Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mike Avon Oeming
Colors by Nick Filardi
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Icon Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Renumbering is an anomaly unique to comics. Calling this a “number one,” doesn't change the fact that there have been 60-odd issues of Powers previously published. It's a trick that doesn't fool any of us, but that doesn't stop it from being a useful trick. A new volume offers the chance to cleanse the palate, recenter the book, and begin new narratives with new goals. And that's exactly what Bendis and Oeming do here.
As one would expect following the events of the last volume, The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time, former partner and longtime co-star Deena Pilgrim is nowhere to be found. Instead, Detective Christian Walker is partnered with Enki Sunrise, the former Internal Affairs operative once staked to investigate Walker himself. The alliance is uneasy, but in fact, the whole world seems uneasy. The long-running threat of the book's previous incarnation, the STD-analogous “powers virus,” has been contained, but there is no sense of relief or celebration. There's something dark, and maybe even sad in the world, typified by the discomfort between Walker and Sunrise.
The relationship between Walker and Pilgrim was long a pillar to this series. The characters' chemistry and tension was right up there with Scully and Mulder, and Tony Danza and whoever the “Boss,” was. It was such a mainstay of the book that its weight is still felt, even in absence. The series spent many issues educating us about Walker through the eyes of Deena, whose pluck and persistence slowly drew the eternal survivor out of his shell. Now she's gone, and there's no sign of her return, and consequently Walker has drawn back inward. Even in his relationship with his girlfriend, there is something less than attentive to his demeanor. He's not going to give any of himself to anyone, partner be damned. Or so he'd like it to be.
As happens in a well-constructed crime book, a murder occurs that lends insight into the life of our fair heroic detective. A ghost of Walker's past has been found dead, and the era he haunted seems to be one Walker preferred be left forgotten. Up to now, the series' flashbacks have portrayed the many heroic phases of Walker's life. Here, we are instead treated to Walker of the “Mad Men,” era; something of a gadabout, a scoundrel, and less than we remember him. This new layer exposes a past darkness that subtly echoes the present one, and demands the attention of the sullen Walker.
Before, Deena acted in place of the reader, both learning and teaching us about the depth of the Powers universe, through her relationship with Walker. Now, it's Walker that stands in the place of the audience; he is reluctant to embrace the new phase of his life, much like a petulant reader might be wary of the new direction of the book. But change is gonna come. At least to those that survive. Walker is going to have to put part of himself out there in this investigation, and he's going to need whatever partner he has.
This issue of Powers crams in everything fans of the series have come to love. There's cursing, sex, and intrigue. The new dynamic is more than drastic enough to warrant the new numbering, superfluous and silly an exercise though it may be. Despite employing the occasional flashback, this book is forever dedicated to moving forward. Because that is Walker's burdensome curse.