Alternative Capes: Superhero Stories You Need To Read

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Martin Cahill

Staff Writer

Martin lives in New York, just outside that sprawling metropolis everyone’s always talking about. Bookseller by day, bartender by night, freelancer at all other times, he writes whenever he can. Every so often he remembers that sleep is important. He has fiction appearing in Nightmare Magazine and Fireside Fiction. He can be found writing about books and craft beer at his blog. Tweet him about craft beer, books, Community or Locke & Key and you’ll most likely become fast friends. Blog: Craft Books Twitter: @Mcflycahill90

Dark and brooding bat people hanging on rooftops are a wonderful thing, and there is a time and place for them. Same for boyscouts from other planets, and super powered ring jockeys from space, and warrior women from secret islands and super spy Russian badasses with twin pistols and more sarcasm than a roomful of teenagers. But if you love superheroes and are getting of the same old spandex and smash-em-up storytelling, might I recommend these?

Vicious by V. E. Schwab, published by Tor Books

ViciousVictor and Eli were once best friends, up to their elbows in research into EOs or Extra Ordinaries, men and women with certain gifts. How they acquire them is a mystery, until Eli and Victor stumble upon the answer and in their pursuit of knowledge and power, try it for themselves. The fallout sets them both against each other, down a dark, brutal path, ending in someplace vicious. I absolutely devoured this book in two days, and it was an incredible ride. More than superpowers, this is about two friends, the thirst for knowledge, power, control, and an examination of consequences. Schwab’s prose, characterization and worldbuilding have all the grace of an Olympic figure skater, and her exploration of super powers and where they come from still has me giddy with its fresh inventiveness. Schwab will break your heart again and again, and I hope this isn’t the last time we see these characters.

Shield and Crocus by Michael Underwood, published by 47North

Shield and CrocusFirst Sentinel has been fighting back against the five tyrants who rule his city for years now, leading the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal. Between the spark-storms that flood the city, gifting abilities to citizens while razing reality, and the crushing forces of the tyrants, First Sentinel and the Shields are losing ground. When he learns of a summit of the tyrants, determined to lock in their control of the city while dividing it, First Sentinel and the Shields make one last gamble to retake Audec-Hal. If the Justice League had a baby by way of China Mieville with a sprinkling of the French Revolution, you’d have this awesome book. I’m not quite done with it yet, but with the crazy-ass powers, reality distorting storms in a city built in the bones of a giant, populated with a myriad of races and characters all unique and awesome in their own way, Shield and Crocus is a must read for the summer.

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

ScottPilgrim1Scott Pilgrim is a Canadian 20-something year old, who spends his days playing bass with his band, Sex Bob-omb, playing video games with his new high school age girlfriend, Knives, or sharing a bed with his roommate, Wallace Wells. But when Ramona Flowers comes into his life via a trans-dimensional highway that runs through his brain, nothing will be the same again. Scott needs to defeat her seven evil exes if he wants to date her, and not only will he have to defend himself against movie stars, telekinetic vegans and demon summoning fighters, he also has to grow up in the process. O’Malley’s breakout hit, Scott Pilgrim is a six book series about love, growing up, responsibility, relationships, and super-powered fights happening in a random fashion. With his new book, Seconds, out now, Scott Pilgrim is a great introduction to O’Malley’s work, delivering all the action and superpowers of a comic book, with enormous heart and great art.

Planetary by Warren Ellis 

PlanetaryElijah Snow is our cold-hearted Indiana Jones, a man with a haunted past whom we first find in a run down diner in the heart of a desert. Approached by a super strong, super confident Jakita Wagner, and a seemingly deranged computer operator known as The Drummer, they offer Snow a place on their team: Planetary, which employs them as “Archeologists of the Impossible.” From there, it’s a dive head first into the secret history of the world that will take them from London to space to realities unknown. Ellis and Cassaday’s astounding comic series runs the gamut from super spy antics to golden age heroics to the heartfelt fallout of science gone wrong. Together with gorgeous prose and astounding art, they explore the idea of superheroics and pay homage to comic characters and tropes that came before, while simultaneously celebrating the 21st century, and its limitless possibilities. Every time I go back and read this series, I find something new to love about it, and I wish the same experience for you.


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