Ex-Communication is the third volume of the Ex-Heroes series, chronicling our intrepid band of superheroes as they struggle to rebuild civilization one brick at a time. I enjoyed the first story for its originality, the second for what it brought to the series, and the third volume doesn't disappoint.
I enjoyed Ex-Communication but it isn't quite as enjoyable as the previous two. The stakes, despite being as high as ever, don't seem to matter as much as they used to. I believe this has to do with our heroes having had more success than is usual in zombie fiction. For once, the efforts of our heroes in trying to save the world are paying off.
Which isn't bad.
The heroes of the Mount have started expanding their little city by leaps and bounds. They're not quite the same group of frightened masses huddled together for comfort they used to be. They've managed to establish a functioning society, albeit a small one. With the assistance of Captain Freedom (from Ex-Patriots), the kind of day-to-day danger they used to face no longer applies.
Even the character of PeeZee, formerly a terrifying figure to our heroes, has become something of a joke. The heroes are able to hold off his regular attacks against their city with relative ease and the poor zombie puppet-master is later used to illustrate the comparative danger of a much stronger villain. I feel bad PeeZee has lost so much of his bite and think this reduces the setting's first supervillain.
Ex-Communication's villain seems curiously non-threatening despite his apocalyptic power, perhaps because he's unable to penetrate the Mount due to some selective hand-waving. The heroes also manage to make several new friends, establish new relationships, and deal with some of their lingering emotional baggage.
This isn't to say Ex-Communication is a bad book. Far from its. It's extremely entertaining. We get to find out what Stealth finally looks like, the humor is funny, and there are resolutions to a lot of dangling plotlines. The new character of Corpse Girl is decidedly fun, showing Peter Cline's ability expand his cast in new and exciting ways.
I, especially, liked Peter Cline's examination of the Mount's religious practices. With a bunch of people compacted together in a survival situation, the divine is going to be on a lot of people's minds. Peter re-creates Catholicism with a single surviving priest taking over most of the religious roles in the community. He also creates a cult based around the, sadly absurd, idea the Exes (zombies) might someday regain their humanity.
Sadly, I don't think the latter element really amounts to much. There's a lot of set-up that there's going to be some serious repercussions for the superheroes due to the religious sect's increasing popularity (brought about by some incredibly unlikely but plausible events). Set-up which, sadly, I didn't think really panned out. While it's nice to see characters actually talking about the issues which face them, it's not the most dramatic way of resolving a plot arc.
I was pleasantly surprised by some of the twists in the story. Not the least bit being the revelation of a certain character's ethnicity. Peter Clines has taken quite a bit of flak for the predominately Caucasian nature of his superheroes versus the multicultural melting pot which is Los Angeles. Given this issue was already improving by the second book, I wasn't too troubled but am pleased at the revelation a major character is a person of color.
While this book didn't blow me away, I felt it was entertaining from start-to-finish and a good continuation of the series. I recommend fans of the previous two books check it out and enjoy more of the same. I, myself, will continue reading this series as long as it retains its present level of quality.