Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s latest collaboration is the kind of gangster story you’d want in a good TV show. It’s brutal, uncompromising, and in this latest issue a stark reminder that in the world of criminals anything can happen. In this final issue of the miniseries, reveals are made and a new direction is set up.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
From the Eisner Award-winning creators of POWERS! Murder, Inc. has gone to war with the United States–and the United States has lost! The president is dead, the vice president has quit, there’s chaos in the streets, fighting in Congress, farms are burning…but thank God our boy Valentine has a plan. It’s an alternative look at our world that shows us what the world would be like if it were run by gangsters, where the five families of organized crime have taken over!
Why does this matter?
As final issues go, you’re getting extra pages in a dying woman’s final moments with her son. A son who is ruthless and brutal, but a son nonetheless. There must be some love and reconciliation there, right? Nah, probably not.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue is colored by Taki Soma who without a doubt lifts this issue up to a place that is vivid, unreal in the best of ways, and highly entertaining. The oranges used in the mother scenes add a level of tension and unease that suits the moment. Instead of sorrow and love, there’s something unnerving there due to those colors. Bright blues, greens, and purples highlight many things (like the green congressmen in the Capital building or the purple wall street traders) giving the art a nice pop that’s hard to resist.
Speaking of pop, Oeming’s work here is incredible. A double page splash of Times Square utilizes interesting textures and layering that helps make the scene 3D as it assaults your eyes (in a good way). Using what appears to be strips of Ben-Day dot paper, Oeming makes the flashback scene stand out, feeling dreamlike and odd. Make no mistake, the characters in this series are cold, and thanks to Oeming’s work you don’t forget that due to the eyes and panel work. Oeming’s rendering of shadows is part of what makes the book so brooding and dark and this issue has that in spades.
Bendis writes a compelling story here too. He catches you off guard with a twist of sorts that suits the series and its characters. Much of the story is focused on the mother telling her son about how she got to New York, and there is joy in that tale. There’s also danger, a major element that drove her to her son’s father, but some sense of hope. That’s something the United States has always inspired and Bendis weaves that into the narrative well. The Times Square scene I mentioned above is stacked with captions that are short, to the point, and almost poetic in their flow.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The flashback sequence, which takes up about eight pages, is somewhat repetitive up to a certain point. I don’t want to spoil it, but it didn’t have to be as long as it was, at least from this humble reviewer’s initial opinion.
Is it good?
This issue hypes a follow-up and I can’t imagine a better issue to get you excited for it than this one. The beauty of this issue is how the brutality isn’t obvious but creeps up on you like a cold crowbar in the night. Make no mistake, Bendis, Oeming, and Soma have crafted an American crime drama that’s truly haunting.