Here’s a classic example of a strange niche book
that totally lies with its title. I was expecting an introduction, targeted
to comic novices who wanted intelligent reasons to read comics. While
this can be gleaned from the book, the analysis is so literary and intellectual
that it can only appeal to the smallest of audiences, and certainly not
to anyone who doesn’t already have a healthy love of superheroes.
Better titles would have been, “The Modern Superhero Myths,” or “Superhero
Themes in the Twenty-First Century” or something. Klock basically
subjects the best comics works of the past two decades to not only individual
literary analysis, but an overall theme of superhero evolution. I doubt
the book would appeal to anyone not already intimately familiar with
the few main works studied, nor to anyone without a strong tolerance
for pretentious literary-speak.
Luckily, I have both. Yes, I absolutely loved this book. I breezed through
the dense writing in three days. Klock’s insights into individual
works, particularly Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, were
brilliant. But since I had read several of these types of analyses in
comics articles before, especially of Watchmen, what impressed
me even more was his overarching theme of how the best comics writing,
particularly Moore’s, works on several thematic levels. According
to Klock, some of these comics masterpieces serve as examinations of
various states of the comics industry and medium itself, as well as the
reasons and practices of revising any story, since superhero comics revolve
totally around revisionism.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this book with a higher rating
because Klock’s writing is so inaccessible. I wanted it to be a
book I could give to those of my friends who are smart but unfamiliar
with comics. But I think it would be too difficult to consume. It reads
like a graduate school thesis, which I’m sure is what it started
out as. It thrives on the terminology and references of the insular world
of poetry analysis. Although I’d love to have a good conversation
with both of the other people it must have appealed to, I can’t
recommend it to anyone else.