Powers: Supergroup


Powers Volume 5, Numbers 21 - 24

Created and Produced by: Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
Color Art by: Peter Pentazis
Typography: Ken Bruzenak
Editor: KC McCrory
Business Affairs: Alisa Bendis
Published by: Image Comics

One of the most important questions that has been asked (repeatedly) by comics that deal with Superheroes is: What meaning do normal human beings have in a world of Powers?

Certainly the two most important comics to address this were Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, especially Miller's frequent pages of television interviews with people having conflicting views of what it meant to have a hero actively working to rid the streets of crime.

The issue has also been addressed in Rick Veitch's dystopian The One, Moore's V for Vendetta, and more recently in Kingdom Come and to some degree in Warren Ellis' The Authority. Being confronted with such power has to change our society, and the ability to have such power, to defy the natural order of the world, means having to redefine one's own morals and ideals.

One of the keys to Superman has always been that as strong, as powerful, as gifted as he was, he could have become anything. Certainly, variations of Elseworlds have played often enough with the concept of, what would have happened if the Man of Steel had been raised by somebody other than the good old Americans, with their ideals of Truth, Justice, and the American way?

Powers asks this question again, and I feel that it does so in a very different, and powerful way that perhaps only Kingdom Come and Rising Stars have asked fully...

When Superheroes, by their very presence, begin to shape the world to their own desires, begin to change the way that normal humans interact with their world...something has to be done. Decisions have to be made. Humanity, for it's own survival, cannot merely stand back and watch in awe...they must become participants in their own destiny.

This is especially so when Powers goes to such great lengths to present each of the Powered individuals as actual people, with lives, affairs, issues...many of the Powered individuals in this universe get along very badly, and most groups, such as Unity (sort of like the JLA) actually split up over interpersonal conflicts, especially over who gets the money.

Money, itself, is a huge deal in Powers...merchandising, and the effects of it, are seen very clearly, and the results of it's influence on Powers and mortals alike are seen clearly. This series asks questions that need to be asked of any "honest" superhero series.

Warning, Spoilers follow.

In story arc five of Powers, Anarchy, the United States has been rocked by several powerful scandals involving Powered individuals. Olympia, a powerful icon of heroism, was found dead in a sleazy hotel room where he had died during an affair. 3FG, a government funded supergroup, was found to have been a government funded a mutated group of broken individuals, who, once they had outlived their usefulness, were killed off with self-destruct switched built into them by the government. And Retro-Girl, the epitome of purity and heroism in the world, was killed off by a lone individual who figured out how to build his own copy of the drainers which police used to render Powers neutralized, and then stalked and killed her.

Heroes broken, tarnished, battered, ideals of what it means to be a Powered shattered forever in the wake of scandal and violence. And now, a group is killing superheroes. And in order to track them down, Deanna Pilgrim has to ask Christian Walker to come out of retirement to try to find these people.

Anarchy contains even more silence, more images, but is driven by a powerful question...what reaction must normal mortals have to the presence of Powers...especially those who would reshape the world to their own devices, their own morals? When Powers can rip a city apart fighting each other, to whom does the world belong?

    Announcer: Kaotic Chic.
    Announcer: The words have creeped into our public consciousness like a virus...
    Announcer: Yet no one in the city, not even the superheroes it threatens, knows for sure what it means.
    Announcer: Words spray painted over the corpse of Retrogirl as she drew her final breath that fateful day at Morrison Elementary School.
    Announcer: Her killer, John Jackson Stevens, took the meaning of those cryptic words to his grave.
    Announcer: And then there's Harvey Goodman.
    Announcer: After this footage was shot of her and her partners in crime desecrating the site of Omega 6 violent public burning...
    Announcer: A half dozen murders were pinned on Harvey and her group, now known as "The Kaotic Chic Murders."
    Announcer: Throughout the police investigation and interogation
    Announcer: Throughout the lengthy trial, that convicted Harvey on multiple counts of first-degree murder...
    Announcer: And through this year, when Harvey has sat in maximum security prison
    Announcer: Harvey Goodman has never pulicly spoke on her own behalf.
    Announcer: She was never questioned about her motivations or her group's intentions and methods.
    Announcer: People have questioned the meaning of the murders, and their adopting of the words "Kaotic Chic" -- But until now, it was only conjecture.
    Announcer: For the first time anywhere, on this very special edition of "The Flipside"... Harvey Goodman speaks.
    Announcer: First off, Harvey, thank you for finally granting an interview. But the first question has to be, why now? Why have you decided to talk now?
    Harvey: My life is in danger. I will not be on the planet earth much longer.
    Announcer: Has your life been threatened?
    Harvey: You could say that.
    Announcer: By who - fellow inmates?
    Harvey: Let's just say that certain cape-wearing individuals have put the word out, and the word is --
    Announcer: Superheroes have threatened your life?
    Harvey: Let's just say that I do not expect to be alive when this airs. They could crash in here - Right now - While we're taping. But I am very aware of the media's desire to have my words and intentions warped to serve their multiconglomerate purpose. I have decided to speak to the public...So that the people, the real people, will be able to sift through your manipulations and clearly hear me before I go.
    Announcer: Um, okay, well, then let's get to it. You are sitting here, in prison, with seven consecutive sentences with no chance of parole. Do you regret the events that led you here?
    Harvey: No. I was fully aware of what the outcome would be. Frankly, I expected to be murdered in the street. I expected to be frozen in a block of ice, or flown upward into space so that my eyeballs would rip from their sockets. But I also knew I would possibly end up right here.
    Announcer: So, Harvey, why? Why were you killing superheroes?
    Harvey: We, as a society, have failed. By allowing gods to walk among us... Allowing people to become their own symbols of justice, to create their own values, by allowing them to inflict their values on us...by doing this...We have collapsed into an anarchy not seen since the days of the caveman. And we don't even acknowledge it. Every one of these so-called superheroes inflicts his own brand of justice and morality on our society without any understanding of the ripple effect.
    Announcer: "The Ripple Effect"?
    Harvey: Every time a new morality is thrust upon our society, a ripple effect occurs...And each ripple builds and builds into the tidal wave of anarchy to which we are now doomed. Our cities will burn because of Superheroes. Our atmosphere will become unbreathable. They will turn on us when we are not paying attention. They will announce their supremacy once and for all... And we as a society will stand there helpless, wondering how all this happened. The police, the politicians... they all bow to these people of so-called Power...and for what? Why would a police officer allow a vigilante to run free in the streets? Why? Our group... our group's statement... was a wakeup call to John Q! We want you to question what these people of Power mean! We take them away from you and you mourn them? But why? What did they mean to you that you mourn them? Think about it. You mourn them? You don't even know them! We want you to consider the Powers' status quo and where you belong in it before it is too late. We want you to feel the anarchy that was tearing us apart. Jon Jackson Stevens had a vision. He had something to say when he sacrificed Retro Girl, and his statement was clear. A... A man takes on an identity other than his own... and we do what? We run from these people? No. We worship them. We praise and respect them. The entire system has turned backwards.
    Announcer: A celebrated officer named Christian Walker... Why was he a target of your group?
    Announcer: Harvey? Why was Christian Walker a target of your group?
    Harvey: Because no one walks away.
    Announcer: What does that mean: "No one walks away"?
    Announcer: Do you mean that Walker's past as a superhero made him a target as well?
    Harvey: No.
    Announcer: What does that mean?
    Harvey: It means...It means the world is a complicated place.

Anarchy is the fifth Powers TPB, and Bendis brings things to a heady boil as a group starts killing superheroes. The frantic investigation must attempt to stop the killers while simultaneously avoiding being killed by them themselves.

This story arc also brings Walker out of the retirement imposed by the events of Powers: Supergroup (what, like you thought he was gone?) and into the investigation, even if only as a civilian. We also get a look at how people perceive Deanna Pilgrim outside of a relationship that works, like the one she has with Walker.

The ideas going on in the story really get expressed more here, as seen above...what is a superhero, really, and what are we doing to ourselves by allowing them continuance in a society?

This arc feels kind of short...I'm not sure what was going on at the time, but it's only four issues long, and you kind of breeze through it, but it's still very tight, entertaining work. It just leaves you very much wanting more.

The only added filler is an interview between Oeming and Bendis (yes, kind of masturbatory, but interesting nonetheless).

Powers | Powers: Roleplay | Powers: Little Deaths | Powers: Supergroup | Who Killed Retro Girl?

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