We have great fondness for Marvel’s What If comics. The series started way back in the ’70s and continues to pop up every once in awhile. Everybody is familiar with these types of “what if” stories, right? For example, what if a radioactive spider bit Aunt May instead of her nephew? Or what if Conan the Barbarian was actually a Galactus herald? Often these stories were silly and indulgent. But sometimes they provided perspective and insight into regular Marvel universe continuity. Silly or not, they were inevitably a lot of fun to read.
In many ways, Naebody’s Hero is like a What If novel. Specifically: What if Superman had known about the events leading up to 9/11? Could he have dismantled Al-Qaeda and pulled the plug on a terrorist attack resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people? Also: What if the U.S. government was secretly orchestrating world events (including 9/11) to galvanize the West against the Middle East and Islam? What if, indeed.
Well guess what? In author Mark Wilson’s “what if” universe, that’s exactly what’s going on. “We need to place our citizens in a climate of fear,” explains a high-ranking U.S. security official years before the Twin Towers tragedy. “We want them to willingly surrender some of their most fundamental rights to privacy and freedom. We want them to willingly allow us to invade those countries in the Middle East which we’ve deemed necessary to our economic growth. We want them to demand a war on terror.”
That’s a pretty intense set up if you ask us. Now it’s up to Robert Hamilton to stop the madness. Robert was a young lad from Bellshill “in the tiny country of Scotland on a small island called Britain,” but he was eminently special. Not only did he have a passion to promote peace and goodwill on a global scale, but he had mad Superman-like skillz too. He was impervious to physical harm, there was nothing he couldn’t lift, he could fly to the outer edge of the atmosphere at two million miles per hour, he could see outside the normal visible light spectrum, and he could shoot intense blue lasers from his eyeballs. The only thing that could defeat him was a slow-speed dial-up connection during his day job as a data entry clerk.
Robert’s quest to stop Al-Qaeda takes him around the globe from Scotland to England, Pakistan, Afghanistan, France, and the United States. As you’d expect, the novel races furiously toward that fateful day on September 11, 2001. Will the Scottish superman be able to stop the Islamic terrorists? And, furthermore, will he be able to foil the United States’ callous manipulation of world events?
Naebody’s Hero is a sprawling global thriller with a heart of gold. Unquestionably it is a fun read that delivers a satisfying pulse-pounding superheroic conclusion. However, the author is ultimately undone by the ambitious nature of his “what if” story. Wilson is a fine storyteller; we’ll give him that. But a novel like this needed a seasoned writer who could skillfully juggle the intricacies of government conspiracies, tangled modern history, and the complex emotional attachment people have toward religion, culture, and family. We’re sorry to say there are numerous writerly gaffes throughout this book. And these moments hit us over the head like a brick thrown by the Yancy Street Gang. But there’s good news ahead. Scotland’s No. 1 superhero will be back in a sequel later this year (titled Somebody’s Hero). And we have no doubt that he and his creator will have learned from their shared experience.
[Naebody’s Hero / By Mark Wilson / First Printing: February 2013 / ISBN: 9781481943178]