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The Long Man
Steve Englehart
Tor, 381 pages

The Long Man
Steve Englehart
Steve Englehart was born in Indianapolis, and went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. After a stint in the Army, he moved to New York and began to write for Marvel Comics. That led to long runs on Captain America, The Hulk, The Avengers, Dr. Strange, and a dozen other titles. Midway through that period he moved to California (where he remains), and met and married his wife Terry. He was finally hired away from Marvel by DC Comics, to be their lead writer and revamp their core characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern). He did, but he also wrote a solo Batman series that later became Warner Brothers' first Batman film.

Steve Englehart Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'There had to be five thousand of them, standing in silent rows stretching into the distance, like some Walpurgisnacht Nuremberg rally.'
A long time ago, in a life far, far away, I interviewed Steve Englehart at a New York Comic-Con. This was way back when he was the rising star of the medium. Among all the egos, he came across as a modest, erudite fellow; the thinking man's comic book writer. Just a few years later he wrote The Point Man which was his first foray into transmuting his golden touch with comics into that of a novelist. The book introduced Max August, and it is a mere twenty-five years later that the sequel, The Long Man is published. The story kicks off when August is summoned by a dying friend, in the hope that he can save Dr. Pamela Blackwell from whoever is trying to use magic to kill her. Blackwell's research is something that has the potential to save the lives of millions, and that has accidentally put her in the sights of a clandestine organisation called the FRC; the power brokers behind many thrones, who are about to make an audacious and deadly move toward global domination.

What follows is a page-turning romp which includes zombies, subtle magics, assassins, and an ever-shifting backdrop running from San Francisco to Barbados and the jungles of Suriname. As a complete newcomer to the world of magic, Pam Blackwell has to learn fast in order to help preserve her own life, and Max August, while effectively immortal, is not invulnerable. His status as a timeless man, perpetually thirty-five-years-old and in the prime of life, has given him time to learn his magic, and gain the wisdom of age. But he's still capable of making mistakes, and is nothing at all like Doctor Strange or any of the author's other comics characters. This is both a blessing and a curse. On many occasions, using the format of a novel allows Englehart the space to expand and explain in ways that comics never could, but just occasionally I felt that he was trying to paint pictures with words, and missed the skills of an artist. That said, he does a good job of visualising Max August's world, and his laid back literary style is both easy to read and engaging.

The basic idea of a man who has stepped out of time and dropped out of society in order to keep the required low profile is intriguing, and used to good effect. Running parallel with the current episode of August's life, is a bitter past which saw Aleksandra, a demonic entity, kill both his mentor, the legendary alchemist Cornelius Agrippa, and Val, his wife. As the story opens, August has spent many years searching for the spirit of his murdered love, primarily at each Halloween. Sometimes he's seen her and the two have briefly communicated, but never has the contact been strong or long enough for him to bring her back. As a result, August has not allowed himself any serious romantic involvement, until circumstances place him alongside Pamela Blackwell. It is in this area that The Long Man sometimes feels a little clunky, as Englehart is not a romance writer, but it just about hangs together, and there's a nice twist concerning the ultimate fate of Val, which ironically made her into one of the more interesting characters. Not bad for someone who makes barely more than cameo appearances.

The Long Man is a prime example of how some comic book writers can make the transition to novelist, and use that medium well, without ever astonishing. Max August and his supporting characters are well drawn -- no pun intended -- and there's potential for much more. What is missing here, is the spark of greatness. Straightforward and workman-like, much of the story is by-the-numbers, and Max August himself does not thrill like Englehart's comic book classics. Simply put, the character is not iconic. Not that he's a duffer, either. Older readers will understand if I say he's a Kuryakin not a Solo; interesting in his own right, but less charismatic than the leading man. The feeling I had as this book ended was that I'd been entertained, but the best was yet to come. I just hope it doesn't take another twenty-five years!

Copyright © 2010 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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