Guest review by Michael Bailey. Check out his blog at Fortress of Baileytude!
Release Date: August 23, 2000
Cover Date: October 2000
Story: Scott Beatty
Pencils: Pete Woods
Inks: Andrew Pepoy and John Stanisci
Cover: Cary Nord and Mark Lipka
The Green Lantern of the year 1256 searches for and finds Power Girl on the Watchtower. The Daxamite Green Lantern is a bit anxious but Power Girl is secure in the knowledge that no matter how dire the situation gets the Justice League never gives up. Elsewhere, Oblivion orders his minion Kir’tik to guard his treasure, to the last of his species if he must. Back at the Watchtower the Medieval Green Lantern soaks up some yellow sun energy before heading off with Power Girl in search of the League. Along the way they discuss why an alien Green Lantern looks like he stepped out of medieval times and how there is no record of his existence.
Power Girl and Green Lantern arrive at their destination only to find a giant, black mass where the League should be. They are drawn into the mass and find themselves on an ice planet. Green Lantern is concerned because he can feel his strength dwindling but Power Girl is quick to point out that he has a power ring and that his true strength will come from within. This theory is put to the test when the two are attacked by an alien creature. Green Lantern chooses a more direct approach as he hacks away at the creature’s tentacles with a broad sword construct. Power Girl also suggests that he use his heat vision and soon the two make their way across the planet where they finally find the Justice League encased in a yellow crystal and guarded by Kir’tik and his species.
Green Lantern is a tad upset since his ring still has the impurity that makes it useless against yellow. Power Girl goes to smash the crystal but Kir’tik stops her and that is when Power Girl realizes that they are guarding the crystal and protecting it from harm. Green Lantern is incensed that Power Girl wants to just leave the League where they are but she is quick to point out that the two of them and the rest of Kyle’s team are Oblivion’s problem, not the League. Just then the two heroes receive a communication from Kyle telling them to get to the coordinates he is sending them as fast as they can because he has found Oblivion. Before they leave Green Lantern reveals that his true name is Pel Tavin. Power Girl introduces herself as Karen but her friends call her Kara.
Initially I thought I could just read this book and remember enough of the story without having to go back and read the first installment of the Green Lantern: Circle of Fire fifth week event. Turns out I remember next to nothing of who Oblivion was or why Power Girl was teamed up with this medieval looking Green Lantern. Normally I have a pretty good memory for these things and to a certain extent I was relieved to learn that my recall is not as freakish as my friends and loved ones would have me believe. So I re-read Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1 for the first time in twelve years and followed that with Green Lantern and Power Girl and after finishing both books a few realizations hit me all at once. First up, there were names in the credits that surprised me. Nowadays if you say the name Brian K. Vaughan you think Y: The Last Man or LOST, not a Green Lantern fifth week event. It reminded me that Vaughan did spend some time in the mainstream DC Universe before finding success elsewhere.
The other name that shocked me was Pete Woods, who penciled the Green Lantern and Power Girl special. Maybe it is the inking or the coloring but Woods’ style in this story looks nothing like the work he would eventually do on the Superman titles. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the art quite a bit. I just wasn’t expecting to see Woods’ name in the credits.
Finally, Matt Idleson edited the book. Back in 2000 he was editing fifth week events. Now he edits the Superman books. That strikes me as weird and it shouldn’t.
The second realization is that the look of DC’s books in the late nineties carried over for a year or so after the calendar hit the 2000s. This special came out in August of 2000 and between the art style and the coloring it looked like it could have easily come out in 1998 or 1999. Again this is not a dig or me suggesting that the art was bad but it drove home the point that comics really have changed a lot over the last twelve years and while that shouldn’t have been a surprise it kind of was. This has to do with the fact that the year 2000 feels like yesterday to me, so when I get the wake-up call that it has been over a decade since these comics first hit the stands it is kind of sobering.
The third and final realization was how well the plot of this story held up. There are some specifics about the issue that are a little clunky but the central idea is pretty solid. Power Girl and Medieval Green Lantern team-up to fight some cosmic level bad guy and learn a little something about themselves and each other in the process. Actually I like the concept of a medieval era Green Lantern that adopted the look and speech patterns of the people of that time period so that he wouldn’t spook them too much quite a bit. It is kind of awesome actually. Add to the mix that he is a Daxamite and the character becomes even more appealing. I felt a tad silly about that actually. I dug Sodam Yat as a character because when he was introduced I thought the idea of a Daxamite being a Green Lantern to be new and fresh. I guess Pel Tavin didn’t make that much of an impression on me back in 2000.
I liked Power Girl in this story as well. She was played as the supportive older sister hero, which was a refreshing change from how most writers would handle her from this time period. Karen had become kind of one note as a character, especially when she was in Justice League Europe. As much as I enjoy the stories she appeared in it does bug me that she was played as this ball of anger and the explanation that her mood was the result of drinking diet cola didn’t make up for that characterization. Here she was confidant and took control of the situation early on, which I liked. I also enjoyed the interaction between her and Pel leading up to them revealing their true names to each other at the end of the issue. Sure it didn’t mean much because they are from different time periods but it was a good character beat and a nice way to close out the story.
There were some other bits of business that I liked as well. We got a cameo from Power Girl’s cat, which was fun. It was neat to see that Ronnie Raymond’s step-mother was working for the company that Power Girl owned. I also dug the not-so thinly veiled dig a Microsoft Windows in the form of an operating system called, “Curtains-2-K”. The cameo by Black Canary was also welcome and served to remind the reader that Power Girl played a part in Birds of Prey. It wasn’t a huge part and frankly the relationship between Power Girl and Oracle was rather contentious but I always liked it when Power Girl would show up in Birds of Prey. I also like the fact that Power Girl was wearing her yellow and white costume. I have no idea why but I like that look for her.
Overall this was a neat little book and reminded me that the DC Comics of the early 2000s could be a fun place to hang out in. By the time Circle of Fire hit the stands the fifth week events were becoming rather ho-hum but this one was pretty solid. Then as now I think Circle of Fire was a great way to expose the then-current generation to a group of heroes that were largely being ignored and despite the fact that she had been in Sovereign 7 and Birds of Prey Power Girl didn’t get a whole lot of screen time in that era. Here she got a chance to shine and that makes me smile.
One final thought; this didn’t occur to me at the time but in many ways Circle of Fire was the last story of the nineties era Green Lantern. In the very same month that Circle of Fire came out Judd Winick started his run on Green Lantern and while the artwork initally looked the same the stories (and DC as a universe) would evolve into a different, slightly darker place. Winick went places that Ron Marz didn’t especially when it came to social issues. While Circle of Fire would later play into Kyle’s time as Ion this story seems like one last party before the books started becoming something…else. It was kind of like the last party you have with your high school friends before heading off to college. That is not a negative criticism, just an observation.