Super City Blues

Super City is a swell place to live if you’re a superhero, a supervillain, or an invading space alien. “Everything’s fine,” says Captain Javier Garcia of the city’s police department, “unless you’re a cop. Then you’re totally fucked.”

That’s because the superheroes of Super City are an untouchable, self-absorbed bunch. Sure, they battle supervillains and space invaders. But in doing so, they follow the beat of their own drum and don’t give a hoot about their constituency. They set their own agenda, ignore procedure, and don’t cooperate with the police. To underscore their arrogance, the heroes have built a garrison that floats high above the city. They are literally above the law.

But when a serial killer known as the Claw returns to the city, the heroes of Super City and the police department must find a way to work together. As expected, the members of the Superior Six don’t want to share their classified intel. And the Terrific Trio is (conveniently?) out in space preventing a comet from smashing into one of Jupiter’s moons. Their receptionist doesn’t really know when they’ll be back on Earth.

The author is doing his best to write a police procedural that includes superheroes. In other words, he’s trying to combine Hill Street Blues and Dragnet with the DC Nation. It’s an interesting, if not wholly successfully, genre mash-up.

Part of the problem is that the procedural element of the novel falls flat. We follow detectives Peter MacAvoy and Kristin Milewski as they butt heads with uncooperative superheroes and departmental roadblocks. But there’s no payoff. The case ultimately unravels without their assistance. “We didn’t do anything,” gripes Milewski at the end of the book. And she’s partially right. If she wanted to solve a mystery, she should have stayed home and read an Agatha Christie novel.

On the upside, however, the first Super City novel is filled with a cast of oddball characters and their personal unresolved dramas. This bodes well for upcoming sequels (S.C.P.D.: Avenging Amethyst will be available later in the year). Fans of TV shows like NYPD and CSI:NY know that part of the fun is getting hooked on the soap opera tangents these police procedurals provide each week. Here’s hoping future installments of S.C.P.D. can deliver the same type of thing.

One final comment: The author deserves a standing ovation for his encyclopedic knowledge of comic book history. Every neighborhood, street, building, and school in this novel gets tagged with a creator’s name. There’s Leesfield, Eisnerville, Woodcrest, Heckton (!), Fingerville, Gaines Avenue, Goodwin Expressway, Simon Valley, Kirby Park, DeCarlo Middle School, Colletta High School, Colan Island, and Ellis Island. And the list doesn’t stop there. It goes on and on and on. Frankly, the only city landmark he missed was Trimpe Tower.

[S.C.P.D.: The Case of the Claw / By Keith R.A. DeCandido / First Printing: July 2011 / ISBN: 9780983434870]

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