Powers, Vol. 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Powers is a clever blending of superhero and noir crime/mystery fiction. Superheroes not only exist, but they are a normal part of the landscape in this world. And they can end up both as murder victims and perpetrators.
Detective Christian Walker hides a past that is interconnected with superheroes who are involved in the latest murder case, Retro Girl, a seemingly invulnerable crimefighter who is found with her throat slit in a playground underneath a spray-painted phrase, "Kaotic Chick."
This provides for some interesting moments as Walker and his new partner, Deena Pilgrim work to solve the case. Any good police procedural includes a bit about the medical examiner, and one can imagine that trying to do an autopsy on a person whose body is invulnerable could be difficult. There's a bit of black humor inherent in that situation, along with the sadness that someone would murder a woman who was very much beloved to the city at large.
Another fun bit was when the detectives interview various superheroes and supervillains. Any self-respecting superhero-inclined geek would probably get a thrill out of this, and some of their answers were quite hilarious. It's interesting to see the varying level of cooperation in the case that the super-villains provided. Their replies very expressive of their individual personalities, both in the case of the heroes and villains.
The storyline in this is dark, but not too dark. Suitably noirish. The character development is pretty well-done. Christian Walker has the physique of a superhero like Superman or Batman, and the stoic demeanor, specifically the latter crimefighter. He also has a sense of latent anguish that his inquisitive partner ends up digging away at until he reveals a surprising past that provides a bond to the superhero community. It's clear that these super-powered people have very human personalities, both in the good and bad ways, as the reader finds out more about Retro Girl and the people who knew her closest.
Murder is always a tough subject. In this case, the reveal on who killed Retro Girl mirrors the senselessness of violent crime that we see in our real life societies. One would think that a superhero would be safe from such violence, but people always seem to find a way to harm each other.
The artwork is tailored to the noir storyline, with bold lines and figures, and the backgrounds done in shadows with minimal bright colors. The creators of the series studied the use of lighting in cinema, and it shows in the art design of this book.
This is a good start to a series. I'll be coming back because the storyline is very intriguing to me.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
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