Superhero Road Trip


Wearing the Cape: Ronin Games by Marion G. Harmon

Hey, it’s the latest chapter in the best damn superhero fiction series on the planet! What’ve we got this time?

Once again, we’re well-acquainted with most of our characters already — Hope Corrigan is our lead character, better known as the superstrong superheroine Astra. There’s Shell, the techno-ghost of her late best friend, now residing in a robotic exoskeleton as the hero Galatea, though she spends much of this story disguised as a cat. There’s also Shelly, Hope’s late best friend now returned to life, and a completely separate person from Shell. There’s Jacky, the thoroughly badass vampiric superhero Artemis. And there’s Ozma, who claims to be the exiled Princess Ozma of Oz.

Hope has been infected for a while by dreams caused by the mysterious superhuman called Kitsune, but the dreams are different now — they’re focused solely on a single tree, and it appears that their highly magical nature could mean that Hope could be drawn completely into the dream, disappearing from the rest of the world for all time. Clearly, Kitsune should be able to clear this problem up, but no one knows where he is — until a government contact reveals that Kitsune works periodically as an agent of Japan, and they’re unwilling to let anyone know that. Unfortunately, superheroes aren’t allowed to travel to Japan without permission, so Hope and her friends will have to disguise themselves and sneak into Japan — an act that could get them all thrown in jail.

Of course, there are plenty of problems. Their secret entry into the country is spoiled, and they barely avoid capture by the national superhero teams. They’re forced to serve as ronin — vigilantes unaffiliated with the national superteams, and thus operating illegally. They battle Chinese supervillains, the Yakuza, and even a hyper-powered metahuman god manifesting as a school of omnipotent goldfish. But even after escaping from the goldfish’s realm, Astra gets captured by the government, with the very real possibility that she’ll be unmasked and thrown out of the superhero biz. Can Astra escape from captivity? Can she find Kitsune and get her dream curse lifted? And can Astra, Artemis, and Ozma help repel an invasion of kaiju?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, I always enjoy this series, but this one seemed particularly fun. The characters are out of their comfort zone, the action is, as always, amazing and grand, and the plot points are resolved with cleverness, humor, and the occasional beat-down.

One of my favorite things about this novel is that it reduces the number of characters we have to keep track of. Listen, this series has a lot of characters, and it’s not at all difficult to lose track of who everyone is. And while there are still quite a few characters in here, after a certain point in the story, most of them go offstage for a while, letting us focus on the ones we’re most familiar with — Hope, Jacky, and Shell — and the one everyone seems to want to learn more about — Ozma. This is a very, very good thing. I might not want every story to focus on just four characters, but it’s a nice change of pace.

I think by now we’re all very well aware of how much I love this series, so let me just say it’s a great book — go pick it up.

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