Stronger Than You Know
Extraordinary, Books One to Three
By K. L. Noone
Extraordinary Book 1: Sundown, Holiday, Beacon; Extraordinary Book 2: Homecomings; and Extraordinary Book 3: Refuge at Clifftop1 comprise the three novellas in K. L. Noone’s The Extraordinary superhero series.
Given the events in the books, events synopsized below, life in this particular superhero universe must be terrifying for the powerless human on the street. True, evil seems to be incompetent enough that thus far onlyentire cities have been leveled, but it only takes one successful extinction-level event to ruin one’s whole day. This is of course typical of comic book superheroing, in which citizens can expect to have to dodge thrown cars, periodic alien invasions, and cosmic genocide from romantically besotted Darkseid knock-offs. On top of that, it must be frustrating to know that there are no real consequences for criminals provided only they switch from team evil to team good. In fact, one might argue the only difference between most superhero settings and most cosmic horror settings is from whose perspective the story is told.
Sundown, Holiday, Beacon
Lights go up on a confrontation between Holiday Jones, the last living Sinister Sorcerer, and Ryan, the former kid-side-kick Kid Lightning, now known as Beacon. With John, Beacon’s superhero partner Sundown, convalescing from a previous adventure, the lightning-casting Beacon has no choice but to deal with the arcane villain on his own. The odds would be on the sorcerer’s side save for two factors: Sundown’s radioed advice and the fact that the Sinister Sorcerer is only play-acting. The entire fight is staged to maintain the Sinister Sorcerer’s cover as a double agent in the Masters of Terror.
In fact, the last surviving Sinister Sorcerer saw the error of his ways during the battle in which his malevolent parents died some years before. Since then, he has been working covertly to undermine the Masters of Terror, steering a careful path between having his schemes invariably foiled by Sundown and Beacon without being so incompetent that the other Masters of Terror dispose of him. It’s tricky and dangerous. It’s probably for the best the Masters of Terror have no idea that in private life, Sundown, Beacon, and Sinister Sorcerer are a hot threesome.
This series is more about the hot sex between the three leads than face-punching for great justice. I don’t really know how to rate the first theme whereas I have decades of assessing the latter. The lesson here may be not every reviewer is suited for every book. On the matter of the hot sex, there is lots of it (given the word count constraints) and it’s rather detailed.
Sundown is an unfortunate superhero cognomen, in as much as it is both a medical term and a zoning term. Still, better than Marvel’s Speedball!
Unsurprisingly, villains are awful parents. The two older Sinister Sorcerers were the sort who encouraged their son’s efforts in the dark arts not because this would further Holiday’s self-actualization but because it made the teenager useful in their plans to cause an extinction-level event that only the Sinister Sorcerers and their chosen few would survive. Unfortunately for Holiday’s parents, they had not memorized the spell “Conceal Douchery from Our Gullible Kid” the day they tried to pull down the Moon, with lamentable results for the parents2.
There is a fair age gap between the threesome: John is much older than the other two and Holiday is only just eighteen. Which is to say, this plays with the same “middle-aged guy hooking up with a teen” trope I’ve bitched about elsewhere. That said, however, Holiday’s age did alarm John when he discovered just how young his new BF is, so the age difference is an impediment rather than a goal.
This is a universe where healing factors are common, presumably because everyone with superpowers tries to discover how to use them to heal themselves from damage accrued from endless fighting.
Having finally blown his cover, the Sinister Sorcerer is free to act as a white cape, assisting Beacon and super-soldier Sundown in the endless fight against evil. Even given the degree to which the other Masters of Terror can be assumed to be angry at being played for saps, this is well within Holiday’s skill-set. More challenging, however, is a confrontation for which his magic is utterly useless: meeting his partners’ parents.
Yes, Holiday could probably turn the parents into harmless muskrats, but that would be unlikely to win him points with either Ryan or John’s parents.
In addition to low-key homophobia from John’s parents, they do have a valid concern in that Holiday was a real super-villain before he was a fake one. In the grand tradition of superhero comics, as long as one flips one’s capes over so the white side is up, there don’t seem to be legal repercussions for trashing whole towns while cackling malevolently. The essential concept of rehabilitative hookups seems unconvincing, but the fact that Holiday was a minor when he committed his crimes may play a role.
Refuge at Clifftop
The Sinister Sorcerer gets a pointed lesson about the vindictiveness of a cabal of super-villains. Bad enough, but Holiday’s magic is dragging the sorcerer along a path of evolution from which he might not recover. At least he has his boyfriends to anchor him… if the Masters of Evil don’t manage to knock one or both off.
The Extraordinary trilogy is available via the author’s site. It’s not my cup of tea, but it may be yours.
1: I understand that reading “Extraordinary Book” three times is repetitious but without it, it’s unclear where the title of book one ends and the title of book two begins.
2: There were two burned corpses, so Holiday’s parents are just as dead as Uncle Ben, Bucky Barnes, and Jason Todd.