Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mike Avon Oeming
Published by Icon

Fan favorite Brian Michael Bendis may write a great deal (Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Pulse, House of M, New Avengers; he oversees the Marvel universe) but Powers is his first love. Along with his co-conspirator, Mike Avon Oeming (Hammer of the Gods, Thor), the title and creative team jumped under Marvel Comics umbrella with the creator-owned imprint, Icon. The premise is simple: “Homicide Detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim investigate murders specific to super hero cases … powers.”

Let me start off on the art. Originally I wasn’t a fan, but it grew on me. Its simple, almost overly cartoony, style belies its complexity. Oeming’s art is as much a part of the character of the book as Walker or Pilgrim. Powers is a cop book first, the other side of the super hero universe, chronicling the cases of the cops who have to work there, among the powers. It is also more than a police procedural as the stories often take on wider critiques of societal issues. Bendis perfected his “talking heads” writing style in Powers.

“Do we create a society where heroes can’t exist?”

The series reset (thus the volume 2) after a “power” went crazy and did some genocidal level damage which caused the world governments to declare all powers illegal. The inevitable happened as the good guys disappeared and the bad guys took over in a “big super villain turf war.”

Deena returns to the job, still pulling herself together after the events of said power going mad, and is trying to prove herself. Walker, a former power whose ancient history was explored as a controversial epilogue to volume 1. The death of Retro Girl was the first case Walker and Pilgrim worked together. Volume two involves Retro Girl’s apparent return and the ensuing chaos that entails. One of the books current underlying themes explores what happens when good people don’t do what they’re supposed to: fight the good fight.

“It’s not our fault bad shit happens … Bad people do bad shit. We do what we can.” -Det. Christian Walker

For all of the over the top cases, Powers boils down to us. Our humanity. What makes us human and do the things we do. Deena is often the focus of the series, mostly because she seems the least informed (due to her absence) and gets to be the stand in for the audience. It’s her role as the normal one, and fanboy “hot chick”, that has made her a standout favorite. But it is her humanity that draws us into the story.

We all have desires. Desires are good in and of themselves; it’s when they stray from their intended purpose that things go awry. Desires are also potential areas of temptation and sin. The desire to enjoy things can lead to evil desires that express themselves in physical activity (“lust of the flesh”); the desire to obtain things can lead to a covetous heart (“lust of the eyes”); and the desire to do things can lead to focusing our lives around such activity (“pride of life”).

The same scenario plays out time after time in the cases that the detectives work. Like the cult of personality that springs up around powers, with its attendant celebrity worship diminishing everyone. Like the woman who goes on a killing spree because she always wanted a more exciting life for herself. Like Deena’s ex-boyfriend who loves her so much that the pain of her rejection causes him to lash out with tragic consequences.

The purpose of desires is to lead us to right relationships, with God, with each other and to live in harmony with creation. We have to be met where we are, broken and lost, in order to move where we need to be.

I look forward to what Bendis has planned, especially for Deena after the events of issue 11 which will shape her character for the foreseeable future. Riveting cliffhangers make up for the often languid plot movement, but Bendis’ deliberate pacing plays to his strengths as a writer. His is a return to the art of witty banter, dialogue that captures how people sound. Powers is easily Bendis’ best work.*

*This is also the only time when I can say that the laugh-out-loud letter pages alone are worth the price of the book. In an era when some comic books have eliminated letter pages, the one for Powers clocks in at ~5 pages.