03 September 2014

Review: Zenith Lives!: Tales of M.Zenith, the Albino edited by Stuart Douglas

Trade paperback, 161 pages
Published 2012

Acquired May 2012
Read August 2014
The Obverse Quarterly, Book Four: Zenith Lives!: Tales of M.Zenith, the Albino
edited by Stuart Douglas

The last volume of the first year of Obverse Quarterly gives us a selection of stories about Monsieur Zenith, a supervillain who is apparently the archnemesis of Sexton Blake, a detective character I'd never heard of before, but was apparently continuously published from 1893 to 1978. Unfortunately, whatever appeal exists in the character of Monsieur Zenith is not really brought out by this collection, which mostly seems to depend on one's preexisting interest, I think.

"The Blood of Our Land" by Mark Hodder is the best of these, showing Zenith executing a heist that gets very complicated, very quickly-- though there are time it's a little rough, it displays why one might be interested in Zenith and his exploits. Michael Moorcock's "Curaré" is all right, but it's not really a Zenith story and more a story in which Zenith happens to appear; the focus is on the improbably named Seaton Begg and his delightful associate Yvette.

Weirdly, there are two stories that most serve to introduce a new nemesis for Zenith, George Mann's "The Albino's Shadow" and Stuart Douglas's "Zenith's End!" both end with Zenith getting a new lease on life by having a new good guy to fight. This makes neither particularly interesting as standalone pieces, especially as Mann's is a very weak story: basically Zenith threatens the Prime Minister, the protagonist asks people about him, the protagonist follows Zenith's henchman, Zenith decides that such skills will make him a delightful opponent. Skills? What skills?

There's also Paul Magrs's "All the Many Rooms," which again is not a Zenith story, but just a story Zenith is in, but even worse, is a complete jumble and total nonsense.

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