Wojtek is back with an in-depth look at the third volume in The Peregrine Omnibus series. Let’s see what he had to say:
“Third time, and still with charm!”
I am not going to lie.
I am an incurable fanboy of Mr. Reese’s writing, so I was really waiting for this book to be released since I finished “The Peregrine Omnibus – Volume Two” back in January of 2016.
In my opinion, the second omnibus was even better than the first, and also contained my favorite stories with Max Davies/The Peregrine – “The Four Peregrines” and “The Scorched God”, so my expectations were rather high.
But this time Barry Reese has given his faithful readers something very different, because out of eleven stories contained in this volume, only one was written by him.
And what about the other ten? Well, Mr. Reese has “loaned” his oldest hero to other authors, letting each of them provide their own, unique look on The Peregrine, and his world.
Initially, I was a bit skeptical about this idea, because no one would understand the character like his creator, but on the other hand, those authors are experts on New Pulp, so I knew it would uphold certain levels of quality.
And after reading those stories I am sure of one thing: I want to see more stories written by those people, because their versions of The Peregrine were awesome.
But let’s start from the beginning.
First story in the omnibus is “The Killing Games” by Barry Reese.
It starts in 1937, a year after “The Lucifer’s Cage”, the first published adventure of Max Davies / The Peregrine.
Our hero and his newlywed wife, Evelyn Gould-Davies are having a little vacation, sailing the seas on their yacht, enjoying themselves and relaxing, far from danger posed by criminals, mad scientists, occultists, demons, and other assorted nastiness that Max fights on daily basis.
But anyone who had read about his previous adventures knows that the Davies family has a rather poor track record when it comes to vacation, as every time, when Max tries to relax, something happens, like a mad scientist trying to take over France with a cloned army, a warped collector of ancient artifacts trying to find a Key to Heavens, Hitler joining forces with Dracula to take over the world…
Compared to that, a mere storm that destroys their yacht, and leaves them shipwrecked on a mysterious island, that does not appear on any map seems rather tame, but no less dangerous… Especially when they find an ominous-looking European-style castle in the middle of it, and the first person they see is a wounded man, who was apparently hunted by an armed thug dressed in a hunting attire, with a pack of bloodthirsty dogs.
Though shocked, our heroes remain in hiding, when the thuggish “hunter” kills his victim, and decide to pretend being just shipwrecked tourists, until they can properly investigate the situation, which proves to be a rather good strategy, when they notice that the castle is packed with armed men.
They soon find out, that the owner of the castle, and the island itself is a German nobleman, baron Werner Preston, who accidentally turns out to be a huge fan of Evelyn’s movies, and is thus ecstatic to be able to play host to his favorite actress. Which would be rather good, if not for few little things:
Firstly, the Baron is also a soldier of Third Reich, and a devout follower of Nazism. And let’s say that Max and Evelyn have plenty reasons to hate Nazis, having fought against them before.
Secondly, the Baron’s personal bodyguard, and second-in-command is Klaus – he’s rather aggressive and openly distrustful of them. Not to mention the fact that it was him who our heroes had seen murdering a man in the nearby forest.
Thirdly, the island they are on is not really an island, but something much more.
It is basically a world largest raft, powered by huge, cutting-edge engines, that can be used not only as a mobile military base, but also airfield, submarine base etc. Of course something like that could be a powerful weapon of unparalleled power.
Especially, since it is not only super-technology in our villain’s hands…
And lastly, being such a fan of Evelyn’s talent and beauty, Baron Preston would love nothing more, than to drag her to his bedchamber, of course after getting rid of her husband beforehand…
Story itself is pretty simple, but what makes it work, is the fact, that it is not really about The Peregrine, but instead gives much of the spotlight to Evelyn. By switching the perspective to her, we can not only observe, how she gets used to be a wife of an infamous vigilante, but also see some things, that were not noticeable from Max’s perspective.
For example Ms. Davies notices, that her husband becomes a different person when he puts on his famous mask, changing his posture, body language and voice, as if transforming from a Max Davies to Peregrine through act of will. Our hero probably does not even notice this, but his wife does, and with her so do we.
Aside from that, Barry Reese once again proves, he knows how to write really badass women, as we can also see how resourceful and brave Ms. Davies can be when situation calls for it, but I will stop here, since spoilers are evil.
To sum up, good story to start with, and leaving the reader eager for more.
Next, we have “The Miss Beantown Affair” by Ron Fortier, veteran comic-book and novel author, as well as the creator of Brother Bones, Undead Avenger of Cape Noire.
The story takes place in 1929, only a year into The Peregrine’s crime fighting career, showing us much younger, and less experienced Max Davies, during his time in Boston.
Being something of a celebrity, due to being a heir to rich family, high-society’s favorite, and notorious playboy, Max is asked to be one of judges in the prestigious beauty pageant, that would be visited by all of Boston’s rich and influential, even gathering the interest of few famous people from beyond the city, like the star of Hollywood westerns Charles “Buck” Jones, or Sheik Al-Farouk, incredibly rich oil tycoon, known for his luxurious, and scandalous lifestyle.
All in all, Max hopes for a quiet night for once, but of course, his famous Davies Luck would not allow such a thing…
Soon after our hero arrives, Faneuil Hall, where the pageant takes place, is attacked by a group of armed thugs, who started shooting randomly, causing widespread panic and chaos. Of course Mr. Davies immediately jumps in to stop them, unexpectedly assisted by Buck Jones, and the two of them manage to fend off the assailants, but not before remaining goons manage to kidnap three of the girls, that were supposed to take part in the pageant.
Well, Max Davies couldn’t dream of finding them, and capturing the perpetrators, but The Peregrine can, and would, especially since he recognized one of the thugs, who led the attack, as Irish gangster named Calvin Noonan. But why would he attack a beauty pageant and kidnap it’s participants?
Aside from solving the mystery of the kidnapping, Max would also have to dodge attention from the Boston’s Police Department, or to be precise, Detective Sergeant Elias “Blackdog” Fergusson, who suspected that carefree heir to the Davies fortune is either working with Peregrine, or even is the infamous vigilante himself for some time, and is determined to prove his theory, which would of course complicate matters with our hero’s investigation…
As I had written before, Max Davies/The Peregrine presented to us by Mr. Fortier is much less experienced, than fearless crime fighter we are used to, more prone to mistakes, and being a bit of adrenaline junkie, which is rather interesting. Not to mention the fact, that Max’s exploits in Boston, that eventually lead him to temporarily retiring, and moving to Atlanta were just mentioned in passing until now, so it neatly fills some blanks in our hero’s past.
For example we get mentions of Max’s uncle, who had took him in, when our hero’s parents had died, giving him a semblance of normality, that kept young heir to the Davies legacy sane, when he was struggling with the tragedy he went through, and the nightmare of his visions.
There are also parts, when we can observe Mr. Davies in his “carefree playboy” persona, and how much it costs him, to maintain the façade, when he would rather investigate the crime, instead of rubbing shoulders with other rich and famous, which is quite interesting, as we rarely see this side of Max in the other stories.
Detective Fergusson is also a rather interesting character on his own, and the one I would like to read a bit more about. He is described as being the only African-American in the Boston PD with a rank of the detective, which is a rather big feat, considering casual racism of those times, something that only a man with a will of steel could have achieved.
Even his nickname “Blackdog” is a testament to that, originally used as a racist slur by those, who wanted to demean his skills, that later evolved into a complement describing his uncanny ability to always get the criminal he is after, no matter what.
I really do hope, that we would be able to read a story centering on his pursuit of The Peregrine, as he would make a very interesting, and unusual opponent for Max’s alter-ego. Especially since earlier stories had alluded to the fact, that it was Fergusson, who caused Mr. Davies to leave Boston, and temporarily retire…
This story itself, is also more down-to-earth than for example “The Killing Games”, not using any fantastical elements connected with the character, like his supernatural powers, super-technologies, occult etc, leaving us with The Peregrine facing mundane, street-level crime, which is also an interesting change, from all those world-threatening menaces he usually faces.
If I had to single out any flaw in “The Miss Beantown Affair”, then I would point out how predictable the plot is, as guessing the main villain’s identity is very easy.
It’s not really bad, cause in my opinion, the story itself is more focused on our main character, than his enemies, but I thought Ron Fortier prepared the character, that turned out to be the mastermind behind everything as a red herring, to disguise the real villain, expected a twist near the end, and hadn’t got it.
But all in all, a very solid story, showcasing both an unknown episode from The Peregrine’s history, and Mr. Fortier’s writing skills, so all of the above complains could really be dismissed as nitpicking at my part.
Third story in the omnibus is “Where There’s Smoke…” by Bobby Nash, who is amongst other things known as the author of new stories with classic Pulp-Heroine Domino Lady, and new Pulp-inspired hero, private investigator Rick Ruby.
His story starts with a bang, or rather with flames, as we meet The Peregrine, when he tries to escape the burning building, having fallen into a trap, set up by a professional arsonist, working for one of mob bosses he is investigating.
You see, lately there’s been a new, and powerful player in Atlanta’s crime underworld, Italian mobster hailing from New York named Bennecio Tommasso, looking to expand his criminal empire. Of course our masked vigilante is not very pleased with this, and tries to shut down Tommassino’s operation before Italian gangster manages to gain power in the city, but so far he’s been unable to pin anything solid on the shrewd criminal.
Looking for damning evidence he could present to his friend, and Atlanta’s Chief of Police; Will McKenzie, Peregrine follows the information obtained from a crook called Jerry The Rat, and breaks into one of Tommassino’s offices, only to find an exploding booby-trap, that quickly changed it into a raging inferno, forcing our hero to fight for his life.
But even if he managed to get out of the fiery trap, there is also the matter of the man who set it out, professional arsonist equipped with an assortment of Molotov’s Cocktails, and a flamethrower, not to mention his distinctive fire- and bulletproof costume, who would not let his victim to escape alive…
While the story is very simple, it makes up for it by sheer amount of action we get out of it, to be honest “Where There’s Smoke…” is more like a big, non-stop action scene by itself, not giving it’s hero, nor it’s reader even a moment to catch a breath.
Daring escape, rooftop chase, multi-part fight with the arsonist, explosions, fires… Coupled with Mr. Nash’s writing style it makes for a really dynamic, and gripping read.
You can’t really put it down, until you read it from start to finish… Which in my opinion came just a bit too early. Don’t get me wrong, the story has a satisfying conclusion, but the very last sentence promises us a little follow up, we ultimately don’t get.
If only we got one scene, even a very short one showing The Peregrine getting to Bennecio Tommasso, I don’t know, maybe one where we see mafia boss celebrating our hero’s death , only to hear Max’s infamous catchphrase… Then it would be perfect, at least in my eyes.
But aside from my nitpicking and wishful thinking, Bobby Nash gave us short, but fun, action-filled story, so what’s not to like?
Next, we get “Onyx Raven” by Mike Bullock, probably best known for his stories starring Lee Falk’s legendary hero, The Phantom.
Max Davies is relaxing on the porch of his country home, enjoying a quiet evening far from criminals, mortal danger etc., sipping lemonade, thinking about his beloved wife, who is away working on her newest movie, and being content with his life…
Which as we all know, can’t really last long, considering his horrible luck in situations right that. And sure enough, when Atlanta’s defender starts to doze off on while listening to cicadas chirps something does happens.
Speeding car with dented bumper and cracked window nearly crashes into his porch, and horrified boy, no older than twelve, and dressed in ragged, dirty clothes jumps out of it, and shoves something into our baffled hero’s hands, while babbling about someone killing his mother, and grandfather and losing consciousness.
After taking care of the boy, Max examines the item his little guest had given him, that turns out to be an intricate, ornate carving of a bird made out of pure onyx. But when he starts to check his library on occult, about the statue, another unexpected guest visits him.
Enigmatic man dressed in sleeveless black trench coat, and fedora, with a cross painted on his face calling himself Xander Janus appears in the window of Mr. Davies study. Man claims to be something called Guardian of The Worlds, and informs baffled Max, that the item in his possession is the infamous Onyx Raven.
According to the legend, it was carved by a priest enslaved by one of the last pharaohs of the Egyptian Empire, and infused with power of the demonic being known as Cirith Ungol. Thanks to that unholy energy, possessor of the Raven is able to control the air, as well as any black bird , and to bring a terrible plague that no one can hide from.
When Ungol was defeated, artefact’s connection to him was severed, but the power itself remained, and became even more potent in time, devouring pieces of souls of those, who sought to master it’s abilities through the ages, even gaining something resembling a sentience.
That would be bad enough by itself, but there is more.
Apparently an ambitious German soldier and occultist named Viktor Luftanzen, jealous of Hitler’s growing influence had made a deal with Cirith Ungol, to gain his dark powers, thus enabling him to take Führer ‘s position for himself.
Unfortunately for him, deals with beings from the Netherworld are never what they appear as, since Ungol fulfills his promise in a way, that Viktor hadn’t anticipated… Sure, his body was filled with the unholy might of the fallen being, but as a result he became a vessel for Cirith Ungol’s spirit, thus becoming nothing more than a shell for the demon.
Now, newly embodied monster looks for the Raven, hoping to once again fuse it’s power with his own, and unleashing the plague that would lead to humanity’s extinction.
He killed the boy’s family to get it, and would stop at nothing to achieve his aims, so, The Peregrine and Xander decide to use The Onyx Raven as a bait, hoping that they would be able to destroy Cirith Ungol once for all.
But that would prove to be much harder, than they expected, even with skills and experience they both possess…
With this story we get back to the classic setup of The Peregrine fighting a supernatural danger from taking over/destroying the world, but it’s a bit different this time, thanks to the presence of mysterious Xander, who turns out to be rather interesting character himself.
I don’t know if he is a previously existing character, that I simply hadn’t encountered before, or is he an original creation of Mr. Bullock, but I would really like to see more stories with him, because even his relatively short appearance in this story leaves You wanting for more.
Apparently Xander Janus is not really a name, but rather a title passed down from father to son since ancient times. Each of them is connected to the spirits of his forefathers, giving them sum of all skills and experiences of their predecessors, as well as the ability to ask for they counsel.
Modern incarnation of Xander is a proficient hand-to-hand fighter, and a powerful mage, enhancing his skills with artefacts, like his totemic armband, enabling him to sense rips in the fabric of reality, and those who come to our world through them, or his magical staff, giving him power to create portals, and defeat supernatural beings.
Overall with his striking looks, perfectly captured in the illustrations by George Sellas, we get a really interesting hero, that could probably use a solo story, and enhances the enjoyment of reading “Onyx Raven”.
Aside from him we get fast-paced action scenes, monstrous villain, bit of horror, and suspense, in short, everything one could want from The Peregrine story.
Fifth story is “The Curse of Baron Samedi” by Percival Constantine, author of “Mythunter” series, superhero-themed “Vanguard” and creator of demonic investigator/mercenary Luther Cross.
This time we travel to the 2010 London, defended by Max Davies successor, former journalist named Ian Morris, who inherited the mantle of The Peregrine after his legendary predecessor died of old age, as shown in “Black Mass Barrier”.
This version of Britain’s capitol is rather different from our world’s however, since in 2006 supernatural cataclysm had caused the creation of supernatural barrier, letter known as Black Mass Barrier, which had caused the Earth to be plunged into eternal darkness.
With it, various being though to be superstition and myth, like Fae, demons, vampires, werewolves and undead had revealed their existence, and the magic had returned, changing human society forever.
Such dark an chaotic world needs a very strong protector, and fourth Peregrine is such a person, tirelessly fighting forces of darkness, with help of his comrade, and lover, Fiona Grace, heiress to the famous heroic legacy, tied to the supernatural side of the world.
Together they keep Britain safe, defeating both monsters, and humans trying to harness powers of darkness, but this time they may encounter an enemy, that would be too much even for our fearless duo.
Ian experiences a vision of a powerful man with a skull painted over his face, with long silver hair and a top hat, who commands the army of undead monstrosities, that threatens to overrun the living.
After consulting with a famous expert on the supernatural, Ascott Keane, arch-enemy of the sinister Doctor Satan, also known as The Occult Detective, they confirm that the vision is indeed true, and may concern a reclusive billionaire and an avid collector of occult artefacts, Sir Richard Leigh.
Problem is, that Leigh is dead, or at least presumed to be dead, so he couldn’t be the person, that Ian and Ascott had saw in their visions… But, couldn’t he really?
Nowadays death is not necessarily permanent, especially with the right rituals, or magical items. Not to mention, that he supposedly died in Haiti, a place with its own magic, one that is old and powerful…
This story immediately sparked my interest, because while Ian Morris/Peregrine IV had appeared in previous stories, “Black Mass Barrier” and my favorite “The Four Peregrines”, we never actually saw him during his crime fighting career, as both stories featuring him are focusing on the other characters, leaving him with more of a supporting role.
Additionally, in “Black Mass Barrier” he is not yet a vigilante, while in “The Four Peregrines” he is an experienced, if worn out, and cynical hero, while this particular story shows him as experienced, but still little baffled with all the weirdness surrounding him, not to mention full of doubt.
Yes, he is doing best he can, and gained quite a notoriety during his previous adventures, but still has some lingering doubts if he is a worthy heir to The Peregrine legacy, being the first person outside Davies family to bear it. I mean, each of his predecessors was a legend in their own right, and saved the world at least several times, so the pressure he feels in not unwarranted…
Additionally, despite living in an age where supernatural is a new normal, Ian is still rather lost, when it comes to magic-based crimes, and feels a little but uncomfortable around occult practitioners like Ascott Keane, finding them a bit creepy.
Fiona on the other hand, was raised to be a weapon against darkness, to continue her family’s famous legacy, feeling right at home when slaying vampires with an enchanted sword, or discussing dark rituals connected with human sacrifice, something that her lover and crime fighting partner considers a bit weird.
Being accustomed both to supernatural, and being a heir to an old, heroic legacy, she tries to support Ian, and reassure him about his work as The Peregrine, and relieve him of tension through playful banter, while also having his back, when the need arises.
Relationship between our protagonists is one of the strongest parts of “The Curse of Baron Samedi”, while reading one could feel that those two went through a lot together, trust each other without reservation, and of course, care about each other.
Casual, even playful banter between them, even during fights with the forces of evil also adds a bit of humor, which of course is also a plus.
It kind of reminded me of Max and his wife’s Evelyn interactions, when she joined The Peregrine in his adventures, near the beginning of their marriage, and made me miss those older stories, when Ms. Davies shown her badass credentials…
Aside from that, we get quite a lot of well-written, fast-paced action, bit of tension and horror, all brought together, so really I can only recommend reading it
Next we have the story titled “The Peregrine Nevermore!” by Tommy Hancock, one of the founding fathers of Sovereign City Universe, that sees The Peregrine fight against one of classic Pulp villains.
Max Davies gets an urgent call from his best friend and ally, Atlanta’s Chief of Police Will McKenzie, who calls our hero to the crime scene in the middle of the night. While it is nothing unusual for Chief McKenzie to call for The Peregrine’s help with the case, this time he asked Mr. Davies to join him in his civilian identity, something he never did before.
What is more, aside from Will himself, there is no policeman around, as if he wanted to keep this mysterious case under wraps, which is also rather out of character for him.
It soon becomes clear why:
A beat cop had found a body of a young woman laying among the garbage in a desolate alley. It looks, like she was drained of all body fluids, leaving only a dried out husk with a leathery grey skin, barely looking like a human being anymore.
And Mr. Davies knows her, having seen her alive only three hours earlier.
She is, or rather was, Bridget Connors, a recipient of one of awards given by our hero, for her humanitarian efforts in helping Atlanta’s poor, which she did with passion and heart, as she herself hailed from impoverished background.
Now, her death, while horrifying and sudden, could be considered a random act of violence by some unnamed madman, if not for one thing: Someone had put The Peregrine’s mask on her face, making her death a taunt to Atlanta’s defender, thus making it personal for our hero.
Then it is revealed, that it is also a trap in itself, as Chief McKenzie is possessed by the mastermind behind it all, infamous villain calling himself Doctor Death.
In the past, he was a dean of psychology from Yale, Dr. Rance Mandarin, but under unknown circumstances, he had decided that humanity is a plague, that ravaged Earth, and tries to return the world to its “natural state” by destroying our civilization, using various nefarious means to achieve his aims, like magic, occultism and alchemy.
He was pursued by “the supernatural detective” Jimmy Holm, and a group of his allies, known as The Secret Twelve, who had managed to defeat the madman some time ago. But now Doctor Death had returned, and is apparently very interested in The Peregrine, sensing a potential, that even Max himself is not aware of.
To test this potential, Dr. Death proposes a little “competition” between himself, and our hero:
Max has to get to his home before sunrise, which is roughly in two hours, and if he is late, his tormentor would slay his wife and children in a most vile, depraved and sadistic way possible.
That would be doable, if not for two things:
Firstly Doctor Death would use all of his considerable mystical powers, to stop Mr. Davies from reaching his destination, raising armies of undead, controlling the weather, ensnaring unsuspecting people, or summoning monsters from beyond our world.
Secondly, it is Max Davies who has to get to his loved ones, not The Peregrine, which basically means, that our hero can only use skills and resources he has in his civilian identity, so no bulletproof suit, no modified pistols, or even his trusty magical knife.
If Max breaks this rule, Doctor Death would consider himself a winner of their little “game”, and proceed with his visit to Davies home.
Now, The Peregrine had faced many frightening and dangerous situations, but would Max Davies be able to fare as well, as his alter-ego?
The story itself is very fast-paced, and full of action, pitting Max against a wide variety of opponents, and obstacles, which is rather standard for a Peregrine story, but by removing his trademark gadgets and weapons, Mr. Hancock had managed to show another layer to our hero.
Max Davies has no game changing magical artifacts, his powers, or weapons, which forces him to rely on his wits, and think on his feet in face of near-impossible odds, which also adds quite a bit of tension to the story.
Being a huge fan of classic Pulp villains, I was also rather happy with the author’s decision to use Doctor Death, and showing rather clearly, that hooded eco-terrorist with mystical powers still has a lot potential as an antagonist, even though he is largely forgotten.
I do hope, he would appear more in future stories, a team-up with Doctor Satan, or Warlike Manchu would certainly be interesting…
My only problem with “The Peregrine Nevermore!”, if You really want to nitpick, if the fact that certain terms are written differently, than I am used to, for example we get mentions of “Warlike Man Chu” not “Warlike Manchu”, or “zombi” instead of “zombie”, but I am not sure if those are typos, or not…
But other than that, it was a fast, thrilling read, that left no place for boredom, or even a breath, so I can’t really do more, than praise it.
Next we get a slower, more introspective story called “The Death of Keystone”, by Russ Anderson, best known for his “Fly Girl” series.
Max Davies attends a funeral of his fellow vigilante, man called The Keystone, masked defender of Chicago, who was using an enchanted pendant he wore to get “strength of ten men”, and punish the evildoers.
While Mr. Davies, or rather The Peregrine wasn’t particularly close to the younger hero, they did work together on several cases, and The Keystone managed to save Max’s life once, so he felt he should at least pay his respects, but soon decides to involve himself a bit more.
As it turns out that Clive Stone, man hidden behind The Keystone’s mask was a respected architect of considerable skill, as well as a husband and father of three, but his family had no idea about his nocturnal activities.
Now, Max himself never had this particular problem, with Evelyn knowing his secret identity from the very start of their relationship, but empathizes with the widow’s situation, and decides to try to comfort her, and tell her of all of good her husband has done.
While the grieving widow, Samantha, is initially rather angered by the appearance of the masked vigilante in her home, she eventually agrees with The Peregrine’s idea, and learns about The Keystone, while Max himself learns about Clive, what had motivated him, and what had pushed him to become a hero.
In the meantime, local mob boss named Freddy Hoover, man behind The Keystone’s murder decides to “finish the job”, by killing hero’s remaining family at the urging of his sadistic lover/aide, Nazi agent and occultist Jacoba Kirch, who has her own unfinished business both with the fallen hero, and The Peregrine…
As I mentioned, “The Death of Keystone” is a slower story, using a lot of flashbacks, and building an atmosphere through dialogue, not action scenes, though when such a scene appears, it is appropriately dynamic, so no complains here.
But really, getting to know Clive Stone / The Keystone is much more interesting, that nefarious plot of our villains, as Russ Anderson had given us a very complicated, and multi-faceted character, one that I would really like to see in more stories, so it was really a shame, that he is already dead.
Mr. Stone was a man with strong convictions, and exceptional sense of justice, which enabled him to see evils Nazism long before most people in America even heard of Hitler, but was left disappointed with his countrymen’s ignorance, and inaction.
Then Pearl Harbor happened, and sensing that now was the time to act, Clive enlisted, ready to fight for freedom, democracy and justice… only to be rejected, despite being a strong, healthy man, due to his flat feet.
Bitter, and disappointed he had thrown himself into his work, neglecting his wife and children, but then, he accidentally finds the magical pendant filled with power, one that he could use to fight evil on his own terms…
Problem is, that having good intentions is not really enough to be a hero, even if one has superhuman powers, and this whole vigilante business is a bit different, than Clive had expected.
Nevertheless, he is still a good man, who wants to make the world better, despite being rather inexperienced, and not being prepared for some things his older colleagues, like The Peregrine encounter in their line of work.
It is quite interesting to see Clive from both his wife’s and Max’s perspective, because certain events play out rather differently, when observed from a various angles.
For example, in one of the flashbacks, we see The Keystone being late for his team-up with The Peregrine, which causes Max to doubt his younger colleague’s dedication about being the vigilante, but then his wife explains, that this day Clive was left alone with his sons, as she was away, and thus couldn’t make it on time.
As Samantha notices, it was probably the first time a crimefighter has been almost foiled by quilting bee…
Overall, “The Death of Keystone” is a very good story, even if it is a bit different.
In the next story “The Fist of Lao Fang” by James Palmer, creator of the supernatural detective Sam Eldritch, we once again see the future of The Peregrine’s legacy.
It all starts on August 9, 2043 in Atlanta.
Owner of the Grace Industries dies, leaving his whole fortune to his daughter Kara, a young woman who is barely twenty, and feels a bit overwhelmed with the fact, that she now owns a powerful mega-corporation, and has a long legacy to uphold.
But it turns out, that her life only began to get really hard…
After talking to her best friend, daughter of Grace Industries CFO, Ellie Winters, over Disney-Skype, Kara suddenly feels dizzy, and sees a vision of two men dressed in black riot gear attacking Ellie, apparently trying to kidnap her.
Though she is frightened, nauseous, and in pain, Ms. Grace nevertheless manages to call Grace Industries security, and warn them about the attack, which somehow turns out to be real. Due to the timely warning by our heroine, Ellie’s bodyguards manage to stop would-be-kidnappers, but Kara herself is rather shocked, since apparently she can see the future.
And then, while watching a celebrity self-improvement guru named Simon Ling on TV, she experiences another vision, showing the so-called “expert on human potential” dressed in an ornate Asian robe, instead of his customary expensive suit, and commanding a group of aggressive men armed to the teeth, which unnerves our heroine…
Especially when on the next day she finds out, that a cache of automatic weapons was stolen from police impound.
Then, young Ms. Grace is visited by a rather unexpected guest: a ghost of Max Davies, formerly known as the infamous vigilante, The Peregrine. He explains, that he had sent those visions to Kara, just like his own father had done to him all those years ago, because the world needs Peregrine, and our heroine had been chosen to carry on the legacy.
Now, Kara Grace is far from the stereotypical spoiled rich girl, being well educated, and having trained herself in self-defense and martial arts since childhood, not to mention having cutting edge technologies of her family’s company at her disposal, but would it be enough?
Especially since Simon Ling turns out to be someone much more dangerous, than an over-ambitious celebrity, in fact he is an ancient being called Lao Fang, an immortal follower of the forgotten, dark deity called Yogul, and would stop at nothing to ensure his gods supremacy over the “failed human society”.
Such an opponent would be a problem even for the original Peregrine, not to mention an unexperienced, aspiring heroine, but fortunately, as she soon finds out, Max Davies specter is not the only ally she has, but saying more would spoil things, so I’ll end it here
It is always interesting to see the future of Peregrine’s legacy, especially since we haven’t seen this particular future yet. At least I think so, since Kara is pretty surprised by existence of magic, and ghost, and if it was the same timeline, as the one where we had seen Ian Morris/Peregrine IV and Fiona Grace, such things would be common…
The fact, that one piece of dialogue mentions the fact, that in this version of history, our masked crime fighter was last seen in the 1940’s could imply, that here William, Emma and Ian had not taken the mantle of The Peregrine after Max retired seems to reinforce that theory, but then again, I could be reading too much into it.
Our newest Peregrine is also quite interesting as a character, because when examined a bit closer, she is actually quite similar to Max. Let’s see… An orphaned heir of a rich and powerful family, fights evil to honor ideals of her late father, gets visions from an enigmatic ghostly advisor…
Both of them are also quite headstrong, and capable of improvising in the face of danger, not to mention their shared tendency to verbally spar with their opponents.
Of course Kara is a lot less experienced than Max was, even at the beginning of his career as a vigilante, and lacks his knowledge of occult, but is no less driven than him.
Mr. Davies is also in a rather interesting situation, being his newest heir’s mentor from beyond the grave, and sending her
visions, just like his own father had done to him. As we all remember, Max hated the visions, and was hurt by the fact, that a man he dedicated his whole life to avenging, had changed him into his weapon against evil.
But now, he is doing the same to someone else, even though he hates it…
I would really love to see that plotline expanded in the future, to see what had happened to Max in this version of history, to force him to use such methods, and get a bit more interaction between him and Kara.
Story’s villain, Simon Ling/Lao Fang is also quite good, with a strong mad scientist/evil cultist vibe, and cultured, calm, even regal exterior hiding his temper, and disdain for humanity. His master plan, which I would not discuss here, because spoilers are evil, is also quite interesting, and rather entertaining to watch it unfold.
My only problem with Lao Fang has nothing to do with the character himself, but rather my expectations.
I mean, yeah, he is a good villain, as I mentioned before, but I really had hopes, that Lao Fang, would turn out to be some kind of alias for fan-favorite Warlike Manchu, adding a personal layer to his fight with newest Peregrine, taking his long conflict with Max Davies into account…
Still, if my only problem with our antagonist, and to be honest, the story itself, is the fact, that Lao Fang is not my favorite Peregrine villain, speaks highly about “The Fist of Lao Fang”, and sheds a less flattering light on myself as a reader…
Next, we return to the first half of 20th century with “African Darkside” by David White, creator of the fallen angel turned detective, Magee.
Group of small-time crooks led by a man named Hardy LaRou, attempts to steal priceless Egyptian artifacts from the newest exhibition in the Atlanta Museum, and kills the night guard, and former policeman Eunace Filthers, when he tries to stop them.
One of them is Bo-Bo Blanks, young mentally impaired black man, hired by the criminals because of his prodigious strength and size. Being rather childlike and naïve, he is quite shocked when one of his partners in crime “hurts a nice man”, so LaRou orders him to go and see exhibition centered on African culture, to get rid of him, until he would be needed.
While watching the artifacts made by fierce and proud Zande tribe, Bo-Bo becomes fascinated by the so-called “Eye of Ka-Bal”, a small amulet made of obsidian, and starts to hear a disembodied voice urging him to try it on.
When he does a bloodthirsty ancient being named Ka-Bal takes over his body, and uses him mystical powers to enhance already incredible strength of the young criminal, changing him into a literal killing machine, and coupling his physical prowess with his own malevolent intellect.
Newly reborn Ka-Bal brutally slaughters LaRou and his men, using his enhanced strength and Zande weaponry stolen from the exhibits, and escapes, apparently having some kind of dark purpose to fulfill.
Of course, gruesome multiple murder in such a public place gets the attention of Atlanta’s Police Departament, and through their Chief, Will McKenzie, also Max Davies/The Peregrine. Our vigilante uses his contacts to gather information about The Eye of Ka-Bal, and realizes that there is more to this case, than simple murder.
According to legends Ka-Bal was a powerful Zande priest, who ruled over the people of Central Africa for several hundreds of years.
He gained his inhuman longevity and power thanks to the dark ritual he undertook each year during the Harvest Moon. During it, he needed to devour the hearts of three virgin girls, so he demanded such an annual tribute from the people he ruled, which of course led to many of his subject to hate him.
Finally, when his madness caused him to feast on the hearts of others, taking the power of their souls, a group of which doctors used their power, to imprison Ka-Bal’s soul in the onyx amulet, later known as The Eye of Ka-Bal.
Now, after his long imprisonment, former priest seeks to regain his power and influence. But what he can do now, in the 20th century America, even with his mystical abilities? I mean, he is not first magic user who wanted to rule the world, and all of them were foiled in one way, or another…
As it turns out however, it is not Ka-Bal himself who poses a threat to the world, but a being he serves, his god Thanook. Nobody knows his origins, but Max’s father ghost claims that dark deity is “older than heavens”, and if his reborn priest manages to bring his god to our world, humanity would be destroyed.
And to bring his master back, Ka-Bal only needs to recharge his power by devouring hearts of three virgins once more, which is bad enough, and the Harvest Moon is only a night away…
Would Peregrine be able to stop Thanook’s servant from completing the ritual in time? Well, the clock is ticking, and he would have to find him first…
“African Darkside” offers us a fast-paced adventure, with Max and Will desperately trying to find mad priest before he can finish his mission, and Ka-Bal trying to understand the times he found himself in, which is also quite interesting.
It is more “back to basics” Peregrine story, with our masked hero trying to stop an evil force from destroying/conquering the world, Will helping him with his work, and many references to other characters associated with Mr. Davies, like head of Nova Alliance, Leopold Grace, or his ally Richard Benson/The Avenger, which is always nice.
I also liked the fact that Mr. White had used Zande in his story, since after watching “The Deadliest Warrior” episode centered around the duel between the unconquered African warriors, and elite Jaguar Warriors of Aztec civilization, I am rather fascinated by them.
Still, it is kind of a shame we don’t get to see Ka-Bal using Kpinga, which in my opinion is one of the most awesome weapons ever, but hey, it’s just me nitpicking.
But seriously, “African Darkside” is a good story, and a fun to read, even if it feels a bit short.
Tenth story in the omnibus is “Come And Get Your Love”, by Sean Taylor, who is among other things known as the author of comic-book series „Dominatrix”, starring Dominique Stern, dominatrix turned superhero.
In the story, we travel to the 1970’s to see Max’s daughter Emma, the third successor of The Peregrine’s legacy, who is forced to fight not only for the cause of justice, but also to save her loved one from the clutches of inhuman enemies.
It all starts when Emma and her crimefighting partner, as well as lover, Kayla Kaslov, daughter of the legendary Leonid Kaslov, also known as The Russian Superman visit Chicago, in hopes of spending a nice, quiet evening, away from all danger, and weirdness they have to deal on a daily
Unfortunately, it turns out that Ms. Davies had inherited not only her father’s zeal for justice, but also the infamous Davies Luck, as they are violently ambushed by two huge men, who apparently recognize Kayla, and try to kidnap her on behalf of their mysterious boss.
Now, normally Emma would gladly show them that, as she herself claims “Her Daddy didn’t raise a damsel in distress, but rather one who enjoys giving distress”, but being in public, and out of costume, she is unable to act, without compromising her secret identity.
But when Peregrine is finally able to jump into action, she would not stop, until she finds her girlfriend, and exacts revenge on her kidnappers. But soon, she finds out, that people behind Kayla’s kidnapping were much more dangerous than she expected, being connected with one of the old cases of her and her lover’s father…
While we saw Emma Davies as The Peregrine before in “The Four Peregrines”, her part of the story was more focused on action, so we didn’t have an opportunity to get a closer look at her as a person, but fortunately “Come And Get Your Love” corrects that quite nicely, while also giving us plenty of well-written action as a bonus.
Ms. Davies is a very free-spirited young woman, who knows what she wants, and is not afraid to reach for it, mixing sharp with with being quick on her feet, and near-suicidal bravery so much like her Father’s.
She is also rather pragmatic, using every weapon in her disposal to achieve her aims, regardless if it is a pair of brass knuckles and a gun, or her beauty and a bit of seduction, or manipulation.
Emma also has a softer side, one she only shows to her loved ones, despite her tough exterior and ever-present bravado.
While not as openly dismissive of the social norms as her late brother William, she also feels no need to hide the fact, that she is in a relationship with other woman, which worries more traditionally minded Kayla, and loves the danger and adrenaline connected with her life as a superhero.
Overall, she is an interesting, and complex heroine, that quite easy to like, both similar and different than her predecessors.
The story itself also stands out from others, due to it’s unusual narration, freely jumping from past to present numerous times, for example starting with third Peregrine sneaking into her enemy’s hideout, to jump few hours into the past, to show us how Kayla got kidnapped, and repeating the pattern several times.
At first it seems a bit confusing, but after few pages one gets used to it, and starts to enjoy such narrative technique. In a nutshell parts in the past are more focused on Emma’s thoughts, personality traits, showing how she works in the field etc, while the ones taking place in the present are more concerned with action scenes, striking a nice balance between the two.
We also get a rather nice, if a bit clichéd (But in a good way) villain, and an ending that I did not expected, so all in all “Come And Get Your Love” is a solid story, that gives it’s reader a lot of enjoyment.
Final story in the omnibus is “Night Out” by Adam Lance Garcia, best known for reviving a classic Pulp character, Green Lama, for the modern readers.
It once again focuses on Emma Davies, but this time a few years earlier, during the time when her brother had inherited the mantle of The Peregrine, before she started her crime fighting career… at least officially.
Because, let’s be honest here, daughter of Max and Evelyn could not possibly sit idly when there is evil around her, costume or not. And there is something going on in Atlanta, that warrants a closer look:
A group of young women had disappeared without a trace, but neither newspapers, nor the police took notice of it, as if not wanting to bother with the case. Since her brother had re-located to the west, and her father is retired, Emma had decided to investigate on her own, and discovered that there is something that connects the missing women.
All of them were seen last in the popular club called The Candy Cane Lounge, so Ms. Davies decides to visit it, in hopes of finding any clues about their whereabouts. It goes smoothly, despite her lack of experience in such endeavors, until she bumps into… her father.
Who despite being retired, apparently decided to do a bit of investigating behind his family’s backs, and putting his famous costume once again.
But, as it turns out, he is not in the club about the missing girls, but instead looks for the source of the newest street drug, nicknamed Peppermint. Despite not being exactly happy about each other’s presence, as Max maintains that his daughter is to young for such things, while Emma shoots back, that he is too old for all that, they decide to join forces.
Soon it turns out, that The Candy Cane Lounge is just a bright, colorful front for something dark and sinister, and that the mastermind behind all this is someone from the firs Peregrine’s past, making him a lot more dangerous than a mere drug dealer…
While the story itself is rather simple, it is not really about our two heroes fighting evil, but rather their father-daughter relationship, something that Adam Lance Garcia had written perfectly.
Max and Emma are equally stubborn, which leads to many quarrels between them, that are rather hilarious to be honest, poking fun at previous Peregrine stories, and Pulp as a whole, while not crossing the line into an outright parody.
For example Emma criticizes her father’s outdated fashion sense, counts down all his enemies who used “Doctor” in their names (And notes there were a lot of them), ridicules trying to hide one’s identity behind a domino mask, and wonders about the improbability of all the things Max had lived through, like fighting vampire Hitler.
Max himself fits the stereotype of the grumpy old man, despite his still youthful features, reminiscing about his old adventures (“When I was fighting Doctor Satan…” etc), grumbling about “youth this days”, and berating his daughter for all the mistakes she makes as an amateur vigilante.
Not to mention the fact that they argue while being held at gunpoint by the villains, to both the amusement of the reader, and the bad guys themselves, while being more scared of Evelyn’s reaction to their nightly escapade, when she finds out, than gangsters armed to the teeth…
Aside from the sharp, and funny dialogues, we also get a bit of action, and a few darker moments that balance the humor, without dimming it out, giving us a really good read, that sucks You in from the beginning.
My only problem with this story, is the fact, that when I was reading it on my Kindle while reading a bus from work, I was so engrossed in it, that I missed my stop, and had to walk to the correct stop in the rain, but that’s not exactly it’s fault…
Aside from the stories, third volume of “The Peregrine Omnibus” gives us “Resurrection”, a script for the sadly nonexistent Peregrine animation, by Barry Reese.
It showcases our hero’s fight with the mad scientist, and a cultist of dark forces, Doctor York, who joined forces with Princess Femi, and undying necromancer and an arch-enemy of another of Mr. Reese’s heroes, Lazarus Gray.
There’s not really much to write about, since it’s only a short, action-packed piece, but it clearly shows, that The Peregrine could really work as a character in an animated movie, or even a TV series in vein of Bruce Timm’s legendary “Batman – The Animated Series”.
Actually, could You imagine how cool Barry Reese’s script with Bruce Timm’s distinct animation style could be? Somebody should really put a Kickstarter for such a project…
It needs to happen!!
As does the release of the next Peregrine book, but that is obvious in my opinion
To sum up, “The Peregrine Omnibus – Volume Three” stood up to the expectations from the previous books in the series, upholding their quality, while also giving us several fresh looks on the character, and his world.
So, if You are a fan of The Peregrine, or Barry Reese’s work, You already have this book. But if You hadn’t heard about them before, this would be a perfect points to start, because it gives the reader the best parts of The Peregrine, without having to bother about the continuity.
And now I get back to waiting for the next book