Writer: Matt Cherniss & Peter Johnson
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Another issue of “Powerless” brings another look at William Watts struggling to make sense of a skewed reality where the super-heroes he knows have been stripped of their powers and find themselves fighting their old enemies in different ways, apparently oblivious to their alter-ego existences. I first invested in this title having enjoyed Michael Gaydos’ great artwork on Alias, and there’s more of the same high level of quality here. I love his heavy inking and moody, gritty street level scenes, and his characters – whilst occasionally a little stiff – have the sense of realism that a title like this demands. His use of shadow and space makes every page visually rewarding, making the most of great ideas in the writing (such as the scene with Matt Murdock’s trashed apartment, or his later release into the wilderness) and carrying off the superhero flashback sequences, or individual character homages (such as the final page) with aplomb. I’d love to see Gaydos do some work on a more mainstream title, because his work here plays second fiddle to the “powerless” gimmick that drives the series – and unfortunately, the writing isn’t quite up to the same standard as his art.
If I said before that I was pleased that Cherniss and Johnson were choosing to develop the plotlines of this Powerless world instead of dwelling too much on the conceit of the alternate universe itself, then maybe I spoke too soon. Because these powerless heroes, whilst readable enough characters in their own right, are just a little too close to the regular Marvel Universe to be particularly interesting. I’m hoping that the eventual reveal of the nature of this “Powerless” world turns out to be worth waiting for, because I can read better Spider-Man, Daredevil and Wolverine stories elsewhere.
Frankly, the writers aren’t making enough of the difference that lacking powers makes to our super-heroes. Whilst it’s fun to see Pete attack Norman over the world wide web instead of using his web-cartridges, or the Kingpin showing what he’d really do to a Blind Lawyer who was causing him trouble, it’s ultimately the same conflicts we’ve seen many times before. It’s unclear whether the writers are trying to say that these characters can be heroes in their own right, even without powers (like Peter Parker) whether it’s their super-abilities that really empower them (like Matt Murdock) or whether they’d be pretty much the same no matter what (like Wolverine seems to be). I’m guessing the idea is to show that it’s their characters that make the heroes who they are and not the powers - but if that’s true, then why waste time looking at an alternate universe of them for six issues when we can get the real deal, powers and all, in their own regular series? Let’s hope that the writers manage to make their case a little more effectively next issue, because this is quickly becoming repetitive.
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