Michael C. Bailey’s Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins, is a ridiculously fun superhero novel. It follows Carrie Hauser, a teenage girl who recently gain superpowers, as she deals with her parents divorce, tries to start a superhero team with her friends, deals with veteran superheroes who don’t seem to like her very much, and of course fight supervillains and a shadowy evil organization. I know it sounds very paint-by-the-numbers, but it really isn’t.
This book fixes all the issues I had with Earthman Jack. This guy gets how teenagers talk. It feels real. More impressive to me was just how well he captured the voice of a teenage girl. I legitimately would not have been able to tell it was a man who wrote this. Throughout the story, nearly every character is fleshed out. You really get to know not just Carrie, but her friends, her parents, her friends parents, the other superheroes, etc. They all feel like people, and you can’t help but feel like you have to turn the next page just to get the chance to know them better, which is more than I can say for most books.
While the characterization is flawless, the plot is rather episodic. It mostly ties together in the end though, but rather than seem like a big story, it seems like a lot of smaller ones. Personally, I like this approach, especially to a superhero story which by its nature is episodic. And don’t worry about a cliffhanger ending or anything. There’s a little teaser at the end, but otherwise its basically a complete story.
Something this book does that I found pretty distracting was that it switched from first person to third person mid-chapter. It was confusing at first, but I eventually got used to it, and at least there was a break within the chapter to indicate a different point of view. I understand the decision behind this. The first person narrative makes the reader feel as though they’re in Carrie’s head, and the author didn’t want to lose that. At the same time, there are other things going on that the main character isn’t privy too that is necessary to move the story along. It is a strange, jarring choice, and it wouldn’t have been the one I would’ve made, but at the same time, I understand it. I’d have been much happier though, if it had been done by having a chapter break, with the new form of narration taking place in a new chapter entirely, or use a few different POVs to tell the other parts of the story. In the writer’s defense, however, while it was pretty jarring at first, eventually I got used to the switching between first and third person. I just wish it was handled better.
All in all, despite my issue with the switching between writing styles mid-chapter, this book is by far the best of the indie books I’ve reviewed thus far. The story was fun and engaging, the characters felt real, and the prose itself was very well done. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you like superheroes or even just a good teen drama, check this book out. You won’t regret it.