narfna’s #CBR5 Review #98: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartThis wasn’t my favorite Sanderson ever. I had some issues with it on a technical level, but the worldbuilding was SO MUCH FUN that it almost didn’t even matter. (It’s actually kind of a relief to read a book of his I don’t LOVE ALL CAPS because it means he’s only human after all. Dude writes SO MANY BOOKS and they’re ALL GOOD.)

Steelheart, the first book in Sanderson’s Reckoners series, is an extremely creative take on the superhero genre. It’s been ten years since an event people have dubbed Calamity, which granted certain members of the population superpowers. These people are called Epics, and they are all of them huge dickwads: violent, egomanical, emotionally unstable, power-hungry assholes. With the appearance of the Epics, society descended into chaos. Epic after Epic took control over whole cities. The government collapsed. In some cities, Epics rule like monarchs. Such is the case with Chicago, now called Newcago, which is ruled by an Epic called Steelheart, who has the power to turn anything to steel, and is seemingly invincible.

This is where our protagonist, David, comes in. David’s father was a firm believer that one day an Epic would come that would be good and kind, who would wish to help rather than hurt. David’s father is murdered by Steelheart, right in front of David’s eyes, when he was ten years old. Steelheart then demolished the bank they were in and killed everyone in it, except for David. David is now the only person alive to have seen Steelheart bleed. And he’s gone looking for a group called the Reckoners, whose sole mission is taking out Epics one by one. He knows he’s the only person alive that might be able to help them take down Steelheart, and he’s made it his life’s mission to do so.

Like I said, exploring this world that Sanderson created, learning its rules, was pure pleasure. It was refreshing to read a take on superheroes that had the superheroes as the bad guys. It’s a very cynical outlook on human nature, and I found it intriguing, especially given the presence of David’s father, who believed so strongly that Epics could be good. It bodes well for future installments in the series. I also really liked that this book had a self-contained element to it, a beginning, middle and end. It also felt a bit like a crime/heist caper story, which was really fun.

I did have some issues with it. With a couple exceptions, the characters didn’t really grab my emotions by the balls or anything. I didn’t care about most of them very much, and actively disliked the one that kept saying y’all to refer to a singular person. I know I also had some other technical issues with it, but it’s been over a months and a half since I read it, and I don’t remember what those issues were. Also of concern is the protag, David. Because he’s so driven by his mission, he doesn’t have much of an emotional arc. The focus in this book is definitely on plot and worldbuilding, and I’m hoping in future books we get a bit more characterization for him and the others. I know plot and worldbuilding are Sanderson’s strengths, but he can do characters too. I’ve seen him at it.

All in all, a really fun book, and I’m confident/hopeful that the issues I had with it will be addressed in future books. And even if they’re not, I’ll probably still enjoy them.

Malin’s #CBR5 Reviews #73-74: The Umbrella Academy vol 1 and 2 by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

Vol 1: Apocalypse Suite – 4 stars
Vol 2: Dallas – 4.5 stars

In the first volume we are introduced to The Umbrella Academy, a group of seven children (out of forty-seven children, born world-wide to women who’d previously not shown any signs of pregnancy), adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreaves, an eccentric millionaire inventor. The mother they ever know is a live dressmaker’s dummy, and they are partially raised by a talking chimpanzee scientist called Professor Pogo. When they are ten, the children fight an erratic and escaping Eiffel Tower, later they disband and go their separate ways. Only when Sir Reginald dies, do they meet again – everyone except the seventh sibling, Viola, who was always told she was the only ordinary one in the group. Now an organisation with sinister intent contact her, revealing that she may be the most powerful one of the seven siblings.

In the second volume, some time has passed since the dramatic events in the first volume’s conclusion. All the various members of the Umbrella Academy are experiencing challenges on various fronts, and are unprepared when further catastrophic events threaten, and they need to work together again. There are plots, and evil assassins, and number 5 has to use his time travelling abilities to go back in time to 1963, to prevent himself from preventing the assassination of JFK.

The rest of the review on my blog.

Robert’s #CBR5 Review #05: Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & JoyImagine having a perfectly normal life as a teenager. Your parents provide for your every need and desire because of their immense wealth, but they also lay out strong boundaries for what you can and can’t do. You’re not spoiled because of the discipline but you are unable to appreciate what you have because of the level of control.

In Runaways, a comic series created by writer Brian K. Vaughn and penciler Adrian Alphona, six could-be perfectly content teenagers living the American dream see everything they thought they knew destroyed in one night. It turns out their benevolent, kind, charitable parents are all high-powered supervillains in a team called The Pride. The parents meet once a year to renegotiate their pact and prepare for their children’s ascension into the ranks at 18. When the six teens, ranging from 12 to 17, witness the end of the yearly ritual, they vow to take their parents down and make them pay for their crimes.

That’s before the teens even realize they all have superpowers. From super intelligence to telepathy, magical weapon casting to instinctive mastery of high tech weapons, the Runaways quickly realize the challenge they face. They’re brand new to their powers. Their parents have spent a lifetime honing the skills their children just discovered. The only advantage they teens have is receiving the strongest traits of a pair of supervillains, allowing their powers to blossom very quickly. Continue reading

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #18: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

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It’s a superhero story set during the zombie apocalypse! I had to read this, and I would have been the saddest girl in all the land if it had sucked. Thankfully, it was actually pretty damn good. I liked the original superheroes and how the narrative included flashbacks to origin stories and the beginning of the outbreak.

You can read my full review here.