Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Oeming (regular edition)/David Mack and David Marquez (variants)
Editor: Jennifer Grünwald
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment/Icon imprint
Price: $3.99 US
I’m an early adopter — not when it comes to technology, per se, but with a number of comics titles that have debuted outside of the mainstream over the years. Powers debuted at Image Comics back in 2000, before co-creator Brian Bendis was a vital cog in the Marvel machine. The creator-owned has soldiered on and prospered from Bendis’s rise in the industry, even following him over to Marvel. I was a big fan of the series from the start, and it debuted at the height of my reviewing “career”; I think I’ve even got a pullquote on the first edition of the first collected edition. Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with Powers, though. Either I missed an issue, or I maybe I decided since newer issues didn’t seem to make it to the top of my reading pile on a given week that it was time to move on. My memory is that the stories started seeming a bit repetitive to me, perhaps more in terms of atmosphere than actual plot. Like I say, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details.
But with the relaunch of the series a decade and a half after the property first began, and with the debut of a Sony streaming TV series looming only a few weeks away, I figured it was time to revisit Bendis and Oeming’s baby, to perhaps rediscover what I enjoyed about it to begin with and to see why it’s lasted so long. I’ll tell you this… it’s funnier than I remember it. While this latest foray into the world of police detectives who investigate superhuman cases is still immersed in a noir atmosphere, there’s an occasional playfulness about the dialogue. While darker, broken character traits still seem to be the heart of Powers, there’s a hidden sense of fun that made me glad I came back for another ridealong.
Following the publication of her wildly successful memoir about her life as a Powers detective, Deena Pilgrim is riding high. She’s rich and she’s still the go-to detective for all things supernormal — which is good for the rest of us, because a new wave of unstable superhumans is flooding the city’s streets. When everyone on a wealthy and politically powerful man’s yacht (including the owner) is killed in bizarre circumstances, Pilgrim and her partner Det. Enki Sunrise face the daunting task of solving an impossible murder with the eyes of the world trained on them. Meanwhile, whatever happened to Pilgrim’s first partner in the Powers branch, Christian Walker?
Oeming’s style for this book is pretty much as I remembered it, perhaps a little grittier, rougher around the edges to reflect the harshness of certain plot elements. I like the juxtaposition of his simple style, with its roots in a Bruce Timm-like influence, and the uglier side of this genre police procedural. Oeming makes excellent use of double-page spreads to convey the scope and immense size of certain scenes, and it’s quite effective. Colorist Nick Filardi’s colors serve the noir atmosphere of the story quite well, and his sparing use of brighter colors show how the explosion of super-hero elements bring instability and danger into the darker corners of the “real” world.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the banter between Deena and Enki in the precinct scene. I enjoyed the visual flow of the scene as the characters made their way across the room/double-page spread, and it brought some important balance to the gloomier, self-loathing aspects of the story in other scenes. Of course, while that scene was playful, the detectives’ discussion with Powers medical examiner Dr. Marrs was downright funny at key moments. She’s a fangirl, someone who still can’t believe she’s a part of this world. She represents the wonder all of us experienced when we discovered the super-hero genre, and she’s an important reminder in a book full of death, desperation and despair that the reader should smile and enjoy the ride.
This comic has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its incorporation of a strong, female-led cast. Deena is center stage here, with Enki and Marrs backing her up nicely. Bendis has also crafted a nicely accessible script for this debut issue (the fourth first issue of Powers, I believe). I’ve been out of the loop with the property, as I noted, and I really had no problem moving forward from this point. Even someone brand-new to Powers would be able to appreciate the plot. 8/10
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