cover image POWERS: Little Deaths

POWERS: Little Deaths

Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, , illus. by Michael Avon Oeming. . Image, $19.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-58240-269-7

Comics about comics continue to multiply with varying degrees of success. Here, the Eisner Award–winning Powers series cleverly adds noirish suspense and pathos to its own postmodern wink in the genre's mirror. In an unnamed city where superheroes not only save lives but end up in photo shoots and car commercials, police detective Christian Walker, a former superhero who has mysteriously lost his powers, and his hipster-chick partner, Deena Pilgrim, investigate crimes related to those with "powers" (superpowers, that is). This volume centers on the death of Olympia, a Superman stand-in, found dead of a heart attack, in flagrante delicto. In this series, superheroes have groupies and are lonely and misunderstood. Bendis offers fake newspaper articles, advertisements and a People magazine–like scandal sheet called Powers to create a satirical world of superheroes much like his obvious inspiration, Alan Moore's The Watchmen. Bendis has a knack for snappy pulp dialogue and takes pleasure in presenting the gritty, seedy underbelly of a city where superheroes have all the visibility and nasty problems of Hollywood stars. Bendis combines a literary naturalism with cop-show suspense to generate a genuine interest in his characters. Oeming offers a deco and animation-influenced style with clean panels and cinematic storytelling. The book also includes "Ride Along," a short story featuring comics writer Warren Ellis as himself, babbling about the death of superhero comics while accompanying Walker in order to research his own graphic novels. It's all very inside-comics, meant to add a sense of reality to Bendis's world and it makes for a fun, engaging read. (Mar.)