Barry Reese

Pulp Writer Extraordinaire

peregrine2

Our friend Wojtek is back with a lengthy look at the second Peregrine Omnibus. Let’s see what he says:

“The Peregrine plants his mark again!”

“The Peregrine Omnibus – Volume One” was one of my favorite books of the previous year, so it’s no surprise, that I had eagerly waited for the release of the further adventures of Max Davies and his allies. Recently, after months of waiting I finally got to read the second omnibus of Barry Reese’s flagship title, and it’s not only as good as the first one, but in my humble opinion, even better.

Not that the first omnibus was in any way bad, but a definitive improvement in Barry Reese’s writing style can be observed, with tighter, more fluid narration, and better sense of continuity than before, thus enriching Peregrine’s world..

For example we can observe the repercussions of several events from the previous stories, like Max losing his psychic powers after a fight with Doctor Satan, forcing him to fight evil without the aid of visions provided by his father’s ghost. On one hand our hero is relieved to be free of pain and trauma of the visions, but he frequently encounters situations where his supernatural abilities would have surely come in handy…

We can also observe slow, but sure disbandment of the famous Nova Alliance after the murder of it’s chairman, Leopold Grace at the hands of Doctor Satan, forcing The Peregrine into a role of mentor of several younger, and less experienced heroes, which would have it’s own consequences.

We can also see some secondary plot-lines carried on through several stories, like Max’s fear of outliving his loved ones due to Nyarlatothep’s curse, his wife Evelyn trying to cope with the fact, that she’s getting older and her acting career is near it’s end, or Will McKenzie and his wife Kristen trying to become parents.

However it’s not always 100% serious, as for example, we also have a rather funny running gag concerning Davies family’s inability to enjoy normal vacation, as every time Max decides to leave Atlanta and rest a bit, he somehow becomes involved in something that needs attention of The Peregrine.

For example, Max proposes that he end Evelyn visited Paris for a while, which leads Ms. Davies to predict, that if they did it would probably end with The Peregrine trying to stop a mad scientist and his army of clones from taking over France.

Max brushes her predictions off saying that it would not happen… For the second time 🙂

Of course “The Peregrine Omnibus – Volume Two” has a lot more in it, than just character development, and world building, as we get nearly thousand pages of prime quality New Pulp, in form of thirteen stories with characters we got to know in love in the previous volume of Atlanta’s most famous vigilante’s adventures, as well as completely new characters, that would seem eerily familiar for every fan of classic Pulp.

First of them “The Phantom Vessel” has our hero deal with the legend of the cursed XVII century ship called “Lucky Seven”, which turns out to be a lot more than just a legend.

According to the old tales, the phantom vessel is manned by the tortured spirits of seamen, who died from the plague, fruitlessly find a solace, and help in a port, but were denied by people afraid of their sickness. Bitter and angry they attacked and destroyed ports that refused them, until finally succumbing to the plague.

But it was not the end of their story.
The crew of Lucky Seven had not found peace, even in death, wandering the sea for the two centuries, until finally disappearing in unknown circumstances. The tale of the cursed ship becomes a basis of The Flying Dutchman’s legend, while the truth is forgotten.

… Until a man named Fernando Pasarin, a heir to rich and famous family of treasure hunters somehow manages to find the ship at the bottom of the sea, supposedly lodged in the entrance to Hell.

Now, he plans to retrieve it, raising it above the sea, but such an expensive enterprise, that he came to Atlanta, trying to find some backers, and donors.

Normally Max Davies, better known as the mysterious defender of Atlanta, The Peregrine would not pay any mind to something like that, but a day before Pasarin’s lecture on the topic of vessel’s history, he is attacked by Hendrik Van Der Decken, an undead captain of “Lucky Seven”.

What is more, the attack takes place in Max’s secret lair, hidden in his house, which means, that whoever had sent the undead against him knows the secret of The Peregrine’s identity…

The story itself is rather simple, almost feeling like a throwback to the earlier tales of The Peregrine, but it touches upon various issues I mentioned before, like Evelyn’s doubts about her acting career, or the influence that The Peregrine has on Atlanta’s criminal underworld after a decade of foiling crimes, and branding evildoers with his infamous mark.

So, while The Peregrine is basically the same as he was in the previous stories, Max Davies and his circle of family and friends had changed, shaped by the things they lived through together.

Overall, a solid story, that despite being rather simple at first glance turns out to be a bit more complex, than we can expect. Not to mention the fact, that zombie pirates always make everything better 🙂

Second story “Death From The Jungle” introduces readers to The Revenant – Legendary defender of the tiny African nation of Bordia.

According to the local legends The Revenant, also known as “Spectre Who Breathes” is a ghost of the sailor from Europe, who was shipwrecked in Bordia during the 1400’s, and after being helped by the natives decided to protect them from evil, which he continued even after death, appearing as immortal, eternally young man dressed in a dark bodysuit with a skullcap and domino mask.

In reality there is nothing supernatural to The Revenant, and his “immortality” comes from the fact that the mantle was passed on from father to son for twenty one generations, but those who wore the iconic garb had always used that reputation to frighten their enemies.

Then, in the 1938 last man to bear the title of Revenant, Lee Pence, encounters a group of Nazis looking for magical artefacts possessed by the local shamans, led by the artificially enhanced super-soldier Hermann Krupp. After slaughtering the denizens of one of villages soldiers of Third Reich managed to take possession of the being known as The Golden Goblin.

According to the legends it is an offspring of a monstrous god, who fell from the sky ages ago, wounded and dying from the wounds inflicted on him by his divine brethren. Knowing he is beyond help, he raped a local woman, in hopes, that his son would take his place. For ages African shamans killed the descendants of the cruel deity before they became dangerous, but now last Golden Goblin is in the hands of Nazis.

The Revenant is killed trying to stop them, thus ending the heroic legacy that existed for twenty-one generations, as he had no son to take on the mantle for himself. But that does not mean, that there is no one, who would try to take revenge for his death…

Knowing that she can’t become the next Revenant because of her gender, his daughter Sally Pence travels to America, and offers her services as an agent to the defender of Atlanta, and old associate of her father Max Davies/The Peregrine, managing to do some good even without putting on a costume.

Now in 1943, after years of pursuit, she finally managed to find people responsible for the death of her father. The problem is, that Krupp had raised The Golden Goblin as his private enforcer, which coupled with the incredible powers possessed by the monster makes him even more dangerous than ever.

Not to mention that the beast and his Nazi handler have a plan to turn the tide of the war. Now only young Ms. Pence and her mentor, The Peregrine are the only ones standing between the world, and a supernatural apocalypse…

While The Revenant is quite obviously based on the legendary Phantom, Barry Reese once again does something new with something we know quite well.

The fact that the successor of the Revenant’s mantle is a woman gives the author quite a lot of opportunities, and Mr. Reese really makes use of them, creating another great heroine who is rather easy to like, and relate to.

Not to mention the fact, that this particular story establishes The Peregrine’s ties to the wider superhero community aside from members of Nova Alliance, and sets him in a role of mentor to younger vigilantes, that would prove to be rather important later on.

Third story, “The Four Peregrines” shows us one of the possible futures of Barry Reese’s world, through the eyes of four people who wore Peregrine’s Mask.

It all starts in the year 2012 in London, but this particular version of England’s capitol is rather different from the one we know. In this reality six years earlier Earth was enveloped by the supernatural cloud of darkness, later called Black Mass Barrier, that had cast our planet into an eternal twilight.

With the perpetual darkness magic had come back to the world, and along with it various supernatural beings, like Fae, werewolves, undead etc, had revealed themselves to humans, changing the society forever.

Such a chaotic world needs a defender, so aged and weakened Max Davies passes on The Peregrine’s mantle to the young British reporter Ian Morris before finally dying. Ian successfully continues the heroic legacy he inherited, battling evil, and protecting the weak, but his greatest trial is before him.

One day he is visited by Nathaniel Caine, also known as The Catalyst, protector and High Mage of Earth, as well as an frequent ally, and close friend of the original Peregrine. Caine reveals that Mayan prophecies about the world ending in 2012 are true, and the only person who can stop it is Ian Morris…

To show The Fourth Peregrine what he would have to do, The Catalyst shows him visions of the past, and his predecessors battles to save the world.

Alongside Ian we first watch 1943’s team-up between The Peregrine and the famous Occult Detective, Ascott Keane to stop the sinister supervillain Doctor Satan, from using a Mayan tablet, that is said to be the key to ending the world, and remaking it in it’s user’s image.

One shudders to think what world could be created, if a callous murderer and sadist like Doctor Satan would be able to harness it’s power… But the villain repeatedly escaped the hands of justice, despite our heroes attempts at making him pay for his crimes.

What would prevail in the end: Peregrine and Keane’s determination, drive and sense of justice, or Satan’s devious, amoral mind?

Then, we travel to the San Francisco of late 60’s, during the times when The Peregrine’s name belongs to Max’s son, William. While young Mr. Davies is a rather successful vigilante, and works hard to uphold his family legacy, there is a rather big rift between him, and his father.

William has a rather radical, anti-establishment political views, which led to his involvement in the Hippie Movement, and is a firm believer in the ideas of “free love”, and “expanding one’s consciousness” through the use of various drugs, which does not sit very well with Max, who considers it frivolous and immoral waste of his son’s potential.

Then, unexpectedly Peregrine II encounters one of his father’s deadliest enemies: An immortal master criminal, occultist and scientist with no peers, Warlike Manchu. Seeing William’s potential, as he did with his father years ago, ageless villain proposes a partnership.

Having obtained the stone tablet, that was once stolen by Doctor Satan, Manchu decided that the new, improved world needs a qualified leader, a man of vision and will. A man just like himself… or William Davies.

Would the young vigilante be able to resist the temptation to destroy the old, corrupt world, just as he always wanted?
Finally, we travel to 1973 to see third Peregrine, Max’s daughter Emma, who alongside her best friend and adventuring partner Kayla Kaslov, daughter of so-called “Russian Superman” Leonid Kaslov, tries to extract Mayan stone tablet from one of the mysterious Devil Pits in the mountains of Brazil.

While finding the artifact is rather easy, getting out of the Devil Pit would prove a challenge even for Third Peregrine, because, as she soon finds out, it is not as deserted as it would appear at first glance. And being who lives there likes visitors only as a source of fresh meat…

As a bonus, we get a short glimpse at life of retired Max Davies, and a rather interesting dynamic of his relationship with Emma.

I am not going to lie, “The Four Peregrines” is probably my favorite story in this book.

The opportunity to see The Peregrine’s legacy through the years is really interesting, especially because each person wearing the mask sees their role as a hero a bit differently.

William is a rebel, who wants to change the world, battling for “social justice”, and seeing government and law enforcement as corrupt tools of oppression. But even with all his radical ideas, he still believes in justice and fairness, just like his traditionalist father, despite clashing with him on certain issues like drugs, or polygamy.

Emma embraces the adventurer part of her legacy, traveling the globe and helping people without meddling into politics, but is still rather progressive about certain things, though not the extent her brother was. Or at least not being as open about it…

Ian’s grim determination through his vigilante career is quite similar to Max, during his early days of The Peregrine, as is his willingness to make sacrifices for the ones he cares for. Just like his famous predecessor he also knows his future, after seeing a vision of world’s end, which makes him a bit reckless at times.

My only problem with this story is the fact, that it left me wanting that those other Peregrines would get more opportunities to shine, maybe some new stories focusing on their adventures… It would really be a shame if they only appeared here.

Fourth story “Spook”, sees Max Davies in a rather familiar situation, one he never expected to experience again.

One night he experiences a prophetic dream, sent to him by the spirit of his dead father, Warren Davies, despite the fact, that he lost the supernatural powers connecting him to the realm of dead years ago.

Our hero is not exactly thrilled about it, feeling that his father is once again treating him as his weapon against evil, manipulating him just like years ago. But even though Max is angry about the whole situation, things he sees are even worse than the pain, and psychical anguish he feels when receiving his visions.

He sees a mysterious masked man, clad in a black costume who calls himself Spook. Enigmatic villain and his female minions are apparently looking for the ancient weapon of terrifying power left by the forgotten civilization of Chachapoyas, also known as The Warriors of the Clouds.

Spook is apparently ready to do anything to get his hands on the remnants of their civilization, as Max sees him killing some unknown man, and nearly killing Kristen McKenzie, ex-Nazi formerly known as The Iron Maiden, now a wife of Peregrine’s best friend.

But would his visions be enough to stop the villain, especially when it is revealed, that nor Spook, nor his female warriors are average human. Or really, that they are not human at all?

Good story not only giving us exciting chase to the forgotten Chachapoya fortress of Kuelap, but also some insight into past of our heroes, especially Max and Kristen. Barry Reese also touches on the troubled relationship between Warren Davies and his son, which is always interesting.

As a bonus we also get the cameo from Tony Quinn / Black Bat, which is always welcome… At least by me, since I really love that particular classic hero…

Fifth story “Dead of the Night” once again pits The Peregrine against vampires.

While The Peregrine and his allies managed to defeat the cult of Nyarlathotep-worshiping vampires, and prevent the coming of apocalyptic Kingdom of Blood, some of the undead awaken from their slumber during the ritual had survived.

One of them was charismatic baron Rudolph Gustav, who was quite pleased by the fact, that our heroes had slayed the majority of his species most powerful members, thus leaving a substantial power vacuum to fill by the ambitious and cunning… just like him.

Rudolph’s pragmatism and charisma had led him to joining forces with Hitler, and using Third Reich’s leader obsession with the occult, to become one of his closest advisers, as well as gaining rather powerful position in the ranks of SS.

By the 1943 old vampire had created a top-secret division dubbed VSS, made of SS-men handpicked personally by himself, and turned into vampires, thus gaining a perfect force for espionage, assassination and missions behind enemy lines.

But even though his warriors could have turned the tide of the war with precise strikes against Allied war machine, they are underutilized due to Hitler’s growing paranoia, and jealousy of baron’s power. Bitter and disillusioned with the Reich, Gustav decides to take matters into his own hands, and ensure that his country would win the war… with himself as it’s new leader.

To do so, he uses magic to resurrect the infamous criminal mastermind Warlike Manchu, who was changed into a stone statue by the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, during his last battle with The Peregrine, and then transported to Germany by the agents of Occult Forces Project, hoping to use him against their enemies.

With his help he would be able destroy Reich’s enemies and dispose of Hitler. But Manchu is not pleased with the fact, that he was forced into servitude by a being he finds repulsive, and has few plans of his own, to get rid of baron Gustav.

In the meantime, The Peregrine discovers that his arch-enemy is back from the dead, and vows to get rid of him for good this time, to protect his family, and the world from his former master’s evil. But would he be able to defeat not only Manchu, but also Nazi-Vampires allied with him?

Fortunately, he is not alone, and has friends, that would be able to help him, even against such a terrible treat…

Aside from always welcome sight of The Peregrine beating up Nazis, and the return of fan-favorite Warlike Manchu, and second appearance of the newest Revenant, we also get a subplot focusing on the relationship between Max and his wife Evelyn, and Ms. Davies return to the field of vigilantism.

Not to mention, that certain event from this story would haunt our heroes for a long time. But spoilers are evil, so I would not write a word more 😛

Next we have “Satan’s Trial”, where the world’s most infamous super-criminal, cruel and merciless Doctor Satan awaits for his trial, after being captured by The Peregrine and Ascott Keane, as seen in “The Four Peregrines”.

Judging his crimes proves to be harder than expected, because due to some unknown magical effect woven around himself by the master criminal nobody is able to discern his identity, despite unmasking him. He looks so unremarkable, that people forget his face within moment of seeing him, he has no fingerprints, or anything that would enable the police to identify him.

Even worse, this phenomenon makes it impossible to prove, that he is the same Doctor Satan, who committed all those incredible, atrocious crimes in the past. Not to mention the fact, that even though villains enemies, and most law enforcement know that masked madman has supernatural powers, courts are rather skeptical about this whole “magic” business.

What is even more baffling, despite his incredible skills, both mundane and magical, that had let him escape justice for years, Doctor Satan hadn’t tried to escape even once. It’s just like he was waiting for something, but for what?

His arch-enemy, Ascott Keane, The Occult Detective suspects that Satan is planning something nefarious again, but can’t prove it, causing some of his allies to accuse him of paranoia, and obsession.

However The Peregrine shares his suspicions, since lately some of his old enemies reappear… even if they were dead before… claiming that they serve Doctor Satan. But it’s impossible, even for a warlock of his prodigious power and knowledge, to raise dead while being chained in prison, right?

Well, soon our heroes would find out, what Satan is really planning…

Very fun story, especially since in it Barry Reese did something that Doctor Satan’s creator Paul Ernst had never managed to do, that is to actually let Ascott Keane to capture him for once.

I mean, I love the original stories about Occult Detective and his masked nemesis, but even I had to admit, that the unbreakable status quo of “Doctor Satan always loses to Keane, but is never captured or killed” kinda undermined those stories, robbing them of any tension or unpredictability.

Mr. Reese also managed to overcome another flaw of the original stories, that is, the fact that we never had discover our red-garbed villain’s identity, which in my opinion made him rather flat, and much less interesting than he could’ve been. I won’t tell how he did it, but it sure had improved First Supervillain of Pulps.

As a bonus we also have another interesting, if rather unexpected ally that Peregrine gains through the course of the story, which is always a nice, especially since it’s a very recognizable character.

Next we have the story that radically changes status quo of The Peregrine, and his world “The Diabolical Mr. Dee”.

During his years as a vigilante and adventurer Max Davies/The Peregrine encountered many extraordinary people, who shared his love for justice, and the desire to fight evil. But aside from his famous Nova Alliance, that had been slowly being disbanded after Doctor Satan had murdered it’s chairman Leopold Grace, his encounters with other heroes were limited to the short term team-ups, and information exchange.

So, Max had decided to change that, and took several younger, less experienced heroes under his wing, showing them the ropes of the vigilante business etc. Now, he is ready to take his plan to the next phase: Creating a team out of his protégés.

The Peregrine is in his 40’s now, and is quite aware that in a few years he may be too old to continue his work, but world is not getting any safer, especially with World War Two going on. So, Max had carefully observed his younger colleagues, encouraged them to work together, measured their potential, and finally had chosen four people to become members of the group he dubbed The Claws of Peregrine:

Sally Pence/The Revenant – First woman to be a heir of a century-old heroic legacy, and protector of Africa, using a legend of being an immortal wraith punishing the wicked, as well as her hard-earned skills to fight all forms of evil.

Nathaniel Caine/The Catalyst – Former British policeman and a newest man to possess the title of Earth’s High Mage, who is foretold to become a progenitor of new, evolved breed of humanity. In the meantime he uses his fabulous magical power to protect the planet from harm, both mundane and supernatural.

Rachel Caine/The Esper – Nathaniel’s wife and one of the most powerful psychics on Earth, capable of reading minds of others, as well as extremely powerful telekinesis, which enables her to act as both coordinator for the other team members, and a powerhouse on the field.

Vincent Frankenstein/Frankenstein’s Monster – Legendary artificial man made famous by Mary Shelley’s novel. Though cursed with unsettling, unnatural looks he is gifted with superhuman strength and durability, which makes him very useful during battles. But aside from his physical prowess, Vincent is also a highly intelligent man with a keen mind, which only doubles his usefulness for the team.

Together they could become a force to be reckoned with, but neither of them really worked in a team before, and soon all those strong, independent personalities start to clash with each other. But Claws of the Peregrine would have to learn to be a true team soon, because there is a great danger looming at the horizon.

In the 1942 an explorer named Daniel Cummings had led an expedition to Ethiopia in hopes of finding the lost city of Tegdaghost. According to the local legends inside of it is a key to gaining immortality.

Nobody really knows what did he found there, but he returned to America with a mysterious box, and gave it for safekeeping to the famous adventurer and occult expert, Richard Nova, heir to the founder of the Nova Alliance mentioned above.

Then, Richard gave the box to his friend and ally Max Davies/The Peregrine, warning him that the box’s contents can never fall into wrong hands, or the results would be catastrophic. So, when Richard is murdered by the Nazi sympathizers working for the mysterious figure known as Mr. Dee, our hero knows, that there is truth in his friend’s warnings.

It get’s even worse when he and The Claws discover that Dee is another product of Third Reich’s sinister Occult Forces Project, that Max clashed in the past, which makes him something more and less than a human…

So… We get a story where The Peregrine basically creates a Pulp version of Justice League. Do I even need to say anything else, to emphasize how awesome it is? Aside from all the action and always welcome curbstomping of Nazis, we also get closer look on the character we got to know earlier, observe how they work together etc. which is also quite fun.

Fans of Barry Reese’s writing would be also pleased because we get a small but rather satisfying cameo from one of his older characters, and a rather important subplot tying The Peregrine to the World of Shadows from Family Grace stories.

Next story, “A Plague of Wicked Men” gives us the second big case for The Claws of Peregrine, the one that may prove to be a bit much even for heroes such as them.

First we see a famous adventurer Captain Hazzard, who couples his physical perfection and scientific genius with telepathic powers to fight crime with the help of his investigating a mysterious case in Atlanta’s Chinatown.

One of Hazzard’s informers was brutally murdered and left at the door of his headquarters, with his last, rather vague message, warning the hero about a mysterious red box. It all goes well… until Captain and his team are exposed to the powerful psychic attack, that kills all of them but ace pilot Tyler Randall, who at the time was on a mission in Mexico.

Death of a famous hero and his crew is of course noticed by Atlanta’s vigilante community, so The Peregrine and his Claws decide to investigate, and avenge their fallen colleague. But then team’s resident mage, Nathaniel Caine/The Catalyst reveals, that Hazzard and his team were murdered by someone, or something connected to The Great Old Ones, immortal horrors from beyond our world.

What is worse, people behind all this are not some maddened Cthulhu cultists, or bored, rich occultists playing with forces beyond their understanding, but rather three most dangerous and devious criminals that had ever lived: Warlike Manchu, Doctor Satan and elderly, but still dangerous professor James Moriarty also known as “The Napoleon of Crime” and an arch-enemy of Sherlock Holmes.

They plan to bring the sunken city of R’lyeh to the surface to become wardens of the apocalyptic world created by The Great Old Ones. But to do it, they need to conduct a rather complicated ritual, that requires the use of very specific artifacts.

Will The Peregrine’s Claws be able to stop this trinity of evil from fulfilling their devious plan?

Besides really good, gripping story describing our heroes and villains race to the sunken city, and some character development for Claws members (Particularly Vincent and Sally), and an unexpected betrayal among our heroes, we also get cameos by the above mentioned Captain Hazzard (Who is actually a one-shot Doc Savage rip-off from 1937), Ki-Gor (Tarzan’s clone from 1938) and a modern Doc Savage inspired hero, Professor Stone also known as Man of Granite, created by Wayne Skiver.

Bonus points for the author, for including a certain item, that fans of 90’s comic books may recognize, and giving it a new, interesting spin. I won’t spoil it for You, but it really brought a huge nerdy grin on my face 🙂

Next we have “Devil’s Spear”, a story that has The Peregrine and his team face continue fighting the good fight after the end of World War II.

During a vacation trip to Peru, Max Davies and his friend and ally, Atlanta’s police chief Will McKenzie find the lost city of Chancillo, and within it the legendary Temple of the Onyx Goddess.

After hearing the legends of vast magical power of the Goddess figurine kept there, our hero decides that a trek through the jungle and raiding a forgotten temple filled with God knows how many traps to get it is a fun way to relax, dragging Will with himself.

Rather weird way to relax, but to be honest, when comparing it to other vacations of Mr. Davies it is positively tame…
Either way, they do find the figurine, but as it turns out, somebody else also came for it.

Abraham Klee, better known as The Stickman, rich collector of occult artifacts that had been changed into a grotesque mockery of humanity by the cursed Crimson Gem he acquired in Arabia.

According to the legends it blessed those who managed to activate it’s powers. And it did, only in a slightly different way than he expected.

He is now immortal, immune to aging and healing all, even most grievous wounds with ease, but his skin had changed into a thick, hard bark, while his limbs changed into thin branches, essentially changing him into a humanoid tree.

It hadn’t stop him from collecting even more artefacts, be it through legal means, or stealing them and murdering their owners, driven by an insatiable thirst for more magical power. And now, he has his eye set on something really, really powerful.

With the help of the superpowered mercenary calling herself Belladonna he finds a trace of the tablet that is a Rosetta Stone for deciphering famous rongorongo glyphs found on the Easter Island. According to her, those glyphs are no mundane writings, but instructions for obtaining a Key to Heaven.

Now, that doesn’t sound that bad, but The Peregrine experiences another vision sent by his dead father, showing that if Stickman manages to obtain The Key, he would gain the unrivaled power, that would let him rule the world with an iron fist.

Of course he immediately rushes to stop that future from ever happening, aided by his friend and fellow vigilante, Leonid Kaslov also dubbed “The Russian Superman”, but neither of the heroes are aware that Stickman’s insane quest is not a real danger…

As it turns out, Adolf Hitler had not died in his bunker in Berlin, instead using his body double to escape, planning to return and rebuild Third Reich in the future. But, as he soon realizes, his steadily deteriorating health would soon kill him, and once again turns to the supernatural forces for help.

He travels to Romania, where according to the legends, lies a very unusual school called Scholomance. Old tales claim, that it was built by The Devil himself to teach darkest of magic to all who were evil, or stupid enough to attend it… for the price of their souls.

Only ten students were allowed to attend at once, and those who survived with their lives and minds intact became greatest warlocks in history, but one of the ten would always remain at the school as Devil’s right hand-man to help him in his nefarious deeds.

So, former leader of the Third Reich decides to sell his soul to the enigmatic Mr. Scratch, current Devil’s aide-de-camp, in return for help. And he gets it, from one of Scholomance’s old alumni known as Count Dracula, Lord of Vampires.

Together, using a certain artifact collected by Third Reich’s infamous Occult Forces Project they can cause so much harm, that it would make Stickman’s attempts of taking over the world seem childish…

Fortunately, The Peregrine has someone to help him besides his Claws and Kaslov. One day a mysterious young woman calling herself Jenny Everywhere appears, claiming she is from the future, and has crucial information that would help our heroes to save the world.

But, would it be enough?

Truly a gripping read, with a lot of action, drama, bits of horror, changes in status quo, and introduction for the new, interesting characters.

While the story itself is rather dark, I would even say it’s the darkest one in this particular tome, involving deaths of several characters, some of whom assisted our heroes from the very beginning, and quite a lot of disturbing elements, like semi-incestuous relationship between certain villains, gore etc, it never crosses the line… too much.

Even though it has nothing on Barry Reese’s infamous (But still awesome) “Rabbit Heart”, it would be too dark and pessimistic for a Peregrine story, but thanks to Jenny’s presence it somehow balances itself out.

Now, that was actually the first time I encountered Jenny Everywhere, but the idea of ever-optimistic heroine traveling through time and space, crossing into various worlds of the infinite multiverse very appealing.

I do not know, if Barry Reese’s version of this character differs from the ones created by multitude of authors who used her in their works, but it’s been a long time since I encountered a character that is simply as likable from the start.

Her energetic personality, certain clumsiness and tendency to blurt secrets of the future to the unsuspecting people did bring a smile to my face even during the story’s bleakest moments, so I do hope Mr. Reese would invite her to his world once more somewhere in the future.

Tenth story in the omnibus, “The Ivory Machine” has The Peregrine matching his wits with the villain calling himself The Rainman, who tries to use one of the forgotten Nazi “wonder weapon” to destroy our hero, and his city.

Someone had tried to kill The Peregrine, by hiring a professional assassin James Adder, better known as Black Adder in criminal circles. Max easily manages to defeat his would be killer, and throw him into jail it soon turns out, that it was only beginning.

Frightened Adder had confessed, that the man who hired him was Samuel Garibaldi, once a right hand-man for the powerful mob boss Big Charlie, whose criminal empire was destroyed by the joint efforts by The Peregrine and Leonid Kaslov in 1933.

Garibaldi was marked by The Peregrine’s magical signet and thrown to jail, but recently he was released, and attempted to pass himself as a changed man, claiming that being defeated by Atlanta’s dark protector had shown him error in his ways.

Now, he tries to fix his tarnished reputation by participating in various philanthropic projects, and being an upstanding, law-abiding citizen. Max does not buy the story about Garibaldi’s “rebirth”, especially since he finds ex-mobster in his own home during a party hosted by his wife Evelyn.

Not to mention the fact, there is a prophecy about a “marked man” who would pose danger to himself and his loved ones…
Did Garibaldi somehow managed to discover The Peregrines secret identity? And if that wasn’t enough, something else happens.

Ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller, employed by Garibaldi managed to activate one of O.F.P’s forgotten secret weapons known as The Ivory Machine, capable of creating a phenomenon called Crimson Rain, that dissolves all living tissue it touches.

And it can easily cover whole Atlanta with those deadly chemicals, killing thousands and spreading unspeakable terror. What is worse, neither of them realizes how powerful The Ivory Machine really is, and what can it truly do.

But there is someone in the city who does…

Once again, we get a lot of action, even more character development, and a bunch of new characters, both on the side of angels, and the opposite one.

For example famous Golden Age hero Black Terror, recently experiencing a revival in the comics, appears, along with his teenage sidekick Tim, and a pair of lesser known superheroes Garry Preston/The Flame and Diana Adams/Miss Masque, further expanding the roster of colorful characters assisting The Peregrine.

I am not really sure if this particular Black Terror is the one from the original comics, or revamped version by Mr. Reese who appeared in “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray” and differed from his classic incarnation, but it’s nice to see him again, even if only for a moment.

We also get a rather good villain, even though he has little time to truly shine, but the ending does imply that he could appear again, so maybe he will? Only author will tell 😛

Then we get “The Scorched God”, my second favorite story of the bunch, right behind “The Four Peregrines”, utilizing one of the most interesting, if controversial characters in Pulp.

This time we travel to the past, to be precise to 1942, to witness one of Third Reich’s last attempts to turn the tide of the World War II.

Members of the elite all-female superhuman team working for the Axis Powers, known as The Furies arrive on the mysterious island near New Zealand in hopes of finding a legendary figure, who would help them to defeat Allies.

That person is Sun Koh, superhuman warrior with no peers, and the last prince of Atlantis, who appeared from nowhere in 1932’s London, literally falling from the sky. According to him, during the last days of Atlantis, his father had sent him to the future to protect the last descendants of Atlanteans, that is Aryans, from the new Ice Age prophesied to destroy civilization somewhere in the 20th century.

Due to his ideals of “blood purity” and “Master Aryan Race” Sun Koh quickly starts to work with Hitler, establishing a group of similarly minded, extraordinary individuals like brilliant inventor Jan Mayer (Who among other things created atomic-powered plane), hunter and outdoorsman James “Alaska Jim” Hoover, or Ahanti Garuda – self-proclaimed “Daughter of Kali” an ageless master assassin, to become the heroes of the Reich.

Fictionalized accounts of their adventures were even published in German Pulp magazines, also known as helodromans, making Sun Koh a real idol for countless young Nazis, at times eclipsing even Hitler himself.

But then, in 1938 The Man of Destiny, mysteriously disappeared without a trace. In the novels he is shown raising Atlantis from the sea, changing Greenland into a lush, paradise-like island, and conquering the world inside Hollow Earth, thus securing his people’s place as the rulers of the world.

But in reality nothing had changed, Atlantis hadn’t came back, and The Reich is still struggling with the war, so, was it all a lie? What really had happened with Sun Koh?

The Furies succeed with bringing the Aryan demigod back, but would he be able to change the course of history? Well, Warren Davies seems to think that it is possible, as he sends Max a vision of scorched Washington D.C and America destroyed by one of Koh’s super-weapons…

Now The Peregrine would face The Heir of Atlantis, but would he be able to defeat a man that is literally a walking perfection, a bona fide superhuman with no peers?

And would Sun Koh actually carry on his monstrous plan? Because it would seem, that during his disappearance he somehow changed, not necessary for the better…

I am not going to lie, I was fascinated by Sun Koh from the moment I heard about the existence of this so-called “Nazi Doc Savage”.

I mean, yes he was clearly a propaganda tool, used to popularize Nazi ideology among younger Germans, but on the other hand, as many Pulp historians had noticed, being a racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, sexist bully, who stole the treasures from so called “lesser races” just because he felt entitled to it was nothing unusual at the time.

Was the portrayal of non-white characters in Doc Savage books as either “Noble Savages” worshiping our hero’s “White Power”, bloodthirsty, primitive cannibals, or dim-witted servants speaking with broken, barely understandable English that better from Sun Koh?

I mean, the first black character we encounter is a jarringly stereotypical hotel porter, who exists only to be rescued by Doc, and then marvel about how awesome he is in a pidgin-like language… And moments before we also get Irish character, who is of course a sorry drunkard.

On the other hand one of Sun’s companions was black heavyweight boxer and former soldier Mordechai Absolam Jonathan a.k.a Rapier X, one of his girlfriends is Italian, so it would appear, that Nazi rip-off of Doc was less racist/nationalist, than the original…

Not to mention, that Sun Koh seemed to evolve into a go-to character for many New Pulp writers, who need a powerful, and interesting character for their hero to fight.

Derrick Robertson had his fan-favorite character Dillon square off against Man of Destiny alongside classic Pulp hero Jim Anthony in “The Vril Agenda”, Matthew Baugh had done the same with The Avenger in “The Sun King”, Frank Schildiner has Sun Koh fight modern incarnation of an obscure hero called Ravenwood, Stepson of Mystery and so on.

So, while to my knowledge none of the original Sun Koh stories were translated into English, the character himself still lives on, even though I do not know how different he is from his original incarnation.

Heck, he even got new stories about him written by Dr. Art Sippo, that got many great reviews from fellow Pulp lovers, so there has to be something in this Nazi knockoff of Doc…

Barry Reese nicely emphasizes his ambiguity in “The Scorched God”, because while his take on Sun Koh is still a racist, who fights for the “purity” of the world, and thinks nothing about killing “lesser races”, but has some humanizing elements of his personality.

For example he has his own code of honor, and is not above showing respect to his enemies, even if he tries to kill them. He is also able to look past people’s ancestry if they impress him enough, for example only one member of The Furies is German, but he has no problem working with them, or half-Jewish girl he encounters later.

Also, Barry Reese’s Sun Koh may be a physical and mental powerhouse, but thinks he experienced after his disappearance had caused his unbreakable will to crack a little.

When he disappeared in 1938 he was at the top of the world, surrounded by his friends and companions, fulfilling his destiny, bringing the wonders of fabled Atlantis back into the world etc. But now, the world is not as he remembers.

His friends are dead, Third Reich is struggling to grasp a victory, even though most high-ranked Nazis know that it is impossible, and his greatest triumph turned to be a fluke, a total failure. What is more, it appears that Hitler is not very happy with return of a man, that could easily replace him, based only on his popularity with the masses…

I know it’s a rather weird comparison, but this Sun Koh is as much a man out of time as Captain America. Only that Cap had awoken in a world he fought for, a world he nearly died for, but our Atlantean prince now lives in a reality that is his worse nightmare.

Mr. Reese also managed to neatly tie Sun Koh into history of his own universe, without distorting canon timeline of the character, through a rather clever maneuver I would not reveal here. Suffice to say it not only fits like a glove, but also adds another interesting layer to the character of German superhuman.

Getting back to the story itself, there is another layer to the fight between The Peregrine and Sun Koh, which is not only a personal duel between two extraordinary men, but also ideologies, as each of them embodies the qualities of their countries.
Max is a self-made man, who changed himself into undefeatable scourge of criminal underworld through years of Spartan training, near-superhuman will and dedication, as well as copious amount of sweat and blood.

On the other hand Sun Koh was born perfect, with superhuman physical attributes, and intelligence dwarfing all but select few people thanks to his Atlantean heritage.

One stands for democracy, equal chances and American Spirit, while the other is a self-assured champion of Nazism, myth of Aryan superiority, and eugenics, making their battle a classic “Nature vs. Nurture” argument.

Aside from ideology, there is a lot other things in “The Scorched God”.

Due to the fact, that it takes place in the past, Barry Reese was able to get back to basics with his character, using familiar elements like Max experiencing visions from his father, or settling down to his role as a father, Evelyn’s bigger role in his vigilante activities etc.

Our fearless hero has not yet made close ties with other Mystery Men, thus giving him no safety net to fall on, and forcing him to rely more on his wits, instinct and luck, than sheer power that some of his companions like The Catalyst, or Vincent possess.

And quite frankly, he sure is out-manned and outgunned in this story, as aside from Sun Koh himself, and a group of companions he gathers around himself, as a replacement for his own group, we also have The Furies mentioned before, who basically are Axis Powers version of… Charlie’s Angels (Only that their Charlie is certain Adolf…), and a group of religious zealots proclaiming themselves descendants of Knights Templar, hunting all manner of holy artifacts… like Max’s trusty Knife of Elohim.

This creates quite a lot of tension, as well as drama, which combined with novel’s fast pace, and as always great fight scenes makes it impossible to stop reading. I should know, as my boss had nearly caught me with my Kindle when I was supposed to be working…

Overall, a great story, and the only problem I have with it, is the fact, that it ignited my curiosity about Sun Koh, and I can’t read a word in German, while Dr. Sippo’s “Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis” is nigh impossible to get in my country, not for a lack of trying on my part…

If someone who reads knows how I can buy that ebook, I would be grateful for some hints.

Next, we have a rather short, but still fun story called “The Sins of The Past” has The Peregrine following a lead from one of his cases to the small, and a bit backwater town called Eagle Eye.

Up till 1884 it was an archetypal Wild West town, but then something unexpected happened. Every man, woman or child living there just vanished from the face of the Earth, changing once thriving Eagle Eye into a ghost town remembered only by historians, and Old West legends enthusiasts.

Our hero had acquired a box full of 19th century gold coins from a dying crook, who spun an outrageous tale about visiting a “town that should not exist”, before aging before Peregrine’s eyes, and literally crumbling into dust.

Knowing that there are things, that can’t be explained by rational means, Max decides to find the source of the coins, eventually finding Eagle Eye… as it was in 1884, apparently having been ripped out of the normal time stream by some unknown means. What is more, it project a kind of aura, that somehow affects technology, causing such modern conveniences as cars, radios etc, to stop working.

Now, The Peregrine not only has to survive in a place still living by the Old West rules, but also find out what caused strange displacement of Eagle Eye, and return to his proper time, to his family and friends…

As I said, before, the story is rather short, but still fun, and let’s be honest here, every good superhero should travel in time at least once, and The Peregrine really feels right as a western hero, so why not?

Lastly, we have “Darkness Spreads it Wings of Black”, a story centering around another of Barry Reese’s heroes, enigmatic Lazarus Gray and his crew of Assistance Unlimited, protectors of Sovereign City.

Several years ago, he was washed up the city’s shore without any memory of who he was, and how he got there. Only clue about his identity was a weird necklace hanging around his neck with an image of a naked man with a head of lion, and a name “Lazarus Gray” on the back.

After thwarting an attempt on his life by an assassin posing as a policeman, he realizes that he must have had powerful enemies in his previous life, but instead of hiding, as ordinary person would have done, our mysterious man christens himself Lazarus Gray to draw out his would-be murderers, and somehow solve the mystery of his past.

In the following months he establishes himself as a brilliant scientist proficient in all fields of knowledge, extraordinary talented detective, genius inventor, and a supremely proficient fighter with either his bare hands, or various weapons, helping various people, and slowly building himself a fortune and reputation.

Then, he decides to use his skills for something good, and creates a rather unusual agency he calls “Assistance Unlimited”, dedicated to helping all people in need, regardless of their fortune, collecting goodwill and fame instead of money, eventually being recognized as one of Sovereign City’s official protectors by it’s mayor, thus legitimizing his vigilante activities.

Soon enough, he gathers other people around himself, ones with similar sense of justice, and skills needed to fight for it.
First, we have Morgan Watts, former confidence man of various crime bosses, who used his abilities and courage as a tool for gaining more power in the underworld. But after meeting Gray our gangster realizes the futility, and emptiness of his life, and decides to atone for his sins by working with Lazarus, and becoming an ally of justice.

Being an ex-criminal he is not only great with various firearms, and used to all kinds of danger, which gives him uncanny calm in all situations, no matter how dire, he also maintains friendly relations with many of his former… co-workers, which makes him extremely useful as Assistance Unlimited informant.

Then there is Samantha Grace, a beautiful, young heiress of one of the Sovereign’s richest and most influential families. After meeting Gray during a blackmail scandal concerning her father, and becoming disillusioned by his hypocrisy, she leaves her comfortable, privileged live, and joins Assistance Unlimited.

At first glance she looks like a delicate young woman, who would only be useful with contacting Gray with other rich and influential Sovereign City’s denizens, but it’s a very misleading impression. She is not only an accomplished martial artist, who can effortlessly defeat men twice her size, who is also competent with a pistol, and a great, if a bit reckless driver.

Her mind is also not to be overlooked, as she is not only exceptionally intelligent, but also has a really vast knowledge on various topics, some of them rather exotic, making her even more extraordinary.

Last but not least, we have young Korean Eun Jiwon who tried to resist, after some crooks started to demand money for “protection” of small grocery store owned by his family. He had been mildly successful, vandalizing their various operations, though being little more than nuisance for the gangsters…

Until someone had figured out, who was behind all those acts.

Criminals had retaliated with extreme ruthlessness, burning Eun’s parents shop to the ground after brutally murdering them. That caused the young man to swear brutal vengeance on the perpetrators, turning him into real, ruthless vigilante.

Then he was found by Lazarus Gray, who channeled Eun’s anger and aggression in other, more healthy direction, as a member of Assistance Unlimited, and gave him new family, as well as goal.

While Eun Jiwon is no less proficient with firearms than other two of Gray’s companions, his true skills lie in unarmed combat, in which he only has a few peers. As mentioned before, he is also a bit more ruthless than others, even jaded Morgan, and craves danger, welcoming it, instead of feeling fear.

Together they battled gangs, psychopathic killers, kidnappers, cultists, sorcerers, mad scientists monsters from beyond our world, but their latest case would lead them into conflict with the infamous vigilante known as The Peregrine.

Horribly mutilated body of a young socialite named Claudia Schuller is found near Sovereign City’s police headquarters in an unusually bold, even brazen move. But it’s not all, because her murderer apparently decided to give the law enforcement some clues.

A small packet was sewn to the skin between victim’s shoulder blades, containing not only her birth certificate, but also numerous business cards, photographs and pieces of paper with the names of city’s richest and most influential men.

There is also an address book belonging to the infamous rich playboy, Max Davies, who just happens to be visiting Sovereign during the time of the murder.

Mr. Davies also has somewhat tarnished reputation among the law enforcement, as he was accused of being connected with mysterious vigilante called The Peregrine, or even of being the masked crime fighter, but nothing was proved.

Gray’s self-appointed adversary in the Sovereign PD, inspector Cord is convinced, that it was Davies who killed the girl, especially since they were seen together shortly before her death, but leader of Assistance Unlimited is not so sure about Max’s fault…

What Lazarus doesn’t know, Max Davies really is The Peregrine, and decides to use his experience and skills to find the murderer by himself. Which would not be as big of a problem, as both of them had worked with other heroes in the past, if not for a slight difference in their modus operandi.

While Gray and Assistance Unlimited try their hardest to work within boundaries of the law, and do not use lethal force unless absolutely necessary, while The Peregrine prefers to deal with his enemies permanently, usually through the use of his trusty firearms.

Also, while Gray is acknowledged by the authorities, even if a bit grudgingly at times, The Peregrine is considered to be a murderer and criminal, who is constantly hunted by the police, so it is assured, that they would not be particularly friendly inclined to one another.

In the meantime, new hero calling himself The Dark Gentleman appears, apparently interested in the case as much as two older heroes.

In reality, he is Michael Groseclose, the only son of the rich publisher Theodore Groseclose, who among other things owns “The Sovereign Gazette”. Seeing the decay, rampaging crime, and corruption of the city, as well as people like his father turning blind eye to it, he decided to drop out of college, and try doing something about it.

Now, hiding his face behind a mask he decides to make his debut on Sovereign City’s already crowded vigilante scene, by solving the case of Claudia Schuller. Problem is, he lacks real experience, and his determination can only get him so far, especially when it’s revealed that it is not an ordinary murder…

It is more of an Lazarus Gray story, than it is about The Peregrine, but the clash between two heroes is rather entertaining, especially when considering their different ideologies, and methods, as mentioned above.

It’s also serves as a good introduction not only to the characters connected with the Assistance Unlimited, but also Sovereign City Universe as a whole, as up till now Max Davies was contained to his own stories, lacking any real connection to the other works by Barry Reese.

Now, I already knew that Lazarus Gray is awesome character, having read five volumes of his adventures, but I am sure, that this story would cause at least some readers to familiarize themselves with his adventures, and the universe he lives in.

It was other way around for me, as I got interested in The Peregrine after reading this particular story in “Lazarus Gray Adventures Omnibus”, but I guess that it’s just a proof that it works.

And let’s not forget about The Dark Gentleman, because “Darkness Spreading it’s Wings of Black” gives us three New Pulp heroes for the price of one, which is of course rather nice.

We also get some detective work, few dynamic fights, character interaction, and quite a bit of supernatural elements, which makes for a tasty treat for every Pulp fan.

Overall, as I said before, the second omnibus of The Peregrine’s adventures is even better than the first, which was great. Author’s style had improved, his characters got even more interesting, the world had expanded…

Also, the release of the book itself is also superior to the first one, which was riddled with typos, or weird editing in some places, as well as other distracting mistakes in it. Now I had to look for anything like that, and was hard pressed to find it, which is a definitive improvement.

As a bonus we get really great illustrations by Anthony Castrillo, whose style reminds me of classic 70’s and 80’s comics, that really add add a bit of dynamics to the book.

If I was forced to nitpick, I would have to say, that some characters look a bit different than Barry Reese’s descriptions of them. For example Mr. Castrillo’s Peregrine has a regular domino mask, instead the one stylized to look as a bird’s beak, as described in the text, and Sun Koh’s clothes look a bit too supervillain-ish, but as I said it is just me nitpicking.

Another minor flaw of “The Peregrine Omnibus – Volume Two” is the fact, that three of the stories within it, “The Four Peregrines”, “The Diabolical Mr. Dee”, and “Darkness Spreads it Wings of Black” had already appeared in other books by Mr. Reese, to be precise “A Family Grace – An Extraordinary Story”, and “The Adventures of Lazarus Gray”, so if someone is, like me, a massive fan of his work, then the the experience is somewhat spoiled.

I had no real problems with that, since they are still great stories, and reading them again was as enjoyable as for the first time, but hey, I was supposed to nitpick, so here it is.

In a nutshell, if someone is fan of Barry Reese’s work, then chances are, that he or she already has this book in their collection. Same is for people who like good action-adventure stories with a supernatural twist.

I can only sincerely recommend it, and assure everyone that they would get they money’s worth with it. And more.
Now, only if we got new Peregrine stories soon…

Wow, that was long… So, sorry about that, but I really felt the need to write about how I liked it.

Thanks for all that – I think your review might have been longer than some of the stories in the omnibus 😉

I’m hard at work on a new Peregrine novel as we speak so you should be happy to hear that.

I appreciate the insight, my friend!

One thought on “A Massive Review of Peregrine V. 2

  1. Wojtek says:

    It’s not really that long.

    Only… [Looks into a Word file with this review]… 20 pages!? I really have no idea how that had happened…

    As for the new Peregrine novel, I sure am happy, though I wonder what he could face now…

    I mean, Max had stopped the apocalypse several times, fought cultists, secret societies, Nazis, gangsters, undead, sorcerers, gods, monsters from beyond reality, super-villains and so on.

    After so many novels it probably is rather hard to find a challenge for such an character, so I am readying myself for being surprised yet again 🙂

    And there is that crossover novel to think about. I really am curious what kind of danger could bring Lazarus Gray, The Peregrine and Gravedigger together, since all three of them fight planetary-scale dangers on regular basis…

    Also, since I recently had bought, and of course read “The Family Grace: An Extraordinary History” I would like to ask, if You have any plans of bringing the Grace clan into The World of Shadows once again somewhere in the future?

    I mean, Samantha and Charity Grace are prominent characters in the Sovereign Universe, so IMO those two badass women would be great at continuing their trans-dimensional family legacy…

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