PlayStation has entered the original online TV business with Powers, an adaptation of the comic series created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. Bendis is a pretty powerful name in the Marvel universe, but he made his name in the indie world with titles like AKA Goldfish, Jinx and the superb Torso. Although published by Image and Marvel’s Icon imprint, Powers is much more in line with his indie roots than the intergalactic soap operas he writes for Mighty Marvel. This series marks the first of any of Bendis’ original works getting the Hollywood treatment (several of his Marvel ideas have been incorporated into the Marvel movies). If you’re an upstart television network like PlayStation, and you want to attract eyeballs, what better way than with a TV cop show about superheroes? Powers covers both grounds and does it well, despite the limitations of its production budget.
Powers takes place in a time where super heroes (called “Powers”) exist. Regular humans view the Powers as gods; they’re the Brad Pitts and Kim Kardashians of their world. Sharlto Copely (District 9, Elysium) stars as Christian Walker, a former super hero named “Diamond,” once one of the most famous and beloved super heroes of the day. However, after a battle with his mentor turned super villain, Wolfe (played by Eddie Izzard), Walker is powerless. He now works for the Powers division of the police force, a special homicide unit that investigates crimes involving super humans.
When the series opens, Walker takes on a new partner, Pilgrim, played by Susan Heyward. It’s through her eyes that we get full exposure to the world of the Powers. As almost all humans fawn over the superhumans, even Pilgrim is susceptible to some hero worship. She asks questions that clue in the audience to the wealthy and glamorous life of having powers. I’m not sure if this is the way Bendis and Oeming did it in the comics, but it’s a smart way for the TV writers to provide exposition.
While the series has the makings of a crime of the week procedural, it’s more The Wire than Law & Order. The first season follows Walker and Pilgrim trying to bring down Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor from Game of Thrones and Almost Famous) a Power villain who’s come back from the dead. Royalle was a former friend of Walker’s and also a follower of Wolfe. But Royalle, who can teleport, veered to the dark side. Now he runs nightclub populated by young hip Powers, and he’s pushing a narcotic called Sway, a drug derived from his blood. Meanwhile, Wolfe, locked up in a maximum-security prison for Powers, begins to come out of a catatonic state and thirst for more blood.
Like Fox, UPN and the WB before it, PlayStation is working with a limited budget for Powers. While the writing is sharp, the acting is excellent and the overall pace of the show is top notch, some of the production values are a just okay. In particlar, the blood efx are so obviously CG that it’s almost laughable (and this TVMA series has a lot of blood and gore). Nevertheless, Powers has just as much entertainment value as anything Netflix, Amazon or the other major networks. I’m not a subscriber to the PlayStation network (we’re an X-Box house). So I’m glad that Sony, the distributor of Powers, is releasing the series on Blu-ray. Fans of cop shows and superheroes alike get a chance to see this show and wait in anticipation for season two.