Continuing in the tradition of focusing on fantastic two-fisted action, Pulp genre, Pulp Fiction Fridays focuses on POWERS, the comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming.
I love pulp. I’ve been a fan of detective mysteries, cozy mysteries, high tech mysteries, and all points in between. I love a good whodunit, and I love private detectives that are self-directed, they march to their own drummer, and often to their detriment. Law & Order’s character Logan would forever be the pinnacle of this brash, but diligent detective. Law & Order SUV’s Elliot also fell right in step with the rogue detective, breaking rules and following his own code to justice.
And it cost him. Just as my protagonist in my Cybil Lewis series, Cybil handles her own issues and marches to her own drummer. She has a moral code that is patched together from her own trials and tribulations. She struggles to do the right thing, even when that means breaking the violations erected in post-apocalyptic D.C.
I also love comics. Comics + detectives=Major Love from Nicole.
Enter Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming’s Powers comics.
Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim are two polar opposites, not unlike my Cybil and Jane characters. Each balances the other, and over time, a well-oiled friendship steeped in mutual respect, rivalry, and platonic love emerges between them. This series is special because it takes some that Alan Moore’s Watchmen prompted in the early 80s and rooted in the real world.
What if super heroes were real?
If they were real, who would police them? A common problem for Justice League’s Batman was that the league was too powerful. He wanted procedures in place to deal with the league when the meta-humans became too powerful. As an ordinary man, Bruce was keenly aware of this danger and planned accordingly.
Christian Walker, an ordinary human, who once has a super power and was known as Diamond, now serves as a detective capturing and bringing those with powers to justice. Walker is the protagonist of POWERS, and he carries the weight of the loss of his powers. Initially, Walker is very much a man haunted by a glorious past that lingers. A washed up quarterback. A former star. He’s all those things and more.
Saddled with a spunky and impulsive partner in Deena Pilgrim, Christian, along with a host of secondary characters both powers (meta humans) and humans, investigate super-powered crimes. The world-building is amazing. The evolution of Deena and Christian throughout the series also demonstrates Bendis’ writing skills unchecked by someone else’s cannon or character.
POWERS is Bendis set free. It is what independent comic book creators are doing every single day. Breaking the mold of traditional DC and Marvel comic’s storytelling.
POWERS is two-fisted action. Sex. Violence. Mystery. Origin Story. Redemption.
And it is glorious. Gritty. Dark. Delicious. Every single freakin’ bite.
In a word, it’s pulp noir at its absolute sharpest. The writing slices through traditional stereotypes with razor precision, and at times when it looks as if Bendis is feeding right into a traditional storyline or characterization, he kicks the legs out from under it.
Recently POWERS made its live-action debut on Playstation Network (PSN). The casting director kept the characters, but cast Deena Pilgrim as a black woman. In fact, t felt like they’d blended Detective Sunshine and Deena into one character. It didn’t change my feelings for the show, or my love for Deena. In fact, Deena’s troubles seem much more plausible as an African-American female given the amount of challenges we face in our everyday life.
It’s hard to transition a comic book to live action Netflix’s Daredevil not withstanding. Because it was streamed via PSN, Bendis’s baby, POWERS, didn’t have the budget necessary to fully realize Bendis’s world-building. The actor portraying Christian Walker didn’t have the build, swagger, or anything else to make me identify him as WALKER.
So, honestly, I checked out of it fairly soon. It has been granted a season 2, so I will most likely make another attempt to watch the actual series.
For now, I returned to the POWERS comic and re-read them. Revisiting the world I found most enjoyable and Oeming’s illustrations. I knew those characters. I knew their stories. They spoke to me about the challenges of responsibility, class, racism, poverty, sexism, and all the other –isms that plague humanity.
It also had loyalty, redemption, and sacrifice.
Those wonderful other powers that resonate in each human being.
And if POWERS taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have to be a meta-human to use them.