This week’s word is “Metahuman.”
After a couple of weeks away, Word Wednesday is back with a work of non-fictional fiction from the DC universe. Written as the handwritten notes of Bruce Wayne, DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman looks at the science of DC metahumans (and aliens), and examines how their powers might work on a physiological level. As we’re reading the journals of the ever-vigilant Dark Knight, there is lots of emphasis on how a particular subject might be defeated. Even those who are currently allies. Batman knows how quickly friends can become foes.
What is DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman?
A fully illustrated guide that shows some of DC’s metahuman powers might actually work. It covers many (but not all) of Batman’s allies and adversaries, stripping down their powers and analyzing them in a (mostly) scientific fashion. The text is written using a handwriting font and sits alongside Ming Doyle’s hand-drawn, Da Vinci-esque anatomical illustrations.
The book is a large-sized hardback and consists of around 160 pages.
After a brief introduction from Bruce Wayne, the metahumans covered are:
- The Cheetah.
- Martian Manhunter.
- Swamp Thing.
- Killer Croc.
- Killer Frost.
Each entry is between 10 and 20 pages long, with the Man of Steel’s stretching to 22.
Each page is a like a journal entry, with not only a description of how a meta’s power might work but also little notes to Bruce himself, reminding him to research further into certain topics. There are several reminders to investigate ways of combating meta-human abilities so as to best defeat them in a fight. “Further research in properties of Kryptonite and acquisition of additional samples for weapons R&D” is written on one page in block capitals. There are also additional documents, secret letters, and reports pasted or clipped into the journal (or rather, drawn to appear that way).
At the very end of the book is a list of names for further study, including Wonder Woman and The Flash. There is definitely scope of a follow-up journal. Based on the strength of this one, I sincerely hope there is. Read on to find out why.
Why read DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman?
This is a beautifully put together book. There’s something very appealing about it, even for casual comic-book fans such as myself. (My experience is mostly with the screen rather than the page.) The journal style of the book adds an extra dimension to the book than if it was presented in a more reference style. It immediately makes it more accessible, feeling like a document of great interest. Whoever made that particular design decision deserves to be applauded.
The content is great too. I haven’t interrogated the book for scientific rigor (and I expect it would be a mistake to do so), but Bruce’s descriptions, theories, and conclusions stand up to casual observation. It’s a difficult line to tread, especially as the book opens with Superman. Many of his powers break biological boundaries, but the book does an impressive job of making them sound half-way plausible.
Characters mentioned in the journal still retain their context within the DC universe, which is a nice additional touch. This again gives the impression that what we’re reading is the work of Bruce Wayne, rather than a couple of comic book writers from Colorado (or from wherever they hail).
What holds the book together and makes it such are an appealing proposition are its wonderful illustrations. Its impossible not to be drawn to them. Each page is a visual spectacle and wherever the book falls open to, you can’t help but take in the pictures and then start reading the text around them. I love the anatomical cutaways and character representations. The additional forms of media, such as clipping from top-secret reports adds to the feeling that this is a living written document.
Anatomy of a Metahuman is a beautifully put together package. It would probably suit readers from around 11 upwards, though my younger children have enjoyed looking through it too. Even those with a passing interest in comic book lore will find the book of interest. It looks amazing and is fascinating even for those who only dabble in the DC universe. After all, who hasn’t wondered how X-Ray vision works?
DC Comics: Anatomy of a Metahuman is published by Insight Editions and is available here, in the US and here, in the UK.
If you enjoyed this review do check out my other Word Wednesday posts, most notably DK’s Ultimate Justice League.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.