The Penetrator #41: “Hell’s Hostages” by Lionel Derrick (Mark K. Roberts). Trying to capitalize on The Executioner series, The Penetrator is Mark Hardin, an ex Vietnam soldier whose girlfriend was killed by the Mafia. Now he wants revenge, and brings all his training against them. I read the first three novels in the series, and felt by #3 the series was burning itself out. Plus, the character is highly unbelievable (weren’t they all?). Six years in the Army he was medically discharged as an E-7 Master Sergeant. During those six years he obtained a 2nd degree black belt in karate, learned to speak several languages, becomes a weapons expert, etc., etc. In Vietnam, he was a sniper, a penetrator, and an undercover intelligence operative (whew!). I was surprised to learn the series actually lasted for 53 issues. By this entry, #41, it still feels the authors are struggling for plots and characters. There is now sex in the stories, which wasn’t in the first three stories, and the Penetrator becomes a clone of all the other men’s action novels.
The Middle East is the setting for this novel. The Revolution Council (People’s Liberation Army) has taken another American Embassy and its people hostage. One of the hostages is reading The Death Merchant, a men’s action paperback series, and tells another hostage, “We could use a man like Camellian right now.” Unfortunately, the plot was bad, and the characters weak – they never change throughout the story. Colonel Toro Baldwin recruits the mercenaries, with Mark Hardin in charge (codenamed Houdini), to infiltrate and get the hostages out of captivity, and kill as many bad gays as possible. We have a lot of weak fight scenes (just massive killings), some I can only imagine young boys getting a kick out of, not grown men. And of course the superman sex between Mark Hardin and one of the female associates was a plus for pre-teen boys. I thought the series should have ended after story #3, and I still feel it should have. It was really a drag getting through this one. Although I know some readers like this kind of stuff, it just wasn’t something I cared for. Heck, even The Death Merchant is better than this.