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DC Universe: Helltown Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book really enjoyed the story. I loved the characters, felt really old school.Published 19 months ago by Thee Amazing RandO
I picked this book up for five bucks at a bookstore expecting an average comic book hero story. Not only is it not an average comic book hero story, it has become my favorite book... Read morePublished on April 3, 2011 by Roger D Clark
Helltown is a book all fans of The Question have been in a panic for, thinking we'd die before we'd see it. Read morePublished on May 16, 2009 by SillyMoose
First off, yes, this is a book for comics fans, but not your standard capes and spandex variety. Some background: Steve Ditko, best known for being the original Spiderman artist,... Read morePublished on February 27, 2008 by JD
Let me answer some questions...
-Should non-DC fans read this book? Probably not. It does have good action scenes and keeps a decent pace, but it is by no means a mystery... Read more
This is the origin of The Question. Charles Victor Szasz is a drifter, who does not know where he came from. His story begins in Hub City, and that is where he is going back to. Read morePublished on August 29, 2007 by average
dont count this book out. people might say bad thing about this book but dont listen. it reads well, no slow parts, very descrptive and half the time you forget its a superhero... Read morePublished on August 1, 2007 by Jared
Ever wonder about the origins of the comic book character, The Question? Then, look no further than the pages of HELLTOWN for some answers and for more questions as well.... Read morePublished on December 18, 2006 by Deborah Wiley