Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: Noble Causes: Extended Family #2

Noble Causes: Extended Family #2
Noble Causes: Extended Family #2 by Jay Faerber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Noble Causes: Extended Family takes place five years after the first book - the only other book that I've been able to read. (My library, for some reason I don't understand, only carries the first book and this, which is one of the last.) Rusty and Celeste have divorced and now Rusty is seeing a hero by the name of Cosmic Rae. Race has somehow returned from the dead and the main story takes place at his and Liz's 1st Anniversary Party. Zephyr is quite obviously pregnant - and she lets everyone know it. Celeste is openly keeping company with Frost. And things for Doc and Gaia are business as usual.

The Noble Causes series has a shorter-than-usual main story, followed by several one-shots that give the reader a glimpse into the minds, hearts and world of the characters. Sometimes that's a hit, other times it's a miss. In this particular volume, I actually enjoyed the one shots more than I did the main story line.

The main story line, as I mentioned above, deals with the family at Liz and Race's 1st Anniversary party. Of course, there's the usual problems with the family - Zephyr showing off her pregnancy to give those that were talking in whisper about her glamoured, thinner self something to really talk about, a fist fight almost beginning between Race and Frost (because of a very risque ice sculpture that Frost made of Race and Liz in the middle of the party). The usual. But when an alien creature that affects the minds of it's host gets into the guest, things really become interesting.

The story itself was ok. Some of this could be because I missed the intervening stories. But it just didn't engage me quite the way the first one did. The characters, were, however, true to form... or at least true to the form they were in the first book. I loved both Zephyr and Liz standing up for themselves, each in their own way.

The artwork was up to the usual standards. There are some stand-out bits, however. The ice sculpture was very well done, being both modest and risque at the same time. And the look on Liz's face when Race is screaming to her in panel 3 on page 18 (by my count - there are no page numbers) is absolutely perfect. You can see the anger behind her eyes, yet you can also see that she is holding it back. There's something about the set of her jaw that says to me she knows Race isn't behind the words.

The next story in the book is "Family Matters". In it, Zephyr is rebelling against her mother in a teen-aged fit and decides to run away from home. Where she goes is something I didn't see coming - and neither did the person she runs to - Frost. She thinks that since he has reason to hate her family as well, they should get along fine. But somehow, as she talks to him, he makes her see that her family really is the most important thing to her.

The story was pretty good, though not my favorite in this collection. While I hadn't expected her to show up at Frost's, and I had expected him to sleep with her, most of it was a typical "you don't know what you've got 'til you're gone" kind of story. It was ok, but not stellar.

The third story is a fun little piece called "Sweeps Week". The Nobles are, as we see here, a fictional superhero family being portrayed on television. The story takes us to through the various trials and tribulations of a successful (and cheesy) show - from stupid story lines to enthusiastic fans to cast changes. It's a fun romp and the surprise ending (the Big Boss coming in) is a wonderful surprise. Again, not my favorite piece in the book, but it was a decent read.

Next up is "Live and Let Diode", a freaky little piece that brings us back to the early days when Icarus was still in the picture, when he first started to realize the hatred he held for Doc's children. Each glimpse into every day life - from fighting the baddies to mediating an argument between mother and daughter to listening to the Noble Children talk about a boring mission - is punctuated by a look through Icarus' eyes on the situation, and then the violent images of what he really wants to do to the Noble Children. It's the first steps into madness and it's a very scary place to be. Violent though it was, it was my second favorite piece because it really brought out the emotions.

Next we come to a shorter piece entitled, "Rite of Passage". It is Krennick's birthday and his father has called his son to stand before him. On this most special day, Draconis has set up a special surprise for his son - a fight to the death with a couple dozen of Draconis' best warriors to test whether Krennick would be a worthy successor. While the story itself was an "eh" because of the set-up (I've never been a fan of fight to the death stories), there was one thing it did really well, and that was pacing. From the moment Draconis shouts the command for his warriors to kill his son, until Krennick stands alone at the end, the panels alternate between a couple of action-only panels and single panels where Krennick questions why his father is doing this while still fighting on. It was very beautifully done and brought the story along at just the right pace.

Then we get to my least favorite story in the book, "Educating Doc". Doc is at a lecture, talking about how he supposedly first realized that crime fighting was serious business. He spun the story to put himself in the best light, but the panels that the story was written over told the real story. And it didn't mesh with me. Doc always struck me as more someone who was buried in his work rather than focusing on self-aggrandizement. So I couldn't believe that it was him telling the story in that way. It just didn't fit for me.

However, the next story was, by far, my favorite story. "Pushing the Right Buttons" starts with the release of a sex tape in which Zephyr is the main attraction. While the media and the common man talk about it - whether it's true, if she's crying, how hot it is - her family is grilling her to find out why she did it. And all she'll answer is that she had her reasons. Even to Liz, the most understanding member of the family, she only repeats that she had her reasons. It's only at the end of the story that we find out just what those reasons were. And it's not rebellion. By the time I reached the end, I had my hand over my mouth in shock. I both applauded Zephyr and wanted to kill those who put her in this position. Because it doesn't get any lower. A very high quality story that shows things aren't always what they seem.

"How the Servants Reclaimed their Demonhood" is the last story and one that I'm torn on. The story had me chuckling from beginning to end, thinking of the sitcom antics that having three demons formerly of hell as servants in a superhero household. But the artwork just didn't do it for me. The human characters were too angular, their features almost caricaturish. The way Gaia was drawn, I thought a dominatrix had entered the story (which made perfect sense, what with the demons and all) instead of being the head of the Noble family. It's rare for me to enjoy reading a story so much yet be put off by the artwork. So I'm still not sure how I stand on it.

The book, as a whole, was middle of the road. While there were a few outstanding stories, they weren't enough to pull the book above average for me.

View all my reviews