Echo and the Indestructibles: A Conversation with Matthew Phillion

PhillionMugEvery superhero multiverse has some kind of tangential connection to the lost continent of Atlantis. There are a lot of aqua men in the sea, after all.

Now author Matthew Phillion has added Atlantis myth and magic to his ever-expanding Indestructibles universe. His latest book Echo and the Sea is about a teenage girl from a small New England town who discovers she is actually a superhero sea-ninja warrior princess from Atlantis.

Readers who are familiar with Phillion’s previous efforts (including The Indestructibles, Breakout, The Entropy of Everything, and Like a Comet) know he has an unchecked imagination, an ear for snappy dialogue, and a love of pop culture. If you haven’t noticed yet, he’s busy building an interlocking multiverse that freely embraces superheroes, folklore, fairy tales, and arcana. Read our chat with him below.

SuperheroNovels: Your “Indestructiverse” includes four novels featuring a scrappy group of teenage superheroes. Now you’ve expanded that universe with Echo and the Sea. You must have a master plan. What’s your long game?

Matthew Phillion: You’re right, I do have a long game, but the writing and publishing process can be so organic I haven’t ever taken anything for granted with developing the Indestructiverse, so I’m really laying each brick in the structure I’m trying to build one at a time.

I love shared universes, whether it’s Marvel or DC or the way Stephen King’s stories interweave loosely with each other, or how so many writers have taken a stab at the Cthulhu mythos. I’ve actually had the plot for Echo and the Sea in mind since the original Indestructibles book came out, but I felt like the pressing need was to make sure that series had a strong foundation before I did anything not directly related. But right from the beginning I knew there was a shared universe I wanted to explore and that the Indestructibles were just one part of it.

I’d like to expand that universe in all directions – parallel and concurrent, as well as exploring the past with Doc’s old team, and I definitely have ideas that will take place in the far-flung future of the same universe. I have a sort of loose map of this world and I want to explore all the corners of it and create a prose version of a comic book universe (and if I’m being honest, I really would want to see it evolve beyond just print media – I did come out of screenwriting after all, and would love to work in comics and graphic novels as well). I’d also like to touch on different styles and genres – like the main series is often called YA fiction, but Echo is a little more mature, and I’d like to write the equivalent of an R-rated addition to the shared world as well.

In a perfect world, I’d invite other writers into that shared universe too. I think of some of the old horror and science fiction/fantasy writers who willingly shared their worlds with each other, and want to create a playground other writers can join in with. It’s a different era now and IP rights will always be problematic, but I’ve talked with other writers about crossovers and casual references to each others’ stories, because even just acknowledging those other characters exist builds connective tissue.

I do have other, non-Indestructiverse stories I want to tell, specifically horror and a low-fantasy novels I already have outlines for. But building the Indestructibles world out in multiple directions is the backbone to all writing I’m working on right now. There’s another sequel in the works, and the cast of Echo have more stories in them. I want to tell Doc’s origin story some day.

SN: The events included in Echo and the Sea could easily have filled the pages of numerous books. The courtship of Echo’s parents, for example, would have made a great single novel. And there’s a lot of other stuff that begged for additional details, like Barnabas and his magic serpent, and Artem, the last son of the Amazons. We’re sure many writers would have enjoyed tackling the machinations of complicated Atlantean politics. What kept you from turning Echo’s story into an epic multi-volume series?

MP: Y’know, I never considered writing it in longer form – I knew what it was from conception. I think there are plenty of amazing authors out there who write long-form epic fantasy, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had aspirations to write the next Lord of the Rings (or more specifically, the next Dragonlance Chronicles saga). But right from the beginning I knew I wanted this to be an alternative to the sort of vast, ponderous epic and make it more fast-paced and cinematic (my background in screenwriting causing problems again). Also, I’m a big fan of Joe Abercrombie’s style of fantasy writing – sword and sorcery with the brakes cut.

But that’s not to say I don’t hope to explore those territories further. My initial game plan was a three-part series: Echo saves the surface world from Atlantis; Echo then needs to save Atlantis from a surface world wanting revenge; and Echo needing to somehow reconcile that both worlds can be harsh and violent and figuring out what she needs to do to keep them both safe. I’m not sure that’s the precise arc I’ll follow now that I’ve gotten to know the cast more, but many of the things you mention are things I do want to dig more into. I think Artem, in particular, deserves to headline a book. He’s become very important to me as a character.

I also try to know my weaknesses. I wouldn’t have found a lot of joy in the nitty-gritty parts of Atlantean politics (I think covering real-world politics for a while put me off to that type of writing), and the one thing I tell students when I teach writing is: write what you can’t shut up about. Write to entertain yourself first.

And as with the Indestructibles series, I like a finite story. One of the things I hold sacred in my own life is time; I’ve always felt like we never have enough time, and we never know how much time we have. I often joke that I write the books like I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and I don’t want to leave everyone waiting on a cliffhanger, but I’m not entirely joking. I like an epic and a cliffhanger as much as anyone, but one of my biggest influences in writing is William Gibson and his Sprawl and Bridge trilogies – self-contained books that tell an arc and have a unified message but stand alone on their own. My books are more direct sequels than those trilogies, but I like endings. I write every story with the ending already written in my mind, and with a stinger ready to go if I need it.

Finally – launching a book series is tough given the amount of content out there. I wasn’t sure there would be an audience for multiple Echo stories, so I wanted to tell the best, most complete story possible in case it turned out there wasn’t an audience for non-Indestructibles stories. Now that it’s done, though, I’m pulling on other threads. The ocean is vast, and full of were-sharks after all.

SN: According to your website, you’ve been a reporter, a screenwriter, an actor, and a filmmaker. It wouldn’t surprise us to discover you were also a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. How did this path lead you to superhero prose fiction?

MP: It’s funny, I sometimes forget how random and weird my career path looks. I’ll mention something casually in conversation (“Back when I was in that prog rock band…”) and get the weirdest looks. But I recently found my Sixth Grade yearbook and where it asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, I’d written “author.” I don’t remember it – if I hadn’t seen the yearbook I would’ve thought I’d written “comic book writer.”

But really the entire arc has been about trying to find the best way to tell stories people would care about. I’ve never been particularly picky about what medium I used – I have, to steal a phrase from a Warren Ellis comic, a pathological fear of boredom, so I’ve tried a little bit of everything. I wanted to write books, but then I fell in love with comics; I’m old enough that the barrier to entry for both of those was incredibly hard, but I tried my hand at both novels and comic book scripts but wasn’t a mature enough writer to make that happen yet. I became an actor because I thought that was how you learned to direct (clearly I didn’t do my research there). Acting let me help other people tell their stories, which is something I still love to do in any way I can – storytellers are a weird tribe and I think we need to stick together. Plus having an IMDb page is fun.

I became a filmmaker when the digital video era really opened the door for indie filmmakers to get their work out there. My last big film project (a romantic comedy called Certainly Never) was something I wrote with the intent to pitch elsewhere, but then I realized it would be a great first feature – small cast, low-key locations, no big special effects or action sequences. I ended up producing, directing, and acting in it (I made a joke that I was a “triple threat” and one of those friends who is really good at making sure I don’t get too big for my britches said: “threat is not a compliment”).

That took a few years and I’m incredibly proud of it, but in the end, a film means you’ve got dozens of people counting on you – you’re wrangling cast and crew and seeing things through the post-production process, all of that. Certainly Never turned out great but didn’t make any money or get real distribution, and I felt I let that entire team down, so I wanted my next project to be one where if it failed to succeed, I would be the only one let down. Novels are a pretty solitary endeavor. And after writing films specifically for realism – stuff that could be shot low-budget – I wanted to go big. So I returned to my roots. I had, after all, always wanted to write comics … so why not go back to where it all began and put some of the superheroes I’d been daydreaming about for my whole life on the page?

So unconstrained by a film’s budget, and without the fear and guilt of having a team depending on me, I gave myself a few months to put the Indestructibles together, and I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life.

I will say, though, the one through line that helped me the most through all of this is my background in journalism. It taught me research, work ethic, and deadlines. Deadlines are my religion. You’re writing to be read, and read soon, so you kind of don’t have the option to be neurotic (and, oh, can I be neurotic). My first editor told me “done is good” – get that draft done and we can fix it, but if you can’t finish what you start, you’ll never get your stories out there. I live and die by that lesson.

If I have one regret about turning to prose, it’s that it leaves little time for everything else. I still consider myself a filmmaker and actor … just dormant. And I’m convinced once a journalist, always a journalist. It’s a lifelong status even when you get out of the business.

SN: What can you tell us about the next Indestructibles novel and the next Echo novel? What’s next in the pipeline?

MP: I’ve started work on a fifth Indestructibles novel – the working title is the Crimson Child. All along, Doc Silence has warned the team that magic is the most dangerous thing they’ll ever encounter, to the point where he’s actively tried to keep them away from facing it as a threat. But that’s exactly what they’ll go up against this time. It’s a smaller scale story. Rather than time traveling to save a post-apocalyptic future or stopping an alien invasion, they’ll have to save one person – and the entire town she’s made disappear into thin air.

We’ll also see how the kids have changed and grown after saving the entire world at great cost to themselves. Plus the story brings to the forefront a very bad decision made by the Lady Natasha Grey way back in Breakout. That’s a hanging plot point I’ve always wanted to go back to.

I’ll put out a couple of the “one-shot” stories I try to offer between books – I’d like to get a holiday story out again this year, and I’ve been working on a slightly longer one in which the team gets trapped in what’s basically a cursed board game that’s a mash-up of HeroQuest and Dungeons and Dragons. We’ll get to find out what character class Emily would play which I found way more entertaining than it should have been.

I’m plotting out a sequel to Echo and the Sea that will deal with the ramifications of Reina’s actions. Artem’s emergence from the Island of Unwanted Things will attract the attention of the Amazons, and Yuri’s journey is just beginning. And I kind of see Barnabas as the Han Solo of the Seven Seas … trouble will always find him if he sits still long enough.

And I’ve got a few other irons in the fire that aren’t Indestructiverse-related too – a zombie apocalypse story that started off as a snarky “well, here’s what I’d do” plot synopsis into something I really wanted to write, and a dark high fantasy story from the perspective of the monsters, but those are back-burnered until I get the next Indestructibles book drafted up.

Advertisements
Posted in Interviews | Tagged , ,

The Young Woman and the Sea

EchoSeaAccording to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land. That’s why the Sub-Mariner and Godzilla are always declaring war on the surface dwellers. They’re tired of living in an ocean filled with discarded smartphone batteries, K-Cups, glow sticks, and Powerball tickets.

Author Matthew Phillion acknowledges this situation in the introduction of his new book about a young girl who discovers she’s an Atlantean princess. “You can’t write a story about Atlantis,” says Phillion, “without addressing humanity’s impact on the oceans, and where the future lies for all of us.”

He’s right. There’s always going to be tension between Homo sapiens and Homo mermanus as long as whale hunting and offshore drilling continue. “We let the land-dwellers defecate all over our kingdom,” says Reina, the Queen-in-waiting of Atlantis. “They destroyed our waters, irradiated our farmlands, and dredged up poison from beneath the ocean floor. We need to stop them before they destroy the world and take us with it.”

There’s been strife between surface dwellers and ocean tribes throughout history. But this time the Atlanteans are deadly serious. They’ve stolen four nuclear submarines and they’re prepared to rain fire from below.

Now it’s up to Princess Echo and her merry band of misfits to stop WWIII. By her side is Barnabas, a low-level magician and treasure hunter, Artem (not Artemis), the last son of Themyscira, and her quippy best friend Genke Lee. On their way to Atlantis, the gang visits a barbarous pirate island, an island of sea nymphs, and the Island of Unwanted Things. Their journey across the seven seas is a picaresque adventure filled with a melting pot of oddball fairy tale creatures.

Echo and the Sea is a slim and fast-paced book. Overall we liked it very much. But honestly we wish there was more of it. There’s a lot of untapped potential off the page. Author Phillion could easily have expanded his story to include all sorts of substantive backstory details. Usually high fantasy adventures like this inspire epic storytelling that spans multiple volumes.

But we’re sure Phillion will revisit the world of Echo and her scuba gang in the near future. It is, after all, connected to his ongoing Indestructibles universe. Maybe he’ll fill in the gaps as he deems necessary. Believe us, there’s still a lot of nasty business to be sorted out between Atlantis and the surface dwellers. Marine pollution has been around for millennia and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

[Echo and the Sea / By Matthew Phillion / First Printing: June 2017 / ISBN: 9780997916539]

Posted in Published in 2017 | Tagged , ,

Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane

LLTripleThreatUp until this point, we’ve praised author Gwenda Bond for deemphasizing Superman in her excellent Lois Lane series. In two previous novels (Fallout and Double Down), Clark Kent was simply a part of the supporting cast orbiting around Lois Lane’s shining star.

But Lois and Superman have been linked (one way or another) since 1938 when they both debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1. Bond knew she couldn’t ignore their shared history forever. At some point she had to bring the two iconic characters together.

And frankly we’re happy to see it finally happen. In Lois Lane: Triple Threat, Lois and Clark bump into each other for the first time on page 166. That’s about halfway through the book. We’re glad Bond didn’t tease their hookup until the final chapter because the pair’s ensuing love story is sweet and funny. Like we mentioned earlier, we enjoyed the first two Lois Lane novels sans Superman. But we have to admit there’s magic in the air when the big city girl and the boy from Smallville team up for romance and adventure.

Superman wasn’t the only big revelation in the latest novel. Not only did it unite three villains who’ve been harassing Lois since she moved to Metropolis, but it also introduced a nascent supervillain named Alexander “Alex” Luthor. In addition, Lois found a little spare time to match wits with deposed crime boss Moxie Mannheim and investigate a quartet of annoying superpowered teens. You have to give the author credit; she was doing a great job of creating a rogues’ gallery for Lois Lane, super girl reporter. The only person missing was her archrival, Lana Lang.

Final verdict: Triple Threat is another enjoyable effort from Gwenda Bond. But we feel compelled to nitpick about a couple of things. We rolled our eyes, for example, whenever Lois stepped into the newsroom of the Daily Planet. We suspect Bond’s scant knowledge of newspaper culture comes from movies like His Girl Friday and TV programs like The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Most troubling, however, Lois veers dangerously close to damsel in distress territory during the penultimate chapter. It’s up to Clark to break into the villains’ secret lair and save her from getting conscripted into a weird science experiment. This final scene will probably make anybody who grew up reading Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane wince with disappointment.

But thankfully the good things in this novel far outweigh the bad. If you’ve ever wanted to be present for Lois and Clark’s first super kiss, for instance, this was the place to be. According to Lois, it was pretty terrific. “Our first kiss was better than fireworks and flying and front-page news all rolled into one.” Team Lois wins again.

[Lois Lane: Triple Threat / By Gwenda Bond / First Printing: May 2017 / ISBN: 9781630790820]

Posted in Marvel/DC, Published in 2017 | Tagged , , ,

The Deadtown Girls

Refrigerator“There’s something about getting strangled and stuffed into a refrigerator that makes you consider your choices in life,” says Samantha Dane at the end of The Refrigerator Monologues.

Samantha’s chilly death illustrates a plot device infamously known as “women in refrigerators,” in which female characters in comic books are killed or injured to advance the ongoing story of the male superhero. The trope was given a name back in the ’90s by Gail Simone, but it’s been around forever. To this day, it’s a writerly technique that continues to pop up in superhero fiction.

Before we find out how Samantha ends up in a refrigerator, we meet five other women who have sacrificed their own personal story to further promote a man’s monomyth: Paige Embry, the science-queen of hypermercury, Julia Ash, the star-eater, Pauline Ketch, the evil clown, Blue Bayou, the scaly punk princess, and Daisy Green, the porn star. Long-time comic book readers will recognize each one as a counterpart to Gwen Stacy, Jean Grey, Harley Quinn, Mera, and Karen Page.

Samantha herself represents Green Lantern’s girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt, the original woman in a refrigerator. “That’s how it works,” she says in hindsight. She knows firsthand that killing the girlfriend brings the second act to a close. It’s an accepted part of the story’s structure. “I belong in the refrigerator,” she adds. “Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”

Obviously, The Refrigerator Monologues is meant to be a barbed jab at comic books and the hackneyed and predictable way writers treat female characters. The anger is real because the trope is indefensible. Author Catherynne Valente is on fire and you can’t blame her for being so mad.

But it’s also a highly entertaining book with humor and etegami-like wisdom sprinkled throughout. As a meta rebuke of superhero fiction, Valente allows her crackerjack cast of ladies to stand up and be heard. And they have a lot to say. Harley Quinn’s chapter, in particular, is riotously funny. She’s a “cherry bomb with a go-fuck-yourself fuse,” and neither Batman nor the Joker knows what to do with her. She’s too hot to handle.

Valente’s riff on Harley Quinn is great, but it’s Mera’s story that represents the bleeding heart of the book. She was the punk rock queen of Atlantis before Arthur Curry came into her life. “I was happy,” she says. “I was myself. Every story I told was about me. I was the protagonist.”

But once Aquaman showed up, the story wasn’t about Mera anymore. And it would never be about her again. “I’m the one who ruled the seven seas and battled the forces of aquatic evil every day,” she tells him defiantly. “You never wanted a partner, all you wanted was a groupie. You couldn’t share the fucking mic.”

[The Refrigerator Monologues / By Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu / First Printing: June 2017 / ISBN: 9781481459341]

Posted in Published in 2017 | Tagged , ,

Last Week In Superhero Fiction: A Conversation with Kristen Brand

LastWeekAuthor Kristen Brand loves superheroes. Almost Invincible, the third book in her popular White Knights/Black Valentine series, recently came out (the first two books include Hero Status and Villainous). In addition, her ongoing web series Fight Crime! (A Love Story) is updated each Monday, and her Twitter feed @brandedkristen features an entertaining mix of superhero-related content.

If that isn’t enough to keep her busy, Brand also champions superhero prose fiction on a regular basis on her homepage. Last Week In Superhero Fiction is a bi-weekly aggregate of news and commentary about everybody’s favorite genre. Check out our interview with the author below.

SuperheroNovels: You recently started posting a roundup of superhero prose fiction news on your site. Why?

Kristen Brand: I’ve read superhero prose fiction for years, but I was a pretty casual fan. I’d follow SuperheroNovels for book recommendations and would occasionally run across a review of a superhero novel on another book blog, but that didn’t happen often.

Then, a few months ago, I started being more active in my search for new books. I looked through Amazon and tracked down superhero fiction authors on Twitter, and I was amazed by how many new novels I found. There were all these fun authors and cool-sounding stories I’d never heard of before!

I follow a decent number of sci-fi and fantasy book review blogs, so I was surprised I hadn’t heard of so many of these recent releases. Either superhero fiction is a niche genre, or I was looking in the wrong places, but it didn’t seem like many people online were talking about these books. I know the superhero fiction genre has a lot of fans, if for no other reason than I know the number of people who have bought the superhero novels I’ve written. I figured that if I was having trouble finding news about superhero fiction, then maybe they were, too. And I already had a website, so why not post the news I found there?

SN: As you mention, you write superhero fiction too. Can you talk about how you came to the genre? And why does it interest you so much?

KB: I blame my superhero obsession on watching too much X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series when I was a kid (and I know I’m not alone there). Reading Harry Potter turned me into a bookworm, so I guess it was inevitable those two interests would meet. I’m not sure when I first realized superhero prose fiction was a thing, but some of the first books in the genre I remember reading are Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge, which I discovered because the two authors also have popular urban fantasy series, and Karma Girl by Jennfier Estep, which is a chick lit-esque superhero romance.

Superhero prose fiction (and fiction in general) is great because you can completely immerse yourself in the characters’ thoughts, struggles, and world for hours on end. Books may not have the stunning visuals of comics or movies, but I think they make up for it in depth. For me, connecting with characters is the best part of a story, both as a reader and a writer. Dave Del Toro, the main character of my first novel, Hero Status, was inspired by how comic book superheroes rarely get to age and have stable relationships thanks to reboots and slowly changing status quos. He’s a retired superhero in his early fifties who settled down and married his former arch-nemesis, and the third book in his series, Almost Invincible, comes out on September 30th. I like to describe it as “Die Hard in a theme park with superheroes” and can’t wait for its release.

SN: We both blog about superhero fiction, and the Pen and Cape Society helps promote indie superhero fiction authors. But that’s about it. There’s very little community support for the genre. Why do you think that is?

KB: I wish I knew! My theory is that the majority of superhero fans spend most of their time talking about the comics and movies rather than the prose fiction. My hope is that most readers just don’t realize how many awesome books are in the genre, and that every time someone stumbles upon a superhero novel, it’s a chance for the genre to gain another fan.

With so many cool new releases coming out each month, I don’t think superhero fiction is disappearing anytime soon. I certainly don’t plan to stop reading or writing it!

Posted in Interviews | Tagged ,

Superfawn!

StarFawnWhen someone writes the history of superhero prose fiction, the late Byron Preiss will undoubtedly be a big part of the narrative.

During his lifetime, Preiss launched a handful of interesting projects. Weird Heroes, in particular, was an eight-volume paperback series from the ’70s that helped bridge the gap between comic books and prose.

Preiss was a tireless champion of “New American Pulp,” and Weird Heroes was a big melting pot of pulp fiction, science fiction, fantasy, sword and sorcery, adventure, comic books, and superhero prose fiction. At the time, the list of contributors was pretty impressive. Philip José Farmer, Jim Steranko, Marv Wolfman, Steve Englehart, Ben Bova, Michael Moorcock, and Ron Goulart were just a handful of creators featured throughout the series.

But Weird Heroes wasn’t his only venture. Preiss also helmed a series of original hybrid novels featuring sequential art and text narrative. Fiction Illustrated only lasted four volumes, but it was an early attempt at long-form graphic storytelling. Without a doubt, it was a harbinger of today’s ubiquitous narraglyphic picto-assemblages (i.e. graphic novels).

The second issue of Fiction Illustrated featured a 104-page adventure written by Preiss with accompanying artwork by Stephen Fabian. It was the story of a 12-man crew aboard the starship Destiny. It’s mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man had gone before.

Yes, that’s right; Starfawn plundered Star Trek in almost every way. But there was a twist. During a routine space exploratory mission, a crewmember named Shalla (not Shalla-Bal) was zapped with some sort of mysterious spectral power. Transformed into a creature of light and sound, Shalla subsequently helped resolve a sticky first-contact situation.

The story was told from the perspective of Daystar Stern (“the Anne Frank of the spaceways,” wrote Preiss). Interestingly, Daystar was in a coma for most of the book, and his log entries were filled with stream-of-conscious ramblings. Preiss stumbles a bit during these oblique passages. But in general, he was an engaging author with a flair for trippy descriptive writing inspired by the new wave of science fiction.

Likewise, the artwork by Fabian was also very good, especially the illustrations of orgasmic Starfawn. Back in 1976, he was a popular fan artist who was just starting to break into the professional ranks. His work harkened back to classic pulp and science fiction illustrators, most notably Sir Virgil Finlay. For added value, Mirthful Marie Severin colored the entire thing in her classic EC/Marvel way.

Sadly, this was the first and last time readers encountered Starfawn and the crew of the U.S.S. Destiny. Graphic novels wouldn’t attain critical mass for another 30 years, and Fiction Illustrated petered out after two more volumes. Despite poor sales and reader indifference, Preiss was clearly on the right track. Looking back, he was a man who saw the future of graphic novels and superhero prose fiction. For his service, we salute him.

[Fiction Illustrated, Vol. 2: Starfawn / By Byron Preiss and Stephen Fabian / First Printing: April 1976 / ISBN: 9780515040777]

Posted in Comics | Tagged , ,

Web of Spider-Man

MilesSixteen-year-old Miles Morales always thought he came from bad blood. Both his father and his uncle were hoodlums when they were his age, and now his 15-year-old cousin was locked up in prison. Miles was worried that he would inevitably follow in their footsteps. Like Bigger Thomas, was his destiny written in stone by forces beyond his control?

That was a question he asked himself every single day. Despite being a nascent superhero with the powers of a genetically engineered spider, Miles couldn’t shake the feeling that he was the monster Dr. Frankenstein was chasing.

But one day while randomly talking to his school’s librarian, Miles learned a little tidbit about spiders that would help him sort out his messy family history. “It used to be said that spiders could connect the past with the future,” she told him. “I think it has something to do with the symbolism of the web.”

Suddenly Miles knew what he had to do. Just as a spider weaves a web, Miles had to weave his own path in life. The same fearlessness that led his father, uncle, and cousin to crime was now what would propel him toward excellence. “I believe it’s not just about where you’re from,” he said, “but also about where you’re going.”

Whoever convinced author Jason Reynolds to write this amazing book deserves a gold star. Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest, The Boy In the Black Suit, and Ghost) has a passion for telling stories about kids (like Miles Morales) who overcome challenges and triumph over their circumstances. He’s a lively writer who’s tapped into the intellectual and moral climate of our times.

As such, his Spider-Man novel is a nuanced look at an Afro-Hispanic teenager (with superpowers) who’s grappling with family issues, personal identity, school, and romance. Naturally there’s villainy afoot, but there isn’t a Vulture, Goblin, or Octopus anywhere in sight. Instead of superhero bang-ups, Reynolds informs his story with the pulse of music, language, literature, and poetry. We guarantee that you’ll never read another superhero novel containing so much poetry – specifically Korean poetry.

In the end, Miles successfully defeats his family’s lingering bad reputation. By doing so, he finds a way to overcome the past and move confidently into the future. In other words: By creating a new and stronger web, he’s able to smash the old webs to smithereens. Spider-Man superpowers not required.

[Miles Morales: Spider-Man / By Jason Reynolds / First Printing: August 2017 / ISBN: 9781484787489]

Posted in Marvel/DC, Published in 2017 | Tagged , ,