A Marvel'ous read

Updated: Sep 28, 2019, 09:16 IST | The Guide Team

A fan of the American media franchise reviews a set of novels on the superheroes to see how they fare in comparison to MCU and comic counterparts

Soutrik Chakraborty. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Soutrik Chakraborty. Pics/Nimesh Dave

When you’re eight years old, the superpowers you like define you," says 29-year-old Soutrik Chakraborty, remembering his childhood. Originally from Kolkata, the Mumbai-based sound engineer and musician, grew up in the 1990s. During this decade, the advent of satellite television — as a natural consequence of the economy becoming liberalised — opened up the doors to many worlds that ultimately helped shape the people who form India’s youth today. Television channels from the West and Asia that received telecasting rights, served as important conduits to these unexplored worlds.

He continues, "I remember watching Star World as a six-year-old kid. They used to telecast the original Fox X-Men series, and that’s when my foray into the world of Marvel began. It was different… I was familiar with Batman and Superman thanks to DC comics and movies, and then this entire new range of superheroes arrived." Much of Chakraborty’s reminiscing has been prompted by a set of nine novels — released for the first time as original fiction books in a partnership between the franchise and Titan Books in 2018, now made available in India through Bloomsbury Publishing — that he reviewed for The Guide. As a slow reader, inclined more towards the comics (Chakraborty’s media diet comprises a healthy servings of manga and anime, too) and the books, he says that while the books did seem cumbersome and intimidating in the beginning, they managed to catch his intrigue once he got into the rhythm of reading.

A page-turner

comicsThe series of original fiction books

"It took me a good nine days to read the titles, but once I began, the process and storylines flowed, even though at times it got a little boring because some parts in the book were a direct rehash of the comics. There was nothing new, basically. But they felt familiar, and it was easy to associate the characters in the books with the characters in the MCU,"  he explains, adding that throughout the series, the tone, plots and narratives resonated more with the movies. "In ANT-MAN: Natural Enemy [written by American author, comic book writer, and screenwriter Jason Starr], while reading some of the dialogues, I could imagine the movie stars talking. Let’s face it, when someone says Iron Man, you visualise Robert Downey Junior," he adds, arguing how as fan, he feels the movies have had a more resounding impact on the general public than the novels.

In good company

But the cover art, blurbs and other elementary aspects of the novels helped mould his initial apprehensions into a sustained interest, particularly with some editions like Captain Marvel: Liberation Run and X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga.

"Some of the blurbs got me itching to read the book. I’m a big fan of Jean Gray [also known as Marvel Girl and Phoenix], so naturally, I was interested in the X-Men novel, but even Venom: Lethal Protector piqued my interest. I had never got down to reading the comic before this, so this was pleasantly surprising and allowed me to find out more about a character most don’t know much about," he shares, adding that Ant-Man: Natural Enemy was his favorite, hailing Starr’s writing as, "entertaining, funny and heartwarming". "It delves deep into characters like Scott and Cassie Lang, and their relationship. The storyline differed from the MCU and the comic and that made it fresh," he adds.

Chakraborty also states that while at the outset, the books may not seem to offer much, especially if someone is well-versed with the movies, comics and animated versions, they are perfect for hardcore fans, or DC fans looking to make a switch. "I mean, if nothing else, they’re great company on a flight or say, the Virar local."

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