The trouble began one afternoon with a food fight in a Sheepsdale shopping mall. The former members of the Alliance of the Impossible (Joshua, Milton, Sophie, and Miranda) were sharing a plate of cheese fries when a pair of floating ketchup and mustard squirt bottles attacked them. “I really didn’t want to watch my friends die in the food court,” said Joshua, “but it was starting to look like that was the way things were going.”
Little did Joshua know that his life was about to spin out of control. Being sprayed with red and yellow condiments was the least of his worries. In short order he and his friends would be chased by a trio of teen supervillains, trapped inside a giant bubble, dispatched to a prep school for “gyfted” children, bullied by a teenage werewolf, and provoked by Phineax Vex, a 10-foot-tall cyborg with the cumulative powers of all the world’s most feared villains.
Vex was in pursuit of something called the dominion key, an elusive device that could purportedly turn every human on the planet into a perfectly still, helpless being—like a mannequin in a department store. Armies could be toppled. The most secure bank vaults could be plundered. Entire continents would fall under a single person’s control. It was a weapon that could freeze time and space.
And wouldn’t you know it, good ol’ Joshua Dread was the “key” to everything. That’s a lot of pressure for a 12-year-old kid in seventh grade. When Phineax Vex finally corners him in a remote area of Massachusetts, Joshua didn’t have many options. Should he run for cover? Should he stand and fight? Or should he just pee his pants and cry like a baby? He was dangerously close to going with option No. 3.
Thankfully the cavalry shows up in chapter 30 (and we don’t mean Melinda May, ace pilot and weapons expert from TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Realizing his hero was in over his head, the author deploys nearly everybody in the Joshua Dread universe to help defeat the megalomaniacal supervillain. The finale comes fast and furious but the novel ends on an uncertain note. To be continued (hopefully).
There’s definitely less superhero action in this third Joshua Dread novel and more emphasis on spooky mystery adventure. At its best, the latest book made us nostalgic for The Three Investigators, a long-forgotten juvenile detective series originally written by Robert Arthur. At it’s worst, however, The Dominion Key reminded us of how much we’ve always hated Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Given a choice, we’d prefer to see the series return to the LOL antics of the first book and the superhero shenanigans of the second book.
[Joshua Dread: The Dominion Key / By Lee Bacon / First Printing: May 2014 / ISBN: 9780385743822]