Powers Bureau: Volume two – Brian Michael Bendis

PB 2This is another smoking hot Powers volume. There is a wonderful Boom! moment characteristic of what Bendis can deliver and crackling electric dialogue throughout. This is brilliant through and through and there are both emotional and laugh out loud moments.

There is a balance between crazy wordy dialogue and mute pages. Some of the lettering can be a little odd, you aren’t sure if it’s a typo or an obscure speech pattern. A few of the pages are hard to follow too as it switches between single page top to bottom or across a double page. This is another bad hallmark of the series.

The art still appears blockier and chunkier than you remember from previous volumes. You aren’t sure if Oeming is trying out new techniques and media or if he just doesn’t have the time to do more detail.
Nothing stops this book being great, not even the lacklustre 9 page sketchbook at the end.

A very high Thumbs Up!

Powers Bureau – Brian Michael Bendis

PB 1
More Powers was always going to be a welcome sight. You hold your breath to make sure Bendis and Oeming haven’t lost it but by the end of the second page of familiarly crowded dialogue you have your WTF moment and never look back.

There isn’t an introduction or slow build but we start getting flashbacks to what has been happening since the conclusion of the last series so you need to keep on your toes. All the characters, but Deena in particular, are wonderfully sharp and the banter is awesome.

The art appears different. Thicker lines, more blacks, less colour maybe, but going back to the earlier books Oeming likes big blocks of colour and deep shadows. Maybe the tone of the volume is intentionally darker as we join these characters at a low point. We will have to see.

Nothing has been lost in the transition to the new FBI setup and all the classic magic is still there launching you into another page-turning adventure. You don’t need to have read the original series (but you should) and likewise you can go back to the older books after reading this.

There are some usual work in progress special features and cover gallery.

Thumbs Up!

Powers 14: Gods – Brian Bendis

There is a brief text recap at the start of this book as we are joining the action mid-fray. Even then you will probably want to go back and re-read the last one.

Dialogue. That’s the name of the game here. It is great, snappy, realistic dialogue, but it would be more suited to a movie or a radio play. The endless string of, admittedly clever, speech bubble spaghetti tramples all over the wonderful visuals. This is a slow and dense read to start with lots of talking heads and linear interviews. You could easy spread this book out to twice its length – but well done to Bendis for not doing so.

By getting the words out of the way early on the art gets a chance to breathe and flex its muscles when it counts – the art, which is in fact, superb. Oeming uses so few lines and so little fine detail that his work is almost impressionistic. The inking and colouring does such an amazing job of bringing these characters and locations to life. This is a very dark book, set mostly at night or indoors. This allows Oeming to show off his wonderful understanding of light and shadow making it beautiful to look at. Even the lettering works so much harder than in other titles.

Although part police procedural, part superhero action-fest, we do get to explore some big themes here. Whilst not quite Alan Moore territory Bendis does raise good questions about his subject matter and gives you all the poking you need to think on some weighty issues.

It has been an awkward transition from the much loved previous Powers era to this new direction but this book is the equal of many you have read before. A POWERful Thumbs Up!

267/98

Tomorrow: Axe Cop Volume One – Ethan Nicolle & Malachai Nicolle

Powers 13: Z – Brian Michael Bendis

This is undoubtedly Bendis’ toughest gig. He got rid of one of our dearest characters and introduced someone we don’t know well enough to care about yet and must press on with a new WWII themed storyline. We are really hurting but we must remember to have faith. We have never been let down yet so there is no reason to doubt the master plan. It is hard and just as we are aching so too are the characters we love. Just as we think one loss is too much our other lead is really put through the wringer. Can things get any worse?

As readers we are in a low place, there is a solid and interesting storyline but are we grieving too much to let it engage us? What doesn’t seem to work are the out of place pop culture digs, poor jokes and extra gore. It seems Bendis doubts himself and needs to keep us around till the payoff using cheap tricks. But there is indeed a payoff. That final page blows us away and makes everything rosy in the Powers universe once more.

The biggest surprise here is the art. I had to check it was still Oeming but apparently it is. Either he has broken his wrist or his lower paid evil twin/ dark apprentice has taken over. It doesn’t seem to have the polish of his earlier volumes. There is no breath-taking colour, no innovative technique and the whole thing seems blocky and murky. This was a noticeable disappointment.

If this is the first Powers you read then you would find it a solid and interesting story. If you have been with it from the beginning you will find it a rocky road but with an incredible payoff. The next volume will certainly be the most eagerly anticipated in Powers history as you can’t wait to see what Bendis will do next. A Thumbs Up.

227/138

Tomorrow: Batman: Castle of the Bat – Jack C. Harris

Powers 12: 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time – Brian Michael Bendis

Can you keep a dream team going forever? Should you even try? There is a lot to be said for quitting while you are ahead. Today we see what things would be like if we one of our heroes had a new partner. What if we were taken back to the very beginning and had to form a new dynamic duo. Naturally we rebel as we are so used to our perfect pair. Will it be forever?

This volume gives a sense of closure. The on-going story is wrapped up, characters from the past return and people move on to pastures new. We also get an answer to a question that we have had for some time. But would it have been more dramatic if we didn’t know? To be honest this isn’t the best Powers volume. It is tidy and a little twee but not what Powers does best. Powers is all about pulling the rug out from under you, about plugging your brain into the mains and flicking the switch. There are a few strong surprises and it is by no means a flawed story – although the bad guys are so nondescript they might as well not be there.

Nothing leapt out at me about the art. It could be that I have now been spoilt by Oeming’s fantastic talent or that, like the story, it wasn’t the epic innovation that previous volumes have been. This would be a good point to stop Powers but not as good as stopping it after the previous volume and leaving us all wondering. It will be interesting to see what direction volume 13 takes and which characters are chosen to continue. It is a Thumbs Up but not as convincingly as some of the earlier volumes.

226/139

Tomorrow: Powers 13: Z – Brian Michael Bendis

Powers 11: Secret Identity– Brian Michael Bendis

Colourful is the best way to describe this issue. Oeming it seems has got a new paintbox and has gone mad trying out new techniques and themes. It does feel a bit gratuitous in the beginning but I’m not an artist so who is to say I am right. It quickly settles down and there are some really nice shades and tones displayed throughout this work.

Christian and Deena have their own secrets now and Bendis does a very good job of separating them and making them feel alone. I wasn’t too keen on this volume’s monster-of-the-week and it felt like there was a bit of shoehorning to try and integrate it into the back-story. It was interesting to see powers from a different source and how they fit into a Powers world with drainers and cops and so on.

This wasn’t the heart stopping rollercoaster that some previous volumes have been but it was a necessary step in both the personal and overarching plot development. Still a consistent Thumbs Up!

225/140

Tomorrow: Powers 12: 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time – Brian Michael Bendis

Powers 10: Cosmic – Brian Michael Bendis

I think I have discovered what, in my mind, makes a good comic book. It is being surprised. In many books, movies, stories you can work out what is going to happen. In most cases you are right. What I like is when the writer pulls the rug completely out from under me. That is what Bendis does well. Like the best tricksters he has not done it in a while. Maybe I am so comfortable in the Powers universe that I have been lulled into a false sense of security. The previous two volumes have all been intimate, personal stories of characterisation. That is what you are expecting here. You get that but you get so much more. Deena and Christian get some real stark choices about their futures and you can’t wait to see what’s next.

It is not all rosy however and there is a technique that didn’t sit well with me. Many authors have a lot of powerful points to make about the society we live in. They deliver truths that most of us chose to ignore. The skilled authors such as Swift and Orwell blend this invisibly into the story. Bendis has done this expertly in the past but now chooses a different take. Every few pages (once an issue maybe) the Powers story will stop and we will have a few pages of a stand-up comedian or comedienne delivering a straight to reader tirade about how rubbish an aspect of the modern world is. This really disrupted the flow for me. I pretty much agreed with everything they, and by extension Bendis, said but the delivery was too jarring for me to appreciate. I have the same reaction to other authors such as Alan Moore using this technique so it’s probably me. But he is being innovative and I have loved all his new ideas to date so I can’t criticise. I would prefer he failed to hook me than dumbed things down and didn’t challenge me.

The art is of course superb and Oeming gets a chance to let rip with hallucinations, dream sequences, alien worlds, other dimensions and explosions. There is nothing here including my earlier objection that does not deserve a Thumbs Up!

224/141

Tomorrow: Powers 11: Secret Identity– Brian Michael Bendis

Powers 9: Psychotic – Brian Michael Bendis

The story continues with another great volume. This episode focuses on a Power empowered by an item of jewellery. What are the consequences when you can just sell your powers on, loan them out or put them away in a drawer? An interesting tale with the usual twists and turns of a Powers classic. Deena gets a chance to shine as we see her home life and also a flashback to her days in uniform. She has been in a fair amount of peril lately and it really shows how much we care about these characters. With a high body count you know that anyone could easily bite the dust and we have seen some great characters lost in tragic ways. I really miss Detective Kutter. There never was a more loveable asshole than him.

The art is still first class. The Deena flashbacks are done in a very theatrical black and white and work perfectly. There is the mother of all full page speech bubble extravaganzas that really stood out. I keep wondering how they manage to keep pulling out tricks I have never seen before. Have I led such a sheltered life or are Bendis and Oeming using some kind of witchcraft? Another solid Thumbs Up!

223/142

Tomorrow: Powers 10: Cosmic – Brian Michael Bendis

Powers 8: Legends – Brian Michael Bendis

So where do you go after world shattering stories? What is next after an epic tale that spans the history of mankind? You go very small – an intimate and personal story. You go back to your roots – in this case Pilgrim and Walker – and make us remember why we care so much about them. Berserk Powers threatening to annihilate the world are all very well but they can’t compare to a single character you care about being placed in mortal danger.

This is a fantastic story which, like most of the previous ones, takes you on a journey with so many twists and clever turns you have no idea how you arrived at such an incredible conclusion. Characters you don’t think will die do and others come back from the dead. There are some shocking page turns and some truly palpable suspense. We have been through so much with our two heroes that they have become like family. Bendis wickedly exploits this attachment to put our emotions through the cheese grater and make us afraid to read on. This is literally true on one occasion as you just don’t want to see what his twisted mind has come up with. This is definitely a grim and gritty issue that pulls no punches.

The art is still superb. You can see a bit more use of CGI with blurred backgrounds coming into play. Everything is subtle and not gratuitous and most of the time you won’t see how hard the artist is slyly working his craft to compliment the emotional thrust of the writing. You can see Oeming has a broad range of influences from classical artists to pop culture and you know you (and Powers) are in safe hands. Thumbs are Up!

222/143

Tomorrow: Powers 9: Psychotic – Brian Michael Bendis

Powers 7: Forever – Brian Michael Bendis

You know this is going to be an epic story by the thickness of the book. And it is indeed an epic tale in every sense of the word. This is an origin story, one of the most powerful sagas in the superhero canon. This origin story goes back a long way, right back to the dawn of time in fact. If you were to buy an issue that was comprised entirely of cartoon apes making grunting noises and nothing else you would either want your money back or you would want your money back. It probably wouldn’t occur to you that Bendis has just created one of the most iconic openings ever. OK, so he didn’t create it. He lovingly stole, borrowed, homaged it from 2001.

Supers are kind of a new phenomenon. A 20th Century vibe brought on by atomic power, spaceships, DNA and all those new things. But what if they weren’t? What if they had been with us from the beginning, or even before the beginning? This is the premise of Forever. We follow the development of Powers through the ages. This is also the origin of a particular character. You don’t know who it is until it finally clicks and once again Bendis smiles smugly as his master plan takes shape.

This is an amazing tale and a great vehicle for Bendis as he takes on 2001, Conan, Crouching Tiger and the Untouchables as his story leaps through history. It can be a little confusing as you try and work out where you are, as characters you know are dead are running around and sometimes getting naked. But you want to make it through this on your own. You want the satisfaction of putting the pieces together yourself and having your mind explode when you make the connections. The beauty is it all fits together so perfectly. Tiny, throwaway references you forgot about twenty or thirty issues ago suddenly turn out to be vital clues to what you are discovering and you stare in disbelief at the literary skill being flourished before you. Not since Sandman have we seen such a tangled web woven.

The art is superb and with so many time periods and recurring characters it really gets a chance to shine. There are some unusual panel shapes and some bold epic vistas that really grab your attention. What colour is the dawn of time? Well now you know. I loved the pastel sand tones of the Conan era and that iconic silhouette, the subtlety of the ancient temples, and the subdued Chicago gloom.

This is truly the best of all the Powers stories. Until the next one. It has to have the Double Thumbs Up!

221/144

Tomorrow: Powers 8: Legends – Brian Michael Bendis