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Is The Golden Age Dead? Or Is It Simply Forgotten?

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Jun 3, 2018: Heroes.

It’s a word that defines an era of movies, of comic books, and of writing. Some of these so-called heroes are dark avengers, others are teenagers with everything to prove, and others still are lost orphans from the beyond that is space.

But as superhero stories are told time and time again, we often look to see what is done differently and how the mold is broken. We tire of the same old story, of the same heroes saving the same damsels under the same frame of four-color love or dark ’90s edge.

On some level, Not All Heroes fits into many superhero tropes. But on another level, it defies them, and in the process, creates something engaging and expansive in the process.

Our story takes place in a future where the world has suffered great cataclysm and strife, and it is clear that the empowered are both a gift and a curse to the world. Entire cities are gone, thousands are dead, and the world has shifted to monitor super-powered activity in the best way possible. As the story often states, the Golden Age is long gone, with heroes such as Miss Millennium, The Sentinel and others only a reminder of sordid and overplayed heroics that never really could fix the world in the first place.

Enter our main three characters. Leopard, a mercenary in the self-titled group called the Animals, who believes that by upsetting the balance of the world order they might somehow make the world a better place in the process. Then there’s Sabra, a young girl with dreams of making a change on the streets with the help of a cobbled together power-armor. And finally, Fisher, a former hero who lost his hands, and who wallows in his somber past and the idea that heroes are truly dead.

One of this story’s greatest strengths is most certainly its narrative. Much like a show in the line of Heroes, it seamlessly weaves through three distinct narratives covering its main three protagonists. You find yourself caught up in their struggles, their colorful supporting cast, and you smile with satisfaction when story arcs cross over with careful detail and consideration. The author is excellent at describing action with simplicity, and the characters are able to keep you interested as developments happen and the world is solidly built in the process. More than anything, Not All Heroes embraces the ideas of traditional superheroes, but also puts that same idea under a strict microscope. It isn’t afraid to eschew traditional heroics, but it still remembers itself to be a superhero story through and through, and those initial values still shine brightly.

It can get quite political at times too, and if I had to pick a weakness, this might be the only one I can think of. With the introduction of the empowered policing force later on, the red tape really begins to pile on for all three of our characters, and this is where some of its cons lie.

Sometimes, characters spend long discussions and the exposition can sometimes come off as somewhat preachy, but it is a rare occurrence considering the length of the story. It works in the end, but it can sometimes affect the pacing to the point where the story uncomfortably slows to a crawl.

On the plus side, a great deal of the characters outside of the main three are extremely well-developed, with the best examples being the domineering Aegis, the scheming Monkey, the enigmatic Gate, the violent Taurine, and the ever-inspiring Miss Millennium herself. As another slight con, I do feel some characters lack enough physical description to make them stick in your mind, but I wonder if that’s a purposeful move on the author’s part to make us forge our own image of those characters in our heads.

Without spoiling anything further, Not All Heroes is a fantastically written tale of somewhat dystopian superheroics that plays with expectations and heartstrings alike.

The narrative often reminds out how the Golden Age is dead, and with it, those heroes that so represented the best and brightest that the humanity has to offer.

But from what this story has to offer up to its most recent point of publishing, I have to respectfully disagree.

The Golden Age survives, and though its light is somewhat dimmed, I sense that it only takes a few to keep the flame burning.

Perhaps the fire of true heroes will be seen again one day, even it it takes three to keep it bright enough for the whole world to see.

End score: 4/5

3 of 4 members found this review helpful.
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There’s a lot to dig into.

By Sharkerbob, author of Graven

Oct 16, 2018: Not All Heroes is a gritty tale of superhumans struggling to achieve their ideals in a world where the concept of "superheroes" has pretty much evaporated. Clashes between superpowered heroes and villains nearly destroyed civilization, along with the rise of intelligent machines and supers gone completely insane. This forced surviving societies to reassess and adapt into a manageable compromise. Most supers now work as government-regulated law enforcement teams that deal harshly with empowered criminals, even as they conflict with with one another.

The story rotates between three main characters, each with their own goals and troubles that intersect, throwing them together into the larger conflict of a once-great city going to hell in a handbasket. Each arc also includes interludes from other character perspectives as well to flesh out the narrative and further build on the world and history.

On the good end, the story does not waste time getting right into the action and the grit. I never felt outright bored with a given chapter; the story has character introspection, cape politics, and action, but never overstays its welcome on any of those fronts. It’s nice to see main characters that are proactive right from the start instead of wallowing in their situation or being completely hamstrung by circumstances in the beginning.

Likewise, I feel there is good chemistry between many of the characters. There are a lot relationships and history between various pairs and groups, and the dialogue helps solidify those connections. The personalities all bounce off one another well, and the three main characters are good foils to one another.

There is also a lot of history to unpack, so there always seems to be a steady stream of new information about the world unfolding as you go. It’s a very "busy" world, with a lot going on, and a lot having happened prior to the story, that keeps those who like worldbuilding engaged.

However, that also leads me to what I feel is the main flaw. It does feel like a BUSY world, almost too busy, in fact. Very quickly, we’re introduced to multiple characters with multiple supporting casts and multiple organizations in conflict. What doesn’t help with this is that the rotating perspectives occur every single chapter. Now, I like rotating perspectives in web serials, but here, I feel doing it so quickly makes the initial couple of arcs rough to get through.

Other stories I’ve read that have rotating perspectives will either do one perspective per Arc, or at least do a few chapters in a row from one character’s perspective before switching. At the very least, this will be done in the first few arcs, to give the reader time to soak in the details of each specific character’s situation, before establishing the next.

While the main characters’ stories do quickly intertwine, the beginning few arcs were somewhat overwhelming, even for me. A few times, I kept losing track of some characters as I went. Thankfully, there is an extensive cast listing on the website, if you need the reminder. Now, granted, I was marathoning this story in a couple of big chunks, so that may have lent to that problem. This might be better mitigated if the reader takes a bit of a slower pace at first.

On that note, though, once I got a few Arcs in, and the characters started meeting up and everything was pretty well established, I found it easier to follow and groove into the storyline. It all comes together well, and even as the reveals keep coming, I had a firm handle on the core story by that point to roll with it.

I recommend this story for those who enjoy a rougher edge to their hero fiction, where the heroes have to grit their teeth and power through dark times but manage to keep at it, and also for those who enjoy a richly realized setting.

2 of 2 members found this review helpful.
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Fine superhero fiction

By Walter, author of The Fifth Defiance

Apr 23, 2018: I thoroughly enjoyed my read through of Not All Heroes.

The author has taken on an ambitious task, the creation of a superhero universe as seen through the eyes of three disparate protagonists. They pull it off with panache.

Not All Heroes’ protagonists (despite the name, I wouldn’t go so far as to say heroes) bounce off one another in engaging fashion. Each has their own perspective on the ongoing mayhem, and the reader, who sees their sum, consequently gets the big picture.

The setting itself takes the notion of superpowered individuals seriously, showing us a world where their powers and battles have devastated cities and raised them from the ocean. Where supercomputers and super beings exercise outsized influence on the fate of the powerless ordinary humans, who grow resentful and violent at their so called protectors.

Fine fiction. Give it a read.

3 of 5 members found this review helpful.
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