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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: The Law of Superheroes

As many of you loyal readers probably know, I love superheroes. I guess you could say that I eat, sleep, and breathe superheroes. Don't get me wrong, I like a good fantasy story, science fiction, crime, historical fiction, drama, adventure, and noir (no horror, please), but I just can't shake the fact that I'm an absolute sucker for a good superhero story. I must have watched The Incredibles a dozen times when I was a kid. And remember, I'm the same guy who built crime maps of the Gotham City organized crime factions. But to get to the point, I also love it when one of my preoccupations is combined with something with roots in the real world. Case in point, The Law of Superheroes.

Based on their popular law blog Law and the Multiverse, which I avidly follow, lawyers James Daily and Ryan Davidson examine a host of legal issues derived from comic books. Could Batman patent the Batmobile? What is the tax status of organizations such as the Avengers? What civil rights might mutants have? And is the Joker really insane? All of these questions and more are answered in this tome.

Like I said, the reason that books like this appeal to me is that it combines something awesome (superheroes) with something otherwise normal (law) to produce a subject, or rather, a take on a subject, which is unique and interesting in its own fashion (the law of superheroes). The authors actually go into detail about these laws, citing comic book stories with the same precision as court cases. They give their expert opinion about even the most arcane legal issues and comic book lore with just the right balance of seriousness and levity that such a study would require.

Now, some of you might think that such a book would be quite dull, or else so painstakingly technical as to drown out all the interesting bits. I am happy to report that this is not at all the case. Daily and Davidson are as much comic book fans as they are lawyers, and it can easily be told that they are the same people who write their blog. As I said, the writing style achieves perfect equilibrium between seriousness and levity, with the authors maintaining a healthy sense of humor about the material being examined, while at the same time conducting the examination in a sober (though occasionally jocular) manner.

What I particularly appreciated about this book is that it didn't limit itself to a comprehensive review of criminal law. Oh, far from it. It also deals with constitutional law, administrative law, patent law, and a host of other types of law. I seem to recall it being mentioned in the book somewhere that Daily and Davidson wanted to create a basic primer for law students that was meant to give a general overview of U.S. law, but in a fun and interesting way. In that regard, I say to those two brave barristers, "Mission accomplished."

The Law of Superheroes is a must have for all hardcore superhero and comic book fans. Not only will it enlighten you about legal issues in comic books, but it will acquaint you with the basic underpinnings of the American legal system. For me, it has the added benefits of providing a knowledge base for legal issues that might crop up in my own writings. I therefore recommend it not just to superhero fans, but to all seekers of knowledge and information. This book will prove to be both fun and fascinating.

RATING: 9/10

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