Friday, July 13, 2012

Undercover Review: Captain Midnight Chronicles


 Review by Nick Ahlhelm

Captain Midnight wasn't really a pulp hero. He became famous through radio, a pilot hero with a codename and a crew called the Secret Squadron. But while the Shadow transitioned from radio announced to full-fledged pulp hero, Midnight never really made it into the pulps. He did make it pretty much everywhere else in the 30s and 40s, including comic strips, comic books and even a movie serial. Years after his radio show ended, he even returned as a television character.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that Captain Midnight finally got to live as a pulp hero thanks to the fine folks at Moonstone Books. 

Captain Midnight Chronicles collects 12 stories of the pilot hero and his allies Chuck, Ikky and Joyce. Edited by talented comic and prose writer Christopher Mills, this Captain Midnight is a bit more streamlined in story focus than the classic character, but excellent by any right. 

All twelve stories are solid endeavors without a stinker in the bunch. A few are weaker than others, but rather than focus on the negatives, this reviewer will instead pick out the stories I found to be the very best.
“Shipwreck in the Sky” by Robert T. Jeschonek probably isn’t the most straightforward tale in the collection, but it sure is one of the most fun. His tale focuses on the World War I and II legends of gremlins, creatures that tear apart planes in the air and brings them to life in terrific fashion. 

“Fantastic Island” is only one of several stories that use long-time foes Ivan Shark and his daughter Fury, but it is probably the best. In just 17 pages, Robert Greenberger crafts a lost island culture, strands the heroes there, makes them fight for their life and allows for their escape. Midnight and Fury read incredibly well and Greenberger makes the most out of their love-and-war relationship (very much akin to the relationship between Valkyrie and Airboy—who guest stars in Chuck Dixon’s tale in this volume). 

“The Dark of Midnight” is actually one of two stories in the book that involve time travel, but though a bit short, it handles the subject better than John J. Nance’s tale (somewhat surprisingly). In a few brief pages, General Tong proves to be a terrifying threat and the time-hopping subplot helps win the battle in a surprising way. 

While those three tales stood out as the best, this reviewer cannot reiterated anymore that every tale in this book was solid, a rarity in any anthology. A few niggling formatting errors do occasionally distract while reading the book, but outside that one minor complaint the book is a gorgeous package well worth a purchase by any pulp fan. 

It remains available in print through Amazon or Moonstone’s site or as a PDF ebook through DriveThruFiction. Highly Recommended.

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