A dying CIA counterterrorist leaves his daughter a challenging legacy: carry on his work by exacting vengeance on his killer—which incidentally prevents him from wreaking further havoc on a global scale.
Like Homer, Johansen (Shattered Mirror, 2018, etc.) begins in medias res with the death of Carl Venable, head of the CIA task force on terrorism, who’s been shot by one of Max Huber’s snipers during a rare, but vital, sally into the field. As he’s dying, Carl tells his sidekick, Jude Brandon, to get in touch with his daughter, Dr. Rachel Venable, and pass the torch to her. One complication: Rachel’s currently working with One World Medical in the Guyana wilderness. Another: She’s had nothing to do with her father since he negotiated all too slowly for her release from the Taliban fighters who killed her mother and brother when she was 15. Since Huber also has daddy issues—Conrad Huber was a much more fearsome terrorist, as his adviser Adolf Kraus is constantly tempted to remind the mini-me he now advises—and since Rachel was responsible for Conrad’s fatal poisoning, the stage is set for any number of epic-scale set pieces involving terrorist threats and counterthreats whose motivation is ultimately personal. Drawing inspiration from her mentor, Hu Chang, and a wide range of emotions from her rocky relationship with Brandon, whose father was another of Max Huber’s casualties, Rachel shows that she’s just as tough and savvy and ruthless as her father ever was but also fully in touch with a female side that’s sensitive to a fault.
Superheroes battle supervillains in a thriller heavy on action and even heavier on dialogue in which the principals explain to each other exactly what’s happening and exactly how they feel about it. Fans who haven’t already been exhausted by Johansen’s fondness for superlatives will eat it up.