Powers #1:
Who Killed Retro Girl?

by Brian Michael Bendis,
Michael Avon Oeming
(Image, 2001)

Seeing the name Brian Michael Bendis on a graphic novel is a pretty good indicator of quality. This maxim recently led me to the Powers series, and once again, it paid off.

Powers takes place in a city filled with costumed superheroes and villains, but the stars of this book are homicide detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim. The lines between flashy supertheatrics and flatfoot investigating blur when Retro Girl, one of the world's most popular heroines, is found dead in an alley.

For the costumed set, everything seems easy, and the villain is usually just a short flight and one brawl away from jail. But for these detectives, finding the killer is hard. After all, everyone loved Retro Girl, and even the souped-up bad guys Walker and Pilgrim interrogate seem uncooperative mostly for form's sake than any real grudge against her.

Coupled with art by Michael Avon Oeming, the story flows in a blocky, noirish style that is dark, angular and atmospheric. Monochromatic washes over some panels add to the mood, with action taking place mostly in dim alleyways, back rooms and other seedy locales.

The series won the Eisner Award for best new series in 2001 for material collected here, and it's easy to see why. In a market glutted with the flash of superheroics, this title is invigorating.

by Tom Knapp
20 January 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.