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The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by M. Chabon

Chabon, Michael. The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. Illus. Jake Parker. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2011. Print.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon recounts an archetypal small boy’s fantasy life as superhero Awesome Man. Equipped with all the requisite SuperPowers, including positronic-ray-blasting vision and a “thermovulcanized protein-delivery orb,” young Awesome Man, accompanied by Moskowitz, the Awesome Dog, does battle against the forces of darkness, including talking mutant Jell-O from beyond the stars.  After vanquishing Professor Von Evil and his antimatter Slimebot, the young hero battles his arch-nemesis, the Flaming Eyeball, and henchmen Red Shark and Sister Sinister. Returning to his “Fortress of Awesome, deep at the bottom of the deepest, darkest trench under the Arctic Ocean,” he finds his mother, the only one aware of his secret identity, awaits his return in the kitchen to offer him a restorative serving of cheese, crackers, and chocolate milk.

Chabon’s thoroughly derivative story line, familiar at least since Super Man’s 1939 debut in Action Comics No. 1, is only redeemed by Jake Parker’s imaginative and charming illustrations. Adults reading this slight effort to children will at least be afforded a chuckle over Moskovitz, the Awesome Dog, named in honour of one of Sci-Fi’s most prominent students and proponents.

Recommended with reservations: 2 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Merrill Distad

Merrill Distad is Associate University Librarian (Research and Special Collections Services) and University Archivist, University of Alberta, and is the co-editor of Peel’s Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies to 1953 (Toronto, 2003).  He is the author, most recently, of The University of Alberta Library: The First Hundred Years, 1908–2008 (Edmonton, 2009).