Aug 16, 2011: I suppose there are people out there who will dismiss "superhero fiction" as trivial, just like there are people who feel that way about space opera, or sword & sorcery, or high fantasy, or any other kind of genre fiction. I’m not one of those people, but I will admit that I’d never really been comfortable reading it. I’m used to reading about superheroes in comic books—the genre and the medium are so intertwined in my experience it’s difficult to imagine reading the genre in any other form. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have the same association, and as such haven’t tried reading any of the superhero serials listed on this site because you can’t wrap your brain around the fact that it’s not a comic book.
If that’s the case . . . take a deep breath, steel yourself, and start reading this serial. In a few chapters you’ll be cured.
The Legion of Nothing focuses on the teenage grandchildren of one of the most famous Superhero Teams to come out of the post World War II era. It’s (mostly) told from the perspective of Nick, the grandson of the Rocket. Nick doesn’t have powers, but like his grandfather he has a knack for technology, and when his grandfather died he inherited his grandfather’s legacy—including his powered armor and a fully-functional superhero base. He and the other descendants of the Grand Lake Heroes League decide to take up the mantles of their grandparents and fight crime . . . while trying to keep their curfew, finish their homework, graduate from high school and get into college.
It’s a fantastic story. The world they live in has adapted to heroes and villains in unexpected ways (one of the themes that keep popping up is that normal humans have mostly given up trying to get a handle on how to deal with super powered beings, and mostly rely on heroes to police themselves and the villains, and focus on cleaning up the mess.) The young heroes are promising but headstrong and frequently find themselves in over their heads. Zoetewey has a gift for writing combat, which is important in a story that has super powered beings frequently trying to tear each other limb from limb. The world is interesting, the characters are interesting, and once I started reading I found myself devoting all my spare time—including time I could have been writing, myself—reading what he’s written so far.
The posts are relatively short, but the archives stretch back to late 2007 so there’s a lot of story to go through. It’s worth the time, though, and it’s not a chore. The story is fun. There are parts that are darker than others, but I wouldn’t really call it a dark story overall.
One of the advantages of reading a superhero story as prose, rather than in comic format, is that you can spend more time reading about the motivations of the characters. Why Nick does what he does is as interesting as what he does. He isn’t what I’d call the most enthusiastic hero, since he keeps noticing all the ways Things Could Go Horribly Wrong (which many of his teammates don’t seem to have grasped yet) and there is at least one suggestion that his lack of commitment will wind up destroying the entire world. It’s hard for me to see how that could happen—it’s easier to imagine that one of his hyper-enthusiastic teammates will do something so brazenly stupid that they’ll leave a the smoking remains of a crater where Earth used to be—but it is easy to see Nick’s ambivalence towards heroics, and I’m interested to see where that will lead.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the story is learning about how heroes deal with their private lives. Their grandfathers wanted secret identities, and they didn’t want their children, grandchildren, and other loved ones put at risk. The lengths they went to in order to preserve their secret identities are surprising and not altogether ethical. In fact, many of the things heroes do in this universe are not altogether ethical, including—from time to time—getting away with murder with practically no consequences. The world is different because they exist, and the way that society as a whole shrugs its shoulders because it can’t think of anything else to do is genuinely fascinating and fairly believable to boot.
Extremely well done; highly recommended.