Vicious – V.E. Schwab [Books]

viciousIt’s been just over a year now since I started reading books by V.E Schwab, and every single one has been absolute gold. I’m slowly building up my collection and working my way through her novels. So far, I’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, The Near Witch, and City of Ghosts, as well as the Steel Prince graphic novel more recently. Even this small selection of Schwab’s books shows her ability to write in different genres and settings.

Vicious is the story of Victor and Eli, two young men, roommates who embark on a journey to discover if they can induce superpowers in one another. But their success comes at a price. Victor ends up in prison, while Eli establishes himself as a hero, setting out to eradicate other superpowered humans.

The most interesting thing for me in Vicious is how Schwab challenges the notions of what makes a hero, and what makes a villain. For the reader, it’s clear who we are rooting for, but in another story, the tables would be turned, with the reader/viewer rooting for the typical All American Hero, and eagerly awaiting the villain’s downfall. To everyone else, Eli is a protector, just looking out for people and ensuring they are safe.

The themes here are those that have run through stories of superpowered humans since they first graced the pages of comic books. Essentially, the question here – who watches the Watchmen? But Schwab brings her own talent to these themes, giving us characters we completely care about, with their own individual quirks and concerns. She presents us with a plot that is intriguing and gripping, spending part of the novel switching back and forth between Victor and Eli’s college days, and the present, as the two men come closer to seeing each other once again.

Schwab handles prose masterfully, conveying a lot – themes, character, plot – in a way that is easy to read, flows really well, and keeps the reader utterly gripped. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vicious, and it introduced a set of characters I would be all too keen to follow in further books. Hopefully I’ll get to read Vengeful someday soon.

 

The Boys, Volume One: The Name of the Game – Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson [Graphic Novels]

250px-The-Boys_Volume_OneWARNING: There is likely to be swearing in this review, as personally I think it might be hard to talk about The Boys without a little bit of swearing.

The Boys is a small group of people, four men, one woman, who have one job: to keep the superheroes in line. Superheroes who the public adores, who have fantastic public images, but who, in reality, are little more than ambitious, power-hungry sociopaths who think everyone else is there for their bidding only.

Our way in is through Wee Hughie, a young man from Scotland, who gets roped into The Boys after something horrific happens to him. But throughout the book, we also get glimpses of the superhero groups, of which there are various kinds in North America alone. The Young Americans, Teenage Kix, and The Seven, who are essentially the JL, but with less morals.

Admittedly, this is not going to be for everyone. It’s graphic in nature, both with sex and violence, and it strips away the clean-cut image of the hero to something much dirtier. These heroes aren’t in it to help people. They’re not Captain America, Superman, Iron Man, Captain Marvel or any of the others we’ve seen on the big screen. They are, unfortunately, a more realistic view of what happens when the wrong people get powers.

But they’re not all like that, and in Volume 1, we glimpse a young woman who achieves her dream and gets to play in the big leagues, only to find it’s not exactly what she was hoping for.

My literal reaction, just a few short pages in, was ‘HOLY SHIT’. Throughout, there are moments that make you want to weep, that stick in your throat, combined with a few instances of humour.

It seems like an odd word to use for such a graphic, err, graphic novel, but I did really enjoy reading The Boys, and I’m eager to pick up Volume Two, to find out what happens next. If you like comics with twists on the whole superhero thing, I would definitely suggest checking this out. And hopefully we’ll have the TV series to enjoy one day, too.