Chicago: The city’s resident crime-fighter, the Legionary, is MIA. Masked
villains are capitalizing on his absence, leading to brewing rivalries among
the most dangerous criminals the city has to offer. Without the city’s
protector to keep the criminals in check, Chicago becomes a battleground
between an inadequate police force, law breakers seeking their own form of
retribution, and psychopaths stoking the fires of anarchy.
Leading the forces of
the law is Det. Frank Merrett, an African-American cop hamstrung by the
prejudices of the times. He enters an uneasy alliance with the Plunderer, a
playboy-turned-cat burglar who is on the city’s Most Wanted list. He’s not
evil; he just prefers to steal whatever he covets. Without he Legionary to
assist, the Plunderer is Merrett’s best hope for battling the growing crime
Also on the side of
chaotic good is Mirror, a woman seeking revenge against the city’s elite for
the death of her lover. Armed with a mask that can induce fear and madness, she
partners with the Plunderer in the hope of furthering her vendetta. Joining
them is Dr. Arcanum, a master stage magician seeking actual magic.
But if the criminals
are siding with the law, who’s terrorizing the city? That would be the
Wolfpack, a group of freelance henchmen currently employed by Bloodwyrm and
Lady Cain. They’re determined to hunt down the Legionary, even if they have to
burn Chicago to the ground. Meanwhile, a master manipulator seems to be pulling
the strings of a more daring agenda.
The novel (possibly
the first in a series) is an entertaining experiment of heroes vs. villains,
but without the heroes. Det. Merrett is about as good and honest a cop as
Chicago has to offer, but he is hampered by corruption, indifference and
bigotry. The more honest criminals have potentially heroic fiber, even if it
doesn’t run terribly deep.
Author Richard Knaak
has written more than 50 novels, so clearly he knows what he’s doing. The
challenge here is to capture the mood of a world from generations past, when
even those who knew it first-hand may have but the dimmest recollection. Knaak
fills in any blanks with generous scoops of nostalgia. Whether it’s accurate or
not is unimportant; it’s a fun, other-worldly Chicago, perhaps inspired by
the Gotham City of the animated Batman series. Airships, fedoras and Tommy guns
are the order of the day, portrayed against an almost perpetual backdrop of
midnight and neon.
Author Richard A Knaak
As a big fan of both
super-heroes and pulps, I loved this book, and look forward to further
installments. Part of me is rather curious about the characters visual appearances.
However, I’m reluctant to have my expectations wiped away. It’s like the Golden
Age of radio, when the “theater of the mind” was in full bloom. So perhaps an
accompanying comic book or other illustration is not for me.
I give Rogues Gallery 5 out of 5 stars.