Building on the successes of 2015’s Lois Lane: Fallout, Gwenda Bond takes everything that fans loved about that book and throws even more entertainment into its sequel, Lois Lane: Double Down. Excellent friendships? Check. An online romance between two people who respect one another and view each other as friends above all else? Check. Hard-nosed investigation of nefarious dealings, sprinkled with a dash of shadowy criminals? Check. Mysterious and possibly crackpot sightings of a flying man? Check. You don’t need to have read Fallout to enjoy Double Down — Bond does a great job of making sure there are allusions to the first book while letting the second stand on its own feet — but reading the books in sequence will allow you to appreciate Lois Lane’s character development as she spends more time in Metropolis.
Double Down takes place only a few weeks after the events of Fallout; just like in the comics, Lois doesn’t get much time to breathe between adventures. What seems like a thoroughly mundane Daily Scoop fluff piece about a young urban artist helping to revitalize his neighborhood puts Lois in the path of her friend Maddy’s twin, Melody, who collapses in a faint outside a run-down industrial complex. Melody claims that she was told to come here a few years ago, while participating in some twin-related research, but the building appears to be abandoned. The artist, Dante Alvarez, warns Lois that this part of town is controlled by Boss Moxie, a notorious criminal who seems to operate his empire with total immunity from the law. Melody suffers from audio and visual hallucinations, unable to account for her actions or to control certain physical tics, and it seems as though she’s being remotely controlled — but why whom, and for what purpose?
Meanwhile, Mayor Worthington has just been released from prison after serving time for corruption charges, and his son James (one of Lois’ classmates and a fellow contributor to the Scoop) suspects that his family wasn’t told the entire story. As if that weren’t enough, SmallvilleGuy is under extra pressure because someone’s been posting messages on UFO-sighting message boards about flying men in Kansas. He claims to know someone, known only to him online as “TheInventor,” who can help track down and stop the claims, but Lois is suspicious of this person’s motives and methods. And her parents want her to be home every night for dinner!
This all seems like a lot to juggle, and it is, but Bond succeeds beautifully. She gives equal weight to Lois’s investigations and the different aspects of her personal life, no matter whether she’s staking out a medical lab or spending a few hours watching television with her mother and sister. Life as an army brat hasn’t been easy for Lois, particularly with regard to figuring out how to be a good friend, and there are times in Double Down when she fails. Thankfully, Bond confronts Lois’ missteps head-on, giving her room to grow and evolve into a person who feels worthy of the circle of friends she’s begun to cultivate. And even though I know what lies in store for Lois as an adult, even though I know who SmallvilleGuy will turn out to be, the way Bond writes their interactions is a real treat. (He named a calf Nellie Bly in honor of Lois! Isn’t that just the sweetest thing?) Since the Metropolis of these novels is a slightly futuristic version of our own world, it makes perfect sense that two teenagers would rely on text messages or a virtual-reality game for the majority of their interactions, and that their time talking or chasing goblins online would feel almost as real and satisfying as coffee dates or strolls through a park.
The mystery aspect of Double Down is well-written and kept me guessing until the last pages, with enough hints dropped about certain characters to keep the series going for at least half a dozen more installments. Bond keeps Lois approachably human: she’s intelligent, but she doesn’t come to any impossible or suspiciously convenient leaps of logic. She’s capable of covering a lot of ground on her own, but she needs her friends to help with a lot of issues, and she’s never too proud to say so. Most importantly to me, Bond never needlessly puts Lois in peril so that someone can come to her aid. It’s Lois who comes to the rescue when her friends are in danger, and it’s Lois who stands up and speaks out against injustice and wrong-doing, which is exactly what I would expect of someone who will someday catch the eye (and heart) of a certain similarly-minded Kryptonian.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bond’s prose is so much fun to read, she takes wildly improbable comic-book-style situations and makes them credible, and she has a talent for writing teenagers who act and sound age-appropriate. As much as I thought Lois Lane: Fallout was wonderful, Lois Lane: Double Down is even better. If you’re a fan of Superman comics, Lois Lane, or feisty teenaged journalists and the farm boys who love them, and you aren’t reading these novels, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice.