Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer⎯a cyborg named Utopia⎯still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Dreadnought can best be explained as the origin story for Danny, a closeted transgender girl who inherits superhero powers, get transformed into a girl and saves the world. But along with new powers, new responsibilities, and her new body, she also has to face outright the transphobia. All her life, she has been raised to be the ‘man’ by her dad, even if she never was interested in that. Now that her body reflects her gender, she is out, and while she is ecstatic about it, there are people who would rather she be a boy. Her father, for instance, reaches out in the cape community to see if anyone could ‘fix’ her; the superhero league she plans to join is not unanimously on board with her being trans. Additionally, girl has to keep her identity secret, and keep out from actual caping because she is a minor. But circumstances emerge that she has to take up the mantle that she is scared to embrace and save the city.
Much of the story is about her struggle as a transgender teen. The fact of her toxic home environment, and the judgement of the people she idolized, and her own fear of taking on the big responsibility of having the Dreadnought’s powers means that she is constantly second-guessing herself. It makes for a great narrative because while she is now physically invincible, people can still hurt her emotionally. She is also very kind-hearted and empathetic, more because she knows how it feels to have lived without either unconditionally. Her friendship with Calamity/Susan is a good addition that I feel gives her a good perspective on both sides of the superhero divide.
The writing, when it came to the emotional parts, was good, but the two major action scenes felt drawn-out to me; I got bored and it was drowning in too much detail and no dialogue. There are also scenes that don’t quite connect, and maybe it could have been revised more properly. The world-building is reminiscent of Marvel and DC universes, with the Legion definitely reminding me of Justice League and Teen Titans in their superhero powers. I would have liked to see more of the other ‘special ability’ people working their magic, especially during the end because I think they would have lent a hand. The plot kind of reminds me of Rise of the Guardians (movie), and the villain of Alie in The 100 (TV show) while the mecha, of Escaflowne (anime). Lots of pop culture influences here, that’s for sure.
Finally, I would also like to include a trigger warning for transphobic and homophobic slurs, as well as some scenes of verbal abuse that might be upsetting to some. Overall, a great start to the series, but could have been edited better.
Received a free galley from Diversion books, via Netgalley.