Assistance Unlimited: The Silver Age – Broken Empire was examined over at Max Reads Comics in a special edition that’s dubbed “Max Reads Other Things.” You can click on the link to read the review in full and also check out the many wonderful columns and reviews that Max has posted. I follow his blog and always enjoy it. Here’s some of the highlights of what he had to say:
As you can see by the sub-title, this is the latest in the “Assistance Unlimited” series by the author, named after an organization founded by one of Reese‘s most iconic characters, “Lazarus Gray.”
The “Silver Age” part of that same sub-title is kind of a comic book reference, as the story takes place in the 1960s, and us comic book folks know that the 60s was prime “Silver Age” time.
Normally, the Assistance Unlimited (“AU” from here on) stories are set many years before this swingin’ decade, and this book marks a kind of experiment by Mr. Reese. Specifically, he’s decided to jump two decades into his characters’ futures, potentially “spoiling” certain things along the way.
Like, for example, the fact that the main character of this book, who is highly visible on the cover shown above, is the daughter of longtime supporting character Samantha Grace and that she’s friends with Lazarus Gray’s son.
Her name is Emily Grace, and that surname is yet another clue for long-time AU readers. She is very much cut in the “Emma Peel” mold of the cat-suited bad-ass female agent, but she is, if anything, even more dangerous and resourceful than her conceptual predecessor.
As the snappy summary provided on the Amazon page will tell you (links at the bottom, folks!), the story also centers on the induction into the AU organization of one Benjamin Falk, and brand new character with no ties to any previous Reese creations that I’m aware of.
So, we have the makings of an excellent set-up: a new, fresh-faced (well, he has issues, but that’s for you to discover) character is inducted into a long-standing organization by the super-cool daughter of an equally long-standing marquee character, and we readers get to come along for the ride.
It’s a set-up that works, and is followed through on very well by Reese. This book, and much of Reese’s work, is part of what’s often referred to as the “New Pulp” movement; modern books written in the spirit of the two-fisted, fast-moving, rock ’em sock ’em dime novels of yore. The best books of this bunch are fun, high-octane, action-heavy drive-in movies filled with likable heroes, despicable villains, plenty of charming dialogue and maybe more than a few bad jokes.
And this, folks, is one of those aforementioned best books of said bunch.
The work is actually split up into two ostensibly separate “books,” but the plot of the second is fed so strongly by the first that there’s really no reason to stop when you finish the first. Heck, both books combined are not that long, and even I finished the entire thing on my Kindle Paperwhite (do I get paid for mentioning that? ….Look like I do not.) in a matter of days.
Hey, I only read prose at night right before bed, and also, I may read comics pretty quickly, but my ADD makes me read everything else at least a couple of times before it sticks.
It wasn’t hard to focus on this book, though, because it was an absolute blast from start to finish.
I don’t want to spoil any plot elements here, but if you like pulpy action-adventure, you will really like this book. If you like comic books, like Mr. Reese and I do, you’ll also get a kick out of the AU versions of a couple of Public Domain Superheroes that make appearances in these pages now and then.
Now, I do have a couple of nitpicks. Of course I do! Have you met me? They’re small, as nitpicks are wont to be, but alas, I have them.
And the ones I have are:
It’s a bit violent. Now, I know this the New Pulp and all, but I’m just saying: if you are at all squeamish about the (sometimes quite detailed) consequences of violent actions, you might wanna have a blankie nearby.
It could use some editing. I’ve mentioned this to Mr. Reese already, and this is no reflection on his work, but, man: there was some sloppy work done here by the editing department, whoever that may have been. The most egregious slip-up is that the name of the main bad guy in the first book is sometimes written as “Levin” and other times as “Levins.” Is it a small thing? Maybe, but again, this is the name of the central antagonist. It was just distracting enough to pull me out of the story and make me backtrack to see if I was missing something. There are more than a few other little editing errors here and there throughout, but that’s the big one.
(Wow, for a “nitpick,” that second paragraph was pretty long, eh?)
Now, neither of those nitpicks hampered my enjoyment of this book at all, nor could they possibly keep me from recommending this series, and all of Reese’s other works, to anyone who might even kind of enjoy something in this genre.
This is good, fun, rollicking stuff that will put a big ol’ smile on your face, people. I think we could all use a little something like that these days.
Thanks, Max! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the book – and I definitely appreciate you taking the extra step of reviewing it so others can decide if they’d like to investigate it on their own. The violence in this book is pretty standard for what I do in my stories and is actually a little less extreme than what you might find in Rabbit Heart or The Damned Thing. As for Levin/Levins, the intention was that the singular villain would be Levin and the clones would be Levins, with the ‘s’ denoting that they were part of the plurality of Levins. In hindsight, I can see how it might be confusing for both readers and editors!