For Mighty Mighty
Seeing that William Freedman’s terrific new novel, Mighty Mighty, is a superhero satire, it’s fitting that this review has something of an origin story.
Back in 2011, I gave Freedman’s first satiric novel, Land That I Love, a less-than-kind review. My chief criticism: indiscriminate joke cramming at the cost of character and plot. For all that, I acknowledged Freedman’s considerable potential and genuine absurdist flare, hoping that one day he would use his powers for good.
And I’m happy to report that he has done so. Mighty Mighty is the perfect vehicle for Freedman’s manic inventiveness and unbounded comedic style.
Mighty Mighty is set in a world where super-powered people are common—so common, in fact, that laws have been passed to corral them into mundane occupations like TSA screeners and mall cops. Only one government-sanctioned super team remains: The Crusaders, led by Colonel America and compatriots like Pantagruel, The World’s Largest Human; his wife Midge (sort of a pixie); Christ the Son (just what he sounds like); and The Carbon Avenger, a once-human slab of malleable shale.
The Crusaders have had their hands full lately, thwarting evil voudon sorceress Maman Brigitte, The Incomprehensible Singh and other members of the American Malevolence Institute from compiling a full Malificium Deck (kind of like Magic: The Gathering cards which impart real powers) for nefarious purposes unknown.
But when Maman Brigitte and her minions descend on a collectible card shop in the Chesterfield Mall in St. Louis, the mall’s super contingent are forced to take up the fight: Orville Ortley—a.k.a. Mucus-Man; mild-mannered Mindy Maguire, who must reluctantly transform into her distractingly beautiful alter-ego Supermodel; superslacker Bobby Bolter, also known as The Blur; and their seemingly un-heroic back-office manager Shel Shapiro.
And that’s just the beginning of a story that quickly leaves the mall and becomes so sprawling and intertwined that it gives DC’s Silver and Bronze Ages a run for their money. It’s hard to believe just how much story Freedman manages to cram into 414 pages. But for all that, the narrative remains quick-paced and funny, breezily embracing every convoluted comic book trapping.
And though Mighty Mighty is a superhero satire at heart, Freedman uses it as a springboard to lampoon many other SF&F and Horror mainstays, turning it into a cheeky meta-wink to genre fans of all stripes. Because of this, Freedman’s Mighty Mighty joins the ranks of genre send-ups like The Venture Bros. andDoctor Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog. Its scathing eye is all encompassing, but every satirical tackle is grounded in genuine love and respect.
On a more basic level, Mighty Mighty is also filled with terrific characters that you can really care about and root for. Orville, Mindy and Shel are chief among them, but even ancillary players like The Indomitable Lugh and Lou Noble, America’s Greatest Dick, inspire a measure of sincerely whacky affection. In fact, the cast is so extensive and the action so furious at times that the story threatens to fly apart. But then Freedman swoops in and carries the narrative in new and unexpectedly draw-dropping directions.
Of course Mighty Mighty wouldn’t be much of a comic book homage if it didn’t leave room for a sequel, and Freedman obliges. But unlike most comic books, each of the featured heroes (and villains) have definitive story arcs that combine to form a complete narrative. So a sequel isn’t strictly necessary. But I for one eagerly await more thrillingly absurd adventures in the Mighty-verse.
By Pro_Freelancer on November 19, 2014
Admittedly, the unexpected twist in the final stage did not thrill me at first, but I found out that when Freedman crosses a genre boundary he lays claim to it with very best.
By K. Hankinson on December 16, 2014
By Michael Fullerton on August 4, 2015
Wonderfully fast paced, lighthearted, and just a raucous good time, Mighty Mighty is an entertaining spoof of the superhero genre complete with oddball characters in some less than super moments. I was surprised at how quickly the book grabbed me, and despite its light, satirical tone, characters are wonderfully developed with often hysterical stories and personalities. The text jumps back and forth between current events and flashbacks, so you get to know the origins of the characters — heroes and villains alike. I thought that was an excellent tool used by the author.
This was my first exposure to William Freedman’s work, but now I am definitely going to keep an eye out for others.
For Age of Certainty
For Land That I Love
This is SF comedy, although more parody than out and out slapstick. Or political satire on a cosmic scale with a passing nod to Douglas Adams. … If you like lampoons and the parodies of the classics that were popular not long ago, you’ll enjoy this too. SF with a twist and a spin.
If you like The Daily Show and thought that George W. Bush was the world’s biggest idiot…if you like your political satire served up science-fiction style…if you can’t wait to get your hands on a book that names its native American characters things like “Stuffed in a Gym Locker” and “Should Switch to Decaf” – your book is here. If you thought the Iraq war was a complete waste of time and can envision a future where eating actual food is such a novelty that an army is incapacitated by cheeseburgers (and they did not even know to take off the paper wrappers before eating them)…if you think the warriors at the sharp end of the stick often know much more than their political masters…William Freedman is about to make your day.
Brought to you by a South African press, this book was written by a New Yorker who has not sacrificed a plot for humor. But, boy, does he sacrifice a number of sacred cows. Mark Twain was right: sacred cows do make the best hamburger, and Freedman serves up a fast food chain’s worth of satire and wit.
Land That I Love is Jon Stewart and Douglas Adams’ bastard love child.
From B.D. Whitney at BookWenches: (7 May 2010)
When I received a copy of William Freedman’s novel Land That I Love from the fine folks at Rebel e Publishers, I took one look at the cover and made a few snap judgments. I mean, really…Barbie with a gun in front of Mount Rushmore? How strange was this book going to be, anyway? (So sniffs a woman who reads books covered with nekkid male torsos. Honestly, I should be ashamed.) I’m a sucker for a laugh, however, so I dove in to this story expecting something fluffy and funny. What I actually got completely surprised me. Yes, this story is humorous; it is also fiercely satirical, intelligent, and extremely well-written. This clever novel is filled with political and social commentary, most of it humorous but some of it serious, and while the fun it pokes is frequently sharply pointed, it is never mean-spirited.
Land That I Love retells the story of 911 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with, of course, much artistic license. The Eminent Doman plays the role of the United States, and America and its timber represent – you got it – Iraq and oil. And while I did not exactly make a character-by-character list, I had a heck of a good time playing the game of trying to identify who or what each one is meant to represent.
This story is not just a retelling of Iraq, however. It also contains elements of Star Trek and The War of the Worlds that will delight fans of science fiction. One of the recurring gags in the story involves the repeated demise of red-shirted young occupation soldiers, all by the name of “Coder.” Mr. Freedman also manages to fit Gene Roddenberry and H. G. Wells into the story in very minor roles, and even though when they use the phrase “Beam me up,” they are talking about a certain Kentucky bourbon, it still doesn’t fail to strike a comic note.
One of the most humorous and distracting aspects of Land That I Love is Mr. Freedman’s naming of his characters. Faced with monikers like Sajak Pickfour, Sanmateo Veecey, Reit Daytrader, and M. Griffin Croupier VII (don’t call him “Lucky”), I found myself so caught up in the beginning with the multitude of colorfully-named characters that I almost lost my grasp of the story. But after a little initial confusion, which I believe reflects more on me than on the novel, I settled in to enjoy the heck out of the story, the characters, and the occasional intercepted zinger or two.
I found Land That I Love to be a wonderful, colorful, and very thought-provoking novel. It has just a whisper of what I would consider a Douglas Adams feel to it (if I can say that without detracting from the obvious intelligence and talent of the author) but is without a doubt utterly unique. And believe me when I say that the cover featuring Amazon Silicone Barbie actually does make a funny kind of sense. I highly recommend this novel to readers who are looking for something smart and witty and just a little bit different from the norm. Give this one a read. I’m convinced that you won’t regret it or forget it any time soon.