Jose Alaniz has written an extremely ambitious work in Death, Disability, and the Superhero. The first part of the book focuses primarily on disability and the superhero while, from chapter seven on death and the superhero takes center stage. As with any work that encompasses such a broad range of thought, there is a need for some basic assumptions to be made explicit from the beginning so that readers will understand how the writer will use and interpret some concepts. Unfortunately it is precisely in this introductory area where it seemed the scope of the study prevented Alaniz from clearly linking his premises and thus set up the rest of the book. This is unfortunate because the following chapters are very well researched and presented.
While I was initially more interested in the disability studies sections rather than those addressing death and mortality, I felt the latter chapters were better organized and presented. Often in the early chapters there were analyses which were quite effective as far as they went but tended to overlook intersections where additional factors also come into play. For instance the contrast between disabled and super-abled bodies could benefit from also addressing racial and gender issues. Let me say, however, that I don't consider this a particularly significant negative since the book touches on so many aspects of death and disability studies. One of the most valuable aspects of this work will be the future scholarship it will help to launch, furthering analyses begun here as well as filling gaps between what is and is not addressed here.
I anticipate revisiting most if not all of this book again in the future and expect to find it referenced widely in future research. This may not appeal to every casual comic fan, which is understandable, but I think many will also find new avenues into their favorite comics through the act of wrestling with some of this material. Scholars in the death and disability fields as well as popular culture and comics/graphic novels studies will find many useful points to ponder and address in future work.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.