The first half of Michael Carroll’s latest novel is great fun. In fact, the initial 200+ pages represent the most incredible and awesome Hulk novel ever written. After that, for better or worse, the author bows down and submits to his Quantum Prophecy continuity.
No surprise, really. The Super Human trilogy (also including Super Human and The Ascension) services a longer narrative that feeds directly into the New Heroes/Quantum Prophecy series. At some point, Carroll was duty bound to move his superhero saga upward and onward.
As such, Stronger does its job quite well. It ends one story arc and supplements another. It is the bridge that spans two connecting worlds. In this episode, we meet Paragon, Titan, Façade, and Victor Cross. And these are the characters who will carry the torch to the finish line.
But before all of that nonsense gets hashed out, we get to spend some quality time with Brawn, a giant Smurf who is 13 feet tall and weighs 15 hundred pounds. In the two previous books, Brawn was a taciturn cerulean colossus who drifted in and out of the storyline with irregularity. In this book (or at least the first 24 chapters), he’s the hero of his own story.
“Hero” might not be the best way to describe Brawn, however. Right from the beginning the world feared him, superheroes pummeled him, and selfish world leaders tried to manipulate him. He didn’t stand a chance. Like Howard the Duck, he was trapped in a world he didn’t make. Over time he simply allowed himself to become a monster.
What makes Brawn such a great character is the fact that he’s actually just a 12-year-old little boy at the beginning of the book. A sudden flash of light and a powerful gust of wind turned young Gethin Rao into an inarticulate rampaging hulk. One day he was singing in the church choir, and the next day he was public animal No. 1. Years later he would discover that he was also the instigator of the upcoming Armageddon. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a little kid. In comparison, when we were Gethin’s age, we were collecting Hot Wheels and watching Godzilla movies.
After a life spent living in caves, butting heads with superheroes, and ripping helicopters out of the sky, most people saw Brawn as simply a thug who specialized in wanton destruction. But they were wrong. “Be a good man when you grow up and do the best you can for other people,” his father once told him. And that, more or less, is what Brawn tried to do his whole life.
[Stronger: A Super Human Clash / By Michael Carroll / First Printing: June 2012 / ISBN: 9780399257612]