“Superhero science has taught me this: Entire universes fit comfortably inside our skulls.” – Grant Morrison
Author: Lex Chase
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 154 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Sequel to Cashing the Reality Check
Checkmate: Book Three
Three years ago, superhero Memphis Rook saved Hogarth Dawson’s life, and now the two can’t imagine being apart. Sort of.
By day, they’re a loving couple. By night, they’re the superhero duo Checkmate. Since that’s too much time in each other’s personal space, Rook and Garth decide they need friends outside of each other. Garth finds friendship with a D&D group comprised of the social misfits Chad—who has crammed himself so far in the closet he might never find the door again, Jackson—who’s so mysophobic he’s afraid of his own germs, and El Jefe—who has all the social grace of a brick.
With an epic dose of peer pressure, the group urges Garth to go to Tolkicon, the biggest comic convention in Axis City. When the supervillain league the Coalition of Calamity appears and takes the convention hostage, as the only real superheroes around, it’s up to Garth and Rook to save the day. With Rook as one of the hostages, Garth knows it’s time to nut up or shut up about being a hero.
Review: I’ve been following Lex Chase and this awesome little superhero series since it first exploded into Dreamspinner Press in early 2013. It’s rare in the genre to find something so completely original that caters to a gay boy’s inner nerd, but Chase, true to form, has delivered another offering that had me shaking with excitement at the mere thought of going balls to the wall with another tasty geek-gasm courtesy of Garth and Rook. If you haven’t read parts one and two of this series, then take a few hours to fill yourself in on the creative backstory that led to the star-crossed lovers and their mission operandi to save the good folks of Axis City, and then you too can join me on this action packed journey into the darker side of the superhero life and comic book capers as penned by a woman so sincerely talented it left me awed.
Okay, so as this part of a series, there is a backstory you need to know. But since I don’t want to spoil the surprise I’m going to briefly paraphrase the greatest hits of book one and two: Garth and Rook are genetically designed to be mortal enemies, which will eventually lead to one killing the other. They live in a city of superheroes and each are gifted with their own unique talents, both striving together to be welcomed into the arms of the League of Superheroes. There’s Garth’s ex-turned-supervillan threatening their life together, and Rook’s stoic and secretive nature is constantly leading Garth to question their love. That’s all I can say right now. DAMMIT! Read the books already!
Conventional Love finds an injured Garth taking embarrassing small-time jobs to keep the power running in their inherited mansion, whilst Rook scours the rooftops in search of damsels in distress. When the nerds of Axis City invite Garth to join their DND group, he finally finds himself able to open up to people just like him. And thus, with a strangely convenient invite, the boys find themselves en route to Tolkicon; Axis City’s own equivalent of ComicCon – and straight into the clutches of danger. Brilliant story! And it just keeps giving.
Lex Chase has managed to write the trials and tribulations of the standard genre romance into such a novel setting that these boys could be anyone fighting to save their love. It has romance, mystery, action, love; all the things you want in a fine gay romance novel, and is pasted onto the setting of a Marvel comic book. The best thing about it? Garth. The tiny technopath is all spirit and splendour as he, again, clumsily throws himself into the line of fire, his own life on the line, to save the city he holds dear. This character is one of the most endearing protagonists I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and set in a city that jumps off the page with a team of supporting characters so incredibly four dimensional it will leave you breathless. If you haven’t picked this up by now, let me re-iterate— I’m a huge fan of this series. With a glistening five stars, I strongly recommend you cancel your appointments, draw the curtains and join Ms. Chase on a journey into the fantastic, in a tale that is anything but conventional.