Illustrations by Andie Tong
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: January 27, 2015
While on a class trip to Hong Kong, Steve, a Chinese-American teenager, stumbles across something big. Beneath the museum they are touring, a man named Maxwell is unlocking the power of the Zodiac. Maxwell is determined to soak up each of the mystical powers one by one, to take over a corrupt and wasteful earth. However, Maxwell isn't so innocent himself, with the death of thousands on his head and that of his company, The Vanguard. There are those who are resisting though and Steven gets caught up in the middle, accidentally taking on the power of his Zodiac sign, The Tiger. Maxwell only gets seven of the Zodiac powers, the rest escaping to find hosts fit enough to wield the powers of Rabbit, Rooster, Ram, and Pig. Together with half Dragon Jasmine and Zodiac-ologist Carlos, Steven must circumvent the globe to recruit the other powers before Maxwell does. Will a half-Dragon, Tiger, Rabbit, Rooster, Ram, and Pig be enough though?
Stan Lee is well-known for his work with Marvel and this book was right in line with the kind of stories he likes to tell and produce. With help from Stuart Moore and Andie Tong, they have put together a book that fans old and new will love. Rather than use the typical Greek, Norse, or even Egyptian mythology though, this story firmly roots itself in Chinese mythology. Each "superpower" or Zodiac sign is made to seem extremely cool so that there isn't one zodiac sign that wouldn't seem like an awesome power to have. The Rooster uses sonic waves to damage or even destroy her enemies. The Pig is a computer hacking genius. The Ram is almost indestructible.
As with any plot-driven action-packed superhero origin story, there isn't a whole lot of characterization going on. The characters are purposefully made to be stereotypes of their own zodiac signs. This did work in the context of the story, but sometimes left me wanting to get a little more up close and personal with some of the characters. I was intrigued by Liam the bruiser (Ram) who was always looking for a fight with a lie on his lips. That said, there were a LOT of characters in this book. With twelve zodiac signs plus various peripheral characters, it would have been confusing and long-winded to give too many of them space in the book. Steven is, of course, the main characters, but since the viewpoint does shift between different characters, including Maxwell, there were times where it felt a bit much. Like, this would work if we were reading a comic book, but not so much in a novel.
There are some great moments though. I love that Steven really struggles with issues having to do with his ethnicity, like not feeling Chinese enough in Hong Kong. He wasn't just an insert-ethnic-character-here kind of person and it gave him weight, purpose, and history. History that became extremely important in the story and based on the end, will play a big role as we move into the series. The illustrations by Andie Tong were things of beauty that are usually reserved for comic books and not books like this. Extremely detailed, I found myself flipping through the book, not because I wanted to spoil the ending for myself, but simply because I wanted to enjoy the art that went into them.
I think any fan of Stan Lee, Marvel, comic books, or superhero stories are really going to like this one, no matter their age. My husband is already recommending it to people based simply off of what I have said about it.
This book was provided to my by Disney Enterprises, Inc. in conjunction with Big Honcho Media in exchange for an honest review and book giveaway.
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About the Creative Team:
Stan Lee is known to millions as the man whose Super Heroes propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in the comic book industry. His co-creations include Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, as well as hundreds of others. He introduced Spider-Man as a syndicated newspaper strip that became the most successful of all syndicated adventure strips and has appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. Stan currently remains Chairman Emeritus of Marvel, as well as a member of the Editorial Board of Marvel Comics. He is also the Chairman & Chief Creative officer of POW! Entertainment, a multimedia entertainment company based in Beverly Hills, CA.
Stuart Moore has been a writer, a book editor, and an award-winning comics editor. His recent writing includes Civil War, the first in a new line of prose novels from Marvel Comics, The Art of Iron Man 3 (Marvel, with Marie Javins); and THE 99, a multicultural super hero comic from Teshkeel.
Andie Tong has worked on titles for various franchises, including Tron: Betrayal, Spectacular Spider-Man UK, The Batman Strikes, Smallville, Wheel of Time, TMNT, Masters of the Universe, and Starship Troopers, working for companies such as Disney, Marvel, DC Comics, Panini, Dark Horse, and Dynamite Entertainment, as well as commercial illustrations for numerous advertising agencies including Nike, Universal, CBS, Mattel, and Habsro. When he gets the chance, Andie concept designs for various companies, and also juggles illustration duties on a range of children's picture storybooks for Harper Collins. Malaysian born, Andie migrated to Australia at a young age, and then moved to London in 2005. In 2012, he journeyed back to Asia and currently resides in Singapore with this wife and daughter.