Review: Terra trade paperback (DC Comics)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

There's an inescapable charm to just about anything that has the names Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner attached to it. The Terra miniseries collected here is not too dramatic and doesn't require much from the reader, but the characters are snappy, the continuity notes aplenty, and the art downright adorable. Terra is basically just a prequel to the ongoing Power Girl series, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

[Contains spoilers]

One of the promises made by the Terra miniseries is that it would reveal how this new Terra, Atlee, relates to the DC Universe's previous two Terras, including the infamous New Teen Titans traitor. The answer to "how she relates" is "as well as can be expected" or "almost not at all," depending on your point of view. This new Terra comes from race of aliens who seek to preserve their underground home by sending a champion above-ground to Earth (not, I guess, much unlike Wonder Woman or Aquaman). Apparently the second Terra was also of Atlee's species, made to look like the first Terra and having forgotten her true origins due to the machinations of the Time Trapper in Zero Hour, among other factors.

I'm absolutely delighted that Palmiotti and Gray choose to base Atlee on the second Terra rather than on the obvious choice, the first. I've always had a soft spot for that second Terra, who tried to atone for the sins of the first Terra that she didn't commit. That second Terra's intended origins are confusing and contradictory enough as is (at times a clone, or a number of different time travel anomalies), and it's a credit to the ambitiousness of the writers that they chose to add another element to the mix. As Atlee appears in Power Girl, I hope we'll learn more about the secret life of that second Terra before she came to the surface world.

The scene in which Atlee and the Justice Society's Dr. Mid-Nite discuss Atlee's origins, by the way, is just one example of the joy of Amanda Conner's artwork. Conner, here and in elsewhere, seems to insist on drawing Dr. Mid-Nite not in full costume, but in this this more medical stripped-down costume (though with large shoulder pads); why Mid-Nite differs under Conner's pen I'm not sure, but this and other little touches give the effect of a "Conner-verse" that presents a stylized, attractive take on the DC Universe. Conner begins the scene from the perspective of a caged mouse in Mid-Nite's laboratory, as Mid-Nite's owl looms naughtily closer; this is just one of a number of visual gags Conner and the writers pepper throughout the book, giving the art extra life even besides the story.

As well, Power Girl's face is priceless, presenting both the reader's confusion over clones and Time Trappers, and at the same time embarrassed as Atlee travels over two pages naked, her modesty preserved only by well-placed limbs and lab equipment. This is hardly lasciviousness; rather the coincidentally-placed objects evoke an Austin Powers-type humor. There's a good amount of implied nudity in Terra, not the least when the villain's girlfriend strips and showers, but ultimately I think even this isn't gratuitous; the girlfriend's beauty early on heightens the tragedy later when the woman is reduced to blank, faceless stone.

Ultimately Terra only approaches the origins of the Terras, without delving deeply into the details; most of the enemies Terra faces are one-off caricatures, and even the book's main villain is pretty well vanquished by the end. Power Girl returns in a number of pages at the end where we learn more about her personality and her wish for more non-superheroic elements in her life. Basically, the end of this book is a prologue to the creative team's new Power Girl series, not an epilogue to Terra's story. I didn't mind this so much -- I knew Atlee would be a supporting character in Power Girl, so this was in service to that -- but the reader might want to be forewarned that to an extent, this book is just an advertisement for another series elsewhere.

Given that, however, Terra is a lot of fun, and it suggests to me the Power Girl series will be a lot of fun, too. For as much as this book doesn't accomplish, it tries to do a lot, and makes its attempts with glee, which I think should account for something.

[Contains full covers]

In our general overall following right now of Brightest Day and its related series, we continue later this week with Power Girl: A New Beginning, catching up with the beginnings of the Power Girl series (as above) before that title crosses-over with Brightest Day/Justice League: Generation Lost. See you next time!
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3 comments:

  1. Yay, so glad you've shone the spotlight on this little gem. Connor's art really is a joy to behold. It was great to see Atlee continue to appear in the PG series, but I doubt we'll see much more of her without these writers involved.

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  2. I am reading the Power Girl trades right after, and that might be a mistake. Some of the cuteness of it all wears off, and I'm impatient for the stories to have a little more bearing -- on Power Girl, on the DCU. Conner's art remains fantastic, and the writers have a great voice for Kara -- yeah, it might just be that reading them back to back isn't the way to go.

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  3. I've been undecided about buying this trade, but after reading this review I ordered it from Amazon. I have the 2 Power Girl trades and enjoyed them, so I look forward to reading this "prequel" to them. Thanks for helping me make up my mind, Collected Editions!

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