When we think of heroes and villains and better yet, superpowers, comic books are instantly brought to mind, with the slick Ka-Pow!, the cool costumes, and the vicious and yet famous moves. Even as children, many of us wanted to join the exalted ranks of Green Hornet, Batman and Robin, as well as Superman and all his friends.
In The Fire Inside: A Side Kicks Novel, by Raymond M. Rose, we are given an opportunity to follow up on the lives of a spectacular group of superheroes and villains, waging a war to protect the innocent. Rose has built Claremont into a city to be reckoned with; a place that once housed the Protectors, and the Teen Protectors. Of course, that was all before the Battle, when a large portion of the town itself was destroyed as well as most if not all of the Protectors and villains. To make matters worse, many innocents died that night, so history no longer honors the Protectors, as was once the case.
While most were confirmed dead, a few still made it through yet remain hidden from public record due to their recorded deaths. The villains have moved to a lower income part of town, and most superpowers just disappeared into obscurity. Some of their names are Osprey, Rook, Sparks, Minotaur, Ox and Lady Nyx; they were people to be proud of. Yet for some unknown reason it all went to hell in one fell swoop.
Jack King is one of the survivors, confirmed dead and now leading a new life. He belonged to the Teen Protectors in another lifetime, but in time has found himself a new life. He now works in a bookstore and takes photographs. He is making a name for himself and doing well. His best friend Bruce Webster also survived and joined the Agents, but Jack has not seen or heard from him in some time. Life is mundane and he is getting used to it.
When Webster shows up in his favorite coffee shop to ask for his help, Jack assures him he is no longer interested in his old life. He is no longer the Jack that Bruce used to know. Bruce is easy about accepting this dismissal and they agree to meet later at a gallery showing of Jack’s work. Little does Jack know this was the last time he would see his friend alive again. Bruce had a secret, and now there were those looking to find the files he carried. All paths now lead back to Jack.
As he begins to look into his friend’s death, unusual episodes begin to happen around him. Things are beginning to happen. Long lost names are beginning to pop up; some of the vilest villains of the past seem to have survived. For some reason they have locked on to Jack. As his life turns crazy and people begin to die, he, along with a group of other superheroes, decide to find the answers.
Rose’s characters leap of the pages with bold relief. Visualization is a quality that only the best authors consistently attain, and I would have to list Rose in that category. They are true to life, and very human, easily hurt, and not at all casual about their friendships. You are in there with them as they enter the fray and battle the bad guys; you feel the pain as they are hurt and you can actually feel their anger and grief. These heroes are the reason we all wanted to be superheroes as youngsters; they exemplify everything that is human and good. Yet with that good comes just a spark of darkness, the one thing they must constantly overcome to maintain their status.
Rose’s world building is well done and again quite a visual masterpiece. I really enjoyed this book. Usually when you read a book of superheroes there is an expectation of unbelievability, and yet Rose makes you believe. That is a trick all in itself.
I would recommend this book for a reading group or book club. This book is not intended for children. It contains some graphic death scenes. It is hard to put down, and I read it in one setting. I did not want to wait to know what happened, and then I wanted to go back and slow down because I missed the characters. It is a must have for your library.