Thursday, June 07, 2007

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain

I've always been sort of a closet comic book geek. It started when I was a kid. Our neighborhood library had piles of comics you could check out. I think I read every single one of them several times.

In recent years, though, I've been more interested in people who are willing to take comic conventions and stand them on their head. For example, I love Watchmen. I devoured 1602. It's part of the reason why I'm so enamored with Heroes (although I think it's obvious that some of the writers cribbed from Watchmen, but what do I know?). That's why I was so eager to read Minister Faust's From the Notebook of Dr. Brain.

The premise was interesting enough. A group of superheroes are sent to Dr. Eva Brain-Silverman for counselling. It seems that the "Fantastic Order of Justice," to which our heroes belong, are worried about their job performance and the issues that seem to be simmering in their relationships. If they want to keep their positions in the F*O*O*J, they need to complete therapy with Dr. Brain.

The world that Faust creates is interesting as well. This is a world where superheroes are increasingly unnecessary. All of the supervillains have been either imprisoned or killed. So what direction will the F*O*O*J go in? Who will lead it into this new era? And how will Dr. Brain's "sanity supplicants" handle a new threat that threatens to tear them apart?

Faust created an intricate plot that kept me guessing. Every time I thought I had a handle on what was happening, he would veer off in an unexpected direction. When I finally understood how everything fit together, I have to admit I was a little disappointed; it was a bit too obvious for my liking, but it was still a satisfying end.

I only have two real complaints about this book.

First of all, there's the fact that some of the characters are a bit too "transparent." What I mean is that it's obvious who Faust is lampooning when it comes to Omnipotent Man (the last survivor of the planet Argon) and Flying Squirrel (an aging billionaire with tons of high-tech toys at his disposal). Given the creativity that Faust showed in creating his other heroes, you would think he could have come up with truly original characters who could still fit into the story as Omnipotent Man and Flying Squirrel did.

Second, there's the matter of voice. This one is kind of tough for me to judge. Faust has a unique voice and employed it very well in this book but it wore on me after a while. Let me explain: the book itself is presented as a self-help book, written by Dr. Brain to superheroes in need of her help. As such, you could argue that it's not Faust's voice that I have a problem with but his portrayal of Dr. Brain's voice.

The problem I had is that "Dr. Brain" had a love for over-the-top similes and metaphors. It got to be too much after a while. There were a few times when I had to grit my teeth and just slog through them to find out what was going to happen next.

Don't get me wrong. This was a great book and gave me a lot of food for thought (a great thing for any book to do, especially one that's supposed to be a comedy). I would highly recommend this one, whether you're a closet comic book geek like me or not.

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