I go through a lot of different reading phases. Right now, I’m a bit burned out on steampunk. I go for six or seven months of just flat-out enjoyment of the genre, and then I can’t read anymore. Same with space opera and Lovecraft and Sherlock Holmes tales. Right now, I’m in the middle of a superheroes and super-villains reading spree.
Back in April, I wrote about the mash-up of superheroes and zombies. (The third book in the series, Ex-Communication, should be here in July… cannot wait.) This month, I’ve got something a bit different… two superhero/super-villain books, going head-to-head, in a fight to the death.
Coming out strong with the first strike (of course), is The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. With twenty-two short stories all about the bad guys, this book clearly outnumbers its opponent’s collection of tales.
Taking that first hit right in the chest without even flinching, however, is Superheroes. Sixteen short stories that attempt to prove it’s not about the numbers you bring to a fight, but the talent.
Author Austin Grossman is already on my radar from last month’s epic YOU novel, so it’s no surprise that the bad guy (novel) opens with a cheap shot containing Professor Incognito’s list of apologies after his secret lair is discovered by his girlfriend. Finish the tale, and you’ll quickly realize that a villain’s apology is anything but…
Margaret Ronald easily deflects the jab, following up with a kick to the knee and a quick explanation of just how far some governments will go to keep the existence of superheroes a secret. But any villain will tell you that secrets simply cannot be kept, and this opening story titled Sunlight Society is all about exposure and bringing secrets to light…
More fighters enter the mix.
Here is Doctor Talon. He claims to have our best interests at heart, and his explanation for why he continues to fight Ultimate Man and be labeled as a villain could have some truth to it. His Letter to the Editor (submitted by David D. Levine) encourages his kind to keep up the good fight… or is it bad fight?
The good guys counter with Captain Miracle. He’s older, yes, and maybe he’s become the old grumpy man on the block, but his old nemesis, Dr. Nightshade, continues to annoy him with some personal ads looking for a meetup. Do they still have some fight in them? Tonight We Fly proves that superheroes may grow old, but they never lose their desire to suit up…
Sirens are blaring. Firetrucks and police cars are everywhere. It’s pandemonium out here! The villains seem to be losing steam, but wait…
Yep, here comes Master Catastrophe, fresh from a pep talk with his super-villain career counselor. The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan shows that some villains only need the right amount of advice to get their career back on track (and open with a terrific monologue).
The superheroes are catching their breath, but wait… what’s this? A superhero father and daughter? Yep, Magnet Man has brought his oldest daughter to the fight (Super Mom is at home with the baby — don’t ask… it’s a sore subject). She’s itching to show off her newly discovered powers. That’s what you get when you mess with a Super. Family.
Laser blasts are being absorbed by personal shields. Some hero just got batted into the stratosphere, but I also saw a villain wrapped up in his own cape by a speedster. This fight is winding down, but there are still so many private battles going on.
It’s goes on like this… back and forth, back and forth. A tale from one side, followed by a tale from the other side. And it does get blurry at times. Ethics can be that way, I guess, when it comes to superheroes and mad scientists. And really, it always seems to come down to a draw. The villains slink away, gathering their numbers and plots for another day, another fight. The heroes fly away, mend their wounds, pose for a few photographs.
But the fight isn’t over. There are many more battles ahead. Between these two books, you’ve only got thirty-eight stories. That’s not near enough to decide a victor. I’ll just have to be patient and wait for more evidence, more transcripts, and more journals. Sooner or later, it should be easy enough to figure out which side will win in the end. These good-versus-bad fights can’t go on forever. Right?
Note: I really can’t put my finger on which book I enjoyed more, Super Heroes or The Mad Scientist’s Guide To World Domination. Fortunately, I really don’t have to decide. After finishing both, I just want some more. I cannot explain why, but I love that more and more “comic book”-style novels are being released. I’ve got a stack sitting next to my desk, and plenty of reading for the next few months. Rest assured, I’ve got some more to share with you shortly.