Wednesday, April 11

Richard Castle's Deadly Storm: A Derrick Storm Mystery (Marvel-ABC Studios 2011)

I mainly started watching the ABC series Castle for Nathan Fillion – like any fanboy, I've really liked him ever since his brilliant portrayal of Malcolm Reynolds in Joss Whedon's FireflyAnd Stana Katic ain't bad to look at, either.  I can't say I've been terribly faithful in watching it. I tend to drop in and out, finding it a pleasant diversion that usually doesn't have any overarching story arc that compels me not to miss a week. I go through phases. Often, it's one of my summer shows.

Anyway, the premise – in case you don't know – is that Fillion's character, Richard Castle, is a best-selling crime novelist who, through connections with the New York City mayor, becomes a continuing ride-along, sort of an unofficial partner to homicide detective Kate Beckett (Katic's character) for research in developing his newest main character, Nikki Heat, the heroine of such works as Naked Heat and Heat Wave. There quickly develops, of course, a sexual tension between Castle and Beckett that is generally expressed through amiable sarcasm and bickering reminiscent of the old Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd TV series Moonlighting.

Richard Castle and Kate Beckett
In a brilliant multimedia move, the Nikki Heat novels have been appearing in real life (ghost-written, of course) since early in the series' television run. In what I at least consider an even more brilliant move, one of Castle's earlier series of books, the Derrick Storm novels, have been adapted into graphic novel format. Well, at least that's how it's portrayed in the TV series, as a plot point. Of course, it's really a (sort-of) ghost-written “adaptation” of a non-existent book, but the result is sort of the same – a graphic novel that duplicates something of the flavor of the Castle television series, albeit with different characters.

The authors (“of the adaptation”) are Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick; art is by Lan Medina. It's a pretty solid story that basically sets up private detective Derrick Storm as a quasi recruit into the CIA. One thing I like is how the character of Storm is written to closely duplicate the voice of Rick Castle in the television series. You can practically hear Nathan Fillion's speaking the words you are reading. Overall, the mood is very much like an episode of the series. There is the beautiful CIA agent who ends up saddled with this amateur, sexual tension and bickering resulting. But it departs from the generally light-hearted style of the TV series toward the end when tragedy strikes ….

… and inadvertently messes up a lot of the carefully crafted verisimilitude that is designed into this volume. By which I mean, the conceit that this is a product of the character we watch on TV is maintained through lists of Castle's “other books” on the front flyleaf; an introduction wherein Castle tells how his first heroes and inspiration for writing were found in comic books and consequently how gratified he is to find his work adapted into that format by “the remarkably talented Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick,” “brought to life beautifully by Lan Medina's artwork”; and several pages of plot-blurbs and cover images for his other novels – which is where it breaks down, because obviously whoever wrote the blurbs for the “other” Derrick Storm novels hadn't actually read this one! They are absolutely inconsistent with the tragic plot twist at the end of Deadly Storm which leaves a major character unavailable to play a central role in all those later stories.

Unless, this being comics, after all, we have a bit of retconning or rebooting going on here as well!

It's a faux pas that would not detract from the reader's enjoyment of the story itself, unless said reader has (as I did) already perused those blurbs for “later” stories before finishing this one, with the result being a sudden “Huh--? Wha--?” and a feeling of being played wrongly. I also wonder how Bendis and DeConnick intend to write their way out of that box in subsequent Derrick Storm graphic novels which have already been announced, given what seems to have been a very positive reception for this one. Just from reading various comic creators' blogs as well as comic-related message boards it's been apparent that Castle has a substantial fan overlap with the comic book community – probably like me many from our ranks were drawn to it by Nathan Fillion. But hopefully there have been some fans of the show who were not already comic readers who have been drawn into the graphic novel format by this book. That can only be a good thing.

In any case, I found this a very good little read, a bit different from your typical comic book fare. I recommend it as well as the Castle TV show that is its source to comic fans who may not have discovered them already, as well as anyone else.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading!

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