Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Heroes Fall: Heroes United Book 1

People keep trying to give us "realistic superheroes."

 I think the trend may have started with "Watchmen," which frankly told me more of what was in the soul of Alan Moore than said anything about the superhero genre. A better example (I'm told) is Kurt Busiek's Astro City, which addresses themes such as a man who becomes a superhero to find redemption, or even the legalities of X-Ray vision and super senses.
Here's the successor.

For those of you who long for the days when comic books were actually entertaining, and the most angst you were subjected to was the occasional Spider Man nervous breakdown, welcome to Heroes Fall, Serenity City, book 1, by Morgon Newquist.

We open with The Rampage, a mission where Superman, Batman and .... Iron Fist, I guess.... goes horribly, horribly wrong. One is murdered, the other goes mad, and only one is left standing.

Sounds like fun ... except this isn't a comic book crossover. This is Morgon's new world of heroes and villains. The heroes are Achilles, Pendragon and Banshee. And an epic battle of massive destruction throughout the city 
He wanted to be a good man. Instead he became a hero.
Twenty years ago, Serenity City's great Triumvirate of heroes - Achilles, the Banshee, and Pendragon - maintained a golden age of peace and prosperity. Then, in an instant, it all went wrong. The city's mightiest champion, Achilles, lost his mind during a showdown with the enigmatic supervillain Thanatos and went on a rampage across the city, leaving the Banshee dead and a swath of destruction in his wake before Pendragon could stop him.

Today, as Achilles rots in solitary confinement, Victoria Westerdale investigates a new mystery. Why are young and forgotten heroes disappearing off the streets? Why doesn't anybody else care? And how is it tied in to those infamous events that brought the city's greatest heroes to ruin?

And what's going to happen to them all after Achilles escapes?

The first of a new wave of superhero novels! Coming soon:
  • Hollow City from Dragon Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah
  • The Phoenix Ring from Jon Mollison
  • Gemini Man from J.D. Cowan
  • Atlantean Archons from Richard W Watts
So, yeah, this one was fun. It starts strong, introducing plenty of side characters (even throwaway characters) effortlessly. It was a Hell of a way to open.

Despite the amount of time the blurb spent on the setup, 90% of the story focuses on Victory Westerdale. She doesn't want to be a superhero, just a simple, straightforward hero who saves people and goes back to the daily nine to five. Victory's powers are like Jessica Jones, if the latter weren't a raving bitch. It's mostly a mystery set in a new and improved Astro City. And I can't say a whole heck of a lot without spoiling it, so I won't.

I like the breakdown of the superhero class structure. No, we're not going into class warfare here, merely a practical approach to superheroes. DC and Marvel comics are truly unrealistic -- that only one superhero (Booster Gold, IIRC) -- seems to be offered or has desires for fame and notoriety. In the world of Serenity City, everyone wants to climb the hero totem pole. It's a competitive culture for the next brand endorsement, coming with a good paycheck. And there are some of those heroes who are Iron Man narcissistic and some who are simply saving people and heroing, and taking cash because they'll take all the help they can get. Of course, this environment means that no one really teams up, but considering how many times the JSA and the JLA have broken up, is anyone surprised when heroes can't get along?

The villain of the piece ... there are two. They're both fairly well developed, though one has barely any screen time. If you're wondering how that happens, it's largely because of the quality of the "evil plan." One is a narrative underdog, and the other is a cunning master manipulator. One comes off as David Tennant's Kilgrave, and the other is trying to do "good" for noble reasons, but has all the skills and talents of Richard III, or the MCU's Civil War villain. It's a bit of a train wreck, with a moral quandary that had only one solution.

At the end of the day, fans of the superhero genre should recognize the occasional tip of the hat to everything from The Dark Knight to Astro City to Green Hornet. That would be a spoiler if you could get the permutations right. We have Alfred with superpowers. A character named Ash who I suspect could be played by Bruce Campbell. A healer hero named Panacea (yes, really). A hero lawyer with the ability to cloud men's minds. And oh dear me, we're going to have a realistic portrayl of what it would be like as a superhero, only none of this grim and gritty Alan Moore BS? Be still my heart. 

Also acknowledging that Batman basically has a superpower. Long story. But the description of the bat cave here will have you playing the Danny Elfman score from the Batman film in head.

Of course, Morgon gets her martial arts right. If she didn't, I think everyone who knows her would worry. And she does a good job of playing superhero chess -- how does Y superhero use X powers against Z and Z's powers. Even the execution of powers are well thought out.

Also, Morgon has a degree in Latin, so expect a ton of quotes and references from ... everyone. Peter Pan, The Aenid, The Illiad, The Odyssey, Greek myth, Roman myth, a few other myths. I do so enjoy it when the authors I read actively read other people .... and steal from them. It warms my heart. You get little bits like "He is Lancelot, not Arthur. Byt even Lancelot is better than Mordred."

And the moral of the story, as it usually is in classical mythology -- Pride kills.

Just get Heroes Fall: Heroes Unleashed Book 1, today. If you like superheroes, you'll enjoy it. If you like "literature," you'll enjoy it. Or fight scenes. Or action pieces. Or mysteries. Or Scifi. Or Fantasy.

Yeah. It's just plain fun.

While you're at Amazon picking up a copy of Heroes Fall, here, have some more superhero novels.

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