Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl. When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be…
A love letter to comics, Adam Christopher’s second novel (this year!) is a different beast to his successful Empire State. Having enjoyed Empire State, it was a pleasure when an advance copy of Seven Wonders arrived with me. I was slightly surprised to find that it was set in a completely different world, with a different cast of characters. Fusing the two superhero movies of the summer, Seven Wonders is a distillation of the Avengers and Batman with more than a dash of realism and humour.
Christopher obviously has a story he wants to tell with this particular novel and for the most part he tells it very well. Surprisingly adult, considering the Silver Age nature of our heroes, it deals with themes of power, death and responsibility in the context of a world populated by superheroes. In the style of Astro City and Marvels, your day in San Ventura could easily be disrupted by a fight between the Seven Wonders and the Cowl.
The titular Seven Wonders are absent for much of the first part of the novel. An increasingly vague impression is built up of these reclusive protectors. When we do meet them, it seems they are probably just heroes rather than superheroes but therein lies the interest. The Seven Wonders have an expectation of them, both from the audience and the residents of San Ventura, but ultimately they have to fail to live up to this expectation. Very quickly, we discover that the superheroes are not perfect and have some very human flaws that unravel the longer the story goes on. Christopher neatly toys with expectation and the disappointment of reality in a convincing and clever way. Also, considering we’re reliant on the prose to do the work to differentiate between them, Christopher does a good job giving them distinct personalities.
A particular highlight is the reversing situation between Tony and the Cowl. As Tony’s powers increase, the Cowl’s are ebbing away. Can Tony defeat the Cowl, or is the Cowl’s mantle to be taken on by Tony? When the two do meet, it is an electric confrontation. Indeed, frequently the confrontations that occur, and resulting superhero fights are adeptly handled by Christopher. They don’t belie their comic book roots and the prose is big and splashy without being clichéd.
Once again, Christopher’s skills at creating a tangible, real and inhabited world come to the fore. San Ventura is a more open and media-savvy world than the Empire State. There are comparisons to Apple, recurring news bulletins – even the villain is a brand in this world. Impressively, the way the world is painted in prose through double-page layouts, mimicking the comic books Seven Wonders is putting in prose.
Whilst the characters might be painted in broad strokes, this is very in keeping with the comic book feel Christopher is going for. Heroes and villains aren’t always painted in such broad strokes though, and throughout the book, the meticulous plotting will pull the rug from under your feet more than once. Some stunning cliffhangers maintain the momentum of the story, and the developed world that the Seven Wonders inhabits plays to its strengths allow for a more rounded depiction of what it means to be a superhero, and how absolute power can corrupt. Clever, fresh and bringing something new to the table, Seven Wonders is another thrilling roller-coaster ride from an author who is quickly becoming a master of multi-genre adventure.
The Fiction Stroker gives Seven Wonders four strokes out of five:
Seven Wonders is available from Angry Robot books, and all good bookstores now.
Come back soon for an exclusive interview with author Adam Christopher, where he talks about Seven Wonders and the future!