Lost and alone in the African jungle, archaeologist Jonathan Baker has a very bad encounter with a giant spider – he loses his right hand, and barely survives the ordeal.
Saved by the lost Sumai people, he learns the legend of the Spider Goddess, planning the extinction of humanity, and receives the strange blessing of the ancient god Siruuk.
Through a mysterious ritual, his right hand is restored and imbued with mystical powers, and he becomes known as The Claw, the traditional enemy of the Spider Women that serve their evil Goddess.
Then things get really interesting.
A solid 200+ pages trade paperback with a gorgeous cover and some great interior art, Miguel Angel Naharro’s La Maldicion de la Diosa Arana (Curse of the Spider Goddess) is the first title in the “Savage Collection” by Spanish Dlorean Ediciones – it was published at the end of 2012.
And the collection starts with a very strong title.
My second foray in the strange lands of Other People’s Pulp, Curse of the Spider Goddess is a tight, fun, well-executed new pulp title – it celebrates the past of the genre without giving in to nostalgia, and provides some high-class entertainment.
In the early chapters, we get a classic “pre-title sequence” (just like in the Indiana Jones or James Bond movies) – Baker and his companions are in Egypt, looking for some lost mystical treasure.
In flashback, we find out how Baker got his strange powers – his right hand can turn into an armored talon charged with mystical strength, and he gets a sort of mystical vibe in the presence of magic.
Then we’re back in New York, and the action picks up – the Nazis are sniffing around in search of the secret of the Spider Godess, Baker’s old mentor gets killed, and the mysterious “Walkyria” – a former German aviatrix now fighting on the side of the Allies – joins forces with the bold archaeologist and his team to thwart the plans of the Reich.
Cue to fights, escapes, and much globe-trotting.
Nice and smooth.
Naharro handles both action and suspance quite nicely – his writing is straightforward but polished, his style and language are clear*.
And he’s able to inject a few interesting twists in some classic clichés.
The first is the cross-pollination of the Indiana Jones/Doc Savage model – ancient mysteries, a scientist as hero – with the Shadow/Green Lama model – a hero with mystical powers and a secret identity.
I was not sure the mix could work, but it does.
Jonathan Baker, alias “La Garra” (The Claw, in Spanish), is a well-balanced character, and holds up the story quite nicely.
His sidekicks (Morodo totally out-Lothars Mandrake’s Lothar), companions and helpers are also nicely realized.
And Walkyria, despite the lack of a first name, certainly gets high marks for style and charm as the tough, mysterious amazon.
And then we get Bochler, the SS heavy with a strange affinity for cold (go and talk about an ice-cold killer), and the the evil, Nazi spider-woman, Vanessa von Ulrich.
And boy is she a great variation on the classic Nazi She-Wolf cliché.
And yet she remains classy, and fun to read.
Despite the early reference to the cult of the Spider Women, the story is not misogynistic or… ehm, “old fashioned” in any significantly offensive way – in this sense, Curse of the Spider Goddes is an excellent new pulp, updating the old while keeping an an eye on modern readers and modern concerns.
The novel closes with a true-to-form hook for further adventures – and indeed, looks like there’s a second book coming in a short while.
And this is good.
* And considering I’m moving my first steps as a reader of Spanish, the author’s clarity comes as much-appreciated bonus.