Powers 01: Who Killed Retro Girl?

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming

Published initially by Image comics (my review copy) and currently Icon/Marvel Comics

This long running series is the backbone of my comic collecting. It was the first trade paperback I bought not long after the comic started in 2000. I had recently begun buying monthly comics but on picking this up I discovered both a great comic and that I preferred to read a larger chunk of story without any ads in it. I have been buying trades and Powers ever since.

Anyway, the premise of the book is that of the Homicide division of the Police Department dedicated to investigating crimes involving Powers. It’s the Shield crossed with the Avengers if you need the elevator pitch. It’s one of my favourite comics and I feel that it has never really received the credit it deserves.

The book opens on a dialogue heavy walk-and-talk. Leading up the steps to a hostage negotiation with a gunman who has a kidnapped little girl and a jet pack. Bendis stamps his mark with snappy, quippy dialogue and Oeming impresses in the first action sequence with his bold, expressive linework and innovative use of panels. There is a short sequence of four panels where we scan through a room over the barrel of the gun, it’s very much a First Person Shooter video game moment and a great technique for adding pace to the scene.

Our leads are Detective Christian Walker a hulking, square-jawed cop and his new partner, the fiery Deena Pilgrim, newly transferred to Homicide on her own request. It’s no spoiler (given the name of the collection) to say that the first issue ends with the corpse of a superhero, and they do it with one powerful image.

Oeming’s work on this book is magnificent, he draws in  a very classic, thick lined, cartoony  style and it works well to illustrate and contrast the dark realism and violence of the story (and the language, Bendis’s biggest strength is his dialogue). He uses lots of shadow and negative space, and sometimes drops a lone panel or word-balloon onto a large black background to enhance its impact.

There is some interesting variety in the use of panels. News broadcasts often run under the main story and a 16 panel grid is used to introduce us to a stack of heroes and villains as they are being interviewed for the case. There’s also a great image of a body on the morgue table with the cast watching the autopsy, and the dialogue leading us around the image. But this leads to my only problem with this collection. There are a few instances where the story telling switches from reading right to left and down each page to scanning across the width of both pages and the storytelling does not make that blindingly obvious. Probably only an issue if you are as dim-witted as I am.

What this book does so well as the first volume of a long running series (up to 14 volumes now) is world-building. It is packed with references to previous cases and crimes. The world and the characters have history, Walker is a part of that and the reader is left wanting to learn more. I found it very believable the way the citizens behaved, much like we do in the real world, some people idolize the Powers, some stalk them, many are indifferent and some hate and despise them.

This volume is a great self-contained story but there are is a cast of fascinating secondary characters who I wanted to get to know much better and a few mysteries that beg to be resolved in future volumes. Powers is in development for the FX Network and it could make an excellent TV show if handled correctly.

Should I buy it? Oh yes. Just be warned, this is a gateway to buying the next dozen and more volumes of this excellent series.

Next Week: Sticking with superheroes it’s time to focus on everyone’s favourite bearded member of the Justice League and number one* Archer, Green Arrow in an 80’s flashback  with The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell.

*I know Hawkeye is getting all the heat right now but I think any character would if written by Fraction and drawn by Aja. Plus the dude wears purple. And doesn’t have a beard.

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This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Comics, Crime Comics, Superhero Comics, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Powers 01: Who Killed Retro Girl?

  1. Rui Esteves says:

    This is indeed a great book.

    Bendis wrote a nice mesh of superheroes and police procedure. The ending cough me by surprise, and that is a good thing.

    Love Oeming’s art.

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