Dreadnought (Nemesis#1) by April Daniels

I haven't read a super-hero theme book in a while - (Note to myself: Need to speed up, finish the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson, I have only read Steelheart.) and so when I read the excerpt, first chapters of Dreadnought by April Daniels, I just couldn't resist my trigger-happy finger from requesting a copy. And Baaam! < comic-book style large-sized fist slamming into you!> I am floored!

This book is a sensitive and intelligent portrayal of a superhero origin story - heavily exploring themes of LGBT in a manner that is at once, refreshing and original from the point of view of a fifteen-year. Daniel(le) Tozer, is a trans-gender and has always wanted to be a girl but has never had the courage to come out of the closet. Instead resorts to hiding behind parking-garage walls to indulge in something simple yet guilty, like painting toe-nails. But that's when the world's greatest superhero, Dreadnought drops dead from the sky and in a bizarre and shocking turn of events, transfers the mantle and powers to her. And its not just the super-powers that she inherits. But the body she always wanted, that of a girl.

Rapturous with joy and yet, guilty as hell - Danny's world is suddenly turned upside down and she realizes she isn't ready to handle this change. Nor is the world. Starting with her dad, who has always called his 'son' a pussy for being weak and wants 'him'to be strong. A mom who doesn't stand up for her and secretly wishes she had her 'son' back. And then, there is David, once Danny's best friend, who suddenly develops a keen interest in her and wants to 'date' her.

And of course, there is the larger problem of this 'super-villain' called Utopia, who had killed the previous Dreadnought. There is of course, the fragmented upper-echelon of a superhero chairing committee comprised of the world's greatest superheroes, the Legion Pacifica, who want to give her a provisional membership, provided she abide by some rules. But even here, Danny's path isn't smooth - there are those within the legion who spit-fire at the very fact that she is a 'trans-gender' and others who of course, want to make 'use' of her prowess.

You see, while the book broaches an emotional topic and does a fine job indeed of portraying the mental tussles of a fifteen-year old, the alternating bursts of supreme confidence and blundering vulnerability which crowd out the minds of such, it still remains an amazingly entertaining fare. The pacing is spotless, the world-building maybe a bit sparse but the author still gives us a picture of this world filled with superheroes, a sort of hierarchical strata between these caped crusaders ( from black, to grey and then white, the highest form of super-prowess) and of course, it is interspersed with some crackling high-octane super-hero showdowns that leads to crumpled buildings and nuked craters in the earth.

The main voice is that of Danny, this girl who has to come of age, figure out her super-prowess all the while struggling to come to terms with her gender issues. Its a fun, irreverent and yet sensitive characterization. A girl juggling homework and saving crashed-up airlines at the same time, who finally decides to confront her detractors and also that super-villain determined to nuke the world into nothingness. The rising tension finally explodes in those final chapters and makes for an immensely gratifying read.

Apart from Danny, there are of course others who help her get past the finish-line: Sarah, or Calamity, a superhero or meta-human who loves playing the vigilante and befriends Danny in these difficult times. And then, there is Doc Impossible, a super-techie who loves chain-smoking and almost becomes that mother-figure for Danny as her own family disowns her.

An emotionally rich, action-packed super-hero origins story that dares to take an intelligent stand on the sensitive LGBT themes and does it spectacularly right. Loved it!


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