The second Tuesday of every month my best friend and I would rush to Continental Comics after school to wrap our grubby mitts on the new mags filled with super powered heroes and their feats of daring do saving the world one demented mastermind at a time. If you told me back then that the Avengers and X-Men would become two of the biggest money making film franchises and superhero culture transformed from geeky, pimple faced backroom bully escapism to mainstream acceptance and even coolness, I would have scoffed in disbelief.
Yet here I am all growds up with a wife and kids of my very own. Watching my boys become fans of these spectacular characters out in the open with no fear of being stuffed into a locker or head swirlied in the locker room toilet. Comic book heroes are everywhere in pop culture. Of course they’ve been popular for decades, but looked down as childish and unsophisticated. Get caught with a comic book and be prepared to get your head noogied by the entire Varsity football team. Not so in these more modern accepting times. No longer the campy SMACK, WHAM, POW of the original Batman series, these stories have depth and impact far beyond what my father used to dismiss as immature and “not valid reading material.”
While on a visit to the local library, I scanned through the titles on the New Release shelf as I am known to do. Bold and eye grabbing, the titular word hooked me at first glance. I slid the book from between it’s counterparts and read the back cover description:
“In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.”
I don’t know why, but I didn’t quite get that this was about mutants. No laser shooting eyes or wings sprouting from shoulder blades, no weather manipulation or control over every piece of metal. These powers are much more subtle and believable. Forget the spandex and played out secret code names, these characters are you and me. (Just throw in some bonus talents we only dreamed we could have in real life!)
Cooper is your average ex-husband, father and cop. Only he’s not. He can read where your punch will land before it’s thrown and make sure he isn’t there when the fist arrives. He knows where you’ll shoot by watching how you move and the bullets will only find empty air. Not a bad talent to have if you’re tracking down the world’s most wanted terrorist and his extremely deadly henchmen.
Erik Epstein is good with numbers. So good in fact that he topples the stock exchanges of the entire world. Over night he is a billionaire. He purchases enough land from the government to create his own country. A country for “Brilliants” and “Twists”. People us normal humans are afraid of. We are afraid of them because of the chief terrorist John Smith. The ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to take the world away from typical, not advanced humans.
Spectacularly believable characters placed in high energy, dire situations with world altering consequences from every slit second decision. Heart racing action pulling against taught suspenseful strings with all the twists and turns of data streams floating through the air in bright fluorescent colors. Unable to put it down, my family could tell by my wide unblinking eyes not to interrupt me until I took a breath. Equal parts thriller and sci-fi futurism, Brilliance throws a tremendously written net unwilling to release you until long after the final word of the last page.
When I found out that a sequel is coming in a few months and possibly more after that, the tension released in my chest and I felt the pure joy of my childhood visits to that comic book shop with my friend. A new book is coming and this time I don’t need to wait for my mom to drive me to Van Nuys! I just have to ask my wife.