Flex Mentallo's surreality reeks of Stay and that's a bad thing. A narrator ODing in an alley who meets Flex at different ages yet in a short timespan although Flex used to be an illustration but now he's real kind of like Pinocchio and fights a giant robot with five heads and hunting Rorschach-looking mystery men who throw not-real cartoon bombs and are pixelated while his partner The Fact MUST be found but HE might not be real and a castle in space that the little-boy version of the narrator is on sometimes and a herd (a flock? a murder?) of costumed heroes appears repeatedly they don't speak or do anything and Morrison tries to ramp up the doomsday-dread all Watchmen-like but fails and still fighting the giant robot wait his hand is actually the narrator's hand while the astronaut sees the superheroes but nobody believes him and that's it, I'm out. It might make sense in the end but I don't care. A quick skim of the back half doesn't look promising anyway.
Two stars instead of one because it's pretty and I've read dumber.
Part One describes the murders, committed once each season and always during an extreme weather event. Tornado, ice storm, record-setting fog or heatwave, etc. We are introduced to Dixon Bell, a preternaturally gifted meteorologist, and Rick Beanblossom, a brilliant investigator and news producer. This was the good part of the book. Great characters. A crime story with a novel twist. An interesting look at TV news production from the inside.
Part One also serves as the author's love letter to the state of Minnesota. It's apparently beautiful, and crime is low, and the people are kind and proud and modest and industrious. The whole state is just really super, like Lake Wobegon but even better. Then Dixon Bell gets arrested.
Part Two, in which Bell is put on trial while Beanblossom tries to prove he's innocent, is riddled with plot holes. When another character confesses to the murders right in front of Beanblossom, why in hell would he keep that information to himself?? If Bell IS guilty...why?? He makes no sense as a serial killer. The maximum security prison in which Bell is housed is filled wall to wall with gentle, sympathetic guards and noble, self-sacrificing hero-prisoners. Ooookay. An execution is described in multi-page grotesque, loving detail. TWICE. It reminded me of those anti-abortion billboards that basically go "Abortion is wrong because look at this picture of a happy fetus." Part Two is driven transparently by the author's agenda and the story suffers badly for it.
The writing is solid and the research is excellent, but after a good start The Weatherman runs off the rails.
Touch works hard to explore how perception changes when one has worn numerous different bodies, male and female, old and young, fat and thin, weak and strong. It's aware of aches and failings and capabilities that real humans would generally take for granted; slight near-sightedness, posture-related pain, etc. And that is exactly what I want from this particular sub-genre. It's Touch's best feature.
The ending was a bit limp. Predictable. Overall a five-star core with a 3-star finish.
Black Science is absolutely beautiful to look at, full of heavy, intense blacks and oranges and purples. Really striking.
The plot's pretty generic. There's a brief mystery regarding who sabotaged the science thingy, but it turns out to be exactly who you'd expect. Each dimension is home to another hostile anthropomorphized animal species. Fish people, frog people, bird people, gorilla people. Not awful but not particularly interesting.
De Haven attempts to bring the canonical characters into the real world as much as possible. Teenaged Clark Kent is wholly different and doesn't know why, and as a result is tragically, acutely lonely. I mean, how could he NOT be? He gets laid a couple times and then wallows in old-timey Protestant guilt for the rest of the book. I can't imagine a better take on a character as ridiculous as Superman.
Instead of a mad scientist Lex Luthor is a rabidly ambitious politician, industrialist, and gangster with a knack for finding talent and inspiring loyalty.
Lois Lane (man, I never realized how prevalent alliteration is in superhero comics) is...kind of an asshole actually. But maybe she'd HAVE to be to have any chance as a woman reporter in the 1930s.
It struck me that both Kent and Luthor were depicted as unusually egalitarian, but for different reasons. The former simply had a good heart (of course), but Luthor was relentlessly practical and smart enough to see through the social bullshit. He had no problem using anyone with talent--regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, etc--and also no problem murdering them if that was expedient.
The book suffers some due to the constraints of the iconic personas, but the characters are updated wonderfully, the plot is heavy enough without getting bogged down, and the setting is marvelous...it reads like the author came of age in the '30s.