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Comics Prose

Brian Hibbs

Because comics are “hot”, I guess it isn’t any real surprise that there’s more and more “proper” books about comics, or by comics people.

Not like I even have enough time to read comics, dang it!

But, I plowed through two books in this spectrum this last week, and here’s my report for you:

SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE: is kind of an odd duck — it’s straight prose doing Marvel-style superheroes. Its not that there hasn’t been superhero-prose before — I’m a pretty big fan of the WILD CARDS series of books for instance — but, usually, those try to set their superheroes in the “real” world. This novel is pretty unapologetically a story set in a “superhero” world, where the logic of the superhero comic is presented at face value.

There’s two main threads of story here, one that focuses on the villain, Dr. Impossible (no, not from JLA), as he battles his foes in The Champions (no, not from Marvel…. or Heroic, either for that matter); and one that does the hero team-POV from a new cyborg member, Fatale.

Its reasonably effective at what it does, though one has to question why the reader wouldn’t just read CIVIL WAR instead — there are JLA or Avengers-style analogues on display here, and the prose is zippy enough, but its not like it breaks any new ground, or adds anything to the genre that the actual comics cover. Its a fast read, and highly OK, but there was a pretty large sense of “just do the real ones” to this reader.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW: is Mike Carey’s first novel. It is going to be inevitable to compare the protagonist here to John Constantine, Hellblazer — and it would be just as inevitable had not Carey had a successful run on HELLBLAZER. There’s certainly differences — Felix Castor isn’t a mirthless bastard for instance; and the world-building going on points to a very different world than JC’s London — here the set up is that for some unexplained reason, the dead have been reappearing en masse (as ghosts, or zombies, or loup-garou [explained as animal spirits rewriting the flesh of their hosts]), so there’s a whole class of exorcists who are there to put those spirits down — but, other than that, yeah, this could have easily fit into JCs world just fine.

Carey is a strong writer, and the prose drips with Britishisms like “All Mouth and Trousers”, and what I liked the most about the book is that it ends up in a place that JC probably never would have. That is to say: I’d very much like to read a second book with these same characters and to see what it goes from here.

It is solidly GOOD work, but I think you’re going to have a really hard time, like I did, separating out FC from JC. If you’ve never read a JC story before, this might work even better.

SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE is available now; THE DEVIL YOU KNOW I read in galley form — the front cover says “Hardcover publication July 2007”, so I guess it will be out real soon.

Not that you’ve probably read either of these, but if so, what did YOU think?


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