Powers Volume 1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming

I was going to just pick up Powers where I left off, but it had been almost five years, so I figured I would start fresh and see if it was still as good as I'd remembered it.

Powers is set in a world where superpowered are a part of life, but they get treated by the cops just like anyone else when they go outside the law. We see things from the perspective of the cops, particularly two of them, Christian Walker and his new partner, Deena Pilgrim.

The two are placed on the case of the shocking murder of Retro Girl, a popular hero brutally killed with almost no clues. Can they solve a case with almost no leads which will almost certainly put them in the path of people with powers far beyond their own? Plus, is Detective Walker a little closer to this case than he should be?

In a series that is definitely Bendesian (Has anyone else used that word? If so, I apologize for not giving credit.), our two heroes without powers must get to the bottom of the case--which might just expose more than they'd like.

I was afraid I might not enjoy Powers as much this time around, because I am less interested in capes comics than I used to be. However, this is a crime story with capes in it, much like Sleeper by Brubaker. As a result, it's more interesting than standard superhero fare. Those who enjoy a good crime story that might like to see that world interact with high-powered individuals who can crush buildings with their hands will find a lot to like in Powers.

Powers is a crime comic that features superpowers, and therefore marries two concepts that Bendis clearly loves together. As a result, we get a script that is tightly plotted with just enough clues to let the reader figure out most--though not all--of what is going to happen, if they pay attention. I like stories that do that--if you are going to give me a mystery story, let me have a chance at solving it. Bendis does that, while still giving the reader a chance to marvel at some of the twists and turns, particularly the ending, where a Batman-ish character takes a logical (if drastic) step to resolve the murder mystery.

We also get a good cast of characters to work with in this first volume. Walker and his uncanny link to the world of the capes is compelling. Detective Pilgrim is a spunky young woman who quips about her own clothing while trying to nail down the truth. She won't be deterred, no matter who is staring her down. We find heroes and villains that are familiar without being copies, a tribute to Bendis and Oeming's creativity. Police Captains, coroners, and reporters all fit their roles well, sounding just right for this cynical world.

Because this is a Bendis comic, there are word balloons aplenty. It's almost comical how the dialog bubbles trail across the pages trying to squeeze in everything Bendis wants his characters to say. He's the master of banter, and the interplay between Pilgrim and Walker is some of his best. It's clear that he writes his stories to allow for this sort of give and take, and is signature to all of the works I've read by him. If you are the type of person who prefers the words to tell the story, then you probably already avoid anything by Bendis, and this would be no exception.

However, those of you who might like his dialog but find his mainstream capes work to be two crossover heavy should definitely take a look at this. It has all the wit, strong plotting, and banter without the burdens of continuity

It also doesn't hurt that this features the art of Oeming. He's one of those creators who specializes in working in shadowy contrasts, and that fits the noirish world of Powers. Oeming's characters are blocky and angular, ready to drift in and out of the light as needed. He's not afraid to obscure them in the best interest of telling Bendis' story. Further, he doen't try to outdo the various dialog balloons. Instead, the art compliments the running mouths of Bendis, showing what they're doing why they talk. If need-be, he'll even more the art to the side.

Oeming has the ability to render what is needed without being flashy. It's a distinctive look with a variety of poses, panels, and other designs that I quite enjoy. Combined with Bendis's script, we get a clear picture of the dark world in which Powers is set.

Bendis weaves the idea of high-powered individuals interacting with the public in a way that has been used in Gotham Central or Bendis's own Pulse. As my desire to read something new (relatively speaking) within the nature of the comic genre continues to grow, Powers is just the sort of thing I'd enjoy reading right now. If you are looking for something new or want to see what Bendis can do that's not Marvel, give this a try. I think you'll like it.