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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Powers Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl?

Powers Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl?



Image, 2001

Artist: Michael Avon Oeming

Brian Michael Bendis

Powers #1-6


do the police operate in a world where superheroes exist? It’s a question
that’s been answered by various comics and graphic novels over the years, from
Gotham City (do the best they can and hope Batman doesn’t turn up to spoil
things) to Alan Moore’s Neopolis (construct your police force out of costumed
heroes too). In Powers, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming come up
with their own variation on the theme: set up a special division to investigate
the superhero side of things.

Walker is one of the cops in this Powers division who, in classic cop story
style, has just been assigned a new and fairly raw rookie partner called Deena
Pilgrim. As we watch them get to know each other, we the readers can get to
know them too, which is a handy if hackneyed mechanic. Walker’s help has
arrived just in time though, because someone has murdered Retro Girl, one of
world’s most respected superheroes, and it’s down to Walker and Pilgrim to
track down the killer.

they work their way through their list of potential subjects, secrets are
uncovered and the world of the superhero starts to appear less polished and
more murky, as alliances between heroes appear increasingly shaky, and the
difference between the heroes’ external images and what they’re actually like
behind their masks starts to diverge. But then the police in this story have a
few secrets of their own too, making it a complex, character-driven drama,
that’ll appeal to those who like the more sophisticated end of the TV cop show,
while maintaining an interest in super-heroics.

dialogue is snappy and tense, giving the characters an economy of conversation
that feels authentic. He also lets the dialogue take a back seat in the action
and let Oeming’s visuals do the story telling, in places where action or
expression can do more for a scene than words alone. Oeming’s style is deeply characterized,
with the pared-down simplicity of an animation, but swathed in depth and
shadow. It serves to enrich the dialogue and maintain the narrative flow
without taking over. It also has more panels per page than you might normally
be familiar with, giving the feeling of speed and pacing.

superheroes into police drama actually works quite neatly, since the raison
d’ĂȘtre of both parties is to serve and protect. They do it in different ways
though, which is a contrast brought sharply into focus in this book. You
probably don’t want to visit it if you find superheroes a turn-off but, if
you’re comfortable with your inner superhero fan and like a cop drama too, it’s
well worth a try.

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