Geek Overdrive

Ex-Heroes - Peter Clines
"You can't be Banzai!" cried Mom. "Banzai is a boy. It was in the paper."
"Yeah, I know. It helps hide my identity."
"That name," shouted Dad. "How could you pick a Japanese name for yourself? You're Korean!"


I shouldn't lulz over that exchange but I did.

I could easily hype this book up with big, all caps, and bold proclamations of each heroes' abilities on this one (okay I may have to indulge The Mighty Dragon because holy hell, A FIRE BREATHING HOOMAN!) but I should probably start with a disclaimer that my knowledge of comic books is severely limited to whatever fodder Hollywood decides to feed me. Which speaks as well for the limited range of zombie books I've read.

Shuddup, comic book guy.

Because I have a feeling this would all just sound derivative to a certain class of geeks out there. I mean, 300 million walking dead versus a group of superheroes who may or may not be based on some DC/Marvel character hybrids versus a local LA gang named The South Seventeens? That's hardly groundbreaking. Although, from a certain vantage point, that all sounds like a Dystopian Love Triangle where two guys are fighting over who gets to protect and go alpha male over the dainty and helpless heroine human survivors and the zombies are… well, the zombies. But I am already getting off-track. 

That's one thing I appreciate about Peter Clines' version of the zombocalypse, though. It's not as uncomplicated as Humans vs Zombies, because of course, under threat of getting eaten and near-certain extinction, people will still find something to argue about. Do you subject yourself under the protection of the supers (that does wonders to one's self-esteem issues) or do you find ways to lord over the enemy yourself?

Unfortunately that wasn't the focus of Ex-Heroes and understandably so. There's some political soapboxing here and there but this isn't THAT kind of book. Instead we are introduced to a band of superheroes who, in the apocalyptic present, are living with a group of surviving humans in the fortress they made out of what remains of Paramount Studios in LA. Oh yeah, since this is set in LA, expect the humor to come by way of a couple of these (roughly edited out the non-dialogues)

 

"Is that Sandra Oh?"
"Who the hell is Sandra Oh?"
"From 'Grey's Anatomy'," said Jarvis. "That bitchy Asian woman."
The titan shook her head. "I never watched much television."
"Did you see 'Sideways'?"
"I just said I don't watch television."
"It was a movie."
"Shoot the damn thing!"

 

It's more along the fun, mindless zombie romp except with human magnetic fields and dominatrix ninjas.


This was told in multiple POVs, detailing each hero's backstory and in the process revealing the events that led up to the current and given the sheer number of POVs in that hodgepodge did compromise some of the characters' depth. Some (St. George, Regenerator - whose chapter is a brilliant novella on its own, Stealth and Gorgon) were better fleshed than the rest (Cerberus and Cairax - though I found his character's chapter exposition quite creative)… or as fleshed as characters can be in this setting. Which I hope just leaves more room for improvement in the next books because this felt a bit emotionally sterile and really crowded. You can almost hear each superhero's egos taking a hit, and I won't be surprised if everyone's grumbling about the little "screen time" they got in this book.

The characters that I did get to know of, I did like but maybe I would've liked this better if some of the adrenaline-amped action sequences simmered down on the details a bit and focused better on them. Because, there's only so many cool, graphic ways you can describe how a giant robot kills a zombie before it can get repetitive. 

Speaking of repetitive, I'd also be happier if the adjectives stopped bouncing around "the hero", "the titan" and "the wraith" for certain characters… it got a little annoying. There was not much originality on the zombie-lore either but the quick-pace in the storytelling, the believable plot twists and Clines' sharp dialogue may be an adequate compensation.

Wow, I had a lot of complaints against this book… and yet, oddly, still totally onboard in continuing this series. 

With how things ended? Are you kidding me?!