Review: A Once Crowded Sky

A Once Crowded SkyA Once Crowded Sky by Tom King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you love or have ever loved reading comics, you need to read this book. It is essentially a love letter to comic book fans. This is a world in which the characters are slightly self-aware. They don’t really know they’re in a story, but it does still have some of the same vibes of Redshirts. The characters know that they always come back after death (view spoiler) and they know they monologue and then save the world. But they don’t necessarily know they’re in a book or comic.

I love that this book is essentially the written version of a trade paperback. Each chapter is broken into sections with titles like Ultimate Man #454. And you can see how if this were drawn it would be a trade of something like a Marvel summer event.

While many of the characters seem to have analogues to our world – like a Captain America, Superman, Batman, and Superboy – they don’t feel like derivatives or parodies. They seem like fully fleshed characters. It just makes sense that there would always be a Captain America-like hero. Even Watchmen has a demented version in The Comedian.

The main premise of the book is to explore what it means to be a hero and why we want such unrealistic heroism (to an almost black and white level) in our comics. (view spoiler)

The book also reminds me of Bill Murray’s line in Groundhog’s Day when he claims that maybe God only knows everything because he’s seen it before. (view spoiler)

I’ve literally read hundreds of books in my lifetime and so I consider it a mark of a very good writer when he keeps me surprised and on my toes. Tom King did that many times over and it didn’t seem cheap like M Night Shamalyn. There was only one plot twist I saw a mile away – (view spoiler) The only parts that felt a bit contrived were when characters ignored other characters who clearly wanted to give them info and then that person dies or something happens. I know it’s a key part of story-telling so that stories aren’t just a few pages long – but I’ve never liked it even when my original author heroes like Michael Crichton used it.

The front cover makes a comparison to Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The biggest one I see is in the ending. In Watchmen both Ozymandius and Dr Manhattan were willing to kill to allow the greater purpose to win. But it’s all undone by Rorshach’s journal. (view spoiler)

I can’t reiterate enough how much you should read this book if you love comics. And, just like the comics, it invites rereading once you know the plot twists because there were little details that you could have picked up along the way.

View all my reviews

One response to “Review: A Once Crowded Sky”