“Powers Bureau” #2 by Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming is the second issue in as many months, and in the world of “Powers” comics, I gather that makes it something of an event. I jumped aboard the series with the previous issue, and while I may not be well-informed on the book’s history and characters, I have a perspective most Powers fans don’t: that of a new reader.
The second issue of “Powers Bureau” continues the newly re-teamed Deena and Walker’s investigation into powers-related pregnancies, which has led them first to the dealer doling out the, er, necessary fluids, and then to a pregnant woman who appears to be one of his customers.
Story-wise, it is straight down the line, “Powers”-as-advertised: a procedural/superhero fusion, but with the charm and quirk of Bendis and Oeming. That certainly helps the book’s fairly straightforward concept stand out, and it’s the creative team’s obvious familiarity with their well-defined characters that makes it zip along confidently. Extended interrogation scenes feel ill-suited to monthly comics, but Bendis pulls them off due to his sheer skill with dialogue. There are huge blocks of prose all over this book, but it flows well and feels natural. It’s not that you can’t skip it — it’s that you don’t want to.
However, there’s a tendency for the book to feel a little adolescent in its humor. As a new reader, I can’t tell if that’s typical of an issue of “Powers”, but it feels like it strays into Mark Millar territory. Not as cynical, admittedly, but certainly not as realistic as it maybe seems to think.
It’s hard to make much of the story because it’s still setting up the arc’s mysteries. Bendis does well to make sure the questions we’re supposed to ask are spelled out, because there are a lot of them. Similarly, he makes sure we know what the cast is doing and why throughout. But there are weaknesses at either end — the opening sequence with Retro Girl doesn’t seem to tie into the rest of the story at all, and the ending is just confusing. It looks like the FBI agents shot the woman, but the dialogue seems to indicate that Walker and Deena think the villains killed her. It doesn’t work as a cliffhanger, because I’m not thinking, “What happens now!?” — I’m thinking “Wait, what have I missed?”
Despite the obvious talents of the creative team, issues like this are giving me a sense that “Powers” isn’t the book I hoped it was, in terms of content rather than talent. Fair enough, then — but with two creators this good aboard, it’s hard not to be disappointed that it wasn’t more accessible.