The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence, by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore

Stan Lee is the notable creator of comic book heroes such as Spiderman and the X-Men. He’s joined here by Stuart Moore, a comic book editor and writer, to create a new group of action heroes based on the animals of the Chinese zodiac. (The print book also contains occasional art work by Andie Tong, but it’s more of a novel with illustrations than it is a graphic novel.)

Chinese-American teen Stephen Lee is on a school trip to China. When at a museum he hears screaming from behind a locked door. There he finds a group of people attempting to gain power from an ancient Chinese artifact showing the animals of the Chinese zodiac. An evil man named Maxwell is attempting to absorb dragon power from the stone. But Stephen also receives tiger power from the stone. Soon he’s drawn into a battle. On one side are Maxwell’s forces of evil as he leads his own group of people with animal powers (snake, dog, oxen, horse). Stephen becomes part a group of good guys with their own powers (pig, rooster, rabbit, rat). For reasons that are, at first, mysterious his parents let him go globe trotting to help recruit new members.

Let me say that this book is highly rated by readers on Amazon, and most of these reviews come from teen boys. This and the several books that follow have a following. I am not a teenage boy and found the book about as tedious as anything I’ve read this year.

As comic book writers there seems to have been quite a bit of focus on action and “snappy” dialogue, with barely any consideration for character or location. Descriptions of everything other than fight scenes are pretty minimal. The dialogue is generally things anyone over the age of 15 has already seen in comics, TV, or movies a hundred times before. After being beaten by a character earlier a girl pops into view in a later fight with a triumphant “Remember me?” before pummeling the bad guy in revenge. Stephen, looking at the equipment brought by Maxwell’s group, mentions that they “have some very nice toys.” “Yeah,” says friend Liam cockily. “When I was a kid I always broke my toys.” And off he goes to do some destruction. These are just the most gag-worthy of many pages of this stuff. It really wouldn’t fly in a modern comic and why they thought they could cram it into a novelized twist on X-Men is beyond my ken.

If you have a kid who loves to read and is begging for this series, buy it by all means. It’s generally harmless action with black-and-white morality and mild romance. (Mostly kisses on cheeks.) It’s harmless enough but not exactly mind-expanding literature.