Writer: Matt Cherniss & Peter Johnson
Artist: Michael Gaydos (p/i), Lee Loughridge (c)
Bringing this series to a satisfactory conclusion was always going to be a tough task. Powerless has presented an alternate Marvel Universe with a diverse cast of characters, all of whom have become embroiled in complex storylines of their own, along with a central character who has remained something of a mystery since his first appearance - and one issue seemed like too short a time to tie up all the loose ends that Cherniss and Johnson had left for themselves. However, through some surprisingly mature writing, and a reluctance to spell everything out explicitly to the reader, the team has managed to confound my initial expectations and provide a great ending to the series.
I'd been wavering over past issues, not really sure where the many and varied plotlines were all going, but this issue worked incredibly well to bring the series to a satisfying end. Leaving aside the obvious big-impact moments (deaths, victories, the acknowledgement of who William Watts was representing in the Powerless world), it was the more subtle pieces of re-invention which really stood out, with the reveal of Matt Murdock's past and how it connected with Karen Page's death serving as a particular highlight. The conclusions to the storylines of the three main characters seemed logical and unforced, with the writing showing a real understanding of what makes their original Marvel counterparts so special and providing a positive message about what it means to be a hero in the real world.
Michael Gaydos’ art is again on top form, showcasing his aptitude for dark realism and contrasting heavily with the more colourful regular Marvel Universe which we see in many other publications. Called upon to deliver many of the climactic story points this issue, Gaydos succeeds in carrying a lot of the emotional weight of “Powerless” with his linework, making his stylised chunky faces expressive and emotive through some fairly subtle changes. His art has without a doubt been one of the key elements in cementing the feel of Powerless, and deserves high praise for his unconventional but effective style.
Ultimately, this is a series which has perhaps struggled to find the right audience. Marketed as a more straightforward “alternate Marvel Universe” tale, it has taken me the full six issues to really appreciate the points the series was trying to make, and as such it may meet with more success when published in a collected edition in due course. It’s a series which hasn’t been too easy to get into, but has eventually been fairly rewarding, and definitely worthy of your attention. It would be nice to see Marvel taking more chances like this instead of slapping Spider-Man and Wolverine into yet another straightforward guest-appearance, but I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies: Powerless has turned out to be an under-rated and original comic, and one that is definitely worth a look for Marvel fans and fans of unpredictable storytelling alike.
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