Review - America's Got Powers #1

Face it--there have been times when you'd like to do nothing more than punch American Idol in the face. The show has spawned a legion of copycats and a mass of people who think they're way more talented than they actually are. People still watch though and there's something about watching people fail that is alluring to audiences. And Hollywood knows this.

What if failure was a lot more than an acerbic Simon Cowell shredding someone's dignity though? What if the reality show had higher stakes, like bodily injury? Possible death even? That's certainly worth gobs more in ratings and it happens to be the premise behind America's Got Powers #1 from Image Comics, written by Jonathan Ross and illustrated by Bryan Hitch. It's inked by Andrew Currie and Paul Neary, with colors by Paul Mounts and letters by Chris Eliopoulos.

Every good story needs an even better origin and America's Got Powers #1 is no different. It opens up seventeen years prior to the current events, with a massive crystal descending from the sky and imbuing every newborn within a five-mile radius with powers. Superpowers. Speed, name it. Of course, because the world today glorifies exploitation, those babies are forced into fighting at the age of sixteen.

Fast forward sixteen years later to Bobby Watts, the presumed fan favorite getting it handed to him. He's on the verge of defeat in what is seemingly an anti-climatic battle until he turns it around and emerges victorious, much to the pleasure of the adoring fans. The battle takes its toll on him though, leading to the always feared by fighters judge's verdict.

The fighting is televised and draws major audiences, which pleases the corporate executives selling the exhibition. It's these same executives that feel the current setup isn't exciting enough and adding a dramatic twist to it. That is, turning the safety off on the Paladins, a series of robotic combatants that patrol the arena in fights and were previously just Powers fodder. The disdain for safety exposes the world to Tommy, a previously evaluated zero on the power scale who seems to be a tad higher than that.

What Ross has written in the first issue is nothing short of exemplary. It's perfectly paced and does a fantastic job in setting up the story through a quick origin and accelerated build-up to the present. The characterization of Tommy is spot on, as he's a kid who clearly has powers but is content with just being late to his job selling Powers merchandise at the games.

The story taps into that reality show zeitgeist, throwing in the "kids in tournaments" theme that The Hunger Games has recently popularized. The way the executives are so heartless in exploiting the youths for their abilities is uncanny and says a lot about both the society in the story and our society now. We have this innate desire to see things go wrong for people, justified by the thought that as long as what goes wrong is "staged" it's all ok.

Hitch's art is amazing. There's really no other word to describe it. The level of detail in fleshing out each panel is so in-depth that you're completely immersed in the world of Tommy. Honestly--and this is no offense to Ross--you could read America's Got Powers #1 without the words and still be amazed. That's how good the art is.

All the locales have different hues as well, thanks to the great inking by Currie and Neary. It helps you move from setting to setting quickly to keep up with the story's pace.

America's Got Powers #1 is a fantastic comic. It sets a sturdy foundation for the remaining five issues and really gives readers something to sink their teeth into. Ross and Hitch have set quite a bar with this issue, both for other creative teams and themselves. Ross taps into so many cultural norms that it's almost as if this happened in real life, which adds levity to the entire tale. This is a book that people will be talking about and for good reason. It's awesome.

America's Got Powers #1 hits stores today and interiors are below.