Who Is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Who Is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? a fun, pulpy and intentionally over-the-top superhero novel that displays a mixture of the noir, murder-mystery, science fiction and dystopian genres. It’s written by Andrez Bergen, who has also penned novels titles Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude.
“A book that provides excellent fun with a strong look into the world of superheroes, Who is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? provides readers with a enthralling, page-turning read that provides not only great things for fans of comics to enjoy, but fans of novels, too. A lot of fun.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
A vast, homogenized city patrolled by heroes and populated by adoring masses. A pulp fiction fortress of solitude for crime-fighting team the Equalizers, led by new recruit Southern Cross – a lifetime away from the rain-drenched, dystopic metropolis of Melbourne. Who, then, is killing the great Capes of Heropa? In this paired homage to detective noir from the 1940s and the ’60s Marvel age of trail-blazing comic books, Andrez Bergen and 35 artists gloriously redefine the mild-mannered superhero novel.
Who doesn’t love superheroes? I’m a massive fan of stuff being put out by DC and Marvel, and I’m certainly in the category of those people who spend far too much money on comics. Having recently read Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, Who Is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? seemed like an interesting and fun continued exploration of the setting, and adopts a more traditional portrayal of heroes than Sanderson’s Epics, who are all pretty much evil, this time – the book chooses to adopt a more traditional take on superheroes, casting them as the main protagonists as opposed to the enemy.
Welcome to the city of Heropa. A welcome escape from the hellhole of the modern-day world, where superheroes are real, existing alongside the “Blandos”, all the civilians, who play their roles as pretty much Non-Playable characters (NPCs) in a role-playing game would. The main focus is of course on the superheroes, and the main character who we follow is Southern Cross, a new member of the Equalizers, a group of costumed vigilantes. We get others, too – such as Pretty Amazonia, Brick and more – all with names that whilst may not seem much on paper, all help add to the pulp-themed aspect of the book, allowing for a lot of fun, where this would almost end up as well drawn out as a comic. The book takes place in an essentially an artificial reality – Heropa – where outsiders from society can take up the guise of a superhero and find themselves in a world of happiness. Sure, there’s a lot of camp in this book, but it also provides a lot of fun, with a large amount of over-the-top superhero identites and plots allow for a fun narrative style that provides a really awesome read.
There seems to be a lot of superhero novels nowadays. Not only do you have Andrez Bergen’s Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? and Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart, but also Adam Christopher’s Empire State, The Age Atomic and Seven Wonders. And unlike the movies, each book that I’ve read comes across as mostly fun and fresh, with books like this having a better track record than stuff like Catwoman, Daredevil and Green Lantern, as we haven’t been over-exposed to them yet. This novel is no exception, and Bergen has crafted an awesome, wonderfully fun read that will appeal to comic fans possibly even more so than non readers.
There are several things that help Bergen make Who is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? fresh and entertaining. Firstly, as mentioned before, it’s set in an artificial reality, explaining the frequent over-the-top characters that you see as part of the Equalizers squad. As this is a fake city, the “Blandos” don’t get to keep memories for very long and find them reset each day. This is the world that people come to in order to escape the harsh reality, and the book itself follows main character Jacob Curtiss, who intends to escape from a futuristic Melbourne City (the last on Earth) to this virtual world of Heropa. In true comics fashion, this is a nice get out clause, as everybody knows that heroes don’t die in comics, so naturally, no heroes die here. However, when that rule is broken, and a superhero is killed, the Equalizers are mobilized into action.
There’s a lot of banter in this book, and you’ll find yourself full of quick-witted sarcasm and near-perfect timing for comic relief. Whilst it’s pulled off mostly well, sometimes it may feel like a bit too much – and occasionally detracts from the flow of the pacing, making the book relatively uneven, with the book starting off mixed, but really picking up towards the end – with the murder mystery taking up the strong portion of the book’s focus. It’s nothing that I imagined what it’d be like going into it and Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? really provides a lot of fun, packed with plenty of references that fans of the older Marvel and DC books will get. There’s even a handy guide at the end for people who perhaps aren’t too familiar with the comics genre to get up to date with all the appropriate terminology – with some informative explanations provided.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa then, is a lot of fun, even though it may suffer in places from an uneven pace and too much banter. It’s certainly worth checking out regardless, and continues the trend of fun and awesome superhero novels. If the quality from Adam Christopher, Andrez Bergen and Brandon Sanderson are anything to go by – then I would love to see more superheroes in prose in the future – it’s an angle I hope that more writers explore. This book is certainly worth checking out, and it provides a very entertaining read.