Quinn Rollins's Reviews > The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon
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's review
Feb 08, 12

really liked it

Perusing books on GoodReads, I stumbled across a picture book I hadn't heard of before, written by one of my favorite authors. Michael Chabon has been a favorite of mine since reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. That book that fictionalizes the comic book writers of the 1930s cemented the name Michael Chabon with superheroes, and even though he hasn't written anything in that genre since, when I saw this picture book I ran out and picked it up.

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man is a 2011 hardback picture book, illustrated by Jake Parker. This is the first picture book from Chabon, and the first from Parker as well--and is their first collaboration. If this book is any indication, I'd love to see them work together again.

Awesome Man is a superhero--flying, red-caped, masked superhero. He can:

Fly as high as a satellite

And as straight as an arrow

Or through the time barrier and not get dizzy, or feel nauseous, or smash into things...except on purpose. When you are a superhero like me, sometimes you have to smash into things.

We go with Awesome Man on a patrol through the big city, where he takes on villains like mutant Jell-O from outer space, and giant killer robots, and Professor Von Evil. He almost tells us his secret identity halfway through the book, but is distracted by another threat. So the "astonishing" secret identity is put aside until the end of the book. My boys thought they guessed the secret identity on a page that has a Clark Kent-looking fellow, but they were wrong. Excellent red herring, boys.

The book is told using Awesome Man's voice--exuberant and child-like, which makes it a lot of fun to read aloud. After reading it to my sons (ages 7 and 9), they read it a second time to each other, giggling at the heroics happening on each page.

Jake Parker's illustrations are beautiful, with the bright colors of a comic book. Awesome Man looks like he's part Superman and part Incredible, and is instantly recognizable as a superhero. The pictures are playful and have the clean lines of animation. There's a lot of action, crumpling robots and flying through the skies, but with an innocent joy that removes any real danger. Every page is fun to look at as well as to read aloud, a tribute to Mr. Parker's skill. A favorite page shows the Fortress of Awesome, Awesome Man's underground headquarters. That page alone could fire kids' imagination for days--I know it did mine.

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man is a fun book for anyone who's a fan of superheroes, and while paying tribute to several different heroes, isn't just an imitation of any of them in particular. It's a great picture book that gets it all right. If you've got kids who love The Incredibles, or Superman or Batman or Captain America, they'll love this book. Goodness knows we did.

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