Giving Superhero a Whole New Meaning?

This bright, quirky fantasy, gives “superhero” a whole new meaning… The world Russ creates is so real, so believable, that you’re left wanting more of this character driven, action packed book. – One of my first reviews of Crimson Son, a 5 star review from the Author Visits.

Now that the Crimson Son Universe has three books and a short story collection behind it, I’m starting to see the series pick up steam. There’s a little more activity on the Facebook feed, a few more sales as people read from book to book, and I sort of wonder how many out there are asking themselves, “New meaning? What does this even mean to begin with?”

The story isn’t your typical superhero fare. Nor is it a straight forward twist on the genre a la Disney’s “Sky High” (even though it shares parts of that premise…) Spencer isn’t a hero or even an anti-hero. He’s, well, kind of an immature nineteen year old. He’s a cynic, a smart ass, and a tough guy to love.

And he doesn’t have powers. He stays a normal guy thrust into an abnormal world.

Yeah, his technical skills give him an edge – nobody is truly powerless, something he learns as the series progresses. A series which, unlike some superhero novels, explores some deep themes.

If I had to name comic book influences, it would have to be Chris Claremont’s run with the Uncanny X-Men in the early 80’s and Alan Moore’s genre-defining, Watchmen. These are darker comics with a somber mood. Morality isn’t a black and white slate either. Whether it’s vigilante superheroes or mutants hunted in a dystopian United States, the stakes are high and what’s right isn’t always clear.

Eric and even Spencer provide a comedic break at times (though Spencer’s acerbic wit can be an acquired taste). Together, they’re like brothers, feeding off the manic energy when times are good and getting in each other’s face when things get tough.

Superhero fiction is always hard to classify. Fantasy, Science Fiction, it straddles both worlds. Some have even filed it under Urban Fantasy for the links to a more modern or contemporary setting. Me? I’m calling my version Ameritrash Fantasy.

I stole the name from board games where more abstract, less directly competitive European games have become distinct from their American counterparts more theme heavy and player versus player design.

Grit. Luck. Well-defined setting.

Particularly what I’m exploring in the setting involves the history of the United States beginning with it’s evolution into a world superpower. Each story and novel touches on a piece of reality letting the reader come to their own conclusions.

Nuclear attacks on Japan are rendered up close and personal when the weapons are living, breathing humans. The uncertainty of Vietnam is brought home as heroes are pitted against each other. Repercussions of a global economy reflect in the landscapes of a post-industrial Detroit. Failed attempts to curb nuclear proliferation resonate through each story.

I admit, the mood is somber. Superhero violence has repercussions in these stories – lasting repercussions. I’ve had reviewers who’ve been disappointed by the dark moments. And I get it. Fantasy is about escapism and this universe pulls you toward the event horizon from which you cannot escape.

But in the end, this is about normal people caught up in a  world which defies logic. It’s about their very human struggle to make sense of it all and survive while trying to understand what heroism really means. There’s plenty of humor, so it isn’t all as heavy as I make it sound. Yet the dark moments are meant to have an emotional weight.

If that sounds at all interesting to you, I hope you’ll join Spencer and his motley cast of characters on their journey. As to what it all means? I’ll let you decide.

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