2020 has been a year without franchises by and large. Sure that’s completely untrue with two DC live action movies, three DC animated movies, the return of Bill and Ted, and the death knell of The New Mutants. But play along with me because for the next few days I’m looking at the best tie-in novels to fill the gap in 2020.
I begin by putting the Aconyte books era of Marvel on the board. Aconyte is taking some interesting chances. They have a novel series tied to the lesser known Asgardian heroes. Doom got a novel focused just on him. So did Domino. Future novels include a tie-in to a mobile game and Dark Avengers getting their prose debut.
The first one I’m reviewing is an X-Men novel but not one you’d expect. Writer Carrie Harris’ Liberty & Justice For All is set firmly in the post AvX era with newer characters Triage and Tempus at the center. The book isn’t quite set in that canon exactly with a few deviations from canon but it’s still much fresher than expected. This isn’t a book beholden to Claremont or the Animated Series cast. It’s new and exciting. And incredibly good.
I’m gonna let the publisher’s description sum up the plot because it does so so well. “As part of their training at the New Charles Xavier Institute, Triage and Tempus are allowed to attempt their first solo flying mission. Some way into their mission, they pick up an urgent SOS message – Sentinels are attacking a superpowered mutant, who is struggling to protect an injured politician. When they abandon their lesson and answer the call, however, the identity of both will cause the two young X-Men far more problems than they bargained for.”
That’s definitely the plot. But it only hints at the fun to come here. This is a book that is indeed a new, modern take on the X-Men. But it’s not without classic characters. There is a lot of this book that ties to classic Marvel with the ultimate villain one of my favorites. So if you’re a grump who rejects all the Bendis era of Marvel, you’ll still be okay here.
However I love that era and I was so happy to read something that kept that flavor. I’m mixed on a lot of what came after but this feels like that prime moment where the X-Men felt strong again after House of M. This is a book steeped in the tiniest details of it and I loved it. Goldballs may only show up once in prose but he did here!
And then there’s the two leads. No getting around it, Triage and Tempus rule. They’re richly written, funny, interesting teens battling their insecurities. They breathe. And when they’re put in a situation way over their heads–that mutant and politician are a lot–they shine. This is just great character writing through and through. I knew little about these characters before and left it wanting to read more.
This book really is a giant triumph for Harris. She manages the near impossible task of writing every section well. Action is great. Characters are great. Plot moves rapidly. Visuals are distinct to the point I remember this book like some graphic novels I read this year.
This is an incredible book. Highest recommend.
Tomorrow: I review a 70s cop novel. It’s not tied to a 70s cop show.