Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BOOKS: Review- Karma Girl

I am not quite the audience Jennifer Estep had in mind when she wrote Karma Girl. I am a product of reading comic books in the sixties, which is one prerequisite for enjoying the book to the maximum. But I'm not exactly the average romance-book reader. That's pretty tight focusing, since there were not a lot of girls reading Superman comics back in those days.

Still, I managed to stumble upon the book and found it was a hoot to read. The 'romance' in it, is teen-rated, nothing too graphic. And, if you are an old coot like me, you can read right through it, rather than stopping and savouring the juicy bits as, I assume, most distaff readers would.

What I find enjoyable about the book was its wholesale transplanting of the silliness that was Lois Lane in the early sixties, into somewhat contemporary society. Back before Lois Lane burst out in her title as an independent woman and ace reporter (issue #80 of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane, if you were interested), Lois was hell-bent on discovering Superman's secret identity. That and marrying the big lug, but the identity seemed to be her main focus in life.

Estep probably has a complete set of the comics, judging from the book. Carmen Cole is a mild-mannered reporter who's engaged to Matt Marion (warning ... sixties level of alliteration alert). Her wedding day is marred by that most contemporary of all calamities, finding her future husband having sex with her best friend and maid of honour, Karen Crush. Oh, and Marion and Crush are the super-hero and super-villain respectively of the remote little hamlet all three call a hometown.

Carmen's crushed (ahhhh, I had to type it). She puts the wedding disaster behind her and moves about the country, taking on the job of unmasking the local heroes and villains. She becomes successful and famous and eventually ends up in Bigtime City (Yes, made-up names, just like the sixties DC Comics). There, she succeeds too well and one of the heroes she unmasks commits suicide.

Well THAT didn't happen in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane. But it happens in this book. And it's a repentant Carmen who is trying to gather the shattered remnants of her career together when the book hits its stride. She, more or less, ends up in a pinch. One of the baddies, Malefica, has decided she needs to do her best to unmask the Bigtime equivalent of Batman, who leads a Justice League of America-like group of super-heroes. Naturally she succeeds in defrocking the Fearless Five's leader, Striker. Just as naturally, sparks fly. And I'm not talking about the kind of heat Fiera flings around. Fiera being another Fearless Five member and ex-fiancee of the hero previously unmasked to his apparent ever-lasting sorrow.

Things DO happen in the last third of the book that are as predictable as any comic from the era being so thoroughly mined by Estep. Some things happen that weren't predictable. But the good guys do win in the end, Carmen achieves bliss in a number of ways, and I'm left thinking I might want to venture closer to the romance aisles again.


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