Superhero fatigue? Nonsense! OK, maybe some of the recent big films in the genre have felt a little…less than Marvelous? A bit Disappointingly Corny? Fear not, true believers: Indieland is here to save the day with some characteristically fresh takes on the tropes—no capes required.

In Search of Rohan Chang (2022) by Lincoln Lee will appeal to fans of the Miles Morales–led Spider-Verse movie franchise. Like the young Spider-Man, Rohan Chang—the titular protagonist of this superhero fantasy—is an ordinary New York City teen juggling family responsibilities, academic pressures, and adolescent drama with the emergence of extraordinary superhuman abilities (Rohan can fly and teleport). Lee’s novel goes darker, exploring themes of racism and centering a conflicted hero tormented by internal voices who’s tasked with stopping a serial killer. Our review praises the novel as an “incredibly creative superhero fantasy tale that brings together elements of various cultures.”

Howard Seaborne’s 2022 novel, Divisible Man: Ten Keys West, is the 10th (!) installment in a series featuring Will Stewart, a charter pilot who doesn’t need a plane to fly. Will and his tough-as-nails police detective wife, Andy, take on the shadowy Company W, a sinister paramilitary insurgent group. With elements of the police procedural and military thriller grounding the high-octane superhero action, this novel feels like “the best possible combination of the Odd Thomas novels of Dean Koontz and the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child,” according to our starred review.

The Silver Prison, a 2023 fantasy novel by Peter Shokeir, is a comedic yarn set in the 22nd century amid a never-ending war against terror. Genetically engineered supersoldier Slate is burdened with an unremovable silver helmet and, after being prematurely awakened from hibernation, a snarky attitude. On the other hand, he’s superhumanly strong, capable of flight, and shoots lightning from his hands, which is all pretty unassailably cool. He’s also funny: “I expected to be tortured, not massaged by Fabio,” he drawls in the course of receiving a pistol-whipping. Our review says the story “feels like an insouciant version of an X-Men comic” and calls the novel “a rollicking SF romp with cinematic action, entertaining banter, and an appealingly scruffy protagonist.”

J. Michael White’s Jestin Kase and the Terrors of Shadow Metal (2023) finds the hero, a superpowered 15-year-old who creates armor and weapons from the magical “dragon metal” coursing through his veins, in over his head again in this sequel to Jestin Kase and the Masters of Dragon Metal. Battling a giant monster is nothing out of the ordinary for Jestin; he’s more concerned about his burgeoning relationship with his crush, Jacob Colt. Of course, if the dark entity currently extending its foul tentacles throughout the city has its way, Jacob and the rest of Chicago’s population are going to be in no position to engage in romance. Prone to panic attacks, gay Jestin is a distinctive creation and irresistibly funny: “I’m fine. Totally not crazy. Now let’s go talk to the vampire elf of living shadow sitting in our dungeon,” he quips at one point. Our review concludes, “A droll, charming protagonist carries this uproarious magic-laden tale over the finish line.”

Arthur Smith is an Indie editor.