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Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask
by Jim Munroe
Ryan Slint seems to be pretty much like any other mild-mannered student at the University of Toronto. He has a couple of slovenly roommates, a hardcore caffeine habit, and a tremendous crush on Cassandra, a waitress at his favorite diner. Ryan has never told anyone before that he can turn into a fly, and Cassandra has never told anyone that she can make things disappear just by staring at them. After exchanging their deepest, darkest secrets on their first date, Ryan and Cassandra decide to join forces to fight for Truth, Justice, and the Canadian Way.
Battling the powers of Evil isn't a straightforward goal -- what was the last time you personally encountered a supervillain, or even a good old-fashioned mugging-in-progress? The evils that concern Ryan and Cassandra personally are more nebulous targets: sexism, the cigarette industry, and the War on Some Drugs. Armed with a good publicist, Ryan and Cassandra turn to social activism under the banner "Superheroes for Social Justice." Civil disobedience becomes a much more entertaining spectator sport when Cassandra starts disappearing uniforms right off the nearby cops.
Unlike most superhero stories, this isn't a power fantasy, and it doesn't really try to be one. The public superheroics are infrequent and largely off- camera. Instead, the story focuses on Ryan's rather sweet relationship with Cassandra, and his attempts to cope as personal tragedies rearrange his comfortable world.
Cassandra is self-confident, practical, knowledgeable, lovely, open-minded, and generally without flaw; no wonder Ryan's infatuated with her. Despite her perfection, Munroe does a nice job of portraying her as earthy and approachable. In contrast, Ryan is callow and immature, not because he's a jerk, but because he's never needed to grow out of it before.
The book succeeds largely because Ryan's wry narration is a pleasure to read, laden with hormones, pop culture references, and Sailor Moon in-jokes. Munroe has a knack for giving depth even to minor characters with just a few lines of smarth-mouthed dialogue.
Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask is published by HarperFlamingo Canada, and is not yet available in the United States, although it's available from a few online booksellers. It's due to be published in the US by Avon Spike in November 1999.
-- Christina Schulman.
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