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

The Story: The murderer of the Golden Ones reveals his backstory and we learn that there are far, far bigger and nastier things out there than the Golden Ones.

The Review: Wow…just….wow.  If anything, this issue is proof that when it comes to Powers, Brian Bendis does not hold back.  From the absolute, gut-wrenchingly vivid brutality of the serial god-killer’s backstory to the manner in which Bendis expands his comic’s universe and the stakes of this story, Bendis has basically laughed at the idea of limiting how far Powers can go.  It’s a brave and unflinching performance from Bendis in what is, in my opinion, by far the best issue of Powers since it relaunched.

When reading the murderer tell his story through a confessional tape, it becomes increasingly shocking and downright disturbing to read.  Bendis pulls back the curtain on the Golden Ones for us to see the ugliness and depravity that lurks behind.  They are certainly less than the golden gods they portray themselves at and are, in the case of Damocles at the very least, nothing more the humans that have come into incredible power, only to become twisted and depraved as a result.  I cannot describe how intense this extended scene, and narration, was.  To say that it “hits hard” is putting it lightly.  There is no holding back, no sugar coating, and Powers lives up to its “mature readers” label.  Through words alone, Bendis paints an unfathomably brutal scene that is as appalling as it is haunting, one that feels real, while also highlighting what has become a theme in Powers – that superpowers take the old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely” to new heights of accuracy.

Spinning out of this, Bendis also really expands the scope of his universe, which really makes it clear why Powers is becoming Powers: FBI; the stakes have been far larger and so have, well, the powers.  What has long been a police procedural involving superpowers has suddenly become a statement on the relationship between god and man.  It almost feels as though Bendis puts a Lovecraftian spin to Powers; in revealing the true nature of the Golden Ones and whether they really are gods, we end up getting an answer that leads to more questions, an answer that tells us of the enormous, unimaginable, ancient powers that lurk behind the workings of the world.  The Golden Ones were small fries compared to these cosmic forces and in violating the threshold between god and man, man pierces the veil between the two just a little bit, and the result is a punishment of biblical proportions.  We end up a hell of a long way away from the safe, old police procedural.  Instead, there’s a sense that Powers, with its cops and criminals, have gone too far, played with powers too far beyond understanding, and the result is Cthulian promises fulfilled.  To hammer home this point, this revelation of the great powers at work behind the scenes of Powers universe is accompanied by a shocking, tragic character death, one that sees polar opposites meet, true and unquestionable representatives of the godly and the human/mundane; suffice it to say, it does not go well.

The art by Oeming matches the intensity of Bendis’ script stroke for stroke.  Facial expressions are perfect and, once again, Oeming proves he may very well be the best in the business when it comes to layouts, which are as dynamic as always.  As can be expected, there are also some wonderful splashes here, which serve to emphasize Oeming’s skill at lay-outs; double-page spreads serve narrative purpose and aren’t just a chance to show-off artistic chops (though, of course, they do serve that purpose as well).

Conclusion: This is a comic that grabs by the throat, squeezes, and does. not. let. go.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans