Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild

Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild by George R.R. Marin & The Wild Card Trust, Wild Cards #3

The streets of New York have erupted in celebration of Wild Card Day-the annual event held every September 15th to remember the dead and cherish the living. It is a day for fireworks and street fairs and parades, for political rallies and memorial banquets, for drinking and fighting in the alleys. With each passing year, the festivities become larger and more fevered. And this year-1986, the fortieth anniversary-promises to be the biggest and best Wild Card Day ever. The media and tourists have discovered the celebration, and taverns and restaurants expect record-setting business.

But lurking in the background is a twisted genius who cares nothing for fun and festivity. The Astronomer has only one concern: destruction.

The Wild Cards series has been on my to read list for quiet some time now, I haven't read the first book in the series yet but jumped right into the fray with Inside Straight the 18th book in the series. It was the only book available at the time. Tor "rebooted" the series back in 2008 with Inside Straight but the first book Wild Cards goes back as far as 1986! I encountered these books when I was searching for new superhero books and was more than pleased with the outcome. Recently I read Dangerous Women which featured a short story that really rekindled my need to read more of this amazing universe of superheroes. It's definitely not the superheroes you have come to know from the D.C comics or Marvel. For me this is actually much, much better!!

Besides the new books in the Wild Cards universe, the "Tor Revival" that will see Lowball published later this summer, they are also reprinting the earlier books that were originally released by Bantam press. Hooray for us! Each year a new book will feature, I do hope they will make this into perhaps two or even three a year, else the wait will be too long... (hint). Jokers Wild is the third book in the series and the first conclusion of a trilogy, books four, five and six make up the second and so forth all going to the twenty-first book. 

The Wild Card universe is made up of the following premise. An alien virus better known as the Wild Cards virus was released upon Earth in 1946, this virus has the ability to change the DNA of humans. The majority of the people that come into contact with this virus see their life forfeit and only a small percentage have their cards turned in a favorable way becoming an Ace, one that has significant superpowers. Some that have their cards turned in a less favorable way are known as Jokers, they become hideous creatures, disformed and the likes. Not all superpowers will turn you into an Ace, your powers can also be useless not contributing to anything and will leave you marked as a Deuce. 

Picking up directly after the events of Aces High, Jokers Wild sums up the first two books with a big clash. The Astronomer's plans have been countered by a set a brave Aces in the earlier books and he has had enough. The Astronomer is out on revenge and wants to get rid of all the Aces that saw his plans fall in the water. He is particularly keen on revenge on the Ace Fortunato. Fortunato is one of the most powerful Aces out there and the same goes for the Astronomer. This final showdown all takes place on the most memorable day for many Jokers and Aces: Wild Card Day, the day where everyone stands still to remember those that have perished and celebrate the living, and the one that has a special place here is the famous Jetboy, who sacrificed himself to stop the Wild Card virus from spreading. Anyway the Astronomer is out for revenge and he will get it, whatever the cost. Accompanying the Astronomer are Roulette and Spector/Demise. Though Spector's relation to the Astronomer is with some reluctance. This part of the Astronomer is just one of many different storylines that you follow throughout Jokers Wild, there are many more and the first is set into motion by an Ace known as the Wraith, Jennifer Maloy, who steals a very valuale set of notebooks from a gangster known as Kien, one that could bring him down and the Wraith hasn't thought about these consequences. Another one is that of Sewer Jack who searches for his lost niece, this storyline features another Ace, Bagabond, one that I really enjoyed reading about. And certainly last but not least, Ace Hiram Worchester is prepping his diner for the Wild Card Day celebration. There are indeed many leads pursued in Jokers Wild and when I first found out that these Wild Cards books are written by many different authors I did have some reservations since every author does have its own style. But here is a really nice working of George R.R. Martin's skills he seemlesslt weaves the whole story in to one part, the story flows naturally, ace work!
Superheroes come in many different forms and in Joker's Wild and the Wild Cards series, they are something else than what you have come to see in the current media. Or at least I am of that opinion. They seem to be much much more. With the advent of many more movies in the making I feel that the focus of many of today's heroes lies with making everything as flashy and cool as possible. In the Wild Cards series, this is to a certain degree also the case however for I think it doesn't only lie in showing how tough the Aces are but there is also a great emphasis on the character interactions, maybe even going as far as saying that it is heavy on the emotional side and personal relations. This is an aspect that I really like to see explored and the best thing in Joker's Wild is that is doesn't follow the usual cliches. Does this make Jokers Wild a cuddly kind of story? Far from it. 

There is a great build up from the beginning towards the ending of the story with action and tension only further increasing. There are some scenes in the beginning of the book that mainly focus on the Wraith that show a nice rapid fire action, and with her powers only make it that much cooler. After the action packed introduction the story does focus more on layering the different storylines and telling where the story currently stands, only being thrown in a different rapid once the Astronomer takes it place in the center and Fortunato trying to stop him. When the action does take place and the aces start to unleash their powers it is the kind of flashy display that is rightly suited for the bigger screen. The powers of the different Aces aren't storyboard and show a high creativeness in first being thought of and secondly how they are being used. I was very intrigues on many parts by the Ace Hiram Worcherster and what he can do, pretty awesome. But also the relation between the Astronomer and Fortunato, where one is death and the other is life and how they draw their strengths and lets not forget Tachyon, the alien who can do some pretty cool things, but one that I was perhaps most impressed with was Demise, who has a wicked power, but his character goes through some very fine developments and the struggle accompanied make him a well rounded character. 

Jokers Wild is a solid conclusion to the first trilogy of the Wild Cards universe. It is a fine display of building up and finally delivering a strong and pretty heated closing of the story, well this first one... because there are 19 other books that make up the remained of this series! The Astronomer is one of the baddest bad guys that I have read about in superhero fiction, I found myself almost shouting to Fortunato and his friend to kick his ass! He is nasty. The ending of the book really surprised me, especially with the mention that Fortunato is one of the most powerful Aces, it might seem a bit anticlimactic, but it's very cool (no I wont spoil the ending, it's put a smile on your face I dare to reckon). Jokers Wild and the whole Wild Cards isn't you standard run of the mill comic book superhero story and perhaps you can see a bit of the old style writing in Jokers Wild since the book does date back from the 1980's and when I compare it to Inside Straight the latter is just a bit more catchy in writing style, BUT this doesn't take away that this is an awesome book and should be read by everyone. George R.R. Martin has garnered a lot of publicity with his A Song of Fire and Ice, I do have to warn you this is something completely different... Too bad I have to wait till January 2015 for the fourth book too be released, luckily there is Lowball (Wild Cards #22) later this summer!! 


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