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NOT ALL HEROES

Things that make you go hmm.

By Joker, author of Mavericks

Jan 24, 2019: [Review through Arc 6.2]

I don’t like post-apocolyptia. The fact that Not All Heroes may be my favorite superhero serial should tell you everything.

Not All Heroes is introduced with the concept of the Golden Age, a time when empowered humans had just arrived to the scene and were rare enough to help society, but not overthrow it. But as ‘capes’ (I don’t like how this term is used by everyone emulating Worm) became more numerous and more powerful, humanity went through a paradigm shift. To prevent domination by capes, ‘baseline’ (much cooler term) humans brought down the jackboot during the Paroxysm.

Why am I telling you this? Because Rhodes, a student of history, treats the Golden Age and the Paroxysm as just another page in the tome that is human history. And the printing press that writes it cannot be stopped by any individual, even the man they called Demigod, killed by a single bullet. This is a refreshing take on a genre that too often treats its central conceit with more grandiosity than is warranted.

I should note here that his villains, the Seven, seem up to this point incredibly derivative of the S9 from Worm, who I was not big fans of. I trust him to go down a different path. Gate, a supervillain who can create portals, is hilariously over the top like a Bond villain, but in a cheeky fun way that I can get behind.

All of our characters are cogs. There’s nothing wrong with this, because this makes it far easier to relate to them. Sabra, perhaps the most main of the main protagonists, is a simple girl with simple friends and wants to accomplish a simple goal with a simple armored suit. This is not a knock on her. She’s charming and far more likable than other serial protagonists. Leopard is – not. He’s a dirty scoundrel mercenary with delusions of grandeur who never seems to put in the effort to be the hero he thinks he can be. I initially skipped his chapters, but he does get better, but not more sympathetic. He shines best when not egged on by his fellow sociopaths. Pavel,formerly known as Impel is like a darker version of Mr. Fantastic, a superhero whose career ended ignominiously and lives vicariously through others in their prime. This doesn’t make him feel weak, because in spite of many failures (primarily of his own doing), he carries on. Anyone can be punched out twelve times. It takes a strong character to get back up thirteen times. Also, he’s funny as hell and his cat is adorable.

Paradigm City, the island city the story is mostly set in, feels weak. What differentiates it from New York City, or Moscow, or Tokyo? It was created in the middle of the Pacific to be a home for folks of all ethnicities, but it doesn’t really feel like anything but a backdrop. I’d really like to see more of the town.

It’s more than made up by the fact that Rhodes makes you – god forbid – think. What makes an action noble? Intent, or consequence? How much freedom should we surrender for security before we’ve lost both? Is Pavel sad because he can’t feel his fluffy cat with his robo-hands?

Rhodes’ prose is absolutely gorgeous without being flowery. I can perfectly imagine every single thing he describes, yet I can read the story at a decent clip. It’s absolutely amazing and I cannot praise it enough. The three characters have unique inner monologues that are refreshingly swapped in and out.

There’s not much to say about the powers themselves. It’s standard Worm-esque fair that’s a bit overpowered for my tastes, but it simply works here due to the themes (that, thankfully, are not misery porn).

I think that’s about all I have to say here. Go read it, yo.

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