The second book in Michael Carroll's "New Heroes" trilogy keeps up the momentum of the first book. It also maintains the "Young Adult fiction in nameThe second book in Michael Carroll's "New Heroes" trilogy keeps up the momentum of the first book. It also maintains the "Young Adult fiction in name only" theme by tackling tough choices and not flinching from the logical progression of the characters he's set up. There's nothing graphic about the violence, but it's there in spades. It does suffer a bit from "middle chapter syndrome" as many second installments to trilogies do, but it sets up the conflict for the final conflict quite well, with battle lines clearly drawn. Unfortunately for the New Heroes, despite a few wins all the cards are held by the bad guys. I did have kind of a hard time believing some of these characters were only 13- to 16-years old since they acted like little adults sometimes, but that's a minor quibble for me.
This is a terrible, terrible book. I don't get what the buzz is about. Literature truly is dead. Thank god this guy died, too, so there's no more of tThis is a terrible, terrible book. I don't get what the buzz is about. Literature truly is dead. Thank god this guy died, too, so there's no more of this vile, poorly-written shit coming out....more
A short story collection of 14 brand-new superhero tales written just for this book. Overall this is a terrific collection. There are a couple storiesA short story collection of 14 brand-new superhero tales written just for this book. Overall this is a terrific collection. There are a couple stories which aren’t as good as the rest, but they don’t detract too much from the general quality. A few of the stories have adult language and themes, so it’s not for little kids, but certainly fine for teenagers and up.
Everyone knows that Superman is a dick. There’s even a whole website devoted to just that. So it is en vogue to make fun of big-time overpowered superheroes and I expected a lot of that. There is some of that, but most of these stories are so good that I didn’t mind at all.
The specific stories:
Cleansed and Set in Gold – Matthew Sturges
A B-string superhero in a superteam like the Justice League or Avengers who has to face a monstrous supervillain alone after all the top-flight heroes (the equivalent of Superman and Captain America) have been killed or grievously wounded. He has an unusual power which causes him to have serious doubts about his worth as a hero, but once the premise is revealed, Sturges takes it to the logical and satisfying conclusion. Superb writing, excellently timed reveals, interesting internal conflict and a great battle.
Where Their Worm Dieth Not – James Maxey
Maxey pushes the comic book conceit of superheroes and supervillains coming back from the dead to the breaking point, willing to go all the way in the exploration of the idea. With superb results.
Secret Identity – Paul Cornell
From a writer of the Doctor Who series, this seemingly frivolous tale inverts the idea of a secret identity. It’s somewhat humorous but has a serious point to make about the differences between a superhero’s private life and his public persona… which isn’t all that different from how we behave, is it? That the story is also clever is a bonus.
The Non-Event – Mike Carey
This is a character piece, told as a police confession, about a robbery gone wrong. Sometimes the easy way isn’t as easy as one hopes, and when it comes down to it, you have to face the responsibility for cleaning up your mess. Brutally excellent.
Avatar – Mike Baron
This is essentially the good version of Millar’s “Kick-***.” A young guy realizing the difference between fantasy and reality, even though he had his head on straight from day one. That’s why he didn’t see it coming.
Message from the Bubblegum Factory – Daryl Gregory
This story seems a little too self-aware at first but as it goes along you realize why that’s so. Imagine if Robin were the ward of Superman but then turned on him and became an insane criminal mastermind. That’s pretty much the plot of this story. But the sidekick has a POINT. And the story I so much better than that simplistic plot decription.
Thug – Gail Simone
This is a heartbreaking tale of a simple man who is taken advantage of. It’s as if Charly from “Flowers For Algernon” could pick up a Sherman tank.
Vacuum Lad – Stephen Baxter
More way-out sci-fi than a superhero tale, it sort of bridges the two genres. It’s mostly a story about superpowers as an evolutionary step, but said abilities are based on science rather than flights of fancy.
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows – Chris Roberson
This is the only real pulp-style story in the lot. It comes across as pretentious, stilted and clunky. It’s serviceable enough, I suppose.
Head Cases – Peter David and Kathleen David
This one is fine, but rather slight. It’s one of the weaker entries, but even Peter David on autopilot and with a co-writer is still pretty good.
Downfall – Joseph Mallozzi
A satisfying and complete story about the interconnections between heroes and villains. This reads like the best of stories from something like Busiek’s Astro City series.
By My Works You Shall Know Me – Mark Chadbourn
This is a really twisty – and twisted – tale of a hero and his arch-nemesis. It’s the kind you can’t really talk about without giving it away, but even correctly guessing at what the reveal will be doesn’t spoil it. Darkity dark dark.
Call Her Savage – Marjorie M. Liu
This story was okay, but it’s one of the weaker entries for me. It’s a bit vague on the superhero connection and why the titular character is considered such, and clearly takes place in an alternate universe where our natural laws don’t apply. It’s not a bad tale, but it just kind of sits there.
Tonight We Fly – Ian McDonald
Since I grow more curmudgeonly as I get older, I can relate to two older superbeings grousing about how crappy the world is these days. No action to speak of, but these are my peeps representin’. Now get off my superbase’s lawn, you damn kids!
A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too) – Bill Willingham
This is Willingham showing off… and I loved it. Not just because I’m the Alt Alphabet guy, but because it does a number of things at once: makes fun of DC/Marvel cross-over events, sends up the “comic book universe” type of publication, is witty, and manages to tell a complete story in vignettes, some small and some downright microscopic. This was an awesome finish to the book. ...more