Review: “Captain Freedom” by G. Xavier Robillard

“You can’t fight me,” he sneers. “You don’t have insurance anymore.”
“I’ve got COBRA.”

That exchange, delivered during a mid-air melee, sums up the comedic blend of “Captain Freedom,” the new novel by G. Xavier Robillard. Secret lairs and teenage sidekicks share space with product endorsement deals and online archenemy-matching services. Heroics are evaluated by their impact on the comic-book company bottom line. And if you need to go back in time to spoil a nefarious plot, it’s no problem to rent a run-down time machine from a skeezy Enterprise knock-off. (The release form contains a warning not to do anything to affect the course of history, but it also notes, “This rule is total bullshit, but you agree to it anyway, just as you agree to pay your work for any office supplies that you use for personal reasons.”)

Captain Freedom is the kind of guy who’d steal all of the office supplies he could get his hands on, even as he saves Cleveland in the process. The book approaches his life as a gag-a-minute memoir, using its oblivious slacker hero to bring to life as many superhero gags as possible, from remote tropical islands that host volcanic bases to the perils of the hero’s weakness (in this case, soy).

Robillard offer an Inside-Hollywood style appraisal of the superhero game, spending time with each of the institutions that shape a young crimefighter. Captain Freedom learns his craft at the Vineyard School for Excellentness. Sidekicks have to pass the CAPE (Criminal Abatement Preparatory Exam) before they can patrol the streets. A bureaucratic body, the Comics Code Authority, holds hearings to ensure that heroes measure up to the standards of their calling. And the coveted International Justice Prize, issued by the Hall of Justice in Norway, represents the pinnacle of any hero’s career.

The book has a lot of fun exploring the absurdities of its setting, offering a lighter tone than other novels in the hero-humor genre, such as Austin Grossman’s “Soon I Will Be Invincible” or Robert Mayer’s classic “Superfolks.” “Captain Freedom” isn’t as tightly plotted as these offerings, but it’s more happy to roam its surroundings in search of laughs, sending the Captain to Mars, Area 51 and, in one of the book’s funniest sections, rehab.

There are some problems. The memoir framework seems forced in early chapters, and promising themes can be dropped when succeeding chapters move onto entirely different subjects. The book begins to drift at the end, rushing through a “chosen one” scenario and Captain Freedom’s abortive career in politics. But even in the soft spots, Robillard keeps the jokes coming, making “Captain Freedom” a fun, breezy read, especially for fans o f the genre.


“Oh, I’ll get proof.” His determined tone makes me suspect he’ll embark on a lifelong quest to bring about my downfall. But I doubt it; he never took the Lifetime Vendetta elective.

I miss the crazy old coot. My life coach, Lionel, thinks that I’m still craving the Chief’s approval. But that’s shrink talk. I’m just bummed that he never got to know how awesome I am.

I never should have dated Lightspeed. You never combine business and pleasure. I know that. It’s like shitting where you eat. And then eating it.

The bouncer, Lt. Bill Smoker, has been working the velvet rope and chain-link fence for years. The job has taken its toll: there are only so many times you can say not to a space dragon without worrying that you’re becoming racist.

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