Hey everybody, welcome to the first installment of Required Reading. Required Reading is a new segment here on ComicBooked.com that will look at comics that we think are some of the most iconic, underrated, or otherwise amazing works in the industry. I’ll be kicking this column off with a book that I feel is all of these things: Powers. Powers is a creator owned book written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming. This powerhouse duo originally brought us the first volume this series through Image Comics back between 2000 and 2004. It ran for 37 issues before changing publishers to Marvel’s creator owned division, Icon. Powers Volume 2 ran for another 30 issues. Volume 3 debuted via Icon in November 2009 but only ran for 7 short issues before various factors forced the book into a year long hiatus. Volume 3 resumed in February 2012 and is still running today.
Powers is a unique comic that looks at the world of superheroes through a lens not typically examined, the eyes of the police. While there have been a few attempts at looking at heroes in this way (such as Gotham Central), they have all been restricted by the way their publisher’s universe operates. Powers takes place in its own unique universe with its own back story so no such restrictions exist. The story starts out following Detective Christian Walker as he is called to a crime scene involving a villain with a jet pack, who had taken his daughter hostage because of an ongoing feud with his ex wife. When Detective Walker asks why he was called to the scene, it’s explained that the villain had specifically asked for him because he had heard he specializes in super powers, and he thought Walker would go easy on him. Eventually the villain blasts off in his jet pack but has an unfortunate accident on his way out, landing himself in police custody and leaving his young daughter to the care of Detective Walker. Walker returns to the police station to find out he had been assigned a new partner, Deena Pilgrim. While Walker is a Veteran of the police force and a widely respected detective, Pilgrim seems to be a hotshot rookie. At this point the tone for the book is set when the new partners get their first call, a homicide of a ‘power’.
Their arrival at the crime scene reveals that the victim was Retro Girl, a well-loved young hero. The investigation teaches Pilgrim a few surprising things about her new partner’s life. Initially she realizes that her new partner seems to be on a first name basis with all the powered heroes they talk to about the case. After a good bit of snooping, Pilgrim discovers that Walker himself was a Power, but no longer has any of his abilities. The fall out from Pilgrim’s snooping causes tension for a while but, they duo eventually work their way through it and continue their investigation. The case is eventually closed in something of a surprising twist and Detectives Walker and Pilgrim move on to other exciting adventures full of just as many twists, quirks and tragedies.
Through the course of this investigation, Bendis and Oeming introduce a few villains who play an important role in the series. The first villain we are introduced to that will play a role in the larger series is Johnny Royalle. Royalle has teleportation powers and is in charge of a large crime syndicate in the city. He also has a large harassment law suit pending against the city. While he isn’t a crucial part of this story arc, he is a key villain later in the series. The other important villain the creators introduced in this arc… well, that’s a story for another day.
Bendis and Oeming created one of the most enthralling comics I have ever read when they created Powers. The writing is funny, yet serious, compelling and suspenseful. The characters are all believable and realistic, even in the most unrealistic of situations. Oeming’s art in this series is simply his own personal playground and art gallery rolled into one. This series represents both creators so perfectly that I don’t think there is a better introduction to either available. If you haven’t taken the time to read Powers yet I urge you to pick up the trades, it is Required Reading after all.