THE ROOK Vol. Two
By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
After enjoying Reese’s first collection of stories starring his original pulp character, the Rook, I was anxious to get into this new volume which sports a terrific Frank Brunner cover. The book contains six fast paced, action heavy stories of Max Davies, a man psychology scarred as a boy when he saw his father gunned down by hoodlums. Davies, in the vein of the classic Bruce Wayne/Batman mold, travels across the globe as he matures and learns all the sciences and fighting skills he will require in his campaign to combat evil and injustice.
These are classic hero pulp yarns set in the 30s and 40s and told in the manner of those great digest mags. One of Reese’s strengths as a writer is his ability to reinvent iconic pulp figures in a whole new light. An example of that in this collection is his debut of the Russian hero, Leonid Ksalov, clearing meant to be a new version of Doc Savage. He’s a great character and another helpful ally to the Rook in his war against the agents of darkness.
Which brings us to this series’ overriding theme, occult and supernatural threats. Unlike other classic pulp vigilantes who battled mobsters and would-be world rulers, the Rook takes on the bizarre, other-worldly foes like vampires, immortal Chinese madmen, zombies and even a baby blood-sucker at one point. Ghosts abound in every adventure and one quickly learns that the Rook’s world is a very scary and menacing one. Yet with the help of his lovely wife Evelyn, a one-time movie B-queen, McKenzie the local sheriff and now Leonid Kaslov, the Rook still manages to overcome the forces of evil and win the day.
So in the end, this volume is even better than the first. Although you don’t need to read the first to enjoy it, I’m betting once you delve into the Rook’s adventures, you’ll most likely want to collect all of them. I sure do.