Indie Book Club: Wonderboy #1

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Alright! So here we are–issue one of the Wonderboy Serials!

In this section we are introduced to the main bulk of the characters: Clint’s daughter, his nemesis, a boy genius, his #1 fan, a reporter named Charles (no relation to writer I’m sure) and one of his sexual assault victims. We explore his power set and personal life. In addition we find out about his failing health.

In many ways this made me think of All Star Superman (sorry not sorry for possible spoiler there) where he learns that he has cancer(ish-sort-of-kind-of-whatever). Superman goes around trying to right his wrongs (yeah–those glasses right? FASHION POLICE!) and make peace with the world before dying. Similar context here except there are no more heroes ready to step into his place.

I think that is what strikes hardest about this piece–the dependency that the world has for Wonderboy and the knowledge it is about to be taken away. It is reminiscent of recent ‘world police actions’ where after years of depending on UN Police forces for day-to-day protect the UN pulled their people out. It left a power vacuum the countries usually weren’t completely prepared for and sometimes lead to unrest.

Knowing that as the reader makes this first section slowly fill with dread. I mean what would happen if the US government checked out and stopped all military and police services overnight? No one can say but no matter what it would be a sudden change. I imagine that is the question Mad Max was answering–men without rules are savages. In the Mad Max trilogy with start with a world where normal people are still making a go of life, a police presence is still around but they aren’t paid, and slowly civilization develops again but it takes time.

The section starts with Clint Solh’s (Wonderboy) daughter watching an interview on TV between her father and his main Bill O’Reilly-esce supporter and night show host. She knows what is coming, knows what Clint isn’t saying, and is manically writing out her memoir about her years as the illegitimate child and publicist of the world’s first (maybe last) superhero.

Through her descriptions we get a sense of what her life has been like and how it has affected her to always live in the shadow of dad.Moving to each of the other characters we slowly see a theme–we as a reader are getting to know Wonderboy vicariously through his victims. His daughter was from a rape, the reporter is stuck covering him, the prisoner is in jail, and the socialite has been permanently scarred by his assault on her.

Really the only one who hasn’t been a victim directly has been Numbers. I get the feeling that is going to change as we continue into Issue Two. He might be a ritual sacrifice to learn about Wonderboy’s cruelty first hand.

Thoughts about the style–the shifting viewpoints is a little disorienting. We go from first person to third fairly easily. The voice of Clint’s daughter is reminiscent of Daniel Handler’s ‘The Basic Eight’ where someone with inside knowledge is telling the story to an ignorant audience that hasn’t had time to know what is going on (mostly because we don’t live in that universe but here it is a nice backstory interlude).

I both like and dislike this. It makes for a good starting hook. It gets you into the first section and starts the questions bubbling in your head. I don’t really love it though because of how jarring it is.

As I said we met Wonderboy through his victims. The one that stands out to me is his enemy. A starving performance artist turned nuclear arsonist. He is kooky, sad, and just a wee bit dark. I feel like I could have really related to this character in high school. Political art was all I thought about and was always attacking any argument I didn’t agree with/understand blindly. That in mind, this character makes me uneasy for that same reason–I feel like he is a little piece of me I tried to leave behind (like locking him up in a prison for super villains).

Then there is Wonderboy’s #1 Fan. She seems lonely like the rest of the world. She is confronted with the other but rather than drawing into herself she reaches out to Client (literally… with her body… as in sex…). Truth be told she may be the only one taking the news well and the only one who doesn’t hate him. That said, she also seems highly unstable–like Wonderboy is the only thing she knows and without much thought might snap if he was gone. I really worry about this one.

The other characters are the reporter and assault victim. The reporter as of this section doesn’t leap out at me. Nothing is too striking or interesting just yet. The victim is the most tragic character to me.

She knows what Wonderboy is really like but even her closest friends only fane hatred. How can you stand against the world’s protector? She is almost the only sensible character as she hates him outright for good reasons but understands the problematic issues of confronting him like a normal human.

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Clint almost feels like a Mesopotamian god. I mean he is the seemingly impossibly strong do-gooder who lives among humans. He does so much good for all society that at large people don’t care what the sacrifices are made to him. On another level we are learning what his victim has gone through, we are learning how it affected her through her continued pain.

 

All in all this section is a little dry. We are learning about the world in second-hand information. The good thing to remember is this could be worse. Any big science fiction universe is susceptible to info dumps–Wonderboy Issue One doesn’t do that. Another good thing is we aren’t blindly told exactly what the characters are thinking directly (i.e. Tommy was in pain. Tommy no like Wonderboy) which is also common. We are learning by their actions or deeds what kind of people this Earth has and how they feel about a singular phenomena.

In many ways it is an existential shared consciousness frozen in time in which we as the reader are immersed in the opinions and world of this novel. Everything flows around a TV interview where we learn Wonderboy maybe in trouble. The closest thing to liken it to is the interview with Doctor Manhattan (SPOILERS for Watchmen!) when he learns that his friends have been dying of cancer.

It has about the same effect as well. This time instead of the superhero flying to Mars the human race holds its breath and considers his place in their lives. They draw inside themselves and feel the isolation of life (the other) in themselves (instead of huffing it to the Red Planet).

 

So that’s about it for me. What were your thoughts? Below are some food for thought questions for the next session. Feel free to comment what you think below. Let me know if there is anything I left out of discussion.

 

Also be sure to check out Literati at their website and buy their things. They are nice things and the proceeds go to fund some cool local artists who give back a lot of their time to the community.

 

Thanks for your time and happy reading!

========= YOUR TURN==========

1) Who is your favorite character so far? Why?

2) What do you think would happen if Clint does die with no replacement?

3) How did you feel about the writing style in this first section?

4) If Wonderboy and Superman got in a fight who would win?

 

 

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