BOOK REVIEW Superheroes!

By Roz Kaveney. Costumed crime-fighters taken very seriously indeed

Author: Roz Kaveney

Publisher: IB Tauris

278 pages • £12.99

ISBN: 978-1-84511-569-2

Rating:

Reading like a blog post swollen to grotesque length, Roz Kaveney’s latest book continues her quest to prove geek culture worthy of serious critical examination.
She explains concepts like continuity, shared universes, and “events”, leading into extended discussions of acclaimed recent runs like Brian Michael Bendis on Alias and Joss Whedon on X-Men, and pads the rest out with quite a lot of plot summaries (did we need two whole pages on the events of the Elektra film, which Kaveney doesn’t even like? There is such a thing as Wikipedia...).

The tone moves lucidly from fangirl to academic, but you’ll be left wondering whether the latter approach is really worthwhile. We’re talking about Chris Claremont here, not William Faulkner. Part of the reason superhero comics are fun is because they offer up their joys with such reckless generosity to even the most listless reader. Of course, a few do have hidden depths, but Kaveney’s dutiful dissection of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, for instance, offers few revelations and isn’t likely to add much to your love of the original.

In the end this book does a good, if unnecessary, job of arguing for superhero comics’ existence, but a bad job of arguing for its own. If you like capes, there’s not much here you won’t already know, and if you don’t, there’s not much here you’ll care about. Say you’re at home in your pleather smoking jacket, the whole evening ahead of you: if you’ve got a choice between reading a whole book about comics and just reading some actual comics, it’s hard to imagine why you’d lunge for the prose.

Ned Beauman

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