June 2, 2010

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Powers Volume 6

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming
Marvel

Another day, another dysfunctional supergroup? The truth is far more deadly when Detectives Walker and Pilgrim end up placed on the case of a hero that's a politician in his spare time. As our two detectives try to get through a wall of corporate-based silence, the reality of corruption seeps in. Even if they can catch the criminal, are they capable of bringing him or her in?

After being a little iffy on the last trade, I have to admit that this one, which was not any better, really cooled me on reading more. This volume continues the amped-up violence and has several unnecessary scenes, mostly involving religious figures or places.

I'm certainly not against violence per se, but in this case, it felt gratuitous in its scope and depiction, doing everything that modern comics thinks sells issues but manages to turn me off no matter how good the concepts inside.

It doesn't help that there's quite a bit of violence towards women in this one, either. It's the trigger for the rest of the issues and also plays a metaphorical role at the end, and I just didn't like it. Again, it smacks of "let's do something eye-catching" rather than doing something for the good of the story.

The plot itself is okay. A Justice League-like group that disbanded ages ago amongst disagreements means that there are plenty of suspects and a chance for Bendis to make reference to the ugly side of being a celebrity. That part comes off pretty well, in fact, including a brilliantly captured retro-feel by Oeming in a comic that has 1990s language and 1970s art.

I also liked the idea of trying to control people with powers, when they are several light years ahead of most mortals. It's a theme that's been sitting at the edges of this book for a long time. After all, in most of the prior cases, something has happened to make it work out in the end, sometimes in a way that's too convenient. In this one, the ending is a lot messier, which I would have liked if it had been put together in a less gratuitous manner.

At no time do I think Bendis has mislead the reader. The mystery here works well and there's actually quite a bit of detective work going into the solution. The set up for the future makes sense within the world as well. We also have some great Bendis patter, such as when Walker gets to make the famous "the butler did it" quip in such a way as to work perfectly.

The problem for me is that this volume has a lot of good little pieces that don't make up a strong whole. It's just too amped up on the violence scale for me to enjoy it. It moves Powers from being a good crime book to being yet another comic with a lot of explosions and gore.

That's unfortunate, because I still like the idea. However, I think I'm done with this one, at least for a bit. I may try to pick up from here down the line. Given the climax, this is a good jumping off point, so if you read this, and feel similar to me, I think it's a spot to turn Powers off.