A young supervillain-in-training develops qualms of conscience in this deceptively earnest debut.
After 10 years of lying low following a devastating defeat by the Rangers of Justice, the nefarious Cloak Society is ready for a rematch—but Alex, 12-year-old member of the Cloak's Beta Team, is suddenly having doubts. For one thing, his telekinetic power seems more suitable for no-hands origami than heavy lifting. For another, his telepathic mother, Shade, and the rest of Cloak's older generation appear to have more up their sleeves than simple domination of Sterling City, Texas. Most disturbing of all, though, encounters in battle and at the mall with shape-changing Junior Ranger Kirbie have left Alex unsure of his true capacity for evil. Along with outfitting both super factions with appropriately cool powers, names, costumes and lairs, Kraatz slips in further cultural enrichment with sly references to game theory, Shakespeare and true crimes. Unsurprisingly, the climactic fray forces members of both junior squads to become reluctant allies—and also leaves enough loose ends to fuel a sequel or six.
Familiar superhero/supervillain tropes are positively shoveled into a tale that has enough psychological complexity to please readers who have not overdosed on this subgenre. (Fantasy. 11-13)