Monday, October 21, 2019

The Hero Revealed

The Hero Revealed
by William Boniface
Recommended Ages: 10+

In Superopolis, everyone has a superpower – except Ordinary Boy, known as O Boy or OB to his friends. Some of them use their powers to fight crime, others to commit it. Mostly, they just try to make a living – like the Levitator effortlessly delivering heavy packages, or the Big Bouncer using his human gym ball skills to stock shelves at Mighty Mart. OB’s mom, whose gaze can be chilling when she wants it to be, has a well-paid job at a refrigeration firm called Corpsicle. His dad can cook food with his bare hands. His teacher, Ms. Marble, can turn a rowdy class into stone – for a minute or two. Even the other kids in OB’s class have strange powers.

The trouble is, when everyone is special, nobody is – which is perhaps why Thermo (O Boy’s dad) has so much trouble getting into the League of Ultimate Goodness. He just wants to fight crime, but the Amazing Indestructo (who flies around with the aid of a jet pack) isn’t interested in the help of anybody talented enough to upstage him in the media circus he keeps focused on himself. Besides, he’s pretty busy cashing in on his fame. So, funnily enough, Ordinary Boy’s ordinariness allows him to become the kid everybody depends on. Especially because he has brains, uses common sense and (by necessity) knows how to get things done the hard way, which is sometimes the only way.

In his debut adventure, O Boy joins a group of school kids including Stench (who is super strong in more ways than one), Plasma Girl (who can transform into ooze), Tadpole (who can stick his tongue out, like, 20 feet) and Halogen Boy (who, ironically, isn’t all that bright) to complete their collection of a set of superhero and -villain trading cards. Along the way, they learn lessons about supply and demand and, as a free bonus, discover a plot to destroy Superopolis. In a story that broadly lampoons our generation’s overall obliviousness to the mind tricks the commercial media play on us, they face villains who do not go gently into that good night and a boss hero who isn’t all that he publicizes himself to be. They discover their own strengths, and particularly, the extraordinary qualities of a boy everyone thinks is nothing special.

It’s a goofy book that hits notes I have heard elsewhere, but makes its own unique music. Kids going to schools for junior superheroes are not new, nor is the idea of their grown-up idols being revealed as less than advertised. Also, I’ll admit that it’s a little on the lighter side for my taste, or maybe younger would be a better way to put it. In its favor, it scores some palpable hits on mindless commercialism and junk culture. Its characters form an effective ensemble, sharing a fun patter and a bunch of adventures that are, both at once, off-the-wall silly and embarrassingly close to one’s memories of childhood hijinks. It’s the kind of fantasy concept that fulfills many kids’ wish to live in a comic-book universe and, at the same time, makes them happy they don’t have to.

This is Book 1 of the Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy. Its sequels are The Return of Meteor Boy? and The Great Powers Outage. William Boniface is also the author of a novel titled Studs (there's a horse on the cover) and a couple dozen children's books, including What Do You Want on Your Pizza? and There's a Dinosaur in My Soup. Many of his titles have holiday themes and/or the words "Five Little" in them (Five Little Pumpkins, Five Little Bunny Rabbits, etc.).

No comments: