My fellow Gatehouse Media editor Matt Phillion is at it again: “The Indestructibles: Breakout” (PFP Publishing), his sequel to last spring’s young adult superhero saga “The Indestructibles,” comes hot on the heels of the last installment.
But in this one, Phillion is unencumbered by the need to introduce all the characters and bring them together, “Avengers”-style, into a cohesive fighting force. And he uses that built-in momentum to send his story into the stratosphere, pretty much literally, right out of the gate.
The result is the equivalent of a “Superman II” or “Spider-Man II,” to use some cinematic superhero comparisons — what we already know about these characters informs the story, and they’re able to learn, grow and breath. But if that sounds too Lifetime Network for your typical young adult reader, don’t worry: they’re also able to kick, punch, defy gravity and shoot wicked blue laser beams. Plus there’s the werewolf.
The follow-up’s plot contains several ingenious turns, foremost being the absence of the group’s leader and father figure Doc Silence, conveniently banished to another dimension (or several) at the end of the last book. Our teenage heroes — sun-powered heroine Solar, street-level vigilante Dancer, gravity guru Entropy Emily, alien symbiote Straylight and the aforementioned werewolf, Titus — are forced to find their own way, a feeling no doubt familiar to the book’s intended young audience.
But like the first installment, superhero fans of all ages are likely to appreciate the plot’s action-packed twists and turns, the pop culture references, the revolving door of special guest heroes and villains and above all the humor, which comes both from well-placed one-liners and the characters’ well-drawn personalities.
The story of “Breakout” involves an attempt by a rogue government agency to reign in the young Indestructibles, who’ve become media darlings since saving the world in their first adventure. Several get locked away in an impenetrable underground fortress called the Labyrinth, and must attempt the titular breakout as their comrades who evaded capture gather a team to break in.
Meanwhile, a truly terrifying villain — a walking human plague named Caleb who leaves sickness and death in his wake and likes to visit malls, hospitals and schools — waits in the wings, hoping to take down the Indestructibles in a blaze of … well, germs, I guess.
Phillion juggles the multi-pronged plotlines well, even managing to fit in a burgeoning subplot involving the resurgence of the generation of heroes that preceded the current crop. And the action is impeccably choreographed, no small achievement when you don’t have panels full of artwork to fall back on.
But the novel’s strength is no doubt its characters: Even more so than the first book, where it was hard not to assign standard superhero tropes (Kate = Batman, etc.), the superheroes of “Breakout” are people first, Spandex-clad adventurers second. Add in the particular depth of Phillion’s female characters — heroes and villains both — and you’ve got a superhero saga that really does deserve to break out.
Read more Pete at Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting & Pets Blog.