With the proliferation of so many superhero movies in the last 15 years, it would seem to me that a slate of novels would follow. Original stories. Not those lame movie adaptation deals. In the area where I live, finding superhero prose novels is a tough deal which I mentioned before.  But it looks like I’m going to be quite busy since recently found a gold mine of these online.

To start of my superhero binge reading, I cracked open a book that a friend gave me quite some time ago. A fellow comic geek. It starred the famous family foursome the Fantastic Four and the name of the book was War Zone. I had started the book four times and some trouble getting past the first five pages. My struggle didn’t have anything to do with the writing as much as the character dynamic. The Fantastic Four is a different kind of superhero team in that it’s comprised of close family members. They often highlight the team attempting to function with some semblance of normalcy despite their notoriety and unique abilities. This is how the book begins and though it was written well, each time I began the book, I simply wasn’t in the mood and would only finish a paragraph before putting it down.

I picked the book up again recently and decided that I was going to buckle down and finish it unless it was horrid beyond measure. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I did.

Fantastic Four: War Zone (2005), written by Greg Cox, finds the protagonists investigating the ominous Negative Zone to determine why dimensional rifts are opening up randomly in New York City and letting through hostile denizens. It’s a race against time as the team separates, one to protect Earth and one to investigate the phenomena, before a force is unleashed that will destroy the planet.

I must admit that I was surprised at how good the book was given how many times I started and stopped. But Cox did a great job holding my interest as he switched back and forth between settings. This allowed him to leave off each scene with a mini cliffhanger that spurs the reader on. Some were strong and some were mild.

One thing that I was surprised at is the number of grammatical errors which I’m positive was due to lazy editing. Though it wasn’t pervasive in ratio to the whole novel, it certainly was too much. This is Writing 101 and a faux pas you don’t want to make as a writer. Check and double check spelling and grammar.

Cox used a cool writing device that gave you the feel of reading a comic book in prose form. It’s a simple but effective tool. He simply put the character’s thoughts in italics which took the place of the old thought bubbles (replaced with thought captions today). As a comic fan, I appreciated this and it made the reading more enjoyable. Which brings me to another point: know your audience and genre. Write a genre because you know and love it, not because it’s popular.

The ending was not horrible but it wasn’t great either. Weak is the word I would use. The writing is relatively strong which makes up for it. Slightly. But the build was a tad anticlimactic and left me a little empty.

All in all, it wasn’t half bad. If the ending was stronger, I would have given this four stars on my Goodreads page. The best I can do is three. But hey, I got the book for free and enjoyed the ride so there’s no complaints here.

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