Nox Noctis Est Nostri

powergameWhat goes unseen, unheard, and unknown fell under the purview of the GhostWalkers. The sea, the earth, and the air were their domain. They believed in justice and they protected those who couldn’t protect themselves. They were both merciful and implacable in their resolve. “There is honor in the shadows,” states their creed.

The GhostWalkers weren’t vigilante crimefighters like Batman or Shadowhawk, they were part of a U.S. military program designed to create super soldiers. As genetically enhanced soldiers they were trained to be assassins, spies, and superheroes. They were lethal, top secret, and totally under the thumb of the government.

One of them, however, had ambitions beyond her jurisdiction. Senator Violet Smythe-Freeman was beautiful, intelligent, and poisonous. With her enhanced DNA and her knack for persuasion, she had the ability to take control of the White House. She wanted power and she was on track to become the next President of the United States.

Taking control of Washington, D.C., would be easy for someone like Sen. Smythe-Freeman. But she knew she’d have to dismantle the GhostWalker program before she could hang her coat in the Oval Office. To that end, she orchestrates an invasion of a prime GhostWalker compound hidden in the Louisiana bayou.

Sounds like a pretty good setup for a Tom Clancy and Lee Child novel, doesn’t it? Certainly author Christine Feehan is comfortable playing around with military, espionage, and Mission Impossible tropes. Her characters (both male and female) are all alpha patriots who would make Captain America stand at attention in his retro buccaneer boots.

But this is the thirteenth GhostWalker adventure, and long-time readers know that Feehan always delivers big gobs of romance (and sex) in her novels. As a result, Power Game is easily distinguishable from action novels by Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, or Robert Crais.

While Sen. Smythe-Freeman was busy with her evil schemes, two lonely GhostWalkers named Bellisia Adams and Ezekiel Fortunes were falling in love in the Louisiana bog. Bellisia was a runaway agent with superpowers that mimicked the blue-ringed octopus, one of the most venomous animals in the world, and Ezekiel (that’s him on the book’s cover btw) was a guy with the eyes of an eagle, the temperament of a polar bear, and a cock the size of an anaconda (“There is no way you’re going to fit!” cried Bellisia during their first romp in the sack).

Power Game is loaded with strategic and tactical moments that include lots of gunplay, rescue missions, and chest-pounding bravado. Plus, the GhostWalkers all have unique and odd superpowers that Stan Lee somehow never thought of.

But the romance between Bellisia and Ezekiel was at the heart of the novel. They were both high-functioning super soldiers with low emotional quotients. “Bellisia wasn’t a woman. She’d never been one,” said the author. “She’d trained to be a warrior almost from the day she was born and she knew no other life.” Similarly, Ezekiel “didn’t know how to talk to women. He’d never had time to learn, and now it was too late.”

Despite their dating inexperience (and all the fireworks exploding around them), the two lovebirds eventually found happiness together. All it took were a few sleepless nights of hot tangled sex. No surprise. “The only way to learn is by doin’,” said Mama Fontenot, the snoopy queen of the Louisiana bayou.

[Power Game / By Christine Feehan / First Printing: January 2017 / ISBN: 9780399583919]

Posted in Published in 2017, Romance/Erotica | Tagged ,

Sif Dragonslayer

sifThere’s a dragon terrorizing a small fishing village near the Valhalla Mountains. Because Thor is abed with wounds suffered from a recent battle with Hrungnir and his army of trolls (for more details, see our review of Thor: Dueling With Giants), the villagers reluctantly turn to Lady Sif for help.

Why they’re reluctant, we don’t know. Sif may not be the God of Thunder. Nor does she wield a mighty uru hammer. But she’s been kicking ass her whole life. As a young girl she trained with Tyr, the god of warfare. And later she fought side by side with the Warriors Three, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg. She’s confident that she can dispatch any adversary, even a nasty fire-breathing dragon. “I have fought many foes for many decades,” she boasts, “and none have yet earned the title of ‘Killer of Sif.’”

And so, with Thor’s blessing, Sif travels to the half-burned village of Flodbjerge. By her side is a young and spunky shield maiden by the name of Hildegard. Together they plan to vanquish the troublesome dragon and kick-start the feminist movement in Asgard.

The dragon, as it turns out, isn’t much of a problem. Sif and Hilde dispatch the monster fairly swiftly. More difficult, however, is the pair’s attempt to break down the door of Aesir patriarchy. “Women are to be wooed and protected,” says a young Fandral. Even cheery Volstagg expects his wife to stay home and raise his growing brood while he chews his way across the nine homeworlds.

In Asgard, battle is important work. But Sif and Hildegard wonder: Can only men do important work? Surely not. “Are the choosers of the slain not doing important work?” asks Sif. “The Valkyrie were handpicked by Odin for that very task.”

Women are also responsible for tending the Golden Apples of Immortality. And, of course, they bear the children that replace the warriors who fall in battle. Were Asgard bereft of women, it would be an empty place indeed. “They who control our very destiny are women,” states Sif matter-of-factly.

Without a doubt, Sif is on the list of our all-time favorite female characters in the Marvel Universe – right up there with Clea, Medusa, and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. To be honest, the existence of this Sif novel absolutely blows our mind. Never in a million years did we expect to see such a thing on our shelf. It makes us feel like the universe has shifted slightly to acknowledge our measly presence.

“I am she who has done battle against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and the minions of Surtur,” says a defiant Sif. “I have fought alongside Thor the Thunderer and Beta Ray Bill. I have faced gods and villains.” She’s too polite to mention it, but she’s also been a member of the Avengers. And she’s gone toe-to-toe with Dracula as well.

In our opinion, the character of Sif transcends category. And author Keith DeCandido agrees with us. She isn’t just a girl or a woman or a citizen of Asgard. She is the finest hero of the nine homeworlds. “I am not Thor,” she tells the skeptical villagers of Flodbjerge, “and Thor is not Sif!” The Realm Eternal is littered with the corpses of those who thought her weaker or lesser than the men around her. Truly, she possesses the heart of a warrior born.

[Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings / By Keith R.A. DeCandido / First Printing: November 2016 / ISBN: 9781772752298]

Posted in Marvel/DC, Published in 2016 | Tagged , ,

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

flashhauntingWeather Wizard, the Mist, Prism (aka Rainbow Raider), Peekaboo, and Pied Piper were doing their best to split Central City wide open like an overripe piece of fruit. On their own they couldn’t slow down the Flash. But together, the furious five were doing a pretty good job of wrecking the city and making Barry Allen’s life miserable.

“We will continue to hammer the city’s infrastructure, robbing its citizens of their sense of safety,” explains Hartley Rathaway, better known as Pied Piper. “We’re going to create a new normal in Central City. Everyone will feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under their world.”

More than anyone, Barry Allen was feeling a little discombobulated. Not only was he overwhelmed with the havoc caused by the five supervillains, but he was also suffering from an anomalous substance that infected his body during a recent wormhole crisis. “I feel like I’m disconnecting from reality,” he says, “like I’m speeding up while at a dead stop.” Like a racecar engine revving in neutral.

Central City had turned into a war zone and Team Flash needed help in a hurry. To the rescue comes Oliver Queen, otherwise known as the Green Arrow. He shows up (on page 229) with his ace crew, Felicity Smoak and John Diggle.

The Haunting of Barry Allen is a novel based on the events shared between the four TV shows in the FlarrowVerse (including Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow). There’s a lot of history between the Flash and the Green Arrow in particular, and it’s obvious Clay and Susan Griffith had a blast writing their superhero prose crossover.

We had a blast reading it too. One of the best things the authors did was isolate two characters in random chapters. In this way they provided extra value not seen on TV. Naturally, Barry and Oliver get some alone time together, as do Iris West and Caitlin Snow. Our favorite chapter featured John Diggle and Joe West. The two men sat down and talked about the challenges and responsibilities they faced every day. They’re both men of action, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t take a moment and compare notes on all the crazy stuff happening in their lives. “I don’t worry so much for myself,” admits the elder West, “but I worry about everyone else around me.”

In this case, there’s not much he can do for his foster son. Barry was being distracted (haunted) by his past and his future. It’s hard to concentrate when your mom, your colleague’s dead fiancée, Gorilla Grodd, Eobard Thawne, and your future self are all whispering advice in your ear. If Flashpoint has taught us anything, it’s that reality is a mutable concept. Metahumans, viridescent vigilantes, Harrison Wells proxies, talking gorillas, monsters made of sound, time travel, wormholes, alternative universes, singing meteorites – it’s all part of the job description for grandmaster Flash, the fastest man alive. To be continued in the sequel, Arrow: Generation of Vipers.

[The Flash: The Haunting of Barry Allen / By Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith / First Printing: November 2016 / ISBN: 9781785651410]

Posted in Marvel/DC, Movies/TV, Published in 2016 | Tagged , , ,

The 30 Million Dollar Woman

disruptorAs a crimefighting vigilante, Dani was slowly building a reputation in her neighborhood as the Ghost of Cabrini. But she didn’t like her superhero name very much. “I don’t want to be a ghost,” she complains. “I don’t want to be alone in the dark.”

Dani spent her nights haunting Russian mobsters, sex traffickers, and the lords of Dogtown. Even though she was trained in the military arts of infiltration, exfiltration, hand-to-hand combat, guns, knives, and anything else she could get her hands on, she was fighting a losing battle. She needed a sidekick, preferably one with the skills of Oracle and Overwatch.

Enter Kevin Moynihan, the wayward scion of the city’s wealthiest family. Until recently, his life was filled with endless parties and stupid stunts. He was a rich playboy dilettante who didn’t know the meaning of the word comeuppance. In no way was he sidekick material.

But after Dani saved his life from a group of Dogtown gangbangers, Kevin knew he had to turn his life around. He contacted Dani and proposed a crimefighting partnership. So what if he didn’t have the strength of a spider or the sting of a wasp. He had other useful superpowers. “I’ve got devastating good looks, irresistible charm, and a trust fund with no credit limit,” he says with a wink.

How could Dani resist such a rascal? He was persistent and cute. After getting frisky in the front seat of his car one night, the two decided to go into the superhero business together. She & Him Consolidated (with extracurricular benefits).

In a way, author Sonya Clark has turned the superhero/sidekick relationship on its head. In her world, the sidekick was the nurturing one with Bruce Wayne-like resources (and Wassily Kandinsky artistic skills). The superhero, on the other hand, was the emotionally fragile badass who needed a bit of tutelage.

To be fair, Dani never wanted to be a superhero in the first place. She was a runaway street kid who was coerced into being a lab experiment. After five years of biotech implants and gene therapy, she was transformed into some kind of cyborg super soldier. She was the $30 million woman, an “A+ killing machine,” she says.

Now on her own, she was a creature of righteous fury. Her number one priority was to protect women who were being bought and sold like chattel. “These traffickers,” she says, “they don’t even think we’re human. Women to them are nothing but property. Like buying a new car. Shit, they treat their fucking cars better than the women they sell.”

Kevin’s duties as sidekick were a bit more ambiguous. What was his job, exactly? He was willing to provide food, shelter, and material support. He was well connected in the community and was a pretty good wheelman. He was also available for boyfriend duties too. That definitely put him outside the Dick Grayson/Bucky Barnes paradigm. Ultimately, his job was simple. “You want to help people,” he tells his new charge, “and I want to help you do that.”

Once things get sorted out, Dani dons a superhero costume and announces her debut on social media @PSDisrupter. “I’m not a ghost. I’m very real. But I will haunt the streets of Point Sable and make life hell for those who hurt the innocent. I will fight for the powerless. I will defend the weak. I will disrupt the status quo.” So tweets the Disruptor!

[Disruptor / By Sonya Clark / First Printing: October 2016 / ISBN: 9781539137948]

Posted in Published in 2016, Romance/Erotica | Tagged ,

Live! In the Link Age: Short Reviews of 2016 (Revisited)

Cover300pxlEverybody’s got an origin story, even a chump on the downhill slide to nowhere like Duke LaRue (“The Devil’s Right Hand” / By Stephen T. Brophy / First Printing: February 2016). Before he became an infamous minion known as HandCannon (The Villain’s Sidekick), LaRue was simply a Desert Storm vet caught in an endless string of lost weekends. His life changed forever on a night in 1992 when he rescued a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model from a group of thugs on the sandy beaches of Nayarit, Mexico. Libertad Gutierrez (known as Liberty Nixon to SI readers) was no damsel in distress, however. Not only did she have deep connections to a major Mexican drug cartel, but she also possessed mind-blowing super powers as well. Beautiful woman have a way of altering the course of history, and “Freedom” Gutierrez was no exception. LaRue joins her entourage and she introduces him to Dr. Jass, a doctor who earned his medical degree from the University of Auschwitz (go Imperial Eagles!). “I’m finally in Hell where I belong,” says LaRue at the end of the story. For more HandCannon adventures, check out our review of “The Eternity Conundrum.” And be sure to keep a lookout for the novel, Citizen Skin (coming soon, hopefully). [Review first published 03.01.16.]

LadyJusticeMomma Doom was arguably the most powerful sorceress in the world. At one time, she even helped the police and the superheroes of Central City fight crime with her voodoo witchery. But those days were long gone. Now possessed by a fiery demon (“Lady Justice and the Zombie Apocalypse” / By Garth Ono / First Printing: March 2016), Big Momma is hanging out in the city’s graveyard and using her amped up powers to reanimate dead folks. After a quick shower (!!), Lady Justice and her young sidekick Justice Girl are on the case. But no matter what they do, their combined superpowers can’t stop Momma Doom and her undead crew. In less than a week, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are destroyed. “If we don’t stop them soon,” says a worried government official, “the zombies will kill everyone from Panama to the Arctic Circle.” He’s a smart guy. He knows there’s no justice in the zombie apocalypse. [Review first published 04.07.16.]

Garter's Big ScoreSuperhero comics aren’t just for kids anymore, and neither are superhero novels. For proof, check out Garter’s Big Score (By Stuart Moore / First Printing: May 2016). The story immediately jumps into adults-only territory in the very first paragraph (“To be clear: It’s not that Garter minds being tied to the bed with a costumed man’s tongue between her legs. It’s certainly not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last time”). Moore’s novella is definitely not for kids. And it may even be too explicit for certain adults. It follows a woman named Latara (code name: Garter) who uses her snake-like superpowers as a master thief. But she’s getting tired of all the bullshit. Being a thief is a dubious profession for a woman cruising rapidly through her 40s. She’s looking for one last big score before she retires. To this end, she hooks up with a crazy Harley Quinn-like character named Seera. Together they’re hoping to nab secret intel from a major biotech corporation. Garter’s big score turns out to be a big bust, but her actions uncover an interlocking universe that includes forbidden science, space aliens, and a secret history that goes back centuries. It’s also a story about a world where only women have superpowers and men are pissed off about it. Moore promises that we’ll see more adventures featuring Garter, Seera, Ballistic, the Zulu, Dame Crympet, and FemTech, the mysterious company at the center of it all. It looks like Latara is going to have to put her retirement plans on hold. Things are about to get super complicated. [Review first published 05.08.16.]

CartographerThrough the years, superheroes have proven to be a great boon for society. They punish criminals, extinguish fires, and divert meteors. Shout hooray. But do we, the powerless, do anything special for them? Surely the relationship between hero and civilian is a two-way street. That’s sort of the idea behind “Cartographer of Fortunes” (By Linda Maye Adams / First Printing: May 2016). Map Girl is a superhero with cartography skills. But since she’s not combat compliant like Kara Danvers or Carol Danvers, she has to pay her rent by working as a fortune teller in a cheap parking lot carnival. As you can imagine, her morale needs a boost. One day a woman approaches her for some counseling. She’s become emotionally involved with a married man and the situation is driving her nuts. Because of her cartographic skills, Map Girl gets a glimpse of her client’s future. And by doing so she sees her future too. “The nice thing about maps is that they can always change direction,” she realizes. You don’t have to be a slave to love. And you don’t have to be a sideshow attraction at the circus. Maps, like self-esteem, are constantly being revised. [Review first published 05.28.16.]

bedtime-batman

Bedtime for Batman (By Michael Dahl and Ethen Beavers / First Printing: August 2016 / ISBN: 9781623707323) is a book for parents who enjoy reading to their young kids at night. It’s like Goodnight Moon with a superhero twist. Everybody has his and her nightly routines. Bruce Wayne puts on his batsuit and we put on our pajamas. Batman cleans up the streets of Gotham City, and we pick up our toys. For kids, parents, and superheroes, the greatest adventure begins when the sun goes down. Goodnight, Dark Knight! [Review first published 05.28.16.]

BlackVoidBlackVoid is a superhero whose powers come from an ancient divine curse (BlackVoid, Book 1: Fate / By James A. Eugene / First Printing: June 2016 / ISBN: 9781534732551). He can create black holes and wield the power of an “imitation star,” but BlackVoid’s genetic code is inextricably linked to a civil war between angels in Heaven. As a result, he must answer to a higher calling than your average Green Lantern Corps recruit. The burden he carries is a burden that predates original sin. Quickie comment: If you can forgive the author’s reoccurring style and grammar gaffes, you might enjoy BlackVoid’s journey from hard luck kid to cosmic avenger. To be continued in Book 2: The Competition, Book 3: Finding Self, and Book 4: Transformation. [Review first published 07.19.16.]

monstersHeroes and villains work best when there’s some sort of shared history between them. And so it is with Alley Hawk and the Vermin King (“The Monsters We Make” / By Matthew Phillion / First Printing: August 2016). The story begins when a small time crook named Amos Canter tries to pull off a big time crime. Naturally the caper doesn’t go as planned. A superhero named Alley Hawk pursues him to an abandoned pesticide factory on the edge of town. One thing leads to another and Canter falls into a pit of burning chemicals and is transformed into a hideous rat-like monster. From that day forward, Vermin King and Alley Hawk are inextricably linked. Like Batman and the Joker, their personal drama rises to operatic proportions. If you missed Alley Hawk’s brooding presence in the latest Indestructibles novel (see our review here), you’ll be happy with this supplemental short story. The author calls it “Indestructibles noir.” And that’s a great way to describe it. [Review first published 09.27.16.]

thecaptainA big baby is destroying a big chunk of Irving, Texas, in Brian W. Foster’s new short story (“Repulsive Origins – The Captain” / First Printing: September 2016). First on the scene is 2nd Lt. Samuel Shields and his 102nd Enhanced Hostile and Hero Assistance Response team. His mission is simply to protect, aid, and evacuate. In other words, all he has permission to do is provide help to civilians while waiting for superheroes to arrive. The situation, however, quickly escalates to Level 10 FUBAR. Like all good soldiers, Shields does what honor requires. With no superheroes in sight, he decides to put big baby in timeout. Or, at least, he tries to. To be continued in the author’s newly minted series (Repulsive, Vol. 1 / First Printing: September 2016 / ISBN: 9781533607638). [Review first published 10.18.16.]

supermarioLast year VIZ Media made a lot of gamers and manga fans happy by publishing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by Shotaro Ishinomori. First seen in Nintendo Power magazine a million years ago, A Link to the Past was a great archival reissue. Now, the company has returned with more classic video game inspired manga. Super Mario Adventures by Kentaro Takemura and Charlie Nozawa hasn’t seen the light of day in over 25 years. Not based on any specific Donkey Kong or Mario Bros. iteration, the manga nonetheless takes place in the Mushroom Kingdom and features all the characters you’d expect to see like Princess Peach Toadstool, Bowser (King Koopa), and Yoshi. Super Wario even pops up (spoiler alert!) in the final chapter. The illustrations by Nozawa are suitably frenetic and the wordplay by Takemura (Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga) turns every word balloon into a paroxysm of paronomasia. [Review first published 10.18.16.]

bloodfinal2Who doesn’t like a mad monster party? Not us. From Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to Destroy All Monsters to Freddy vs. Jason to Hotel Transylvania, we love all sorts of monster mash-ups. The werewolf-vampire crossover, in particular, is probably the most enduring hook up of all time. In Matthew Phillion’s latest Indestructibles short story (“Blood and Bone” / First Printing: October 2016), Titus Whispering, the group’s 300-pound teen wolf, encounters a vampire for the first time. “Our kind used to be enemies, you know,” says the porcelain-skinned bloodsucker during the pair’s graveyard rendezvous. “When the world was young. Our purposes were antithetical, instinct and manipulation, rage and desire, meat and blood, living and dead. But time makes for strange bedfellows, doesn’t it?” Yes it does. After discussing mortality and morality, the two creatures of the night join forces to battle the “real” monsters (hint: the human kind). In the end, Titus couldn’t decide whether he’d just made a friend or gained a nemesis. But that’s the way it goes when werewolves and vampires get together. Same as it ever was time immemorial. [Review first published 11.08.16.]

Posted in Live! In the Link Age, Published in 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Superhero Novels: The Best of 2016 and a Peek at 2017

batgirlrobinWelcome to our celebratory recap of superhero novels published in 2016. You’ll notice right away that this year’s Top 5 list is unusual because it features books that are slightly askew of the genre. Three of our favorite books, in fact, aren’t technically superhero fiction. They are, nonetheless, heavily inspired by comic books and contain the familiar language of superheroes. Without a doubt, these efforts wouldn’t exist if the authors didn’t embrace the medium (comics) and respect the genre (superheroes).

Furthermore, these particular novels represent a continuing shift in the tenor of the marketplace. More and more, writers are moving beyond X-Men novels and pushing the boundaries of the genre. Taken as a whole, our 2016 Top 5 list personifies the Next-Men of superhero prose fiction.

1) The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales. There are superheroes and supervillains all over the place in Gonzales’ amazing novel. But this isn’t your standard comic book inspired slugfest. Gonzales plays around with genre expectations and delivers the best superhero novel of the year. Spoiler alert: it’s not really a superhero novel at all.

2) A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl. Comic books, once marginalized and dismissed, have become a powerful media force these days. It only makes sense that someone would eventually write a novel inside the comic book bubble. Proehl’s love story between a mother and her son dives deep into nerd culture. The results are surprisingly inclusive. Highly recommended even if you’ve never been to San Diego Comic-Con.

3) The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao. A hero’s journey begins with the call to adventure. But sometimes there’s a journey to get to the journey. That’s the case with Tiffany Tsao’s unlikely hero, Murgatroyd Floyd Shwet Foo. He must overcome an assortment of obstacles before embarking on his hero’s quest. Joseph Campbell would surely approve.

4) Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond. We made the mistake of not including the first Lois Lane novel in our Best of 2015 list (Lois Lane: Fallout). We’re not going to make that mistake again. Double Down continues a winning streak for Bond and her irrepressible teenage heroine. Look for the author to three-peat in 2017 with Lois Lane: Triple Threat.

5) Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn. From start to finish, Kuhn’s novel is a hoot. But it’s not a blunt superhero spoof. There’s wit and purpose on every page. The author’s got a lot to say about friendship, familial obligations, cultural identity, and the pitfalls of fame. Kuhn’s humor has bite like a cupcake with fangs.

2016 is over and it’s time to look ahead to 2017. To quote Luke Cage: “Always forward, never backward.” Here’s a partial list of books we’ll be reading in the next 12 months.

Against the Odds by Amy Ignatow. Arrow: Generation of Vipers by Clay and Susan Griffith. Avalanche by Mercedes Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Dennis Lee, and Cody Martin. Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele. Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology edited by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson. Captain America: Restitution by David McDonald. Ghosts of Empire by George Mann. Gotham: Dawn of Darkness by Jason Starr. Guardians of the Galaxy: Collect Them All by Corinne Duyvis. Guardians of the Galaxy: Space Riot by Patrick Shand. The Halo Effect by Ben Langdon. Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn. How to Be a Supervillain by Michael Fry. Katana at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Iron Man: Mutually Assured Destruction by Patrick Shand. Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond. The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale by Tim Hanley. Miles Morales: A Spider-Man Novel by Jason Reynolds. The More Known World by Tiffany Tsao. Power Game by Christine Feehan. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu. Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley. Sovereign by April Daniels. Spider-Man: Enemies Closer by Jim Beard. Spider-Man: Forever Young by Stefan Petrucha. Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. Sputnik’s Children by Terri Favro. Thanos: Death Sentence by Stuart Moore. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Girl Meets World by Shannon and Dean Hale. Warriors Three: Godhood’s End by Keith DeCandido. Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization by Nancy Holder. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. The Zodiac Legacy: Balance of Power by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore.

Posted in Best Of, Published in 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Phantoms Menace

fateflamesThere were four supergirls in Fate of Flames, but they weren’t without their own particular problems. One girl was a failed pop star, one had a bad temper, another was an inexperienced high school kid, and one was a full metal bitch. It’s not for nothing the author called them Effigies. They weren’t fully formed superheroes. They were just sloppy and crude imitations.

But the world needed superheroes badly. Mysterious phantoms had been terrorizing the planet since 1865 and they weren’t going away any time soon. Towers broadcasting electromagnetic dissonance helped scramble the monsters’ bloodthirsty impulses, but technology wasn’t enough to keep people safe. Like it or not, the world depended on the Effigies, a four-girl super squad who were “walking, talking biological warheads.”

Too bad these girls weren’t battle compliant in any way. They had crazy anime-like powers, but they didn’t play nice together. Not only were they moody and quarrelsome, but they were also unsupervised. Can you imagine – four young girls with godlike powers running around without any guidance? Naturally, people were concerned. “Are we really safe with that kind of power in the hands of a bunch of hormonal teens?” asks a skeptical bureaucrat.

To help straighten things out, an organization called the Sect (not the S.E.C.T.) agreed to take the Barbie slayers under its wing. This secret nongovernmental agency helped fight phantoms around the globe, so it made sense that the Effigies would fall under its jurisdiction.

The Sect wasn’t without its own problems, however. It was an organization that shared almost nothing with the world whose safety it was supposed to ensure. Behind everyone’s back, it was threatening global security by positioning itself as a neo-imperial superpower. Having the Effigies in its bag of tricks helped boost its advantage.

Ultimately, the most interesting thing about Sarah Raughley’s book is the developing relationship between the four flawed Effigies. The drama surrounding the phantom menace and the secret Sect society can’t compete with the big CW-like emotional moments created by Maia Finley, Belle Rousseau, Chae Rin Kim, and Victoria Soyinka.

As the girls come together as friends and colleagues, the author reveals one final twist that will undoubtedly fuel upcoming sequels. Her Princess Knight super warriors shared a dark secret. They were celebrities who appeared in the pages of Teen Vogue. And they looked sharp in their Valentino Bambolina dresses. But they were inextricably linked to the fearsome phantom menace. There was no way around it – they were monsters too.

[Fate of Flames / By Sarah Raughley / First Printing: November 2016 / ISBN: 9781481466776]

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