Ever give any thought to what your superhero name would be? If you woke up one morning with incredible powers or superhuman abilities, would you use your power for good or evil? Would you want to save the world or rule it? Oddly enough, I have given this some thought. I can’t decide what I would prefer my powers to be, but I definitely have a name. Glitter Bomb. I would walk that line between good and evil, choosing sides at random and leaving smoky, shimmery destruction in my wake.
I’m not weird. You’re weird.
Meanwhile, back to the book we’re here for. Karen Hashimoto is fresh out of maximum security Federal prison. She’s served her time and been released on parole for being a model prisoner. She’s having a hard time getting back on her feet, going through several menial jobs and cheap lodgings. Being fired and evicted repeatedly has done nothing for her parole agreement, and she ends up pressured into sleeping with her sleazy parole officer on a regular basis to avoid him turning her in for parole violation. After her latest bout of “serving time” underneath the creepy bastard, Karen gathers her meager belongings and heads out to find a place to sleep for the night and, hopefully, another job the next day. She stumbles across a brawl of epic proportions and finds herself helping one a superhero, Manpower, apprehend a gang of villains. Karen was trying to keep a low profile since her release from prison, but the fight reveals her as the former villain Crushette, partner and girlfriend to Doctor Maniac, the villain of all villains.
Karen isn’t able to fade back into the shadows without being approached by Manpower. He tells her how much he appreciates her help and invites her to apply for a job with Good Guys the next day. The Good Guys is real-deal the name of the good guys, a group Crushette used to terrorize on a regular basis when she worked with Doctor Maniac. Manpower does, of course, know who she is but he sees a good side to Karen and believes she can find redemption by fighting the good fight for a change.
Events transpire (you know I hate giving spoilers!), and Karen is reinvented as Kayo, a mashup of ‘knockout’ or K.O. and Karen’s Japanese heritage. In this world, people are activated and become enhanced in a somewhat random manner. To avoid duplicates of names, people have to register the name of their enhanced persona so there aren’t 10,000 Hulks running rampant. However, a new superhero name doesn’t erase Karen’s past as Crushette and she has an uphill battle to convince the world and herself that she can fight for the Good Guys.
Mostly, I liked this book and will read the sequel. There were several small plot points that were left unresolved, which I don’t mind. Not everything needs to be neatly tied with a bow. The story overall was good and held my interest all the way through. What I did have a problem with was the sex scene early on between Karen and her parole officer; it was a creepy Harvey Weinstein move that almost made me quit the story altogether. I’m glad I didn’t, so push through if it gives you the same reaction. Also, there was quite a bit of Karen fighting villains in either ripped clothing that revealed her underwear or fighting in just her underwear. It was funny in a couple of places in the story but was definitely pre-pubescent humor that went on a little too long. Overall, I would recommend this despite the minor flaws. You can read more about author S. J. Delos here.
Another book about superheroes that I’ve read a couple of times is Soon I Will Be Invincible, a story with a viewpoint split between a new superhero joining an existing group and the evil villain who feels very misunderstood. The author, Austin Grossman, is the twin brother of Lev Grossman of The Magicians fame. I had the pleasure of chatting with Austin Grossman through a Skype interview one time and he was delightful! Invincible is a great story and a little known gem that I think you’ll enjoy! This book was made into a musical, if you can believe that! You’ll find a clip here, and a book review here.