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Super Medieval

By Sharkerbob, author of Graven

Jan 8, 2019: SUPER! posits a world of superheroes and supervillains through the lens of a medieval European setting, almost as though someone dropped superhero powers into a Lord of the Rings or DnD type of world. Superhumans apply to become Apprentices to officially sanctioned Heroes, who go on missions to defeat Monsters and Villains alike. It’s an interesting mixture of genres as a premise, and was what initially intrigued me about the story.

All’s said and done, though, the result is a pretty standard young hero series. I’m reminded of the early days of the X-Men: the main characters Kiren and Lace manage to get into what is essentially a Superhero School, on their quest to take down a Villain who left a personal scar on them both. Along the way, they deal with a curmudgeonly mentor, chafe against the rules and regulations of adults, deal with recurring villains, gain new allies/rivals with fellow students, and train to use their powers. In fact, there are some parts of the story where I almost forget they’re supposed to be in medieval Europe, until I’m reminded that they don’t have the conveniences of cars and phones. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the story felt surprisingly "modern" for me.

Thankfully, SUPER! manages to rise above the formula on a few accounts, beyond just the fact that its supers in a non-standard setting. The Apprenticeship program for would-be Heroes is thankfully not just Fantasy High School. The young heroes immediately go into real missions with actual danger. The author doesn’t hold back on the violence, and the heroes get hurt hard in every mission, giving a sense of real consequence.

The characters are well-realized and distinct without being over the top. Kiren and Lace make for solid main characters, and their struggles feel organic to their personalities and their circumstances. Their strained relationship with their dubious mentor Accelerator is one of the better chemistries in the book, but even the side characters all bounce well off one another.

Likewise, the more tedious tropes of the young hero genre are side-stepped, and the story never feels like it drags. Action and intrigue is paced well throughout.

All and all, I think this is a solidly written story with an interesting setting that feels more familiar than expected, but still manages to make it work. I recommend it for people who enjoy young hero stories, but with a bit more of an edge.

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