Monday, December 22, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: The Web of Arachnos

The Web of Arachnos is the first of (at least) 2 City of Heroes novels produced in 2005-2006. I picked it up back when it first came out not because of its status as super-powered fiction, nor its pretty George Perez cover, but because it was by one of my favorite authors: Robert Weinberg. Weinberg produced both an excellent Vampire the Masquerade trilogy over a decade back and quite possible the best run of Cable ever, issues 79 through 96 (just prior to the Quesada/Morrison revamp). Both excellent works, both fine examples of the field they were written in.

I didn’t get anything quite as exciting with The Web of Arachnos, but I did get a solid work of fiction with a unique origin to a heroic universe. I don’t really know how much of this back story is from Cryptic Studios (the game’s creators) and how much is from Weinberg, but we get an interesting story that ties the roguish heroes of the pulps with the super-powered heroes of the first comics. He sets the story in the late twenties, where an American version of Arsene Lupin (a famous French thief/hero) named Marcus Cole finds his throat cancer cured when he and his friend Stefan Richter find what is basically a Fountain of Youth. It imbues them with great power, but the two also open Pandora’s Box, a kind of energy force that flashes across the world and instantly creates the conditions for super-powers. Cole and Richter are separated. Cole returns to their hometown of Paragon City and sets out to fight corruption. Richter works his way in to the criminal organization Arachnos and eventually takes control.

A lot more happens over the course of the novel. The three Furies/Fates/Kindly Ones make repeated appearances, half a dozen other superheroes appear, a steampunk-style pulp villain named Nemesis falls, all before the final confrontation between Marcus Cole, now the Statesman, with his monstrously transformed ex-friend. All in all it is an exciting action adventure saga that serves to introduce the original members of the Freedom Phalanx, City of Heroes’ greatest team. I would definitely recommend it, but maybe you should check out that run of Cable first. You won’t be disappointed.

I have the next book in the franchise: Robin D. Laws’ Freedom Phalanx sittting in my read pile, so expect a review of that soon. I am not sure the third novel listed in the inside front cover, The Rikti War by Paul S. Kemp was ever published. Anyone with any information on that one would be appreciated.

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