Cinema and TV have very much embraced the superhero these days thanks to CGI finally making everyone look slightly more convincing on screen, and although we’ve not quite reached saturation point yet you’ve got to wonder if that’s getting close. One of the new TV shows is Powers, based on Bendis and Oeming’s acclaimed independently owned property (albeit published by Marvel’s imprint, Icon, but it’s not part of the Marvel Universe).
Throughout its run its managed to distinguish itself as a gritty, often brutal police drama where the two lead characters are tasked with dealing with powers-related crimes. The two cops in question are Christian Walker, and ex-superhero who we learn through flashbacks is exceptionally long-lived, and Deena Pilgrim, who now has plenty of experience under her belt since first partnering up with Walker.
At this point in the story Walker and Pilgrim have began working for the FBI since a rather serious incident two books ago made all powers-related incidents federal crimes. However, on just the second book of the Powers Bureau series (the other books are just under the title ‘Powers’) all of that appears to be at risk.
A young superhero team have been murdered and a ‘90’s second-rate hero is being served up as the culprit, but Walker and Pilgrim aren’t convinced. Something bigger is going on within the FBI and they’ve just wandered right into the middle of it.
The superhero team and the hero set-up as the fall guy are loosely based on Rob Liefeld’s ‘90’s run on X-force, and Bendis and Oeming do poke a bit of fun, and perhaps rightly so if you’ve ever read it. Not that you need to know any of that to enjoy the book. It is, first and foremost, about having to investigate crimes when the criminals have the added advantage of being invisible, telepathic, or as in one case in this book, able to make multiple versions of themselves.
Bendis and Oeming like nothing more than taking the idea and running with it, spinning out unexpected directions while not being afraid to utterly shake up the status quo. Characters aren’t safe just because you like them, and territory is well and truly explored that other comics wouldn’t dare go near – one of the advantages of being creator-owned.
Oeming’s art style is bold and loose, and appears much more cartoony than most superhero comics, while his clever use of black makes for a shadowy noir world of shadows and secrets. On the writing front Bendis is pretty much the king of the snappy dialogue, with the two leads constantly trading short, punchy exchanges, although you should be warned that the book is incredibly sweary and punctuated by expletives throughout. Half the time it’s a much truer reflection of people under pressure, but sometimes you just want to reach into the panel and suggest they calm it down a bit.
It is a first class crime drama, though, and an obvious choice for adapting for TV, so if you’re after something a little more adult then you won’t go far wrong with Powers.
And if you liked that: Plenty more older volumes for you to dive into