With Hockey Karma, the third and final book in the “Forever Friend’s” trilogy, author Howard Shapiro weaves a tale touching on the themes of the struggle of growing older, passing on your knowledge to the next generation, and the necessity of leaving behind a better world for those who will come after you. While readers of The Stereotypical Freaks and The Hockey Saint (Read my reviews of those books here and here.) will be eager to see where life has led Tom Leonard, much like his previous tales, Shapiro is not content to merely provide a soap opera-like dramatic detailing the trials and tribulations of his lead character as he tackles true adulthood. Instead, he offers a tale with a far deeper and more important message for the turbulent and divisive times we currently live in.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
In Hockey Karma, we continue to follow Tom Leonard, now an adult looking towards his future, with plans to revitalize the struggling neighborhoods around him with the help of his good friend and professional hockey player, Jeremiah Jacobson. Unfortunately, Jacobson’s prime hockey days are behind him and his struggle to accept the end of his reign (as well as some painful and unforgiving injuries) have led the star athlete to an all-too-common pitfall for those in his position: a dangerous addiction to pain pills. Ignoring his family and his own health, Jacobson is on a path of self-destruction. It’s up to Leonard to discover what darkness his friend is truly dealing with and to find a way to get through to him before it’s too late.
Like the two previous books in Shapiro’s trilogy, his script for Hockey Karma is not the typical comic fare readers will be used to. With its grounded, real-world, and character-driven plot, Hockey Karma may lack the “flash” and “edge” that many modern comics thrive on these days, but, instead, finds its strength in an unapologetically hopeful and optimistic tone and hero. This isn’t to say that Shaprio has abandoned his habit of tackling complicated modern themes. (Hockey Karma touches on drug abuse, single parenthood, post-recession struggles, gender inequality, political division, and more.) While I won’t spoil the ending of the book for anyone, I will say that Shapiro’s penultimate scene in the book hit me in a way I was not expecting and highlighted how refreshing, and perhaps necessary, characters like Tom Leonard are in the comic book world. There are plenty of cynical, flawed anti-heroes in the pages of modern comics, and sometimes, even with the true-hearted superheroes, we readers forget that changing the real world and helping others often has less to do with notions of idealized and exaggerated heroism (such as swinging from rooftops or saving thousands of lives at time), but instead is more about being there for friends and family in need, helping out at the local food bank, and finding realistic and lasting ways to improve the communities you care about. It may not have the excitement and, as I put it earlier, “flash” of a vigilante’s quest to right wrongs with his fists and super-human abilities, but perhaps, in today’s political climate of vitriol and division, what we need is a realistic and, frankly, admirable approach to heroism.
As with his previous volumes in the trilogy, Shaprio continues his unique trend of providing “recommended listening” suggestions for each chapter. I’d encourage all readers to take the author up on these reading tunes. While not absolutely necessary while reading Hockey Karma, the chosen tunes certainly add a whole new layer of emotional resonance and insight to the author’s vision during one’s reading experience of the graphic novel.
When it comes to the artwork of Hockey Karma, Andres J. Mossa (Spider-Man, Deadpool) provides art and colors for the book and successfully delivers a bold and clean visual palette to help support Shapiro’s script. Moosa’s excellent coloring skills also graced The Hockey Saint, the previous graphic novel in the trilogy, and it’s great to see him step up to the plate and take on both the illustration and coloring in this latest release.
Final Verdict: If you’ve previously enjoyed Shaprio’s work in The Stereotypical Freaks and The Hockey Saint, you won’t want to miss the final chapter in the trilogy. While some readers may criticize Sharpio’s grounded, slice-of-life style, his positivity and optimism radiate off the page through his words and characters. Hockey Karma is an excellent reminder that most heroes in our world don’t wear masks or capes, and we all have the ability to help those, and the world, around us.
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers. Don’t miss your opportunity to win your own copy of Hockey Karma from author Howard Shapiro and Fanbase Press. (Find out more below!)
Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer
Forever Friends Giveaway
Hockey Karma creator Howard Shapiro has generously provided Fanbase Press with two prize packs – each containing copies of his Forever Friends trilogy of books – to give away to our readers!
What can you do to claim these awesome prize? All interested fans should enter by retweeting the following when you see it posted on the Fanbase Press (@Fanbase_Press) Twitter account:
Win a copy of #HockeyKarma from @hockeyplayer #FanbaseGiveaway – RT to enter!
We will be tweeting this message all week, so keep your eyes peeled! Multiple entries are permitted, so retweet away! The contest will officially close on Monday, October 10, 2016, at 5:00 p.m./PST.
At the end of the giveaway, the Fanbase Press staff will choose two lucky winners. The winners will be announced on the Fanbase Press website on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, along with being notified through Twitter. (Entries will be accepted from the U.S. and Canada only for this contest.)
*CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING WINNERS: