Book Review: The 'Legacy Omnibus' is spin-off of the classic 'Destroyer' series that
The Legacy Omnibus, which Warren Murphy Media released earlier this year, combines the first three books in the Legacy series of action/fantasy novels by Gerald Welch with an overview of the series. The series is a spin-off of the Destroyer series, which was a staple of the men's action paperback wave of the 70's and 80's.
Most fans of the trend, which bore more than a passing resemblance to the "hero pulps" of the 30's and 40's, are familiar with the series. Although the Executioner series created by Don Pendleton is arguably the quintessential entry in the genre, the Destroyer is the eccentric alternative.
The late writers Warren Murphy and Richard Saphir created the series, which chronicled the adventures of Remo Williams -- a Newark cop framed for murder and sentenced to a faked execution. Williams is drafted into a secretive governmental organization called CURE that covertly fights crime and corruption outside the bounds of the U.S Constitution. The organization eventually arranges for the elderly Korean assassin Chuin to train Williams in Sinanju -- the fictional basis for virtually all martial arts and a discipline that renders its practitioners nearly superhuman.
The series blends the espionage and vigilantism typical to the genre with a mixture of fantasy, character-based humor and political satire.
Not only has the series continued to the present but it spawned a spin-off series that has yielded seven books with an eighth on the way as of this writing.
The Legacy series focuses on William's children, both by different mothers and introduced in the main series. One of them, Stone, is a former Navy SEAL.
His daughter, Freya, has a backstory that is a little more involved and ties directly into the series mythology. Her mother hails from a lost civilization of Viking holdouts that play a part in Sinanju's history.
Both characters are trained in Sinanju by former stuntman "Sunny Joe" Roam -- the leader of an American Indian tribe that learned the art through complicated historical circumstances.
The omnibus includes interviews with Welch and Murphy, an overview of pivotal characters and concepts, a history of how the series was created and other information. Parts of the book are formatted similarly to a tabletop RPG book and gamers will find the book easy to use. Series fans may nitpick about portions of the book (example: there is an excellent section on an ancient rite called the Master's Challenge that nonetheless had a few gaps, perhaps to be filled in a different volume) but will still find it useful. This and both volumes of 'The Assassin's Handbook' provide a good sampling of the series for the curious.
The first three novels have Stone and Freya working for what is effectively a branch office of CURE headed by a former CIA agent named Ben Cole (the series overview in the back includes a list of other branch offices and their directors -- an idea that this reviewer found potentially interesting).
An ancient Illuminati-like organization called VIGIL that originally formed to preserve human knowledge appears as a recurring threat in all three books. They are a functional, well-developed threat but a little too similar to other sinister global organizations like SPECTRE or HYDRA - the kind of cliche that the original series generally avoided.
The first book, 'Forgotten Son,' is a sort of origin story that pits the characters against a Mexican drug cartel. The cartel heavies seemed underwritten and the series exposition slows down the story. Some fans of the original series will enjoy how the overall arc of the franchise is expanded but it definitely lacks the edge and quirkiness that made the early Destroyers compulsively readable.
The second book, 'The Killing Fields,' is a step in the right direction. The plot pits the good guys against a plan to create genetically augmented killers.
Welch allows the book to function less under the shadow of the Destroyer and more as its own animal. It also provids a nod to the current pop-cultural fascination with zombies.
The third book, 'Overload,' is more in the mold of the Destroyer. The satire drives much of the plot, the story functions more on its own than as exposition for a series and the villain is hilarious -- apparently a parody of a certain washed-up 90's action star (hint: it's not Van Damme).
Readers new to the series may need to adjust to an increasingly complicated mythology. Established Destroyer fans may find a few of the changes to the original series elements a little jarring (the character dynamics here are different from the humorous bickering between Williams and Chuin in the earlier books). But the building blocks for an interesting series are in place.
(Editor's Note: the characters in this series are trained in Sinanju and not a diluted form of it as I incorrectly reported in an earlier article, according to Welch. This reviewer regrets the error.)