Since I write superhero books, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve read a couple. Or a lot.
To be clear, I’m not talking about Comic Books. I’ve read a tractor trailer full of those (though, admittedly, not many in the last 20 years), and I will always have a special fondness for them. But here I’m talking about actual novels (or collections of short stories) with no pictures.
For me, reading a superhero tale without pictures can actually be more powerful than reading a comic book. Since the action is only happening in my brain, I’m free to fill in all of the little details. My imagination gets engaged, and I get swept away.
Unfortunately, a lot of the superhero fiction out there is mediocre. Shallow characters, uninspired powers, and shoddy stories are pretty common. It’s a relatively young genre though, and growing. Interest in superheroes is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the box office dominance of Marvel and DC movies, plus the explosion of TV shows about established heroes.
Here are the five books best suited to capitalize on the genre’s popularity:
Top 5 Superhero Books
1. Forging Hephaestus
by Drew Hayes
2. Hero Status
If you’ve read my book A Dad in a Cape, you know I’m interested in exploring what happens when you take classic super hero stories, and combine them with normal family life. Kristen Brand does an amazing job of doing just that in Hero Status.
The white Knight and Black Valentine are not the average couple. He’s a retired super hero. She’s a retired super villain. They met when he was assigned to bring her to justice, which started a secret fling. Yada yada yada, they’re both retired with a teenage daughter, staying out of the limelight. When federal agents come to take Black Valentine into custody for murder, the White Knight must find the real murder to clear his wife’s name.
Brand’s characters are amazing. They seem like normal people who happen to have super powers, rather than stereotypes defined by their powers. A key part of the each character’s strength is their limitations. White Knight has super strength, but also a knee injury that requires him to walk with a cane. That limitation provides opportunity for interesting challenges and conflict. Too many superhero books fall into the trap of a Superman-like hero who can overcome anything. Brand’s characters are constantly in a struggle, and you’re never sure if they’re going to succeed.
I haven’t finished the other two books in this series yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they make their way onto this list.
3. The Super Powereds Series
by Drew Hayes
This one is a bit of a cheat, since the Super Powered series is actually four books, but it’s my list, so I’ll make the rules.
The basic premise of the series is pretty simple: There are special colleges that train people with super powers how to be Heroes. The series follows one class of students through the school, with one book chronicling each year. Dig a little deeper and it gets more interesting. This class is different from all the others that came before it. Five of its members started out as Powereds, unfortunate souls who had powers, but no ability to control them. These five were the first to undergo an experimental procedure to turn them into Supers, and give them control of their powers.
Much like Hero Status, the strength of this series is it’s characters. Hayes has a deft hand with balancing powers, giving his characters inner and outer weaknesses, and creating complex and realistic relationships between characters. Early on, he makes you care about each of the characters, and root for them in their individual journeys.
Books 1>, 2, and 3 are available on Amazon now, and on Audible. If you have any interest in audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to these. Narrator Kyle McCarley does a fantastic job voicing the myriad characters, and adds an extra dimension to the story. If you don’t have an Audible account, Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks.
Book 4 is currently being serialized on Hayes’ website, but will be available on Amazon after it’s complete.
4. I Want Superpowers
This is, arguably, not a superhero book. It’s more of a dystopian coming of age book, that just happens to revolve around super powers.
After something called The Genetic Wars, society is divided into “dregs” (DNA Regulars), and Supergenics. The Supergenics live opulent lives, based on work done by the dregs. Powers manifest during adolescence, and all school children are tested. If they have powers, they’re taken from the families to live with their kind.
The story follows the journey of young Caitlin Feral, as she approaches her final Testing Day, desperately wishing for powers to manifest. She’s a rich character, struggling with reconciling who she is with who she wants to be.
I Want Superpowers isn’t necessarily a fun, feel-good read. But it’s gripping and thought-provoking. I had a hard time putting it down, which is the best compliment I can give a book.
5. Soon I Will be Invincible
Oftentimes the best villains are the ones that aren’t explicitly “evil”, per se. Their motivations just lie askew from society’s definition of “good”. However, Austin Grossman’s Doctor Impossible, the main character in Soon I will be Invincible, is a stereotypical mustache twirling, tie the damsel to the train tracks bad guy. Half of the book is told from his perspective, so you get a glimpse into his twisted evil genius brain, and that brings about much of the book’s humor.
Buy Soon I Will be Invincible on Amazon
Tori Rivas is a certified badass. Or, at least she thinks she is, until she gets caught by the guild of super villains, and becomes apprenticed to the baddest of them all. Then she realizes what it really takes to call yourself a Super Villain.
What makes this book so compelling is the fact that it’s about the bad guys, but you can sympathize with them anyway. And, in the end, rooting for them. The characters are detailed and believable. The bad guys are bad, but in a way you can understand. The good guys are good,
but in the worst possible way.
It all adds up to a compelling start to a series. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Buy Forging Hephaestus on Amazon
So, there it is, my Top 5 Superhero Books. Your top 5 is probably different. What did I miss? Leave a comment below and tell me how dumb I am.