Irene is an immortal jungle goddess trapped in a world of short-lived giants called humans. While she is recently retired, for a time she was acting as a superhero, using her family knicknacks to fight crime and have fun.
But not everyone in Los Angeles wants to have fun. Irene—or more appropriately, the hero Goodnight—discovers a cyborg zombie being accosted by hired thugs, and learns that the tortured girl is far from the first of her kind. A supposedly fair-play hero brutally murders the sidekick of a harmless villain, and more and more people are disappearing off the streets. Goodnight, together with the oldest superhuman on Earth (who also happens to be the youngest) and her new cyborg friend, sets out to make the city safer.
Along the way, she discovers a spider. A very intelligent spider, with some clever ideas on how to help...
This book provides examples of the following tropes:
- 10-Minute Retirement: Goodnight retired after a fight with Winnow, but comes back when she meets Mish-Mosh and Psychopomp. She and Psychopomp commiserate on the fact that retirement never sticks for immortals.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Goodnight's internal monologue constantly chooses conspicuously clumsy... words as long as she can keep it going.
- Anti-Hero: The protagonists are all these but, ironically, so are the "mainstream" heroes. Palooka Joe, for example, intends to kill Bismuth and discriminates against Mish-Mosh.
- Anti-Villain: Most of the villains, but not all of them. For example, Bismuth and Delicious are decent enough people when not being pushed, but Mammon wants to sacrifice Palooka Joe's wife and daughter to Satan.
- Anvil on Head: She'll do it with anything heavy, but this is Goodnight's Signature Move. She uses the Push Rod to telekinetically toss something up, then just lets it fall.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Goodnight is surreal in a world which is already full of surreal superheroes and villains.
- Came Back Wrong: The fate of Bluejay, who becomes Mourning Dove when reanimated by the Bad Doctor.
- Crapsack World: LA has some dark parts by the time of Penny's story, but this book shows that it used to be so much worse. A Mad Scientist is kidnapping people off the street, the hero and villain with the most professional reputations have started a blood feud, and the police have been forbidden from interfering because it's just too dangerous. It's to the point that when Spider introduces a plan that involves feeding the worst members of the community to Mourning Dove and Psychopomp, everyone agrees.
- Cycle of Revenge: Palooka Joe and Bismuth find themselves increasingly upping the stakes in their feud to the point of kidnapping families and attempting to kill the other.
- Dating Catwoman: Discussed with Goodnight's relationship with Bull. She even says she can't tell whether they're dating or fighting most nights.
- The Dreaded: Winnow. It's never made clear what her powers are, other than that she managed to pull herself together after Psychopomp cut her in half. Goodnight loses any sense of humor when thinking about her, and everyone seems terrified of her. She doesn't even need to actively show up in the story to cast a shadow over it.
- Fair-Play Villain: Goodnight encourages this as much as possible, refusing to fight villains when they are not actively committing crimes, and even defending them from other heroes. She doesn't get very far until Spider steps in.
- For Science!: The Bad Doctor isn't trying to make Super Soldiers, he isn't interested in money. All he wants is to better understand life... by taking people and animals apart and putting them back together again in countless different combinations.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Invoked several times by Psychopomp, who often blocks Goodnight's view or tells her to look away from especially grueling scenes, sparing her (and by extension the audience) from the sight.
- Herr Doktor: The Bad Doctor. He doesn't actually use any Gratuitous German, but given his considerable age and thick accent, Goodnight thinks there's at least a possibility he might have once been a Nazi.
- Jerk Ass Has A Point: Palooka Joe believes that all of the Bad Doctor's creations need to be imprisoned or destroyed because even the ones which aren't actively evil will still obey any direct order from him. It sounds like just a crazy theory without any proof when it is first brought up, especially given that he eventually comes around to accepting Mourning Dove as an Anti-Hero. At the climax, however, Spider is indeed unable to resist any order the Bad Doctor gives her.
- Ms. Fanservice: Cyber-Angel takes the usual Stripperiffic superheroine costumes one step further by wearing only acrylic body paint.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The Bad Doctor.
- Named by Democracy: Goodnight decides to call Mish-Mash's creator "The Bad Doctor." Given his handiwork nobody disagrees.
- Nice Guy: Neon Rider is respected by heroes and villains both.
- Not So Different: Goodnight's philosophy about superheroes and supervillains is that while they fight each other, they don't need to hate each other.
- Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: While Goodnight is protecting Starshine, a huge fight is going on with many of the city's worst heroes and villains. One side has teamed up to target Mourning Dove and Spider's plan, while the other side has Psychopomp leading anyone who wants superheroing to be safer and more fun. Though given that this is a prequel, we know Mourning Dove will survive and the "Fun" side will triumph.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The Bad Doctor never bothers to properly introduce himself.
- Only Sane Man: Goodnight is the only hero in LA who is focused on keeping people safe instead of fighting villains, damn the consequences. Which is terrifying when you think about it.
- Origin Story: This is the origin story for a number of characters from the Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain series.
- Running Gag: Whenever anyone sees Goodnight, they immediately glance up to see if she's about to drop something on them. It's to the point that Goodnight identifies a new superhero by the fact that she's the only one in the crowd who doesn't do this.
- The Shill: Palooka Joe spends most of his time talking about how awesome the Bradley Corporation is, and claims corporate-sponsored superheroes are the wave of the future. The truth is that he's Bradley himself, making money off his inventions in his civilian identity.
- Start X to Stop X: A group of the city's most vile villains and most Knight Templar heroes end up agreeing to work together to try and kill Mourning Dove so that she can't be used as the linchpin of a plan that would encourage... the city's heroes and villains to work together.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Pretty much the basis for Goodnight's new team, as two are immortals and one is an amnesiac cyborg.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never actually see the Bad Doctor get killed or imprisoned. Goodnight doesn't even reflect on what happened to him during the epilogue.
- Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis reveals that Mourning Dove took his head and keeps it in her lair.
- What Measure Is A Nonhuman: One of the major themes of the novel, coupled with What Measure Is a Non-Cute? Mish-Mash is called a freak and a monster multiple times, and Goodnight has trouble understanding why humans react so violently to Spider. Spider just accepts the fear and works to keep herself out of sight, but Mish-Mash ends up being healed by her connection to Mourning Dove and becomes the much more beautiful Starshine.