Let’s see what he had to say about The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Four: Satan’s Circus:
Lazarus Gray is a New Pulp character from writer Barry Reese. I have been reading his Rook series. (He has other works as well, but those are the ones I’ve been reading), but also enjoy Lazarus Gray as well as Gravedigger.
Gray is sort of inspired by the classic pulp hero The Avenger. He has setup a group similar to the Avenger’s called Assistance, Unlimited. He is set in a fictional town called Sovereign City (created by Pro Se Press publisher Tommy Hancock), and is part of the larger Sovereign City Project. He is also set in the same universe as Barry’s other characters, so has crossed over with them.
This volume, “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray, Vol. 4: Satan’s Circle,” is a collection of three items. First up is a short, two-page comic story that gives the background of who Lazarus Gray is, which first appeared in the 3rd volume. A good intro for new readers. The bulk of the volume is two novellas.
First up, we have a teamup with Lazarus Gray and friends with Thunder Jim Wade when both are attacked by a new villain called Leviathan. For those not aware, Thunder Jim Wade was a short-lived pulp hero inspired by Doc Savage. He was an science adventurer raised by a lost colony of Minoans located in Africa, and had their scientific secrets, which he used to create his vehicle, the Thunderbug, a combined plane-tank-submarine. He has two aids who provide the Ham-Monk dynamic. A reprint of the original series was done by Altus Press, and Pro Se Press did a collection of new stories. I thought this was a good story, and Wade was handled correctly. Reese is familiar with the character, having provided a new Wade story for Pro Se’s recent collection. Maybe this will lead to occasional reappearances of Wade in future Reese stories.
The second story closes out the Eidolon and Darkling storyline started in prior volumes. The classic pulp villain Doctor Satan, whom Reese has used very effectively in past stories, is the main catalyst for a showdown that bring back Lazarus and his friends, along with Abigail Cross, Eidolon and the Darkling. We also learn more about the Darkling in this story. After the ramifications of this story, it will be interesting to see what the future lies for Abigail, Eidolon and the Darkling in the Reese universe.
Closing out the volume, we get an updated chronology of the “Reese Universe” in the back of the book that places both the Lazarus Gray stories (including the next volume), plus the Rook stories and a few others by Reese. I believe the 5th volume is largely finished and we may see it later this year. Can’t wait, as I’ve really been enjoying the Lazarus Gray series. 5 Stars out of 5.
And here’s his review of Tales of The Rook Volume Two:
The Rook is a New Pulp character created by Barry Reese. The Rook fights crime and evil in the ’30s and ’40s (and later). He’s actually one of several New Pulp characters Barry has created, along with Lazarus Gray and Gravedigger, which have their own books..
In his seven Rook novels, Barry mixes in pulp hero, comic book and comic strip characters, along with occult horror/weird menace angles, and does a good job. He also adds in a love interest who will marry him (pulp heroes usually never do that, which is different). The Rook goes up against traditional villains, pulp super-foes and occult horrors, and is assisted by characters based on pulp heroes and comic book/comic strip characters (some original, other done as pastiches or homages to other characters).
Tales of the Rook, of which this is the second volume, is a little different. Here Barry allows others to write Rook tales, tho all are “canonical” and are usually included in Barry’s overall timeline of his characters, an updated version of which is included in the back (which strangely doesn’t include these stories). There are 5 stories in this volume.
Russ Anderson writes about the Rook’s encounters with a minor hero named Keystone, now dead. An interesting little story.
James Palmer’s story is set in the future, where a new person takes up the mantle of The Rook to confront a new evil. While the “future” stories of the Rook have been told, we are also told that they could be in a different time line. So this may allow for different takes on “future Rooks”.
David White has a story set during the Rook’s earlier period in Atlanta, were he confronts a new occult evil. We are also introduced, if briefly, to a new associate. Who knows if this new associate will re-appear, or the meaning regarding what happens at the end of the story.
Sean Taylor’s story focuses on the third Rook. the daughter of the first, as she works to rescue her friend Kayla Kaslov (daughter of Leonid Kaslov, the “Russian Doc Savage” pastiche that Reese created).
Adam Lance Garcia also has a story about the third Rook, but this is set when her brother is still the Rook and she winds up working with her father and they both come up against and old foe of the Rook.
As a bonus, we get a script for a proposed (but not created) animated story of the Rook by Barry Reese.
Rounding out the volume is an interview with Reese.
Overall, for any fan of the Rook, another great volume. I have no idea when Reese will come out with the next volume of Rook stories, as he seems to be focused right now on the next volumes of his other characters.
Again, thanks so much for the feedback, Michael!