Welcome to the world of ‘America’s Got Powers,’ where creators Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch have crafted a world that is ever-so-slightly different from our own, where reality television has been cranked up to an extreme level, as super powered teenagers participate in a televised battle, which may or may not result in death, to win a coveted spot on the only super team in the world, The Power Generation.

Last year’s season finale resulted in both the final two competitors dying… and a spike in the ratings.  Thus, this year, the producers of the show have lifted certain restraints, allowing the young heroes to go all out in combat and they have allowed the robotic enforcers in the ring, Paladins, to also use maximum force against the kids.

Where did these teens get their amazing powers?  Seventeen years ago, a crystal magically appeared in San Francisco and every pregnant woman within a five mile radius immediately gave birth to a super powered baby, regardless of the period of her pregnancy.  And there was one fluke, Tommy Watts, who did not manifest a power and was therefore assigned to more menial occupations.  It seems all of the “Stoners” are moderated by the government and assigned particular tasks.  Tommy works in the gift shop of the coliseum where the show is filmed.  It turns out Tommy’s twin brother Bobby was one of the finalist the previous year and died in the arena.

There are other sure-to-be important characters introduced including Professor Syell, who initially seems a bit shady, bit it later seems that he might actually be altruistic in trying to help the Stoners.  (I hate that term… I get that they received their powers from a stone, but still… they know that means something else, right?)  The government however informs Syell that they are cancelling the ‘America’s Got Powers’ program and taking over control of the kids.  Syell argues, but it’s no use.

Before the game begins, Tommy is at work.  After hearing a lady mention not having very much to spend, he gives her young son named Baxter a free deluxe action figure of The Quarterback, leader of the Power Generation.  His co-worker Debbie (who clearly has a crush on him) warns him to stop giving out free merchandise.  Later on, Tommy has to fill in for a sick employee as a Quarterback mascot, big head and all.  He and a girl dressed as another hero, Ice, have to pump up the crowd as the show begins.

The actual games begin with the twenty competitors assigned to get past the hulking mechas, The Paladins and pitch their crystal game pieces into a target.  The first ten to do so, then return to “the Home Zone” will make it to the next round.  It’s a predictably brutal struggle, with the first person to throw her crystal into the target being a girl named Samantha Taylor.  But after she stops to bask in her goal, she gets taken out, very graphically.  She failed to make it to the Home Zone.

Watching the carnage, Professor Syell implores the officials, “You’re killing them!  What have you done?”  “Just giving the people what they want!” the general replies.  Things escalate into a bloody, fiery free for all, until a Stoner named Oscar Zadek-Ewing gets hurled into the crowd, with non-powered civilians plummeting into the arena, instantly becoming targets for the Paladins.  One victim is Baxter, the boy from earlier with the action figure.  Tommy, despite not having powers, races onto the field and grabs him, hoping to get him away from the approaching robots.  But there is no hope… until The Quarterback steps in… only to be taken down himself.  Tommy tells Baxter to close his eyes.  Then something unexpected happens.  But now, Tommy, with zero powers, finds himself a participant in The Hunger Games America’s Got Powers!

Well, it’s what you were all thinking, right?  This is basically a super powered Hunger Games.  Can’t fault them from trying to jump on that lucrative bandwagon.  The difference here, though, is this world is much closer to our own, unlike the dystopian Panem.  It honestly looks like modern day San Francisco.  I think that makes this a little more brutal than The Hunger Games.  There, it’s explained that the games are a punishment for a failed uprising.  Here, they’re just entertainment.  And this is our society, so that adds a level of disturbance.

This issue packed in a ton, though.  The main character, the government plan to take over the Stoners and shut down the research that was funded by the show and of course the games themselves.  Where things felt rushed, however, were simply in the characterizations.  Tommy is a slacker but has a heart, evidenced by him giving the boy the free toy, but not much beyond that.  Professor Syell is sympathetic and cares about the Stoners, but we don’t know why, considering how callous everyone else seems about them.  When the battle ramps up, Baxter gets scared and his mother tries to console him by saying “Remember, they’re not like us.”  So clearly these beings are freaks, there simply to entertain.  They aren’t considered people or equal citizens.

Tommy, so far, isn’t a compelling character.  He’s not unlikeable, but there was so much that had to get crammed into this book, that he didn’t get a chance to really stand out.  But so far, it’s interesting and plays into our culture’s obsession with reality programming.  Is putting a bunch of people on an island to back-stab each other and starve that far off from this concept?  Oh and of course, Bryan Hitch’s art looks amazing!

Verdict: Buy

Written by Jonathan Ross
Art and Cover Bryan Hitch