Saturday, July 26, 2008

Powers, Vol. 9: Psychotic by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

I'm nearly caught up with this cops-in-a-superhero world series, and the plot might not make sense to outsiders at this point. Here's a link back to Vol. 8, which can lead back further to those so inclined.

The $64 question, coming into this volume, is: who is psychotic, exactly? And that's not an easy question to answer.

Following on from the last book, Legends, one of our series leads, detective Christian Walker (himself an immortal but now depowered former superdude), is mentoring and helping the new Retro Girl, Callista.

But of more immediate interest is the dead body of a guy in the costume of the superhero Blackguard. (A Batman/Moon Knight type, powered by a magical gem -- skulking around alleys in the night, frightening cowardly & superstitious criminals, that whole deal.) Blackguard's authentic costume is on the body of a man (Dule DeSanto) who wasn't the Blackguard. He does have a massive head wound from a police-issued bullet, but he doesn't have the gem.

It gets more complicated from there, of course -- there's our other lead detective, Deanna Pilgrim, trying to control her new unexpected powers, and the death of one of Blackguard's old enemies, the Joke. (No points for figuring out who he is.) There's Deanna's ex- boyfriend, who doesn't seem to get that he's
ex. And there's Mama Joon, the fence for all superhero stuff in the city. (And that's just a bit too comic-book-obvious for my tastes, but it's the only major element that set off my bullshit detector in Psychotic.) But this is basically the "how bad can cops behave" storyline for Powers, and the answer is "pretty damn bad."

It all comes together very naturally and cleanly -- this is a storyline with a theme, but it's not forced. It's all about cops: what they will and won't do, what they have to do, and what they cover up. It's one of the better pieces of Powers, which somewhat restores my faith in it. I'm still annoyed that Walker's an ex-power and Pilgrim now has powers herself -- that's just too damn much, and way too much like the supporting cast of some random long-underwear book -- but, as long as they're still cops, I can deal with it. This was a good one.

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