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DC Universe: Helltown Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dennis 'Denny' O'Neil is a comic book writer and editor, principally for Marvel Comics and DC Comics in the 1970s. As an editor, he is principally known for editing Batman.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dc Universe
  • Mass Market Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446616583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446616584
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,422,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The trenchcoat-suit-and-fedora vigilante with faceless mask, known as The Question, also known as Vic Sage, has alternately benefitted and suffered from his low profile in the world of superhero comics. He was created for smaller publisher Charlton Comics by Objectivist comics creator Steve Ditko, who co-created Spider-Man among other characters, and was an anomaly in the world of sixties comics - while most everyone else was a spandex selfless do-gooder, Sage/Question was a crusading journalist whose "costumed" identity wore suits and street clothes. He acted out of rational self-interest and a thirst for answers and a guarantee of rational justice for all.

When Charlton folded, The Question disappeared, save as a favorite obscure character among myriads of readers who would one day become writers. But in the eighties, after DC bought the rights, his sun started to rise. Alan Moore, comics' greatest talent, crafted "Watchmen," one of Time's greatest novels of the twentieth century. This graphic novel featured more realistic analogues of the Charlton heroes, including Rorschach, a mask-wearing trenchcoat vigilante who took The Question's moral absolutism to new heights (or depths). Rorschach has become an icon of post-modern comics, but truly was Moore's clever play on The Question character.

Yet not long after this eclipsing of The Question had begun, writer Denny O'Neil teamed up with artist Denys Cowan to create one of DC Comics' first "Mature Readers" titles - "The Question." Here, Vic Sage was the professional journalism name of one Charles Victor Szasz, an orphan turned successful journalist who traveled to the fictional Hub City (think East St. Louis meets Gotham City) to find information on his birth parents, and also explore the city of his youth.
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1 Comment 26 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow.

After reading this book, I decided it was appropriate to write a positive review but then I came here and saw what other people said. The weird thing is, I kinda agree with many of the other readers' comments ... but I still think this book deserves a strong thumbs up.

The superhero novel is a strange beast, IMO, and rarely done well. A superhero like The Question in particular seems out of place here. As others have pointed out, this is, in many ways, a pretty standard adventure/mystery story and the sole "comic book" element (outside of the "guest stars," which is a strange way to describe characters in a novel...) is The Question's appearance. He doesn't have super powers or even odd gadgets like Batarangs or boxing glove arrows.

The issue becomes, I think, is this still a "comic book" novel? I suspect O'Neil's response was, "It doesn't *have* to be..." So he kept the striking appearance of the character but made it more of a quirk, more Columbo's raincoat than Captain America's shield. The end result is a book that many may buy thinking they're going to get the character from the comic book when in fact, this story is much more in line with an ongoing paperback adventure series like "The Destroyer."

As a comic book reader, I've read many of these kinds of novels and many are just awful for reasons ranging from rampant "Mary Sue-ism" to the fact that a description of Spider-Man fighting Doctor Octopus over New York City without some accompanying illustration just doesn't convey the proper spectacle. Comic books are a visual medium and I think the characters (at least the superheroes or other extreme adventure characters) just work better when they can be seen as in comic books, cartoons or film.

But "Helltown" was a good, enjoyable read.
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Comment 8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was a huge fan of O'Neil's 1980s Question series, and when I read he was going to do a novel a few years ago I was really excited. I expected to see some questions answered, and see a more "pure" version of what he wanted to do.

This, however, isn't quite what happened. The novel is good, and the action flows, so in that it's a decent adventure novel. However, as a novel, O'Neil had so much more room to do things with the characters, and he just didn't. He made changes, and the introducing page tells us this is a "correction" of the comic series, so I assume it IS more of his own story, but it's not as well done as the comics.

There's no more depth that any other comic novel I've seen, and this is a story that needs it. Sage has no childhood, doesn't know who he is, and his NEED for answers is what drives the comic series. That's almost absent here. His character is far more shallow here, and far less interesting. Watching him work out his life just doesn't carry anything powerful, as it did before.

It isn't just in comparison that this novel suffers, it's as a novel and piece of fiction. One of the complaints I have is that you don't find out anything about Sage's search for his roots. I know a lot of people enjoy fiction with no resolution, but I'm not one of them. Many people will tell you that's how life is, but if I want real life, I'll read non-fiction. What I want is quality fiction, and this suffers for it. It seems O'Neil thought making Sage an orphan was a good plot point, and used it to drive the character, but it becomes nothing more than convenient, and doesn't really give you a sense of the character here.
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