So after my huge blog post the other day about Hero Factory I decided I should buy some of the HF books like I've been meaning to do for quite some time now. I bought the first two only, so far, because Aanchir said the BA books weren't as good and I was never a fan of the Brains anyway. I'll probably get the others before too long, but for now Doom Box and Legion of Darkness are all I have to go on.
They were quite good.
Doom Box was interesting. I was definitely a fan of the way the story was structured--with the first half being flashbacks "told" through old mission logs, and the second half having the Heroes revisit the scene of those earlier missions...it certainly made for a nice bit of in-story continuity. And there was also a fair bit of world...galaxy?building, even if a bit derivative. The story itself was fairly straightforward, and the mysteries not too compelling, but it was a good book regardless. One thing that was a bit of a bother, though, was the high amount of characters, most of which really didn't contribute much to the plot. Worst of all, Nex and Evo were completely irrelevant in every way. (My poor poor Nex why must you suffer so) And the fact that there were so many characters really brought out one of Greg's biggest drawbacks as a writer: he has a difficult time giving his characters distinct voices. Everyone pretty much talks the same, makes the same kinds of jokes and witty quips, and seem to share the exact same vocabulary. It's really a shame. Another problem is that with so many characters (and this being only the first book) no one had any time to get developed, so when Surge has his supposed moral quandary, it barely means anything because we had to be told that this is a thing he had struggled with and that this was an Important Moment. It was really not as good as it could have been, but it was nevertheless a decent enough beginning to the series. Cut out some characters, develop them a little, and add a more interesting plot, and this series could have something really good.
Legion of Darkness had a lot less characters, developed them slightly, and had an interesting plot. I liked it a lot. Though...I suppose less characters is incorrect. Doom Box had nine heroes and one villain. Legion of Darkness had five heroes and eight villains. However, by virtue of the villains being, well, villains, the story didn't feel as cluttered. Each had some sort of specific quirk to them that made them recognizable and distinct enough, and each was only important for limited time, so unlike with the heroes in DB you didn't really find yourself seeing them all blend together in an amorphous blob of hero. As for the heroes, well, Thresher aside, I'd say Greg did a good job at characterizing them pretty well. Stringer in particular felt like a pretty distinct character, due to the way his loyalty and ideals were contrasted with his sensibility and wariness. And the stuff going on with Von Ness felt a lot
more natural and impactful than the stuff with Surge.
(but it was weird that everyone got called my their last name only except for von ness, who was always Von Ness)
It was also really cool seeing young Preston Stormer--his idealism, rashness, and overall air of inexperience painted a great foil to the weathered leader we usually see portrayed in HF media. As for Bulk...can't say I thought much of his characterization, but, maybe that's just the fact that there really wasn't much going on with his character in this one. But speaking of young Stormer, just seeing the portrayal of the beginnings of the Hero Factory was oh so good. It is pretty much all I could have wanted from a story about it, really. And of course it's a Breakout story, so we had all the cool villains from that wave running around being generally terrible and entertaining. I do feel kind of sad that the 2010 villains weren't invited (they were all themed individually like the Breakout characters and had colorful personas, so I'm sure they would have fit right in) but I suppose with as many villains as we already had (poor Thornraxx did little besides getting splattered) it might have been a bit much.
But yeah. LoD was just a very good book and it pretty much delivered on what I wanted out of a HF book. It expanded upon the year's story in ways that were far superior to the episodes. (granted not a very high bar to reach, but I don't mean this sarcastically at all) while at the same time telling good, concise side stories that help to suggest the bigger scope of the kind of stories you can tell with the HF setting. I'm honestly pretty sad that the Secret Mission series didn't start back in 2010....or continue into 2014. From what I've read, they were great. I'll definitely have to buy the other three soon.
Two last things to note, though. First, it's odd, but it seems the books didn't care to stay in continuity with the Breakout episodes--Whereas in the tv thing Surge, Stormer, and Stringer (plus the others) all accomplish their missions simultaneously, in the book Surge caught Splitface a while ago, but Voltix and Speeda Demon are still on the loose. And while in the show no one seems to know who Black Phantom is, LoD shows he was kind of a very important figure in the beginnings of the factory, so go figure. I really don't mind--the show is terrible--but it seems like a weird way to do things anyway.
Second, it seems that only robots exist in bookverse HF. Organics aren't things. And that's weird.
edit:also reading these books really made me want to finish my breakout collection, even from wave 2. i don't really see that happening with some of these prices and 2015 Bionicle+Chima in the horizon, but you never know...