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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Powers is a really fun comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. The series centers on the detective duo of Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim as they investigate various homicides and other superhero-related crimes. My local library had all, but the latest of the collections from this series. Last summer, on a whim, I decided to check out of the first one. I’m glad I did as I was quickly hooked on Bendis’s smart and quirky dialogue and Oeming’s wonderful art.
The fictional world in Powers is populated with superheroes, but the focus isn’t truly on them (at least, not initially). We follow to seemingly regular detectives doing their duty. I really liked this approach to the material as it gave a different perspective to a genre which has done a lot of the same over the past 75 years. It was also a very subtle way to start the series as each story/collection goes deeper and deeper into the mythology of this world and things just get progressively crazier. It is a nice way to lure in readers who may not be really into the superhero genre as you don’t truly jump fully into the super-heroics bit quite a bit.
Speaking of the superheroes, I love how Bendis presents them. On the surface, they are as you would expect: valiant, heroic, and wanting to help others. But that’s just the shine. In reality, they are a form of rock star. They have their issues, they have their vices, and (my favorite) they have their groupies. Sure, other writers have deconstructed superheroes in the past, so that’s nothing new. But Bendis gives it a bit of a fresh take and not a lot of emphasis is on the deconstruction. It almost makes superheroes feel a bit more realistic in terms of how they might really be if they existed in the real world.
I really love Bendis’s writing. His strength is in his dialogue. He has been criticized in the past for having too much dialogue in work, but that doesn’t really bother me at all. It is his trademark, and he uses it extremely well. The snappy back-and-forth really gives the series its own identity, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I do feel, though, that some of his storytelling, while starting off well, is beginning to go off the rails. The series started quietly, but a lot of stuff has happened to Walker and Pilgrim over the course of the series to the point that it just seems to be a bit too much and the storylines have gotten a bit too outlandish (when compared to its beginnings). Bendis and Oeming have stated that there is an endpoint, but are unsure when that endpoint will come. I do feel that Powers is beginning to become a bit long in the tooth, and I want it to end strong. Hopefully, the creators don’t go too nutty with the storyline. I haven’t gotten to the Powers Bureau storyline yet (the latest collection), so things might resolve themselves to a quieter nature.
In any event, the real strength is the characterization. Walker and Pilgrim are interesting in their own right and are continuously fleshed out. Maybe too much crazy stuff has happened to them, but I was continuously was invested in what was going on with them. Bendis gives them a bit of a mysterious past, but doesn’t dangle the carrot for any excruciatingly amount of time. He keeps the secret just long enough to tease readers before revealing his card (and leading into another one).
If anything, Bendis gave me, as a reader, the most unique and obvious take on an immortal character that I have ever read.
Regardless of the natures of the stories, Oeming’s art will always be gorgeous to look at. He produces the kind of art that I like to see in comic: clean lines that have that cartoony look to them without it being too cartoony. He really does wonderful work, and I’m always open for more of it.
I highly recommend Powers to people who enjoy some good character work and lovely art. This is a series that I wouldn’t mind, someday, to have on my shelf as there is a certain amount of re-readability to it (especially after various character revelations and surprises – you want to go back and see it teased). I was intentionally vague with plot points, because I really don’t want to ruin any of the surprise the series might have for a first-time reader. There is a TV series in development for broadcast on the Playstation Network (which means no one will end up watching it), so perhaps the comic will crossover into the mainstream pop-culture (like The Walking Dead). But I wouldn’t wait for that to happen. Check out Powers now if you can. The only real downside is once you finish it, you’ll be disappointed that the next collection isn’t out.