The cover of THE SHADOW PEOPLE by Margaret St. Clair (cover by Jeff Jones) may look like a Conan variation but it’s actually a 1969 urban fantasy novel. Protagonist lives in Berkeley with his girlfriend, who’s kidnapped and dragged into Underearth by cannibalistic dark elves (apparently like Morlocks or Robert E. Howard’s Worms of the Earth they’re humans who’ve devolved into something subhuman). Our hero rescues her but gets tricked into downing some fairy food which is something like ergot-infested wheat; he spends several chapters and three years alternating stoned and in withdrawal before returning to the surface to find Berkeley turning into a police state (it’s a dsytopian law-and-order setting familiar from a lot of stories in that era). And the elves are following …
Unfortunately while Underearth is a spooky place to visit, it gets boring in larger doses; the elves are little more than animals so the endless wandering through the tunnels fighting them off wears out its welcome fast. Plus the sudden appearance of real magic at the climax is jarring, as it doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen to that point. While a lot of reviews paint this as a lost classic, I’ll have to thumb it down.
NEW SUPER-MAN: Made in China by Gene Luen Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic worked much better than I expected. Kong, the protagonist, is a dimwit teenage bully who winds up getting recruited by a covert government program creating a Justice League of China. As the new Super-Man Kong has powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals, but he’s still an idiot, and now he’s an idiot in the middle of a sinister conspiracy. Most of the elements of this are stock (any 21st organization that gives people superpowers is bound to have a hidden agenda) but Yang tells a good story and the Chinese setting makes it fresh.
LOVE AND CAPES: Do You Want to Know a Secret? by Thomas F. Zahler is the first collection of his Love and Capes webcomic. Bookstore owner Abby is shocked to discover the nerdy accountant she’s dating is secretly the Crusader, Earth’s mightiest hero; can she cope when her biggest rival is the Needs of the Many? Or learning that Mark’s ex was Amazonia (Wonder Woman, natch)? This is a delightful, funny romcom; I’ve already read the whole series online, but I was glad to pick up a hard-copy version.
KISS ME SATAN: New Orleans Is a Werewolf Town by Victor Gischler and John Ferreyra is readable, but not great; in a New Orleans dominated by werewolves, an unfortunate vision puts the city’s chief witch and seer at odds with the alpha wolf. Can Barnabus, a fallen angel working to earn redemption, keep her alive? This feels way too much like The Originals on the CW for me to get excited about it.
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