Blurb: ALTERNATE HISTORY. WITH SUPERHEROES.
December 31, 1929, was a Day That Lived in Infamy. A war between extraordinary beings with superpowers ended in DEFEAT for the United States and her Allies. Darkness fell on a Golden Age of heroes at the hands of the REICH.
Ten years later, all still mourn the anniversary of the day the Reich seized control during Operation TripleReich. Life is a struggle for the Remnant States occupying the middle of the Old US.
A virus in the Chicago Zone reignites the conflict between good and evil as the Outbreak Mutineers gather to stop the plague’s deadly origins.
Join the Outbreak Babies: – Buccaneer, Clockwork, Atlas, and more- as they battle the Warlords of Reich. Their adventures stretch across the years and through the sewers, high-seas, and even a city park.
No Matter the Time or Place, their Choice is Clear:
Die Free or Live in Chains.
I had no idea what to expect from this read. I am familiar with comic books, and obviously with novels, but the idea of a ‘novel comic’ was baffling to me. I can now confirm however that it does exactly what it says on the tin. This book has all of the pace, action and punch of a regular comic book, but the pictures are blocked out in words and coloured by the reader’s imagination.
Initially I was confused, as I found it hard to follow what the different factions meant and how they fit into the plot: what are ‘Outbreak Babies’, ‘Made Men’, ‘Remnants’ and so on? How do the shapers and Misshapen slot into it? However, once I grasped the format fully I was away! I realised it didn’t matter that these distinctions weren’t clearly explained from the start (although I will note there is a handy glossary included at the back of the ebook), because it is a comic book: you dive straight into the action and keep flying along, and you pick up everything you need to know along the way, without slowing down. It is the ultimate in ‘No time to explain! Follow me!’
And it works!
The timeline jumps around, flashing back years to fill in back story, then back to the present, but the shifts are clearly dilineated with chapter (issue) breaks, and the action is non-stop throughout. The characters are quickly sympathetic and I found myself literally cheering or groaning as their stories unfolded. I actually gasped at a few points, as authorial sleight-of-hands abound: Jay Sandlin is a word-magician and you need to watch his hands closely because if he is gesturing you towards a direction you can guarantee the plot is going to cold-cock you from behind!
Speaking of plot, there is a lot of it going on. Superheroes, manmade horrors, Nazis, plagues, spies, scientists and soldiers. Your typical good vs. evil showdown. There are nuances here though. The good guys have their demons and the dark side their hidden humanity: one moral to take from it is that even the worst monster was human once. Who is to say what scraps remain: a vestigial residue of kindness or a sliver of pity? There is hope here for redemption, rather than black-and-white thinking – just take Alcatraz as an example.
Some of the characters here seem quite familiar (and there are numerous nods and side nudges at pop culture along the way), but have been given their own individual twist and distinct personalities. Given the sheer number of comic heroes on the page and screen it is inevitable that similarities and comparisons will occur, but the author has strived to ensure that he gives the same old superpowers new slants; with a bit of steampunk technology thrown in the mix for good measure.
By the end I was completely hooked, rooting for the characters, and desperate to get the next issue and find out what happens to our heroes.
This is fast-paced, hard-hitting comic book action, and the lack of visual aids just make the monsters scarier and the heroes more impressive; because when has anything ever matched up to the worlds you see in your mind? If you are a fan of traditional comic books, try this: it will be familiar, but new and exciting. If you’re not, hey, it’s different and so worth a try anyway!
Remember: We are all latents. Whenever your superpowers manifest is completely up to you.
Will you live free, or die in chains?
– Jay Sandling, ‘Special Thanks’ at the end of Outbreak Mutiny