From my understanding this book began as a kind of RPG tabletop game (as in being written as they went) and it developed into this series of connected short stories. This is an expanded edition of the original collection, which has some additional stories written as late as 2010. The premise involves an alien culture landing on Earth and among their technology is a kind of virus while has a couple of possible effects on those who get it: death, transformation to a kind of nightmare creature (devolution, mutation etc) which the novel calls a “Joker”, or transformation into a kind of post-human near superhero or an “Ace”. There some references to other themed mutations, but those are not talked about in great detail. The virus is not super useful according to the aliens because it’s too volatile to use as either a boon or a weapon (killing too many of your guys or empowering too many of your enemies). But that never stopped anyone. When a terrorist group tries to unleash it over New York, they are kind of thwarted by “Jet Boy” a pre-super powers real life hero, and some people do get exposed. This is the story of several of them.
What’s great about this book is that each voice in the collection brings a different take to the world. It’s kind of X-Men by way of Watchmen, with the additional distinct difference that most of US/World history from WWII and on is pretty much intact, while also incorporating this group into the mix. So for example, we still have HUAC, but we also have HUAC for Wild Cards. So far this series is on solid ground, and I am interested in moving forward with it.