The Victories Volume I: Touched by Michael Avon Oeming is an adult superhero adventure from the cocreator of Powers (available June 25, 2013).
In an unnamed American city of the near future, super powers exist, corruption is rife and a designer drug called Float provides the junkies’ high of choice. In an effort to combat crime, controversial drone cameras watch over the citizenry but can only do so much to aid the beleaguered police force.
The Victories, a team of superhero vigilantes who protect the city even as they fight their own personal demons, helps pick up the slack. Their mission is clear: to save lives and stop crime. For The Victories, killing is verboten, as non-lethality is the crucial trait that separates them from villains like The Jackal, who is convinced that justice can only be served through violence and slaughter.
As Touched opens, The Jackal is preying on his latest victims until he is confronted by Faustus, a wise-cracking member of The Victories. Though seemingly lighthearted throughout their encounter, Faustus blames himself for being too late to save the life of one of The Jackal’s targets.
While working security for a high-rent condo association later, Faustus makes accidental contact with a touch-based psychic, causing suppressed memories to come to the forefront of his already troubled consciousness. When a teammate, Sai, asks for his help locating The Strike, Faustus’s missing former best friend—who also happens to be Sai’s brother—Faustus panics. He knows that The Strike has succumbed to the allure of Float, and that the reason why is deeply buried in their shared past.
Faustus pulls himself together long enough to track down The Strike, who is heavily, grotesquely self-medicated. The appeal of the drug, which causes those who abuse it to levitate even as their bodies deform, is explained by another pair of junkies:
It made everything better. Life was a small, dull fishbowl before Float. But we broke the glass and we were alive. Alive and on fire. Soon we were too cool for the world. Everything became stupid. So we did the only thing two cool people could do. We floated. Just us. No one else. No music, no blog, no website or phones, no TV. We didn’t need those things any more. We had us and the Float. We didn’t even need sex. Just us. We floated like fish, free in the clear ocean.
But The Strike, coming down from the drug, has a few choice words for Faustus, to the dismay and confusion of a grateful Sai. No longer able to deny the past, Faustus stumbles first toward drink, then toward an uncertain revenge. The entire while, The Jackal is watching and waiting, convinced that he can turn Faustus into a killer like himself.
One of the unique things about this volume of The Victories is how it takes us into the psyche of the vigilante. What kind of people would put their lives in perpetual danger, for little material gain, and at the risk of vilification by the powers that be? What kind of training would they have to undergo, what kind of sacrifices would they be willing to make? As children, The Strike followed Faustus on a naive quest for the power promised them by their sensei:
Our abilities would unfold our true selves, expel demons, and bring us blessing. The wind and hills would always be at our backs, the sun would shine upon our enemy’s eyes, and our bodies would become merely vessels for our greater selves. Our bodies would become weapons. Our flesh would feel no tiredness, no weakness, no cold or pain. But first, the body and mind must be broken to be made anew.
Michael Avon Oeming’s first solo project highlights his instantly recognizable artwork, but also showcases a talent for lyrical passages such as the ones quoted above. This is an extremely adult graphic novel, as those familiar with his work on Powers might already be prepared for. Mr. Oeming tackles the difficult topics of how survivors deal with trauma, and how even the super-powered can feel powerless to help their friends, with a breadth and sensitivity that makes this book so much more than just a story of caped crusaders.
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
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