High Concept Week continues, proving that time is fluid and speed is my master! Let's do this BENDIS STYLE!
Powers is the Eisner-award winning series that made writer Brian Michael Bendis the comic book demigod that he is today. Nobody even says his full name now, it's just... Bendis. Like Cher. Or maybe Bendis! Like Charo!
Created by Bendis! and artist Michael Avon Oeming, Powers was originally published by Image Comics from 2000 to 2004, then moved to Marvel where it is today. To be honest I lost interest in the series after a few story arcs, but the first storyline, Who Killed Retro Girl?, is pure high concept comic book chocolatey goodness wrapped in gold foil with the words KICK ASS stamped on it.
Here’s the pitch: Detective Christian Walker and his new partner Deena Pilgrim are homicide cops with a tough job: they’ve got to find out who killed Retro Girl, a big-time super hero. In a city full of heroes, villains and freaks, aka “powers,” there’s no shortage of suspects…
The genre-mashing of Powers -- the mix of buddy-cop / murder mystery /superhero-- is what makes Powers high concept. The execution by Bendis and Oeming is what makes Powers work. Oeming's clean cartoony artwork and his Eisner Deco designs compliment Bendis' retro tough guy police story. The colors are pretty, too.
Powers is all about the dialogue and quirks of the characters and the unexpected but totally logical way they react to plot developments. This is what Bendis is famous for, the snappy banter stuff. One of the reasons I think Bendis is so successful is because his dialogue is really fun to read and he writes great sitcom-type scenes. I mean that in a positive way; Bendis knows his shit:
The core relationship in Powers is between Walker and his new partner, Deena Pilgrim, a chatty female detective with a tendency to kick in the crotch first and ask questions later. Walker is one of those wounded lone wolf types, and he's more than a little irritated by his new partner. Pilgrim and Walker have a nice dynamic that doesn't feel phony, with just the right hint of romantic tension.
I think Powers is Bendis at his best. (Well, his Spider-Man stuff is probably his best as well.) He and Oeming have created a unique, wry tone for their story and it works 99% of the time. For me, Powers works on just about every level - it's funny and chilling and stuffed full of interesting characters. His Detective Walker is great - a stoic, put-upon lug with a secret past.
As is always the case, high concept can be marred by lousy execution, but Bendis and Oeming nail it with the first Powers storyline. For me, the series can end right there - "Who Killed Retro Girl?" is the archetypal Powers story, it's the Powers movie.
Go check it out - you can pick up a nice trade paperback collection on Amazon. Whatever you might think of Bendis current work - even if you're still pissed that he killed Hawkeye - you owe it to yourself to check Powers out. It achieves something that modern comics sometimes fail to do - it entertains.