PREPARE TO DIE!, the first novel by comics writer Paul Tobin, is a lot of fun half the time. Half of the book is about lasers and punching. That's the fun part. There's also a bunch of stuff about high school romance and the angst surrounding it. That part's less good.

Steve Clarke is the superhero known as Reaver—he's faster and stronger than a normal human, can heal wounds and regrow limbs, and, most potently of all, one of his punches shaves a year's time off his target's lifespan. (His catchphrase: "Time to take some time off!") Despite all that, Reaver is bested by the excellently named supervillain Octagon who, leveling a supergun at our hero's head, says "Prepare to die!" Reaver/Steve says "okay" and asks for two weeks to prepare. Octagon says that's fine, sends him on his way, and the book follows Steve as he reminisces about his past exploits and puts his affairs in order before Octagon zots him into oblivion.

A good half of the book is given over to Steve's infatuation with his small-town high-school sweetheart, Adele. Steve goes on and on about how much he misses her, how important she is, and how all of the supermodels or fangirls in the world can't hold a candle to the girl he once knew as a teenager. This is easily the weakest part of the book. Adele is never really fleshed out as a character in and of herself, and we're never given a reason to care about her like Steve does. As much page time as Adele gets, she remains an abstraction. Also, idealizing a teenage romance? I can only suspend so much disbelief.

But, just as I was being put to sleep by the romance plot, there'd be more superheroes. Reaver's accounts of fighting villains with names like Laser Beast (with whom he does battle at Portland's own Sassy's), Stellar, and Macabre are all filled with pulpy, punchy goodness. All of the various heroes and villains feel original. After I was done with the book, I did want a bit more from those characters. If there were a hypothetical comic featuring the further adventures of Reaver or his hero friend Paladin, I'd read it.

So, just to be clear—

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The parts with romance and feelings: ZZZZZZZZZZZ.

The parts with yowie-zowie superheroics/villainy: Hell yeah! Read this book!