The first issue of Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard's The Power Fantasy feels like an apocalyptic cross between Watchmen and Succession

Caspar Wijngaard's art from The Power Fantasy
(Image credit: Image Comics)

You may have heard, there's a new ongoing monthly comic by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard on the way from Image. This is a big deal. Gillen has written some terrific books for Marvel and DC, notably his work on Darth Vader, but it's his creator-owned comics – Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine, and DIE – that have made him one of the most distinctive writers in comics today. Likewise, Wijngaard has proven to be a hugely versatile artist who brings something unique to every project that he works on, whether that's the murky and surreal visuals of All Against All or his manga-inspired work on Angelic.

And so here we have the first issue of The Power Fantasy. Set on an alternative Earth where six super-powered individuals hold an uneasy peace, it's a complex widescreen epic that feels something like Watchmen meets Succession in the way it mixes family drama with a deconstruction of what it might mean to wield superpowers. We've read an early version of the first issue and while we can't go into spoilers just yet – the comic isn't out until August 7 – we can give you our first impressions.

Cover art for The Power Fantasy #1

(Image credit: Image Comics)

The Power Fantasy #1 opens with an extended prologue set in New York, 1966, and the meeting of two people who look normal enough but are very much not. This is Valentina and Etienne, and they're discussing, quite seriously, the ethics of taking over the world for a supposed greater good. They are soon revealed to be part of a group dubbed "the Nuclear Family" – six super-powered individuals with such immense abilities, they are effectively living weapons with the strength of the US's entire nuclear arsenal.  

It's a slow start to the story, but it neatly sets the tone for the action that follows after a time jump to 1999. Here we meet the full family, most notably stoner Heavy who seems just a little too fond of showing off his powers to the people below, regardless of the consequences. Again, without getting into spoilers, by the end of this first issue, it's clear that not everyone is happy with these god-like beings and how they (at times literally) look down on humanity.

Caspar Wijngaard's unlettered art from The Power Fantasy #1.

Caspar Wijngaard's unlettered art from The Power Fantasy #1.  (Image credit: Image Comics)

In some ways, this is familiar territory for Gillen. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the world-building skilfully conveyed through implication rather than exposition – we quickly learn that there are more people with powers than just these six, though the full details are being held back for now. 

Most notably the stylish yet amoral Family members are not a million miles away from the pantheon of gods that filled the pages of The Wicked + The Divine. The premise that, as one character puts it, "The Superpowers can't fight. No one would survive" will no doubt be fully explored as the series develops and the competing egos within the group start to clash. For now, however, the tone is very much one of détente. This is a Cold War between rival Superpowers – and you can imagine that Gillen is gonna have some fun with that pun – with all of these characters just a hairs-breadth away from committing global annihilation.

Cover art for The Power Fantasy #2

(Image credit: Image Comics)

Visually, the book finds Wijngaard in crowd-pleasing form, with the action scenes dynamic and cleanly-executed and the quieter moments – several pages of people simply talking and eating pizza – kinetic and appealing. His use of color is smart too, with most of the pages here painted in a sunny palette of pastels which contrasts with the sudden bursts of bold primary colors when things start to go badly wrong.

Much like its central characters, The Power Fantasy #1 is bursting with potential. By the end of the first issue, it's hard to guess where all of this is going (though the answer is probably nowhere good for humanity). It feels like a story that needs at least a couple of issues to fully bed in, partly because of the large central cast and partly because it's telling a truly global tale. Still, the skill with which both creators convey their heady ideas is truly impressive. If you like your comics full of big ideas, laced with dark humor and the unnerving sense that the end of the world is just one family squabble away, this one's for you. 

The Power Fantasy #1 is published by Image Comics on August 7.

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Will Salmon
Comics Editor

Will Salmon is the Comics Editor for GamesRadar/Newsarama. He has been writing about comics, film, TV, and music for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time if you stop and think about it. At Future he has previously launched scary movie magazine Horrorville, relaunched Comic Heroes, and has written for every issue of SFX magazine for over a decade. He sometimes feels very old, like Guy Pearce in Prometheus. His music writing has appeared in The Quietus, MOJO, Electronic Sound, Clash, and loads of other places and he runs the micro-label Modern Aviation, which puts out experimental music on cassette tape.