Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Gods of Manhattan review

His mind doesn’t work like your or mine. The man seems to be a never-ending mine of ideas. If you read his comic work- Zombo for example- there are enough ideas there that he uses as throwaway gags for another writer to make a career of. It’s damn annoying. So it wasn’t a surprise when he wrote his first novel for Abaddon, El Sombra, and even less of a surprise to discover it was brilliant.
And so he returns with a sequel to El Sombra in the form of Gods of Manhattan.

I think, given that this is a sequel, I'm safe in revealing that the titular insane Mexican ‘hero’ escapes at the end of El Sombra, and we last see him heading North, on his way to Nazi Germany…
Well, so far, he’s gotten as far as New York. And this being the steampunk world of Pax Britannia, it’s not quite the New York that you or I know.
For a start, in this New York, you’ve got your real life superheroes. And boy, does Ewing have some fun with them.
Not only is Ewing a good writer, but his obvious love for the superhero genre comes across loud and clear. But not just a love… he understands them- how and why they work – in a way that most writers, even some actually writing for the Big Two, do not. And it’s this understanding that adds another level of, for want of a better word, realism to the narrative.
While we can recognise elements of existing heroes in Ewing’s characters- there are parts of Superman, Reed Richards, Batman, Spider-man, Black Panther, The Beast and so on- they are all so well drawn that these elements don’t swamp the originality of the characters. Indeed, the heroes here go to places that the ones in the comics would not dream of… at least not outside our darkest fantasies…
Chief amongst the superheroes in this New York is Doc Thunder. And what a creation he is. I can’t talk about him, or indeed the plot, without giving too much away, but he is a genuinely interesting character in a why that the aforementioned Reed Richards can only dream about.
And El Sombra himself is as lunatic and hilarious and out and out fun as you remember him from the first book. It feels like Ewing has a blast writing him, and if I had a complaint it would be that this book is really about Doc Thunder, and El Sombra isn’t in it enough for my liking.
But that is a trifling complaint- there is more than enough going on here to keep any reader amused and on the edge of their seat.
The plot is intricate and clever, action scenes are exciting and dialogue is great, and he even managed to include one of my favourite lines from one of my favourite films. 
And when you think about it, if the only thing I’m complaining about was that there wasn’t enough of one particular character in it, then the book must be doing something right, yeah?

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