What if Kim Possible’s crazy life didn’t get any less crazy by time she hit thirty? is how I’d sum up CONSTANCE VERITY SAVES THE WORLD by A. Lee Martinez. Martinez usually loves playing with genre tropes for humor, usually successfully, and overall I liked this one (second in a series)
The premise — well, my opening line pretty much covers it. Constance routinely battles mad scientists, crime cabals, monsters, alien invaders, occult threats, to the point where her reaction verges on the blasé. No matter how scary it is, her reaction tends to “meh.” It’s not like she hasn’t seen it before, no matter what “it” is.
Getting a life, though? That’s a little frightening. Constance has an accountant boyfriend, Byron, and it’s hard for her to figure out how much of her experiences to share with him. It’s also difficult for Constance to reset her reflexes so that the presence of an ET or a possibly dangerous robot doesn’t trigger a fight in their new condo. I did like that Byron really is thoroughly ordinary; he’s the Lois or Pepper to Constance’ superhero, and that’s a nice change from the usual.
I’m reviewing this one as an Is Our Writer’s Learning? book because I did learn a couple of things from it. Most notably, that original takes are few and far between. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished has a similar concept in Jennifer being afflicted with a life of constant peril and strife, though my handling it is quite different. The Astro City series frequently goes into the same territory, and it was the whole premise of the Gerard Jones/Will Jacobs The Trouble With Girls (reviewed here and here): Lester Girls wants a normal life but destiny keeps throwing him into a world of danger, sex and excitement. It’s the execution that makes it work, or not.
The second point I learned is that there’s a limit to how far some premises will stretch. Trouble With Girls kept the laugh balls in the air for two TPBs; Martinez manages it for the length of a novel, but it’s a near thing. We know pretty much how any of Constance’s scenes will go, the same way the last one did. It’s a one-joke premise, which is not a bad thing if the joke works, but it almost doesn’t. I don’t feel any urge to read the first volume or V3 when it comes out. But I did enjoy this one, more than several other superhero riffs along the same line. Martinez has a good feel for the tropes he’s parodying, and not everyone does.
#SFWApro. Cover by John Picacio, all rights to current holder.