Holiday Gift Bag: Wearing the Cape

Still so many great gifts I wanna recommend, and I really don’t think I’ll have time to review them all. But for today, let’s talk about Wearing the Cape: Young Sentinels by Marion G. Harmon.


I love all the “Wearing the Cape” books. I get enjoyment outta them that I don’t get from any other superhero novels — and from only very few comic books. So I always look forward to a new one.

In the latest novel, Hope “Astra” Corrigan is settling down into her role as one of the leading heroes of the Chicago Sentinels. There are a lot of familiar faces — Blackstone, Watchman, Harlequin, Chakra, Seven, and Astra’s best friend, Shelley, whose completely digital status allows her to upload herself into the robot body of Galatea.

There are a lot of new crises — a new villain called the Green Man periodically tries to destroy the city with out-of-control plant life, and a new villain group called the Wreckers are targeting anti-metahuman organizations. And there are lots of changes in store for Astra, too — chiefly, she’s being put in charge of a new junior branch of the Sentinels.

And that means we get to meet a bunch of new young superheroes, including angsty exploding kid Megaton, shapeshifting teen monster Grendel, arrogant aerokinetic Tsuris, and Ozma, a magic user who claims to be the actual Empress of Oz. Can she mold them into a serious team, especially with the colossal personal changes going on in her life?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love the stuffing out of this series.

The characterization and dialogue are first-rate. The personalities of almost every character are incredibly strong and distinctive, and most of them are charismatic enough that you want to read more about them. When things are going well for them, you want to celebrate — when things are not going well, you wanna commisserate with them. When they’re in danger, you get worried about ’em, because they all feel like real people.

The action is fantastic, too — it always feels desperate, painful, panicked, and exciting, and that’s really perfect for this series. Superhero action should be above and beyond anything in any other genre, and the action in the “Wearing the Cape” series is breathtakingly great. And it’s not just the superheroic crises and disasters — the personal crises that come up genuinely feel like crises, too. When an injury to a sibling feels just as terrifying as a wave of killer vegetation preparing to destroy Chicago O’Hare International Airport, you’ve definitely got the Superhero Angst-and-Crisis Meter pegged in the right direction.

Maybe my favorite thing about this series is that it’s realistic without being boring or depressing. There are a lot of superhero stories that opt for realism that kills the superheroic mood and turns into gritty military sci-fi, but Harmon realizes that you can have realism in superhero fiction as long as you give your story permission to ignore realism and just let superheroes testify in court while wearing masks, let superheroes get into super-fights without killing everyone, let fictional magic items from Oz show up and work just like they did in Baum’s novels. These books are realistic and fun, and we need more of those, in every possible genre.

My lone quibble with this novel — I wasn’t a big fan of the alternate narrators. The previous novels have been entirely narrated by Astra, so it took a little time to catch on that she wasn’t going to be the sole focal character this time out. And while I liked Megaton and Grendel just fine — and while I kinda wanted to see some of this story from Ozma’s viewpoint — I still wished we could have more Astra.

But that’s a very minor quibble, because this is a seriously fantastic novel. If you haven’t read it — or if you want to get it for a friend who enjoys superhero novels — you should definitely pick it up. And if you haven’t read any of the “Wearing the Cape” books — well, you should probably read all of ’em.

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