“Before the sun and the moon, before Venus and Jupiter, before animal and human alike walked the land, there was Lifia and Deatri—or, as we know them now, Life and Death.”
– Conversations with Superheroes (Page 348)
Detective Ofelia Warner & Lady Marei – A first person narrative chronicling the early life and path to superherodom of Ofelia Warner. She is a 30 year old, head strong, and often wrong detective in Port Alacia.
Verity Cord & Sparkfire, the Apocalyptic Man – A first person narrative from Verity Cord, a wannabe writer at a local but dying newspaper. She lands the exclusive of the century when a reclusive billionaire requests that she write a puff piece to humanise him to the public.
Princess Vanessa Melvoux & the Assassin, Tennyson Rage – Yet another first person narrative following Princess Vanessa on her arduous, death defying rise to the throne. She is the unwanted, blind heir to the throne of Croixland. There are shadowy organisations, unnecessary hangers-on and some assassination attempts.
The Interrogation of Doctor Rhett Chandler – A recorded interview between a G-man and the good doctor, largely about shady gene and DNA experiments, using human subjects and everything going horribly wrong. Shocking.
Karl Match & Delilah Singer – A series of letters between Karl and Delilah, spanning the course of 102 years. It’s a bit of a push-me, pull-me, story ending in a twist that everyone saw coming.
Death & All His Friends – Basically the start of life and death, reminiscent of ancient Greek theology, where the narrative’s sole purpose is to try to tie up some loose ends from earlier stories.
Epilogue – Think of this as the literary equivalent to Marvel movie end credit scenes.
Each of the stories was easy to read, and simple enough to follow. I did find that the first person narratives were extremely choppy at times, which made me feel like I was hiccoughing through the story. This was especially difficult to contend with in Princess Vanessa Melvoux & the Assassin, Tennyson Rage. So much time was wasted on superfluous narrative, which was never revisited, and where more interesting themes could have been expanded on. Overall, the pacing was very uneven. A full third of the anthology was dedicated to the first story alone. The stories are all interconnected, some more loosely than others, but this is simply too much time spent on narrative that is never further investigated and a cliff hanger ending that is not revisited.
My favourite stories of the six were: The Interrogation of Doctor Rhett Chandler and Karl Match & Delilah Singer. The letter format for Karl and Delilah was a nice touch and a good decision on the part of the author. And the recorded interrogation has a very authentic feel to it. These were also the only stories that felt like actual conversations with superheroes.
Though the author clearly has talent, and the editing was extensive, I found too many errors in the narrative to ignore. These were simple things like incorrect words selections, misspelling and duplicate words but they were very frequent at times, which detracted from the narrative. The most glaring of which was incorrect more than once:
“2,789 thousand miles.
…and eighty-two thousand miles.” (Page 121)
“TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO THOUSAND MILES to write the Dear Marjorie section of the Weekly Post, formerly the Daily Post.
2, 789 thousand miles!” (Page 122)
There were also lazy writing devices, the most prevalent of which was the “20 questions” scenario. Three of the six stories employ a scene where the protagonists have a tit-for-tat Q&A session. This annoyed me as these things could have been worked into the narrative organically, and on the whole were uninteresting but took time out of the actual story. And while I’m at it, I really hate when characters are made to describe themselves, especially when they are basically made to say “I’m not conceited but…”. Again, write it into the narrative.
My biggest gripe with this anthology is the lack of originality. Every major/popular comic book, comic book series, films and graphic novel (Marvel and DC) can be spotted in these stories.
The first story had entire lines and narrative lifted from other sources, such as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films:
“Certainly, I wasn’t the only clean cop at the P.A.P.D.” (Page 116)
“It’s not like I could have put a signal on the roof.” (Page 113)
Not to mention the orphaned protagonist. Sure it was blended with other characteristics but I really am also tired of the head-strong rookie female cop trope. There was even a scene where the orphaned child has a jacket draped over her shoulders by a kind police officer. Now, these might have been meant to pay homage to the source material but it was just too obvious and expected.
I ended up dubbing the second story Fifty Shades of Wayne. Once again, there were so many Batman references. The reclusive billionaire who wants someone to believe he is deeper than what he seems to be, who hand picks an awkward girl to interview him. He is surrounded by stupidly beautiful assistants (read the first chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey). Couple that with the pseudo-Daredevil costume in a Hell’s Kitchen-esque setting and you have a gritty Marvel series waiting to happen. But the superhero isn’t blind, he’s a human sparkler. At the same time, the story felt very Smallville, where Verity Cord is the plucky, street smart Chloe Sullivan, working hard to be the first reporter to get the scoop.
The interrogation story talks about human experimentation and reeks of Stryker and his island of mutants in X-Men. There is even an evil corporation at work, not that unlike The Hand. Overall, the stories reminded me a lot of Watchmen, in that they are largely set in the contemporary era, and the superpowers are secondary to the story. I would have liked more time and narrative dedicated to actually fleshing out the superpowers of the characters that the reader meets. It is, after all, meant to be about superheroes and supervillans. This anthology disappointed me with it’s predictability.
My rating: 3/5
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This review was requested by the author.