June 14, 2012

Off the Shelf: I, Crimsonstreak

Title: I, Crimsonstreak
Author: Matt Adams
Artist: Brooke Stephenson
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam

The superhero genre seems to be on a roll with the small press and indie writers. And while I appreciate their golden and silver age sentimentality, the books do seem to be stuck in that era. Especially since they tend to have a tongue in cheek and often YA sentimentality. On the surface, I, Crimsonstreak seems to follow the trend. At a quick glance, it doesn’t have too much of the bronze age and modern age sensibilities, it uses a tongue in cheek style of first person humor, uses over-the-top pseudo science, and has plenty of influence from the classic age Batman, Superman, and Justice League. However, once I got past the first few pages, I found plenty of twists that prevents it from being yet another superhero clone.

From the beginning of the plot summary, it might sound like a typical silver age story line. Hero turned supervillain Colonel Chaos creates a fascist state disguised as a utopia, and creates essentially a gestapo to stop all superheros. Chris Fairborne, former superhero Crimsonspeed, is falsely accused of being a supervillain and is locked up in the Clermont Institute for the Criminally insane along with many other former superheroes. He finally breaks out, goes incognito, and decides to put a stop to Colonel Chaos once and for all.

However, there’s one catch. Colonel Chaos is Crimsonstreak’s father. This might sound like a silly little twist, but it does make things more complicated. It provides motivation to keep on reading with questions like, “How did Colonel Chaos become evil?”; “How will Crimsonstreak stop him (since Colonel Chaos is his father at the end of the day)?”; and, “Is it really his father, or is it an impostor or a Colonel Chaos from an alternate dimension?”

It’s not just the fact that the plot has a few twists that makes it interesting, it’s also how the story is told. Every chapter jumps back and forth between the current time and past events that explain the present. Sometimes these quick jumps can be confusing, but for the most part the transitions are easy to follow along. Not only do they expand the plot some more, but they also give lots of insight into the characters.

Speaking of characters, Matt Adams’s greatest strength here is the characters’ chemistries and dialog, with many of the lines being used for well done humor. One of my favorite chemistries is between Crimsonstreak and Mortimer. Mortimer is Crusading Comet’s butler, essentially what Alfred is to Batman. Mortimer’s dry, backhanded remarks which drive Crimsonstreak insane always make for good comedic relief.

Since this is a first person novel, it’s important that the main character, Crimsonstreak, is interesting and entertaining the whole way through. On the outside, he’s more of a Flash copycat. A man who can run at Crimsonspeed and wears a crimson red suit. However, his narration and attitude is closer to Deadpool, minus all of the insanity (or most of it, anyway). He always has a humorous if not cynically sarcastic outlook on things, and often times he’ll bring up pop trivia and analogies. Actually, the narration and style reminded me of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat. Especially in the sense that there’s tons of pop trivia (including Marvel and DC), which will either delight or infuriate readers.

Ultimately, I, Crimsonstreak is a novel that fits comfortably alongside books such as Wearing the Cape or Charlotte Powers: Power Down, while staying away from the YA mold and having just enough twists to keep it original, with an entertaining style that keeps the pages turning. If you don’t like most superhero novels, you’ll probably not like this one. And perhaps more hardcore comic book fans will simply write this off as a hokey tribute to Marvel and DC comics. But if you’re looking for entertainment and a damn good reference to Metal Gear Solid, then this is the book for you.

Andrew Hudson


One Comment

  1. […] or the trivial allusions of everything from Star Wars to Metal Gear Solid, Matt Adams’s I, Crimsonstreak is an honest tribute to both comic books and fandom while refusing to be simply a superhero clone. […]

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