“Parade of Fools” – Part 4

Fight Crime! BannerFirst time reading? Start at the beginning here.

A cool breeze carried the smell of hot dogs and popcorn from one of the street vendors, and Dave hoped his stomach didn’t growl on live television.

“—really have to commend both local and national law enforcement,” he finished up. “If it weren’t for the quick response of the Chicago PD and the DSA’s tireless efforts to track me down, I wouldn’t be here today.”

A pretty reporter held a microphone in front of him, and he looked at the camera as he spoke. The parade hadn’t started yet. They stood in a fenced off section of city street where the marchers and support teams were either sitting around waiting or frantically rushing to get things ready on time.

“Thank you, White Knight. I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s wonderful to have you back.” The reporter turned as the camera focused on her. “We’re less than twenty minutes from the start of the parade now. Tune in for continuing coverage throughout the day. Back to you, Karen.”

The camera lowered, and Dave relaxed. That was the hardest part of the day, and he’d made it through without sticking his foot in his mouth. Now all he had to do was smile and wave.

He shook hands and exchanged thanks with the reporter and cameraman before they packed up and moved on. Dave’s handler from PR, a tiny yet formidable woman in a business suit, checked her watch and told him to start heading for the float. Continue reading

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Turn Back the Pages: The Death of Captain America

Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.

Death of Captain America Cover

Rumor has it that Captain America is going to die in the next Avengers movie.

If that happens, I’m going to bawl my eyes out in the theater, but it’s not the first time Cap has kicked the bucket (or even the fourth). Let’s take a look at one of the best stories to come out of the Star-Spangled Avenger’s tragic demise: The Death of Captain America: The Burden of Dreams by Ed Brubaker.

Our Story So Far

The book starts with a handy recap: Cap is dead. His girlfriend, Agent 13, has been brainwashed by evil psychiatrist Dr. Faustus. Bucky was captured by Red Skull while trying to get revenge, and Iron Man, the Black Widow, and Falcon are attempting to launch a rescue mission.

Did I mention this happens right after Civil War? Half the superhero community is unregistered and on the run, and tensions are high. Bucky blames Iron Man for Cap’s death, and Falcon isn’t exactly thrilled with him, either. Black Widow is nominally on the side of registration, but predictably, it’s complicated.

The Next Captain America

Bucky attacks Iron Man in anger over Steve’s death, but after an emotional confrontation, Tony talks him into taking up the shield. Red Skull, Dr. Faustus, Arnim Zola, and a whole slew of other bad guys have set in motion a plot to destroy the US government, and the world needs Captain America.

With Black Widow for backup, Bucky Cap leaps into action to stop their plot. But Steve Roger’s shoes are hard to fill, and there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to being Captain America. Unfortunately, Bucky doesn’t have a lot of time to figure it out before Red Skull’s master plan destabilizes the entire country. Continue reading

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“Parade of Fools” – Part 3

Fight Crime! BannerFirst time reading? Start at the beginning here.

Val stood inside a payphone booth in front of gas station outside San Diego, California. It was one o’clock in the morning—or make that three o’clock Central Time, which was what she’d been living in for the past several weeks. Combine that with the four-hour flight from Chicago, and it was no wonder she was tired. But tiredness was a luxury she couldn’t afford right now.

“—extremely concerned,” her father said over the phone.

“I know, but—”

“Evelyn spoke with me,” he went on. “You realize every action you take reflects back on my reputation. This is an embarrassment. I’m not happy.”

Val wanted to hang up on him. She wanted out of the phone booth, with the wads of old chewing gum stuck to the sides and the dirty receiver that was probably giving her at least two different diseases. She wanted away from his dry, disapproving voice.

“Don’t worry about Evelyn, Dad. I’m about to solve that problem. Trust me.” Continue reading

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Last Week in Superhero Fiction (8/10/17)

Superhero Fiction News Graphic

Fans of teen superhero fiction should note R.J. Ross released a new side story in her long-running Cape High series. Announcement here.

Fanbase Press has a thoughtful review of Russ Linton’s Motherland, book 2 in the Crimson Son series, if you’ve been thinking of checking that book out.

If you’re interested in the book cover design process, author Dale Ivan Smith recently shared the initial cover mock-up for his novel Empowered: Agent and compared it with the second mockup used for the final cover.

T. Ellery Hodges, author of the Never Chronicles, has launched the Never Store, an online market where you can purchase posters, mugs, and other merchandise from his popular superhero series.

I mentioned this on Twitter, but book blogger Christy Jane posted a video from San Diego Comic Con of her and Sarah Kuhn opening a FanMail box of really cool swag from Kuhn’s novel Heroine Worship.

Any news I missed? What superhero fiction are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments!

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“Parade of Fools” – Part 2

Fight Crime! BannerFirst time reading? Start at the beginning here.

Dave took three days off from work—not voluntarily, but because his entire chain of superiors insisted he needed time to rest and recover. A good idea in theory but awful in reality. Dave loafed around his apartment with no direction and no focus. He tried reading a few things but didn’t make it past the first chapter before tossing the books back onto his shelves. The TV couldn’t hold his attention, and when he’d turned to model-building (a hobby he’d picked up as a teenager to challenge his control of his strength), he’d crushed the tiny plastic ship pieces in his frustrated grip.

He didn’t get a single full night’s sleep. But nightmares weren’t surprising. It would be stranger if he didn’t have them. It didn’t mean he needed professional help.

Finally going back into the office was a relief. Walter might not have approved him for active duty yet, but that didn’t mean there weren’t reports to write, meetings to attend, and papers to sign. It would be nice to be busy, not to mention having people to talk to. Or so he had thought. Once he walked through the doors, it was a different story. Continue reading

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Turn Back the Pages: Batgirl

Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.

Cover of Batgirl Graphic Novel

Cassandra Cain is my favorite Batgirl.

I love Barbara Gordon, but honestly, I think she’s better as Oracle. And don’t diss Stephanie Brown in front of me, because she’s awesome, and I’ll probably write a review of her time as Batgirl at some point. But in my humble opinion, Cass will always be the best.

What’s so great about Cassandra Cain? Heck, where do I start? She was first introduced in the Batman: No Man’s Land story-arc. The basic premise was that after a major earthquake, the government evacuated Gotham City, cutting off those who chose to stay from the outside world and any kind of help.

Yeah. Take Gotham, which is a crime-infested hellhole on the best of days, and turn up the danger to post-apocalyptic extremes. It’s that bad.

The Girl

Enter the precious cinnamon bun that is Cassandra Cain: a mute, homeless girl who saves Commissioner Gordon’s life. She becomes Batgirl with the blessings of both Batman and Oracle (AKA the original Batgirl), but there’s more to her than meets the eye.

The Assassin

You see, Cass is the daughter of a notorious assassin. Her father raised her without ever exposing her to spoken language. Instead, she learned to read body language.

She can take one look at someone and know what they’re feeling—and exactly how they’re planning to attack. On top of her skills in hand-to-hand combat, being able to anticipate her opponent’s next move makes her one of the best fighters in the DC universe.

The Hero

So that’s the dichotomy of Cassandra Cain. She was raised to be a deadly assassin and can fight Batman to a standstill, but at the same time, her upbringing was so isolated that there’s a strange innocence about her.

Early on in her solo title, a psychic rearranges her brain so that she can process spoken language (which accidentally handicaps her combat skills for a while), but it isn’t an insta-fix. A lot of her character arc involves learning different words and how to read and write. Even once she can speak, she struggles to find the right words, and her sentences are halting and awkward. That’s something you don’t see a lot in comics—or any media, really.

The Bat

The best reason Cass is my favorite Batgirl is that she brings something unique to the Bat-family. Her mentor/mentee relationship with Barbara is nuanced and lovely. She has Batman’s respect and a nice dynamic with Robin (Tim Drake). Nightwing is the big brother figure, and she’s besties with Steph, and—well, there’s a lot to like here. If you’re a fan of characters choosing their own families, you’ll enjoy Cass’s book, because her real parents are total jerks.

And that’s Cass Cain in a nutshell (before the awful character assassination that happened later, but I won’t get into that). No Man’s Land is worth a read, but I’d recommend starting with her solo title. It’s a great introduction to the character and was the first Batgirl comic I ever read.

Are you a fan of Cass? Babs? Steph? I’ll fight you over who’s the best Batgirl in the comments!

I'll fight you gif

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“Parade of Fools” – Part 1

Fight Crime! BannerFirst time reading? Start at the beginning here.

The old family lake house was becoming quite the hot scene. The dusty sheets had been taken off the furniture, the refrigerator restocked, and people came and went at all hours. Blueblood, of course, didn’t tell Val who half these people were. He’d taken over the house like a king visiting a noble’s estate, claiming the master bedroom for himself and letting his men make a complete mess of the place. Val wasn’t in a position to stop them anymore, so she watched and brooded and spent a lot of time reading minds. Only the minds of Blueblood’s men, that is. Blueblood himself had mental shields as strong as she’d feared, and her attempts to subtly break in came to nothing.

“I’ll kill him,” Joey had said when he’d seen her blackened, infected hand. “I’ll beat him until he fixes it.”

Val had to grab his arm to stop him. “Not a good idea to hit someone whose touch can kill you.”

“I’ll wear gloves. I’ll use knives and hot irons. Give me half an hour alone in a room with him, and I swear—”

“No,” she’d said firmly. “We play along with him for now.”

So here she was in the dining room, playing along as Blueblood introduced his latest guest. Continue reading

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New Superhero Fiction Releases for June and July

Here are some superhero fiction books released in the last month or so that caught my eye in the Amazon jungle. I recommend checking out the samples and reviews before buying, as I haven’t read all of them—yet.

Covenant: A Superteam Novel (WHOOSH! BAM! POW! Book 3)

by James Maxey

Covenant Book Cover

Sarah Buchanan lives a quiet, small town life, hiding one dangerous secret. She’s the world-famous superhero known as Skyrider, leader of the government-sanctioned superteam the Covenant. Not even her husband knows about her dual life.

When a legion of superpowered dervishes declare war on America, the Covenant must work around the clock to track down the mastermind behind them. With Sarah spending less and less time at home, and her excuses running thin on why she keeps showing up covered with bruises, the strain on her marriage reaches a breaking point. She wants nothing more than to quit being Skyrider and return to ordinary life, but when ghosts from her past threaten the world she faces the ultimate test: Can she save the world and still save her marriage?

Amazon

Silent Nights (Lady Superior, Book 3)

by Alex Ziebart

Silent Nights Cover

Lady Superior is down for the count. Vane, her archer companion, is on the hunt for revenge. Among the chaos, unlikely allies step up to help him bring down the man who tried to put her in the ground.

While Lady Superior recovers from the blast, she takes hard lessons to heart. The Ladykiller took a swing and missed. She won’t make the same mistakes twice.

Amazon

The Powers That Flee

by Brian Clopper

The Powers That Flee Cover

It’s October 1985, and sixteen-year-old comic book nerd Darin Forrester is given a special arcade token by a cute but mysterious girl. He soon finds himself granted super powers with a catch—they don’t stick around. With a revolving door of abilities, Darin must fight off a deranged villain on a power grab himself.

Brian Clopper delivers a sincere trip back to the 1980s where hair was big, music videos reigned supreme, comic book reading was resigned to social outcasts, and young science fiction geeks traveled at warp speed to track down the newest issue of Starlog.

Amazon

Strike: The Plague of Stars (The STRIKE Series, Book 4)

by Charlie Wood

Strike Cover

It has been three years since Tobin Lloyd saved the world from the super-powered madman Rigel—and three years since he has seen his friends Orion, Keplar, and Scatterbolt from the world of Capricious. Unable to travel to the world of superheroes, he has adjusted to his normal life, and begun his senior year of college at Pinewood University in New Hampshire.

However, a mysterious traveler has arrived—somehow, some way—from the world of Capricious. This traveler has a message for Tobin: he must return to Capricious. The world—and his friends—are in grave danger, and he is the only one who can save them.

Amazon

Crimson Son 2: Motherland (Crimson Son Universe)

by Russ Linton

Mother Land Cover

All Spencer really wanted was a normal life. College. A job. Maybe a research fellowship which culminated in freeing his mother from the psychic snow globe where he last saw her…

Then again, “normal” might be too much for the powerless son of the world’s most dangerous Augment to ask for.

Spencer is soon sucked back into his father’s world of weaponized superhumans. Augments long forgotten have emerged from their former prison with their powers amplified. While Spencer and his team race to contain the threats, a digital cabal weaves a vision of the future as infectious as the computerized plague set to deliver it.

Amazon

Have you read any of these books? Read any other superhero fiction lately? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!

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Sensational Superhero Short Stories

Sci-Fi Superheroine running at super-speed

Hey, guys! Fight Crime (A Love Story) is taking a break between episodes this week, but I don’t want to leave you without reading material. Here are four excellent superhero short stories to brighten your Monday.

Falling by Susan Jane Bigelow is a short story in Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union universe, but you don’t need to read the other books in the series to enjoy it. Instead of following the superhero, this story is from the point of view of the cool old lady who nurses the injured hero back to health and inspires him to get back in the fight. The futuristic and slightly dystopian setting hints at an awesomely bigger narrative, but this self-contained short story will leave you entertained and inspired. You can read it at the Book Smugglers.

Doctor was a Madman, Family Man by Paul Blonsky is a very short, very funny story written in the style of an obituary for a supervillain. It’ll take less than five minutes of your time and will leave you laughing. Check it out at Daily Science Fiction.

I tweeted about The Terrible by John Wiswell a few months ago, but if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a great, punchy little story about a supervillain who learns his nemesis was never quite at his mercy like things appeared. There’s a fantastic twist at the beginning, lots of hilarious dialogue, and a wonderfully uplifting ending. Read it at Flash Fiction Online.

The Ways Out by Sam J Miller is another one I mentioned on Twitter. It’s a moving story about a crapsack world where people with superpowers are second-class citizens closely monitored by the government. It has a fantastically creative format, presented as surveillance clips summarized by the agent spying on two superpowered subjects. I won’t spoil the twist at the end, but it’s great, and there’s a beautiful theme of resistance throughout the story. You can find it at Clarkesworld Magazine.

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Turn Back the Pages: Chew

Turn Back the Pages is a biweekly feature where I spotlight a comic that is not fresh and new. It may have come out a few months ago or even a few years ago. Maybe it was hyped and popular, or maybe it was an underappreciated gem. Whatever the case, it’ll be a great comic that’s well worth a read.

Chew graphic novel cover

“Kristen,” you say, “I’m tired of superheroes.”

I know, I know. You’d never really say that. Superheroes are awesome. But let’s say you wanted to try something a little different, something unlike anything you’ve ever read before. Then have I got the comic for you.

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory is such a unique book. I’m not sure how to categorize it. Crime fiction? Science fiction? Humor? I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s awesome.

The Basics

In a world where 116 million people died from bird flu (or what the government claimed was bird flu. It’s a conspiracy!), the sale and consumption of poultry is illegal, and underground restaurants that serve chicken dinners have cropped up like speakeasies.

Crazy enough for you yet? Because it gets better.

The Weird Powers

Our hero is Tony Chu, and he’s cibopathic. What’s that mean? To quote the first issue, “That means he can take a bite of an apple, and get a feeling in his head about what tree it grew from, what pesticides were used on the crop, and when it was harvested. Or he could eat a hamburger, and flash onto something else entirely.” The only food he can eat without his powers acting up is canned beets, so he’s pretty much blessed with suck, as TV Tropes would say.

Tony’s also a cop, and it doesn’t take long for his abilities to be turned to crime-fighting. Since he has to taste something to get a psychic impression, this ends up with him eating some very gross stuff. Just…the grossest stuff. If you’re squeamish, this is not the book for you.

The Hard-boiled Detective Story

The character dynamics are fun. Tony has a hotheaded cyborg partner, a boss who hates him to comically extreme extents, and a perky food reporter love interest (who has neat culinary-related powers of her own). The plot has all the twists you’d expect from a book that could fit in the mystery/conspiracy genre, and there are lots of schemes Tony foils that hint at larger intrigues. The whole thing has a sort of dark, noir atmosphere yet somehow manages to support some really over-the-top humor. It’s a weird book, but weird in a good way.

If you’re interested, start with volume 1 and see where it takes you. I guarantee it’ll be to a place you don’t expect.

Have you read Chew? Have you read anything even remotely like Chew? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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