Wonder Twines

It’s hard to fault Adam Christopher for his vigorous imagination. His first novel (Empire State) was a bountiful debut, filled with a seemingly non-ending string of delightful things. It was a pleasure to read and deserved all the praise it received. Now, one year later, Christopher has given us a superhero novel that explodes off the page in the same manner. It is, in many ways, the sort of book that comic fandom has been anticipating since the bronze age ended 25 years ago.

Obviously, Christopher is a big-hearted guy. He loves superheroes and he’s written a big whopping book to prove it. We have to admit that it’s easy to get swept up in his unchecked enthusiasm. But is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? We think so. Maybe.

Seven Wonders is a story about a group of ineffectual superheroes who live in San Ventura, “the most dangerous fucking city in the world.” Their ongoing battle with the Cowl, a Batman-like supervillain, is all a mad ruse, however. It was “a farce, a pointless, futile exercise.” It was, says the author, a game of super cat and mighty mouse. As expected, the two factions eventually work things out, but not before everyone takes a trip to the moon and saves mankind from being assimilated by a Borg-like civilization.

Empire State was a good novel, but it suffered (a tiny bit) from its crazy ambitious nature. The same problem exists in Christopher’s newest effort. Seven Wonders is a sprawling cosmic epic. It is serialized storytelling in one handy volume. It is Astro City condensed into a 160,000-word prose novel. And like we said, it’s hard to find fault with any of it.

But nitpick we must. The novel is episodic (like a comic book!), and embraces inconsistencies that often bedevil serialized fiction writers. Characters are capricious and flit in and out of the narrative, important details are half forgotten, and plot twists are stretched to a breaking point. It’s all in good fun, of course. But the novel goes off the rails occasionally and is too long, and makes us wonder how much editorial guidance the author had during the writing process. Very little it would seem.

In Christopher’s defense, superhero comic books wilt under the same type of scrutiny. Let’s face it, the Kree-Skrull War (The Avengers, Nos. 89-97) was a big loopy histrionic mess. Yet it remains arguably the most celebrated Avengers adventure of all time. Seven Wonders succeeds in the same way. Despite the novel’s nagging problems, the author ultimately wins the day with his passion, good humor, and unwavering commitment to his superhero muse. Seven Wonders unite! Bring on the sequel.

[Seven Wonders / By Adam Christopher / First Printing: August 2012 / ISBN: 9780857661968]

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