Time.com Covers the 99

Time.com has a piece on Islamic comic The 99.

You know, I appreciate the impulse behind the book — to show a variety of Muslims helping save the world — but when I tried it, it seemed awfully generic. And with 99 characters, that’s a lot to keep up with. Plus, they seem to be putting emphasis on the property, with talk of a cartoon and theme parks, instead of the story. They’re clearly aiming at kids, so maybe the problem is that they’re talking down to them.

Has anyone read it? What do you like about it?

6 Responses to “Time.com Covers the 99”

  1. Mark S. Says:

    I read the first couple of issues. And yawned…

  2. Jer Says:

    I get the feeling from the article and the website that we might not be the target audience for the book. I would suspect that the target audience seems to be Islamic parents looking for a fairly wholesome superhero book for their kids to read.

    I’ll have to read the preview issue to see if it looks like it’s talking down to kids or if it looks like they’re afraid of scaring off parents and their erring to much on the side of “safe”.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Jer, you may be right, it has that feel. I’m curious to see what you think after you read the preview.

  4. Chris S Says:

    I did a bit of work for them, and while the characters may seem a bit blah to an older reader, their main goal is to give kids a bright and shiny positive role model.

    I haven’t read much of the comics, but as a 28-year-old-non-muslim, I’m not really their target reader.

  5. Jer Says:

    Okay, I read “The 99 Origins” free download and a few of the single issue previews. I don’t know how representative the 3-4 page previews are of an entire book, so I’m mostly basing my opinions off the full-sized Origins issue.

    I think my initial instinct was correct for the most part. It definitely has the feel that they’re straddling a line between giving kids something they want while making sure parents feel comfortable about buying it for them.

    Maybe my expectations were lowered, but the book didn’t seem to be talking down to the audience at all. It seems to be written for an “intelligent 12 year old”. The writing mostly reminded me of early-90s Marvel when they were still at least nominally aiming their books at younger teens (and were still adhering to the CCA, now that I think about it).

    However – the book is strikingly non-violent for a superhero comic. There’s not much fighting in the book at all and what there is of it happens off panel. What would be a multi-page fight scene between Jabbar and his kidnappers in a standard comic book happens between panels with an understated “four minutes later” cut scene. The earlier “fight” between Jabbar and the army is similar.

    The book is also really talky. Lots of exposition, and lots of dialog. Dr. Ramzi’s dialog often falls a bit on the corny side. The corny dialog might give the effect of talking down to the audience, but my impression is that Ramzi’s supposed to be kind of corny. That kind of fits with the early-90s Marvel vibe I get off the book – slightly corny dialog with lots of exposition was the house style as I recall.

    There also doesn’t seem to be much room for “shades of grey” in the characters – it seems like there are good guys and bad guys and the lines are pretty clear.

    The art style isn’t my cup of tea, and I’m not really nostalgic for retro-90s comics, so I’m probably not going to be hunting this stuff down. But if my 12 year old self had been handed this book, he probably wouldn’t have turned his nose up at it.

    (I actually liked the fantasy/historical elements at the beginning of the book more than the modern stuff. I’d be more interested in seeing a sword-and-sandals fantasy book with that setup than the superhero stuff they’re going for here. But I’m a sucker for sword-and-sandal stories. And like Chris S says, I’m clearly not their target reader.)

  6. Johanna Says:

    Thanks very much for the review, Jer!




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