Some really good stuff this week:
- Powers: The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time vol 12 TPB, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel/Icon)
- The Black Coat & Athena Voltaire One-Shot (Ape)
- The End League #7, by Rick Remender & Eric Canete (Dark Horse)
- Star Trek: Crew #1 of 6, by John Byrne (IDW)
- Invincible #60, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
The latest volume of Powers has one downside: The title. “The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time” may be a cute little joke – which is how it’s used in the story – but it’s a terrible title for this volume.
The reason it’s a terrible title is that this is one of the best volumes in the Powers series, which is the culmination of 30 issues of storytelling.
There’s a virus on the streets giving people powers, but leaving many of them ending up dead, too. Detective Deena Pilgrim was infected a while ago – a bad thing since having powers is illegal unless you register them – and ha run away from the force to try to stop the people responsible for and profiting off the virus. Her former partner, Christian Walker, used to be a superhero before he lost his powers, but he recently gained now powers, but only for fighting cosmic threats to Earth. And having powers is illegal, right? He’s also trying to find who’s responsible for the disease.
Pilgrim is in her own private purgatory and has been pushed about as far down as she can go, while Walker’s new partner is charged by internal affairs with finding out things about the both of them. It’s an ugly situation, and it all comes down to a big roll-of-the-dice which puts everyone at risk. And as a story it works out wonderfully. How it works out for the characters… you’ll want to read for yourself.
This volume is some of Bendis’ best writing ever, with some particularly poignant statements to make about what it means to have powers. Other than the title, if the book has a downside, it’s the sad fact that the series comes out so rarely while Bendis is writing mainstream books for Marvel. Not that I begrudge him the success he’s had in that vein (even if those titles aren’t my cup of tea), but Powers will be the book people remember 30 years from now, and much like Kurt Busiek’s series Astro City, it’s too bad we don’t get more of it.
Still, we should be grateful for what we do get.
John Byrne’s last Star Trek-related series, Assignment: Earth, was rather a bust, as it was five standalone stories which didn’t really give us any insight into the characters or ultimately go anywhere. Nonetheless I decided to give his new series, Crew a try, and from the first issue it’s 100% better.
Apparently it’s going to focus on Number One, the first office of Captain Christopher Pike in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage”, and who was portrayed by Majel Barrett. This first issue takes place on the shakedown cruise of the USS Enterprise before it was commissioned; Number One – who was never named in the pilot and isn’t named here – is a cadet assigned to help with the cruise, and who engineers the saving of the ship from an enemy plot. The plot isn’t especially sophisticated, but Byrne nails the look of Starfleet and makes the characters and situation compelling enough to make it one of the better one-issue stories I’ve read recently.
If the rest of the series is this good, it ought to be a lot of fun indeed.
A whirlwind year of Invincible wraps up with “The Invincible War”, a double-sized issue in which reality-hopping villain Angstrom Levy sends 20 evil counterparts of Invincible from parallel Earths to our hero’s own world to conquer it and humiliate him. It doesn’t work, of course, but 20 Invincibles manage to beat down the whole roster of heroes from the Image universe before they’re stopped.
This issue is like the series in microcosm: Inventive writing and artwork, hard-hitting situations and visuals (yes, there’s blood and gore), and life-altering events happening to series regulars – not to mention the rest of the world. – and despite being a single-issue story, it both picks up threads from earlier issues and sets up elements for future issues. Invincible is like a television drama which alters the status quo regularly. While its sensibilities are too modern to truly compare it to monthly comics of decades past, that’s what I often think of when I read it: Kirkman and Ottley are having fun pulling out all the stops and moving pieces around every month, and while it’s not ‘good clean fun’, it is a great ride. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover this comic, but I sure am glad I have.
This issue has a double-foldout-wraparound cover – when was the last time you saw one of those? – by series artist Ryan Ottley, and you can see it in its entirety here.