Book Review – Gods Are Born by D.W. Hitz

I love a good superhero story. I especially love the ones that break from the norm. The superhero genre is one of those places where it’s easy to go the established route. Guy (or gal) puts on tights and fights crime. Plug a little wiggle room into and you wind up someone in tights violently fighting crime. Maybe you get an anti-hero or two who are almost as bad – or worse – than the criminals they’re fighting. Toss in a supervillain to give the hero or heroine a need for their skillset and powers and do your best to keep making the stories crazier and crazier while avoiding calling it what it is: Gods fighting gods while the rest of us look on and wonder whether or not our insurance will cover the damage to our car when some asshole drops another car on it. Probably not. Act of god and all that.

D.W. Hitz, in his book Gods Are Born, does away with both the notions of tights and crime fighting and gives us some human character with very human flaws who had power foisted on them. Rather than immediately head out to make things right by punching evil in its sniveling little face, most of them are simply trying to survive like normal people. At some recent point in the past there was a devastating war between some of the gods that left the world a complete train wreck. Imagine an entire planet run by Texas and you’ll get the idea.

All the characters – gods, as Hitz calls them – have very normal human traits. Some want to rule over everything and have zero qualms crushing anyone in their way, others use their power to make a quick buck, while others use their powers to remain hidden away from the world. In other words, these are all people with all of the usual quirks and failings people tend to have. They’re not perfect and they don’t have some internal quest to fulfill. Most of them just want to be left alone. And that is a pleasant change from stories about people with a mad quest to save the world from itself.

Of course, this is a story, so almost no one gets their wishes fulfilled. In fact, a goodly number of them see their dreams crushed, often violently. Which bring us to the 400lb gorilla in the room. While officially marketed as superhero fiction and first contact sci-fi (there are aliens in the book, BTW, but they’re less interesting than the gods), the cover almost shrieks YA. Not that there’s anything wrong with YA, but Gods Are Born doesn’t feel YA to me. The cover isn’t necessarily bad, it just doesn’t fit with the book in my opinion. This is a mature read covering some dense turf and handling it well. So, ignore the cover and listen to the story: This is about people with godlike powers trying to figure out what to do. And not a single one of them has chosen to fight crime. It’s YA in the same way The Dark Knight Returns was YA. In other words, not really YA at all. Not that a younger audience wouldn’t be able to read it or appreciate it, mind you, it’s just written for an older, wiser reader. A serious story on serious Earth, if we were to look back at the bat again.

So, where does that leave us? Honestly in a good place. Ignore the cover art and focus on the story. There’s a good deal of exposition – mostly the bits about the preceding war – that is fertile soil for a novel unto itself. (Yes, D.K., I am asking for a prequel). More to the point, we’ve got fully realized characters striving to just make it in a world gone pretty bonkers. Superheroes, but not the goody two shoes kind we’re used to.

Definitely a good read and worthy of a prequel.

This is not the world you know.

When aliens crashed on Earth, everything changed. Humanity has been decimated by predators and plague. Electromagnetic waves render most technology useless. The survivors are afflicted by strange mutations—some troubling, others amazing.

Kaysa simply desires to live her life. When forced to use her powers, someone always gets hurt.

Tony loves being a hitman. The pay is good, and with his abilities, most jobs are a cakewalk.

The bloodthirsty King of the Republic is unsatisfied. A power greater than his own beckons to him from the beyond.

And to realize his destiny, he must bring the others to it.

Gods are Born follows the paths of seven extraordinary beings as they struggle to survive, to find peace within themselves, and ultimately to defeat the King…

…and something far worse than they can imagine.

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Book Review – The Magician’s Sin by Alexander Thomas

The strange and wonderful world of superheroes and villains has always been a fertile field for new ideas to take root. From the original mortals that stood up to the gods to the Shadows and Doc Savages to modern mega-blockbusters, the idea of better than regular people fighting evil has been around since we first said, “Man, those gods are jerks. I’d love to kick that Apollo guy right in the balls.” Through those superheroes and villains, though they be better, stronger, smarter, more powerful than us, we get the chance to explore our own humanity.

The idea of flawed heroes is nothing entirely new, though modern mainstream movies are only just beginning to explore it. The Shadow was hardly a nice guy. Doc Savage may not have killed anyone outright, but he had no qualms about letting a temple fall on a bad guy.

It is kind of wonderful to see someone take a powerful character and expose their weaknesses. Not necessarily kryptonite, but those little things inside their heads that slowly break them down. The failures they can’t quite get over, no matter how much they drink.

They say the Golden Age of Superheroes was the 1930s. This was the era that brought us Superman and Batman, albeit slightly different than their current incarnations. This was also the stomping ground of The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom. It was a vibrant time and the panoply of colorful characters represented that time. But once you strip away the veneer, the world was a mess.

It’s into that world that Alexander Thomas drops us. Organized crime, honest cops, random violence, and very real magic. Our guide is Anson Walker, a stage magician with actual magical powers who got dragged into the role of a hero and found more than he bargained for.

Part superhero story, part love story, part mystery, The Magician’s Sin is a caterwauling romp through the weird and wonderful world of the Golden Age of Superheroes. A time when the ethics of one hero are being supplanted by the twisted ethics of another and right around the corner a magical anomaly is waiting.

This is a well-crafted story that deserves attention. It may be easy to throw a bunch of genres at a book and see what resonates, but it takes a gifted master to weave elements of heroism, failure, magic, detective noir, and romance into a single, cohesive story. And that’s what Alexander Thomas has given us in The Magician’s Sin.

Simply brilliant. Go buy a copy. Now.

Titan City: 1933

Anson Walker is a retired wizard who has spent the last two decades trying to put his past to rest. His cynical retirement is thrown into chaos when the daughter of his ex-wife hires him to rescue her mother from the dark forces who’ve taken her. The kidnapping is only days before the Aberration, a time every century when the rules of magic don’t apply. Anson’s investigation reveals an ancient conspiracy, the return of a decades-old nemesis, and feelings he thought long gone.

Will he rescue his old flame, or succumb to the forces against him?

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Book Review – Wychman Road by Ben Berman Ghan

bookReview

The world is glutted with superhero stories these days. Some are excellent, some are less than spectacular, most are about people in tights doing things to other people in tights. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good superhero story, especially when it breaks the normal routine of putting on tights and fighting crime.

I guess one of the major problems with a lot of superhero stories is they’re all fundamentally the same: good guys fight bad guys, there are lots of flashy things happening, good guys ultimately win. They trend toward an area of fantasy where things are black and white. In a way, that’s why I wrote Henchmen; it was an attempt to break the normal routines.

Other people are doing the same kinds of things. Actually they’ve been doing them for some time now; I’m hardly a groundbreaking author. What I like to see are the stories where the people with the powers aren’t out sacrificing themselves for the good of all mankind because, let’s face it, people usually don’t do that. Series like Jessica Jones (Alias – the comic series it sprung from – was better in my opinion), Daredevil, and Gotham are covering these areas now, but they still trend toward good guys and bad guys doing things to each other out of the kindness (or blackness) of their hearts.

Into this maelstrom drops Ben Berman Ghan’s Wychman Road, a tale about what’s really likely to happen to people with superpowers. The general gist of the story is there are people who can control other people, oftentimes causing irreparable damage to the people being controlled. The reaction to the damage their powers cause is what starts to define the Thought Walkers.and separate them into basically okay and probably pretty bad camps.

Wychman Road is partly a superhero yarn, but it’s also musings on what it means to be human and what regular people will do when suddenly granted amazing abilities. Now, if normal people would go off the rails when they found they had the ability to control others, those who’ve had the ability for a long time would have very different outlook on what’s okay and what’s not.

If I have one complaint about Wychman Road it’s the large amount of telling instead of showing. There are scenes that could have been extremely fun to explore but were simply told. The telling drug the story down in some places, but when Ghan rolls in the action Wychman really shines.

If you’re looking for something exciting, a new way of looking at superheroes, check out Wychman Road.

wychmanroad

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Review – The Legend of Buddy Hero by Adam Oster

buddyhero

I’ve always loved superheroes.  To most people who know me this will come as no surprise.  In fact, I think blinding flash of obvious would probably be an apt descriptor.  While my friends were learning, you know “facts”, and getting “useful knowledge,” I was reading Mad Magazine.  While they were studying to be better people I was learning about the heroes who saved the Earth again and again.

Yeah.  Who’s laughing now, suckers?

So, with that in mind it really should come as no surprise that I enjoyed Adam Oster’sThe Legend of Buddy Hero?”  No, not really.  It was a creative take on a genre that is wide open with possibilities but usually falls into the large guy in tights beats hell out of the other large guy in tights.  What we get instead is the human side of superheroism and a creative solution to a problem.  Rather than donning the cape (no capes!) and relying on his fists our hero has to work with a team and find a way to take down a bigger problem.  And that right there is a nice change in the traditional superhero model.

The story is well written, full of nice twists, good action, and no small amount of humor.  Is it for you?  If you like superheroes, yes it is.  If you don’t, well, it’s still a damn good story and well worth the price of admission, so yeah, it’s for you.  Also, as an added bonus, Damon Memphis is the kind of villain name I wish I could have come up with.

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