Review: Powers Vol. 1: Who Killed Retro Girl?

Published on March 8th, 2011

So, everyone loves Brian Michael Bendis, right? It’s probably because everything he does is so freaking awesome! On a personal note, I am ashamed to admit that I had never read Powers, until Simon bought me the first volume for my birthday the other week. Thanks Simon! It started off a little rocky for me, but as I kept reading I got really into it. So, let’s take a look at this first story line for this week’s Trade Tuesday!

This book introduces us to homicide detective, Christian Walker as he is doing some hostage negotiating with a nut-job with a jet-pack who’s also got a little girl for a hostage. Eventually, the guy loses it and just blasts his way out of the building and crashes into the street. When Walker returns to the police station he finds out that the little girl he saved, Calista, is now under his supervision until social services can take her. Walker goes to see the Chief about the kid, but he’s just told to take her to day care. He’s also informed that he’s getting a new partner, Deena Pilgrim, a young female officer who has requested to work with Walker. The two are then given their first case when the body of super hero, Retro Girl is found murdered on the grounds of an elementary school.

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Unfortunately, the detectives have their work cut out for them because they have very little to go on since little is known about Retro Girl. Nobody knows her real identity, or anything about her beyond her super hero persona. In fact, the coroner can’t even do a proper autopsy because he doesn’t know anything about her physiology, he can’t even figure out how to cut her open. The only thing the detectives can do is talk with other known super powered people, but even they don’t know much about her personal life. One thing that Deena figures out is that Walker has some sort of history with the super hero community.

After interviewing heroes and villains, the detectives still have nothing to go on. It isn’t until Calista asks what “Kaotic Chic” means that Walker gets a lead. After looking into it, Walker finds out that the words “Kaotic Chic” were spray painted on the wall at the scene of the crime around the same time Retro Girl was murdered. Meanwhile, Deena finds a package that was given to Walker by the armored hero, Triphammer. When she opens it she finds a photograph of Retro Girl posing with a superhero that looks very similar to Walker. Walker finds Deena with the picture, which makes him pretty angry. Later, Walker admits that he used to be a superhero, but somehow lost his powers and decided he would join the police in an effort to keep on helping people.

After Walker goes on TV and asks the public for information about the graffiti, someone involved comes forward. Apparently, “Kaotic Chic” is the name of an internet club where people chat about how much damage super powered folk actually cause and they would spray paint the name of the club on the walls of scenes where events involving these people took place. The guy goes on to say that one of the members, Jon Jackson Stevens, had found blue prints to make a power dampening device and had plans to do something about the super heroes. The other members wanted nothing to do with violence, but they also thought he wasn’t going to do anything.

Walker and Pilgrim go to Stevens’ home and they collect evidence against him, which includes his personal journal where he writes about how obsessed he was with Retro Girl. The one thing they don’t find there is Stevens himself. The detectives return to the station where they find Calista outside watching something. When they go to see what it is, they find Stevens spray painting outside the station. Stevens is arrested and taken for questioning. After they push him a little bit he ends up confessing to the murder and goes on to say that he killed her to make sure that she would never get old. He believed that if she died young she would always be remembered in a positive light. Then, Triphammer crashes through the building and kills Stevens to make sure his trial isn’t turned into a media circus that would give Stevens the attention he wants. Triphammer then says he doesn’t regret killing the guy and says he’ll leave the country forever.

So, I’ve heard people talk a lot about Powers and I’ll admit that I was curious, but I wasn’t a fan of Michale Avon Oeming’s art. When I got the book as a gift I thought I’d take some time to read it. The first issue felt a little slow to me, but once they really started getting into the case, I got hooked. As I kept reading I even got into the art; the backgrounds are the best part. Oeming really puts a lot of little details into the backgrounds that make the book really interesting and the layouts on this book do an amazing job of sucking you into the story. They also went all out into putting extras in this trade. You get Bendis’ original script, the original comic strips that introduced this series, alternate covers, and a ton of sketches from Oeming. Powers does a great job of bringing the Film Noir genre into comic books, and if you love mysteries you’re going to love this book. I suggest you head on over to Amazon and pick up your own copy for about fifteen bucks
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Ken Zeider
Ken@ComicImpact.com