This week saw the onset of the inimitable Powers Volume 5 (or is it 4? There was Powers: Bureau so the numbering's a bit hinky)! I promised you a breakdown of the major players and events, but I'm going to keep this as spoiler-light as possible. The point is not to catch you up— the point is to make you want to catch up on your own. Let's do this.
Powers is the brainchild of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. It is creator-owned, so they can get away with pretty much anything.
What's It About?
Powers follows the investigations of two of Chicago's Finest as they dig through case after case in CPD's Powers division: If if flies, it lands on their desk, so to speak. It's like Law & Order, if the bad guys could fly, and the cops said 'Fuck' a lot. (Like, a lot a lot.)
Jeeze, You Kiss Your Mother With That Mouth?
I'm just trying to set the proper tone, all right? Between the language, the violence, the sex and often-gratuitous nudity, this series is not for kids.
The Good Guys
First up is Deena Pilgrim: freshly-minted Detective, and partner to Christian Walker. She's cantankerous, willful, short-tempered, a fan of belly shirts, and prone to leaping before she looks. She is also pure, unadulterated bad ass. Pilgrim quickly earns a reputation as a force to be reckoned with, and one of the best cops on the Force. If the case has been assigned to her, she will get to the bottom of it. Period.
Deena's personal life is kinda crap, drifting between boyfriends (with long gaps in between) that she doesn't show much interest in. She's angry, fearless, ruthless, and does as much to drive the plot of Powers as anyone.
Christian Walker has a few more years under his belt, and has secrets worth keeping. (Well. The secrets he can remember.)
Walker doesn't suffer fools. He's every bit as tenacious as Pilgrim, and indomitable to boot. He eats a lot when he's stressed or bored. (Like, a lot a lot.) He has no sense of humor. He's also vocally admitted he's almost as good a detective as Pilgrim.
Detective Kutter is a dick.
Captain Cross is their long-suffering superior; he's the one who pairs up Pilgrim with Walker in the first place. Far from the obstructing bureaucrat, he does what he can to see that his cops can do their jobs with as few obstacles as possible.
The station deserves its own mention. For setting as character, the precinct is always lively. We get the impression for that all the garbage Pilgrim and Walker sort through, there will always be more.
To clarify, Powers is the catch-all term for people who have powers. Public view on them is decidedly mixed— given the fact that supervillains are real and range from petty muggers to God-level calamities personified. Heroes save the day (most of the time), but they also have lucrative endorsement deals, petty infighting in their leagues of justice, sexual hangups, and they're like as not to have a superiority complex.
There's Triphammer, an Iron Man Expy. Past his prime, Trip has contented himself to fewer heroics and focusing more on technological advances for the betterment of mankind (and his stock portfolio). His involvement is minimal. More importantly, he serves as a reminder of certain heroes' glory days, now about a decade past.
Still. When he does show up, it's a sign that shit is about to get serious. He doesn't drag his armor-plated ass out of his lab unless it's something important or personal— and it's frequently both.
Zora, on the other hand, is one of Chicago's A-list Power celebrities. She and Triphammer used to be half of a supergroup that kicked ass and took names. They... well. The band broke up following an irreversible tragedy that left one of their number grounded for good. Details are sketchy at first— these are private people— but it's tantalizing enough to make us (and Pilgrim) curious about what exactly went down.
Zora also represents a bit of a sticky wicket, to the public. Some of them love her, but she publicly claims that her powers are fueled by her belief that she is her own personal god. The fact that her powers are considerable (along with implications that she's older than she looks) generally refute any argument. So there that is.
The public has mixed feelings. It's hard not to, when flying super models and / or movie stars zip over head, blow up a gas main, save your life, or crash into your car at 100mph. These things happen.
The Law has strict rules about Powers, rules that only get more confining as the volumes unfold.
Who Killed Retro Girl?
The story kicks off proper with the straight-up murder of Chicago's most beloved heroine. She's nostalgia personified— she had zero enemies (that didn't wear capes), and basically a 100% approval rating with the public. Pressure comes down hard on the Captain to solve her murder, and quick.
In addition to problems ripped from the pages of Golden Age comics, the Powers have to deal with real world problems as well: Sagging PR, obsessed fans, team grudges, career-ruining scandals; and that's just the shit the public knows about.
The story, the world, the characters— they all have layers, and not all of them are good. I mean, they're all amazing, but they're not all good. Savvy?
Oeming's artwork never disappoints. Hard, crisp lines, wonderful color work (courtesy of Pat Garrahy and Peter Pantazis) and gorgeous to look at, the pages deliver a gritty, unrelenting thrill ride that leaves you feeling sucker-punched.
The mysteries have pressing urgency, the characters have their own unique voices and flaws, and the action is unrelenting. The stakes continuously get bigger and bigger, characters drop left and right, and the events of the comic have an indelible impact on the world around them. It's not for everyone, but those who go into it eyes open will not be disappointed.
In my opinion, Powers is one of the finest comics of the 21st century. Go catch up proper, then dive in to Powers Vol. 5 (shit, or 4. Finicky numbering.)