Powers: Vol. 1. Who Killed Retro Girl?

Writer Brian Michael Bendis
Artist Michael Avon Oeming
ISBN: 9780785156710

Graphic Novel, superheroes, noir, mystery.

Meet Retro Girl. She is an all-American, girl next door. With super powers. She can fly, is super strong, and has unbreakable skin. And she was found dead in an alley this morning.

Welcome to Law & Order: Metropolis. A police procedural mixed with superheroics in a graphic novel.


Powers drops you into the life of Christian Walker, a Homicide detective in an unnamed metropolis (some research turns up that Powers takes place in Chicago). You follow Det. Walker through his day. You see a random encounter with a convict with a jetpack, how he interacts with an orphan named Calista and when he is assigned a new partner (Deena Pilgrim). Their first case is a big one, as Retro Girl is found murdered. Retro Girl is a pastiche of Supergirl or Wonder Woman, flight, unbreakable skin, strength, etc. Yet she is found dead in an alley, with her throat slit. No suspects, no one claiming responsibility, and a media circus already underway. You follow Detectives Walker and Pilgrim as they investigate the biggest murder of the decade.

It’s a well written story, but the art is kind of basic it seems like. I can’t recall having seen anything drawn by Oeming, but his style in this book is blocky and kind of simplistic. I’m not sure if I’m a fan, on one hand it’s reminiscent of Bruce Timm from Batman: The Animated Series, but on the other hand some of the art choices just seem off to me. The layout of the panels is interesting. There is lots of flow from one page to the next, and many different things happening on a page and from panel to panel, but I think that it’s fairly easy to follow the plot. I like how the writers use things like news casts strung along the bottom of consecutive pages to give exposition and fill in the universe of Powers. The script and characters are interesting and unique, there are many different voices, more then other Bendis written comics (New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man). There is genuine conflict between characters that feels organic.

I like how the universe that Bendis and Oeming have created feels organic and looks at how people would react to things like super heroes and villains running(flying) around. I like how it handles some of the questions that arise from super powered people running around, like what would peoples’ responses to powered individuals, or how do you preform an autopsy on an invulnerable corpse. It’s also not as much of a meta-commentary as Alan Moore’s Top 10 series (amazing read for comic book fans), but still does serve as an interesting view on super heroes.

The edition that I read also had an extra story that was told with a single page per issue of another comic book, but shows Detectives Walker and Pilgrim again interviewing witnesses from another vigilante murder. Extras included in the collected edition is the script for the first issue of Powers, extensive artwork that shows how the characters developed and changed through the initial planning of the series, a whole section devoted to the character of the city, how it should look and feel, and several cover galleries that show initial concepts to final images for covers and other promotional materials. Also included are a list of “guest characters” included from other smaller creator-owned comics.

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