United States of Murder IncThe Eisner Award-winning team behind the mega-hit Powers have reunited for The United States of Murder Inc., an ultra-violent alternate history crime story in which the five families of organized crime never lost their stranglehold on the United States. The nation is effectively split down the middle, and co-exist uneasily, a brittle truce between both sides. Expectations were naturally astronomically high for Bendis and Oeming’s new series, and the first volume of The United States of Murder Inc., Truth, delivers in spades.

Truth opens with Valentine Gallo becoming a ‘made man’ of the Bonavese family. Following a decadent celebration – booze, women, and whatever else we weren’t privy to off-panel – Valentine is handed his first task. He is to deliver a package – a seemingly innocuous briefcase – to a United States senator at The Ambassador hotel in Washington D.C. Of course, in fiction there is no such thing as an innocuous briefcase…

Indeed, moments after he steps out the door, a fireball erupts from The Ambassador, reducing the building to rubble. The uneasy truce that has existed between the United States Government and its corrupt opposite is suddenly under threat. Now both sides want Valentine to pay. His only ally is the trigger-happy hitwoman, Jagger Rose, who demonstrates an alarming propensity for killing Valentine’s friends.  But following an earth-shattering revelation from his mother, the newly made man finds it increasingly difficult to separate friend from foe.

The dialogue crackles, as we’ve come to expect from a Bendis scribed comic; but more than, the plot zips along at a fantastic pace. At times, especially in his late-Avengers work, I felt Bendis occasionally treaded water – six issue story arcs could be reduced to four or five – but there is no sign of that here. In The United States of Murder Inc. he packs each chapter with new characters, locations, and reveals; and Oeming renders them with dynamism only he is capable of. Truth is violent and bloody, but Oeming’s artwork – about as far away from realistic as you can get – ensures these moments are palatable rather than gratuitous.

The first volume of The United States of Murder Inc. sets up an incredibly vibrant world, and ends with the kind of cliffhanger that’ll make the long wait for its next installment excruciating.

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