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Powers has returned in a somewhat new form, Powers: Bureau. But rather than a gimmick, it reads as a natural progression of the series and the universe it takes place within. The concept of local police having to deal with and investigate superhuman crimes has always been a really interesting one. It’s also been a concept that could only stretch for so long as superhuman-related crimes became bigger and crazier. So obviously, it would become more and more of a federal level matter. And what better way to showcase that than to evolve the stars of Powers into federal agents?
Deena Pilgrim dominates the stage in this first issue, and really, that’s only fair. The character was sidelined quite a bit in the last volume of Powers after her character arc saw her kicked off the police force. She did return as a federal agent to help out her old partner Christian Walker and his new partner Enki Sunrise, but the role was not as large for her as she’d previously occupied. Now that the focus is shifting to the federal level, where she has already established herself, it’s only right that she gets to take the lead.
The story also features flashbacks showing us the time between Pilgrim leaving the police force and becoming a federal agent. This is something the previous volume of Powers left untold. We simply got Pilgrim returning as an agent with the assumption that she just couldn’t sit on a beach somewhere and stay out of it all. Well, that assumption was totally correct, but it’s still really nice to get to see how it played out for her. It also remains pretty true to the character. I always thought the idea that Pilgrim could retire happily on a beach somewhere was really nice, but it was always hard to believe she could just let herself be relaxed and happy like that for the long term. This is Deena Pilgrim.
The narrative structure of this issue is actually a bit complicated. It begins with that trick where the opening scene is actually something that takes place later, so the rest of the issue jumps back in time to build toward it. But we’re also following three little storylines tangled together. There’s Pilgrim with her flashbacks of how she ended up joining the FBI. There’s her active investigation with a new partner concerning the proliferation and smuggling of... well... we’ll call it superhero juice. And finally, there’s Pilgrim and Sunrise tracking down the whereabouts of Walker. Despite weaving through three separate tracks, it all actually reads pretty well and isn’t hard to follow. It helps that Brian Michael Bendis keeps each little storyline fairly straightforward. This would’ve become a mess had he decided to get unnecessarily convoluted with any of them.
Some books rightfully deserve their mature readers rating due to their subject matter. Some others just want it as a badge of edginess and inject a quota of swearing and nudity to get it. Then, there are some that gleefully enjoy playing in the mature readers sandbox with an infectious enthusiasm. That last category is where Powers: Bureau calls home. Does the concept of a police procedural in a superheroes world necessitate a mature readers rating? Not at all. Do Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming just throw in naughty bits to get the cool rating? Hardly. Do they have way too much fun with splattering superhero juice on characters and having characters colorfully discuss it? Oh, hell yes. And it’s probably almost as fun to read.
The only disappointing thing about this issue is the lack of Christian Walker. He does appear but only minimally. I can’t complain too much, though. His absence makes sense and is part of the story. I’m just greedy, and after waiting so long to get back to Powers, I wanted everything. So we have to wait until next issue to really get much of Walker. It’s disappointing but understandable.
Powers: Bureau is a welcome return to the universe Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming created. While it has changed from the status quo that has carried it for so many years, it’s a change that feels like the natural evolution of the series and one that doesn’t change the important aspects that have made Powers so enjoyable all this time. It’s still a world of mortal law enforcement trying to cope in a world full of superhumans, aliens and gods. It’s still hilariously twisted in its way. And most importantly, Deena is still Deena.
Here’s a crazy thought. Someone shoudl make a television show out of this.