Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ex Heroes by Peter Clines

Peter Clines' debut Ex Heroes can be best described as take zombies add super heroes then stand back and watch the results.

The book is told using a Now and Then scenario. The Now is some time not that long after the zombie apocalypse, in Los Angeles while a small group of non infected humans fight for survival while holed up in an abandoned movie studio. They're protected from both the 'exes' (as Clines refers to his zombies, which is another reason for the title) and a large gang known as the Seventeens by a small group of super powered humans. There are times when you wonder who is the bigger threat, the exes or the Seventeens.

The Then covers the heroes just prior to or at the start of the outbreak. Unlike the Now which is told in third person, the Then parts of the story are told in first person and cover different viewpoints.

The zombie threat is similar to Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy or the graphic novel and TV hit The Walking Dead in that one becomes a zombie, or ex, by being bitten by someone already infected. Just like with those ideas the zombies are shambling creatures who can only be taken out with a fatal shot or wound to the head, like in The Walking Dead, they are also attracted by noise.

The heroes in a lot of cases have analogues with real comic book heroes. The central character of St George, also known as The Mighty Dragon is rather like Superman in that he has multiple gifts. He's super strong, he can jump high enough to allow him to glide for long distances, he breathes fires, he's invulnerable. Interestingly his role model as a hero is Doctor Who (the classic Doctor, pre the 2005 revival), largely because the Doctor didn't have any powers, he was simply a person who wanted to do the right thing and help others.

The leader of the heroes is a woman called Stealth. We never really find out her complete skill set, but it pales in comparison to St George's. She gave off a bit of a Batman vibe, certainly more the Dark Knight Batman than the earlier campy one from the 60's TV show.

Zzzap had a Human Torch kind of power and Cerberus reminded me of Iron Man, being encased in a super soldier mechanical suit.

This particular zombie book (Clines has since produced Ex Patriots as well) follows a conflict between the heroes and the humans in the movie studio and the Seventeens who are also using exes to get control of the city.

The whole thing is a really fun romp and the addition of super heroes adds a fresh new factor to the zombie fiction genre. The final conflict between a small band of heroes and almost innumerable exes as well as some former heroes that the Seventeens enlisted had a very comic book feel about it. It reminded me both of the final battle in The Avengers and the classic X-Men #137.

If you like comics about super heroes and zombies then you don't need to look further than Ex Heroes for a fun time.

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