PULP HEROES AND HISTORY: THE MOTHMAN MENACE BY CRAIG MCDONALD
The Mothman Menace is the second book in Craig McDonald's Zana O'Savin series where the sixties become populated with versions of characters from thirties pulp stories. At the center of the tales are Zana, a brilliant and beautiful adventuress who often appeared in the exploits of her cousin Doc. In the first book, The Blood Ogre, McDonald had to set up the world and origin of everyone. Here , he is free to simply play in his sandbox we get a better idea of what the series will be like.
He uses a historical disaster in 1967. Zana and Colonel Ian Raven Rauwenwich, the talented engineer with huge hands on Doc's crew, travel to Ohio to investigate the sighting of The Mothman, a large owl like creature with glowing eyes. On their way, the Silver Bridge connecting the state to West Virginia has its infamous collapse. They spot The Mothman above the wreckage. Also at a local diner the two have an encounter with several humanoid types in dark overcoats. It proves to be involved with fissures in timelines and dimensions connected to Zana, Doc, and the other characters appearance in our world which also provides a Doc O'Savin from the future. Trouble also comes from a conniving J. Edgar Hoover who wants them under his thumb.
McDonald's love of pulp fiction is infectious and he has a lot of fun. We get taken along on a ride of adventure and strange science as Zana, The Colonel, and crew crack the mystery to The Mothman and the other occurrences with the application of a devised theory. With more room to maneuver than the previous book, he pays more attention to the interactions of Doc's quirky crew of scientists, lawyers, and other great minds who can handle a skuffle as well as a hypothesis. The thirties heroes shed a spirit of bravado to the troubled sixties. This comes across beautifully with the shadowy vigilante The Shade's showdown with Hoover.
The Mothman Menace may remind some of The Wild Cards series of the eighties and nineties where comic book heroes operate in our history. In that series, the heroes got tarnished by the real world. Here, McDonald reverses it with The O'Savins and gang righting the wrongs of the postwar world, delivering the optimism they did to troubled readers in the Depression. There is a moment in the book where a boy recognizes an incognito Doc O'Savin The awe McDonald expresses is not too different from how he probably felt as a young man reading Doc Savage Ballantine reprints. With this series, he shares that feeling with us.