After spending a lifetime reading superhero fiction, there’s one thing we’ve learned: The most important thing about being a superhuman is the “human” part. The “super” part is nothing but sound and fury and utility belts.
That’s something Lancelot Mckendrick doesn’t fully understand at the beginning of Michael Carroll’s latest New Heroes/Quantum Prophecy novel. He’s only 14 years old and he’s still trying to figure out his place in the world. “I don’t know whether I want to be a superhero or a con man,” he says.
To clear his head, Lance rejects his superhero friends (Roz, Abby, James, and Gethin) and hooks up with the Circus Fantabulosa. Now calling himself Hunter Washington, he lives in anonymity amid the carnival’s manufactured revelry. As the years go by, Lance (correction: Hunter) blossoms into a mature adult. Life as a carny is grueling, transitory, and often unforgiving. But the circus teaches him valuable lessons in humility and selflessness (he also picks up a sundry of useful sideshow tricks like how to eat light bulbs and train kittens). As he grows older, he no longer wants to be a superhero or a con man.
During his time under the big tent, Hunter continues to harbor a secret personal agenda. As the carnival travels from city to city, he is obsessed with finding the woman who murdered his family five years ago (see The Ascension for more details). In this way, Hunter’s basic nature is conflicted. Is he, like his new name implies, on the prowl for revenge? Or is he subconsciously hiding from his former superhero colleagues? In other words, is he the hunter or the hunted?
As it turns out, the answer to that question is both. He needs to find Slaughter (the crazy lady who killed his mother, father, and brother) so he can find peace of mind and bury the past. But he also needs to stay disconnected from the superhero community because he doesn’t want to become a pawn in the megalomaniacal clash between Max Dalton and Casey Duval. How he reconciles this dilemma is at the core of the novel.
Plans have a way of not working out, especially when superheroes are involved. But Hunter is smart (and lucky) enough to avoid any debilitating distractions. Before the book ends, he has sober one-on-one moments with both Slaughter and Max Dalton. These moments help steer the story to a bittersweet (and very human) conclusion.
[Hunter / By Michael Carroll / First Printing May 2014 / ISBN: 9780399163678]