Comics Published on 14 May 2003

OK, kind of an apology to start this column off. I know I was slacking for quite a few weeks there, only turning on a review or two. And then lately, it looked like I might be getting things back on track. Unfortunately, this week I’m back to only writing up one book.

However, it’s not out of laziness. It’s out of the simple fact that I looked at this week’s releases and said, “Wow. What a bunch of crap.” It’s not that the week is wholly without merit. It’s just that there aren’t any real standout books, on either the positive or negative side of things. So hopefully things will look better next week, or at the very least, maybe I’ll get through some of my backlog of prospective review material this weekend and work on those for next week’s article.

So, again, apologies for the brevity of the article. I promise, I really tried to find something more remarkable to talk about.

Powers #31
Image Comics – Brian Michael Bendis (w); Michael Avon Oeming (a)

I tried and I tried, when I thought about reviewing this book, to think of a way to introduce (much less summarize) the issue in an intelligent sounding manner. But there isn’t any way around it:

This issue is all about monkeys.

And not just your garden-variety, flinging-their-own-poop-at-the-zoo kind of monkeys either. Nope, these are prehistoric monkeys, the brand of simians that mankind presumably evolved from.

And if you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, then you’ve basically seen the plot of this issue…sort of.

So imagine you’re me for a bit (scary, I know, but bear with me). Imagine trying to find a way to artfully summarize a book that features: 1) no dialogue (unless you count animalistic grunting and screaming as dialogue) 2) no characters, that is, except for two males primates who are distinguishable from one another by what are, I kid you not, essentially natural superhero costumes (one has distinctive gray streaks, the other is basically wearing a mask over his eyes) and the female that they fight over and 3) no plot to speak of, except for some consensual monkey sex, one monkey discovering that he has superpowers, and some apparently nonconsensual monkey sex, that is. Then the monkeys fight and the issue ends.

Then imagine realizing that there are only so many synonyms for the word “monkey” (basically, simian and primate are about it). It’s an intimidating thought, but there it is.

So what are we left with at the end of the issue? Well, an intro to the letter column by Bendis that basically acknowledges the fact that you, presumably, just paid $2.95 for an issue full of nothing. And, in a roundabout way, it’s an apology from the writer, who assures the readers that he has not, in fact, lost his damned mind and that the issue full of apes does serve a purpose.

The question then, I suppose, is why I would choose to highlight a book that has almost no plot to speak of? You’d assume (and quite naturally, I think, given my past track record) that I’d done so for the purpose of taking the book to task. But you’d be wrong.

For me, I can agree with those that will say that this is basically like Bendis stealing three bucks from you, because nothing that’s readily obvious as significant happens. Sure, we get to see how the world’s first “power” discovered his abilities, but there’s no context in which to interpret that knowledge. And, really, the whole story is just a big, blatant rip-off of Arthur C. Clarke (he of 2001 fame), subbing in superpowers in the place of a leg bone in the opening scene, so I can sympathize with those complaints as well.

But regardless of those very valid criticisms, you have to admit that it takes some serious balls to promise a big change in your title’s world and then usher in that change with an apparently unrelated story about super powered monkeys. Balls or a complete cessation of cognitive function, I suppose.

I’m going to go with the former in this situation and I respect that. It’s rare to see anyone take a chance on anything in a fairly mainstream title these days and whether or not I feel satisfied about the issue, I have to respect the effort. As well, I have faith that in the grand scheme of this story arc, this issue will fit in and make sense.

It’s not a perfect issue, by any means, and certainly not one of the high points of the series, but it is definitely unique amongst its fellows and one hell of an interesting way to start a story arc.


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