As I stated before in my recent review of the latest issue in the Powers franchise, it feels like Bendis and Oeming are stuck in a creative rut, with no place to move the story forward. After all, it is a story about cops chasing down people with superpowers. That is a specific story type that can easily run out of stories (or at least, original stories) really fast. The United States of Murder Inc. #1 (boy that’s a lengthy title) is so antithetical to the Powers franchise, both in story and ideas. It’s about mobsters instead of cops, and it seems there aren’t any superheroes involved, but rather some mysterious, illuminati-type things going on in the background. It’s still a series of mysteries like Powers is (let’s face it, Bendis works best in crime fiction), but it’s a series of mysteries that don’t feel redundant or creatively bankrupt. For an oversized issue, it gets the reader invested from the get-go. Maybe not so much for the characters, but rather for everything that’s going on.
This book is also funny, both visually and writing wise. Bendis writes the way he typically does, but with a renewed sense of humor drawing from dirty jokes and riffs on mobster-movie conversations simultaneously. Oeming also gets to do wonderful things with body language and facial expressions, making the characters seem human and a little aloof, adding to the humor already at play in the script.
If I said Bendis was out of ideas before, then I was wrong. Bendis is creatively rejuvenated. No more talking heads-Avengers issues. No more six-issue arcs where nothing happens for four of those issues. This is top-shelf Bendis work and hopefully it stays that way.
Oeming is on a roll too, as is colorist Taki Soma. Oeming does his post-Timm thing, but with an expressive vibrancy and bounce I haven’t seen since the early days of Powers. The United States of Murder Inc. #1 is top-shelf Oeming. This might also be because the script gives him a lot of room to work with (The digital version I have comes with a script in the back. It has a modicum of detail but allows Oeming some major breathing room). There’s a wonderful two-page spread of a man’s face that lets Oeming distort things visually and stretch the limits of what a face can do. But what he and Soma truly excel at is the scenes where a group of people are in a small room talking (in this case a train). This allows them to play around with the economy of shapes and colors, with the train being primarily drenched in shadows and having a yellowish color schematic while the character of Jagger pops in red and pink colors and totally throws off the color scheme wildly but it all somehow works.
The United States of Murder Inc. #1 is a glimmer of hope for Bendis fans and an intriguing new series to boot. I’d definitely recommend following this one.
My score: 4.5/5