Review by Frank Plowright
Powers was new and fresh when first launched, sustained a very good run, but ran out of ideas, and has been on a downward slide since Gods was issued in 2012. Detectives Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker haven’t been a priority for Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming since then. Despite a TV show, only three volumes have followed, all continuing the decline, while in 2016 the previous All the New Powers was the first from the series to fall below an average rating on this site. What price then a triumphant return four years later?
Against all the odds, that’s almost what it is. Instead of pulling the rug out again, Bendis begins in the past. Just how long Walker has been around was a bombshell in Forever, and it’s with his less than complete memories of the past that Bendis starts, looking back to his 1980s superhero career before he joined the police. Building blocks are the order of the day, as much of how the world of Powers came to be is addressed by looking back, and just how much of it is down to a single man. Fans of Deena Pilgrim are going to be frustrated as it’s halfway before she appears.
By then Oeming has supplied near enough a hundred pages of great cartooning. He’d also seemed to have misplaced his mojo, although not to such a great degree as Bendis, and for fans of his art these pages are a joyful reaffirmation. The detail is back, the characters pulse, and the pacing should be a lesson to all aspiring comic artists. He knows when to take a pause and when the pedal should hit the metal, to use era-appropriate phrasing.
Pilgrim’s return is when the real plot kicks off. Seven years have passed since the previous book, and Walker is ageing for the first time in his incredibly long life. Someone is recreating the events of Retro Girl’s death, now twenty years in the past, and despite people having witnessed his death, Walker is convinced Wolfe somehow survived and is behind current very staged killings.
This really is a triumphant return we all want, a love letter to everything that made Powers so entertaining for so long. Bendis fills in gaps, sets up the impossible, reconstitutes the Walker/Pilgrim dynamic, and finds a place for Enki Sunrise and so many others, dead or alive, who’ve played parts over the years. It’s all carried out to the Powers template of starting with a mystery and delivering the apocalypse. Depending on your view, after the last few graphic novels the title is either a statement or a provocation, but Bendis and Oeming pull it off. It’s not the Best Ever, but it ranks high as a brutal capper to the series and that’s way better than expectation.