Christopher J. Valin is an author that is fairly new to me, I actually just discovered him in December of 2015 when he released Tres Puercos: And Other Dark Tales. You can read my full review here, but in short, I loved it. While talking to him about Tres Puercos, Valin told me about Sidekick. I was really excited when he told me that he had a superhero book coming out.
I have always loved superhero stories, but as hard as it is to believe, I have not read too many superhero stories. I’m not sure why. I guess maybe superhero stories are more popular as comics and I never really read comics. But I have always loved superhero movies and shows: Superman (Christopher Reeve was amazing but I loved the cartoons from the 1940s), Batman, Spiderman, etc.
THE CITY’S GREATEST HERO HAS DISAPPEARED and it’s up to his teenage sidekick to find him. But Red Raptor isn’t prepared for the challenges he must face when he has to go up against their most dangerous foe without his partner. Sawyer was starting to get a little bored being Red Raptor, the sidekick of The Black Harrier. Since his power allows him to copy anything he watches, he’s followed his partner into numerous battles and come through virtually unscathed. In fact, his problems living at home with an alcoholic single mom and being bullied at school are worse than anything he’s faced as a crime fighter. And then there’s this girl… For the first time in his life, Red Raptor is forced to test the limits of his abilities and come to grips with what it means to be a hero.
Valin had one hard task, writing this story: with all of the superheros out there, how do you create a new story and new characters without sounding like a copycat? In the story you meet characters that remind you of another superheroes, or villains, only to find out that they are different, or maybe a combination of some. That is one thing that makes this story so great, it seems like it might be familiar but then Valin does something with the character or story that changes your mind.
The narrator in the story is Sawyer, aka Red Raptor. Sawyer is a teenager and Valin does a great job with the voice of Sawyer. The things that Sawyer thinks and says reminds me of myself when I was that age. At times I had to remind myself that an adult wrote the book and not a teenager. He has problems like all other teenagers: crushes, school bullies, and more:
“Guess what day it is today, loser?” Logan makes sure he’s loud enough for everyone in the hallway to hear. And they do. Everyone in the vicinity is now staring in our direction.
I should just stay quiet and play dumb. But I don’t. I’m simultaneously pissed off from dealing with Harrier and my mom and flying high from meeting Osprey, and it seems to be messing with my head.
“I’m pretty sure your mom said it was her birthday when I was with her last night.”
This slightly infuriates Logan, especially when everyone else, including his friends, laughs so hard at my answer. They start egging him on, asking if he’s going to take this crap from someone like me. He grabs the front of my shirt in his huge hand.
“Wrong. It’s the day you finally get your ass beat.” His face is red. Like, redder than my costume red. He shoves me into my locker.
“What’s the matter? Did I wake you up when I was sneaking out of her bedroom?
The more I learned about his personal life, (alcoholic mom, bullies at school, and trying to “hide” his superpower) the more I found myself rooting for him. At some points, I felt like the inspiration for Sawyer came from Peter Parker. Sawyer is a high school student who struggles with fitting in, but at the same time he doesn’t want to draw any attention to himself or his superpower.
I know what you might be thinking, “What is his superpower? If his inspiration comes from Peter Parker, does he have spider senses? Can he fly like some insect?” Sawyer’s superpower is having an eidetic memory. He is able to see something done only a few times and he can copy it almost exactly. This leads to him learning different types of martial arts and other fighting techniques very fast. It comes in real handy when he is getting his butt kicked.
Could Sidekick be a graphic novel? Sure. Could it be a comic? Sure. Does it work as a novel? Heck yea. I couldn’t put it down. I have only read a few things by Valin, but from what I have read so far I have learned that he does a really good job of writing a story that you want to read. I think the pace of Sidekick is perfect, there was not any times where I thought it dragged. There is a part of the story that was left slightly open, but it does not take away at all from the story. It is just the curiosity inside of me that wants to know what happened with a very minor part of the story. It doesn’t take away from the story at all. Sidekick is entertaining from cover to cover.
Speaking of cover, Jonboy Meyers (artist) and John Rauch (comic book colorist) did a great with it. I love how Red Raptors costume looks new, it doesn’t look like something we have seen before.
Sidekick might be listed as a YA novel, but it can certainly be enjoyed by anyone, especially those who loves a great superhero story. I really enjoyed Sidekick and I look forward to more Red Raptor Files.
Leighgendarium Rating: 9/10 Stars
Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you liked it please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.Valin...does a really good job of writing a story that you want to read. Click To Tweet
Have you read any superhero hero books (not comics or graphic novels)? If so, what are some of your favorites?