There is first-tier storytelling, which is where you tell a story that everyone knows, like about Superman or Spiderman.
Then there is second-tier storytelling. In this case, it’s taking a first-tier story and expanding it in some new way. Like in The Incredibles, where we see domesticated superheroes dealing with modern life.
After the Golden Age is then about 2.3, which is close to The Incredibles but perhaps just a touch more realistic. The story is told by Celia West, a mid-twenties accountant who is somewhat estranged from her parents, who just happen to form the core members of Commerce City’s premiere superhero league. But unlike The Incredibles’ Violet, who just had little-girl problems of shyness and difficulty in fitting in, Celia’s go a little deeper (in that after being taken hostage (her usual state of affairs) by The Destructor, the most fearsome supervillain there is, she actually joins his gang for a year). You know, one of those little henchmen babes like in the old Batman serial, who would fetch this and do that. With Destructor’s capture, paperwork regarding her defection is sealed away. Now she’s put this all behind her (along with her overbearing superfather) and is just trying to fit into the normal world (even though she is still a very popular kidnap victim).
But things are heating up in Commerce City. The Destructor’s trial date is coming up. She’s supposed to be investigating his money trail, which is leading her to some very uncomfortable truths. And she’s growing more romantic with the Mayor’s detective son, so clashing politics are also part of the mix. It all keeps closing in on her until we’re into a Golden Age superconflict, and Celia is one of the only people in the room without a power to rely on.
I rather enjoyed this book. Carrie Vaughn writes very practical prose – nothing clever or delicious, just matter-of-fact writing that serves. The story has a couple of good twists, nothing outlandish, so I wasn’t played to nor was I purposely played. It was an interesting (and sometimes achingly sad) view of a young woman trying to find her own life in the shadow of superparents. Hunt it out in your local used bookstore (that’s where I got mine) or try for it online. Not bad.