On the first Sunday of April vacation in 1987 I put down my comic book and went out for a bike ride. My mind on the four color adventures of my favorite heroes, I did not pay attention to where I was headed. I took my bike off a ten foot ledge and came centimeters away from dying or paralyzing myself. Stunned and with a broken collar bone, I was rushed to the hospital by my parents. Afterward, tired of sitting around in a sling, I followed my mother into the drug store where she was getting my much needed codeine. There my eyes fell on a new shared-world novel of superhero history, called Wild Cards. That week, recovering, I basked in narrative that explored a world of superheroics with much of the bombast and pathos of my comic books, but with so much more depth and intricacy. This was for what I had been craving. Each month running off the school bus, I had run to the mailbox to see if twenty-four pages of story had come. Here I had hundreds of pages of character development and intrigue. I knew that someday I would want to write fiction like this.
Finally, twenty four years later, I have had my first superhero story published (in Static Movement's Powers anthology) and a second accepted at Thousandfaces.com. I also just finished reading the latest installment in this series: Suicide Kings.
In the world of Wildcards, an alien virus was released over New York City in 1946. 90% of all those who contracted the virus died in horrible ways. of the survivors, 90% became hideously mutated due to a psychic reaction, their bodies twisted into parodies of the human shape. These were called Jokers. The lucky 1%, became aces, gifted with marvelous powers.
Suicide Kings is the third novel in a trilogy, that mostly details the aces (and some Jokers) who work for the UN sanctioned Committee. This novel can be read alone, of course, as each of the characters featured (each written by a different writer) follow complete character arcs, and the story, although following the events of the past two novels, is self-contained. If you are new to the WildCards universe, I would suggest going back and reading the first couple of volumes, recently reissued.
This book may be my favorite in the series so far. It may also feature my favorite character of the series so far: Rustbelt. Wally "Rusty" Gunderson is a Joker/Ace, who has indominatable strength, a skin of Iron, and the ability to rust any metal he touches. What makes him my favorite is his indomitable spirit and his heart of gold. He and the other main characters largely become involved with the People's Paradise of Africa, a burgeoning nation led by a sinister brother and sister, and supported by the insane and possibly most powerful Ace on the planet, The Radical. This story has so much intense drama, action, and suspense, I could not put it down. The bad guys are well developed and horrifically interesting. The good guys are fallible, often bumbling, and eminently admirable.
I won't give too much away, except to say that if you read the original novels back in the eighties and nineties, you won't be disappointed. Many of the old characters appear or are referred to by this next generation of heroes.
If you are new to the WildCards universe, I hope that you will pick this volume up and give it a try. The writer's have outdone themselves with creating a story that resonates with excitement and pathos.
Five Stars out of Five