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Comic Book / Powers

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To protect and serve... in a world of capes.
See Magic and Powers for the similarly-named index page.

Somewhere tonight in the back alleys of this big, bad old city, a superhero and supervillain are going to fight. One will win and one will lose, and maybe die in the process. Or the body of a famous Cape is going to be found under mysterious circumstances, with no sign of how they were killed. Or a trio of superpowered mooks will commit a crime. And somewhere, some poor schmoe of a cop is going to be woken up to investigate the whole thing, type up all the reports, and realize that he's not being paid nearly enough for what he's doing when he faces down a villain who just laughs at him when he draws his gun on them.

A minor Deconstructor Fleet taken to Super Hero Comics, Powers looks at the world of superpowered crime, life and death through the eyes of two non-powered detectives who investigate crimes committed by and related to superheroes and villains. These investigations frequently lead Detectives Christian Walker, note  and Deena Pilgrim, note  into the seedier side of superpowered life, sex, messed up group dynamics and relationships, and the culture that surrounds it, including everything from trashy tabloids obsessed with the Powers to the bureaucratic nightmare that lies at the heart of the multiple government agencies they often have to deal with.

This one is probably not for the kiddies, as nudity, death, foul language and brutal, crippling beatdowns are guaranteed in virtually all of the (so far) dozen paperback collections.

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming.

A TV adaptation starring Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium, Maleficent) as Christian, Susan Heyward (The Following) as Deena, Michelle Forbes (The Killing) as Retro Girl, Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones) as Johnny Royalle and Eddie Izzard as Wolfe was made by the PlayStation Network in 2015. Its page can be found here.

Powers contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Normal: Deena; Superhuman: Calista after becoming Retro Girl.
  • A God Am I: What happens when a Superman Expy decides this? Nothing good, that's for certain. Zora could be an extremely literal take on this trope; by rejecting religion and basically deciding to worship herself, she gained Enlightenment Superpowers, or so she claims. She's really an immortal who's been around for millennia, but it is entirely possible that's where her powers come from.
  • Ate His Gun: Olympia's wife shot herself in the mouth following his death (and presumably learning about his many affairs).
  • Badass Normal: Christian and Deena in spades. Until Christian gets his powers back by way of Millennium Corps and Deena gets them by Bug.
  • Berserk Button: For Christian, it's disrespecting the memories of Retro Girl (the dead one) or Zora. For Deena, it's when people interfere with their cases.
  • Beware the Superman: Most of the time, this isn't too big a problem, but Supershock, the Superman-analogue, goes off the deep end and nearly causes a Plutonian or Kid Miracleman-like world disaster. He "solves" the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by annihilating the entire area, melts the Pope and does a number of other deeds that they can't directly attribute to him because he can only be observed if he wants to be.
  • Boldly Coming: In one volume, a woman with a healthy sexual appetite contemplates what would happen if humanity ever did encounter aliens. For herself, she figures she'd fuck one of them. Just to say she had, if nothing else.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Deena's iconic hairstyle.
  • Buddy Cop Show: With Christian (mostly) as the straight man and Deena as the snarky comedian.
  • Call-Back: When a sickened Calista collapses in Walker's apartment at the end of Bureau #8, she's in the same position that Janis' body was found in at the beginning of the series.
  • The Cameo: Back when it started at Image, many indie comics characters like Savage Dragon, Madman and the Atomics, Shadowhawk, and Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti's Ash made cameos. A Powers short story published in an Oni Press special even revolved around finding out who killed Madman, and featured appearances by everyone from Mage to Kabuki to Barry Ween before revealing that the culprit was none other than a living planet that bore absolutely no resemble to a certain comics creator.
  • Captain Ersatz: Tons of them.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Calista. Going from Conveniently a Heartwarming Orphan in the first volume to a Troubled, but Cute teen who is now Retro Girl II in the second.
  • Clothes Make the Superman
  • Comic-Book Time: Walker and Pilgrim rarely look any different throughout the first volume, and except for Walker's retirement and Pilgrim's medical leave, there are no firm lengths of time given. Then by issue #1 of volume 2(the Legends arc), readers once again meet Calista, the little girl he helped rescue way back in issue #1. Turns out she's now working in a record store, and she states that it's been six years since she met Walker. Word of God says that Bureau is eleven years after the start of the series, making her seventeen and Deena most likely in her mid-thirties.
  • Comic Book Tropes: Most of them show up at some point or another, mostly to be spoofed, subverted, or deconstructed.
  • Compelling Voice: Ultrabright's main power is the ability to make any man who hears her do whatever she says. She's ultimately the only person capable of stopping Supershock after he loses it.
    Ultrabright: Geoff, you're just a man. Just a man. Listen to me. Listen to my voice. Cease to be.
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: Calista discusses this in the very first issue.
  • Contagious Powers: Deena secretly becomes exposed to some after being tortured by The Bug (she manages to turn them around, melts him, blows up his gang and keeps it a secret). They also slowly eroded her sanity because the next person she kills (her ex-boyfriend, who literally backstabbed her) is killed in what could be called a fugue state where she doesn't show a hint of emotion until long after the deed is done. She gets better.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Deena. When Supershock goes nuts, he takes her into space and exposes her to hard vacum, then kills her and resuscitates her three more times, before literally removing her heart and keeping her alive to see it in his hand. Yeesh.
  • Death Glare: Christian and Deena both do this on occasion. In one instance Deena gives the head of "Powers That Be" an epic three panel death glare.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Deena has done this on a few occasions, usually when she's exhausted.
  • Dirty Cop: Several of them; one of the biggest ones was Deena's own captain back when she was a rookie, much to her shock and disillusionment.
  • Driven to Suicide: Olympia's wife shot herself after news of his death.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Zora; at least, that's what she claims.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: As Diamond, Christian had long hair. When he lost his powers, he cut it short and has kept it that way ever since.
  • Female Misogynist: Deena describes herself as such. True enough, she rarely gets along with any woman. Of the three most prominent in Bureau, she actively dislikes Sunrise, doesn't care for but respects Lange, and her sole good relationship is with Calista.
    • In "Psychotic":
    Pilgrim: That Sgt. Simone made my uterus clench.
    Walker: You hate female cops.
    Pilgrim: I hate women in general.
    Walker: Finally you admit it.
  • The Fog of Ages: Walker and the rest of his group (such as Retro Girl, Zora and Billy Mace) can't fully recall most of their past lives.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of the first story arc, Calista tells Walker that she had a dream where Retro Girl spoke to her and helped her catch the killer. Years later, guess who becomes the new host of the Retro Girl powers?
  • Gender-Blender Name: "HER name is Harvey?" "Hey, I didn't name her."
  • Girlish Pigtails: How Calista wears her hair as a little girl. As a teenager, she wears it down, but puts it in pigtails again when she's in costume.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Olympia's affairs have red hair, while his wife is blonde. He too is blond. Each of them had different reactions to the news of his death.
  • Heroic BSoD: Walker's reaction to Zora's death; Deena's reaction when she realizes she murdered her ex-boyfriend; Cross's reaction to one of his detectives getting killed in the squadroom.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted; injuries take time — sometimes a lot of time — to heal. For instance, when Deena tangles with Supershock, Ultrabright rescues her, but she's then in a coma for several months.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Walker is nearly a foot taller than most of the other characters and built like a tank; Deena barely comes up to his shoulder and is so slender that Walker probably outweighs her by 150 pounds.
  • Important Haircut: In a flashback. Officer Deena Pilgrim had longer hair (about shoulder-length) her first day on the job, but in a tussle with a power, he grabbed her by the hair and swung her around, pulling enough strands out to make her scalp bleed. She cut it short soon thereafter.
  • Innocent Bystander Series: How it starts out, but Deena and Walker eventually become much more than mundane cops. They both do their best to keep it hidden, though.
  • Internal Affairs: Deena starts getting investigated, right after she just killed her ex-boyfriend. It's for the shady death of a criminal in a much, much earlier case, but the close timing is all too inconvenient.
  • Irony: Every time Wolff attacked Walker over the millennia, he would become angered that Walker had usually forgotten about him in the interim. When he breaks out of prison to try and kill Walker one final time, he is momentarily amused by the fact that he has now forgotten just why he wanted to kill Walker in the first place.
  • It's Personal: Walker obeys Millennium's restrictions on the usage of his powers — to only battle interstellar threats to Earth — even when a god is destroying Chicago. Then his pregnant ex-fianceé is killed in the attack and he literally says "Fuck 'em".
  • Jumped at the Call: When Calista gets the powers of Retro Girl.
  • Jumping the Shark: Referenced in universe when Deena jokingly asks if a super called "The Shark" has "the powers to make inferior sequels".
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Cases are often taken away from Pilgrim and Walker by the Feds. The one they interact with most, Agent Lange, was an old cohort of Walker's, but now she's doing things "by the book". After becoming an FBI agent, Pilgrim will throw her weight around, but mostly lets the police do their thing, as she remembers how much it annoyed them when Lange did it. Left by the wayside by the beginning of Bureau, as the surviving members of the main cast are now Federal agents.
  • Killed Off for Real: By the time of volume 3, a big chunk of the secondary cast is gone or missing in action.
  • Master of Your Domain: during the ancient-times-flashback story arc, there was an Old Master (Chinese, no less) with exactly this superpower.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Pilgrim. Putting aside her proclivity for wearing "little belly shirts", Oeming rarely goes an entire arc without showing her either topless or completely nude.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: In the first issue of the Bureau arc, Deena and her partner got some Powers semen spilled onto them. He ended up dying as a mutant Enfant Terrible ripped out of his gut, but Deena was cleared by a doctor. But when she and Walker catch the guy who was dealing the stuff, he spooks Deena into going back and seeing the doctor again. So she does, and is very surprised to find out that she's now pregnant. Like much else in Powers, it ends badly.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: An enraged Deena delivers an epic one to Harvey in the Anarchy arc.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted; the very first time the coroner meets Deena, he and his assistant assume her attitude is because she's "O.T.R." (on the rag), and when Deena is later infected with the powers virus, she passes off a momentary surge as cramps.
  • Odd Couple: Walker and Pilgrim.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Powers Vol 2 #13 has Detective Pilgrim exclaim, upon hearing that a homicide that left a street of collateral damage has only one witness, that she had more witnesses when she lost her virginity.
    "That's one of those things I wish I hadn't said out loud."
  • Out with a Bang: Olympia.
  • Papa Wolf: Captain Cross. He does not take kindly to his detectives being in jeopardy.
  • Past-Life Memories: Walker and Billy Mace only remember bits and pieces of their millennia-long lives. Zora remembers more of hers, for some reason.
  • Prefers the True Form: Partway through, Detective Walker becomes part of an interstellar group called the Millennium Corps, (pretty much the Green Lantern Corps) who communicate with him through visions and dreams while taking the form of a pair of superheroes he knows, Zora and the first Retro Girl. Walker is pretty unhappy with this, since by this time they're doing this he'd been a lover to both of these women, and both had since died. Despite Walker making this clear, his handlers from the Corps occasionally appear in these forms anyway, mostly when they're getting on his case about not using his powers properly.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Deena and Christian initially didn't get along that well, but after over ten years of working cases together, it's clear either of them would do anything they could to help the other.
  • Power Dyes Your Hair: Possibly; at 7, Calista had black hair. At 17, it's blonde, and neither Bendis nor Oeming have said if she bleaches it or its part of her inheriting the Retro Girl powers.
  • Power Levels: Although with only nine (known) levels it doesn't go overboard. Except in the case of Supershock who was practically omnipotent, but classified a 9 just so people wouldn't freak out.
  • Power Nullifier: One of the reasons the muggle cops have any chance against villains is because of the technology that cancels out powers.
  • Precision F-Strike: Despite the fairly liberal use of swearwords, especially from the cops, some of them are perfectly placed:
    Walker: No.
    Satan: No, what?
    Walker: No. I don't believe anything you're saying. I don't think you are who you aren't saying you are. And fuck you.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Both played straight and averted; sometimes it's the 'small hole in the head', other times...well, other times there's not much of a head left.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Both modern-age Retro Girl's wear these when in costume, though in Calista's case, they seem to be more for disguise.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Walker, and a number of other superheores. Walker and Wolf appear to have gotten the raw end of the deal on this one; it's heavily implied that they were truly immortal and alive for most of that time, while the others were mainly reincarnates.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Supershock to Deena, after he goes totally batshit insane.
    Supershock: I tried so hard to be there for you. To serve you. I tried so hard to make sense of you and what you needed from me. I wanted to be there. I wanted to serve. But then it occurred to me — I asked myself the incredibly obvious question: why am I so much more than you? Why are you so small and I am so much more? I then realized that I am not your servant. I am your king. I am not yours. You — are mine. To do with what I please. I bring you life, I bring you death, I control everything around you, and everything inside you.
  • Reincarnation: How Retro Girl has existed throughout time; her powers and some of her memories pass to a new person upon the previous one's death.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Walker seems to have hooked up with Retro Girl and Zora multiple times throughout history, though before Zora's death, they were serious enough to have gotten engaged.
  • Samurai Ponytail: Janis (the murdered Retro Girl) favored this style, and at least two of her previous incarnations did as well. Calista avoids it and goes with Girlish Pigtails instead.
  • Slut-Shaming: Inverted, Deena is immune. She likes sex, and will talk a great deal about liking sex, without caring who hears.
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: Calista does this a lot, to Walker's annoyance.
  • Super-Power Meltdown: How Benmarley and Boogie Girl of the government-sponsored FG-3 team die. Ex-member Wazz starts to go the same way, but kills himself to go out on his own terms.
  • Super Registration Act: As a result of the events at the end of the first volume, the second starts with a repeat of the first volume's end report—a presidential order that all super heroes need to be registered. The authorities are just sane in this milieu - they treat it no differently than a driver's license. Then, later, in a panic, the President gets Congress to declare the use of any powers illegal. Most people quickly come to realize how idiotic this is, because it prevents law-abiding superheroes from doing their thing, but does nothing to actually stop supervillains. It's similar to Prohibition: a law that empowers criminals.
  • Super Supremacist: There's a Superman Captain Ersatz named Supershock who gets to the point of being so disconnected from other sentient beings and fed up with humanity that he develops a god complex and decides it's time for him to impose/enforce his own personal order on the world.
  • Tabloid Melodrama: A constant theme is about the attention/obsession everything from trashy tabloids to two-bit political commentators would have for superpowered figures, and how that works to screw over their normal lives.
  • Take That!: A particularly epic one against John Byrne, which was the page image for Small Name, Big Ego.
  • Tele-Frag: When Deena is confronting Johnny Royalle, she grabs his arm just as he's trying to teleport away, and his arm winds up getting left behind.
  • Teleportation Sickness: Deena sees some seriously messed up things as a homicide detective and never gets sick. But even the mere presence of a teleporter arriving or departing in her proximity is enough to make her puke.
  • The Chosen Many: The Millennium Corps (the in-universe Shout-Out to Green Lantern). Walker becomes the newest one of them while investigating the death of the most recent one.
  • The Virus: Part of a major story arc.
  • Timm Style: Oeming's art is a modified version; he began drawing this way while hoping to be hired on the Batman/Superman Adventures comic.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The spine of volume 8 lists its title as "Cosimic" - the front cover correctly calls it "Cosmic".
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between lesbian superheroine Crystal and the sexually frustrated Queen Noir. Crystal mentions she had a sex dream about Noir, Noir nearly acquiesces, then she departs. Upon arriving home, Noir fantasizes about having sex with Crystal. Gloriously averted with Christian and Deena, who are Platonic Life-Partners.
  • Wham Episode: After years of dancing around it, the end of the 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time arc revealed that Deena actually did kill Johnny Royale.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: As implausible as it is, given his "A God Am I" Smug Super Motive Rant, implied to be the case with Supershock. As he fades away, he admits that what really made him snap was not going Drunk with Power, but realizing that even with his Godlike power, "I could never save you all. Not all. Not all."
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Walker's pregnant fianceé Heather leaves him because she sees visions of her death right before an apocalyptic battle. The visions weren't exactly correct, but enough of it comes true that it's obvious she was right.