Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Captain Freedom

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded, and maybe you'd like to think about reading them as well. This time, a review of Captain Freedom (Harper, 2009).

Sorry for vanishing on everybody like that; I ran into what can best be described as a case of writer's block trying to find some way to recommend a Strontium Dog collection without repeating myself and decided a two-week break would do me good. Hopefully I can stave off the eventual burnout a little longer now, yeah?

Well, before I cooled my heels and went canoeing, I did read several books which have stacked up waiting for me. G. Xavier Robillard's Captain Freedom made its way to me via a book sale held by a major metropolitan newspaper of my acquaintance. Robillard is a regular contributor at McSweeney's and this is his first novel, a dry, witty, present-tense memoir of life among the superhero set, looking for love, meaning and celebrity wherever it can be found.

Despite what the cover artwork and some of the PR might say, this is not a superhero parody, it's a parody of celebrity culture which just uses superhero tropes to make its point. It's quite witty, and I smiled throughout, though I only laughed out loud a couple of times. Robillard did a great job creating a world with strong internal logic, where heroes sell the rights to their exploits to various competing comic book companies and have annual awards banquets and call in life coaches to make some sense of their inner struggles, depicted here as the searches for arch-enemies and origins.

I found this incredibly clever and often funny, and I like the way he uses the cliches of four-color funnybooks to skewer Hollywood. My heart sank a bit when I saw that cover - was the designer intentionally targeting the lowest common denominator? - but the text inside is far better than what you might think. Recommended.

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