Review: Prepare To Die

As a long-time comics reader, it’s been strange to watch them become so prevalent in popular culture.  When I was a kid, something like Super Folks was a genuine anomaly – commenting on real life through comics in a way that indicated a love of that medium was never done.  Lately this has become a more common lens through which to get at the world.  Prepare To Die! is Paul Tobin’s entry.

Tobin has built a world of superheroes in the 90’s comics sense.  His heroes (and villians) sport colorful powers and celebrity stature backed with realistic characterization and real failings.  His hook is that when confronted with the cliched command “Prepare to die!”, Tobin’s hero, Steve Clarke,  negotiates a 2 week cease fire to do just that.

From there the history of the world and the protagonist unspool as we follow Steve through his bucket list.  Following Steve is fun and moving.  Superheroics is mostly teenage boy wish-fulfillment and yanking his protagonist into that world at that age lets Tobin riff on celebrity and the differences between childhood dreams and adult aspirations.  Steve’s reflections are resonant and believable while the suddenly ticking clock gives his introspection real stakes.  This is good stuff.

And then it all comes off the rails for me in the last chapter.  The tone and what I thought was the theme all change and the world finishes in a place that makes a lot of that soul searching seem moot.

That may be my limitation, of course.  And heaven knows that so many promising comic series come to an unsatisfying conclusion that it’s practically a genre trope. But, still, the ending really felt too arbitrary and at odds with the rest of the book for me.

The ending would not have disappointed me if the vast majority of the book wasn’t excellent.  Tobin has a knack for getting inside the head of young men and putting them on the page for all to see – good and bad.  He also puts together a propulsive adventure story and comics plot. There’s a lot to like here, but that final chapter just doesn’t work for me.

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