A Trick Of Light, Stan (the Man) Lee’s final creative output and debut of his Alliances Universe, checks off many of the Mirthful One’s classic requirements: teenage outsiders, power and responsibility, broad explanations, and the need to be loved. Although Stan gets top billing, Kat Rosenfield deserves all the credit for the delivery of a fun page turner that absolutely fits lockstep with those hallowed Marvel myths.
Cameron Ackerman is a high-school senior nerd who wishes to be a big-time YouTube star. Ah, kids today. His wish comes true via a literal bolt from the blue as he gains cyberkentics, that is, the ability to telepathically hack code and control any smart device. Wish-fulfillment is always an ironic beast, a plotting device Stan capitalized on over 100 issues of a comicbook starring another similar teenage nerd.
Nia is a cute hacker who is confined by her stern stepfather. Think shades of Stranger Things’ Eleven’s relationship with her papa turned to, ahem, 11.
Cameron and Nia meet in cyberspace, the modern-day equivalent of, well, anywhere else IRL, and the two smitten teens go on a digital justice crusade attempting to shut down and stop lurking internet trolls. In doing so, they gain the attention of larger trolls: those in power seeking more, as well as the beneficiary of Cameron’s accidental abilities.
Rosenfield beautifully balances the eternal tribulations of teenage romance while gracefully building the big bad threat.
With pop-culture references a go-go, A Trick Of Light is a surprising read that surfs the conventions of genre yet never wipes out.
Cameron and Nia are deeply-fated characters with an heroic ancestry rooted in those Silver Age tales of Peter and Gwen and Matt and Karen and Scott and Jean amplified for the digital age. Rosenfield builds upon, and even matures, Stan’s inspiration and writes a unique tale while maintaining a sense of comfortable familiarity. Not full-on sci-fi, and not exactly a comic book, A Trick Of Light is an outlier in itself, which is certainly something that would make Stan smile. ‘Nuff said.
A True Believers “Excelsior!” to Hannah Harlow of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sending over this winner of a book.