REVIEW: Hot Mama by Jennifer Estep
Dear Ms. Estep:
I enjoyed the first book, Karma Girl, and found that the comic book homage is still fun in Hot Mama. However, like the first book, I find that there is problem of pacing which results from the difficult balance between the emotional arcs the characters and the comic book capers.
Fiona Fine, aka Fiera one of the Fearless Five, is mourning the loss of her teammate and fiance, Travis Teague, the Tornado. She’s decided to throw off her “widow’s weeds” and embarks on a hot and heavy affair with Johnny Belluci, the brother of one of her fashion rivals, Bella Belluci.
Karma Girl and Striker just got married and are off on their honeymoon leaving the Fearless Five down to Three: Fiera, Mr. Sage, and Hermit. Fiera’s the one with the most “firepower” (sorry couldn’t resist the bad quip) and on more than one occasion, Johnny and Fiona experience coitus interruptus as Fiona is called to some emergency in need of a superhero.
I found these episodes to be a bit odd because Fiona hardly ever felt the need to rush to the emergency and would encourage the completion of their coupliings before Fiona would go off to answer the call for help. I felt like Fiona needed a “WWWWD” wristband (What Would Wonder Woman Do). In some ways these scenes typified the problems I had with the book. I often thought that too much time was spent on one topic when there was action waiting to be had.
There were two really good emotional arcs in the story: Fiera’s working through her feelings of loss and her realization that revenge left a person empty. While the first was worked out fairly well, I thought the second one was left hanging. Fiera runs into Johnny Angel, a generational superhero who is trying to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the ubervillians, Siren and Intelligal. Fiera tries to get Johnny Angel to drop his plans of revenge explaining her own loss was not diminished with success over an ubervillian.
I never felt that Johnny Angel made an internal choice to forgo revenge. Ultimately what happened was out of his control and the lack of conscious decision making left the emotional arc for Johnny Angel dangling.
I also wish that there was more explanation or development for the idea behind the generational superhero/ubervillian. I wondered if there was a line between uvervillian and superhero and whether Johnny Angel could have crossed over by exacting his revenge. It seemed like this was hinted at a tiny bit but never explored.
The book is very imaginative. The names of the superheroes, the gadgets and the gentle satire of the comic book coda is well done. Those are definitely my favorite parts of the story and shows great ingenuity and creativity.
For an action book, however, I felt that there was a little too much talk and not enough action. A good deal of the first half of the book was spent with Fiona being introspective about her loss. Because of the book’s lighthearted pokes at comics, the internal monologues seemed to be in strange juxtoposation. C+