3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
San Ventura - The Shining City
, 6 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Seven Wonders (Angry Robot) (Paperback)
Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling metropolis of San Ventura - a city utterly gripped by fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl.
When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team, the Seven Wonders, aren't anything like as grateful as he assumed they would be...
I am, and always will be, a comic book geek at heart. Before I developed a passion for reading novels I grew up with 2000AD, Marvel and DC. I still try to read comics whenever I can but now a lot of my time is taken up by books and reviewing. The idea of reading something that captures the best elements of the comic book medium and translates them successfully certainly intrigues.
San Ventura is glorious amalgam of every other comic book city that you've ever read. With liberal doses of Gotham, Metropolis and Star City, it serves as the perfect backdrop for all the action. From a comic book fan's standpoint, there can't be anything better than huge epic battles where heroes and villains duke it out, trashing buildings and destroying scenery in the process. Add in some cosmic shenanigans of an apocalyptic nature and you're on to a winner.
Seven Wonders isn't all about the action though. Christopher also takes time to dissect the building blocks of superhero/supervillain mythology. What does it take to be a hero, or indeed a villain? Can one exist without the other? Given the opportunity what would an average person do if they were suddenly extraordinary? In my experience a lot of comic book stories tend to put the hero, and the villain for that matter, on a bit of a pedestal. They are to be idolized and worshiped. I'm glad that the author doesn't stick with that traditional view, instead the characters and their flaws are revealed, warts and all.
The Cowl is undoubtedly the most complex character in the novel. You get to learn his motivations and the relationship between his sidekick, Blackbird, is a highlight. I don't want to give anything away story-wise, but the eagle eyed amongst you are bound to spot the reverential nods to various other famous heroes as you learn more and more of The Cowl's history. There are some great revelations as the plot unfolds and, in particular, this character's journey is Superhero/Supervillain deconstruction 101.
My only minor gripe, and it is minor, is that it would have been nice if some of the other characters got a bit more time to shine. I particularly like the speedster Linear, and was a little disappointed that I didn't get to learn as much about him as I would have liked. The Cowl and his alter-ego are fully explored but this is at the detriment of some of the other cast. I suppose this may just be wishful thinking on my part. There is a page at one point which lists a whole host of superhero names and, I'll be honest, I'd happily read about each and every one.
It's obvious that this author is a huge comic book fan and the love he has for his subject shines through on every page. Put it this way, if Christopher's first novel, Empire State, is a knowing tip of the hat to all things golden age (it so is - Ed.) then Seven Wonders celebrates the modern comic book with equal aplomb.
Seven Wonders is an utterly absorbing read but there is part of me that would love to see it reborn as a graphic novel, or an animated series. It would be great to see an artist's interpretation of Christopher's characters. The story is so good and the characters so well observed that they scream out for some sort of visual development.
I remember being blown away the first time I read, the now classic comic book, Marshall Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill. They took what were well-established conventions at the time and turned them all squarely on their head. Christopher has achieved the same nigh on impossible task here with Seven Wonders, and even manages to make it look easy. He has subtly subverted the superhero genre by removing black and white, the good guys and the bad guys, and leaving us with the far more interesting, morally ambigious, shades of grey. More please!
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