There’s one of two things I’ve come to expect the typical Superman novel weakness to be – cheesiness that’s hit-or-miss with its blatant quirkiness, or dryness which makes characters too distant if the author doesn’t dampen the moment every so often. It’s obvious there’s going to be some cheesiness; after all, it’s a novel about superheroes, just goes with the territory, but you can establish a setting which stays true to the legend while holding enough intellect, enough fun, to keep it worthy.
In this case the novel came highly recommended. I checked the reviews on Paperbackswap, Goodreads, and Amazon, surprised to see the three sites united on raves (not common). I hadn’t read a Superman book in awhile, thought why not, so ordered it and then waited in (almost embarrassed to admit) impatience and dorky eagerness. I first opened it to be a bit glum at the size, pretty thin for the 270 or so pages. The writing is a slightly small so there’s a decent amount of story in there, just not something that’s going take long to read if you get absorbed.
Even though the book totes that Superman is now a motion picture, and includes photos from the first film in the center of the book, the story has nothing at all to do with the movie. In fact, it’s very important to note that the Superman/Clark Kent persona is the older almost pre-Crisis type, and the Lex Luthor is the complete opposite of the comedic movie role. Here they go to the roots – in between plot points a flashback or so occurs telling a little about the younger Luthor in Smallville, a friend of sorts with the Kent/Superboy, but more absorbed in his scientific endeavors. These backflashes fascinated me, and it was a different take - some of the common things were there just sketched out and altered slightly, while other things were changed pretty dramatically (such as what happens with Clark's adoptive parents.)
Of course Lois Lane is in the novel but it also should be mentioned that nothing at all is brought up about any romantic interest on Clarks part or hers. The author chose to not focus on that at all apparently. Clark is working for a TV station and they do not even work together any longer; Superman is of course still her savior and hero when times heat up. This includes a scene that surprised me and almost seems anti-Superman as he melts a gun and gives a mans hand third-degree burns. I've already said Lex is different, and they focus more on the mental illness aspect of youth and then the theories as an adult that he is the perfect balance for Supermans heroics. Clark is more interesting when he's Superman and it finally shows more thought later on. At first he just seems so distantly sketched but I felt more toward the ending with the character and think it was easier to then see him as more realistic.
Pacing was pretty swift, a good deal happened. The story turned a surprising 180 in that it changed course midway through the book in a way. The first half was between Superman and Lex Luthor and their rivalry, while the second half they had to work together of all things to leave Earth and solve a situation on another realm. While the author made the man of steel and the villain super-geniouses, I sadly was unable to keep following along with some of the scientific, mid-dimensional stuff later on. There was plenty of it, and that keeps my interest little, so I didn't focus on much other than the action.
Apparently I keep rambling, so I'll start wrapping this one up. Rather than cheesy, this book took itself as seriously as it could. It really tried for a very different type of backstory and intriguing plot that stands out and had it complex with other characters (Green lantern system, etc.) The author chose to concentrate solely on Lex and Clark rather than anything with Lois besides a few saving scenes, and the writing style was easy to follow and well-penned. I have to say I agree with the reviews on the other sites -- it was a worthy, unique story that actually had a real story, not just a scene play-by-play with the characters. My least favorite was the very beginning, where it was less captivating than the rest and almost slightly full for a chapter or so. Besides occasional dryness it was the best I've read yet in this genre.
And yes, the pictures were fun to look through!