"There's no chance of anything happening between us. I'm married. I have two children. You're a Nazi. Not to mention a vampire." -- Evelyn, the Rook's wife
Barry Reese's The Rook is a superhero novel series inspired by pulp novels and stories such as Doc Savage, The Avenger, and The Shadow. It doesn't really matter what those adventures were about, because the heroes were so starkly unique.
No one has made characters like Doc or the Shadow since. Writer Barry Reese is giving it a shot. All the Rook stories are short, crammed with action, with a weird hero anchoring each one.
There are four Rook novels so far, each containing a handful of short stories. That makes for quick reading.
Reese's Rook is a combo plate of Batman and Doc Savage. He's a man about town in his secret identity, then a bad guy shows up, and he uses gadgets from his secret HQ to fight them. And that's the pattern to most Rook stories.
Like the superheroes of the 1940s, the Rook has a goofy mix of powers and gadgets and abilities. Today, creators are all worried about character balance and powers that make sense in a science fictional way.
But The Rook had telekinesis. He invented a cell phone. He carries a magic knife dipped in the blood of Christ. He wears a mask with a bird-beak. He works out of a lair that is called, in capital letters, The Rook's Lair.
Like any self-respecting comic book nerd would do, Reese created a universe and continuity that spans all the books. It provides a sense that there's more going on than you know, like a good old Marvel comic.
The Rook stories are true to the pulp style that inspired them. The action is brutal, and the Rook doesn't have a code against whacking bad guys.
In one, he fights a zombie pirate. That almost sold me right there. But in the same book (volume 4) he fights a Nazi vampire. Here's a buy link if you need to go ahead and get it right now.
Every story is unironic and serious. There is no wink-wink nudge-nudge about the wackiness of the characters or what's happening in the story. In my modern-day superhero reading, I have been conditioned to need smarty-pants comments and wacky references. But I get none in The Rook. It helps me be a better geek.