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Literature / Nemesis Series

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Nemesis is a series of superhero novels by April Daniels.

Before dying Dreadnought, the world's greatest superhero, passes on his powers to a young closeted trans girl named Danny Tozer. As a byproduct of the transfer Danny is transformed into her ideal self, making it impossible to hide her gender anymore.

There are two published novels so far:

  • Dreadnought (January 2017) deals with Danny adjusting to her new life while trying to stop Dreadnought's murderer.
  • Sovereign (July 2017) meets Danny, now an established superhero, about 9 months later, facing a new threat.

Not to be confused with the Agatha Christie novel Nemesis. Now has a character sheet!

Dreadnought contains examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Calamity has a wide array of ammo types for her revolvers (as well as a selection of grenades), some fairly regular, some less so. Her trademark "jelly rounds" are a case in point.
  • Abusive Parents: Danny's father is bigoted and extremely verbally abusive, to the point where she has permanent hearing damage from always being screamed at. Her mother is either unable or unwilling to intervene, and tries to "buy off" Danny by way of apology after particularly bad outbursts.
  • Achilles' Heel: Dreadnought is incredibly resilient to physical attacks and extreme temperatures, and can hold her breath for hours at a time, but doesn't have much more resistance to electricity than a baseline human. She is also vulnerable to magic.
  • All There in the Manual: In-universe, there is mention of an ethics manual specifically for dealing with Dreadnought's powers, and a general orientation guide for young metahumans. The latter seems like a reasonable thing for a long-standing superteam like the Legion Pacifica to have on hand, but the former definitely overlaps with Crazy-Prepared.
  • And I Must Scream: After Graywytch's body is found lifeless in prison, Codex hypothesizes that the Council of Avalon might have done this to her.
  • Animesque: Doc Impossible appears to be fond of using Anime-style characters in the UI for her hypertech devices.
  • Antagonist Title: Sovereign is named after the antagonist of its book.
  • Apology Gift: The next time Danny visits Legion Tower after her fairly disastrous first meeting with the Legion, Doc Impossible fabricates a couple clothes for her.
    • After her father has one of his patented screaming fits, Danny's mother typically takes her out to buy something nice, despite the budget. It doesn't take Danny long to see it for the bribe it is, once she's out of her shell.
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: The Artificer states very clearly that for two teenagers to go after a supervillain that killed Dreadnought seems like an incredibly bad idea.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Valkyrja drops one on Danny at the end of their second meeting, when she asks whether Danny feels safe at home, and offers her quarters at Legion Tower. Danny doesn't know how to respond and leaves in a hurry.
  • Artistic License Physics: Notably Averted, for the most part. While superpowers are basically magic, their interaction with the real world pays attention to physical realities: flyers need to worry about wind resistance and atmospheric oxygen levels (as well as G forces when they're carrying baseline humans), metahumans that can shrug off artillery shells will still suffer significant injuries when hit with space debris at orbital velocities, etc.
    • And yet, even Doctor Impossible, the supergenius, believes that going just outside Earth's atmosphere (~100 km) in order to fly without air resistance, is the same thing as entering an orbit around the Earth, where spacecraft fly (at a minimum of 3000 km altitude) at a speed which stabilizes them against Earth's gravitational pull.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The "Flying Dutchman", a bar for graycapes, nonpartisans, and "associated hangers-on".
  • Bequeathed Power: How Dreadnought's powers are passed on.
  • Big Bad: In the first book, we have Utopia, a cyborg-themed supervillain. In the second, we get Sovereign, a fascist billionaire.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Not surprisingly for a superhero novel, there are several such moments. In Dreadnought, the stand-out moments (acknowledge in-universe) are Danny's airplane rescue early on, and the successfully averted mecha attack in the climax.
  • Capepunk: The series is about a 15 year old trans girl being given the powers of one of the strongest metahumans on the planet and just how big a burden it puts on her. And how few of the heroes in the series are either heroic or mentally stable — some think that forcibly drafting a 15 year old is a good idea. Some are concerned more with making money than saving people. And some hate transgender people so much that they'll do everything in their considerable power to make that person miserable for the crime of being born.
  • Cast from Hit Points: One of the Mantle's powers is kinetic redirection. Sounds great, right? Except doing so means putting that energy somewhere. Like your bones.
  • Character Title: Dreadnought is named after the hero that gives Danny her powers, whose role Danny takes on.
  • Child Soldiers: Sarah and (as of Book 2) Danny qualify as this, being 15-year olds that regularly participate in combat engagements, and there's plenty of evidence of it really messing with their heads.
    • Sarah doesn't really seem to have a social life outside of going caping, and is completely desensitized to violence. There's a scene where Danny and Sarah interview a henchman with Sarah repeatedly assaulting and verbally threatening the subject that culminates in this exchange that's equal parts hilarious and deeply disturbing:
      Danny: That was nice good cop, bad cop we did there.
      Sarah (blank and confused): We were doing what now?
    • As of Sovereign, Danny is turning into a Blood Knight, which has everyone close to her (Sarah included) really worried about her recklessness and extreme brutality. Both Sarah and Danny display clear symptoms of PTSD.
    • It's worth noting that the Legion's bylaws specifically try to avoid this by forbidding minors from holding full memberships. But Danny is forced into her role when almost the entire Legion's active roster is wiped out, with Graywytch deliberately blocking the hiring of any replacements so that Danny's the sole A-list heavy hitter in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Danny fits the bill for most of Dreadnought, being untrained and full of doubts; she's slowly starting to get better (which is to say, more self-assured) by the end.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: Sarah as Calamity wears a coat, hat, and face covering bandana.
  • The Comically Serious: Red Steel sounds all threatening and malicious, but Danny has his number from the word 'go': it's just his way of showing respect. He sends her death threats, she sends cat pics.
  • Coming-Out Story: Danny starts the first book as a closeted, pre-transition transgender female and ends with her publicly coming out as transgender and lesbian. Several of the major story beats are about her gender and superhero identities being outed; see Forced Out of the Closet below.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Sarah's powers are hereditary, thanks to the super-serum her grandfather was injected with, but they come with about a 50% chance of dying from leukemia within ten years of exposure. Two of Sarah's brothers didn't make it, and Sarah herself had leukemia as a child, although the cancer now seems to be in remission.
  • Disintegrator Ray: Utopia's inversion beam flat-out unmakes reality.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In-universe, "superpowers" and "special abilities" are essentially the same thing, but the word "superpowers" is heavily coded for the superhero/supervillain lifestyle, whereas people with "special abilities" just lead normal lives.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Dreadnoughts tend to be the first line of defense against whatever world ending threat may pop up. No Dreadnought has ever died of natural causes, and Danny doesn't expect to be the exception.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Graywytch in the second book. Sovereign was never going to win. Even if the heroes hadn't stopped him Graywytch had already hijacked his master plan, and made sure she could easily defeat him.
  • Everyone Can See It: The Danny/Sarah pairing in Sovereign before their Relationship Upgrade. If the passage quoted in Oblivious to Love below is any indication, it's not hard to see how.
  • Expy: Like other Superhero novels there are a lot of references to both Marvel and DC.
  • Fantastic Slur: some metahumans refer to baseline humans as "flats".
    Danny: "That is the most boring slur I've ever heard."
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Happens to Danny no less than three times in the first book.
    • The first time is when Doc Impossible makes the results of Danny's medical scan available to all Legion members, accidentally outing Danny to the trans-hating Graywytch.
    • The second time, it's Graywytch outing Danny's superhero identity to her parents.
    • The third and final time, it's when a photo of Danny with her mask shredded makes the rounds after a large battle, exposing her secret identity to the public. After this, Danny's had enough and publicly comes out as both transgender and lesbian in her first press interview as Dreadnought.
  • Friends Are Chosen, Family Aren't: A recurring theme. Dreadnought in particular is about the contrast between Danny's home life with her Abusive Parents and her interactions with her new-found friends.
    • Averted at the end: Danny has a Found Family, despite the weirdness. And asks Doc Impossible to adopt her.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: Inverted when Danny shows off her powers to Charlie, and starts by levitating a marble using her lattice manipulation, visibly strained.
    Charlie: "That's uh, hm. That's... really neat."
    Danny: (blushing) "I can also bench press a school bus."
    Sarah: "She saved that airliner last week."
  • Flying Brick: Dreadnought's power set.
  • Gendercide: Graywytch's ultimate plan is to kill all men. It comes disturbingly close to succeeding, resulting in the deaths of millions of people, including many trans women and intersex individuals as well as numerous cis women who were killed in the resulting chaos. The total death toll was in the millions.
  • Good Is Dumb: The Legion can be this, sometimes.
    • Legion-affiliated superheroes recommend that minors with superpowers use "throw away colors" (basically gray camouflage) for their suits, to declare themselves nonpartisan until they become of age. Almost every non-Legion cape in the story points out that only Legion-affiliated minors do this, so throw away colors are a dead giveaway.
    • Telling a teenager with incredible superpowers to not go caping under any circumstances. Exactly what did they expect to happen?
      • Magma later admits that they really did not think this one through.
  • GPS Evidence: Calamity and Danny manage to figure out where one of Utopia's henchmen lives from a single napkin he used. Justified because they enroll the help of a literal wizard (Sarah's friend Charlie) to do it.
  • Healing Factor: Dreadnought has one; while not Wolverine-level, she recovers from internal organ damage that would kill a normal human while feeling not much worse than sore, and broken bones completely heal within a few days.
    • Red Steel has a lesser one: he doesn't heal faster than a normal person, but he always bounces back in the end. At one point he spent three years regrowing his legs.
  • Hero's First Rescue: For Danny, it's one of the classics - saving a crashing plane.
  • Home Base: Legion tower, a skyscraper in downtown New Port City, is where the Legion Pacifica resides.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book is a One-Word Title, Character Title:
    • Dreadnought
    • Sovereign
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Gerald, one of Utopia's minions, is this. He feels like his life is going nowhere and is willing to work for a supervillain that promises him powers.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Doc Impossible has tried to date Valkyrja, who is, unfortunately, straight. To a lesser degree, Danny has a celebrity crush on Valkyrja.
  • Instant Awesome: Just Add Mecha!: The Big Bad is a cyborg (or possible android?) Gadgeteer Genius. So true to form, there's a big battle of five Color-Coded for Your Convenience mechas vs. Dreadnought in the climax, and it's awesome.
  • Kaiju: They exist in this world, and there was some sort of crisis of them in the past.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Graywytch is about as well-educated in human biology as you would expect any bigot to be. This comes back to bite her hard when she casts a global curse targeting Y chromosomal arrangements — it turns out some cis women have XY or XXY karyotypes, and when Dreadnought catches up to her in her pocket dimension, she's collapsed in a puddle of vomit, having fallen victim to her own spell. It's this rather than Hoist by Their Own Petard because of the deep, baked-in irony.
  • Lawful Stupid: Calamity considers the Legion to be this; Danny doesn't really agree but is unwilling to argue over it.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: Danny is the latest in the line of Dreadnoughts.
    • Valkyrja's powers seem to be passed on through a combination of possession and reincarnation.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Danny is very much one. So much so, that even though being naturally beautiful is part of her powers she still likes applying makeup just for the sake of it.
  • Meta Origin: The second book reveals that all superpowers, hypertech, and magic are derived from a meteor comprised of exotic matter in a 3,000 year orbit around the earth, named The Nemesis
  • Murder by Inaction: Zig-zagged. Danny is sorely tempted when her abusive father gets threatened by a super-powered thug in an abandoned parking lot, then immediately beats herself up over even considering it. She keeps going back and forth on this for a while.
    • Later still, after he has one of his "eruptions", she is upset with herself for not letting her dad get killed.
  • Must Have Nicotine: In Dreadnought, Doc Impossible is always either smoking or (when in her lab) consuming disturbing amounts of nicotine gum.
  • Necessary Drawback: Danny can heal herself, but it causes other injuries, and it is a slow process. It's only really useful when trading a life threating injury for several nonlethal ones.
  • Oblivious to Love: Oh, Danny.
    Her cheeks graduate to a full-on blush and she laughs. "It's fine, Danny. Let's get out of here."
    We get some food at a diner, and this is something I can afford so I insist that she lets me treat her. She spends the meal smiling deeply, staring out the window and flicking occasional glances my way. It's nice having a friend.
  • Official Couple: Danny and Sarah by the end of book two.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Meet Doctor Impossible: physician, scientist, Gadgeteer Genius, hacker, pilot.
  • One-Word Title: Each book has a Character Title:
    • Dreadnought
    • Sovereign
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Sarah is very obviously Calamity, and Danny figures it out on their third meeting.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": After Doc Impossible has her way with Sovereign's boxen in retaliation for his part in the murder of millions, it so transpires that his password is 'password2'.
  • Plant Person: Chlorophyll. Has a super-powered sister, "Aloe", that judging by her name also seems to be this. A reformed supervillain, she shows up at the convention at the start of Sovereign — attached to Magma's arm.
  • Precision F-Strike: when Danny, steaming after a particularly bad encounter with her dad, wants to "go find a mugger to beat up", Sarah refuses her in no uncertain terms.
    Sarah: "I'm not going anywhere with you while you're being like this."
    Danny: "Being like what?"
    Sarah: "A bitch. Danny, what is up with you?"
  • Queer Colors: The cover art features a silhouette of the protagonist against a sunset with the pink, white and blue of the trans pride flag.
  • Reality Warper: Dreadnought, once again. Her flight, super strength etc. derive from her being able to manipulate the "lattice", described as "the underside of reality". Beyond just her "stock" superpowers, Danny practices manipulating the lattice directly and appears to be much more adept at this than at least her immediate predecessor, if the finale is any indication.
    • The Nemesis itself almost certainly qualifies. While it's not sapient, it bends reality — the Lattice Danny makes use of — in a fashion which allows for what might be called 'unreality' to exist. And with a 3,000 year orbital cycle, that may have been responsible for the gods of antiquity.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Doc Impossible, Valkyrja and Magma fit the bill.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Red Steel might have been imbued with his eye beams by Sovereign, or might have been saving them for a needed occasion, but either way, his own peepers don't fare too well once Dreadnought reflects them back.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Doc Impossible is an android.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Or at least Calamity does, and she thinks it would be a total waste for you to wait to turn 18 before you start caping.
  • The Scream: Danny does this after her first meeting with the Legion turns first into a discussion of whether she should be allowed to join, and then into a shouting match about whether she should be "allowed" to keep the mantle of Dreadnought at all.
    Doc Impossible: "[Carapace] just needs time." (to come around to letting Danny join)
    Danny: "And I needed to know I could trust you. All of you."
  • Shooting Superman: While caping with Calamity, Danny gets shot by a liquor store robber, who empties a whole SMG magazine at her. Her only response is "Dude! Not cool!".
  • Shout-Out: Danny's internet chat name is Minovsky_Particle.
  • Skipping School: This is inverted as Danny sneaks back into school when, one week after her transition, her parents still want to keep her home until she's "cured".
  • Supernaturally-Validated Trans Person:
    • The first novel, "Dreadnought", opens with Dannie receiving the powers of a dying superhero, which has the side effort of transforming her into her idealised self. Notably the series was written by a trans woman specifically as a Power Fantasy for young transgender adults.
    • The second novel features an inversion, where a transphobe's sense of being "normal" is invalidated instead. Greywych (an Alpha Bitch modelled after "Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists" in the first novel, and an outright antagonist in the second) casts a spell to kill off "men"; by her definition, anyone with a Y chromosome. It turns out that she's (possibly) a cis woman with a Y chromosome and androgen insensitivity, meaning she almost dies as well- she insists that it was just because the spell was so powerful it was Cast from Hit Points, but the truth is left for the reader to decide and she's been shown to be very self-delusional.
  • Super Serum: Sarah's grandfather was unwillingly used as a lab rat for one. It worked, and the effects can be inherited, but the government doesn't know that, and Sarah's family is planning on keeping it that way.
  • Super-Soldier: Sarah and her family.
  • Super Team: The Legion Pacifica, the most accomplished superhero team in Northern America.
  • Take Up My Sword: Dreadnought to Danny at the start.
  • The Cavalry: Several times in Sovereign.
    • Calamity shows up in the nick of time when Danny's fight with the lightning-throwing Crenshaw is going badly.
    • Later, there's Calamity, Kinetiq and Doc Impossible rescuing Danny from Garrison's Island.
    • Finally, after Danny has been framed for murder and arrested, the "superhero community" (but probably mostly Aloe) rally to post her bail.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: Whitecapes, graycapes, and blackcapes respectively, although only the most self-righteous whitecape would describe the situation using the words in the trope name.
    • Whitecapes are "official" heroes. They work within the system, try to color strictly within the bounds of the law, and are able to secure official funding and support. Whitecapes tend to view graycapes as morally compromised opportunists or vigilantes.
    • Graycapes are more on the "masked vigilante" side of the spectrum. This can be because they resort to less-than-savory methods, out of cynicism ("the system is broken"), or simply because they're not given the opportunity to work within the system for whatever reason. They tend to view whitecapes as sanctimonious goody two-shoes with an over-simplistic worldview.
    • Blackcapes are outright super-criminals or villains with not much argument.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sarah (tomboy) and Danny (girly girl).
  • Two Roads Before You: Doc Impossible makes it abundantly clear to Danny that becoming a superhero is a life-long commitment with little chance of turning back (for you are likely to make enemies), that it's gonna cost her her chance of ever leading a normal life, and that the decision is hers alone to make.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Doc Impossible and Danny (who's mad at her from her last visit) riding the elevator to Doc's lab on Danny's second visit to Legion Tower. Then the Doc decides to double down and breaks the ice by taking a long drag on her cigarette and mentioning that Valkyrja (whom Danny is crushing on) is straight.
    Danny (completely mortified): That's disappointing.
    Doc Impossible: Tell me about it.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Danny specifically calls this out as an old and tired cliché, but she gets a few moments like this, where nobody could pin a death on her and she has to make the hard choice.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: Sarah gets her equipment from an underground Technopath with money she takes from drug dealers. Later, she relies on Doc Impossible, who it's implied provides the artillery under the table.
  • Wicked Witch: Graywytch is somewhere between this and a Sociopathic Hero. In-story, we never actually see her do anything but make Danny's life hell, but seeing as she's a Legion Pacifica member in good standing, presumably she has done good at some point.
    • In Sovereign, she does everything she can to screw up Danny's life. And turns into an outright super villain.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Danny gets VERY close to this. By the end of Sovereign she puts her heroics on hold and starts seeing a therapist.
  • World's Strongest Man: Pretty much whoever happens to be Dreadnought at the time. Though Red Steel is certainly a contender, having most of the same powers at a similar level... and has outlived every single Dreadnought so far.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Calamity and Valkyrja in particular keep reassuring the incredible insecure Danny that she's a natural at superhero-ing and fully deserves to carry on Dreadnought's name.