Review: Shades of Gray Jackie Kessler/Caitlin Kittredge

Shades of Gray

Written: Jackie Kessler [website] & Caitlin Kittredge [website]

The Icarus Project [website]

Published: Spectra, Trade Paperback

When: June, 2010

ISBN: 9780553386325

Obtained via: Purchase


Jet and Iridium—best friends turned bitter enemies—teamed up to foil the evil plans of the rogue superhero known as Night, but in defeating him they inadvertently destroyed the secret Corp-Co transmitter whose frequency kept the metapowered heroes of the Squadron in line. Now these heroes have turned against New Chicago, ransacking the city they once protected.

Even worse, the powerful antisuperhero group known as Everyman has taken advantage of the chaos to fan the flames of prejudice against all superpowered men and women. Just when New Chicago needs them most, Jet and the small band of heroes who have remained on the right side of the law find themselves the targets of suspicion and outright hatred.

Things aren’t going much better for Iridium. When she springs her father, a notorious supervillain, from prison to help her fight the marauding ex-superheroes, she finds that Corp-Co still has some nasty tricks up its sleeve.

But when the most dangerous man alive, the sociopath known as Doctor Hypnotic, suddenly surfaces, Jet and Iridium will once again be called upon to set aside their differences. Yet in the process, deeply buried secrets will come to light that will change everything the former best friends think they know about each other and themselves.

* * *

Shades of Gray is the second volume in The Icarus Project series, co-written by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge.

I just have to say: This book (& series) is awesome in so many ways. In fact, let me count them for you.

Awesome thing #1: I enjoy skimming through the “Praise” sections in the front of books. This is where publishers list all of the good reviews and nice comments about the current and previous work from the author. Well, Shades of Gray has the most awesome praise section ever.

Right there on the second page are the words:

“Black and White is cover-to-cover superhero girl power awesomeness. . . . A wild, fun, irresistible ride. It’s fast-paced enough to read in a day. Just don’t plan on doing anything else until you’re through.”  — Waiting for Fairies

Can you believe it! Squee! They quoted my review! I had no idea until I picked up my copy to read it, so it was a pleasant surprise. Now my goal is to try to get my copy signed while I’m at Dragon*Con. Or at least half-signed, since according to the current guest list Kittredge won’t be attending. *sad face*

Awesome thing #2: I don’t have to be embarrassed to have my comments published in Shades of Gray because this book is just as awesome as the first one.

We’re introduced to an additional double-handful of superheroes and villains, and a completely new cast of not-quite supers to go along with them. I’m fascinated by all the different code-names. We get to see Arclight/Luster’s (Iridium’s father’s) history, which turns him from a creepy, egotistical convict to a loving father and friend. Moreover, it’s a believable shift, which is nothing short of amazing.

We see the origins of Everyman and hear more about the research of the Icarus Project. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll tell you that Everyman has surprising roots. And if you’re paying attention to the quotes at the start of each chapter, you’ll learn lots of interesting things about Icarus and his Project, as well as quite a bit about Martin Moore.

The story alternates between views from Jet and Iridium, just like last time, but we also get to see chapters from the point-of-view of all four parents as they hook up, get married, and have babies. And, in at least one instance, as they go crazy.

If Black and White set up the lines between Good and Evil, Shades of Gray obliterates those lines with a malicious hand. Black and White was fast-paced, but Shades of Gray is a runaway train.

Black and White was about contrast: Shadow and Light; Good and Evil; human and extra-human. Everything about Shades of Gray really is gray. The good guys are now tearing the city apart. The people we thought were bad guys are now trying to save the world.

Kittredge & Kessler have taken the two-dimensional world of superhero comic books and given it a depth and feeling that echoes the real world, but on a superhuman scale. And they’ve done it in such a way that their two narratives are seamless. If they didn’t tell who wrote which character in their end bios, I would never have known the difference.

Shades of Gray is a can’t miss chapter in The Icarus Project, and I’m looking excitedly forward to hearing a whole lot more from Jet, Iridium, and company.

Buy Shades of Gray:Amazon | B&N | Indie Bound

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