Saturday, April 30, 2011


Mike Lupica is a pretty well-known author now, but Hero is the first book of his I've read. I was not terribly impressed. It's written for a middle school audience and targeted more toward guys, so maybe I'm missing something others would get. The style was sparse, and by that, I mean, thoughts and ideas were communicated with few words. But largely, the book is about thoughts and ideas. Not much seems to happen until halfway through, and even then, I was underwhelmed.

Hero is about a boy whose father dies and leaves him a legacy he doesn't even know about, a set of awesome superpowers. Billy begins investigating the "accident" of his father's plane crash, believing, and rightly so, that such a thing could never happen to his father accidentally. His search leads him to a mysterious old man who tells him he has "magic," just like his father. And that's where, halfway through the book, the story starts to get going. Billy faces several tests that are all leading toward a fight with the Bads. The problem is, he's not sure who the Bads really are. He gets conflicting advice from people who know his powers, so he begins to distrust everyone, even some of the people closest to him.

This is definitely an origins story for a superhero because he has to discover who he is, train, and then eventually fight. But I keep comparing it to Batman Begins (the movie starring Christian Bale), also an origins story, and there's just no contest. (I love Batman Begins, by the way.) In Hero, not enough happens. There's too much internal struggle without enough emotional payoff. The reader doesn't know who's right throughout most of the book, and that's frustrating rather than suspenseful. Morality gets confused, and I don't mean sex. The book is clean as far as the normal sex, drugs, and language go. It's more that Right and Wrong get confused so that you don't even know if Billy is a Bad, deep down. Maybe that's more true-to-life, but you don't want that in a superhero. You want him to be a hero, automatically good, and, extra good.

But these are minor morality issues in a book that's main problem for me was a lack of spark. I could just be the wrong audience, and if you like Mike Lupica, there's nothing objectionable in this story for a middle school boy. But if you want my opinion, and I know I've mentioned this before in regards to superhero stories, go with H.I.V.E. instead. It's about the kids of supervillains, but surprisingly, Right and Wrong are more clear-cut, besides which, the plot is much more entertaining.

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