Masks: Rise of Heroes by Hayden Thorne
Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and high school goth boy Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc on the town and on Eric’s life. The new superhero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right under his nose.
Peter is Eric’s best friend, and even if he does seem to be hiding something most of the time, he finds a way to show Eric how he feels in between attacks. The two boys decide to start dating, much to the chagrin of their other best buddy, Althea, who has a terrible crush on Peter, and a secret or two of her own to keep.
As the fight between the villain, known as the Devil’s Trill, and superhero Magnifiman picks up, Eric’s relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, can he and his friends figure out the villain’s plan in time?
This is easily a brilliant beginning to a great new series. The first in a planned trilogy, the non-stop action and fabulous characters immediately immerse the reader into a comic book world filled with wit, charm, and adventure. The theme of superheroes and super villains is not necessarily new, but Thorne delivers a fresh and thoroughly entertaining voice in Eric as an average, almost boring outsider to the action. Although technically a young adult book as Eric is only sixteen, the themes presented and wonderful writing will engage readers of all ages. The quintessential teenage voice of the narrator will have readers sympathizing and empathizing with his trials and tribulations. This is definitely an incredibly strong start to a wonderful series.
Eric is an everyday sixteen-year-old teenager. He has trouble in Chemistry and Geometry, forgets to take out the trash every night and has a deep fascination with the color blue. He is openly gay but has yet to have a boyfriend. His two best friends consist of a shy, insecure, be speckled Peter and the outspoken fag-hag Althea. What starts as being in the wrong place at the wrong time sends all three into a new world as superheroes and villains emerge in the tiny, sleepy town of Vintage City. Unfortunately Eric seems to be the sole outsider in the small trio without any interesting powers even as his friendship with Peter takes a decidedly romantic turn. With a new threat on the horizon and his determination to use Eric as a pawn, the average, boring life of a typical teenager is about to change.
The story is narrated in first person from Eric’s perspective and is a totally delightful voice. The humor and wit of an acerbic teenager comes through brilliantly. Eric is sometimes sarcastic, defiant, pouting, moping, upbeat, energized, bored, and sick. He has a common every day life with parents and a bratty older sister, who keep the young man grounded when his thoughts run off to angst ridden haikus and blue food dye. He is hormonal and often lusty, coming of age in a time where his imagination gets more action than anything. Although there is nothing graphic, Eric is still a teenage male with all the associated dreams, wants, and desires. The fun humor and lighthearted manner this is handled add another layer of texture and flavor to the highly enriched tale.
The various other characters from Magnifiman, Peter, Althea, to the Devil’s Trill and even Eric’s parents are all less developed but no less essential to the story. Each has an important part to play, even Bambi Bailey and the RPG community. Although the driving motivations for each of these characters are deeply seated in a comic book atmosphere, Eric’s fresh voice and reactions give a unique and delightful spin on the classic tale. Eric is often in the wrong time and place, but struggles with being the outsider with no purpose and no special attributes. His family’s reactions and Eric’s own internal musings are often hilarious as he views the world with a slightly sarcastic and irreverent eye.
The writing itself is tight and solid with fast paced action and truly stunning dialogue. There are numerous laugh out loud comments mixed with a lyrical quality to the descriptions that come alive in the prose. The plot itself has some holes but these are placed on purpose to no doubt meld in with future books (having read the entire series back to back I can say this works incredibly well if you also read it similarly). This book sets up the characters, their relationships, and the setting perfectly while entertaining and leaving you wanting more. The humanity of the narrator and the heroes and villains comes through poignantly at times, showing the allure and awe of those able to do the impossible. However, the story also hints at the possible downside of such power and responsibility, especially for those that are still growing and maturing themselves.
Some great examples of the humor woven throughout the story:
Okay, that’s it,” Mom blurted out, throwing her hands up. “No more trains for you and anyone else in this household. Take the bus. I don’t care if slugs on Valium outpace those things, just take them!”
“Mom, buses could be the next ones to be sabotaged.”
“Well, what do you want? We can’t be held hostage by terrorists!” She glowered at me from where she sat, digging her fork into the skinny and rather dry-looking sausages on her plate. “Take the bus, Eric, and don’t argue.”
I slunk back into my room, my heart aching for my idol. I scribbled a couple of verses before I went to bed—sonnets, that time—yearning, outrage, and an empathic connection in iambic pentameter. Then I dreamed of him “arresting” me and taking me into custody. Not once did I demand to see my lawyer, and, yes, I came willingly. It was also during my Golden Age of Haiku when I grew to loathe the dawn hours and their murderous effects on dreams, and I think I messed with Mom’s mind when I insisted on washing my own clothes and sheets.
I couldn’t put down this page turning, exciting, and entertaining romp in a comic book. The tone is clearly meant to gently mock that very setting and through the eyes of a humorous and often sarcastic teenager – the book certainly delivers that well. The real test is that the next two are equally enjoyable and only deepen the creative and unique voice of Eric. Be sure to start the series with this first book, you won’t regret it.
Get it HERE!