Though I lingered for a while on whether to continue Terry Brooks’s The Word and the Void Trilogy after reading Running with the Demon, I decided against it. I started a Fantastic Four novel called Doomgate by Jeffrey Lang written back in 2007-2008. I’m glad I did.
This year I plan on meeting my goals for reading. The major reason for this is because that’s my stock in trade as a writer. If there’s one thing writers should do — fiction or nonfiction — it should be to read regularly. I’ve heard of fiction authors being inspired by watching movies or television programs and that’s fine, to a degree. That does not make you a better writer. Reading other people’s works does. It allows you to see good writing and bad writing. So the more you read, the better of a writer you are apt to become.
I’m a Fantastic Four collector. I have many of their comic books. In the hundreds. So I know the characters rather well. When I began reading, I could tell Lang had a good grasp of the characters, which means he either did his homework before writing or he’s a fan himself or both. There is a lightness to the tone that’s always there with the Fantastic Four that’s a refreshing departure from all the dark, excessively violent comics that glut the market today. That’s saying something in light of the subject matter, which is supernatural in tone.
Lang excels at dialogue, and he definitely has the FF down pat. It’s refreshing to know that he’s an actual fan of the first family of comicdom. In the author notes, he admits he’s been reading comics since he was eight years old and that it’s been a lifelong dream to write for Fantastic Four. It shows.
There’s a part where Ben and Johnny (if you’re not sure who that is, time to Google them here) are about to throw down with some bad guys. Ben asks Johnny if he’s going to say it. What he’s talking about is Ben’s signature battle cry, “It’s clobberin time!” He ends up saying a version of it, then starts to throw down. One of the baddies gets the jump on him but Ben recovers, throwing a haymaker and then declaring, “I told you what time it was.” I couldn’t help but laugh. That is some classic Ben Grimm.
There’s another section later on when Reed Richards tells Ben to stay at the Baxter Building (their headquarters) while he goes off after the bad guys. Grimm’s retort is outstanding. Here’s an excerpt:
“Wow, Stretch,” Ben said, dropping his voice to a low whisper. “Please tell me you ain’t playing the ‘I’m the only one who can set this right card’, because if you do, I might have to biff you into next week.”Ben Grimm, Doomgate
Most enjoyable line in the book though there were a few others. Made me laugh. Perfect.
If you head over to Amazon and look at the reviews, you’d think the book was just okay since it has three stars. It isn’t. Don’t let that fool you. Read the five-star reviews and skip the two-star review there. That person obviously has no clue about who the Fantastic Four is and probably never picked up the source material. This book is a great representation of who they are.
The book is not perfect, though, and I will concede that it bogs down in a couple places. But that’s to build strong characterization, and you have to like that to get into this kind of thing. Of course, as a writer, you will always hear me complain about too much of the passive voice in novels. I’m not a fan of it. I’m also not a fan of copious adverbs, and this novel was borderline in their overuse.
Overall, I give Fantastic Four: Doomgate a solid letter grade of B and will be giving it four stars on Goodreads. I enjoyed this, and it has me looking forward to reading some other books by Jeff.