Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Delayed Book Review: It's a Bird"

The Delayed Book Review (# 1, 11/03/07)

Seagle’s “It’s A Bird” Soars

Writer: Steven Seagle

I just finished a graphic novel I just bought out of some odd sense of pity on a rather poorly performing branch of the undisputedly largest bookstore chain in the country. (Sometime soon I may get to talk about that. But for now, I’ll talk about my new book.)

I gave myself a budget of a thousand bucks for something new to read. Something that I felt wouldn’t feel like work soon enough through a chapter or two. An obvious choice was a graphic novel, which my wife quite plainly (and in a rather pedestrian manner) refers to as simply a “slightly thicker comic book”. Potato, potahto… Oh look, I found a graphic novel that is supposedly Superman related, but doesn’t have him on the cover. And if the reviews on the back cover were to be believed, this book wasn’t going to be made of your regular pulp. So off I was to the cash registers…

With my wife pregnant into her first trimester and either craving for food or dozing off, I found myself a nice little “dozing off” moment where I kick my shoes off and stretch myself out on the couch to engage myself in my new “slightly thicker comic book”. She was off dreaming, and I had time to read.

One of the first things I noticed was the rather rushed and haphazardly painted art. Rather sloppily done watercolors by some guy I’m not talking about on this piece. But hey, I read the reviews on the back cover and I told myself that this ought to be good. All things considered though, the art was serviceable and from time to time, seemed just right for the job, and fit the story.

I’ve seen Steven Seagle’s name on some other piece of printed matter which escapes me. And with the phone lines down right now, I don’t have any internet connection with which to cheat and pretend that I am a well-researched writer. So I will sit here and simply admit to having seen the author’s name somewhere and hoping that perhaps I remember where before I finish this.

I imagine that Mr. Seagle was offered a chance to write something for Superman and found his brains in an initial snag. He resorts to a rather common literary device wherein the writer writes about a writer who is writing what he is supposedly writing. If that doesn’t make sense, look it up. Like I said, I currently don’t have an internet connection and cannot pretend to be a learned literary person who can identify the different figures of speech. Big deal.

But lo and behold, Seagle doesn’t turn this thing into a farce. But instead points out everything he finds absolutely ludicrous about Superman, and juxtaposes all of them with a rare hereditary disease, along with the rest of the humble qualities of humanity. The result is probably the very first “Superman” book in a long while that I actually enjoyed and I didn’t feel insulted my feeble intelligence. Sorry, purists… the Justice League doesn’t count. I don’t care what the writers say. Superman may be the center of a lot of those stories, but it was everyone else that made it interesting. Superman vs. Batman? Batman, hands down. Ever since I was four years old. I guess that even as a kid, I always believed that getting things the hard way was the only way to get them for them to be worth it to me. Batman may have had his gazillions, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy standing up to light-wielding inter-galactic policemen, amazon princesses, or smart-asses who can circle the globe before you finish taking a piss.

It’s amazing how Seagle makes the simple fact of being healthy and walking about a super power in itself, and that humanity as itself at its best is anything but feeble. Seagle also uses the prospect of Huntington’s disease as a great springboard to release a lot of angst against the prospect of having to deal with a character, who for all intents and purposes cannot realistically have a problem. At least not in the way that we define problems.

I’ve blabbered quite lengthily to many people who cared to listen (at first, anyways… they tired sooner than I’d hoped.) that Superman didn’t deserve his own book. Superman was for me a character that flew by in the background carrying a car wreck and its passengers to safety, or rushing some old lady to the grocery store, or even saving a cat or something… Superman was designed to be god-like. Any writer worth his salt (like Seagle) knows that the whole kryptonite thingie is way too manufactured. I echo Seagle’s assumption that Kryptonite was a last-ditch attempt at making Supes interesting somehow by making him vulnerable something. Anything. Not working, if you asked me. So back to “god-like”… Who wants to read about the weaknesses of Clark Kent? All of which involves dorkiness and little more. If you want to make the prospect of Clark Kent and his attempts at humanity interesting, then I suggest you try to find yourself a copy of Larry Niven’s essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”.

Check out the family Bible, dear reader. God is everywhere, He makes or breaks the characters and usually finishes up the stories rather conveniently with just a lightning bolt or something, but God is seldom the lead character. And I reckon the same should be for Superman. But that could be just me. I am a devout Catholic and absolutely God-fearing, but while I believe in God and know I piss Him off from time to time and am always aware that I shouldn’t, I don’t want to read about Him too much. I’d much rather read about the ark, the snake, or that unlimited supply of fish from Jesus Christ.

Seagle nonetheless finishes off the book with a rightfully subtle resolution, where a family comes together to face their undeniable humanity and the weaknesses that come with it. All the while, reminding us all that life may have hitches, but all in all, life in itself is a gift not to be wasted mulling and skulking about over our limits, mentally or physically.

(Woe is me. The book was first published last 2004. Somebody help me name that rock I’ve been hiding under…)

10:40pm 11/03/07

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