By Matt Cherniss, Art by Peter Johnson and Michael Gaydos

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Format: Softcover, full color, $14.99

Category: Young Adult Action & Adventure

Dewey: 741.5 CHE

Subjects: Comic and comic books, etc.; Action and adventure; Superheroes--fiction.

ISBN-13: 9780785115113

Reviewed by: Kat Kan

What if Peter Parker never became Spider-Man, Matt Murdock was simply a blind attorney, and Logan was an amnesiac drifter with no mutant powers? Would they still have made a difference in the world?

Psychiatrist Dr. Watts awakens from a coma, but returning to normal life isn’t so simple. He remembers strange, vivid dreams of a different world, and when he looks at his young patient, teenage Peter, he has a mental vision of the boy in a red and blue costume, swinging through the city on webs. Peter faces a moral dilemma: he interns at Tony Stark Industries, and Norman Osborn, father of Peter’s best friend Harry, pressures Peter to give him trade secrets. Then attorney Murdock asks Dr. Watts to help him defend Frank Castle, a man accused of murder whom Murdock believes is innocent. And homeless drifter Logan almost kills Watts, then asks for his help. He thinks he may have murdered a man named Charles Xavier, but he doesn’t know for sure, or why.

Watts works with each of these men, lending a sympathetic ear, giving advice, even as his mind reels with visions of them in another world, with superhuman powers. And each man wrestles with his own demons while finding the courage to take charge of his life and face challenges. Through it all, Watts watches and wonders.

Readers who have been Marvel Comics fans over the years will recognize many of the characters in this story. It reminds me of the old "What If.." comics that Marvel is now reprinting — in this case, all the usual Marvel super-heroes are living without superpowers in a mundane world much like ours. Powerless is colored with a darker palette than the regular super-hero titles, and penciller Gaydos draws the characters as normal humans. Marvel fans may enjoy this break from the usual fare, while non-super-hero fans may be drawn to this book for its deeper exploration into the psyche of the characters. There is some violence, so high schools may need to look at it before adding it to their collections; public libraries should be able to put this in their Young Adult collections without problems.