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Justice League Unlimited: Girl Power | Review

Justice League Unlimited: Girl Power coverJustice League Unlimited: Girl Power
Writers: Adam Beechen, Dan Slott, Paul D. Storrie, Steve Vance and others
Artists: Carlo Barberi, Rick Burchett, John Delaney, Min S. Ku and others
DC Comics; $9.99

Previous installments of DC Comics’ new Justice League Unlimited trade paperback series have focused on the sub-genre of the comics being gathered and republished in the thematic collections: alien threats, time travel, and the occult. The latest installment, Justice League Unlimited: Girl Power, is instead organized around the nature of the protagonists in its stories. All eight short stories feature female protagonists, and in more than a few of the stories those female protagonists are actual teenage girls, making the sub-title a little less patronizing than it might at first sound. (As for the fact that all of the writers and artists who made these comics are men, well that’s a completely different problem.)

The individual comics within are again collected from the pages of Justice League Adventures (2002-2004) and Justice League Unlimited (2004-2008), both based on the 2001-2006  Justice League/Justice League Unlimited cartoon series. The collection also includes a pair of shorter stories by Steve Vance, John Delaney, and Ron Boyd from Adventures in the DC Universe (1997-1998), the short-lived anthology that which predated and, in a way, presaged the cartoon.

Those are short seven-pagers featuring Power Girl and Black Canary, as they appeared in the comics in the late ’90s (back when the phrase “Girl Power” was a far more common marketing phrase), that originally ran as back-ups to longer adventures featuring other heroes. They are notable here for not just their short length but their visuals, which differ fairly sharply from those of the rest of the book; artists Delaney and Boyd were working within the basic parameters of an “animated” style as seen in cartoons Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, but, since the Justice League cartoon didn’t yet exist, they stand out as much different than the character design-guided art that fills the rest of the stories in this collection. (Black Canary also appears in the cover story of this collection, for example, where her design is completely different than in the short story.)

The cover story, by writer Paul D. Storrie and Rick Burchett, stars Mary Marvel, who approaches the Justice League about her concern with being seen simply as “the girl version of Captain Marvel,” as she puts it.

“Same powers. Same emblem,” she explains. “But I want to be more than that.” She finds a very receptive audience in Supergirl, who has had to live with something of a similar problem, and Supergirl seeks to allay Mary’s fears by taking her to a Justice League mission already in progress.

Five female Leaguers are in pitched battle with a team of supervillains, and when Mary thinks she gets what Supergirl’s trying to say, Supergirl reveals that actually it’s a complete coincidence that this team-up is all-female: Leaguers are chosen for missions by which of the available heroes are the best people with the right powers, male or female, she says.

Other stories in the collection feature Zatanna, who proves to readers that there are no weak links in the Justice League line-up; Gypsy, who has to prove herself to the stern Captain Atom after she appears to make a mistake on a mission; Steel II Natasha Irons, who has to prove to her uncle (the original Steel) that she’s ready to be a superhero; and Queen, a supervillain released from prison who tries to resist the temptation of falling in with her old criminal friends in The Royal Flush Gang.

The final story included is “World War of the Sexes,” written by Dan Slott (who has since gone on to become one of Marvel’s most prominent writers) and drawn by Min S. Ku and Rob Leigh. This story features the full, original cartoon League line-up against Wonder Woman’s own mother and allies, the Amazons, who have been tricked into waging war on the male population. It stands out from the others not just in that it lacks focus on a single female protagonist but, as effective a superhero adventure as it might be, it doesn’t quite address the rationale for the Amazons’ war. That is, they might have been manipulated to an evil god into taking up arms, but the harms of a patriarchal world that urged them into battle in the first place still exist and are still grave ills.

As with the previous collections in the series, Girl Power is an exceptionally strong superhero book full of evergreen stories that should prove equally entertaining to newcomers as well as extant fans.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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