Like Batman and Catwoman, our two favorite novels of 2015 are like the flip side of the same coin. One book puts superheroes squarely in the real world. Conversely, a big chunk of action in the second book takes place in virtual reality. But no matter what reality you prefer, both novels do a terrific job of showing how flexible (and inclusive) our tiny genre can be. Case in point: the remaining books in our annual Top Five list include a Russian superspy, professional druggies, and the countdown to the end of the world. Congratulations to all the authors who made 2015 a great year for superhero prose fiction.
1) The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar. Mid-Twentieth century was a crazy time in history. Thank goodness we had superheroes to clean up the mess created during WWII. Neither a secret history, nor an alternative history, Tidhar’s book represents a parallel history that includes rockets, atomic bombs, death camps, and beyond-men. Easily the best superhero novel of the year.
2) I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest and Kali Ciesemier. Integrating text with sequential art, Priest and Ciesemier have produced a compelling hybrid novel that takes the world of webcomics and pairs it with Hitchcockian suspense and Flowers In the Attic-like wickedness. More than anything, however, the creators have given us a story about the two most important things in life: friendship and superheroes. In a word: X-cellent.
3) Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl. As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff has a reputation as the world’s most lethal weapon. But she’s got a soft side too. Stohl successfully gives the Black Widow vulnerability, compassion, and a sense of humor. Without question, this is the best prose novel based on a Marvel character. We can’t wait for the sequel.
4) Less Than Hero by S.G. Browne. All the slacker superheroes in Browne’s novel are professional druggies — they developed their metahuman abilities by being consensual guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry. Funny and relentlessly critical of Big Pharma, Less Than Hero is social commentary with a superhero twist.
5) The Entropy of Everything: The Indestructibles Book 3 by Matthew Phillion. We feared this would be the last Indestructibles novel from Phillion. Entropy, after all, is sort of the antithesis of indestructible. But we were wrong. In this third book in the series, the indefatigable Indestructibles travel to the future and Voltron with themselves to save the world. As it turns out, The Entropy of Everything gave us double the fun and double the pleasure.
Looking ahead, we can already tell that 2016 is going to be a busy year for us. Here’s a partial list of novels that we’ll be reading during the next twelve months. Preorder them now.
A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl. Almost Infamous by Matt Carter. Arrow: Vengeance by Oscar Balderrama and Lauren Certo. Bartman: The Superhero’s Handbook by Matt Groening. Battlestorm by Susan Krinard. Black Widow: Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. Captain America: Dark Design by Stefan Petrucha. The Conclave of Shadow by Alyc Helms. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear by Paul Crilley. Ex-Isle by Peter Clines. Ghosts of Karnak by George Mann. The Interminables by Paige Orwin. Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley. Jerusalem by Alan Moore. Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond. The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow. Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape: Rise of the Robot Army by Robert Venditti and Dusty Higgins. The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao. Powers: The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim by Brian Michael Bendis and Neil Kleid. Renaissance by Dinah Geof-Craigs and Vincent M. Wales. Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Stripmall! By Tom Angleberger. Scarred by Erica Hayes. Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen. Sidekick Returns by Auralee Wallace. Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum. Superheroes Don’t Eat Veggie Burgers by Gretchen Kelley. Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn. Waking Gifts by Susan Jane Bigelow. The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon’s Return by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong.