Mr. Review Catch-Up Explosion!

§ December 28th, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Mr. Review Catch-Up Explosion!

I have a couple items here that were sent to me for my reviewing pleasure, and I’ve been sitting on them a little longer than I planned…so let’s take a look, shall we?

Sidekicks Vol. 4: The Candy Man Cometh is the latest volume in Dan Danko and Tom Mason’s ongoing series of kids’ books featuring Speedy, the newest member of the sidekicks to the League of Big Justice. I reviewed the first two volumes here (you may need to scroll down a bit), and I’m pleased to say that this book continues the fun from the previous volumes. Speedy finds himself alone against the semi-menace of the Candy Man (whose dialogue of jingles from candy commercials of the past may very well go over the heads of the book’s target audience), while Speedy’s patron super-hero, Pumpkin Pete, proves as useless as ever.

If there were one thing about this series that affects me the most, it’s how alone Speedy seems to be. There is a little bit of palling around with the other sidekicks at the beginning and end of the story, but the character is distanced from his parents, all the superheroes are either a bit insensitive (like King Justice) or outright incompetent and mean (like Pumpkin Pete), and even his schoolmates (including Charisma Kid, who attends Speedy’s school in his secret identity) aren’t terribly nice to him. It’s a relief, then, when a mysterious superhero arrives during the course of the story to give Speedy a pep talk…and it’s fairly clear from the clues in the story just who this superhero really is.

Aside from the villain, the book also focuses on a Legion of Super-Heroes-esque membership drive, seeking out new sidekicks, most of which have, of course, completely ridiculous “super powers.” One amusing gag is the arrival of Super Vision Lad (who doesn’t have extra-normal sight…he actually requires supervision, as in babysitting) who gets passed off from person to person during the course of the story.

It’s a funny, and very silly, book, and a fast read for an adult in his 30s, though I imagine it would be a relatively quick read for the actual target audience as well. Now that kids may be more familiar with the concept of superheroes following the success of The Incredibles, they’ll probably have even more of a connection to the elements being parodied within this series.

Atomeka’s Hero Squared X-Tra Sized Special is Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ latest funny super hero comic, ably drawn by Joe Abraham. It’s very much of a kind with their work on Justice League all those years ago, mixing a few serious elements with their over-the-top situations and wacky character humor.

The premise of the story revolves around Earth’s last surviving superhero, Captain Valor, who manages to evade his destruction at the hands of the invading alien forces by escaping to the Earth of a parallel universe. There, he seeks out who should be the parallel universe version of himself, hoping to team up with another Captain Valor…only to find this Earth’s version of himself, Milo, is powerless, and something of a slacker.

As you might imagine, a lot of the humor comes from the contrast between Valor’s superheroic ideals and his counterpart Milo’s slightly more cyncial take on things. Abraham is well suited to illustrating both the superhero action and the more human elements of the story. Giffen and DeMatteis’ ear (ears?) for humorous dialogue is (are?) as dead-on as ever, from the down-to-earth conversation between Milo and his friend on the subway, to the earnest superheroic exclamations, to the just plain nutty rantings of the alien leader’s lackey Sloat…it all goes down easy, and it’s a pleasant, and just slightly nostalgic, reminder of when people didn’t take their superheroes so gosh darn seriously.

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