featuring Geoff Johns, Paul Levitz and Paul Kupperberg
(Art by Amanda Conner, Joe Staton, Mary Wilshire, Peter Snejbjerg, Patrick Gleason, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dick Giordano, Joe Orlando and Christian Alamy)
Originally Power Girl was Superman's Kryptonian cousin in the parallel universe of Earth-Two and her origins (a la 1975) are presented here by Levitz, in the slightly camp way of comics of the time. When, in the 80s, DC collapsed their 'multiverse' into a single continuity with the 'Crisis On Infinite Earths', Power Girl survived the purging of duplicate characters but a new backstory was needed (since Supergirl had the cousin-from-Krypton thing). Kupperberg gives us this new background in the form of an odd and hard-to-credit story about a sorcerer from Atlantis catapulting Power Girl into the future.
Here DC are once more sweeping out their continuity in the run up to the 'Infinite Crisis'. In Johns' story Power Girl is struggling with her identity after her powers begin to fluctuate and the real cousin of Superman arrives on Earth. The ridiculously named Psycho-Pirate, another survivor of Earth-Two, uses his powers to cause Power Girl to suffer halucinations of her possible pasts.
This book helps to understand the confusing continuity involved with Power Girl and her counterpart Supergirl, but it's not good for much else. The older stories predictably lack the polish and depth of modern comics and the more recent one doesn't really go anywhere.
2 out of 5
Power Man: New Avengers - Luke Cage/Power Man And Iron Fist
featuring Chris Claremont and John Arcudi
(Art by John Byrne, Dan Green, Mike Zeck, Lee Elias, Ernie Chan, Ricardo Villamonte, Jim Mooney, Eric Canete, Pepe Larraz, Chris Chuckry and Andres Mossa)
Marvel's Mightiest heroes Book 49. Two stories starring Power Man AKA Luke Cage. In the first, from the 70s, we see Luke teaming-up with Iron Fist to take on a gang of robot hoodlums controlled by the villainess Deadly Nightshade. The second story sees Luke, now an Avenger, returning to the streets to take down a heroin ring in Philadelphia.
Created to tap into the market created by the popularity of 'Blaxploitation' and kung fu movies, Claremont's story here is very much of its time and therefore contains a few racial stereotypes, awkward jive-talk and women wandering around in their underwear for some reason. However, despite all that I actually rather enjoyed it. Perhaps its because I grew up loving things like both 'Shaft' and Bruce Lee movies, so this story hits a very particular nostalgia button for me, but I actually think there's more to it than that. This story is very much of the so-called 'street level' style and both Cage and Danny Rand make excellent protagonists for that. I'll admit that until the Netflix TV series I had little interest in these two characters, but now I see them in a more appreciative light and enjoyed seeing them in action together for the first time. (Yeah, that's right, that's me saying I didn't hate the Iron Fist Netflix series. Come at me, bro!)
The second story here is very well chosen to compliment Luke's origins. In recent years he has become a leading member of the Avengers, making him an A-list Marvel hero in a way he never was before, but Arcudi cleverly takes him away from all of that and back to tackling a street level criminal ring with little or no back-up. It's not a game-changing story by any measure, but it is a well-written and satisfying return to his roots for Luke Cage.
4 out of 5
Predator Omnibus Volume 1
(Art by Chris Warner, Ron Randall, Sam de la Rosa, Randy Emberlin, Steve Mitchell, Rick Magyar, Rick Leonardi, Dan Panosian, Enrique Alcatena, Dan Barry and Leo Duranona)
Seven stories featuring the fearsome sport hunters from outer space, the Predators. The first three stories, 'Concrete Jungle', 'Cold War' and 'Dark River' all by Verheiden, follow the adventures of NYPD Detective Shaefer as he attempts to uncover the fate of his brother Dutch (Arnie in the original 'Predator' movie). Shaefer's adventures are all excellently written with insightful text and dynamic dialogue. Also the quality of the idea behind 'Concrete Jungle' led much of it to later be appropriated for use in 'Predator 2'. The one down side to these three brilliant stories is the increasingly far-fetched ways in which Shaefer is drawn into conflict with the Predators.
Next we're treated to two tales of the Predators in Africa. The first, also published in 'Predator Versus Judge Dredd', follows a Massai warrior earning his passage into manhood and stands out for the fact that it's entirely visual, having no dialogue. The second has 1930s Great White Hunters facing off against their alien counterpart and what I liked about this one was that, in the end, it is the wilds of Africa that defeat the Predator, not man.
The sixth story of the omnibus, Barry and Richardson's 'The Bloody Sands of Time', stars a CIA lawyer investigating the Predator encounters covered up in the past by his agency. The best bit of this story is where the discovery of a French soldier's diary reveals the part played by the aliens in the First World War.
The final story in this book is the worst due to its confusing dialogue and bewildering plot. It would seem that the main character is the reincarnation of a blind Samurai who beat the Predators a century before, but why he suddenly remembers his past life or how he has infra-red vision despite his blindness are a complete mystery to me.
Overall this is a great collection of stories which nicely capture the feel of the films and the spirit of the Predators themselves.
4 out of 5
Predator Versus Judge Dredd
(Art by Alcatena, Rick Leonardi and Dan Panosian)
The majority of this book is the story of the title, as a Predator hunts Judges through the darkly futuristic streets of Mega City One. Dredd is hot on the Predator's tale, assisted by PSI Judge Shaefer, who, in a nice little touch, is supposed to be a decendant of Arnie's character from the first 'Predator' movie. Predictably, the combination of the two franchises works very well, providing an exciting and tense read for fans of either.
The other story here is 'Predator: Rite Of Passage' in which a Massai warrior returns from his lion-hunting rite of passage to discover his village slaughtered by another kind of hunter. What I enjoyed about this story is that it has no speech in it whatsoever, meaning that the pictures have to tell the story by themselves. And they do a good job of it too.
4 out of 5
Prelude To Infinite Crisis
(Art by Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Ale Garzo, Trevor Scott, Marlo Alquiza, Lary Stucker, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, Jim Fern, Matthew Clark, Nelson, Andy Lanning, Mike McKone, Don Kramer, Keith Champagne, Damion Scott, Sandra Hope, Carlos D Anda, Shawn Mall, Kevin Conrad, Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justiniano, Livesay, Walden Wong, Ray Snyder, Drew Johnson, Patrick Gleason, Christian Alamy, Marcos Martin, Alvaro Lopez, Ed Benes, Rags Morales, Mark Propst, Ethan Van Scriver, Prentis Rollins and Pascal Ferry)
I've been out of the loop on DC storylines for about a decade and the blurb of this book promised to tell me what I needed to know in order to start reading the major 'Infinite Crisis' stories.
Well, the blurb was wrong. This book is a collection of snippets from dozens of comics which are supposedly relevant to the Infinite Crisis story. I don't know whether it's just the fact that they're fragments or whether the intervening text seems to have no connection to them in most cases, but I failed to glean any important plot elements from this book.
There are a couple of proper stories featured here too, the Superman one being run of the mill, but the one in which Wonder Woman and Flash take on Zoom and Cheetah proved to be very entertaining.
So, in conclusion, fragmented, bewildering and not really worth the effort it took me to type out the names of all the writers and artists involved.
2 out of 5
Professor X: Psi-War/The Muir Island Saga
(Art by John Byrne, Terry Austin, Paul Smith, Andy Kubert, Steven Butler, Kirk Jarvinen, Whilce Portacio, Hilary Barter, Scott Williams and Joe Rubinstein)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 23. Two stories in which Professor X has to match his mental powers with those of a mutant who becomes known as the Shadow King. In their first encounter, the evil mutant's motives are what prompt Charles to form the X-Men in the first place, but when the Shadow King returns as a psychic entity in the second story, it does so with the express intent of corrupting and destroying Xavier's dream.
The first of these stories, by Claremont and Byrne, is pretty straightforward, showing the first time that the younger Professor X has to match his powers against another mutant with similar mental abilities. I did like the conclusion to their conflict however, where Byrne gives us some great images of the two men just staring at each other across a room until one drops dead (spoilers; it's not Charles).
The second story is something of an X-crossover, with the X-Men (the international version that includes Storm and Wolverine), X-Factor (the version made up of the five original X-Men) and Excalibur all converging of Muir Island. In many ways, having a psychic entity with a grudge against Xavier try to subvert the X-Men actually felt like a first attempt at the story of Onslaught. And like many first attempts, it doesn't quite reach the heights it should, always feeling just a little bit contrived. However, it is nice to see so many of that era's X-people all in the same story, from Jubilee to Polaris to Gambit.
Overall not a bad book, but also one which doesn't quite feel as important or impactful as its stories try to be.
3 out of 5