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Josh Reviews the Powers Novel: The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s terrific comic book series, Powers, follows homicide detectives Walker and Pilgrim in a world of superheroes.  After rereading the series last year, I realized that there was one additional piece of Powers material that I hadn’t yet read.  Back in 2016 — instigated, I suspect, by the launch of the Powers TV adaptation — a Powers prose novel was published!  The book was called Powers: The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim, and it was written by Mr. Bendis and Neil Kleid.

Wow!  A Powers novel!  And one that would explore the backstory behind Deena, one of the comic’s two main characters?

I was immediately interested… and then immediately curious as to why I hadn’t heard more about this project.  I don’t think it was ever mentioned in the back-pages of any of Mr. Bendis’ many comic-book series, including Powers.  Mr. Bendis is an excellent promoter of his work, frequently writing about all his projects in his various comic book series and on his tumblr, and talking about them in interviews.  So the lack of publicity (at least as far as I could tell) for this Powers novel grabbed my attention.  And so, I immediately began to wonder, despite Mr. Bendis’ name being written on the cover, had he actually written the book?  Was he involved at all, or were they just using his name (as many famous so-called “autobiographies” do?)  Was this novel “canon” for the comic book series or just an extrapolation by another writer that wouldn’t, in the end, have any relevance towards the main series?

These questions cooled my enthusiasm for the project.  But after recently re-reading the last several years’ worth of Powers comics, I decided the time had come to give this book a read.  What if I was missing out on a super-cool, super-important piece of the Powers story?

Well… I don’t think I was.

The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim is a decent book, but it doesn’t have the magic Powers feel and I doubt the comic book series will ever reference the events of this novel.

After reading the first few chapters, I became fairly certain that Mr. Bendis did not, in fact, write this book.  I’d imagined that an all-prose version of Powers would have given the dialogue-loving Bendis an opportunity to go nuts with lots of great conversation.  That was one of the things that I was the most potentially excited for in a Powers novel.  But I felt that the dialogue in the book lacked that special Bendis panache.  It wasn’t bad, but not much was particularly memorable.  This interview with Neil Kleid suggests, as I’d suspected, that Mr. … [continued]