A peculiar first novel that reads like a rejected scenario for a Superman adventure. With gestures to 1940s noir fiction and film, Thomas's superhero flies through an urban landscape that borrows both from vintage Superman stories and from the hard-boiled world of Hammett and Chandler, though Thomas displays none of their verbal jazz. His protagonist, Harvey Gander, is a features writer for the Metropolitan Meteor whose parents were killed accidentally when the Superlative Man was flying by on his way to a rescue and blindsided their car. Ever since, Gander has harbored doubts about the man in tights and cape whose exploits dominate the news. When Harvey's mentor dies mysteriously, he takes up the older journalist's current investigation—a pattern of murders involving people who have been saved by the Superlative Man. After Harvey reveals his intentions to the denizens of the High Water, a raucous bar, his life becomes embroiled in intrigue, especially after his old flame, Violet Hayes, a sexy starlet, is also murdered. Harvey interviews a number of those rescued by the caped crusader, all of whom behave in an odd manner. And usually these interviews result in more pressure on Harvey, both from his boss and from a mysterious mobster, the Sultan, who seems to control the drug traffic in town. Death-defying heroics lead to a surprise ending—not only are the Superlative Man's rescues staged, but all the participants are hooked on a drug he invented as an antidote to a kryptonite-like substance. With the help of the appropriately named Elmo Jade (as in jaded), Harvey exposes the identity of the Sultan and also lands the girl, his loyal assistant at the paper. Intended as a commentary on heroism and hero-worship, this arch narrative lacks the wit (or camp) to transcend its tired generic conventions.
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