Live! In the Link Age: Short Reviews and Interviews of 2017 (Revisited)

krampusAccording to singer Andy Williams, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But if your name is on the naughty list you’d better watch out. Krampus the Christmas devil might come down your chimney instead of Santa Claus. That’s the premise behind Matthew Phillion’s latest Indestructibles short story (“Krampus in the City: An Indestructibles Holiday Story” / First Printing: December 2016). Krampus has come to town and he’s on the prowl for wicked children to abduct. Now it’s up to Entropy Emily and her ninja ballerina best friend Kate Miller to pull the plug on Krampusnacht. “I don’t think you understand, dude,” says Emily when she comes face to face with the hoary killjoy. “You don’t own Christmas anymore.” She’s right. If Krampus wants to ruin the holiday season, he needs to get in line behind Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch, Jack Frost, Oogie Boogie, Mr. Potter, and that unpleasant nutball from Miracle on 34th Street. [Review first published 01.11.17.]

LunaStation29With his telekinetic powers and dashing good looks, Captain Alpha was a popular and awesome superhero. But as boyfriend material, he was a total bust (“How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend” / By Kristen Brand / Available free in the March 2017 issue of Luna Station Quarterly). Poor Sara, she went on one lousy date with the mighty Captain and now she couldn’t get rid of him. How does someone break up with a superhero anyhow? Do you give him a one-way ticket to Apokolips or do you send him packing to Gorilla City? Your options were limited. As luck would have it, Sara was given the opportunity to jettison her “boyfriend” during a home invasion hostage situation. In her opinion, teaming up with a supervillain was preferable to dating a jerky superhero. Says the author: “Sara didn’t know if that said more about her own weird turn-ons or Captain Alpha’s complete and utter failure as a decent human being.” [Review first published 03.28.17.]

FlashFiction OnlineAs her name implied, Invulnerabella was nigh invulnerable (“The Terrible” / By John Wiswell / Available free in the April 2017 issue of Flash Fiction Online). Like Power Girl and Thundra, she was so strong she could take down a rampaging Kraken single-handedly if she wanted to. But as a superhero that wasn’t her main priority. Instead of throwing supervillains in the pokey and throwing away the key, Invulnerabella was more interested in rehabilitating the wayward. She helped Dr. Ogren find a second career as a chemistry teacher. And Male Gaze now ran a YouTube fashion channel. Some villains, however, stubbornly resisted her efforts – like Mercer The Terrible. Inspired by Bill Finger and Rube Goldberg, Mercer tirelessly built elaborate death machines specifically to kill his archenemy. But nothing worked. “I thought you’d be the first to get better,” said Invulnerabella with a sigh. “Not the last.” Maybe it was time the two longtime adversaries sat down for a little tea and empathy. Constructive Psychotherapy might be the answer for both of them. [Review first published 04.25.17.]

HochelagaAs a prisoner of war during WWII, Benoit Kurtz was a lab rat for mad German scientists (“Hochelaga and Sons” / By Claude Lalumière / First Printing: February 2013). When the war ended, he was released, debriefed, and shipped back home to Montreal. That’s when he found out he had every superpower imaginable – superstrength, superspeed, invisibility, telepathy, telekinesis. You name it; he had it. By combining science, torture, and occultism, Nazi scientists had somehow created the first Overman. Instead of being a radical agent for fascism, however, Kurtz was simply a mild-mannered gentleman with a strong commitment to his community. “What he liked to do most was find lost pets,” said the author. “Or get drunk drivers off the road.” Unfortunately, Kurtz wasn’t the only Beyond-Man forged by Nazi weird science. The Hegemony of Hate was still out there causing trouble. And so were Baron Zemo and the Red Skull. Like it or not, the threat of a Übermensch clash was always imminent. When the time came, would the reluctant hero and his two sons be ready? As Jews, would they wield their Nazi-given superpowers or not? The answer, we think, was obvious. To paraphrase the MC5: “Pikuach Nefesh motherfuckers!” [Review first published 09.05.17.]

HolmesLama BookCoverWe’re big fans of Adam Lance Garcia’s previous Green Lama books (Unbound, Scions, and Crimson Circle). Now he’s back with an unlikely team-up novel featuring the verdant vigilante and Sherlock Holmes called The Heir Apparent (First Printing: October 2017 / ISBN: 9781944017101). We contacted Garcia recently for more information about this odd pairing.

“I wasn’t initially sold on the idea when the concept was first pitched by my publisher, Moonstone. Holmes is a character solidly in the Victorian era, and the Lama is distinctly 1930s and ’40s.

“I didn’t want to tell a story with the characters solving a single crime in two different eras. Nor did I want to tell a story featuring time travel (or what-have-you) to bring the characters together. I wanted to tell a story that brought them together in way that felt true to both canons. More importantly I wasn’t sure there was anything I could say with the story.

“These days, crossovers are a dime a dozen, whether they be in pre-established shared universes (i.e. the MCU), or cross-company (i.e. Batman/The Shadow), or with public domain characters (basically any new pulp story). The best crossovers, the ones I love reading/watching, are the ones that leave me learning something fundamental about the characters involved.

“There is, of course, a place for crossover tales that simply boil down to ‘who wins in a fight.’ Those are great. I’ve even written a few. But with Sherlock and the Lama, I needed their meeting to mean something. At first blush … I didn’t see how I could do it.

“Of course, I didn’t tell my publisher that. I simply said: ‘A Sherlock/G.L. story could work, but I think it would have to be a very special story.’ It wasn’t until maybe two months later that I figured out how to do it.

“While struggling to fall asleep one night, I suddenly remembered that the majority of Holmes tales were told by Watson via ‘in-universe’ stories. In other words, they were adventures Watson experienced first-hand and later published.

“In the Green Lama universe, his pulp adventures were established to have been adaptations of Dumont’s monographs by his friend ‘Richard Foster,’ of which only 14 were published.

“The question then sprang in my mind: What if Jethro Dumont met an old Sherlock Holmes while on his way back to America, and recorded that adventure in a monograph?

“It not only gave me a viable way to tell a story that fit into the world of the Green Lama, it also gave me a way to mimic the style of the Holmes tales without being beholden to perfectly matching Doyle’s voice.

“More than that, I knew that I had something I could say with the story. I would get to show two heroes interacting at the beginning and end of their respective careers, giving insight into the men they were and will be. Plus, I would get to do something no one had else had ever done before … tell a Green Lama tale wholly from the Green Lama’s point of view.” (Find out more about the author at his website (here) and follow him on Twitter @AdamLanceGarcia.) [Post first published 09.26.17.]

Serpents SacrificeTrish Heinrich’s debut novel (Serpent’s Sacrifice / First Printing: September 2017 / ISBN: 9780999066911) is about a young woman who reinvents herself as a superheroine to avenge the death of her aunt. The book has garnered a bevy of enthusiastic reviews on Amazon (plus here and here). We asked Heinrich for a little insight into her newly released novel and her ongoing series.

“I get asked a lot what the inspiration for Serpent’s Sacrifice was because I’m not a big comic book reader, but I’m very much a superhero geek. So, the inspiration came from a song by the geek rock band Kirby Krackle called “Needing a Miracle.” It’s this great song about a superhero that’s in love with a regular person and about how some day, when he’s done being a hero, they can be together, but if she ever needs him all she has to do is look up and he’ll be there. Very romantic and simple. So, originally, Alice was going to be a Lois Lane type of character. Then, while I was making dinner one night, I asked one of the most important questions a writer can ask: ‘What if?’

“What if Alice was a hero too, but without powers? And the rest of the story flowed from there. Though, I will admit, the story looks very different now than it did in the first draft, which was a complete mess!

“One major difference between the original concept and the book now is that in the original outline Marco (aka Shadow Master and one of Alice’s best friends) became the villain. As I wrote it, however, I realized that it didn’t work; maybe because I’d fallen a little in love with Marco.

“The villain was actually one of the hardest characters to nail down. I was having trouble getting a handle on my villain when, one night, I was watching Agent Carter and it hit me who the villain was. I don’t want to ruin it by revealing too much, so I’ll just say that once I knew the sense of injustice the character felt, the rest of the villain really came together.

“When I started writing this book, I couldn’t write a fight scene to save my life. So, the original draft had summaries of fight scenes instead of the actual scenes. While re-writing the original draft, I researched fighting styles that would be appropriate for a shorter woman like Alice, and decided on Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This lead me to Ronda Rousey and women’s mixed martial arts. I have to admit that my research soon turned into a guilty pleasure as I watched hours of footage of MMA fights to better understand BJJ and other styles of fighting. I also bought a book that is meant for BJJ fighters and breaks down each move into simple parts. I studied fight scenes in movies and TV shows and I read some books on the mechanics of writing these scenes. The fight scenes in the book have gotten some praise for being easy to follow but also descriptive enough that you feel the bones and blood. I take that as a huge compliment because I learned how to write those scenes from the ground up.

“What started as a standalone story has now developed into a series, with planned spinoffs. The sequel, Serpent’s Rise, will be available in November in Kindle format, with a novella to follow in January. I’m very excited to delve into this world of superheroes and tell these stories. I hope you’ll join me!” (Find out more about the author at her website (here) and follow her on Twitter @trishheinrich.) [Post first published 10.24.17.]

WhiteRibbonThe White Ribbon Runs the Red Lights (First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9781978398689) is the latest novel by Blake Michael Nelson, and the fifth installment in his ongoing superhero series set in Signal City (earlier volumes include The Adventures of Jack and Miracle Girl, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Orchid, and Disreputable Persons). He’s also compiled a handy “visitor’s guide” that allows fans and new readers to dig deeper into his ever-expanding oeuvre (get a free digital copy here). We asked Nelson to give us a peek behind the “Signalverse” curtain.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to superhero universes – I like big, crazy worlds, full of magic, ancient gods, aliens, super-science, creatures from folklore, impossibly skilled martial artists, parallel worlds, and all the rest of it. Worlds like this give the writer a great deal of freedom, I feel; in my own Signalverse (so-called because most of the action takes place in the superhero metropolis of Signal City), for example, I can tell stories about globe-trotting mercenaries, crime-fighting billionaires, sorcerers, super-powered humans, or entirely ordinary people, and these stories can be as big or as small (scale-wise) as I want them to be.

The White Ribbon Runs the Red Lights is the fifth book in the Signalverse series, and although the stakes eventually get pretty high, it’s not exactly a huge epic – I wanted to tell a smaller, more intimate story this time around, with a smaller cast. I also wanted to write a story starring teenagers, partly because the series hasn’t had any teen protagonists yet, but also because teenage superhero-stories are so full of dramatic possibilities. Self-doubt, alienation, raging hormones, juggling a school life with a superhero career … these kinds of things can be a lot of fun to play around with.

“This series hasn’t really received a great deal of attention, but the books are so much fun to write that I’ve been working on them almost exclusively for the past four or five years. A lot of the fun comes from the world itself; I got a little carried away creating the Signalverse, and I’ve got so many characters to work with now that I can’t imagine I’ll ever run out of story ideas.” (Find out more about Nelson at his website (here) and follow him on Twitter @limitblake.) [Post first published 11.21.17.]

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Superhero Novels: The Best of 2017 and a Peek at 2018

IronFistMistyKnight KISSEvery year we look forward to compiling our Top 5 list of superhero novels. It’s a great way to revisit all the books we’ve read during the past 12 months, and it helps put everything in perspective. Seeing how the genre changes year by year is endlessly fascinating. Better writers are coming to the genre, and readers are becoming more discriminating too. The future’s so bright we’ve got to wear Captain Cold-like shades when we sit down to read. Below is our list of the five best superhero prose novels of 2017.

1) A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel. The hero of Fiona Maazel’s quirky novel is a low level telepath. But just because he has the ability to read minds doesn’t mean he has any kind of mental acuity. Maazel takes her super inadequate hero on a journey that ends with a shit storm of bad luck and bad choices. Tragic and funny, A Little More Human is our favorite book of 2017.

2) Sputnik’s Children by Terri Favro. According to Albert Einstein, events that happen in the universe can be interpreted in many different ways. Little did he know that his theory of relativity would someday inspire Terri Favro to write a wild and crazy superhero novel. Like the ballad of Norin Radd and Shalla-Bal, Sputnik’s Children is a sad and cosmic love story that spans the space-time continuum.

3) The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Annie Wu. Valente takes aim at a regrettable genre trope that’s dogged superhero fiction for years. Her pointed attack, however, results in one of the best (and funniest) books of the year. The Refrigerator Monologues is a love letter to superhero comic books written with a poison ivy pen.

4) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds. It’s doubtful that award-winning and best-selling author Jason Reynolds will ever pen another superhero novel. That’s too bad. We’d like to see him tackle a Virgil Hawkins (Static) novel, or something involving sisters Anissa and Jennifer Pierce (Thunder and Lightning). He’s a guy who writes intelligently and poetically about adolescence, and he brings his literary gifts to this amazing Spider-Man book.

5) Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo. As alternative origin stories go, Bardugo’s retcon of Wonder Woman is pretty darn good. She fiddles around with the details of Diana’s backstory, but she nails her enduring charm in a highly compelling way. As we all know, 2017 was a big year for Wonder Woman. The movie was terrific and so is this novel. Congratulations to Bardugo for riding the wave.

Over all, 2017 was a great year for superhero prose fiction. Now let’s take a look at some of the novels forthcoming in 2018. Below is a partial list of books that have already been added to our “to read” list.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer. Arrow: Fatal Legacies by James R. Tuck and Marc Guggenheim. Batman: The Court of Owls by Greg Cox. Batman: The Killing Joke by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips. Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu. Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith. Bone Music by Christopher Rice. Bug Girl: Fury on the Dance Floor by Benjamin Harper and Sarah Hines Stephens. Bumblebee at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Captain Superlative by J.S. Puller. Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas. Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci. The Flash: Climate Changeling by Richard Knaak. The Flash: Johnny Quick by Barry Lyga. Good Guys by Steven Brust. Gotham: City of Monsters by Jason Starr. Harley Quinn: Mad Love by Pat Cadigan. Harley Quinn at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. Heroine’s Journey by Sarah Kuhn. Kid Normal by Greg James, Chris Smith, and Erica Salcedo. Legacy of Light by Sarah Raughley. Low Chicago: A Wild Cards Novel edited by George R.R. Martin. My So-Called Superpowers by Heather Nuhfer and Simini Blocker. Nexus by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti. Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee. The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. The Point by John Dixon. The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone. Runaways: An Original Novel by Christopher Golden. Serpent in the Heather by Kay Kenyon. Shetani Zeru Bryan: New Praetorians 2 by R.K. Syrus. The Silver Hood by Justin Richman. Supergirl: Curse of the Ancients by Jo Whittemore. The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas. Texas Hold ‘Em: A Wild Cards Novel edited by George R.R. Martin. They Promised Me the Gun Wasn’t Loaded by James Alan Gardner. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Vengeful by V.E. Schwab.

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Super Girl

Supergirl AtlantisA recent singularity event in National City creates a batch of new superhumans in author Jo Whittemore’s delightfully wacky Supergirl novel. Among others, there’s a meteorologist who can now control weather, a bodybuilder who can levitate objects (get it?), and a film student who can animate any object she touches.

Most people are happy about the unexpected turn of events, especially James Olsen. After being an ineffectual wingman to both Superman and Supergirl for so long, he’s thrilled to acquire metahuman powers of his own. Not only can the photographer see in the dark, but he can also see through objects, and he can even see behind his head. All things considered, having super eyeball vision is a dream come true for Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen.

But not everybody is happy about the explosion of new superheroes in National City. Supergirl for one. The “supercitizens” didn’t know what they were doing. And most of them were overwhelmed by their powers. “They have no clue,” says Supergirl in a hastily recorded public announcement. “They’re as much a danger to themselves as they are to everyone around them.”

Unbeknownst to Supergirl and the rest of her colleagues at the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, the influx of supercitizens is directly linked to a mysterious visitor from the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. It takes a while for the CW crew (including Olsen, J’onn J’onzz, Alex Danvers, Winn Schott, and Mon-El) to figure things out. But when they do, the ensuing “superbattle” is like an 80-Page Giant edition featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes.

And just like the TV show, Supergirl wins the day with a combination of superpowers and super charm. That’s why we love her so much. “You are more than just your powers, Kara,” says her boyfriend Mon-El. “You have a kind heart and a determined spirit and a clever mind. Even if you were human, you would still be a super girl.”

Over all, Whittemore does a great job of putting our favorite super girl in a non-ending string of funny and awkward moments. Many of them include unexpected nods to the DC extended universe.

For example, when a handful of lions and tigers escape the National City Zoo, Supergirl figures out a humane way to solve the crisis (“Punching a cat seems wrong,” she says with a shrug). Later, when Winn starts calling her Catwoman as a goof, she doesn’t seem to mind (maybe because Kara Zor-El and Selina Kyle were buddies at Super Hero High School).

Whittemore saves her biggest surprise for the end (no spoilers from us!), but our favorite cameo happens about midway through the book. On page 150, Kara visits the newsroom of the National City Tribune and interrupts Vicki Vale’s going-away party. “Oh, right!” she says in her best ditzy Melissa Benoist impersonation. “You’re leaving us for that other newspaper. We’ll miss you.”

“Between you and me,” says Vale in a conspiratorial whisper, “I have to get out of here. National City is driving me batty.” The two reporters chat amiably for a few moments before Kara gives her coworker a big super squeeze. “Have fun in your new job at the Gotham Gazette,” she says with a cheery cluelessness, “and stay out of trouble.”

[Supergirl: Age of Atlantis / By Jo Whittemore / First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9781419728143]

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All You Need Is Love

RenegadesThere were 400 superheroes affiliated with the Renegades, Gatlon City’s premier justice league. Led by a five-member council, the Renegades were former vigilantes who took control of their city and established a sensible legislative purview.

Like most superheroes, the Renegades were an earnest bunch who were arguably doing the best they could. They dutifully passed laws to protect their constituencies and provided infrastructure support whenever possible.

But just because they could turn invisible or control water didn’t mean they had any governing skills. Nine years ago, the Renegades saved Gatlon City from the scourge of villainy. But the government they installed was inadequate. It’s hard to represent your citizenry when you’re lounging comfortably at the top of an 82-story skyscraper. Talk about being disconnected from reality.

The whole thing was a failed social experiment, according to Nova Artino, a spy for the resistance and a notorious supervillain named Nightmare. “The city was ruled by dictators who had no idea what they were doing.”

Artino’s solution was anarchy. She was all about personal freedom, personal responsibility; about taking care of yourself and your own concerns, rather than expecting anyone to take care of you. She wanted to do away with oppression and regulations that only served a small group of (super) people.

And that, more or less, was the big messy conflict at the center of Marissa Meyer’s latest novel. What was better, she mused, freedom of choice or freedom from choice? Nova and her friends embraced the upside of anarchy, and the Renegades stubbornly upheld their brand of authoritative social control.

But who was right? It’s the sort of argument freshman philosophy students have been debating for years. And certainly it’s been a pressing question in every YA dystopian novel published in the past decade. Meyers, to her credit, allows her superheroes to hash it out properly on the page.

Sixteen-year-old Nova was raised by Ace Anarchy (né Alec Artino), her rabblerousing uncle. Predictably she’s loyal to him throughout the book and uses her sleep-inducing abilities for maximum mischief. But things get complicated for her when she meets a cute Renegade scout named Adrian Everhart with powers like Harold and his purple crayon.

No matter what their personal allegiances may be, the two teenagers can’t resist the thrall of their prickly hormones. As you’d expect, their budding Romeo and Juliet-like romance threatens to crack Gatlon City wide open like a raw egg. Freedom of choice? Freedom from choice? The question is moot. Love trumps politics and philosophical dissonance every time.

[Renegades / By Marissa Meyer / First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9781250044662]

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Wonder Woman: Peacemaker

WarbringerThe title of Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman novel is tantalizingly provocative. It implies that Princess Diana of Themyscira is being re-imagined as some kind of harbinger of war.

But that’s not the case. Wonder Woman isn’t a “Warbringer” at all. Always and evermore she remains a peacemaker. The title of the book is simply an ambiguous (but catchy) declaration.

There’s no ambiguity once you start reading the book, however. Right off the bat, Diana meets a teenager named Alia Keralis who is a direct descendant of Helen of Sparta. It is Alia, not Diana, who is the Warbringer (note the capitalization). She’s the one who carries the death of the world. “With each breath she takes,” says an Amazon oracle, “she takes us closer to Armageddon.”

In this origin story, there is no Steve Trevor. Alia is the person who inspires Diana to leave Themyscira and begin her hero’s journey. But Trevor isn’t completely missing from the narrative. There’s a nod to his fate during a tour of the island’s armory. On display is a pilot’s jumpsuit riddled with bullet holes that looks like it came from the twenties. In Bardugo’s novel, Trevor didn’t live long enough to cause a blip on William Marston’s radar.

Leaving the island, Diana makes her way to New York where she tries to help Alia stop the ongoing cycle of war. Despite the serious nature of her task, she manages to have a few LOL moments in the big city. She doesn’t eat an ice-cream cone, but she rides the subway (always an interesting adventure for tourists). And she does a little shopping to pick up necessities like Doritos and gummy bears. During her shopping spree, she tucks her magic lasso in a plastic Duane Reade bag.

Forgoing the pleasures of NY, Diana must escort her charge to Greece before the start of the Athenian New Year. If Alia takes a dip in the spring water of Therapne (the resting place of Helen) the cycle of Warbringers will be broken. To complicate matters further, the pair is under attack by disparate factions. Some people want to kill Alia to prevent future wars. And others want to keep her alive in order to facilitate their shady warmongering agenda.

Throughout, Diana is totally committed to Alia. “Sister in battle,” she tells her at one point. “I am shield and blade to you.” But she is also cognizant of her own destiny. She is the only one of her Amazon sisters who hasn’t been tested on the battlefield. She is 16 years old in this novel and she hungers for a chance to prove herself beyond Themyscira track and field events. “What’s my story?” she asks more than once.

The answer to her question comes late in the novel. The world needed a champion, and Diana needed a chance to learn what she was capable of. She broke the curse of the Warbringer, but her story wasn’t over. It had just begun. “She did not know what the future held, only that the world – full of danger, and challenge, and wonder – was waiting to be discovered.”

[Wonder Woman: Warbringer / By Leigh Bardugo / First Printing: August 2017 / ISBN: 9780399549731]

Posted in Marvel/DC, Published in 2017 | Tagged , ,

The War of Talents, Part I

TableWolvesThirty-three year old Kim Tavistock is looking for something to do with herself. Recently removed from a newspaper job in the U.S., Kim is back in England and living with her father. It’s 1936 and jobs are hard to find and women are the last in line to get them.

Perhaps in these early days leading up to World War II, Kim might find employ as a spy for King and Country. She does, after all, possess a very unusual talent. Ever since she was 12, she’s been able to inspire people to reveal embarrassing secrets. This “spill talent” made things awkward for potential boyfriends, but it might be useful in espionage endeavors. That’s what Kim is hoping.

Contrary to popular assumptions, however, being a spy isn’t the glamorous career people make it out to be. Kim quickly finds out that it’s a tawdry job, morally wretched and liable to get her killed – especially when she’s attempting to infiltrate a nest of shady Germans promoting their Nazi agenda.

The Germans have a crazy plan to invade England by building a Boom Tube-like conduit across the North Sea. To do this, they’re conscripting a team of metahumans with extraordinary preternatural abilities. The key to the whole thing rests on the shoulders of a high-powered “chorister” who’s able to aggregate Nazi Übermensch for maximum carnage.

Kim is determined to disrupt the oncoming invasion using her unique talent. Like a guitarist endlessly searching for the perfect chord, she’s consorting with Sicherheitsdienst agents looking for the defining spill. She’s a bit naïve but fearless nonetheless. She doesn’t consider herself a superhero, a Valkyrie warrior, or anything so presumptuous, but one way or another she’s going to use her spill skillz to keep England safe.

The years just prior to WWII represent an undeclared shadow war of subterfuge, filled with spies, assassins, powerbrokers, puppet masters, political agitators, disrupters, alchemists, and superheroes. As such, it serves as the perfect milieu for Kay Kenyon’s new alt-history series featuring superheroes with highly unusual and arcane talents. England is lucky to have Kim “Nazi Smasher” Tavistock on its payroll. To be continued in Serpent in the Heather (available April 2018).

[At the Table of Wolves / By Kay Kenyon / First Printing: July 2017 / ISBN: 9781481487788]

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The Life and Death of Rasputin

GhostsEmpireHow do you kill something that’s already dead? It’s simple. Every zombie, mummy, and vampire knows the answer to that question. Life is the only thing that can defeat death.

But somehow Grigori Rasputin didn’t get cc’d on the memo. In Ghosts of Empire, the self-proclaimed mystic from the early 20th century was orchestrating an attack on London from his icy tomb in St. Petersburg. The mad monk died in 1916, but he stubbornly continued to preside over the vagaries of the universe. “Death was the only constant,” he crowed.

Thank goodness Gabriel Cross (aka the Ghost) was visiting England during Rasputin’s siege. The New Yorker was hoping for a little R&R during his vacation (see Ghosts of Karnak for further details), but he wasn’t the sort of guy to shy away from a coven of Russian wizards making trouble. “The Ghost is part of my life,” explained Cross. “Wherever I go, he goes too.”

Rasputin and his Korschei Corps had inveigled their way into London, bringing with them a dark elemental magic from abroad. Like an album by Iggy and the Stooges, the power they wielded was primal and raw. It was up to Cross, the British Secret Service, and an eight-foot tall perambulatory tree to turn back the invasion. “I’m amazed at our capacity to find trouble wherever we go,” said an exasperated member of Team Ghost.

This is the fourth Ghost novel from author George Mann, and each one has been an enjoyable steampunk/superhero mash-up featuring a “solitary figure of vengeance.” If you like pulp fiction and mysteries with a supernatural twist (like us), you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the ongoing adventures of Gabriel Cross and his crimefighting colleagues.

After an explosive novel-ending kerfuffle, Rasputin was smote by the very elemental forces he claimed to control. He bragged to his enemies that he had mastered death, but in reality all he had done was perpetuate it – inflicting misery upon everyone around him. He was nothing but a living corpse held together by ancient tattoos, pictograms, and sigils. Like every ghoul before him, Rasputin was destroyed by life.

[Ghosts of Empire / By George Mann / First Printing: October 2017 / ISBN: 9781783294183]

Posted in New/Old Pulp, Published in 2017 | Tagged ,