Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu


Doesn't everyone secretly want to be a superhero? For Simon Pooni, a twelve year old with severe multiple sclerosis, that wish is more desperate and urgent than it is for most boys his age. He spends most of his time in a wheelchair, and finds even ordinary things like bathing and getting dressed extremely difficult. He also gets bullied because of his condition. When a magic space monkey called Ormon turns up and grants him a wish it's an easy decision for the boy: he wants to be Superior, the caped hero he's admired and envied at the movies.

However Ormon doesn't tell Simon why he's given him this power, promising only that everything will be explained in a week. At first the boy has trouble getting to grips with his new powers and altered appearance. He finds people aren't always willing to accept a genuine superhero in their midst. His struggles with his powers parallel some of those that he faced when getting to grips with going about his ordinary life with the added difficulty of having MS.

Simon thinks Ormon is some kind of angel, and he sets about saving lives and putting the world to rights. But has he misjudged the strange space monkey? And what will he do about the super-villain Abraxas, who has stepped out of the big screen just as improbably as his enemy Superior?

There are some hilarious juxtapositions of superhero fighting and posing next to childish banter. Superior is a big boy scout, both in his on-screen version and Simon Pooni's imitation of his hero. The dialogue is great, particularly between Simon and his best friend Chris.

There's no doubting the inspiration behind this story. It's evident in the dedication at the end and the square-jawed caped hero with more than a passing resemblance to Christopher Reeve. Maddie Knox is the Lois Lane character, a curious and over-achieving reporter who stops at nothing to get her story. The main difference between Maddie and Lois is the clothes, mostly the lack of them in Maddie's case. Unfortunately Superior is very heavy-handed on the scantily-clad females, which is odd for a story whose main characters are all so juvenile. Even when the women in it are fully clothed the views of them seem to emphasise cleavage and backsides in a way that doesn't apply to the male characters. The message of a lot of the imagery seems to be: be the hero, get the girl. It's at odds with the true ages of the main characters, and even with the text. However there is also a suggestion that Maddie Knox is using her sexuality to get ahead, for example when she sets up an interview with Superior and tells her boss she's "going to give him the best sex he's ever had" in order to get him to give her a scoop. It's offensive, as if a fully clothed woman couldn't succeed in journalism. The overly sexualised way women are shown is also disturbing and unnecessary in a story like this.

There are also quite a few hackneyed characters, particularly the bully Sharpie and his uncaring family. Many of the characters border on caricature, although this is to be expected of the superheroes and villains because they come out of a fictional world. However the story isn't wholly predictable. The portrayal of how it feels to have MS is harrowing, and the tale is full of thoughtful reflections on illness and weakness that add depth and make up for the corny situations. It doesn't quite make up for the inappropriate depictions of women, though.

19th June 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
    Male Protagonist  

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