Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Zatanna, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and Supergirl are the DC Super Hero Girls! The bold and bright series, aimed at kids ages 6 to 10, packs laughs, super-powered action and personality into one terrific team of heroes. But what happens when some members of the team lose their powers? Can they still be heroes? Written by Amy Wolfram and illustrated by Agnes Garbowska, DC Super Hero Girls: Powerless answers this questions for kids and reminds us all that anyone, big or small, can be a hero.
Powerless begins as just a normal day for any ordinary teen. Wake up, check the phone for notifications, get dressed for school, check the phone again... The colorful details in every panel emphasize how big of a role devices and electricity play in our daily lives. (As a parent, your heart will go out to Commissioner Gordon trying to catch a moment of his daughter’s attention.)
Barbara Gordon is particularly attached to tech—a Batgirl needs her Bat-gadgets, after all! From her A.I.-powered computer named Oracle (a fantastic nod to her comic book history) to her smartphone, smartwatch and Bat-cycle, technology is a trademark part of Babs’ superhero identity. But when a sudden power outage causes a citywide blackout, it also renders Batgirl’s gear useless. Even worse, Bumblebee’s shrinking suit loses power as well, sticking her indefinitely in her tiny form. The two heroes suddenly find themselves powerless. But are they really?
Sweet little Bumblebee is the shining star of this story. The tiny embodiment of not giving up even when it seems like no one notices your struggles, Karen Beecher is a fantastic role model for young readers. Even without her suit’s powers, she works hard to save herself and never gives up—and she succeeds in her endeavors.
Barbara Gordon faces a similar struggle. Her super-powered friends, especially Jessica, can’t help but worry about her once she’s out of fancy tech toys to use in a fight. They’re overprotective and suggest she should leave the heroics to them. Barbara still has her sharp wits and a strong desire to help save the city, so powers or gear or not, she’s going to do whatever she can to find the cause of the problem.
During their hunt for the culprit, the Super Hero Girls’ paths cross briefly with the “Tween Titans” in a cameo that will delight fans of Teen Titans GO!, both young and old. They might be small, but these are definitely the mischievous Beast Boy, Cyborg, Robin, Starfire and Raven you know and love. But for once, these hapless heroes’ shenanigans aren’t the cause of the problem.
Try as she might, Babs just can’t keep up with the team as they follow up on possible causes of the blackout. Jessica and Zatanna finally agree to send Babs home before she endangers herself or anyone else. But Babs is undeterred and begins investigating the old-fashioned way, true to her detective roots.
Like Karen, Babs might feel alone, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to give up. When she finally finds the cause of the power outage, Babs faces the problem head-on and doesn’t need any fancy gadgets or super-strength—just empathy and her quick wits. She saves the day as Babs, not Batgirl, and even makes a friend along the way. It’s a gentle reminder for young readers that they too can make a difference with just a kind heart and their smarts.
Whether it’s befriending the kid at school or volunteering to help those in need, kids big and small can be heroes in their own communities. And at home they can even be inspired by Babs to just spend an evening offline with their families. James and Barbara Gordon have one of the closest family relationships in comic books, and it’s a delight to see that his efforts to support her behind the scenes don’t go unnoticed in this fun graphic novel.
You could even take a page out of the Gordons’ book—pun intended—and start a new tradition like family game night or a pizza and movie night. Parents are some of the biggest heroes in the real world and giving kids our own undivided attention is a superpower we all have.
Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for DCComics.com and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and crafts.