As Long As I Don’t Wear Tights or Spandex, Issue 5 — POWERS

29 Dec

Stewart here…

POWERS by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming (Icon/collected and regularly published)


I remember one Wednesday back in 2000 while I was perusing my local comic shop waiting to see what the new releases were that week, and I stumbled upon a random issue of a book called Powers.  I was kind of thrown off by the angular cartoonish look of the book by artist Michael Avon Oeming, which owed more to something like the Batman animated series than the heavily detailed designs of books of the day.  I did note the name of the book’s writer, Brian Michael Bendis, who had wrote a book called Jinx I read an issue of long ago and found it okay (just not enough to keep reading it).  But the concept seemed interesting enough to give it a shot.  So, I picked up the first two issues (originally published by image before they moved to Marvel’s Icon imprint) and bought them, not completely sure what to expect.

The basic premise of the book is that superheroes exist, and like many things in real life, murders occur, and superhero or not, the police have to investigate it.  This leads us to police detective Christian Walker, a cop who specializes in handling superhero-related cases.  He has a special connection to all of this, as its revealed (and its not as big of a spoiler in comparison to other things we learn about Walker during the run of the book) he was once a superhero himself, whose powers have been mysteriously taken away from him.  He’s partnered up with feisty new detective Deena Pilgrim, and they try to solve these unusual cases, to varying degrees of success.

What makes this book interesting is how it announced Brian Michael Bendis as someone who would be worth watching over the next few years.  His long scenes of dialogue and serious left turns in story made the book worth reading, even if you weren’t sure from issue to issue what was going to happen.  At one moment you could get a great bit of comedy, followed almost immediately by a scene of pure tension.  It was just before he made his stamp on books like Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man, and the Avengers books, and you could see something happening in Powers that paved the way for that success beyond the confines of indie comics.

Credit equally goes to co-creator and artist Michael Avon Oeming, whose artwork was very simple in terms of composition but often could be extremely striking.  I mentioned earlier the angular compositions he does, and that’s not meant to be a slight (especially when he takes it to some weird levels, like one infamous splash page of a man exploded on his toilet in gory detail).  That he’s been asked to draw human and super-powered characters of all types for the last twelve years and make them consistent and recognizable immediately is a credit to his skill.  He’s remained on the book since its beginning and that style has clearly evolved in such strange and surprising ways.

SPOILERS: Not all of these characters are still alive..or the same.  Happens when a book isn't rebooted every few years.

SPOILERS: Not all of these characters are still alive..or the same. Happens when a book isn’t rebooted every few years.

But what has kept things interesting is the layers of story being unraveled with Walker and Pilgrim over the run of the book.  It hasn’t drifted beyond the platonic cop partnership, but watching these characters evolve in unexpected ways has been a treat.  You have Walker’s past (which is far more complicated than I let on here), Pilgrim’s continued run-ins with trouble (which seem to involve her walking head first into danger and it going bad for her), and the shifting impression of superheroes in that world keep things interesting beyond the case occurring in the storyline.

The best place to start would be obviously the first storyline in the series, subtitled “Who Killed Retro-Girl?” (it’s available in paperback form or bundled with the first Powers hardcover omnibus, either one worth your time to glaze through).  The story introduces us to Walker and Pilgrim, teamed up for the first time to investigate a dead super-heroine known as Retro-Girl, whose death seems impossible.  What is surprising is how they have to handle this kind of investigation like: how do you perform an autopsy on an invulnerable super-person, and how do you nail down suspects when almost every super-villain wants said super-person dead?  Its like a police procedural that happens to have super-powered people in it.

That concept seemed appealing enough to have been developed for everything from a feature film to a TV pilot (which starred Jason Patric as Walker and current co-star of Ben & Kate, Lucy Punch, as Pilgrim) whose series development is still in limbo for the moment.  While that TV show is still in an uncertain place, the book itself has been moving along, albeit with some delays in recent years from it being on a regular schedule (most of it from both creators’ work on other projects taking up their workload).  Recently, it was announced the book would be retooled into a new book called Powers Bureau to be released soon.  Not too bad for a book that has managed to punch out seventy-five plus issues off and on in twelve years of existence.

You can find the series available digitally, in trade paperback form (there have been fourteen as of this writing) and being collected in “essential” hardcover collections (five of those so far), and the last two ways usually contains some nice additional content like script pages, sketches, and other goodies.  It’s one of the defining indie series of the 00’s, and one worth checking out to see the growth of its creators’ storytelling prowess.

NEXT ISSUE: Yes, the next book profiled here was made into a decent enough movie with Chris Evans and Idris Elba, but it was certainly one of the more action-filled comics of the 00’s.  Next time it’s Andy Diggle and Jock’s gritty and fun-filled Vertigo book THE LOSERS!  As always, if you got any suggestions for future installments or want to talk about this installment, feel free to comment below.

3 Responses to “As Long As I Don’t Wear Tights or Spandex, Issue 5 — POWERS”

  1. Barbara Kus December 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Elizabeth says I have to tell you I am reading and enjoying your posts.

    • stewartmoncure December 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

      Well, thank you!


  1. As Long As I Don’t Wear Tights or Spandex, Issue 6 — THE LOSERS | NerdLush - February 27, 2013

    […] in the movie, and also was the lead in the Powers pilot, which was discussed in this column’s previous installment), the book is worth checking out for fans of solid action/adventure books that don’t have […]

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