Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Superherocide: Life on the Streets

Powers, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, was my gateway comic. It was the first comic my pusher, Angelo, thrust upon me, and it's what led me to seek out other comics and become the comics fan I am today. I have a great fondness for it.

Powers is superhero crime noir. Christian Walker is an ex-superhero. Deena Pilgrim is his snarky, headstrong partner. They fight crime! No, literally, they fight crime. They're part of a special division of the homicide department devoted to cases concering powers. The series kicks off with the murder of Retro Girl, one of the most beloved superheroes of all time in the Powers universe. The consequences of this investigation have repercussions that echo throughout the series. In true noir fashion, the past never dies, and it always catches up to you to bite you in the ass.

The appeal of Powers is Bendis's unique take on superherodom. In Powers, superheroes are fairly prevalent and in the public eye. There's an entire tabloid TV show, Powers That Be, to talk about powers. The media and public opinion play a big role in the series, adding a lot of interesting flavor and perspective. Bendis is interested in what it really takes to be a superhero and make the choices that only a superhero can, regardless of what everyone else will think. If superheroes were real, how would they behave? How would they act? Wouldn't they fuck a lot of superhero groupies? You bet your ass they would. Wouldn't it be really hard to take down and arrest a superhero suspect? You bet your ass it would be. Bendis envisions superheroes as rock stars, and he takes inspiration from VH1: Behind the Music; for instance, one story arc is pretty obviously influenced by the break-up of the Fugees.

Another thing Bendis rightly gets a lot of praise for is his dialogue, which is natural yet snappy, with a lot of back-and-forth, the way real people talk. Real people also curse a lot, and I think Powers is where I got "Jesus fuck!" from. And Deena occasionally bitches people out for being "so far up her uterus." I had forgotten how funny the book was.

What's really awesome about Powers is that even though there isn't a major, overarching storyline from the beginning, it still builds on itself and has a very good sense of continuity. Each arc tends to take something introduced in the previous arc and bring it to the fore, and, seriously, it seems that every single story arc is one that Changes the Powers Universe Forever! No joke, Bendis keeps shaking up the status quo, never letting himself settle into something repetitive, always giving himself a new challenge. The first volume concludes with the epic Forever arc, which begins with the infamous monkeyfucking issue, and the second volume has expanded the universe a lot, as if Bendis is giving himself room to tell more stories. And although there isn't some Big Mystery that pervades the series, the characterizations of Christian and Deena evolve from the beginning in very compelling ways, as does their relationship. They're both good cops, and they work well together, but they don't necessarily like each other. It's not a buddy-cop routine; it's two detectives getting to know one another and getting comfortable with each other.

And I love Oeming's art, which is terribly pretty. He was very much influenced by the style of Batman: The Animated Series, which means that Christian basically looks like Bruce Wayne. He uses a lot of shadow, this being a noir book.

Powers has its flaws, of course, but, in general, I think it's a fantastic series, as does the Eisner committee. The good news and the bad news is that if you read all twelve trades that are out right now, you will be completely caught up! Who knows when issue #31 is going to come out since Bendis is busy running the Marvel universe? But if you think superhero stories need more crime and crime fiction needs more superheroes, Powers is right up your alley.
Tags: books, comics, real life friends

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