Once they were called extrahumans, super-powered crime fighters who kept the streets of New Chicago safe from the rabble. But now they’re known derisively as superfreaks, a motley crew of heroes who honor sponsorship deals above civic duty. They’re super sycophants who appear on reality programs and sell personal sex tapes to the media to improve (!) their favorability ratings.
But how did things get to this point? How did Alpha Team implode and the Squadron explode? The authors spend two books and nearly 900 pages answering these sticky questions. According to them, superheroes didn’t just drop from the sky like Kal-El Kent. Instead, the extrahuman era began with a failed experiment, and was later fueled by selfish corporate interests and manipulations from insane puppet masters.
The prequel (Black and White) was a novel about two superwomen and their tangled relationship. Despite the super histrionics, it was an intimate story. Shades of Gray, on the other hand, helps expand the universe to include a cast of dozens. It’s tricky business writing serial fiction and Kessler and Kittredge have succeeded where many before them have failed. They’ve given us a happy ending (this time). But you know there’s trouble brewing in New Chicago in the future. And that’s a good thing.
[Shades of Gray / By Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge / First Printing: June 2010 / ISBN: 9780553386325]