by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Michael Avon Oeming (art), Nick Filardi (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Christian hits rock bottom as his relationship with Heather suddenly falls apart but unbeknownst to him, Heather has two very big secrets.

What’s Good: Oeming’s artwork is absolutely superb this month, but it’s really unique in that its greatest strength isn’t jaw-dropping visuals or stunning splash pages.  In fact, this is arguably a pretty restrained issue as far as Powers goes.  What makes the art stunning is how Oeming emphasizes the “sequential” in “sequential art” and what exactly that means.  The panel-to-panel transitions are incredibly smooth and both physical actions and mental processes are incredibly well plotted out.  There’s a great sense of logic and movement from panel to panel that leads to a really organic feel.  Honestly, it’s the sort of work that  makes most other comics feel stilted by comparison.  It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a comic with such a natural flow to it.

Plot-wise, quite a bit happens this month.  As the opening issue to a new story-arc, this issue certainly fulfills its function, offering tantalizing bits of some very major things to come.  When a first issue is giving you visions of an apocalyptic future, you know you’re going to be in for on heck of a ride.

It was also a very good month for Enki Sunrise, who Bendis is clearly trying to build up as a character.  He, more than ever, shows a softer, more human side to the character, letting us see a more sympathetic, even maternal Enki which really stands in juxtaposition to the hard-nosed Enki we’ve mostly seen these far.  Bendis is quickly adding texture to Enki and is making her a fully realized character and I like what I’m seeing.

Speaking of vulnerability, it’s hard not to feel for Christian when he’s down in the dumps.  Bendis has always done a great job of writing his leading man’s heavy burden(s) and that’s no different here.  It’s just always so easy to feel bad for Christian.

What’s Not So Good: There are two major twists, cliffhangers even, at the end of this month’s issue and both fall somewhat flat.  The first, involving Heather, lacks impact if only because it’s a twist we’ve seen a thousand times in comics.  More astute readers probably figured it was only a matter of time before Heather fell victim to it and so it doesn’t hit as hard as Bendis intends it to.  Instead, it just feels inevitable.

The other twist is truly frustrating, if only because it has been utterly and completely spoiled by Marvel’s solicitations for months now.  I can just imagine how hard my jaw would’ve hit the floor on reading this issue’s final page, but no, Marvel had to go and ruin it.  Because of this, the cliffhanger elicited no real reaction at all from me and I can’t help but be a bit pissed about that.

Then there’s Christian’s break-up with Heather.  While nothing is innately wrong with any of it, it did make me reflect on just how little I cared about, or really bought into, Christian and Heather’s relationship.  Bendis never really gave me a reason to heavily invest in it.  When Christian proposes to Heather, it feels out of left field and when the break-up comes, I didn’t share the characters’ distress.  Funnily enough, Bendis finally does some great character work with Heather but it’s ironic that he’s going about this after the separation.

Conclusion: A good issue that would’ve been great were it not for those damned solicitations.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans