Steve Vernon, The Adventures of Captain Nothing, vol. 1: Nothing to Lose (Nocturne Press, 2007)
I’ve been trying to get my hands on something authored by Steve Vernon ever since I first heard about Long Horn, Big Shaggy, which sounds so awesome I’m not even going to attempt to recreate any description I’ve heard here. It, however, is very long out of print and very, very expensive when used copies turn up on Amazon. [ed. note: as-new copy still showing for $375, but there’s now a Kindle edition, and I still have christmas cash left over, so guess what I just bought and will be reviewing sometime in the relatively near future?] So this popped up at an eminently more reasonable price on the Kindle a while back, and I snapped it up and gave it a read. And it’s pretty durned enjoyable, for what it’s worth; if this is your kind of bag, you’ll want a copy.
And what sort of bag would that be, exactly? Well, Captain Nothing is a wannabe superhero. Except that he doesn’t really have anything in the way of superpowers. And he’s kind of got something of a drinking problem. And in general when he thinks he’s helping, he’s usually sticking his foot in it. (If all this sounds familiar, it should; with the exception of the drinking-problem part, it’s the basis of the delightful 2010 film Kick-Ass.) In fact, Captain Nothing reminds me of a down-on-his-luck hardboiled private eye a lot more than he does a superhero, which I’m sure was intentional; judging by this collection, at least, Steve Vernon has a thing for thumbing his nose at genres, mashing as many disparate ones as he can into any given story to come up with a delectable, if sometimes foul-smelling, stew of lampooned genre clichés, bashed-up structure templates, and beaten-into-three-dimensions caricatures of the kinds of cardboard cutouts you find in bad genre fiction, especially from the dime-novel days. All of which is served with a complimentary side of grim humor and one-liners from the country’s most inept superhero. I mean, how can you go wrong?
If this is what Steve Vernon is all about, I suspect Nothing to Lose will be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship between us, one in which Steve Vernon keeps turning out books and I keep very happily reading them and telling you, the reading public, that you should be too. And you might as well get in on the ground floor—pick a copy of this up and give it a try. You won’t regret it. *** ½