WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Deathstroke Annual #1, now on sale.
Defiance, the unlikely team of heroes led by the mercenary Deathstroke, was always going to end in tears. But as the group fractures and then shatters in Deathstroke Annual #1, it's astonishing just how poorly things go for Power Girl. The issue, written by Christopher Priest, with breakdowns by Larry Hama, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by Bill Sienkiewicz, and color art by Jeremy Cox, sees young Tanya Spears, Defiance's genius and financial backer, experience betrayal after betrayal, as well as heartbreak, then death.
Or so it would seem.
Foreshadowed in the annual's earliest pages, Tanya's apparent demise is merely prelude to the return of another Power Girl, Karen Starr of Earth-2, perhaps marking one more step toward the big Rebirth debut of the Justice Society of America.
Power Girl Power
Introduced in the New 52 era, current Power Girl Tanya Spears is the daughter of a prominent scientist and a genius in her own right, serving as a postdoc fellow at MIT when only seventeen years old. She came to work for Starr Industries, growing close to Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, and Helena Wayne, the Huntress -- both of whom are refugees from Earth 2, which in this continuity had just come out of a devastating war against the forces of Apokalips -- in the pages of World's Finest. Eventually, Power Girl and Huntress went home, with Karen leaving her vast fortune and assets to her young protege, and Tanya began developing powers.
Now, though, Tanya is haunted by dreams that her friend and mentor is trapped between worlds, struggling to return home.
And here's where things get tricky.
DC's Rebirth initiative has reasserted many elements of the "classic" DC Universe, often at the expense of the altered reality that emerged following the events of Flashpoint. Back in the day, Earth 2 was home of the Golden Age heroes, including Jay Garrick as the Flash, Alan Scott as Green Lantern, and so on. Heroes were allowed to age, such that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle eventually married and their daughter Helena became the Huntress. On this Earth, Power Girl, not Supergirl, was Superman's heroic cousin. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, most of these heroes were folded into the unified Earth -- Jay Garrick was now the original Flash and always had been, etc. -- while others, like Huntress and Power Girl, were given new origins. It's not necessary, and would in fact be incredibly messy, to get into all the ways Power Girl's origin changed post-Crisis. And we should definitely not talk about her baby.
In the New 52, of course, none of this would make sense in the new continuity. And so Earth 2 was simply an alternate Earth, with all-new versions of Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders, and so forth. In many ways the Earth 2 series, originated by James Robinson and Nicola Scott, exemplified the possibilities of the New 52 -- its characters were more substantially reinvented than in any other series, in many cases for the better. Being on an alternate Earth also let the creators play with new combinations which would be impossible to pull off in the prime universe, like the heartbreaking Red Tornado, housing the spirit of Lois Lane. Eventually, though, Earth 2 was destroyed, though the heroes were given a new world at the end of Convergence.
So is the Karen Starr Power Girl struggling to return to reality the pre- or post-Flashpoint version? Or is she, as is the case with many Rebirth returns, a bit of both?
The fate of the Justice Society, Earth 2's super team across every reality, is an open question, and their return is hotly anticipated. Jay Garrick has already attempted to break through during the Batman and Flash crossover The Button, and it is widely believed the team will in some way spin out of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's current Doomsday Clock epic. After all, if Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan was truly responsible for writing the JSA out of history, it's only natural that their return should be tied to his confrontation with DC's heroes.