Review: Where There’s Smoke (Panopolis #1) by Cari Z.

Where There's Smoke (Panopolis, #1)

3 of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of superhero movies and comics, this is the novella you didn’t know you wanted.

It’s about getting caught in the crossfire (metaphorically) between Heroes and Villains in a corrupt, Gotham-like city called Panopolis. Edward Dinges (yes, it’s pronounced ding-us) is an ordinary dude working at a bank when a Villain called the Mad Bombardier robs it. The robbery is a strange beginning to a life-changing relationship for Edward.

This little story takes the moralistic superhero paradigm and turns it on its head. The main Villain is a nuanced character with an interesting backstory and a moral code. The main Hero is a pushy tool who is a borderline stalker. Edward follows a blog that reports on the goings-on of Panopolis called the Supertruther blog, and it asks some questions about what it means to be an on-looker and consumer. By consuming the show that the Heroes and Villains put on everyday when they clash throughout the city, are the so-called ordinary citizens contributing to the unsafe status quo? Are they, with their expectations and admiration of the Heroes, perpetuating the corruption and dysfunction of Panopolis?

As for the writing, it’s pretty tight, as it should be in a novella, and transparent. Each scene has a cinematic sensibility with its focus on action rather than introspection. That’s not to say that there’s no introspection. The first person POV from Edward’s perspective lends itself to introspection when needed.

The serialized presentation of the first two novellas mirrors the format of comics nicely.

And now I’m off to read the second one!

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