India Inked


Turbulence by Samit Basu

If there’s one thing we’re accustomed to in American comics, it’s that most superheroes are Americans. Sure, you get the occasional nod to superheroes from Canada, the UK, Russia, Japan, or China. But we always focus on American superheroes. And we always consider it a triumph for diversity when a team of heroes has more than one person of color. But if we went by total population, who’d have the largest populations of super-powered people? China first, obviously, but after that would be India — and that’s the setting for this book.

Our setup for the novel comes when everyone aboard a plane traveling from London to Delhi ends up getting powers, some grand and earth-shattering, some modest and barely noticible, but all exactly the powers that suited each person’s personality and greatest desires.

So we meet Aman, who gets vast powers over telecommunications and decides he wants to save the world from itself. Vir, a pilot in the Indian Air Force, gets flight, superspeed, and super-durability. Aspiring actress Uzma becomes superhumanly likeable. Harried housewife Tia can clone herself as many times as she wants. Sher is a tiger-headed super-warrior. Princess Anima is a schoolgirl with massively powerful anime-inspired combat abilities. And Jai is entirely indestructible — and he wants to conquer the entire world.

And they’re not all heroes. Jai is certainly the most powerful being on the planet, and he gathers most of the other really powerful people to his side really quickly. He kills the people who aren’t useful to him. The pitifully few heroes don’t tend to have the most combat-worthy abilities, and they’re generally outgunned and seemingly doomed. What chance do they have to save India, much less the rest of the world?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a novel with a setting that’s surprisingly refreshing — it’s fun to get better acquainted with India and its gigantically diverse population through this book. But it’s not just a geographical lesson plan — because that would be no fun at all. This is a superhero story, and it really excels.

The characters are amazingly fun — I really couldn’t pick out a favorite. Aman and his pigheaded naivete, Uzma and the way she slowly grows out of her shallow egotism, Tia’s maternal kickassery, Vir’s stubborn and frequently stupid heroism. Sher and Princess Anima are both terrifying in different ways and also hugely charismatic in equally different ways. And Jai is so despicably dislikeable — but you really wouldn’t hate him so much if her weren’t such a gloriously created villain. And there are plenty of minor characters who you wish had larger roles in the story just so you could get to know them better.

The action and fight scenes are fantastic, harrowing, horrifying, and everything you’d want from a bunch of super-battles. And the story continually grows more and more exciting, with the stakes being continually raised higher and higher. The further along you go in the story, the less likely you are to want to put it down for very long.

Is it a good superhero story? Heck, yes. It may be one of the best I’ve ever read. Should you go pick it up. Yes, seriously, go pick it up. You’ll love this.

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