I am a comic book nerd at heart, but I’m not opposed to superhero adventures in other media. I enjoy movies, television, internet shorts, magazines and many other media forms to get my superhero fix. In this particular case it comes in the form of a novel by Andrez Bergen. Bergen previously wrote One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, touted as “a purgatorial tour through twentieth-century Japanese history, with a ghostly geisha who has seen it all as a guide, and a corrupt millionaire as her reluctant companion”. Ok, that sounds like no other book I have ever read. It also sounds nothing like Bergen’s latest work.
I searched for everything I could online in the form of publicity for this book, called Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa?, and as always it was all positive and upbeat. One such commentary said…
“Like a crazy, post‐modern road trip
with Jack Kirby riding shotgun, and
everyone from Stan Lee to Raymond
Chandler nattering away in the back
THE THRILLING DETECTIVE
Now, I’m intrigued. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee name-dropped in a 26 word blurb? Could this possibly be building the book to a level of expectation that it could never live up to? In the press release the book is described, in part, as “an homage to detective noir from the 1940s paired with the 1960s Marvel-age of trail-blazing comic books.” Again, this hits in two big areas of my personal wheelhouse. Right from the beginning you can see Bergen’s noir and comic influences. The descriptions of the city and surroundings are 100% noir detective novel. They are dark, gritty and filled with weird and interesting characters. I wonder who “Stan the Doorman” could be paying tribute to? Even the language brings you back to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. The main characters are 100% 1960s Marvel. The Equalizers were the premier super-team of Heropa. That was before one of them was killed. Whats left of the team is a mess. Pretty Amazonia is as much a contradiction as her name implies; The Brick looks like a brick wall come to life, but seems softer in nature; Great White Hope is their leader by seniority but commands little if any respect; Southern Cross is the new guy, and although very green he seems to be the most buttoned-down of the group. He’s the replacement for the most recently deceased cape, and the Equalizers’ former leader, Sir Omphalos.
The novel takes you on a journey to find and stop a serial killer, who is killing heroes and villains alike, with a dysfunctional group of “heroes” at the lead. They bicker and taunt each other through the case stumbling into answers that they are not prepared for in any way. Who has something to gain from the deaths of various Equalizers and their nemeses, The League of Unmitigated Rotters? In Heropa, it seems, the list of who doesn’t would be shorter.
Through the many lies and mis-directions, our heroes find their way to the truth. The payoff is a twist ending that you might see coming depending on your attention to detail, and possibly your experience with the crucial story lines of popular Marvel Comics. Bergen weaves a thought-provoking story filled with interesting characters and plot twists. This is superheroes at their best and worst, just like Stan and Jack intended them to be. The binding theme throughout the book is that “anything is possible in Heropa”, and the ending proves just that. Watch for the release of Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen in October 2013, from Perfect Edge Books. You won’t be sorry, unless you miss it.