Rating: 3.5 stars
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Griffin is a huge superhero fan — which is great, because he lives in a city full of them. Griffin also works for a magazine dedicated to showcasing the heroes of the city. Unfortunately, he has an awful boss who treats him terribly, and Griffin is about over it all. When he loses his temper and makes clear what he really thinks of the guy, Griffin finds himself out of job.
Fortunately, he also has recently met Sebastian, the art director for a rival magazine. In what is sort of a date, sort of a job interview, Griffin gets a chance to show Sebastian his work, while also getting to know the man better. The two click well, even if Griffin feels the wealthier Sebastian is out of his league, nor does he share Griffin’s fascination with superheroes. But it seems like Griffin could have both the job and the man of his dreams if things go well.
However, a new villain in town seems to have targeted Griffin. He keeps finding himself right in the middle of Wraith’s battles and no matter which heroes go up against her, she seems to always have the upper hand. But Sebastian has been hiding some secrets that mean he may just have what it takes to beat her. However, Sebastian is reluctant to take on the mantle of hero. With Wraith out of control and lives on the line, Griffin has to show Sebastian he has what it takes… and Griffin will be right there by his side.
Infamous Heart is the first book in Ryder O’Malley’s Men of Vanguard series. I am a fan of superhero stories and I think O’Malley gives this one some nice twists. Griffin and Sebastian live in a city full of heroes and villains. It’s so commonplace to stumble upon a super battle that most people barely blink and just head the other way. There is even an app that tracks where the conflicts crop up — and users can get points for spotting various heroes. It is a fun play on the superhero trope and I think it give the book a bit of a different spin.
There are a lot of different threads going on here and one that I think has some nice aspects is with regard to Griffin’s job. He is a super fan of the local heroes and knows all about them. But Griffin is stuck in this awful job with a terrible boss. Then he gets the chance to work for what he thinks is his dream job, yet the magazine owner hates superheroes and wants to focus on exposing them and pointing out where they are wrong. So there are some interesting ideas brought up here in terms of Griffin being stuck between the job he wants doing something he would hate, versus a terrible boss but doing what he loves. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is fully developed, nor are Griffin’s motivations ever completely explained. I mean, the new boss seems like a total ass too, so it is pretty much frying pan into fire. Not to mention, we are told so often that heroes are everything to Griffin. Even if he can’t work at his old job, is there really nothing better than taking a job in a place that actively seeks to discredit them?
This isn’t the only area where I think some interesting things are brought up but never really developed. I don’t think the relationship between Griffin and Sebastian ever really comes together with any depth. They meet and then somehow just seem to be dating, but I never felt any development to their relationship or connection between them. I think the fact that this is a single POV from Griffin is part of the problem, as we never really get to know Sebastian much at all. For example, we know he is now wealthy but came from a poor area. He doesn’t want to ever talk about it or go back there, and I kept waiting for the backstory where we learn more about his past, but it never comes.
But their relationship also suffers quite a lot from the fact that Griffin is so manipulative with regard to Sebastian’s super powers. Sebastian just came into his powers, isn’t particularly interested in using them, and definitely doesn’t want to be a superhero. Yet, Griffin pushes and pushes, getting Sebastian to train, berating him for not living up to his potential, and at one point, intentionally putting himself in danger so that Sebastian will feel obligated to save him (and thus intervene in a super battle with the bad guy he was trying to avoid). I kept waiting for the moment of reckoning where Griffin accepts responsibility for his actions, or learns something from his behavior, but it never comes (and in fact, most of the change comes from Sebastian). So I found myself just really not feeling things between them.
I just felt overall that a lot is happening here and nothing every fully comes together. I could give lots of examples (such as the fact that the supervillain is specifically targeting certain people, but we never learn why), but it all just left me feeling like I struggled to hold onto the thread of the story.
This is the first in the series and we do meet some of the other guys who are up next for their own books. O’Malley has created an interesting world here, but I am still not sure if I am interested in continuing on. However, if you are a fan of super hero stories and you like a bit of a twist, this could be one worth checking out.