Review: Magnificent Things by Michael McNichols

magnificenthingsTitle: Magnificent Things
Series: None
Author: Michael McNichols
Genre: Superheroes
Source: Zharmae Publishing
Published: 2014
Buy Links: AMZ/ Zharmae
I receive a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Amz Blurb: Will Nihgate has run into several scrapes during his short career as the masked vigilante Dusk, but none have been so potentially fatal…returning to consciousness at the splashing of cold water against his face, totally encased and seemingly powerless to free himself from the trappings of John Skeleton, Dusk is in deep trouble.

Outside of his prison box, dark forces are threatening New Danko, and if Dusk and his companions can’t defeat Skeleton in time, all will be lost.

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Case File: Superheroes/Women in Refrigerators/John Skeleton
Rating: 4 out of 5

Magnificent Things is an interesting novel, full of plot twists and fast-paced action scenes. In a world where superheroes are a daily occurrence, it is interesting to see how they interact with each other and the massive amount of villains running around. Seriously, there is an over-abundance of villains. The novel tries to deal with the question of what does it mean to be a superhero in a world that is shades of grey and people are not whom they seem to be.

Dusk or Will Nihgate is the main character who operates in New Danko and is apparently, the villains favorite target to target. He is in love with Dani Clovenson, his roommate that he keeps at a distance because of his superhero lifestyle. We have the Odyssey which is McNichols version of the Avengers or Justice League and they have diversity because there is a a Puerto Rican woman (Zombie) and an Asian-African man  (Savior) included as superheroes. There is an ensemble of villains like John Skeleton, Black Wind, Danny Plague (I just keep thinking of Danny Phantom when I read his name), Red Rabbit, and Jack of Terrors . The most interesting is John Skeleton because we find out he has a family and he doesn’t have an underground lair but has something so much better. He creates the problematic dehumanizer gun which strips people of their emotions and those guns are crucial to how the story plays out. The first and third part of the novel are fast paced story lines about the heroes saving the city and dealing with villains. The second part, the bridge, slows down the story to deal with  Dusk’s trauma and on John Skeleton’s world (I want an origin story for him and his lair). It is slower and different from the other parts because it is less focus on action and more on revealing the past and how everything is not black and white. Even villains like John Skeleton have a sense of honor.

The world building of the novel is interesting because this is a world where superheroes, The Odyssey, patrol New Danko alongside the police. It reminded me of Watchmen. I hope McNichols writes a prequel and gives an origin story for the acceptance of superheroes as licensed and legally working with law officials, it’s a rare sight seeing superheroes working alongside the law. It does suffer from having too much of a cast so most of the cast are minor characters who are rapidly given explanations as to why they are heroes or villains and the main cast like Dani who is just there as a romantic interest to Dusk (I didn’t really connect to her) is just there. Even though the majority of the characters are minor characters, they do grow as characters and become more than their original roles because they become corrupted or resist corruption when faced with it. The main relationship in the novel is between Dusk and John Skeleton and how they transgress the roles of hero and villain (a central them to the novel that plays out as well with Savior and Phantom). They have a mentor-mentee relationship but John Skeleton also plays the Creepy Uncle who knows too much about Dusk’s family, and acts like a caregiver but is still creepy. John Skeleton is a fascinating character.

One of the problematic aspects of Magnificent is that it suffers from the women in refrigerator syndrome. Basically, women die to further a man’s pain in life; to make men miserable in life is the purpose of the women’s death and it drives men to better themselves or to insanity. Three women are killed to cause men pain (and the fourth woman dies in the line of duty, I’m okay with her death). I don’t like this trope because it devalues women and make it seem like women only have value when they can cause men pain. The first woman is a woman in refrigerator because her death is a plot point that drives Dusk from Point A to Point B. It ends the first half of the book. The second dead female did not even know Dusk yet she die to cause him pain. The third female death distracts the villain but she did have more autonomy in her death; she was aware of it. On the flipside, there are the men’s death that are not “on-screen” meaning they are not happening in the present, they are mentioned in passing by Dusk. As readers, we do not read the death of men as they are dying but we are witnesses to the majority of the women’s death and it has to do with the men’s death not being as emotionally damaging to the main characters as the women’s death are. Overall, how people die in the novel is problematic because it is reinforcing comic book tropes that negatively affect women because it gives the impression that women are only in novels to die (and the men are not even worthy of an “on-screen” death because they are useless to the main characters emotional development).  Furthering complicating the matter, is that diverse characters, at least the ones whose race was mentioned, tended to die or be villains (I don’t think Dusk’s race was mentioned). It is good to see a diverse cast of a Hispanic woman, an Asian-African man, a Saudi Arabian man but not if they are going to die or be villains because again it reinforces the idea that only white people survived in the end and non-whites like females are written to die in novels. 

In the end, Magnificent Things is well written. It has the word fetch in it which is awesome. It is fast paced story. John Skeleton and his lair make the slow part of the novel interesting because he is the most complex character, more so than Dusk who is the good guy. The second part, while slow, was my favorite part of the novel because it didn’t allow the villains to just be villains bur rather humanize them and it was interesting to see how Dusk dealt with different levels of villainy. Danny Plague as a villain is  just a villain who wanted to destroy Dusk, he is a villain because he is a villain while John Skeleton and his people are villain for reasons.  It is not magnificent that the death of women are used as events to show emotions in men nor that in the end, the book is not as diverse as it started. Overall, Magnificent Things is slightly problematic with how it deals with gender and race but the relationship that develops between John Skeleton and Dusk is intriguing plus John Skeleton’s lair is fascinating. The characters do grow into themselves so they do change as the story progresses and adjust to the situations around them. They are quite realistic in that manner. It is an exciting action novel that just needed to not kill off the majority of the women in order to be a fantastic novel.

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4 Hearts-Pretty Good

4 Hearts-Pretty Good

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