Island of the Super People by Kevin Shamel (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, superheroes, star-crossed love, action/adventure
Rating: 3.98 out of 5 stars
Summary: Trent along with two fellow students, Jen and Martin, accompany Professor Topper and Natalie the TA on an anthropology expedition to the Island of the Super People. This is a protected island with a very primitive, indigenous population of heroes and villains. The students are there to study and learn about the super people and their customs. They live in huts, have no modern technology, and do not even have any vocal speech – they communicate exclusively through speech bubbles that come from their mouths to spell out what they have to say. The anthropology team is meant to be alone on the island to quietly observe, but they soon run into trouble with a military group apparently stationed on the island, led by the sinister Colonel Shank. They claim they are there to investigate a radioactive spill, but Trent and the others soon learn they have very different motives to being on the island. Super heroes and villains will have to learn to put aside their differences and work together to keep their people from going extinct.
Island of the Super People is the first Bizarro novel that I’ve ever read. From what I’ve heard from Cujo (Cassie-la), an avid reader of Bizarro as you will have seen from her reviews, I was preparing myself to be absolutely disgusted with gore and ridiculous sexual things I’ve never thought about before and all kinds of ridiculous things like that. I was totally ready for that. But then Island of the Super People was not that at all. At first I was confused – wait, the author is setting up complex characters that I will care about and a creative, interesting plot? What? Things were a little strange from the beginning, but don’t worry – this book is plenty weird! Like…so weird. But in a great way.
I was a little slow getting into it – possibly you’d be into it more quickly if you were a comic book fan, but my only superhero knowledge comes from movies so I’m a bit limited there. The super people are so bizarre, it’s pretty hilarious. As I mentioned in the summary – they only speak in speech bubbles that come from their mouths. They are jagged around the edges to indicate yelling. (The students blow up balloons and write on them with markers to communicate.) The heroes who we meet first – all have costumes in red, white, and blue. Except they aren’t clothes – super people are naked and their costumes are actually part of their bodies, but look like clothes. Capes? A flap of skin. Boots? A big thickening of the skin and toes melded together. It’s super weird, but intriguing. They live in huts and eat gross stuff without utensils or plates or napkins. They spend most of their time flying around or juggling boulders or breathing fire to entertain each other.
The students who are meant to study them are definitely intrigued by their project. Trent is our main character – he’s unsure at first what he is even doing there since he’s not the best student. His companions are Martin – a frat boy who is obsessed with how big all the female super people’s boobs are and Hermione…I mean…Jen. Who is Hermione. Professor Topper assigns them each a hero and a villain as observation projects. Villains live on the opposite side of the island and are any super person who is born with a color that is NOT red, white, or blue. Racist! The students even witness a crazy ritual where the hero parents of a baby born with a spot of yellow must hand their son over to villains so he may be raised among his people. Racist!
Trent’s first assignment is a small boy hero who’s name is Captain Fuckup. This of course is very rude, so Trent decides to call him Squiggles after the squiggly lines on his chest. (This kind of reminds me of Zero in Holes.) Trent soon discovers this kid cannot talk – all his speech bubbles read “?”. Trent spends days following him, keeping a pretty hilarious journal of what Squiggles does which is pretty much exclusively playing in mud and poking dead things with sticks.
Trent’s second assignment is a villain – named Death Killer. Death Killer doesn’t live with the other villains, but up on a top of a mountain by himself because he is so feared by everyone. And his name is Death Killer. Love! Things do not go well for Trent as Death Killer does, in fact, almost kill him several times. However, he becomes more determined when Professor Topper assures him that he gave Trent the most difficult assignments on purpose, sure that he would be able to manage them. While Squiggles appears to have no powers, Death Killer has unlimited powers – fire and ice, ability to grow enormous, fly, control things with his mind – on and on and on. Although the best thing about Death Killer? He’s an artist. Love.
The story really picked up for me when Death Killer ends up saving Trent from a wild pig that’s about to kill him. Soon the two are friends and Trent teaches him how to paint and it is so freaking adorable. Absolutely love it.
Meanwhile – military evilness is happening. The students discover an evil plot involving the decimation of the super people and have to convince the heroes and villains to stop fighting each other and fight back against the evil military instead. Because they’re evil!! It turns out Squiggles does have quite an extraodinary power and it turns out Death Killer is really quite nice, but had his heart broken. The book concludes with a crazy long, epic battle. I must admit I’m usually not into fight scenes in books, but I found those scenes in this story easy to follow, perfectly gory, and a great read. Also there’s a Megazord.
Mostly I loved the epilogue at the end. Wait…what? I love an epilogue?? Yes. Why? Because this book is fucking weird and doesn’t take itself seriously. Everyone who deserves it ends up doing awesome things and being totally happy, but in a funny and awesome way. Not in a stupid, ridiculously named children way.
I think this book is absolutely great for someone brand new to Bizarro. There’s definitely gore and some grossness (which is not necessarily a bad thing), but mostly it’s just weird and fun to read. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to get into this genre and of course to people who already are.
-Death Killer and his art projects
-Totally original and fun to read
-Believable, fun characters
-Bit hard to get into towards the beginning
-Little too much vomit for my taste