“With great power there must also come—great responsibility.” – Stan Lee
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Queerteen Press
Pages/Word Count: 238
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and sixteen-year-old 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 everywhere 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 on trains, banks, and malls. 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 Devil’s Trill and Magnifiman picks up, Eric’s relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins when Eric finds out about Peter’s special talents, which might just rank Peter as a superhero in his own right. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, Peter and Althea, along with Magnifiman and Eric’s normal, middle-class family, all have to work together to keep Eric and their city safe.
Review: Eric Plath lives in his own personal Gotham, a place in which gloom fairly oozes from every crack in the sidewalks, seeping from every pore of the bricks and mortar that fill its landscape. Vintage City is its environment—dingy, dank, with an air of chemical waste rising from its bowels. It’s a place simply begging for supervillians to overtake it and upset the status quo. It’s also a place, thank goodness, that has unwittingly bred its own superheroes to protect and to serve its innocent citizens.
And what’s not to love about that?!
The Young Adult genre is filled with the angst that comes only with those awkward teenage years, and Hayden Thorne has added her own special mark to it with her collection of historical fantasy. In Masks: Rise of Heroes, she puts her special stamp on the genre once again; this time, however, in the modern-day tale of an ordinary sixteen-year-old boy who discovers his two best friends have been keeping secrets, big secrets, while learning, themselves, exactly what it is they’re capable of.
Eric is pretty typical in many ways: a good kid with a few quirks, with more than a little attitude at times, tormenting his older sister whenever he has the chance. Hayden Thorne has heaped Eric with personality and a clever wit (and a libido that won’t quit) that immediately endeared him to me, making him the perfect complement to his best friends, Peter and Althea, who are both gifted where Eric is simply average.
There’s a little unrequited love story that plays out alongside Eric and Peter’s budding romance, which adds some comedic tension between Eric and Althea to the plot, but this is Eric and Peter’s friends-to-boyfriends story all the way, and it emerges as the perfect foil to the enemy of law and order, the Devil’s Trill, who’s plaguing Vintage City and sweeping Eric up in his sinister plans to take over the city.
Anyone who’s ever watched comic book heroes come to life on the silver screen will feast on the imagery in Masks. It plays like a movie in the imagination thanks to each detail and description of the setting and characters. The media frenzy to get to the larger-than-life (and unfortunately dubbed) Magnifiman and his shadowy and elusive sidekick; the initial public skepticism; as well as the real-life drama that soon gives life to an internet ’shipping sensation, where a fandom begins imagining and acting out its own hero/villain dramas and romances, just adds all the more to the fun and action.
Fantasy fiction starring LGBT comic book superheroes isn’t easy to find, but if you’re looking for it, I wouldn’t hesitate to point you in the direction of Masks: Rise of Heroes. Actually, if there was ever a novel that needed to be turned into a comic book, this one’s it.