Normally my Reviews articles are for movies or TV, but I decided today to hit a different frontier… Books.
I read alot of books, not as many as I would like, but alot none the less. And as you may notice from this site (and my subdomains), I also like to write. When I started playing City of Heroes, I got a jonesing for some spandex fiction. Sadly though, there only appears to be two kinds you can pick up at the local books store: Wild Cards by George R. R. Martin and books based on existing comic book characters.
Now, don’t get me wrong… the Martin edited shared world of Wild Cards is probably one of my favorite series of books, but I had read them before… twice… and was looking for something new. I wanted to avoid the books based on existing comic characters because a few of the ones I thumbed through relied too much on prior character knowledge, basically you needed to be a fan of the comic in order to enjoy the book. I asked around for books in a superhero setting that were neither Wild Cards nor existing comics… but all the recommendations I got we more Sci-Fi or Fantasy… lacking that element of the superhero, the comic book, that makes it unique. So finally, after coming to the conclusion that either none had been written or that none had been published, I caved in and bought some books from existing comic book heroes.
And I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
There is a series of books, four of them so far, for the Justice League of America. One book is about the JLA as a whole fighting the good fight, and the other three (of which I’ve only read one so far) take a single member off on his own, with the occasional backup of the JLA. The first book I read was the JLA book, The Exterminators. And when I got into it, I was very happy to see the author not rely on prior knowledge. He explained as he went the relative parts of each character’s background as it was touched on. His book read like a comic without pictures… well, in my head there were plenty of pictures. The book was very well done, all-in-all a two thumbs up review. The second I read was for the Flash, called Stop Motion. Like the other, this author too didn’t trust you to just know the character, but he also didn’t bog you down with 50 years of history in the lives of speedsters of the DC Universe. He told what he needed, that’s it. The story was tight, and exciting… but it did leave me wanting in the end. The finale was just a bit sub par… it was a mystery, and as sometimes happens, the resolution of the mystery, figuring out who done it and why, was much more satisfying than the final conflict between hero and villain. It was like pushing a boulder up hill, excited the whole way up to the top, not knowing what was on the other side, getting to the top, seeing the other side, heart pounding, pushing the rock over the edge… only to see it roll about ten feet and stop because the hill on that side levelled off. It was like a rollercoaster that took you up a huge climb only to have a pitiful drop off the other side. I enjoyed the book, but just was a little less than fulfilled with the resolution once the mystery was unfolded.
There are two more books in the series so far, Batman and Wonder Woman, with a fifth, the Green Lantern, coming soon. I look forward to them.
When I picked up the JLA books, I also decided to grab the two Hellboy books by Christopher Golden, the Lost Army and the Bones of Giants. The Lost Army was a good solid read, and felt like Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) had done much of the writing himself. The sense of humor, the oddity of the situations, Christopher captured the essense of the Hellboy comics perfectly in his prose. And like the JLA books, he didn’t rely on the reader knowing Hellboy, not that Hellboy readers really know everything anyway. He would just hint at the past, and give you tastes of the world Hellboy belonged in that existed outside the scope of the story. Right now I’m about halfway through The Bones of Giants… and wow. It’s better than the first book. Christopher’s writing style and familiarity with the mythos now shines with a much deeper and provacative tale. I can’t wait to see how it end.
Anyway, that’s it for now… I’m glad I was wrong about at least some of these comic book novels. I hope more are on the way.