Welcome to a new Friday feature! Every Friday, I’m going to be focusing on a New Pulp book that I think all of you should give a look at. Sometimes, they’ll be brand-new releases, sometimes they’ll be a little older — but all will fall into the nebulous category of “New Pulp,” meaning you won’t see me recommending any Shadow novels here — not unless somebody starts writing new ones! These recommendations won’t be in the form of a straight review. I’ll be doing overviews of the books, explaining why I think it’s worth your time to look into it, which is slightly different.
Our first recommendation is Metalgod, which is book 7 in Van Allen Plexico’s Sentinels series. Here’s what the publisher has to say about the book:
In the wake of the Worldmind/Stellarax Crisis, the Sentinels have scattered to the four winds. But there’s little time to relax and recover, as the dangers facing Earth have never been greater. Esro and Mondrian cross the depths of space in a desperate attempt to stave off galactic civil war, while Pulsar and her sister work to assemble an entirely new team of heroes back on Earth. Now time is short, and the supply of heroes shorter, and enemies old and new lurk at every turn; foremost among them the deadly mechanoid from space–the being known only as METALGOD! Presenting the first volume in the new SENTINELS story arc, “Order Above All”–where action and adventure await at every turn, and nothing is quite what it seems! Interior illustrations by Chris Kohler; cover art by Chris Kohler and Sarah White.
That’s a pretty good description of what you’ll get here! I’ve enjoyed the Sentinels series and think that the plotting, pacing & characterization has improved as the series has gone on. What you’re basically getting with this is 1970s & early 80s-style Marvel superheroics, particularly of the Jim Starlin Warlock & Captain Marvel/David Michelinie Avengers variety. If you like that period of comics’ history, you’ll enjoy this. Some of the dialogue is expository and there definitely parts of the story that I could predict with my eyes closed but that’s not a bad thing — part of the joy of pulp *is* the occasional bout of familiarity. And, hell, nobody would read more than five years’ worth of superhero comics if you didn’t like comfort — because after awhile, the stories begin to feel a bit familiar. What Van does do to mix it up a bit is that he injects a strong dose of modern-day sci-fi into the mix. It’s not quite Star Wars or Star Trek but you can feel the space opera drenching the page.
This particular arc starts off with a lot of stuff that reminds me of Marvel’s Kree Empire but Van is able to inject enough freshness into it that it never feels like a pastiche. The inspirations are proudly on display but it also feels unique and exists as it’s own thing. As with all ensemble casts, your interests will veer towards one character over another. I really like Pulsar (and, I suspect, so does Van — she’s right up there next to the logo on the cover and she gets some of the best subplots) but don’t care so much for certain members of the group. With Pulsar, the pose she’s in on the cover makes me wonder if Van was thinking of Ms. Marvel when he created her. I’m a huge Carol Danvers fan but had never really put that thought together until I saw her pose here.
Can you jump in with this book? I’d cautiously say yes. Van does enough back-story to catch you up but there are a *lot* of characters and despite there being a lengthy introduction to the main ones in the front of the book, there were still plenty that aren’t included there. It had been a little while since I read a Sentinels book and I was a bit lost at times, trying to recall who certain folks were, sending back to the list of characters in the front. But after about a hundred pages, I was back into the groove and things went well from there.
I know a lot of folks don’t like the pulp/comics comparisons but I see no problem with it. Both are meant to be, at their heart, escapist entertainment — “disposable enjoyment,” as it were. Comics helped replace pulps… and now Van is taking the beating heart of comics (the superhero story) and transporting it back into the prose world of the pulps. And he’s going it very, very well.
Jump aboard the Sentinels train today — you won’t regret it.