Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: Death Reign of the Vampire King

    The Spider, a Master of Men stands with the pantheon of pulp heroes that includes but is not limited to Doc Savage and The Shadow.  It is from these characters that our famous comic book heroes descended.  Like Superman?  Read Doc Savage.  He did it first.  Like Batman?  Read The Shadow or The Spider.  They were doing it years before.  They are heroes of a different time; often rich, powerful, and self-guiding.  These are not men held by the hand of fate, but men who shape the world according to their own will.  If Tom Brokaw wrote incessantly about vigilantes instead of WWII vets, this would be his ‘Greatest Generation.’

    Death Reign of the Vampire King is my second Spider novel but is apparently from four years earlier than the first one I read, Satan’s Murder Machines.  The Spider is still a well established figure in the battle against super-crime, donning his disguise and laughing while villains burn.  He’s got his trusty, lusty lady Nita and his daring Hindu sidekick Ram Singh.  And somehow a network of spies and associates everywhere he needs them to be.  And this time, he’ll draw on them all as he battles a fiendish foe who uses poisoned vampire bats to commit mass murder.

    Sadly, I don’t enjoy the Spider as much as The Shadow, to whom he bares a striking resemblance.  Generally, I don’t think Norvell Page’s writing is up to snuff, too frequently descending into almost groan inducing melodrama, not to mention plot twists that defy logic or reason.  But there’s sure some crazy creativity.  I think one problem he runs into right off is that The Spider and his alter ego Richard Wentworth aren’t distinct enough.  Sure, Wentworth is a rich playboy, but his well known hobby is fighting crime.  And everyone seems to know that he’s The Spider…except when they don’t.  Unlike The Shadow/Batman, where pretty much nobody suspects who he really is, because Lamont Cranston/Bruce Wayne is such a foppish and spoiled child of privilege, Wentworth spends much of his time helping the police as some kind of Holmesian advisor.  So when he dons the disguise, it seems almost as an afterthought or aesthetic choice.

    Alas, though I love the genre and the era, I’m not finding myself in love with the character of The Spider.  I’m not done.  I still have four more novels in my possession that I will read one of these days.  But right now, I’m in no hurry to pick one up again.

Death Reign of the Vampire King
Author: Norvell Page
Publisher: Bean
ISBN: (one of three novels collected in) 978-1-4165-5574-2


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