REVIEW: Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge
REVIEW SUMMARY: This complex story explores the good and evil in all of us, even superheroes. The characters in Black and White are relatable and flawed despite their extra-human status. I enjoyed this new take on superheroes with the two main characters being female and best friends – and of course later archenemies. Without taking itself too seriously, this Justice League-meets-Harry Potter novel offers some valuable insights into the nature of being human.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Experiments in fertility treatments inadvertently led to the creation of “extrahumans” with special powers. Shadow power Joannie “Jet” Green and Light power Callie “Iridium” Bradford were best friends all through their Academy days until their worldviews finally clashed too much. Fighting evil from opposite directions, these two superheroes must meet in the middle to fend off an insidious nemesis.
PROS: I loved that this superhero story had two women at the center of it. With Black and White, Kessler and Kittredge definitely filled a void for me by creating female superheroes who stand on their own and aren’t connected to existing male superheroes. I also enjoyed how Jet’s and Iri’s fatal flaws are what simultaneously pushed them together and drove them apart. Their characterizations were consistent and their differing worldviews makes sense based on their life experiences.
CONS: While I was a little surprised about one of the characters with the reveal at the end, another character’s actions seemed specifically manufactured to suit the arc of Jet and Iri. I was able to look past that aspect and enjoy the story, however.
BOTTOM LINE: I would recommend this book to friends, especially those into comic book superheroes. Kessler and Kittredge clearly love the superhero mythos and several elements in the story pay homage to it.
Those homage elements include the “skinsuits” every hero wears and the nicknames every hero is given before graduating from the Academy. The authors had fun playing with the powers and names given to secondary characters like giant Samson and the blue-haired Frostbite. We’re also shown the dark side of extrahuman powers and the repercussions — some are kept from going “rabid” through “Therapy,” an experience that seems similar to brainwashing. Jet may be the protector of New Chicago, but she ultimately answers to Corp-Co, the company who purchased the scientific experiments that created the heroes as well as runs the Academy and heroes-only Blackbird prison.
Both protagonists must overcome the reputations of their fathers. Jet’s father went too crazy even for Therapy and murdered her mother in a fit of psychosis while Iri’s father sits in Blackbird prison for going AWOL from Corp-Co. Jet fights against the dark voices that drove her father crazy and Iri finds herself a queen of sorts of her father’s supervillain underworld. Both characters want to do the right thing; they just disagree on the correct way to achieve their ends. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series, Shades of Gray, to be released in 2010.
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