All too often, when people think of adult comics, they automatically envision topless statuesque women or over-the-top violence. However, were they to dig a little deeper, actually spend a little time looking through the wide selection available, they’d discover a host of titles that are termed “adult” not so much because of their subject matter but because they are written to appeal to educated readers. They are intelligent and subversive, challenging our accepted notions of the genre.
Which brings us to Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl? The book’s hero is Christian Walker, a homicide detective tasked with investigating the mysterious death of superhero Retro Girl. Complicating matters for him are his new rookie partner Deena Pilgrim, a fellow officer intent on horning in on the case, and a precocious young girl who has fallen into his lap following a domestic disturbance call. While the high-strung medical examiner bemoans his inability to perform a proper autopsy on the victim (he is forced to take a blowtorch to her impervious skin) and the media outlets cover the story with sensationalist fervor, the investigation uncovers a shocking secret about the All-American-Heroine. The mystery deepens, leads and suspects pursued, and we ultimately learn that Detective Walker is hiding a few secrets of his own…
Yes, it’s a noir detective superhero thriller, and a highly accomplished one at that. Bendis’s dialogue is quick and clever, the setting he has created well-imagined. The bits and pieces of Retro Girl’s past that come to light over the course of the narrative paint a surprisingly sharp picture of a world in which superpowers are an accepted part of life, so much so that the police have set up a special department to deal with powers-related crime. The characters of Walker and Pilgrim are also nicely developed, charming despite their obvious faults, and very likable. The story is intriguing and, although the ending did feel a little abrupt, the narrative offered more than enough twists to make for a very satisfying the read. In particular, I appreciated the book’s sense of humor. Oeming’s artwork, somewhat reminiscent of the WB’s Batman cartoon, contrasts nicely with the dark subject matter, while the book’s untraditional layout (juxtaposing the investigation with media coverage of the event, panels stacked precariously like building blocks occasionally running the lengths of both pages) forces the reader’s attention.
A very different type of superhero tale, but one well worth checking out as an introduction to what is, in my opinion, one of the best series of its kind.
So, those are my preliminary thoughts. What did you all think? Let’s hear your take on Powers. And let’s see those questions for author Brian Michael Bendis.
Alas, it’s late and I’m barely coherent, so tune in to tomorrow when I’ll weigh in on the two Stargate Universe rough cuts we watched today (Air I and II, and Fire), give you the what’s what on the Atlantis movie, and maybe even offer up a new episode title.