wouldn’t have anything to do with Crisis, would it?”

Crisis on Infinite Earths, as any DC watcher knows, concluded with DC’s various alternate universes consolidating into a single one with a new continuity. Characters, even those from those alternate universes who were now fused into DC’s new single universe, forgot that there had ever been multiple universes that had once been a part of their histories. All, it seemed, except the Psycho-Pirate. In fact, the series ended memorably with the Psycho-Pirate in a mental institution, remembering how the universe had been revised.

The Psycho-Pirate later appeared in Grant Morrison’s concluding issues of Animal Man, though those appearances were rendered moot by the conclusion, in which unused DC characters were seen as living in a limbo dimension and Animal Man traveled to our own universe and met Grant Morrison himself. It was a metafictional conceit, a successful postmodern experiment in which characters looked out at panels at the reader, but it had little effect on the DC Universe as a whole. In fact, subsequent issues would revise much of Morrison’s plotlines, including the murder of Animal Man’s family.

JSA Classified #2 alternate cover, by Adam Hughes.

The fact that Psycho-Pirate is the secret villain seen at the end of the previous issue helps explain the appearance of the pre-Crisis Legion of Super-Heroes. After all, the Psycho-Pirate retains memories of the DC Universe before Crisis on Infinite Earths, so his creation of the retconned versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes need not be coincidence. Still, how he knew of Microlad and the current form of the Legion, which had not interacted with the present, is left unexplained.

Currently, something big is afoot. The fact that readers knew that this storyline would lead into Infinite Crisis, and that Infinite Crisis had been promoted online as having some relationship with Crisis on Infinite Earths, is clearly suggestive. So too is the fact that this storyline was written by Geoff Johns, writer of Infinite Crisis.

The exact connection between the Psycho-Pirate’s suggestive reappearance and Infinite Crisis, however, would only be revealed in the months that followed.

JSA Classified #3
“PowerTrip, Part III of IV”
Geoff Johns script; Amanda Conner pencils; Jimmy Palmiotti inks; cover-dated November 2005

Let’s pause a moment to consider an especially cheeky cover that pokes fun at DC’s four “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” mini-series and their many crossover issues. Power Girl asks, “so is this a Villains United thing or an OMAC thing?” This metatextual twist, in which Power Girl seemingly echoes those readers who complained about how DC’s titles had become dominated by crossover issues, is perhaps even more surprising because the issue’s writer is none other than Geoff Johns, author of Infinite Crisis itself, which would have its own slew of crossovers. It’s important to be able to laugh at yourself.

Besides this, the cover includes a number of elements that suggests DC’s system of multiple Earths, which reigned previous to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Power Girl talks with the Huntress, with whom she shares the status of surviving Crisis on Infinite Earths while having her entire history wiped out along with Earth-2. Behind them is the Crime Syndicate of America, the villainous version of the Justice League who dominated a parallel Earth prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths and who had been reintroduced into DC Continuity in the past few years, first in Grant Morrison’s 2000 graphic novel JLA: Earth 2. Despite Power Girl’s comment about the then-current mini-series, these elements echo the surprise that Infinite Crisis itself would have much more to do with Crisis on Infinite Earths than with any of the four “Countdown” mini-series.

The issue’s narrative opens in aGotham City alley as a minor voodoo-associated villain named Houngan. Having already downed a police officer, he now uses a technological voodoo doll to injure a man who lies already wounded on the ground. The man is one Doctor Norton, whose father is apparently experimenting on the captured villain known as Chemo. Houngan demands to know Chemo’s location, calling Chemo a “living weapon of mass destruction.”

Though it’s not clear in this issue, Houngan is almost certainly working for Luthor’s Society. Calling Chemo a “living weapon of mass destruction” foreshadows the Society’s intended role for the villain, shown in Geoff Johns’s Infinite Crisis #5. At the time of this issue’s release, however, the importance of Chemo was unclear, however, and the villains’ reason for looking for him was left ambiguous.

Suddenly, a crossbow bolt flies through Houngan’s palm. It’s the Huntress, hanging on a fire escape with her trademarked crossbow. The villain jumps at her, but she slashes his chest with her crossbow and kicks him to the pavement. He lands among some barrels containing hazardous chemicals from S.T.A.R. Labs — perhaps the waste generated by the imprisoned Chemo.

The chemical villain Plasmus then reveals himself, having hidden in the darkness as Houngan’s partner. Huntress tells Plasmus that she “heard Batgirl caught your other friends in Blüdhaven a few weeks ago. / That ape and the floating brain.” But she’s outmatched by the chemical villain, who brags about how he has “dissolved over seventy-five men and women,” including “at least a dozen children.” A flick of the chemicals that makes up his body falls on the Huntress’s chest, dissolving a hole in her costume. He grabs and melts her crossbow. Things look bleak.

Then Power Girl flies through Plasmus, cutting him in half. As she picks Plasmus’s chemicals from her hair, she tells the Huntress how she’s been having problems with her powers and seems to have been hallucinating. After briefly recounting the events of the last two issues, Power Girl says that she “could really use a good friend to talk to.” After a pause, the Huntress responds, “Then what are you doing here?

Back at S.T.A.R. Labs in Kansas City, Jay Garrick and Mr. Terrific are protesting with Mr. Bones, director of the D.E.O., as the ship that brought Power Girl to Earth is being loaded on a semi truck for transport. Mr. Bones admits that he has support from Checkmate (of The OMAC Project) and says that his bosses want to complete their files on Power Girl, which has holes in it.

One scientist notes that the golden ring found in the rocket is glowing and takes it out of an evidence bag. It then begins to gloat and transform into the mask of the Psycho-Pirate. Suddenly, the Psycho-Pirate himself is there.

Before Jay Garrick can strike, Psycho-Pirate manipulates his emotions, playing on his anger at the government operatives around him and making him strike at them. As Mr. Terrific strikes at the Psycho-Pirate, the villain makes him paranoid and the hero begin to beat Mr. Bones.

Back in Gotham, Power Girl talks with the Huntress as the latter swings through the city, her cables seemingly attached to thin air — a common problem with swinging characters (such as Spider-Man). The Huntress says that she’s busy with the Brotherhood of Evil, which is acting up in Gotham — as seen already, given that Houngan and Plasmus are members. Warp and Phobia, she says, intend to strike a chemical warehouse. Power Girl explains that she just needed a friend and thought of the Huntress “for some reason.”

Though the two were friends on Earth-2 before Crisis on Infinite Earths, they’re certainly not friends in DC’s revised continuity. The Huntress makes a sarcastic comment about Power Girl’s powers, an advantage she doesn’t have. This can be seen as tension between the powered Superman type of super-hero and the unpowered Batman type, who often don’t get along in DC’s revised continuity. Power Girl and the Huntress even play on this fact, with the Huntress pointing out that the tremendously powered always seem to have “self-confidence problems” — to which Power Girl retorts that the unpowered ones always seem to have “psychological ones.”

The Huntress, still confused as to why Power Girl came to her, says that she doesn’t know much about Poewr Girl. She adds that the boys like Power Girl while the girls don’t. Power Girl finally seems to take the message and resign herself to leaving. But the Huntress explains that she’s just not good at team-ups, though she’s trying — “just ask Black Canary,” she adds, a reference to the Huntress’s involvement with Oracle’s team of super-heroines in Birds of Prey.

Just as the two are about the shake hands, the Crime Syndicate of America appear — though the Huntress doesn’t see them. Owlman, the evil version of Batman, kicks the Huntress nonetheless. Ultraman, the evil version of Superman, explains that Power Girl is in fact his cousin, who duplicated the accident that empowered Ultraman and then parted for this universe. Power Ring, the evil version of Green Lantern, restrains Power Girl with his ring. Owlman adds that he and Power Girl “had quite the night in the cave before you left.” In the wake of the Syndicate’s reintroduction in JLA: Earth 2, Superwoman, the villainous version of Wonder Woman, has a sexual affair with Owlman. Now jealous of Owlman having had sex with Power Girl, Superwoman blasts the helpless Power Girl with her heat vision.

From the Huntress’s point of view, Power Girl is hanging in space. Not only is Superwoman’s blast invisible but also Power Ring’s restraints.

Things now get a little crazy. A version of Superman and Wonder Woman suddenly arrive, freeing Power Girl. Saying they’re from the future, she calls him Conner and he calls her Cassandra — implying that he’s the current Superboy and she’s the current Wonder Girl, both having aged and replaced their mentors. The future Superman says that Power Girl is their daughter.

Then a version of Captain Marvel and Supergirl arrive, also from the future. Supergirl’s got a new green-and-white costume with a new chest symbol that implies that she’s taken the name Superwoman. They claim that Power Girl is actually their daughter, also sent back into the past.

Then a version of General Zod arrives from the Phantom Zone, where Superman incarcerated criminals prior to the revisions of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Zod was one of three evil Kryptonians incarcerated there, and he claims that Power Girl is actually the female one of these three — none other than Ursa. He says that they managed to free her and that she promised to return to free the others but never did.

Then Nightwing and Flamebird, Superman and Batman’s alter egos when they entered the miniature bottled city of Kandor before the revisions of Crisis on Infinite Earths. This version of Nightwing preceded the then-current character, who the grown-up version of original Robin, Dick Grayson. This Nightwing and Flamebird claim that Power Girl is actually their long-lost mother.

All of these characters, apparently combined with Legionnaires from the previous issue, swarm Power Girl, overwhelming her as hand after hand reaches out to touch and claim her. Then Power Girl explodes with rage, instantly evaporating all of these claimants — who disappear as if made of rainbow-colored mist.

Power Girl and the Huntress now seem to be in a bizarre landscape with colored dots as a background — evoking the dots that used to be used to create color in comic books under older, more primitive printing methods. This also evokes Grant Morrison’s metatextual usage in Animal Man of the Psycho-Pirate. Indeed, the Psycho-Pirate’s there in this bizarre landscape. An exhausted Power Girl limps over to the Psycho-Pirate before passing out.

The next page shows what appears to be the backstage of an old theatre. A television displays Luthor of the Society. The Psycho-Pirate reports to him, saying that he’s secured Power Girl. This is the first time readers have seen that the Psycho-Pirate is working for Luthor’s Society. Luthor volunteers that “the others still have no idea.None of them” — suggesting that Luthor’s keeping secrets from the other members of the Society, including even its core circle. Psycho-Pirate adds, “my redemption is at hand.” Luthor retorts, “Everyone’s is, Roger.”

We next see Power Girl coming to consciousness inside the spaceship that brought her to Earth. He seems insane and manipulates her emotions so that she feels happy. He then takes off his mask and moves closer, speaking with her intimately and telling her that he’s only trying to help.

His lines close the issue: “Worlds lived… worlds died… / …but you survived!

It’s a clear reference to Crisis on Infinite Earths itself. But it’s also a promise to deliver on the presence of the Psycho-Pirate — and on his special status of remembering the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, including the existence of Earth-2 and Power Girl’s pre-revision origins.

Now, were this unconnected to Infinite Crisis, we might just suspect that the Psycho-Pirate is simply insane. He might simply reveal his memories of Power Girl’s Earth-2 origins, which had been removed from continuity. The next issue might even have featured Power Girl rejecting this seemingly insane news and discovering (or notdiscovering) her true, revised origins.

But, given that this is all tied to Infinite Crisis and that Infinite Crisis was rumored to have a connection to Crisis on Infinite Earths, how Psycho-Pirate’s news will be taken — and Power Girl’s finally revealed origin — may not exactly go according to the rules of DC’s revised continuity.

After three issues amounting largely to Power Girl dealing with imaginary origins and villains, all would at last be revealed in the next issue.

JSA Classified #4
“Powertrip, Part IV of IV”
Geoff Johns script; Amanda Conner pencils; Jimmy Palmiotti inks; Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti cover; cover-dated December 2005

As the fourth and final issue opens, the Psycho-Pirate is standing over a helpless Power Girl. The Psycho-Pirate explains that he’s out to prove that he’s not crazy but merely cognizant of the former existence of multiple dimensions. Then he suggests — in panels from Power Girl’s point-of-view, in which Power Girl’s breasts are in the foreground as the Psycho-Pirate creepily approaches her — that he’d like to be close to her, maybe more than friends.

Power Girl partially bursts free, tossing off the Psycho-Pirate and calling him a sadist. He responds by saying that she’s insecure and in need of feeling loved. He then takes off his mask, but his expression goes from sweet to screaming as he asks, “Why are you still here?” He then seems to begin to answer his own question, explaining that there used to be a parallel Earth that included the both of them, along with the Justice Society, as residents. He prompts her to remember the Crisis and how time was rewritten. He tells her that she was “sohappy on Earth-Two,” and his words are accompanied by a double-page splash of the Justice Society before the Crisis, led by none other than Power Girl.

Psycho-Pirate continues, explaining that Power Girl originally came from Krypton and was the daughter of Zor-L, who modified Jor-L’s plans for a spacecraft to escape Krypton. Flashbacks show how Zor-L and his wife, Allura, sent their daughter Kara to Earth, knowing that she would have her cousin Kal-L for Kryptonian company.

Psycho-Pirate then recounts his own origins, also shown in flashback. His father, a psychiatrist, diagnosed him as having dissocial personality disorder, as being completely self-obsessed and manipulative. The young Psycho-Pirate was sentenced to a year for assault and battery for breaking his father’s arm, and his father testified against him at the trial. By coincidence, he was locked up with an old man who had been the former Psycho-Pirate and who had fought the JSA. When the youth got out of prison, he found the old man’s Medusa Masks, melted them down, and created his own mask, thereby gaining power over others’ emotions. The Psycho-Pirate occludes his own criminal career, jumping ahead to when he was “taken” by an unnamed figure we recognize as the Anti-Monitor. The Psycho-Pirate doesn’t explain his own role in Crisis on Infinite Earths, instead saying that he was tortured and driven insane.

In the present, the Psycho-Pirate dons his mask again and talks about how he shares a bond with Power Girl as survivors. Power Girl blasts him in the mask with heat vision. He then tells her that she’s shy and makes a shy face. Because of his mask’s powers, Power Girl suddenly looks shy. Psycho-Pirate’s mask then seems to melt, and it seems to make the Huntress of Earth-2 materialize out of the same melted mask material. The Psycho-Pirate explains that the Huntress of Earth-2 was Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, and that she was Power Girl’s friend.

The Huntress looks pathetic as she begs Kara to remember. Power Girl falls to the ground, but the Huntress pursues her, asking her how she survived. Psycho-Pirate chimes in, explaining that Power Girl’s mind created alternate memories for its own protection: his mask didn’t so much create out of whole cloth all the alternate origins that he’s been tossing at her, but has instead been drawing upon her own suppressed memories.

As Power Girl backs up along the ground, she bumps into someone behind her. It’s Robin of Earth-2, and he wants to know why Kara survived when he didn’t. He and the Huntress lasso Power Girl by the neck, apparently angry that she survived when they didn’t. Power Girl zaps the line with heat vision, breaking free, but the two conjured Earth-2 super-heroes kick her to the ground and tell her that she’s worthless. In response, Power Girl picks up her own spaceship and smashes them with it, saying that she’s done with Psycho-Pirate’s games.

Psycho-Pirate rushes her, laughing and encouraging her to let go, to finally go insane. Power Girl says that she already has and punches him. To her surprise, he evaporates into an explosion of blood. She questions whether Psycho-Pirate himself was just something conjured by his mask, then questions whether she herself is. But the mask levitates of the ground, apparently on its own. Eyeballs form behind its eye slits. It begins to fly around, telling her that she will soon remember her past as he’s described it. Power Girl strikes out at the mask, but it seems to disintegrate when she grasps it — leaving her alone with the wreckage of the spacecraft that brought her to Earth.

A dejected Power Girl flies through the sky. Her narration confirms that she knows, instinctively, that the Psycho-Pirate was right. Of course, she phrases this in the most dejected manner possible, adding that she’s always known that she’s “not supposed to exist.”

She lands at the JSA brownstone and heads inside. She calls out, but no one’s there — just statues of heroes, which eerily recall the Psycho-Pirate’s humanoid creations. She sits alone, pouts, and begins to hold back tears.

Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado and now the den mother of the JSA, approaches her and explains that everyone’s “off fighting Mordru again,” a reference to the events of JSA#78-80, which begins around the time of Infinite Crisis #1. As Power Girl explains what’s been going on with her, she begins to break down and cry. Ma Hunkel holds her, and she explains everything. Power Girl narrates that that Ma Hunkel looks at her like she looked at Psycho-Pirate: wanting to believe, but having trouble doing so. Power Girl narrates that, before she leaves, she lies, saying that she told Ma Hunkel that everything Psycho-Pirate said was “probably [just] another false lead.”

Power Girl takes off, narrating that she feels “completely and utterly alone.” She narrates that she tells herself that she’s okay with that feeling. In a splash page showing Power Girl in flight, she narrates that, “maybe one day,” she might just really be okay with it.

Two epilogues follow, each consuming a single page.

In the first, Psycho-Pirate again talks with the Society’s Luthor in the back of an old theatre. He mentions “the multiverse,” making it clear that this Luthor understands that concept. It seems that all of this was merely to prepare Power Girl for some plan of this Luthor. Psycho-Pirate says that he’ll “call up some of the society and you’ll have her.” But Psycho-Pirate requests that, “when this is all over,” he get Power Girl as his own. Luthor complies, adding the caveat, “if she’s still alive.”

In the second epilogue, Power Girl returns to her apartment, dropping another doorknob that she’s had to rip out because she doesn’t have the keys. She looks at some clippings on a bulletin board about how Power Girl was a fraud — references to how, in post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, Power Girl’s Kryptonian origins were exposed as untrue. Power Girl must be pretty masochistic to keep these clippings around in such a prominent place. She holds her cat.

Then Wildcat of the JSA shows up. The cat hisses at him, and he begins, uncharacteristically, to hit on Power Girl. He then morphs into Clayface, the shape-changing Batman foe who has gone through many incarnations.

A caption tells us that Power Girl, Clayface, Psycho-Pirate, and Luthor can all be followed into the pages of Infinite Crisis #2. Indeed, that issue features a scene that continues directly from the final page of this issue.

With the whole four issues over, it’s fair to say that many had mixed reactions to the storyline.

On the one hand, it honored Power Girl’s past and restored the origin fans knew best. On the other hand, a four-issue story touted as revealing Power Girl’s origins that merely acknowledged the history of the character could feel like a let-down.

On the one hand, the presence of the Psycho-Pirate, his ambiguous plans with the Society, and the references toCrisis on Infinite Earths, were certainly exciting. On the other hand, the bulk of the story consisted of Power Girl fighting illusionary figures.

On the one hand, the story was a hit because of its purported ties to Infinite Crisis itself. On the other, the story really only directly influenced Infinite Crisis #2, providing some touching moments in that issue. In fact, Power Girl spent most of Infinite Crisis unconscious and strapped to the reconfigured corpse of the Anti-Monitor.

In the final analysis, “PowerTrip” remains historic, whatever its shortcomings as a narrative.

Read the Rest

“Your Guide to Infinite Crisis” attempts to spell out and outline the whole of this sprawling, complicated crossover. It has several other installments, organized by the narrative thread under discussion:

The OMAC Project

Day of Vengeance

Villains United

The Rann-Thanagar War

The Return of Donna Troy

Crisis of Conscience

PowerTrip

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

See more, including free online content, on .

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