Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

29 August 2008

Powers, v. 11: Secret Identities

Collects: Powers v. 2 #19-24 (2006-7)

Released: January 2008 (Marvel)

Format: 200 pages / color / $19.95 / ISBN: 9780785122616

And for a contrast, one of Brian Michael Bendis’s latest works, Powers, v. 11: Secret Identity.

In Secret Identities, the former supervillain husband of Queen Noir — a member of a prominent superhero group — is found dead. Detectives Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker are called in, causing them to deal with high-strung superheroes with secrets and a media circus. And as always in the Powers Universe, whenever someone near a superteam dies, the whole team turns to ruin, and the bodies start piling up. (Bendis seems to believe superteams are an anomaly, something nature abhors only slightly less than a vacuum.)

Powers, v. 11: Secret Identities cover I remember liking Secret Identities much more on the first reading than the second. That may be because of the longstanding plot of Pilgrim’s new, secret powers and the investigation into the disappearance of a former boyfriend. It’s a subplot that started with Powers’s switch to Marvel in 2004, and it really rewards long-time readers. Pilgrim’s slowly been going through the emotions, and here, her defiance is beginning to crumble, and she hits rock bottom. It’s characterization that’s a cut above, and Bendis deserves a great deal of credit for it.

On the other hand, the plot is reminiscent of other Powers plots, with a culprit who comes from (mostly) nowhere. (It does make the second gratuitous sex scene less gratuitous and more a plot point, though.) There’s an interesting and plausible red herring, and a couple of uniformed cops (one of whom has a crush on Pilgrim) who are amusing, but Walker’s new powers leave me cold, and there’s only so much sex and disturbing violence I can take; at times, it seems Bendis is trying to top himself with the violence. At least there’s no monkey sex in here (that I noticed).

I love Michael Avon Oeming’s art, I really do; his square jawed, angular art and Bendis’s dialogue (and other quirks) define the Powers universe. This volume is no exception, with Oeming turning in his usual excellent work, with the bonus of seeing his gag version of a cover for a ‘50s romance comic. However, there are some worrying bits; a few panels are more than confusing, and judging from the script for #23, what he draws certainly doesn’t convey what Bendis is going for. (The scene with Pilgrim in her car, specifically.) It’s only a niggling worry, for the moment.

Really, this is not a book for new readers — not really because it’s confusing to new readers but because it’s not the best. So go to the beginning, become a Powers fan, and then read this.

Rating: Marvel symbol, because I couldn't find anything better Marvel symbol, because I couldn't find anything better (2 of 5)

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