Detectives Walker and Pilgrim continue to investigate the death of the entire superhero team The Circle in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming's "Powers: The Bureau" #9. Elsewhere things are going very wrong for Retro Girl and she appears headed straight for Walker and Pilgrim.
This issue focuses on Walker and Pilgrim interrogating Extreme, a power that was apparently training the young team The Circle before they were murdered. The stuff that features Walker and Pilgrim doing their cop (now FBI) thing is good -- it's what Bendis and Oeming do best, and it's the strong center of any "Powers" book. At the same time, there are a few unexpected treats -- like a pseudo flashback double page spread of Walker (as Diamond) and Extreme in the old days -- the panel is basically a riff on a '90s Image splash panel and it's hilarious. Bendis also does a good job of weaving in the recent drama with Deena Pilgrim, post her horrible interactions with Supershock. Extreme has heard rumors about Deena's situation and though he doesn't have the whole picture, Deena is horrified this is common knowledge. It's good that Bendis is continuing this plotline; as it's not something Deena should be able to easily walk away from. She's as tough as they come, but there's no way a character wouldn't be traumatized and I'm glad it's being addressed.
Bendis and Oeming do a good job of showing what happened to The Circle rather than just having Extreme narrate it out. Normally, seeing the action rather than having a character lay out pages of exposition would be more engaging, but in this case, I'm not sure it's the superior tack. Because Walker and Pilgrim being cops is the strength and core of this book, showing the action of The Circle in "real time" means that Walker and Pilgrim are absent for half of the issue. It's not a deal breaker, but there's not enough of The Circle to make readers care about them, and all of those pages lack the charm and sharp honed style of what generally works so well about "Powers" -- namely Walker and Pilgrim.
By the end of this issue, I felt as though I missed a step despite being fully caught up on the series. The ending lacks clarity in the way it's written and illustrated. It's not quite clear what happens to Extreme -- is it him that falls back to Earth all bloody? It looks like him but it's not definitely him. Is he dead? He looks dead, but again, it's not definite. Similarly, Retro Girl's plotline, which began last issue as something really intriguing and ominous, now just feels a bit confusing.
Though "Powers: The Bureau" #9 is not a bad issue overall, some elements lacked clarity thanks to minor failings in the storytelling -- both art and writing. Ultimately, it was a lackluster and confusing ending to an otherwise solid issue.