Fairly recently, DC ran a four issue limited series about Terra. Technically, this is Terra III, but that’s actually part of the series- straightening out the rather convoluted history of this name. The series is by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmotti (writers), and Amanda Conner (pencils). Conner has gone on to provide the art for the currently running Power Girl series, and I rather like her nice clean lines and very clear art.
The first issue is called “Can You Dig It?” and opens with a scene that’s been in the news far too often- miners trapped deep underground, one writing an “I love you” note on his arm in marker, clearly not expecting to survive. The news coverage is interrupted when there’s a minor tremor, which in turn we learn is from a fight between this new Terra and creatures called “Blood Feeders”which are nasty zombie looking things, and described as zombies by Terra. Terra is protecting a subterranean hive of insect looking creatures, and is shown using her powers very adeptly, as well as having some actual combat skill. Terra then saves the miners and tells the media to inform whoever’s in charge of the mine to dig elsewhere as they are disturbing other societies. The reporter presses Terra for information on who she is and where she’s from, but she says she doesn’t have time for this and leaves. Her not sticking around for the interview prompts a reporter to quip “Whoever she is, she’s no Booster Gold.”
We then cut to “deep beneath the New Mexico desert,” where a new mining machine is being demonstrated for some government representatives. Faulkner, the man in charge of the project, finds a glowing pool in a new cavern which suddenly shoots out an arm and pulls him in. It spits him out a moment later, his skin looking like blue crystal, saying he’s never felt better.
In the South Pacific, strange creatures that look like islander native idols are causing a volcano to erupt, and Terra once again steps in to save the people. The leader of them, called Pyretic, says the underground realms are all threatened by the surface, and she should be working with him. Terra manages to save the people by creating a huge bridge leading to the next island, clearly stretching her powers to their limit. She gets overwhelmed by a river of lava and, while she only gets slightly burned, she does sink in it. Terra fights as best she can and, as just her hand remains above the surface, is saved by Power Girl. Even as Power Girl steps into the fight, Terra asks her not to hurt the lavarians, as they are called, that they are not evil just desperate. PG breaks Terra’s bridge, and they are cut off, as Terra passes out in her arms. Power Girl says since she has no idea who the girl is or where she lives, she’ll take her to a “doctor friend of mine.” This is one of the things I like about this series- nice continuity involving the characters. Power Girl doesn’t know anything about this new hero who seems badly injured, so she takes her to the JSA and Dr. Midnight.
Meanwhile, Faulkner in his new state kills all the witnesses to his transformation, exulting in his new power, saying he thinks he’s now made of diamond. At JSA HQ, Power Girl looks aghast as Midnight informs her he drew some blood for more tests. She just wanted to get Terra some help for her injuries, and doesn’t like that he ran tests on her without consent. Midnight explains that what seems to be happening is Terra’s body has shut down so she can repair herself, and that her blood contains high levels of an unknown metal. Midnight also points out that metahumans have special medical needs, and it makes sense to get a reading on various things like blood properties when it’s not an emergency so they have it when there is one. The issue ends with Midnight telling Power Girl that this girl lying on the table is a perfect genetic match for the earlier Terra from the New Teen Titans. This is actually one of the few mistakes I caught in the series- the good doctor refers to “Tara Markova” – Terra I’s real name was Tara Markov.
Issue two is called “Who Are You?” and starts with a handy recap at the bottom of the page as to what’s happened so far while in the main panel, Terra voices her displeasure at samples being taken while she was out cold. It’s a nicely done scene of Terra’s righteous anger, Power Girl at a rare loss for words, and Terra stomping around trying to find her costume while Midnight tries hard to avoid staring. Terra says she will tell them things, but not yet, Midnight voices concerns about her mental health given the other Terra’s history, and Power Girl just wants to know what the connection between them is. PG and Terra continue their argument outside, and just start to make peace when they are interrupted by an explosion from the subway. Terra and Power Girl make a great instinctive team, helping rescue people until they find the source of the problem- the Silver Banshee is stalking someone who has an artifact she wants. PG takes on the Banshee while Terra goes after a man who runs off yelling “It’s mine, all mine!” Sounds like one of the classic Daffy Duck cartoons to me.
The man proves more stubborn than smart and trips onto the third rail, killing himself while Terra looks on horrified. Meanwhile above, Silver Banshee demands Power Girl to leave her alone, who responds “Not until you pass out or tell me what the artifact is! I will have at least one question answered today by somebody.” Banshee tells her it’s a stone god from ancient druids. Terra says a prayer over the dead body, then asks “Why can’t anything ever be simple?” when it arises transformed into a towering powerful being. Power Girl and Terra fight it as Terra persuades Banshee to help them, if not for heroism’s sake than for revenge against the thief. Banshee, Terra, and Power Girl combined drop the creature, and Terra finally tells Power Girl her name is Atlee, and offers to repair the street while PG goes after the escaping Banshee.
Meanwhile, Faulkner, turned to diamond back in part one, enjoys a reunion with his girlfriend as they try and figure out what he should do next. Hero, villain, cash in on the possibilities of the underground worlds he is finding? His girlfriend, Veronica, comes across as very manipulative as she finally gets him to agree to take her to the pool that transformed him.
In Markovia, we see Geo-Force fighting a horde of zombies led by a creature he calls “Deadcoil.” Terra shows up, wanting to talk to Geo-Force, and ends up helping him in the fight as he sees the similarities to his late sister’s power. She gets off a few wonderful lines here like “Be a good dead thing and hurry back to whatever grave you crawled out of. I need to talk to Geo-Force in private.” And “Captain Shouty and his zombie squad need to be permanently planted.” This issue ends with Geo-Force getting possessed by Deadcoil, and turning to confront Terra.
Part three, “Far Away Home” once again has a recap on the first page as Terra battles the possessed Geo-Force. There’s some nicely written fight banter as Terra tries hard not to hurt Geo-Force, who has been described as one of the most powerful beings on the planet at times. Oddly, they get Geo-Force’s name, Markov, right here after screwing up the first Terra’s in earlier issues. Terra managed to neatly trap Deadcoil, but Geo-Force looks like he’s dying and she takes him underground.
Meanwhile, Faulkner and Veronica return to his strange glowing pool, which he calls a “primordial genetic reservoir.” Against warnings, Veronica strips and jumps in. She changes, but not as well as he did, finding she is suddenly not able to move. As he agonizes over what to do, Terra passes through carrying the unconscious Geo-Force. She brings him to a huge hidden city, peopled by various strange looking beings. She finds Arula, who agrees to heal Geo-Force, and asks how her work on the surface is going. Terra tells her she hasn’t contacted the Titans yet, and many hints about things as yet unrevealed are dropped. Terra is sent off to visit her family as Geo-Force heals.
We see Faulkner using his tunneling machine to pursue Terra in hopes of curing his now petrified love. He finds a cavern with some kind of creatures in it who seem to be in some kind of stasis or eggs or cocoons or something. Altee, as Terra is called, goes to meet her father, a huge hulking being who is overjoyed to see her. Again, more hints about her mission on the surface, and they go off to see her mother.
Faulkner finds the parents of the small beings he has discovered, and actually reacts peacefully and intelligently, realizing the smaller ones are their children, and a bit frustrated by the language barrier. Some odd black spider looking beings attack, and one shatters the Veronica-statue. He goes berserk and kills most of them, then mourns Veronica.
Geo-Force recovers, and we finally get some information. The second Terra, of Team Titans fame, was from this underground city, sent to work with the surface heroes and hopefully raise their awareness that the world is one eco system. They thought it would be better for her to have a familiar face, so when they made her look human, they made her look like the first Terra. To their credit, they admit it was a mistake and apologize. The beings of the underground have been watching the surface, but were disturbed by the general human trend toward violence and hid from them. Atlee, the current Terra, was their next volunteer to go among the humans as their champion. Geo-Force is surprised by all this, but not angered. Alarms sound as Faulkner finds the city, carrying Veronica’s head and talking to it. He seems to have gone mad as part three ends.
The final chapter, “For Those About to Rock,” has Faulkner attacking Strata, as the hidden city is called, telling the severed head of his lady that the people here will help her. As Terra tries to repair the damage Faulkner is doing, Geo-Force tries to stop him, causing Veronica’s head to fall into lava, which reduces it to a smooth oval, driving him further into rage and anger. He attacks Terra, blaming her for everything, and suddenly discovering new powers as he makes crystal spears erupt around her. They fight, Terra using more aspects of her power to make large rock sheaths around her hands for extra punching power. Finally, she beats him and they move Faulkner to somewhere he can be helped. The elders of Strata recognize what happened to him, which leads to a history flashback.
The beings of Strata started to evolve around the end of the time of the dinosaurs. There was a huge alien being who died in space long, long ago, and whole races evolved and died along his body. He eventually crashed to Earth, and it’s hinted this impact was the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Strata is the city of the most recent beings to evolve on the alien. Veronica and Faulkner must have found a wellspring of the aliens’ DNA, theorize the elders. Arula says she will keep them both, try to find Veronica’s DNA in the crystal orb that was her head, and hope to cure Faulkner’s madness as well. Geo-Force says it will be hard, but Atlee can use the name Terra. Geo-Force agrees to allow them to wipe his memories of his time there.
A week later, Terra goes to Manhattan to find Power Girl and patch up some of their earlier differences. They talk, and Terra admits she’s “new to all this.” They spend some time in Central Park and then go off to fight Santana and her animal men, minor Hawkman foes. They easily win, and Power Girl asks Terra what kind of food she likes as they help the police round up the defeated animal men, another nice touch.
They talk civilian identities for a bit, and Power Girl tells her she will absolutely need something to wear besides her costume. There is a full page of no dialogue, Atlee trying various outfits with differing degrees of success or spectacular failure. It’s actually a very nicely done scene. They go to a sushi place Kara likes, and we learn that Atlee does NOT like sushi. They both mull over their futures in their secret IDs, and then as they leave, PG says her super hearing is picking up Solomon Grundy rampaging on the Brooklyn Bridge. They leave the sushi place to Atlee saying “Now THAT sounds like fun. Can we go?” and Kara answering “Sure. Maybe you can throw up some sushi on him,” and the issue, and series, ends.
I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5.
What I liked: the art is great, reflecting the nice, simple, upbeat story. The facial expressions are great, and it’s cute without being annoyingly so. This new Terra is not a dark, gritty, tragic figure. She’s fun, likes helping people, and is optimistic while realizing there are going to be times she has to fight. Her friendship with Power Girl develops nicely, and they actually resolve the tangled mess of the previous Terras, including Geo-Force in the story. And I find myself really liking Terra. Not “Oh, that’s a cool idea,” or “Wow, those were good fight scenes,” but the character herself is amusing and fun. I hope she does meet up with the Teen Titans sometime, I could see her getting on well with Static and Miss Martian at the least. Also as I talk about earlier, I like that Power Girl brought Terra to Dr. Midnight for help. Too often in limited series, featured characters seem to forget they have allies.
What I didn’t: smaller section than normal for me (did I mention I liked this series?). I mentioned it above, but the weird errors on the Markov name bugged me. They did so much research and attention to detail on this, how’d they screw that up? My only other complaint is the extended nude scene in the beginning of issue 2. Now, let me be clear, I admire the female form just fine. But somehow, with her being written as so young, it seemed really wrong here. Additionally, I keep hearing about people bemoaning readership falling off among younger readers. Well, I have several friends with kids, and as much as I liked this series, I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be recommending it to the younger readers with that scene, and the bits with Veronica running around with no clothes. Did we really need those scenes? Seems to me the dialogue with Doctor Midnight and Power Girl would have worked fine with her dressed.