THE SALON by Nick Bertozzi is an interesting experiment but not one that worked for me. In early 20th century Paris, a hulking female killer makes savage attacks on the city’s artists; does this relate to the mysterious blue absinthe that lets the artists enter into paintings? This mix of art history and fantasy has some devout fans but it didn’t work for me at all — if I want that mix, I’ll stick with Midnight in Paris.
THE HOUSE OF LOST HORIZONS: A Sarah Jewell Mystery by Chris Roberson and Leila del Duca takes characters Mike Mignola introduced in Rise of the Black Flame and plunks them into an old-school murder mystery. Sarah Jewell and her companion Marie-Therese show up at the isolated coastal house of a recently widowed friend. A group of suspicious individuals have gathered to bid on the deceased’s occult artifact collection, the house has been isolated by a vicious storm and needless to say there’s a murderer among them. I enjoyed this one. It’s already added to my Hellboy Chronology.
I did not enjoy C.O.W.L: The Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis. It’s 1962, Chicago’s superheroes have organized into a private contracting firm that provide super-services to the city. Alas, with the last supervillain recently busted, it’s time for … budget cuts! And some of the heroes are not willing to accept this.
There’s some potential in the premise (it reminds me a little of DC’s far superior GCPD) but not in the execution. I can live with a cynical setting in which everyone, including the heroes, is somewhat corrupt, but there are no standout characters, nobody I care about, nobody who’s anything but a recycled cop-drama cliche. Nor is there much conflict; I don’t doubt some writers could make a series where union negotiation is the big conflict interesting, but Higgins isn’t one of them.
CASSIO: The First Assassin by Stephen Desberg and Reculé Dessins the first installment in a French series about an ancient Roman lawyer who gets murdered but will apparently get better to take revenge (the bad guys also raped his wife). COWL was more interesting than this and COWL wasn’t interesting at all.
HOME SICK PILOTS: Teenage Haunts by Dan Watters and Casper Wijngaard isn’t bad, but it didn’t grab me at all. It’s the 1990s; Ami, the troubled young lead singer for the Home Sick Pilots rock group, suggests holding a concert in a local haunted house to grab some attention. This proves to be a seriously bad idea as the house recruits Ami to recover some of the haunts who’ve escaped. But it turns out the government is interested in ghosts too … There are some wonderfully bizarre moments here, but not enough to make this shine.
SECRET IDENTITY by Alex Segura is a New Adult novel, set in 1975 at a publishing company that to my eye resembles the short-lived Atlas Comics (here’s some background on them). Carmen, a Cuban-American lesbian who’s relocated from Miami to NYC, wants to write comics but her boss won’t give her the shot. A coworker suggests a work around: they work on a new character, the Lethal Lynx, but only put his name on it at first. You can probably guess this will go pear-shaped for Carmen, but it gets even messier when her colleague turns up murdered. Not only is there no proof now that she co-scripted, but inevitably she finds herself investigating the murder and, of course, drawing the killer’s attention …
Serious New Adult stuff (a lot of the book is Carmen learning to stand up and look out for herself in a cutthroat world) doesn’t appeal to me at all but I can’t blame the author for that (I’d picked it up with a wrong idea what I’d be reading). Segura does a good job capturing the energy and vibrancy that drew people to New York despite financial problems and rising crime. I’m also impressed by some of his obscure 1970s references — very few people will remember the days when Spider-Man had a stomach ulcer.
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