CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 24. . . .March 3, 2017
Superhero Universe. (Tesseracts Nineteen).
Claude Lalumière & Mark Shainblum, editors.
Calgary, AB: Edge/Hades, 2016.
275 pp., trade pbk. & e-Book, $15.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-770530-87-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-770530-88-1 (e-Book).
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
NUCLEAR NIKKI STRUTTED her stuff across the Dead End Causeway and into Magic Eddie’s 8-Ball Bistro and Magnetic Disco Pub. Her orange, six-inch stilettos clacked loudly against the tile, guaranteeing she’d be turning the heads of many a punter. She struck a pose just inside the door, one knee bent outward to ensure her silhouette showed off her legs and the fact she was wearing a ridiculously short skirt along with a cape that did nothing for warmth, and a few other things that didn’t go far in the realm of practicality. Her current reality had degraded from superhero to superwhore—one little mistake in her battle with Monstrous Maxie five years ago had wiped out her superpowers.
Her eyes adjusted quickly to the dimness: six or seven men were hunched over tables. A few of them glanced up before returning to their beers and card games. The muted thud of a disco beat wafted from the back, not disturbing the dull inertia of the room. Nikki pushed down a wave of panic and sauntered over to the bar, flipping back her curly wig to make sure it didn’t cover her breasts. (From “Nuclear Nikki Versus the Magic Evil”.)
Superhero Universe, the nineteenth in the “Tesseracts” series, is a collection of 24 short stories and a poem built around the theme of superheros, supervillains, and the like, all with a bit of a Canadian twist. At 275 pages, the book includes two essays from the editors as well as the above content, and ends with six pages of other publications available from the same publisher. It opens with the essay “Foreword: A New Universe of Canadian Superheroes” and ends with “Afterword: The Death of the Death of the Superheroes!” A brief author bio appears at the end of each story.
The stories in the collection are:
“Diary of a Teenage Grizzly” tells the school day adventures of a young man who is able to turn into a grizzly bear.
“Jessica and the True North” follows a group of aging heroes who may be slipping past their prime. Delinquents or figments of imagination?
“Pssst! Have You Heard… The Rumor?” trails several different noir characters as they try to solve the Ken Anton Case.
“The Island Way” tells of a modest Newfoundland lady who happens to be a superhero with a ghost ship.
“Blunt Instruments” is the story of a military agent constructed to combat the forces of evil and other supervillains.
“Bloodhound” has an anonymous hero tracking down a murderous rural arsonist and serving up his own form of justice.
“The Jam: A Secret Bowman” tells of a costumed crime fighter and his escapades with the police after his action in a murder case.
“In the Name of Free Will” follows an avenging female force as she waits for the coming of the Freedom Squad.
“Nuclear Nikki Versus the Magic Evil” is the story of a former superhero, down on her luck, who might just manage a come-back.
“Spirit in the Clay” spins the tale of an ageless soldier who cannot die and his battle against the Nazis.
“Black Falcon Saves City, World” and our 21-year-old hero still lives with his sister and works in a pet store.
“Bluefields Reharmony Nest” is a tale from a treatment centre for rogue superheros.
“Lost and Found” follows a sad young woman in search of something more meaningful than her current life.
“Crusher and Typhoon” takes us back to the old west and a universe wherein Oriental labourers are dismantling the trans-Canada railroad.
“Black Sheep” tells of a woman escaping from prison to attend a family barbeque.
“Midnight Man vs Doctor Death” is the story of a champion who is tracking down his nemesis and the fossil monster the mad doctor has raised.
“Super” is a pun-filled tale of an unusual recruitment and interview session for prospective superhero medical personnel.
“Bedtime for Superheros” spends a quiet evening in a boardinghouse for genteel young women with unusual powers.
“A Hole Lotta Trouble: A Tale in Five Voices” follows the adventures near Lake Winnipeg of five bratty members of the International League of Girls With Guns.
“The Rise and Fall of Captain Stupendous” is the story of a reporter and her efforts to bring down Captain Stupendous, an overbearing superhero.
Friday Nights at the Hemingway” takes place in a world where most of the superheros have retired and faded from public sight.
“Apollo and Greta” follows two orphans escaping from their foster home.
“In the Kirby Krackle” is a poem told in the form of a rant.
“A Week in the Superlife” examines several days in the life of a disheartened superhero.
“Change as Seen Through an Orrery of Celestial Fire” takes an immortal oriental being into the streets of Toronto.
If readers enjoy reading about off-beat and unusual superheroes, frequently set in Canada, then Superhero Universe may be the anthology for them. There are no familiar movie or comic book caped heroes as these are all original creations, and quite a variety of characters run, fly, and scurry across the pages.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy and science fiction in Winnipeg, MB.
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