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NOTORIOUS

Building a Solid Reputation

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Aug 22, 2011: I’m starting to find Robert Rodgers a very reliable source of unline fiction. So far, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his, and not just his stories but also his reviews of stories. He has a penchant for snarky, dark humour and action, and it’s hard not to get pulled headlong into the adventures he imagines.

"Notorious" is no exception. Set in the same superhero universe as "The Last Skull," it’s a stand-alone story, so it’s not necessary to read "Skull" to enjoy it. However, the more Robert adds to this little universe of his, the more it seems like a great place to hang out. There’s clearly a history in his head of how the players fit on the gameboard, and they all seem interesting. Perhaps most interesting is the way he can convey backstory and character with brief appearances by the heavies.

Because Robert seems to like to write about the small characters. The Skull was basically a Daredevil street-cleaner with armour, and "Notorious" features a human assassin. His one power is no need to sleep, a result of the Administration’s experiments —- oh, and it grew the former hitman a conscience. They exist in a world with Sovereign, a version of Superman, and Vigil, a "Batman with Magic." They’re out of their league in both stories, and still find a way to fight for what’s right.

I think that’s one of my favourite themes in his work, that the overlooked underdog can still have a decent bite. Jack, the protagonist of "Notorious," is at his best when he has a plan – and when he decides to save lives instead of ending them, he gets in over his head when an arms-dealer contracts him to assassinate a member of a superhero team. Jack really intends to find out who is behind the hit, and save the day—but he can’t let the good guys know that, because operating in their turf with weapons will get him back to prison. And he can’t let the bad guys find out because he’ll end up dead.

It’s a great rock-and-hard place position, and right now Jack has NO plan. I can’t wait to see how he gets out of this one.

The narrative voice is crisp here—still snarky and funny, but much more task-oriented and professional, suiting the protagonist. It’s more natural for me than "Skull," where Sue’s skills at the nitty-gritty seemed out of place with her being a teenage girl. The "Skull" improved over time by humanizing Sue, making her more rounded, but this time out the tone, character, and actions all flow together effortlessly.

Rodgers takes old cliches—villains turning good, amnesia, superheroes, and makes them fresh again—so effortlessly I’m a little jealous. He even has self-referential humour about it—the text points out how very "Jason Bourne" Jack’s situation is, but like always, Jack handles the situation in front of him—he’s not worried about whether it’s easy to believe, because he has a job to do.

It’s fun to watch him do it.

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