Part of Spider-Man’s appeal is that he’s a geek; people love him because he gets picked on as much as any nerdy teenager. Zeke Reynolds follows in the same tradition.
As the story opens, Zeke is being smacked in the head by a bully, immediately establishing sympathy. Even when Zeke travels into space as one of the first people to make contact with extraterrestrial life, the other kids from Earth avoid him at all costs. And when he defeats an attacking warship, he’s threatened with an intergalactic trial. Like Spider-Man, Zeke has superpowers, but his power is his geekiness. When he has to come up with strategy, he says, “Our lives, at this point, depend on a scheme I’m stealing from Star Trek Two.” He goes into battle wearing Firefly suspenders. Zeke is a terrific character, and Liss is also, clearly and joyfully, a geek—occasionally to the book’s detriment. Page after page is spent on discussions of nanites and their effect on the human body, nearly shutting down the story. (There’s even a flowchart.) But the aliens feel genuinely—and wonderfully—alien, with fully developed cultures and biology. Like the best Marvel comics, the book ends on a note of tragedy. This is jarring, but it gives Zeke’s victories a feeling of depth and realism.
Real geeks wouldn’t have it any other way. (Science fiction. 10-16)