Superhero fiction has a long list of colorful tropes: origin stories, costumes, utility belts, secret identities, alliterative names, vigilantism, mutants, aliens from another world, time travel, alternate dimensions, bat signals, bat caves, philanderers, evil scientists, eccentric (but handsome) billionaires. The list goes on and on.
Of all the tropes inherent in the genre, we think the two that work best are teamwork and friendship. Ultimately, being a superhero is less about clobbering and more about working together and making friends. Even Ben Grimm knows that.
Author Jeramey Kraatz knows that too. More than anything, his Cloak Society series promotes the benefits of teamwork and making friends. At the end of the first book (The Cloak Society), a group of villainous and heroic teenagers were thrown together unexpectedly. Now, in the sequel, the seven kids must put aside their differences and find a way to trust each other and work toward a common goal. “It’s part of our job to help each other out,” says Kirbie, a superhero formerly with the Rangers of Justice. “Otherwise, we’d never get anything done.”
Naturally, things are a bit bumpy at first. You can’t throw a bunch of former rivals together and immediately expect everyone to become BFFs. That’s not going to happen. (“I’m not becoming one of the villains in order to save the heroes,” says one skeptical teen.) But over time, everyone gets to know each other and new bonds are formed. It also helps that they have a pressing problem to solve. To wit: they must retrieve a group of superheroes from the Gloom (a Negative Zone-like wasteland), and thwart a supervillain takeover of their hometown.
That’s not going to be easy, however. Not only must the seven teenagers find a way to open a portal into the Gloom, they must also fight the Cloak Society and all the resources at its disposal, including a highly trained trio of super assassins. The mission is so big (and complex), it can’t be accomplished in a mere 300 pages. The denouement is scheduled for the next book in the series. Mark your calendars.
A big part of what made the first Cloak Society novel unique was the contentious relationship between Alex Knight (one of the supervillain teens) and his evil mother. To our disappointment, the pair’s relationship takes a backseat in this sequel. Undoubtedly Alex and his mom will lock horns again. And when they do, we’re betting it will inspire a thunderous reunion. Later, when the drama subsides, perhaps Alex and his mom will find a way to patch up their problems. We hope so. After all, that’s what superheroes (and supervillains) do best: they work together to solve problems and make friends.
[The Cloak Society: Villains Rising / By Jeramey Kraatz / First Printing: October 2013 / ISBN: 9780062095503]