• Rose Smith

Article: Exploring the End of a Superhero in Fast Guy Slows Down

Photo Source: Shutterstock

Editor's Note: We received a free copy of Fast Guy Slows Down in exchange for an honest review.

Over the course of comic book history, superheroes have been recycled and rebooted in different universes, eras, and timelines. However, it’s rare that we see the retirement and death of a superhero. What happens after a hero is past its glory days, and how does that descent play out eventually? Wred Fright’s Fast Guy Slows Down delves into this and much more.

Fast Guy Slows Down can be divided into two parallel plots surrounding the character Harry Fox. Harry Fox, also known as the superhero Fast Guy, inherits the ability to stop time as a young boy. In the first plot, we follow Harry as an elderly man coming to terms with his age and looking for a successor to inherit his time-stopping power. In the other, we receive a firsthand autobiography of Harry’s life throughout the decades from the 1940s to the 2010s. We see the development of Harry’s super identity as well as his passage through life, including marriage, children, divorce, and his interface with media and geopolitical events.

One of the novel’s biggest strengths would have to be its take on superheroism. It is left open-ended how many people shared some kind of superhuman ability along with Fast Guy, but the way these people were characterized reminds me a lot of the 2011 documentary Superheroes. I could have easily envisioned some of these heroes along with Fast Guy being featured in a news spotlight of some kind. Fright does a great job here of creating a portrait of the types of people who would take up some kind of super vigilante role, and the heroes' backstories and motivations fit well within the decade they're described in.

However, Harry’s career as a superhero is presented as but a small part of the tapestry of a long life lived. Interwoven are Harry’s jobs, loves, and the relationship with his powers over time. Most notably, I particularly enjoyed how Harry's relationships with his kids and his past loves evolved over the decades, doing well to weave in the culture of the decade and applying that to the characters at large. The way that the author went about the ways that Harry would utilize his super abilities was exceedingly thoughtful with applications from the mundane to the world-altering. One thing I found to be interesting is his preoccupation with not developing a god complex. He talks frequently about how he could have easily become an unstoppable supervillain if he had a different moral compass, and he wrestles with how much he should have affected historical world events. What's interesting to me personally though is how he does affect the world around him and what he does decide to change about the course of human history.

I will have to say that this book was not without its flaws. I think at the forefront would be some style issues. Throughout the book, especially in the flashback chapters, there were page-long paragraphs that really needed to be broken up. Sometimes it came off as a stream of consciousness, and sometimes it came across as a rush to stuff in as many geopolitical events or media references as possible in one paragraph. If I could edit the work, I would likely recommend trying to condense and break apart the large paragraphs to make clearer ideas. Even if this was an intentional decision to create a stream of consciousness, the paragraphs came across as more exhausting to read, as if the work needed to catch its own breath by the end of its thought. Also, the point of view changes depending on whether the story was describing the past or present, and I would personally have preferred the work to stick with one over the other.

In this same vein, while I certainly enjoyed the journey through the decades, I wish we got more development of the present. I thought there was so much to be explored between the relationship between Harry and his granddaughter Julie. Julie acts as a great foil to Harry, and the interplay between each other was extremely interesting to read. I would have loved to get more time to watch them interact more and tease apart both their common ground and their disagreements. Watching Julie and Harry learn from each other would have been cool character development for both of them. Given the amount of strife he has seen over time, Harry has taken on a kind of cynicism, and to see Julie perhaps take Harry to task would have been an engaging character arc for them. So much of the book is taken up by cultural commentary of the past decades, and a lot of the chapters are taken up with the character's opinions on pop and political culture of the decade. While that is certainly a part of how one experiences history, I would have loved to trade out at least some historical references for character development between the two of them. Personally, I'm less interested in how Harry felt about the 2000s music scene than his interpersonal relationships with his family and friends.

In regards to humor, I would say that your mileage may vary. I thought that Wright had some great bits here and there with observational humor about the decades, and the banter between Harry and his granddaughter felt extremely natural and fun to read. Also, the exploration of the power system behind stopping time was really fun. Without giving too much away, one of the artifacts behind Harry's powers is a staff with two talking snakes attached to it, and I just loved the way they talked to each other (complete with long s's to really drive home that they're snakes). There is a gag about how Harry uses his power to stop time to defecate onto the heads of leaders and billionaires that he believes to be corrupt, and honestly, the gag didn't personally work for me. It's just not my kind of humor, and while it does come up quite often, I didn't let it dent my enjoyment of the book too much. The only gag I would say that I didn't quite appreciate was a part where Harry uses stopped time to strip a jogger, place her own panties on her head, and reclothed her, only for her to realize in horror what was done to her after time resumed. This was in response to her telling him that he shouldn't be outside due to Covid and his age. Honestly, while I think the character meant this as some harmless prank, I thought the gag came off as creepy and pretty uncalled for considering what she had done. The idea of using a god-like power to strip someone nude without their agency just came off as gross and didn't do his character a lot of justice. It only happens once, but honestly, that stayed in my head for a while after I had read it, so I figured it would be appropriate to put it here as well.

Overall, I would say that Fast Guy Slows Down was an interesting read. Wright does a great job fleshing out a character from start to finish. There are some editing and style choices that I had some issues with, but I would certainly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys off-the-wall comedy or superhero stories. The book finds itself really picking up after a certain point, and it was a great character study of a hero retiring. If you're interested in seeing another underutilized aspect of superheroism, then definitely check this book out.

Fast Guy Slows Down

by Wred Fright



Photo Source: Wred Fright

If you are interested in checking out this book, you can learn more about it on Wred Fright's site here.

Rose Smith is the blog editor of Twenty-two Twenty-eight. When she isn’t writing about the world around her, she is often found listening to music, watching movies, and going on walks with her dogs.

You can find her on Instagram here and on Twitter here.