Archive for Marion G. Harmon

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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Holiday Gift Bag: Small Town Heroes

Time to check inside our Holiday Gift Bag again, to see some more ideas you can get for the person in your life who loves comics and superheroes. Today, we take a look at Wearing the Cape: Small Town Heroes by Marion G. Harmon.


If you’ve kept track of this series, you know most of the main characters already. Our lead is, as always, Hope Corrigan, better known as the superstrong superheroine Astra — she’s now leading the Young Sentinels branch of Chicago’s Sentinels superteam. There’s Shell, the techno-ghost of her late best friend, now residing in a robotic exoskeleton as the superhero Galatea — and there’s Shelly, her late best friend now returned to life, and a completely separate person from Shell. There’s Jacky, the vampiric (but also alive) superhero Artemis.

Hope has been having weird dreams — not normal dreams either, as they’re being telepathically sent by a maybe-hero, maybe-villain called Kitsune. The dreams warn of the fiery destruction of a small town in the Midwest that no one can seem to identify. Hope’s attempts to figure out where the town is and what the dreams mean put her in touch with some of the Sentinels’ contacts with the federal government — and that leads to Hope being recruited into the Department of Superhuman Affairs. They’ve got some serious secrets hidden at Guantanamo Bay — namely a little town that can’t possibly exist called Littleton. Can Astra keep a secret hyper-science town from its foretold destruction?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Y’all know I love the stuffing out of this entire series, right? I’m pleased to announce that this one maintains the high quality we’ve come to expect from these books.

Really, pretty much all the stuff I loved from the previous books is here in this new one, too. Excellent characterization, bone-rattling action, realism and superhero fantasy that fit side-by-side without breaking either one.

It’s rare that you get superhero fiction that doesn’t end up turning dark and grim, or just focusing on the supervillains, all for the sake of faux-maturity — but this series sticks to the idea that superheroes are the good guys, it does it unironically, and it makes the entire thing work like a dream.

Do you have someone on your shopping list who loves superheroes, especially ass-kicking female heroes? You’ll definitely want to pick this one up for them. And if they haven’t read this series yet, you may want to get the rest of the “Wearing the Cape” series for ’em, too.

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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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Hope for the Future


Wearing the Cape: Villains Inc. by Marion G. Harmon

The third consecutive novel in the “Wearing the Cape” series (technically, it was written second, with the previously reviewed “Big Easy Nights” written to bridge the gap between the first novel and this one) continues the story of newbie superhero Hope “Astra” Corrigan.

Astra has now completed her training and is a more effective superhero than ever, but after the events of the first novel, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. And since her relationship with the late Atlas has been revealed, her popularity has plummeted. The Sentinels have plenty of problems of their own, too — with several of their most prominent members dead, they have to bring in new members quickly. And there’s a prediction that the team’s leader, the magic-wielding Blackstone, is going to be killed. And worst of all, Chicago is gripped by a metahuman crime wave as a group called Villains Inc. starts a war on organized crime, the Sentinels, the police, and anyone else who gets in their way.

There are also plenty of changes for two of Hope’s friends — Jacky “Artemis” Bouchard, reluctant vampire vigilante, back from New Orleans, learns what happens when a vampire gets hit by a powerful healing spell, and Shelly (Hope’s old friend from high school, who’d killed herself in an attempt to give herself superpowers and then been resurrected as an artificial intelligence — she lives inside Hope’s head and serves as her in-the-field crisis dispatcher) sees her role in the Sentinels organization develop in greater ways.

So will the Sentinels be able to track the spellcaster behind Villains Inc.? Will they be able to save Blackstone? Can they keep from getting wrecked by Villains Inc. and everyone else coming out of the woodwork to attack them? And how is Astra going to handle going toe-to-toe with a villain who’s even more powerful than she is?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve read a lot of superhero novels, and I’ve liked an awful lot of them. And I really do think Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series is the gold standard that all other superhero novels should aspire to. Seriously, it’s better than “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” which is a heck of a good novel.

I love the characters — Hope, Jacky, Shelly, the Bees, Hope’s parents, Rush, Blackstone, Detective Fisher, Lei Zi, and all the rest. I love the action — bruising, brutal, terrible, thrilling. I love the drama and suspense and the vast amounts of humor.

And I love the attention to detail and realism — there are plenty of ideas here about how superheroes and supervillains would affect laws, culture, the media, and more. And even better, all that realism doesn’t make it a grim, unappealing story, like so many other “realistic” superhero stories. It’s still enormous fun to read, and to re-read.

Seriously, the story starts with Astra fighting Godzilla — or at least a godzilla. And it just gets better from there.

It’s a great story. Go pick it up.

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Cemetery Dance

Bite Me: Big Easy Nights by Marion G. Harmon

Technically, this is actually the third book from Marion G. Harmon’s “Wearing the Cape” series, but it takes place between the first book (previously reviewed) and the second (not reviewed yet), so it’s not out of place here. Besides, it’s just two weeks ’til Halloween, and the whole book is jammed full of vampires. So let’s hit it.

Set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras — a long, long way from the superhero-filled Chicago where the first novel is set — we’re completely focused on Jacky Bouchard, reluctant vampire and the equally reluctant superhero Artemis. She’s in town to meet the grandmother she never knew she had — she’s apparently the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, and she’s pretty handy to have around — and she’s also doing some freelance work for the police, keeping an eye on the local vampires. See, there are a lot of vamps in N’Awlins, mostly because of Anne Rice — when someone who’s obsessed with romantic vampires has their metahuman breakthrough, they’ll often kick the bucket and rise from the dead as a vampire. And once they do, they usually head for New Orleans.

They’re even fairly accepted within the city. As long as they don’t kill people and limit their feeding to willing victims (and there are a lot of vampire fans in New Orleans eager to get snacked on), the police usually leave them alone. The cops don’t even have to worry about a vampire plague — in the “Wearing the Cape” universe, vampires aren’t able to turn their victims into vampires. However, Jacky herself owes her own undead resurrection to one of the exceptions to that rule, who was able to kill her and turn her with his own powers — and there are indications that another of those rare exceptions may be trying to build his own vampire army, which leaves Jacky with some serious problems on her hands, especially when she gets targeted for assassination by both vampires and humans.

Can Jacky track down the master vampire, survive the cutthroat vampire politics of New Orleans, redeem a fellow vampire, and keep her police contact (who has powers of his own) and her grandmother safe from harm, all without getting a stake through the chest or her head lopped off her shoulders?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This was a really fun book, like the other “Wearing the Cape” books (and I’ll eventually get around the reviewing the third novel, too), with excellent characters, fun dialogue, excellent action, settings, and mood, and a fast-moving plot. Half the fun of this one is Jacky’s down-to-earth reactions to the general craziness of her surroundings, particularly the fashion-obsessed vampires she has to blend in with. She’s a bit too hard-edged to fit in particularly well with the superhero crowd, and she doesn’t fit in well with the vampires because… well, she just doesn’t like vampires very much.

It’s a good, fast read. I had a seriously busy week — couple of weeks, really — and worried it’d take me a month to find enough time to finish this. But the story and characters grab you and draw you in quickly — I ended up taking extra time away from other duties just to spend more time reading. It was colossal fun, and, while it may not be a perfect Halloween book (you’d have a hard time bumping books by Ray Bradbury or M.R. James out of that spot), it still makes for a great late-October read.

“Bite Me: Big Easy Nights” is available for the Kindle. Go pick it up.

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The Cape of Good Hope

Wearing the Cape: A Superhero Story by Marion G. Harmon

Feels like it’s been too long since I got to do a review of a non-comic book, so let’s go ahead and take care of that right now. I’ve had this particular book in my “Need to Review” backlog for a while, delaying talking about ’cause I liked it so dang much.

So this is “Wearing the Cape: A Superhero Story” by a guy named Marion G. Harmon. It focuses on Hope Corrigan, a society girl and freshman at the University of Chicago — after a terrorist attack by a supervillain who calls himself the Teatime Anarchist, Hope winds up with superpowers of her own, including superstrength, nigh-invulnerability, and the ability to fly. She’s quickly recruited into the Sentinels, one of the country’s most prominent superteams, and quickly finds her life turned upside-down. She’s given a superhero codename (Astra) and costume (padded, partly to make her fit the expected superheroine profile and partly because she’s short, thin, and looks like she’s underage), and Atlas, the country’s most famous superhero, agrees to train her as his sidekick.

From there, we get super-battles, feats of derring-do, and a heck of a lot of training, so Hope doesn’t accidentally crush her parents when she tries to hug them. She has to somehow make time for school and her old friends, while also getting to know her new teammates, including Atlas, the magician Blackstone, the slinky psychic Chakra, the acrobatic Harlequin, the speedster Rush, and the vampire Artemis. And she has to worry about the prediction she hears from the Teatime Anarchist, that if she doesn’t survive the coming days, the future is doomed. But can she trust the villain who caused her to gain her powers? Can she even trust her super-powered teammates?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great story, lots of fun, lots of action, and pretty much everything you want from a superhero story. Plus stuff you may not be expecting, too.

There’s a great level of realism here — not so much that it stops being about people who pick up cars, run at superspeed, or read minds, of course. But we get lots of details about what life would be like for a superteam. For one, there’s not a lot of real crimefighting that goes on — they’re mostly there for serious emergencies, to provide backup for police and emergency services, and to deal with super-powered threats. Superteams also have large dedicated staffs of professionals — mostly working to monitor the police bands and dispatch heroes to wherever they’re needed. Also on staff? Clothing designers. Because superheroes don’t sew their own costumes.

Hope also has to learn to deal with her powers realistically — including being careful not to injure normal people. But she also learns hand-to-hand combat so she can deal with all the superstrong supervillains out there. And she learns why it’s not a smart idea to bash your way through a wall when you can go through a door or window instead.

But all the realism in the world won’t do your superhero novel much good if there’s not some action to go along with it — and this book delivers. From the opening scene, we get a couple of elevated highways getting pancaked into each other, and that’s followed by battles against superpowered gangsters, mind-controlled mobs, and plenty of super-terrorists, as well as an extended trip to provide relief during a catastrophic earthquake. The action is furious, desperate, bone-shaking, and just all around excellent.

The novel’s other big strong point is the characters. Astra, Atlas, Artemis, Hope’s parents and friends, Blackstone, Chakra, Riptide, and tons more — all are pretty well-defined, very likeable, and you want to read more and more about them. Harmon is planning quite a few more novels in this series, and that’s a good thing, ’cause that means a lot more stories about all these interesting people.

The lone point that I didn’t like? I thought the romance in the story was a bit tacked on and maybe a bit unrealistic. But it’s a minor point out of a novel that I really enjoyed immensely.

Go pick it up.

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