Powers: Cosmic Graphic Novel Review

scanned cover of Powers: Cosmic, pencilling by Michael Avon Oeming

Title: Powers: Cosmic

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Over his impressive career so far, it seems that when Brian Michael Bendis isn’t in the middle of writing exciting and clever superhero stories, he’s busy taking the superhero genre apart.  With his work on The Avengers, he fully commits to the world of superheroes, not filling his writing with “in-jokes” or glib asides that seem to mock the genre, like some of the other comics I’ve read.  With his work on Powers though, he subverts the established traditions of the super-powered hero.
Upon first reading Powers, it’s inevitable that Watchmen and Astro City will come to mind.  Powers is a comic about the real world implications having super powers would have.  Similar to the work of Alan Moore and Kurt Busiek, Bendis’ writing for Powers is heavy on character development, light on action, something that will drive away some fans, but please readers looking for something different and stimulating.
Powers concerns a version of Earth where superpowers are fairly common, but for various reasons, the government has outlawed the use of them.  The two central characters are ones who are paid to enforce the no-powers law, bringing an interesting perspective in to the superhero genre.  How would police officers look on masked vigilantes whose efforts are more effective than theirs?
Powers: Cosmic is volume 10 of the Powers series.  This is the first I’ve ever read the series, and picking it up late into the story didn’t greatly confuse me.  I’m sure it’s better to start at the beginning, but I just happened to find this one at the library.  The reason why I bring this up is to point out that it’s not a difficult series to get into.  There’s some references that confused me, but that’s to be expected with any series.
Powers is definitely more mature than Bendis’ work for Marvel, and I mean that in 2 ways.  1)  It doesn’t have snappy punch lines that are the trademarks of his mainstream writing.  Instead, it features more dialogue per page than a majority of the comics out there, encroaching on James Robinson’s or Alan Moore’s territory.  2)  It’s a comic for mature readers.  If your kids want something to read, check out my guide.  This is more of a mature teen/adult title.  The violence isn’t as graphic as some of the stuff out there, but there’s a lot of swearing and occasional nudity.
The pencilling is all done by Michael Van Oeming, which you may recognize if you’re into The Mice Templar series, not to be confused with Mouse Guard (both series are about vaguely medieval mice).  He brings in a cool cartoony and angular look that kind of resembles a Bruce Timm animated feature for adults.
Overall, this was a pretty satisfying graphic novel.  I’m sure it’s better if started from the beginning.  It’d be worth checking out this book soon if you haven’t already because FX is turning the comic into a TV series.

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If you like Powers: Cosmic, you might also enjoy Starman.

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