“A solar powered girl. A ballerina vigilante. A boy with the alien sharing his brain. A werewolf. A girl with a black hole for a heart. This is the next generation of heroes Doc Silence has gathered together, a random collection of amazing kids he hopes to train to make the world a better place.”
He had me at werewolf.
“The Indestructibles” is a so-called YA novel, although to quote Stephen Colbert, that usually just means it’s a regular novel that people actually read. And this one is definitely well suited to your average 12-year-old superhero fanatic.
But if you’re like some of us, you have an inner 12-year-old that you can access at a moment’s notice, sort of like Bruce Banner does with the Hulk in “The Avengers.” (“That’s my secret, Cap — I’m always 12.”) If that’s you, and you know who you are, you’ll probably get almost as much out of “The Indestructibles” as any prepubescent superhero junkie.
Phillion definitely deals in plenty of familiar comic book tropes, and it’s not hard to draw parallels between his characters and others that came before them — the mystical Doc Silence evokes elements of Dr. Strange, Kate “Dancer” Miller has Batman written all over her, and Solar, a sunshine-powered superheroine, fits the Superman template — although it’s refreshing to have the book’s one truly indestructible hero be female.
But there’s plenty in “The Indestructibles” that you haven’t seen before, including a sentient storm that provides the main obstacle for our fledgling heroes, and a winning invention in Entropy Emily, a wisecracking nerdette who also happens to be powerful enough to capture entire hurricanes in an anti-gravity bubble — and whose mother has a heroic secret of her own.
Phillion ramps up the action often enough to keep things moving, and writes battle scenes in such a way that you can actually picture what’s going on, which is not as easy as it sounds. And sly pop culture references — Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Bill Bixby’s TV Hulk and E.T. all get name dropped during the team’s adventures — keep the dialogue zippy.
But in the end, it’s the heroes’ well-drawn personalities that make “The Indestructibles” fly. Straylight, the laser-zapping alien symbiote who’s quick to develop crushes on female adversaries, and Titus the angry (and wouldn’t you be?) teenage werewolf handily round out the super-crew, even if it’s the women who carry the show. And Phillion doesn’t give the villains short shrift either — a cyborg assassin with conscience issues and a truly frightening sorceress with a shadowy connection to Doc are just two of a litany of antagonists that make the heroes’ comings-of-age super-challenges convincing.
In short, it’s the rare young superhero fan who won’t find him- or herself plowing through “The Indestructibles” in as few sittings as possible — and the rare older fan who won’t want to scoop it up as soon as junior finishes.
More info at theindestructiblesbook.com.
Read more Pete at Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting & Pets Blog.