If a genre mashup book is done right, it can be a beautiful thing. When an author can get a bunch of genres that shouldn’t fit together swirling and twirling around together like a Dancing with the Stars champion, the odds are it is going to make for a very unique and interesting book.
Andrez Bergen’s Who is killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is just that. A unique and interesting Frankenstein monster of a book that combines science fiction, noir, and comic book superheroes and actually gets it to work.
The first thing you will probably notice about this book is the cover artwork. It is a stunning piece that somehow manages to capture all of these genres perfectly. The city looks like an old 1940s skyline, the body in the spotlight gives that mystery noir feel to it, and it has the appearance of being a frame straight out of a 1960s comic book. It is a beautiful piece of artwork that really catches your attention, and, fortunately, Bergen was able to back up this art and create a story that is just as good.
But what exactly is the story and how the heck does Bergen get it to work? Well, without giving too much away (haven’t you learned by now that these never include a summary of the plot! The less you know going into a story, the better it is!), think of it as The Matrix as told through the eyes of Stan Lee and then rewritten by Jim Thompson. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
And while the setting of the city of Heropa is built beautifully and really feels like a city you would find being defended by caped crusaders during the Silver Age of Comic Books, what really makes this book work are the characters and the dialogue.
First, the characters are all interesting. Each one has their own superhero persona and special power and costume. They are all familiar, but with a twist. Kind of like the book itself. They have names such as Southern Cross, Pretty Amazonian, and the Brick. They are all fun, interesting, and surprisingly complex.
Part of what makes these characters so compelling, and quite possibly the best part of the novel, is the dialogue.
This 450-page book is incredibly dialogue heavy, and that isn’t a bad thing. Not when the dialogue is so expertly crafted. Each character has their own voice and the conversations flow so naturally it seems like Bergen was just recording people’s actual conversations and putting them down on paper (The Brick’s dialogue is particularly fun to read. He is like a 1940s wise guy).
During some of the parts that are a little more exposition heavy, you will most likely find yourself very eager to get to the next round of dialogue, not because Bergen is particularly bad at writing straight prose, but because he is so good at writing dialogue.
Adding to the comic book feel of the novel are occasional illustrations throughout the book (done by 35 different artists) that illustrate certain aspects of the story. Typically this is newspaper headlines/covers and character models (what is a good superhero tale without a sketch of the heroes in their costumes?). There aren’t too many illustrations, but the ones that are there add another layer to this book to help make it work.
Is this book fine literature? Nope. But who cares. Not every novel needs the pompous title of “fine literature”. Sometimes a novel can just be a damn good book. And that is exactly what Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is; a damn good book.
The dialogue is as good and as true to life (at least, the life that is portrayed within the book) as you will find and the characters are incredibly interesting. Oh, and the mystery aspect isn’t too shabby either.
So if you aren’t someone who is too interested in reading Faulkner, Hemingway, or Dostoyevsky, or if you just need a break from novels like ones by those authors, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is as good a book as any to turn to.
It is the type of book that will have you smiling as you read it, it is just that fun. And who among us couldn’t use some more fun in their life? Do yourself a favor and give this book a shot. ~ David Malone, Chicago News
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a fantastically different and entertaining novel, set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future where there is only one city left on earth. Therefore, is it any wonder that the oppressed citizens of this city seek escape within a virtual world? Our hero, who is just fifteen, lives alone - his parents long ago dragged off by the fascist police. He ekes out a meagre existence by scavenging for food. It's on one of these food hunts that he discovers a hoard of ancient comics. From that moment on he is hooked. Later, this knowledge of comic books will lead to him securing a place in a virtual world that is quite unlike any other. As with any virtual realm there are defined rules. Andrez Bergen is clear in outlining these: No swearing and no drinking among others. Breaking these will result in our player being kicked from Heropa with a two-day penalty.
I'm no reader of comics. I grew up reading the classic sci-fi novels so just about all of the author's carefully crafted references and in jokes probably flew right over my balding head. However, I enjoyed the witty comic book banter, which was always effective, and it was great to read a book with no swearing in for a change! In my own fiction there's foul language on almost every page.
What I enjoyed most about this novel is the interplay between the characters. Humour is very much the backbone of Chandler style who dunnit. Our hero, Southern Cross, attempts to find out who is killing the great capes of Heropa. It’s not a perfect world and relationships are flawed, things start to go wrong in the game with sometimes comic and even sinister consequences.
Bergen has created a spectacular world here and I could easily see it running to a series of novels, comics and spin offs. Interesting artwork enriches the kindle edition I read. A very different read that I enjoyed from page one until the conclusion. The author has researched his subject painstakingly and meticulously and the novel flows like warm butter from a pan. A well deserved five stars from me. ~ Darren Sant, Daz's Reviews
''I'm in love with you, Jack - but I have no clue who you really are.''
I'm having this pseudo-philosophical grudge with superheroes and the important place they occupy in the zeitgiest. They used to be a nerd thing. Not that I ever was a great comic book consumer, but superheroes have lost quite a bit of meaning now that everybody just likes them a little. At least, they lost some meaning to me. The third full-length novel of Australian author Andrez Bergen WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is all about superheroes and meaning. The idea is absolutely brilliant, yet the execution is puzzling like only Bergen knows how to be puzzling. WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? doesn't give superheroes their meaning back like superpowers, but it's a fascinating deconstruction of the concept in its own way.
In Heropa, things work a little differently. It's a sprawling metropolis inhabited by adoring and oh-so-anonymous masses of people. The city is also inhabited by Capes, people with superpowers who find themselves on polar opposites of the moral compass. When Melbourne teenager Jacob lands in Heropa, he becomes Southern Cross, the new recruits of The Equalizers, a small, ragtag group of superheroes in charge of fighting crime and rogue Capes. The Capes of Heropa have been dying though and Southern Cross will have a trial by fire with a first case that threatens the balance of the entire city.
Andrez Bergen has establishes somewhat of a modus operandi with his first two novels TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT and 100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDE. His books are highly referential and it's easy to get lost. Apparently, WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is a love-letter to the golden age of comic books, which I have no frame of reference for. So my reading was almost enitrely innocent and it felt overwhelming, more often than not, having to deal with so many characters. Andrez Bergen has a very idiosyncratic way of writing dialogue (and dialogue form most of his novels) and I got lost a couple time, ping-ponging between the members of the cast of his most ambitious novel, so far.
''I'm Stan the Doorman.''
Jack decided he liked Stan's eyes. They were warm and accompanied by a suave moustache above a winning smile.
''You may label me the Doormat,'' the gent in red waffled on, ''since there are some here who do just that - but I prefer to be considered a welcoming committee.''
Jack looked at him for a few seconds, rediscovering anew the ability to speak. ''Okay. Um, Can I call you Stan? That Cool McCool?''
One of the things I benefited by reading WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is that I think I finally wrapped my mind around Andrez Bergen's writing style. He is something close of Douglas Adams meets Wes Anderson. His style is quirky, whimsical, idiosyncratic and fast paced. It's a strange approach for what is technically a superhero novel, but I thought it was more of a deconstruction than a classic superhero tale, where the Capes are all human and all struggle with emotions that would ''normally'' be below the nobility of their duty. It's what fascinated me with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? and why I didn't really felt strong emotions during my reading: there was no mystique, no proper manifest destiny, just people with a great gift trying to take the right decisions.
I wasn't swept away by WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? but it didn't leave me cold. In fact, it's difficult to put a finger on how this novel made me feel, which is kind of a recurring theme when I read Andrez Bergen. I read this novel with the same fascination of a man looking at an ant farm after smoking a doobie. Things were moving, following their own frame of reference which I don't have, but I could only admire the cohesiveness despite lacking some basic information in order to fully enjoy the extent of this novel's ambition. I wouldn't recommend diving into the quirky world of Andrez Bergen with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? first, unless you're a comic book buff. His most accessible novel probably is 100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDE, which also happens to be my favourite of his. Anyway, Andrez Bergen keeps his heavyweight title belt of most unique author on the internet with WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? folks.
In hindsight, it may be all you need to know. ~ Benoît Lelièvre, Dead End Follies
Heropa is a huge virtual reality metropolis protected by a team of dysfunctional superheroes, the Equalizers, engaged in a constant battle against the League of Unmitigated Rotters.
Southern Cross, Pretty Amazonia, The Brick and the Great White Hope are the few remaining members of the Equalizers, who have all been slowly killed off by an unknown assailant. Can they find who is killing them and find the true meaning behind Heropa before it’s too late?
Bergen’s passion for his work shines through into his prose – clearly here is an author who knows their comic book world inside and out. The book is peppered with lovingly crafted references to comic book characters, with the non-super-powered population (known as Blandos) all named for various characters from classic comic books, including a strangely familiar elderly doorman named Stan, with twinkling eyes and a moustache, and a reporter named after the actress who portrayed Lois Lane in the original, George Reeve Superman series.
You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy this fantastic piece of literature, but those with more than a passing knowledge can sit and chortle to themselves as they find more and more references to classic comics. Either way, this is well-written, entertaining and an engaging read. ~ Matthew Johns, The British Fantasy Society
Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen is a fiction novel about a huge, fake city, populated with heroes and normal people (referred to as Blandos). Led by newcomer Southern Cross (a man's answer to the lack of superheroes in Australia), the Equalizers are set to find out who, exactly, is killing the great capes of Heropa.
Heropa is a part of an artificial reality, a sort of MMORPG (massive-multiplayer online roleplaying game), where anyone looking to escape their actual reality, can log on and assume the role of a superhero. Southern Cross is actually a man named Jack, orphaned and starving, at 15 he comes across a man advertising Heropa and a better life. Once Jack logs-on as Southern Cross, he realizes that things aren't quite what they used to be, and that someone is murdering the characters. The problem being, that they're probably dying in real life too. The Blandos have no idea what's going on, and the largest villain group in Heropa are in the dark as well.
Heropa?, is essentially an homage to comic books, merged with a detective noir, and somehow it manages to be those things without being... serious. There's obviously death and violence, but it's humorous deaths. The names and likenesses of the heroes and villains are pretty ridiculous (as an MMORPG sometimes is), but at the same time, it's not so far-fetched you can't believe in it.
While the beginning of the novel was a bit difficult to get through, partly because of the dialogue, once I got through the first chapter I was able to really dig into it. The pacing picked up and the actual story started. There were times throughout the novel where I didn't quite “get” the language used, or the humor, but it wasn't so much that it ruined or took me out of the story. And, to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of comic books, especially the golden age to which this novel is paying tribute, so I can't really comment on that front.
But, I did very much enjoy it. I thought the world building was great, and as an avid gamer, I appreciate that aspect. There's romance, as there usually is, and most of the time it's hit or miss for me in that department. I usually think that sort of thing is rushed – and a lot unnecessary in some instances – but I think the way the author set this one up was interesting. In the universe, the “Blandos” are actually NPC characters. Their memory banks are usually wiped clean so that there isn't anything held over for the next game. Essentially they are given what is called in roleplay a new life rule. Everything starts over from scratch. But there was a glitch in the system somewhere, so Jack (Southern Cross) and his love interest were able to develop, as she did not forget or act as an NPC would. It's definitely a new and different way to develop romance.
I give this a 3 out of 4. Definitely enjoyed it. ~ , OnlineBookClub.org
Andrez Bergen’s Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is not just a love letter to comics throughout the ages, but one of the most entertaining books about comic heroes ever written.
There are so many comic references spread throughout the book, I found myself looking them up constantly. Fortunately, even readers without any background in comics can enjoy the central plot: a group of heroes and villains inhabit Heropa, a digital, Matrixesque space that people use to escape a destitute future in Melbourne as the rest of the world has been devastated. Heroes and villains exist, but they have a “gentlemen’s agreement” that no matter how destructive their battles become, no one dies. Matters take on a Watchmen-like twist when someone starts killing off the “capes” and Jack, the “Southern Cross,” and his team of heroes have to find the culprit. Matching its comic book setting, the dialogue is pithy, animated, and picturesque. The banter between the superheroes and even the rogues is a highlight as their interplay is both self-conscious of their legacy while weaving their own identity:
“Yeah, well. I guess once Captain America hit the big time, copycat patriotic heroes became abundant,” Jack said.
“Whatever. But your costume’s slightly different from the one in the picture.”
“The good Captain had a few wardrobe switches over the years, depending on the artist. This was my favourite.”
Gypsie-Annie glanced at her boss. “You didn’t have the imagination to conjure up your own?”
“I was a hero, not a haberdasher.”
Rather than chapters, we have issue numbers, starting with #100, implying we’ve missed the first ninety-nine issues and a rich backstory. Like the newcomer hero, Jack, we find out about the world as he finds it out. I’m hesitant to say it reminds me of videogames as that connotes something simplistic, which Capes is not. At the same time, games have taken so many leaps in their narrative story-telling that I’d say fans of the best of gaming would love the fast-paced nature with multiple story-lines and stream of twists that leave you guessing until the very end. Illustrations from fantastic artists help bring the world to life in stark black-and-white. The styles range from a Manga-styled Amazonian heroine to shots of the Southern Cross arrayed in dramatic splash page fashion. It’s a perfect complement to the vivid prose that captures the tone of old serials and seedy noir novels as in one of the first views of the city:
“Canvas awnings billowing in its doorways, a shiny, green, wood-panelled W-Class tram clattered past before they crossed a thoroughfare on which 1930s and ‘40s Packards, Buicks, Morris Minors, even a two-tone tan and chocolate-brown Summit Tourer from the 1920s, moved slowly. These vintage jalopies honked one another while a traffic cop in jodhpurs, knee-high riding boots and white gloves, standing with rod-straight posture at the next intersection, used his whistle and energetic arm movements to control the flow.”
Time and again, I found myself fascinated by the little details that act as gutters to border the universe: “You have Equalizer logos on your toilet paper,” is noted, as are the travails imposed by Jack’s mask which “was a tight, full-face hood with holes only for the eyes.” The book happens to have one of the most extensive and thorough Author Acknowledgements I’ve read detailing many of Bergen’s influences and inspirations, as well as Comic Highlights and a Glossary in case you’re wondering who figures like Buster Crabbe and the Great Gazoo are.
There’re debates about everything within the story which reflects Bergen’s passion for not just comics and pop culture, but the quirks of an artificial world and the ramifications for those who hide within. The “Hero’s Journey” takes on new meaning with digital shackles, where even love is wiped away as easily as the memories of the citizens within. Ontological inquiries, though, aren’t as important as the sociological and psychological dilemmas of creators versus created. As superheroes have secret identities, Heropa can be read on many different layers and when each is stripped away, the question of “who” isn’t as important as the fun-packed journey getting there.
In Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, Bergen creates a world we care about.
The comic references and gaming form a backdrop, but it’s the individual heroes and villains we root for and against. The original word for Manga means “whimsical drawings.” It was only when those random drawings coalesced into narratives reflecting our own lives and times that they resonated so deeply with audiences. Bergen reminds us that superpowers aren’t just about performing physical impossibilities, but also encompass our capacity to inquire, evolve, and remember. We are all wearing capes in digital worlds we construct. But don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret that others can find out only after they wander the streets of Heropa. ~ Peter Tieryas Liu, Entropy
I loved this book.
The comic book setting was wonderful. You can visualized everything going on in the story as if it was a graphic novel. There’s excellent character development as the story progresses and the dialogue is amazing. The character interaction is lively, quaint, and terse. There’s a sarcastic humor that permeates the book.
I enjoy reading mystery books and I was thrilled that story was a murder mystery. It reminded me somewhat of the many Sherlock Holmes stories I have read and how I would not stop reading until I got to the end and the mystery was solved. As you read Bergen’s novel, you’ll find yourself working right along with the protagonist of the story Jack as you read the back stories, see how Jack searches and discovers clues regarding the case.
Which each turn of the page, the tension builds until it breaks and the shit hits the fan. The ending will definitely surprise you in a good way.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is an excellent novel, a love letter to the classic days of the superhero and is definitely a book that you should have in your collection.
Review: 5/5 ~ Talisha Harrison, La Virino Kiu Skribas
Jack, an unassuming kid from the street’s of a post-apocalyptic Melbourne, finds himself dropped in a 1940s-era city steeped in glass, panache, and superheroes. And he’s one of ‘em – Southern Cross.
A bit confused and not quite ready, he’s led up into one of the tallest buildings of the city and shown to the lair of the latest heroes trying to keep things in order on Heropa. But Jack soon finds out that nothing is what it seems and the world he had tried to escape from might be better than this superhero filled one, because someone is killing off the capes (both good and bad).
While the resident capes busy themselves with, well, their vanity, Southern Cross takes it upon himself to figure out who it is. Throughout his investigations, we learn more about how Heropa functions and the capes that cause havoc on the city every day. Southern Cross eventually pursues a potential suspect, a blando (a non-superhero in Heropa, and therefore not a real person but a piece of software code). Along the way, he’s joined by a superhero reporter and falls in love with a bank teller.
A homage to the superhero comic book genre, Who’s Killing The Great Capes of Heropa does its best to engage the reader with a fast-paced plot and interesting superhero antics, but fails on several fronts for me. Primarily because I just didn’t see the point of the story. Because it is all set in a virtual world and doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on the real world of devastated Melbourne, the story just didn’t feel important to me, even when we find out what really happened to the people who couldn’t make it in Heropa. The second reason is all the tangents on comic book lore. While interesting, there were definitely times I started skimming to get back to the story.
Regardless, Mr. Bergen has a penchant for snappy dialogue and the author does have a vivid imagination that he imparts well to the reader. I can easily recall specific images of some of the scenes of the book as well as some of characters. The Brick is a collection of animated bricks and Bergen’s description of him really brought him to life. And Pretty Amazonia was deliciously creepy. Though the superhero characters might be a bit two-dimensional, they are as unique as the real people behind the masks and are completely relatable. The story line is unpredictable, and I rather enjoyed all the comic book references, though I admit much was lost to me since I’m not a comic book aficionado.
If you can’t get enough of superheroes, then Who’s Killing The Great Capes of Heropa may be one to put on your reading list. It has an unlikely hero in a world awash with superheroes. ~ N.E. White, SFFWorld
Here's some thoughts on a really cool novel I just finished.
I'd like to start out by saying that "Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?" and it's author, Andrez Bergen, were not even remotely on my radar when I picked up this book. It was really by pure chance that I ended up coming across the novel, and purchasing it. I was looking through my recommendations page on Amazon, and the striking cover design caught my eye.
I went ahead and took a look at the synopsis and some of the reviews. The words dystopian, noir, and sci-fi stood out; and then I saw that it also was about superheroes. Now I love these genres, and was instantly intrigued; but I wasn't really sure what to expect, and if this would be a quality read. I purchased it anyway, and started reading about a week later. It turns out that this chance pick was a great one, as this is easily one of the most entertaining takes on the genres mentioned that I have read in recent memory.
The novel adds up to much more than the sum of it's parts, and is a cracking good adventure/mystery, to boot. Although the beginning of the story can be a bit confusing, there is a perfectly simple reason for this; the protagonist has been thrust into a new environment, and being immersed in his narrative, we share in his confusion and his efforts to learn about Heropa as quickly as possible.
All I can say is keep reading, because you definitely do not want to miss the rollercoaster ride that is coming! After the opening, we are slowly introduced to the players, and learn of the mystery that is happening within Heropa. Superheroes are dying, and this not at all as it should be. As the story moves inexorably along, we find that there are many things about Heropa that are not as they seem. The narrative flows seamlessly from revelation to revelation, and you will find that when you finish the story, it is not at all what you expected when you began.
Experiencing this evolution is quite wonderful. Although there are many different themes explored within these pages, I'll say that the growth of the protagonist, Jack, makes for a very cool coming of age story. As I said it is just one of many themes explored, but watching Jack slowly learn to be a true hero is just pure fun.
I could spend all day breaking down the different elements that exist within the story, and why I personally enjoy them; however, I don't want to spoil the fun for any new readers, so I'll cut this short.
By the way, I would also recommend that you read through the glossary, acknowledgments, and afterword, once you are done reading the novel. They all contain some interesting thoughts and recommendations.
All in all, this was a wonderful reading experience, and I highly recommend it. ~ Shawn Michael Vogt, Weird and Wonderful Reads
The Golden Age of Comics falls somewhere between the late 1930s and the late 1940s, Australian author Andrez Bergen tells us in the glossary of his newly released novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? These decades saw a world depression and the bloodiest war in history. The world then needed something better than itself, giving rise to the superhero genre. This is the era that saw the birth of Superman, Captain America and both Marvel and DC.
Seven decades later, Bergen assumes the characters and conventions of this medium are so ingrained in our collective conscience, we hardly need prompting to suspend our disbelief. We take for granted that Superman can fly, that Spiderman walks on walls and that Tony Stark can conjure up bullet-proof armor from a pile of scrap metal. We give a pass to impossible physics, skin-tight costumes and crystal clear delineation between good and evil.
Bergen uses these conventions as the building blocks of his latest novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? This hybrid murder mystery/alternative reality/Marvel begins where the world of comics has already taken its fans. Fluency in pop culture and comic conventions are necessary and assumed in this case. The kitsch uniforms, Art Deco backdrops and superhuman abilities are presented without question.
In the book, Australian teenager, Jacob serves as protagonist in Heropa, a digital universe linked to Melbourne. He exists in the city as a superhero, where he teams up with other superheroes to solve a string of murders. The banter, plot twists and story development would not be out of place in Marvel’s extensive catalogue.
The characters themselves begin as composites of existing aesthetics, from Jacob’s Supermanish Southern Cross to the prickly Pretty Amazonia, whom Bergen introduces as: “… a touch of Wonder Woman interbred with far too much Sailor Moon, making her resemble someone dragged out of a manga comic and stuck on a pair of towering legs.”
Bergen paints a world out of the conventions of pop culture and pulls liberally from the film noir of the 1940s to build an unconventional murder mystery. The result is a light read, which pulls on the strings of recognition from a pile of familiar aesthetics amassed in more than a half century since the Golden Age. ~ Brian Liberatore, At The Inkwell
The heroes (and it appears, villians) of this fine city are being bumped off one by one and no-one seems to have any idea who could be carrying out this evil deed.
Worse still, there are supposed to be fail-safes to prevent any Cape (be they good or bad) from dying — but it appears these "fail-safes" have failed.
One of the things that first hits you about this novel is the way the author has managed to lend his unique voice to a superhero story. This is all the more striking as with his previous novel, his voice is strongly flavored with a "hard-boiled" / film noir edge — a style that works remarkably well within a fictional superhero universe. Echoes of Raymond Chandler in a future dystopian Australia styled through the comic book.
The plot is inventive and the dialogue both quick and quirky, it's just so comforting too — devilishly stylish with a an almost self-depreciating manner. It's cool without trying and the sort of book that makes you feel that bit cooler just by reading it.
The story practically leaps along with very little pause but its the characters themselves that help the book stand out (and stand out it does). Each of the "heroes" are fleshed out very well, which combines well with their superpowers and a sobering sense of mortality you rarely find in a superhero novel. There are some interesting questions asked to, just what makes someone with super-powers a hero or indeed just what makes someone human, how do you tell the real from the virtual are just a few asked by the author.
The Superhero genre is fast gaining pace and many follow a very similar path which I'm pleased to say doesn't apply here. I love how this book is proud to stand out as different from any other in the new sub-genre. It's incredibly engaging, clever and a fantastic piece of escapism — simply super. ~ Antony Jones, SFBook Reviews
WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is an uppercut of a book, striking in its detail and extraordinarily clever in its character dynamic.
The world in which the story takes place, a virtual reality game universe, astutely blends noir ambiance with superhero chic. Andrez Bergen creates a fresh experience for a platform that we've seen many times before, using very specific descriptions of props, vehicles and clothing that leave the reader with no choice but to embrace this online realm and cling to it for safety and sanity. This also happens to be the plight of all the characters in the story, which creates a bonding experience like no other.
The richness of the characters stems from Bergen's love of all things comic books, particularly the silver and bronze age that he so helpfully describes. Accessible to fans and novices alike, this book takes you deep into superhero territory. What really becomes uncomfortable yet fascinating at the same time is the extent to which these characters, all deeply flawed in real life, find solace in this virtual world, much like we all do on social media sites these days. Perhaps prophetic, certainly visionary, HEROPA serves as much as a thrilling piece of entertainment as it warns us of the pitfalls promised on our current path.
With male and female characters matched in wit, strength and resolve, all readers will find in HEROPA someone to identify with, to root for and to suffer and rejoice with. The dialogue, superbly uncompromising to the point of sporadic obscurity, is reminiscent of independent films like BRICK, where characters have a vocabulary of their own that you just have to learn and pick up as you go. This plunges the reader deep in the action from the very first page, a highly effective choice that Bergen pulls off with expert skill.
HEROPA is a novel for the digital age, paying its respects to the comic book era while showing the way forward in the narrative genre. Taking a leaf from Neal Stephenson, Andrez Bergen serves up a magical techno-noir dish of a story.
An absolute jewel to be handled with delicate reverence. ~ Nicolas Forzy, Author of ALPHANUMERIC
Andrez Bergen’s book Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a nice twist on the superhero genre, giving it a ‘noir’ twist’ with nods to the style of Marvel’s style of comic-books between the 1940s-1960s. ~ , Impact Magazine
After two excellent novels by Andrez, I was delighted to find Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa in my inbox one day and devoured it. It is set in the same world as Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (I think), and people flee their harsh reality to a virtual place called Heropa, where some play superheroes, others are normal people, Blandos is what they are called by the heroes.Heropa is Gotham and New York of Silver Age Comics, a gleaming metropolis, somewhere and somewhen between 1920 and 1950. The perfect habitat for a masked and caped hero. But all is also not well in Heropa, the heroes are being killed off one by one although according to some rules, this should not happen. Something is wrong in Heropa.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa is a wacky, funny and surprisingly philosophical tale that leaves you wondering if super heroes are actually any good, if non-heroes are worthless and if you should choose virtual reality if the real world gets to unbearable. This novel entertains you immensely and makes you think!
10/10 ~ Marcus R. Gilman, Daily Steampunk
For those uninitiated few that don’t already know, I am a nerd/geek/etc. So, when the opportunity to read a book styled after the Golden Age of comics presented itself, I jumped on my office chair, yelled “Excelsior!”, pushed off from the wall and smashed into a door frame. Okay, maybe nothing that extreme, but I was giddy with anticipation.
Within a page, I was hooked. (That seems to happen a lot, maybe I’m just really lucky with book choice) Before I knew it, I was immersed in a great murder mystery set in a comic book world that enjoyed the self-awareness of knowing it was a comic book world.
Wait—What? Strangely enough, this world is more like if the Matrix was an MMORPG like City of Heroes. Confused yet? Well, there’s new tech that allows a user a fully immersive real world video gaming experience and while this tech is new really fully explained in the book, I seriously hope someone is working on it right now. (Maybe there’ll be a Kickstarter for it soon?)
Okay, enough fanboy-ing for the moment. There was a confusing element to the book…English. English is a fluid language and changes for every continent and country that speaks it. So Heropa came with a slight learning curve for me. I’m American, but the real-world elements (and therefore the Player Characters) are based in Melbourne, Australia. All that aside, once I got into the swing of the lingo, it was smooth sailing.
Speaking of the lingo, I really have to applaud the author’s style choice for switching up dialogue. There are times when it feels decidedly more comic book and other times where it’s like reading a chat log while playing an MMO. I enjoyed the fluidity this provided because it not only highlighted the various aspects of the book, but injected them into things without coming across forced or clichéd.
Wow, this far in and I haven’t even began to address the plot? The story follows Jack a.k.a. Southern Cross (also one of my favorite constellations) as he first jacks into Heropa. Much like the tutorial level, you’re quickly brought up to speed on the rules of Heropa, which come directly from the Golden Age of Comics. But there’s one rule that has recently been switched off or simply ignored, no killing Capes (Player Characters).
I would introduce Southern Cross’s fellow Capes, but I think to do so would take away from the story. (Mostly because I can’t think of ways to describe them that won’t have a few spoilers accidently included.) In fact, I would like to get more into the plot as well, but I really don’t want to ruin things. Arrgghh, the difficulties!
Murder on the rise, a populace with growing resentment for the Capes of their city, and a faulty program leaves everything up in the air where nothing is certain except death. Will our heroes prevail or will they be snuffed out like candles in a hurricane? Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion. (Sorry couldn’t help myself)
If you are a fan of comics, video games, murder, and the like, I definitely recommend this one. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? delivered a great story and then some. I’m a firm believer that a really great book is one that doesn’t answer every question, doesn’t give you every ending, but leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Heropa did this. Of course, besides wanting to know more about the tech (let’s face it, games would be improved to the nth degree), the one burning question I still have is this: What happened to Melbourne?
~ Falcon Storm, The Source
Today's book, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa, needed no treatment.
The title alone is a showstopper, an in your face question mark, a what was that all about attraction. Great Capes? Are we talking about places on the earth and some environmental disaster? And what is this Heropa? It sounds like one of the moons of Jupiter. Is this some science fiction about the environmental damage to some other planet? So I found the title a bit tantalizing.
What is this book by Andrez Bergen?
Jack, fifteen, lives in a ruined Melbourne, alone after his parents are disappeared by the state for sedition. On one of his forages out into the bowels of the city, someone hands him a flyer giving him an address. He follows the trail from one place to another where at each spot he must answer a question to get the next address. Finally he lands at the last stop only to be turned away until he accidentally says the password.
Jack's next stop finds him on the streets of a clean city with a mismash of architectural styled buildings unlike anything he had seen before. Here, he discovers he is Southern Cross, a superhero, also known as a Cape, and he is part of a group of Superheroes know as The Equalizers. The city is populated by people the Capes call Blandos (because they are so bland) and other Capes who belong to The League of Unmitigated Rotters.
There are rules to this new place - no cussing (though some words are okay), no drinking, no smoking, and no killing (other than Blandos), except someone is killing. And that is the mystery of the place. Who is killing the Capes, why are they killing the Capes, and how are they killing the Capes?
Jack, together with Equalizers Brick and Pretty Amazonia, sets out to find out what is really happening in this fair city. Along the way he picks up a petty reporter, a sharp detective, and a girlfriend. It is the girlfriend that has Jack sidetracked from his task of finding the killer or killers.
This book is a huge tribute to comic books, with blatant, not so blatant, and obscure references to the comic book heroes of the last century. I read these stories back in the day, my favorite being Spiderman and Daredevil, though I was familiar with others. Most of the references in this work went over my head but it never, ever distracted from the story or the humor and there is plenty of both. Quite the opposite, in fact. And I enjoyed all the references I picked up on and learned a lot from others.
I was taken back when the jump from Melbourne to Heropa took place but soon sussed this is a story much like Tron or The Thirteenth Floor though with much more humor. As with all such stories, you die in Heropa, you die. The concept that everything is extremely real - food tastes, odors smell, pain hurts, and love is a deep emotion - keeps the reader vested in what is happening within Heropa. When our hero Jack faces death, it keeps us on the edge of our seat, just as his falling in love melts our hearts because we know for Jack it is all too real.
The mystery plot was well done and the why of it properly hidden. Like all life, the pathway through the plot is never direct since, like many, Jack gets taken in by a beautiful woman. The love interest keeps the mystery from overpowering the humor and lightness of this tale.
Bergen does his characters a powerful service by making them so real and simple to connect with throughout the story. It is too easy, when writing a light touch story to give a light brush to the characters. Not only did I connect with the main characters, I fell for the minor characters, too, being completely vested in their lives.
This is a quality tale with exceptional writing, dialect and all, and something I do hope you pick up. I have only one question for the writer. Who is Melbourne paying and why???
I loved, loved this book. I believe anyone who loves comic books and their heroes will love this book. Those who are not familiar will still find this edgy tale a keeper. There is a bit of sex, more than a bit of cussing (though clean by many standards) and some violence similar to comic books. ~ Sunday Smith, A BOOK A DAY REVIEWS
In this virtual world, you can be! Heropa, the world where the superheroes reign, is a place where you can escape and become your own superhero. A great premise for a story makes this a fun read for comic book and superhero fans alike, along with entertaining trivia for the curious mind.
I enjoyed the way the characters were explored and the twists involved made for an enjoyable ride through the virtual world of comic book heroes and super heroes.
The love (?) story! The dynamic between the love duos in this book were refreshing and told a brave story where they were willing to fight for each other.
The awakening of the hero (oes) and how they found their strength and their truth (It does relate, doesn’t it? You need to know the truth to be brave enough to do your part to be a hero! You also need to be brave enough to face what that truth calls you to do!).
The lessons learned about what it means to be a hero: We all have it in us. Even those who seem to be a Regular Joe or Plain Jane have it in them to be a brave, passionate and fiery fighter! You are a hero in your own right! You have it in you to play a special role and can do what no one else can!
~ , Bookworm Castle
With its stylized pastiche aesthetic that borrows from comic book lore, pulp fiction and more, to provide its reverent and original take on a superhero caper, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is an ambitious homage to the comic book universe as we know it. While tapping into our adoration of pop culture entertainment goodies and providing an Australian caped crusader to cheer for, this novel provides rollicking escapist fun.
The gambit of the novel – and a delightful one at that – is to engage readers by immersing them in a wonderland of beloved pop culture-canon furnishings: think of the fully developed worlds within Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next book series, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Wreck-It Ralph which playfully exploit treasured literature, cartoon and video game characters, conventions and settings, respectively, within their compelling adventures.
In Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? the fabric of Heropa’s universe is threaded with celebratory nods primarily to the Silver Age and Bronze Age of comics (of the late 50s to mid-80s) and skeins typical of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler’s pulp fiction – there are also ingredients taken from modern art and architecture and many other notable pockets of popular culture. Many pop out quite strikingly and others are subtly interwoven for devout comic book fans to discover or to be gleaned on re-reading.
Beyond this postmodernist style, the narrative’s premise is that citizens of a futuristic dystopian Melbourne attempt to solve their life’s ills by plugging in to a virtual reality game where they can don cape-crusader clothes, and along with their new get-up, select a superpower, and elect the side of good (Equalizers) or evil (Unmitigated Rotters) to fight for.
The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Jack, aka Southern Cross when in superhero (or Cape) livery, expresses the appeal of Heropa for such jaded Melbournians quite pointedly when he claims he signed up for ‘[a] comic book world in which people didn’t really die or vanish. They picked themselves up, made a quip, brushed themselves down, and moved on to the next adventure.’
The clincher for Jack is that ‘brush down and move on’ is no longer an option in Heropa. While, normally, the rules dictate that Capes cannot kill each other, and a daily ‘reset’ mechanism ensures Capes restore to their pristine selves sans any kind of injuries incurred, things have gone awry of late with Cape corpses multiplying and the ‘reset’ on the fritz.
And while he may have escaped his solitary existence in an unforgiving city, he now must adapt, and grow up, in a metropolis that is no longer a utopia of glorious towers, slick fast cars, and good and evil avatars engaged in cathartic and fun, and ultimately harmless, battles. Jack must now solve why Heropa’s order has been upset and who is behind it.
Jack is ever the naive idealist hero of this piece; his costume is even modelled as an Australian variant of Captain America. Bergen teams him up with Cape characters that provide for an interesting personality mix and hero-collective dynamic. There is Brick, a clear nod to The Fantastic Four’s Thing, a hulking blustering mass of bricks moulded in human form with good (albeit camp) humour. And Pretty Amazonia, a crossbreed of Sailor Moon- and Wonder Woman-like ilk with moxie and a realist’s sensibility in tow.
For all the strength and heroic gumption behind these characters, it is their vulnerabilities that endear the reader to them. The glimpse of Jack eking a threadbare and solitary existence in unforgiving Melbourne, and the comfort he finds in the comic book realms is poignant. Then there are also the glimpses of humanity that come from his connection with a Blando (a non-Cape, ordinary citizen, in Heropa). And behind Pretty Amazonia’s tough shell, the childhood inspiration for her avatar also shows a rare sensitive side to her. As for Brick, there is a secret emotional part of his life that intrigues.
The trio’s Scooby-gang-like dynamic also provides interesting dimension. Although at times they do get bogged down in rambling dialogue that can either be too hammed up or seems to deter from the action a little too long and leave the reader wanting; however, it could be argued that there is a role playing game-like feel about this technique.
Politics surrounding the concerns of Capes, Blandos, and Melbourne’s citizens are probed to a degree and touch on issues around law enforcement, power and mercy, though it felt like there could have been further exploration without impinging on the largely feel-good vein of this world.
There is also a bit of a deconstruction of the comic book hero and hero world conventions at play in this novel, stemming from Bergen’s grand investment in, and fascination with, the comic genre storytelling mode. A large part comes through at the beginning as Jack is provided an orientation of Heropa and its ins and outs, and while mostly entertaining, there is a tendency to spend too much time explaining the set-up.
What works well are the little interjections through the remainder of the novel: Jack analysing the difficulty of eating with a full face mask as opposed to a half mask like Batman’s; or realising that posing for the typical hero running-cum-tearing through newspaper shot is physically awkward; and an exploration of the creation of superhero costumes as an act of artisanship.
The serialisation structure – the novel is divided in parts and issue numbers – along with graphic art (some that actually tell parts of the story) and the readymade-quotation aesthetic all cleverly add to immersing the reader in this comic caper universe; the form astutely follows the concept. On the odd occasion calling out a Heropa version of a comic book attribute from reality loses its winking and nostalgia appeal as it begins to tire.
On the pulp side of genre scale, shadiness (both atmospheric and characterisation), unreliable narration and red herrings are aptly employed. As the novel nears the big reveal, around the last third, the action and characterisation picks up in strides, as all seems to flow more naturally – and the addition of inquisitive journalist Gypsie-Ann amps up the humour and overall character dynamic.
Clearly well-versed in the comic book genre, Bergen has provided a cape crusader mystery chockfull of the requisite character and setting tropes, humour, and twists that comic aficionados and general readers alike will lap up. And the pulp fiction elements provide a refreshing idiosyncratic edge to the superhero narrative. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? will appeal to readers who enjoy clever, playful genre fiction with heart. ~ Chrysoula Aiello, ArtsHub
I HAVE to get out so I can tell you how god-damned good this was!
As I mentioned, the success of the last tour of Perfect Edge Books had my expectations set very high. Then, the first book on the tour list was in one of my favorite genres. It’s classified as Science Fiction Noir & Fantasy. It couldn’t get much more intriguing than that.
It’s also no small feat to successfully combine all those genres into one book and have it work out. I could say all the normal things like great characters, amazing plot lines, good story telling and world building. They’re all true, but this book is so much more.
I wanted to feel like I was in a black and white movie, be close to the comic book style, and enter a science fiction world of dystopia like no other.
Thanks, Andrez Bergen, you’ve done it. You’ve gone and mixed genres, created a dystopic world like no other I’ve read before, and you’ve made it into a masterpiece with some great societal references I can’t wait to jump into…in the next installment of this review. ~ , Naimeless
Imagine a future where you can live as a superhero. Not just any superhero, but one you carefully designed, from the super power to the costume. Welcome to Heropa.
Andrez Bergen’s latest novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, takes place in the fictional world of Heropa and the grim reality that is a dystopian Melbourne. Jack, a young man, takes a chance and escapes from his unremarkable real life into Heropa.
Heropa is every comic fan’s dream reality. Populated by dashing superheroes and comedic villains, those plugged into the system can live their life as they see fit – as long as it adheres to the Comics Code Authority. That’s right; Heropa is straight out of the Silver Age of comic books.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? centers on the recent deaths of heroes and villains within Heropa. One of the rules of the Comics Code Authority is that no one dies. When Capes start dying, it becomes obvious that the system is broken. Jack is new to Heropa and brings a fresh perspective to the homicides. With the help of Pretty Amazonia and the Brick, Jack puts the pieces together to find out who is killing the super-powered people of Heropa.
The most remarkable thing about Bergen’s novel is the seamless blend of comic book icons into this fictional dystopian world. From Pretty Cure to Jack Kirby, Bergen has incorporated a little bit of everything. Fans of comic books, no matter how much they know, will pick up on the subtle reverences in Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?. In addition to the comic book references throughout the book, Bergen has provided several illustrations to help readers vividly picture the characters of Heropa. Heropa stands out as an unique book that blends both the noir detective genre with the rich comic book history. ~ Mara Whiteside, NerdSpan
The cover: A nice combination of black, white, and gray on the cover introduces the reader to the classic setting with its 1940′s font and cityscape, complete with searchlights and blimps, plus the body on the ground lets one know this is a mystery. This image prepares you perfectly for what’s to come within. Illustration by Rodolfo Reyes. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover: “Heropa: 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 gloriously redefines the mild-mannered superhero novel.” This had an interesting hood; not the detective noir or Marvel angle, but the distance between Heropa and Melbourne. I began to wonder why only Heropa had heroes and what had happened to Melbourne. Yes, there’s going to be a super hero mystery, but there’s a back story there I wanted to know more about. Overall grade: A
The characters: The book’s lead is Southern Cross, real name Jack, who arrives in Heropa as green as can be, only armed with a vast knowledge of comic books, the desire to do good, and a shield. His naivete gets him into several situations his fellow Capes (heroes) try to warn him of, but experience turns out to be the best teacher. His power is the ability to shoot a ball of flame from his hand, and his costume is the Aussie equivalent of Captain America, though his lower face is completely covered. As the story progresses much is revealed about him, such as why he’s in Heropa, his life before becoming a Cape, and we see his character change after encountering a Blando (non-powered person) in Chapter #107. I had a hard time believing in Southern Cross as more than just a generic hero until #125; something happens to him that made him human and not just another guy in tights. I was pleased with this aspect of him and as the story began to wind down I found his choices to be honest and very heroic. His best friend is the Brick, also a Cape. Without question he is, for all intents and purposes, the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing from the Fantastic Four. He’s always wise-cracking, will pound something before thinking, and he’s obviously got a major soft spot for this rookie, so he takes him under his big rocky wing. I love the Thing and I love the Brick. Writer Bergen has captured his personality perfectly and he is a real stand out character. He and Southern Cross have some great scenes together and when the Brick is in a group or mob his one-liners prevail. The other major Cape is Pretty Amazonia, an Anime inspired heroine, who is as fast and strong as she is pretty. She is the reality check of the Equalizers who’s been in Heropa longer than most and the one who’s the most serious when the situation requires it. She has more in common with S.C. than he knows and she’s inspired by him to save the Blandos. Helping this time on the sly is reporter Gypsie-Ann Stellar, who, also, has a secret and it’s a doozy! She began to steal scenes from the Brick, a feat I didn’t think another character capable of. The antagonist is the individual who’s killing heroes in extremely graphic ways. I’m not going to even suggest who this is, as there are several possible suspects, but there is a group of villains knows as the League of Unmitigated Rotters, and, yes, there are plenty of jokes about their name. I will say that the villain of the piece would give any “real” comic book villain a run for their money due to the elaborate plans and absolute insanity of seeing their goals achieved. My grade is not an A because of the time it took to latch on to Southern Cross. Overall grade: B+
The settings: Heropa is a 1940′s metropolis where Blandos are always in fear of Cape action, since they get killed fairly regularly in the chaos. When the big reveal is given about Heropa, and it does come early, I was very disappointed. What Heropa is makes sense, but I wasn’t prepared for it. I thought this was too easy an explanation for the primary setting. That said, as the book went on, and I got lost in the characters and their tale, I let my bias on the setting go and just enjoyed the story. I was so caught up in the tale that when the ending of #172 occurred and one of the setting’s major rules came into play I laughed and gasped. I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Melbourne, but–Wow!–I hope this version doesn’t exist when I go, and that’s all I can say about this locale. Overall grade: B+
The action: It’s a super hero themed mystery, so you know there’s going to be some massive action sequences and there are. However, being the rookie, Southern Cross makes some mistakes and doesn’t get to participate much in fights, but by the end he’s doing a lot he didn’t think he’d be capable of and I was cheering him on all the way through the end. Overall grade: A-
The conclusion: For all my hemming and hawing over various aspects of the book, the final chapter and ultimate ending is brilliant. It’s how I’d want the best comic or movie to end. The final line was perfect. I loved it. Overall grade: A+ ~ Patrick Hayes, SciFiPulse.net
Bergen's superhero novel is also a hardboiled crime tale, as a tram of capes called the Equalizers, led by a young Aussie known as Southern Cross, is caught up in a murder mystery that strikes home.
Inspired by the comics of the 1940s and '60s, Bergen plays with story and character conventions much as Alan Moore did with 'Watchmen', though in prose form (with numerous illustrations).
Drawing inspiration from everything from vintage Fantastic Four and Captain America tales to 'Eerie' horror and the more obscure 'Suicide Squadron', Bergen's 473-page softcover ode to classic comics is one wild trip. ~ DAVID E. WILLIAMS, GEEK MAGAZINE
A while back, Andrez Bergen was nice enough to send me a digital copy of his latest novel, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? It took me far too long to get around to reading it, which is because I suck, but I’ve read it now, and I’d like to tell you a bit about it. This is published by Perfect Edge Books and you can get it anywhere fine books are sold. Everyone likes buying books, right?
There’s a big problem with this book, and it’s that the central conceit is pretty keen and I don’t want to spoil it (and no, it’s not the answer to the question of the title). So how do I write about it? Well, I can be coy, so forgive me for that. I can say some things about it without giving too much away, so I’ll do that. It’s not that there’s a huge twist, but it is an interesting way to present the story, and it’s fun to discover on your own.
Anyway, Bergen gives us a city, Heropa, that’s one of those cities so prevalent in retro-futuristic science fiction – it’s an amalgam of 1930s and 1940s visions of what a city of the future would look like, but it’s also very modern in a “normal” way. It’s also a place populated by superheroes and supervillains – both called Capes. At the beginning of the book, Bergen places a hero, called Southern Cross, into the city and turns him loose. He ends up at the headquarters of a group called the Equalizers, which is made up of the Brick, Pretty Amazonia, and the Great White Hope. Obviously, Bergen is basing these characters on “existing” superheroes, but that’s fine, because so much of this book is homage to characters of the past and present. So we get references to all sorts of comic book characters and creators, and Bergen makes sure it all blends into a nice portrait of a vast yet accessible city. Southern Cross – whose name is Jack – gets involved in the murder mystery of the title, as he learns that more than a few Capes have been killed recently. The mystery is always part of the book, but the book isn’t specifically focused on the mystery, especially after Jack falls in love.
The problem for Jack is that the woman with whom he falls in love, Louise, is a “Blando” – meaning she doesn’t have any powers. The Brick and Pretty Amazonia explain that romance between the Capes and the normals is frowned upon, but Jack doesn’t care, and he begins courting Louise. A good deal of the book is about their romance, which is a good move, because it allows Bergen to expand on their characters, why it might not be a great idea for Jack to fall in love with Louise, and how their secrets intersect with the main plot. Naturally, both Jack and Louise have secrets, and Bergen does a nice job showing how their feelings for each other conflict with the greater setting of Heropa and its secrets. It’s well done parallelism, and when Bergen does return to the main plot (not that he ever really goes away from it, but he shifts focus to the romance), he’s able to link the romance to the main plot effortlessly.
Bergen gives us plenty of interesting characters, too, which helps make Heropa a fascinating place. He uses standard noir and superhero tropes, of course, but because he takes time to give the characters good personalities, it becomes more of a homage than just a lazy way to create characters. So the Brick, while coming off as a Ben Grimm rip-off, has facets of his personality that we don’t expect. The wise-cracking reporter has an interesting backstory that explains some of her sarcasm. Jack seems odd at first, but Bergen does a very nice job explaining his personality quirks. Bergen also does a fine job creating the city – he takes his time envisioning this giant world, with its unusual neighborhoods and impressive architecture. It feels like a stylized but real place, which is important in a book like this, which relies on styles so much. Bergen is able to take the stereotypes we associate with these kinds of stories and use them to his advantage. It’s well done.
I have a few issues with the book, but they both involve the solution to the question of the title, so I don’t want to give anything away. So it’s not a perfect book, but it is good. It feels like it ends a bit abruptly, and I do wish Bergen had given us more of an epilogue – the book is 422 pages long (well, the story ends on page 422, but there’s a handy glossary), but it does go quickly, and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more at the end to wrap some things up. It’s not the greatest murder mystery, but it’s pretty good, as it uses both noir and superhero elements pretty well and ties into the entire existence of the city, so Bergen does a decent job there.
The book is entertaining and fun, with plenty of intrigue and romance and interesting characters bouncing off each other. Bergen comes up with a good idea and does some cool stuff with it, including naming superheroes rather cleverly and giving us a good, pulpy plot. Jack and Louise are a nice couple, believable and cute, but still dealing with things that try to divide them. It’s not “realistic,” because Jack is a superhero and Louise isn’t, but it does show how couples have to trust each other and deal with things that come up. There’s a lot of exciting stuff in the book, and anyone who’s a superhero fan will find plenty to smile about, as Bergen enjoys putting Easter eggs in the narrative. Check the book out, because it’s a cool read. ~ GREG BURGAS, COMIC BOOK RESOURCES
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.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of HeropaWelcome 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. ~ BANE OF KINGS, THE FOUNDING FIELDS
A while back I introduced readers to Andrez Bergen's fantastic superhero novel Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa? The book has become critically acclaimed and is now available to buy. The plot is very noir with lovely heapings of Kirby-esque four-colour sensibilities and I highly recommend you read it.
~ SCOTT MALTHOUSE, THE TROLLISH DELVER
In search of entertainment, Jack crosses over from real world Melbourne to Heropa, where he becomes (dah daaah!) Southern Cross. However there's not much time for him to acclimatise to his new lycra-clad role or his super-power. As the new addition to The Equalizers he has work to do. The heroes of Heropa are starting to die in a totally unprecedented manner so Jack joins forces with the quartet starting with an 'e' (but with a symbol looking suspiciously like a 'z) in an attempt to restore law and order and to remain alive. For the rules have changed in this once-virtual world: death in Heropa now means death in real life too.
Aussie Andrez Bergen has had one heck of a life. He's created a comic, music (as 'Little Nobody'), has written for important newspapers like The Melbourne Age, various magazines, books, short stories and even ran a record label for 15 years. He now lives in Japan with his wife and daughter, about to be joined by a whole lot of acclaim from the marriage of detective noir and Marvelesque super heroes in this remarkable non-graphic comic novel, with pictures.
I'd best explain… This isn't a graphic novel as in a comic book. It's a fully worded, full length story-novel. However there are some beautifully executed pencil drawings scattered among the chapters to aid our minds' eyes as they take on Andrez's fantastical world, detective noir style. However, don't be put off if you aren't a fan of the likes of Batman, The Avengers or Sam Spade for that matter, as the author has created a world and cast that will appeal to anyone with a sense of humour.
Jack/Southern Cross is more bemused than brave as he nips over to Heropa for a bit of fun but discovers this isn't the end-of-the-working-day escapism he was expecting. From our viewpoint the fun never stops and never grows tired (a great feat for an endeavour like this). The jokes and the many cultural references may detract from the sense of peril one normally experiences reading a whodunit, but it's so cleverly combined, who cares?
In this almost through the looking glass universe, goody Capes mix with ungifted Blandos and avoid the baddies (the wonderfully entitled League of Unmitigated Rotters, reminding me of a name of which Douglas Adams would have been proud). Real world people get a mention (Japanese artist Ryoji Arai for instance) or a cameo (the Equalizers have a caretaker named Stan – one for the dyed-in-the-printer-ink fans!) and there's still room for a nod to shows like Thunderbirds, The Simpsons and eclectic gags such as the reference to the French Revolution. (Search-engine Marat when you get to him if it doesn't dawn to begin with.)
There's also room for a great conspiracy theory.
There's so much going on that this isn't the sort of novel you only read the once. I'm sure I missed loads so will be going back in, but with a sense of anticipation and excitement as this time I know the treat that lies ahead.
5/5 ~ ANI JOHNSON, THE BOOKBAG
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa by Andrez Bergen depicts murders within a virtual city of heroes and adoring masses—now isolated from the rest of dystopian reality—as a stylistic homage to 1940s detective noir and the 1960s Marvel age of comics (available September 27, 2013).
This story is, quite simply, a love letter to superheroes.
It’s also a mystery wrapped in a virtual gameworld wrapped within an adventure that is deadly, inside and out, and also a commentary on what’s real versus what should be real.
Mostly, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa by Andrez Bergen is fun, with a style that strongly reminded me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. There are the same wild leaps of imagination in a world not unlike our own and the same jokey tone that masks some serious themes.
Readers enter the virtual world of Heropa at the same time as our hero, Jack, aka Southern Cross of Australia.
Heropa is populated by all sorts of Western superhero and manga archetypes, though Brick is absolutely the standout from his first appearance.
If you notice a resemblance to the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing of the Fantastic Four, that’s entirely intentional.
Bergen’s virtual world has some great details, such as the superhero “rules” on no swearing and not being allowed to drink alcohol.
Jack’s not sure what to think of this brave new world at first, despite the explanations by Brick and Pretty Amazonia, who’s inspired by numerous manga heroines.
Nothing is quite as it seems. For the first time, heroes are dying and that’s not even the worst problem. The “Blandos,” the virtual, set-dressing people created inside the game, are somehow retaining their memories instead of being reset to a default every night. Are they sentient? Are the designers outside the game messing with the players? Jack has to find out the answers, especially after he falls in love with a Blando.
Despite the cool concept, the story's virtual world was overwhelming and somewhat disorienting in the beginning. Not until about eighty pages into the book, where Jack’s past and reasons for entering Heropa are detailed, did I feel I had a handle on any character, including Jack. It also features a terrific sequence where Jack has to know superhero trivia in order to even find the game that allows entrance to Heropa.
The book picked up steam from there, but it did require a reader’s patience.
There are also times when it seems like the plot is stalled and going nowhere, especially the main murder mystery, but the last third of the book picks up as the stakes are raised, and lives in the virtual and real world both need to be saved.
The over-thirty pages of original art that decorate this book are terrific, and I particularly love one of Southern Cross bursting out of a Heropa newspaper. (There are many other artists' interpretations of this moment as well.)
Bergen also includes recommended comic reads in the back that are fantastic, and represented a trip through memory lane for me.
Will those who know little about comics like it, even though it has an eight-page glossary of terms and names in the back? I’m not sure.
I’m not an English literature major and I loved the Thursday Next series, so it’s certainly possible. But like Thursday Next, Heropa sometimes sacrifices compelling story for in-jokes and references about source material the author clearly adores, ones that were sometimes obscure, even to someone who’s been reading comics for four decades, like me. ~ Corrina Lawson, Criminal Element
Spoiler-free, this is about an Australian superhero esoterically named Southern Cross who winds up in a city named Heropa where superheroes are being mysteriously murdered.
The cover art tells you the look and feel of Heropa and its superheroes, somewhere between art deco and the 1930s airships in the background and Space Age Marvel (with the geek cred to bring up exactly how many Red Skulls there were); yet also shot with shots of grimy futuristic dystopia.
The read is a leisurely one, comedic (if a little soft in the cape), eclectically brainy, and delivered with an epic quirkiness. At the heart of it all is a leisurely, eclectic love story. Basically, it's another one-of-a-kind Andrez Bergen novel.
Bergen is a writer with multiple projects going. ~ RAYMOND EMBRACK
What do you do when someone offers to let you review their novel, as Andrez Bergen did, with Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?
1. Just say yes, in the hopes it will just go away.
2. Just say yes, and sweat it out thinking it won't go away.
3. Just say yes and hope that it won't be as awful as you think and maybe you can get away with talking about some good points.
4. Just say yes and be completely blown away by how terrific the novel is and only worry if you can come up with enough words to praise it.
Um, I'm going to go with #4. Seriously, this is a terrific novel for anybody who loves comic books. And probably anybody in general, although it is harder for me to judge that because I was so wrapped up in the comic book goodness,
This is a great, entertaining book. I described it (based on the first two chapters) for a blurb as Sam Spade meets the Justice League. My bad. It's Sam Spade meets the Justice League meets the Holodeck meets the Watchmen meets... well, I don't know.
It's just so cool a plot that I don't want to spoil it, but this only gives away about a third of the story:
The main character, Jack, is a 15-year-old lad from a post-apocalyptic Melbourne, Australia. He joins a virtual reality universe where he can become a superhero, a member of a team called the Equalizers, who do constant battle with the Unmitigated Rotters. While there he finds love, and must unravel a mystery. The virtual reality universe is breaking down, and the rules (Comics Code Authority rules, no less) are being broken. Heroes and villains are being killed, and worse, a death in the virtual world has similar consequences in the real world of Melbourne.
That is the plot, basically, but oh, man, the writing blows that out of the water. There are Easter Eggs galore, to the point where the Easter Bunny union is probably writing up a grievance that they cannot carry all of them. Some are obvious, but others definitely will take some Googling; in a way that is a huge advantage today compared to yesteryear.
I won't go into more detail about the plot. It moves forward briskly, with frequent surprises, to a very satisfactory conclusion.
I do have two criticisms, one major and one minor. The major problem with the book is that it was too short; couldn't Andrez have squeezed another thousand pages out? ;)
The minor criticism is that Jack seems just a little too savvy and sophisticated for a 15-year-old. Perhaps this is because his virtual reality character is an adult?
However, that's a quibble in the bigger picture. This is a terrific novel, and I look forward to reading more by Andrez. ~ PAT CURLEY, SILVER AGE COMICS
Andrez Bergen's WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA? is an ode to the golden age of comics, and then some. It's a novel of great ambition brimming with escapism and heroism, portrayed in a dystopian setting encompassing an ideal that's refreshing, honest, and true to pulp culture.
The superheroes (capes) of Heropa are being picked off one by one. Southern Cross (Melbourne teen, Jacob) is the newest member of a small group of heroes banded together under the good-guy banner The Equalizers - their primary goal, to keep the inhabitants of Heropa safe from rogue Capes and other criminal threats. A task made harder by the mystifying murder rate of Capes that came before him.
Core to proceedings is Southern Cross and his ability to adapt then evolve to his persona and surroundings. From apprehensive baby steps to duking it out with menacing foes direct from the pages of superhero comics, Jacob's journey compliments the artificial reality of Heropa.
True to form for a superhero caper, there's a love interest with a little likeness to Lois Lane (in terms of civilian-come-hero-love-interest), a broad spanning mystery across the city itself and a another within dystopian Melbourne, and cool character designs (some of which are provided in the book). Louise, a seemingly innocent and bland character at first captures Southern Cross' heart and kick starts another dimension to the already stellar story giving it a more human side.
There's a lot to like about WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA?. Fans of DC comics will marvel (pun intended) at the cityscape, and capes alike (some baring a likeness in premise to The Thing and Wonder Woman). The action is top notch with further exploration of the city and it's heroes not outside the realms of possibility. This is a book that demands future installments.
Highly recommended. ~ OzNoir, Just A Guy That Likes To Read
I'm afraid this review will sound more critical than I mean it to, because ultimately, I like this book. I like it a lot. It’s creative in a way few novels in the last few years have been, with a strong sense of itself and the world it creates. And, while it can be slow at times, Andrez Bergen’s novel “Who is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa” is an inventive and intriguing book.
Explaining too much of the plot would be remiss, but the novel begins with the death of the heroic Aerialist by what seems to be sabotage. The book then jumps to Southern Cross, the genre-savvy newcomer and replacement on the local superhero team. The plot is, for lack of a better word, sprawling. It makes sudden swerves and decidedly unexpected decisions, keeping the reader invested with a sense of ease. Not to pigeonhole it, but this is a novel for nerds; references abound and comparisons to famous characters are plentiful, but not in a lazy way. Any writer can say "She's like a composite Wonder Woman and Sailor Moon", but Bergen twists it. He writes it deftly, mixing in little touches where they work but never letting it get out of hand. The characters feel less like pastiches of established characters and become their own people. If only the dialogue could keep up.
When I say I'm disappointed by the dialogue, I want to stress my meaning – Bergen’s grasp on the mundane and fantastical, his way of explaining the world around his characters, is simply marvelous. It's inventive, constantly funny, and full of the kind of strong imagery you only ever see in the best novels. I'm so impressed by his writing style that when it gets to the dialogue and it's average, I'm a little let down.
Deliberately slow and creatively inspired, the novel may take a few moments to sink in, but when it does, it does with gusto. Give it a go. ~ , Ain't It Cool News
One by one, the superheroes that protect the city of Heropa are falling. Assassinations, apparent accidents, sabotage, a myriad of incidents have one thing in common: a cape - a superhero - is dead. Trouble is, that's against the rules. Everybody knows heroes can't die.
Meanwhile, in the real world...
Andrez Bergen steers us carefully through the layered reality of an Australian dystopic future mixed into a fantasy comic book past. Equal parts Stan Lee and Raymond Chandler, with Gibsonesque twirlings, this story could easily get away from a writer. But, lacking the visual framework of the comic books that it draws on for its own legends, Bergen eschews the grandstanding and instead focuses on the characters. The novel is full of empathy and emotion. After all, when you're not sure how real your world or your fate is, what else have got to rely on except your own sense of self, of right and wrong, love and hate, friendship and enmity? And of course, your chosen superpower.
Not that you have to be into comic books to enjoy this. Comics have always been more incidental in my life than a mainstay, and yet I still got most of the references, or at least understood them. Superhero fans certainly will enjoy it, but there's as much mystery, intrigue, and romance as there is action. And Bergen does a great job in not only bringing the world to life, but also in toying with the conventions of pulp and comic book lore. When we do find ourselves out in the 'real world' it is insufferably grim and forbidding, neatly contrasted to the shiny newness of Heropa, where whole city blocks can be destroyed and repaired over night - in true comic book fashion, consequences never last longer than a story arc. At least, not when things are working right.
It's very well done, and that he produces all this and still makes the pages turn is quite an achievement. The whole experience is bolstered with sketches and illustrations from a number of contributors around the world, adding to the comic feel of the story without distracting from its literary execution. And some of them are very fine indeed.
If anybody else is as inventive and bizarre as Andrez Bergen, then they aren't half as good a writer or everybody would know their name. In 'Who is Killing...' pulp fiction and comic book tradition are brought bang up to date and then slammed hard into the roots of their own mythology. Equal parts mystery, science fiction and comic book fantasy, it's a stylish, creative, noirish romp full of darkness and fun.
I don't know any other writer that could quite pull this off. Nobody else today writes with the same dark wit, style or mad creativity. Bergen is already making a name as a cult favourite, and this book deserves all of the plaudits that will undoubtedly be coming its way.
~ CHRISTOPHER BLACK, AVAILABLE IN ANY COLOUR
I’ve been away for a couple of weeks and managed to catch up on some reading. Chief amongst this was Andrez Bergen’s WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA?. Rarely for me, this is timely (I think the book released early to Amazon last night), and here’s a review.
First, a quick aside: Andrez is very good at getting books into people’s hands ahead of time without coming across as a spammy bell end. People should learn. He’s also a very nice guy and a fine writer. I very much liked THE TOBACCO-STAINED MOUNTAIN GOAT and was enjoying 100 YEARS OF VICISSITUDE until a pile of other stuff swallowed my time and I sort of dropped out of reading it about a quarter of the way through. No fault of the book; I’m just lousy at returning to stories I’ve had to leave for a month or so.
HEROPA is a superhero crime novel with SF elements in the way that INCEPTION has SF elements (hand-wavy background setup rather than heavy story pieces). It’s also easily his most accessible book, and for my money his best.
I had only two minor quibbles with it. Let’s get them out of the way. Firstly, (MINOR SPOILER OF AN EARLY REVEAL) in the real world - Heropa is a plug-your-body-in MMO in which you die if you die, the body cannot live without the mind and all that - Jack is 15, but in stretches he comes across as older. (END MINOR SPOILER) And secondly, the ending was a bit abrupt for me; I’d have liked a little coda chapter, something to wind down.
And that’s it. The second is purely a matter of my personal taste and the first is a tiny thing that made absolutely no difference to my enjoyment of the story; Jack, like Brick, Pretty Amazon and all the others, is a genuinely engaging character who you want to see come out of things OK.
The story starts off similar to the first POWERS arc, WHO KILLED RETRO GIRL?, but soon branches off into something more sinister, as well as going more and more into the relationship between Capes and Blandos. Jack gets involved - in a touch of the GROUNDHOG DAYs, also neatly done - with a Blando, Louise, and their relationship - and the traditional powers-with-civvies conflicting personal loyalty - is key to the later part of the book, and rightly so.
I don’t want to go too much into the story so let’s wrap up. I very much doubt I’ll read a supers novel better than HEROPA, but it’s also primarily, like the aforementioned POWERS, a crime story at heart, and has plenty of emotional character draw and soul to it, as well as being a lot of fun. I really, really enjoyed HEROPA, and I’d happily recommend it to anyone. Great stuff.
~ JOHN RICKARDS, THE NAMELESS HORROR
I woke up one morning to find an email sitting, unread, in all my clutter of an inbox. It had a long title, weird words that I didn’t quite understand. My first thought ran to spam. Whatever you say, I didn’t win six thousand pounds. I don’t even live in the UK. So I opened the note and found to my delight an author requesting I review his book.
That was a first.
Brushing off the notion that my blog is getting bigger, I skimmed over the blurb, past the striking cover, and settled on three words that grabbed my fancy: Noir, Sci-Fi, and Dystopian.
Three of my favorite genres tucked into one novel. I was excited, that is, until I stumbled upon the following word: Superhero. I’m no fan of Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, or any other ~man. They often times feel overpowered, overdone, too strong and all that jive.
So I emailed him back, saying I would read it, was excited, and held small hope that this would be a decent novel.
I was proven wrong. This is a damn amazing novel.
Imagine a quick, all around fun story that has pacing lighter than a feather, a fast introduction that can be oh so confusing and analytical, but still deliver. Imagine humor at every turn, barreling to the rescue of a previously bland and horrible novel that I won’t dare to mention. Well, Bergen’s third take at writing was my savior, my superhero. If that makes no sense whatsoever, you have an inkling as to how amazing this book is.
“Chains hung from the ceiling with no apparent purpose other than making the place look more dangerous, but a worrisome iron maiden decorated one corner. ‘That’s our filing cabinet.’”
Jack, our protagonist, is thrown like us smack dab in the middle of this city, unaware of anything, but his ability to be a superhero. We learn through his eyes, come to see the majesty of a silver, urban land through his narration. Or, better put, the sarcastic and many times extremely funny third person narrator.
Still not making any sense? Well, I’ll get there.
As said, Jack comes to this city to escape his own. Yes, Heropa is all in his mind, what many could call an allegory to Fantasy fiction. But I’m not about to philosophize this great story. No, it’s meant to be a rollicking fun time, not some deep piece of sluggish existential trash. (Unless you enjoy that.) What it does have in place of *depth* is facts.
Yes, pop culture references from the kid, Jack, who’s brimming to the top with comic knowledge. That’s why he’s here, drawn into a land less bleak then his home. See, he’s an orphan living on the streets in a post-apocalyptic Melbourne. We don’t learn as to why the rest of the world was destroyed. It doesn’t really matter. Heropa is where it’s all at, a block of concrete reminiscent of the 40s to 60s where men wore fedoras and women smoked as much as the gangsters on the radio.
Yes, this is where the noir sprinkles in. Not just in the unnaturally shiny setting that contrasts our dystopia, but in the murder mystery. Because that is where the plot blossoms. Capes (Superheroes) are dying. The big problem with that is it’s kinda illegal. See, in Heropa, the Capes live by a set of rules. No swearing, drinking, intercourse, or downright R rated stuff. Killing is included in this humorous take. So when they start dropping like flies, Jack steps in to solve the case.
“Thou shalt not kill."
"Hah. The Bible ref. No wonder I ditched it from me noggin. Fact is we’re not s’posed to die – no matter how much we pummel one another. Rules is rules."
But a woman gets in his way. She becomes his Juliet, a Blando or “normal” person, possibly compared to an NPC in video games. They aren’t supposed to fall in love, but the Reset button that does as it says, resets Blando’s memories, is on the fritz. Suffice to say, Jack unfortunately takes advantage of this flaw and thus the romance begins. But it’s not as cynical as I make it out to be.
This is where his second ability is checked off. Characters and dialogue.
Where most authors would stumble, Bergen gracefully slides. Dialect is where it’s at. I’ve never had a writer this breathtakingly amazing at writing dialect. The majority of the time, I hate the stuff with a fiery passion. But Bergen manages to make it flow so smoothly with the rest of the talk, very much like his prose.
“Jack gazed again at the silly banner on the wall. ‘What’s the story with the three-legged chicken?’
Bulkhead glanced up as well. ‘That’s not a chicken – any fool can see it’s a crow. Don’t you know your ornithology?’
‘Looks more like a chicken. Who’s the shoddy artist?’
‘Dammit, it’s a crow.’
‘Well, why the three legs?’
‘I don’t like you. You ask too many goddamned questions.’”
Brick was a favorite, popping off humor at every turn, arguing with Pretty Amazonia, his fellow Equalizer and giant friend. Add in a journalist whose snooping skills create the noir plotline, also adding more funny banter when conversing with her sister, and you have a strong cast just with three major characters. But that’s not the only ones.
The relationship between the people is another important factor. The Equalizers, the band of goodie Capes, can seem a bit distant in the beginning, as one would expect. As we go along for the ride, everybody (for the most part) begins to warm up to each other. Trust is a big moral in this novel, evident by the many coffee filled morning conversations these lads have.
As the story progresses, like the relationships, tension builds tremendously, growing darker, tighter, stronger, right up until the thread snaps and all hell blows loose. Twists fly hard; backstories shed light and clues bring forth more. Even the mystery is in plain sight, which is played off of by the villain for humor, exemplifying what this novel encompasses.
My only complaint is a tiny one: The ending fell a little flatter than I wanted it to. We stop right straight after the climax, and I felt it might’ve been a tad rushed. But I was reading this on the kindle, saw I had ninety percent left and expected a red herring. Alas, I think it was more me wanting to stay in this brilliant novel’s world, share one last cup of coffee with the crew while they waffled on at the Equalizer’s penthouse, gazing out into the sunset.
But that’s sappy stuff. Bergen has created an amazing novel drenched in the glitz and glam of the silver age of comics, dotting this story with pictures of the cast and funny symbols like three-footed chickens. It moves at a quick pace, full of deep characters and a mystery that had me second guessing the whole way through.
It may be set in a silver world with the outskirts a tad gray, but Andrez Bergen’s third novel does everything it can to achieve the gold.
And that it does. ~ CALEB HILL, ACERBIC WRITING
For all the comics I read (anywhere from 20 to 40 a week), the world of superhero genre books is still new to me. You know, the other kind of books: without pictures to go along with all the words. Most of my reading is done in snack size portions, and I devour these books at a rapid pace; two or more on the go at the same time. Binge-reading is a rarity, something my rational brain forbids as it means time away from being productive. Or sleeping. Who is killing the great capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen (One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat) overrode that logic with its compelling story, leading to me staying up late two nights in a row feverishly trying to unravel its mysteries.
It’s obvious that Bergen shaped this murder mystery out of a blatant love for comics, technology and his homeland. Set in Australia, it’s a welcome change from North America-centric stories. Equal parts sci-fi, noir and with a healthy dose of caped crusaders, it’s a masterfully woven mystery featuring the city of Heropa as the seemingly simplistic setting for these super-powered crimes. In Heropa, good guys fight bad guys all the time, and overnight, the city is restored — its people are safe, damage is repaired and all is right in the world again… until the next day’s inevitable super-powered face-off. The technological side comes in when you’d least expect it, and is best kept as a surprise for readers.
No one used to die in these battles between good and evil, except for the common folk, or Blandos as one character refers to them. Recently capes of both moral alignments are found dead all over town, and only our protagonist Southern Cross (or Jack, when he takes off his mask) seems particularly concerned about it. Jack’s the newest member of The Equalizers, Heropa’s version of the Justice League or Avengers. He does his best to survive while he and his teammates work to unravel what’s taking down their super-powered comrades. Oh, and maybe fall in love with one of the Blandos along the way. Ah, romance.
I recently had the chance to ask Bergen a few questions about the series, including how he came up with the concept for Heropa and Southern Cross. “Heropa’s always been in my headspace, since it chiefly brings together two things I love: classic hardboiled noir fiction and the flavour of 1960s Marvel Comics. [But the concept] came to me while I was rifling through boxes of my stuff at my mum’s place back in Melbourne two years ago,” Bergen explains.
“I was downsizing my possessions so she’d have more space. After being in Tokyo for over a decade, I doubted I needed most of the junk, but I stumbled across an old drawing I did of a superhero I created in high school. The character’s name was Southern Cross, and he was basically the teenage me’s parochial Aussie answer to heroes like Captain America and Union Jack. I sent the character to Stan Lee in the mid-’80s and he wrote back saying he liked the idea, but it ended up that Tom DeFalco — who was then editor-in-chief at Marvel — wasn’t so into it and the character was shelved for about 25 years. Anyway, when I rediscovered him I started thinking about ways in which to reinvent the guy.”
No matter what shape he’s in or what resources he has available, Southern Cross proves himself to be a hero, despite his constant state of being woefully in over his head. He stumbles, learns and grows through the book, making the denouement ever more bittersweet. “The twist towards the end of the story regarding our villain of the piece? I didn’t see that coming.” Bergen admits. “I remember I was tweaking the second half of the manuscript from around September last year, and it wasn’t really doing anything for me. That was a fun, Four Musketeers-style wrap, but lacked impact. So I was mulling over things on a packed peak-hour train to Shinjuku [ward in Tokyo], squashed against a window, when the current finale came to me. I had to wait several stops before I could pull out a pen to jot this down.”
“The development of the final story was interesting,” he continues. “I finished the final draft in December 2012 — or so I thought. At that stage I had only illustrations of lead character Southern Cross, but I decided to open these up to include Pretty Amazonia, The Aerialist, the Big O, Major Patriot, Prima Ballerina, et cetera. So, while I was awaiting the artwork over the next three months, I tweaked the story further. Much as I dig the bickering camaraderie of the ’60s Marvel Bullpen, I also grew up on darker comic book offerings from the early ’80s, stuff like John Byrne and Chris Claremont’s run with X-Men, Frank Miller on Daredevil and Batman, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez doing Teen Titans… so at times the story steered in that direction too, and I had to drag it back on track. There are still elements with that darker feel in there, but tempered, I like to think.” I won’t lie, the darker parts of the story threw me at first. It’s only a third of the way through the book that you realize the world and characters you’re so engrossed with have barely scratched the surface of what’s really going on.
Bergen injects his story with his knowledge of the comic medium. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of subtle references to characters, creators and even long-dissolved publishers throughout the book. These references are either so subtle most readers would miss them entirely, or they serve a specific purpose, with Bergen expanding on their inclusion in an interesting, thoughtful way. “Although I like to believe I have a good memory of comic book trivia, I really needed to do a lot of research here,” he confesses. “Along the way I discovered some obscure facts and characters I’d never heard of — so it was doubly worthwhile.” It reads like a love letter to the genre without being obtrusive to the overall story. Obviously a huge fanboy (this is meant as a compliment), Bergen’s passion for the medium adds an intelligent undercurrent to archetypes that are still sometimes perceived as nothing more than brawling heroes in spandex.
One of the things that makes Heropa so unique is the illustrations of these heroes, peppered throughout the book. With over 35 contributions from the likes of Dave Acosta, JGMiranda, Paul Mason and more, Bergen explains what a pleasant surprise it was to have his characters come to life. “I do artwork myself but I’m bit of a hack. It was fantastic to work with professionals, to bounce around ideas of characters that were very real in my skull and in text on the page. Getting another person to visualize their take on the character was a wee bit stressful, so I tempered this by asking particular artists whose work best reflected the character itself. I think all of them nailed their individual character designs, and I love the range of styles within the book. That’s what comic books are all about: the variety of interpretation, especially visually. Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby saw Captain America differently, but both versions are brilliant.”
The illustrations bring the book full circle, back to its comic book roots, and gives readers a glimpse at the heroes they are still getting to know. “Funnily enough,” Bergen divulges, “there is no picture in the novel of The Brick. This is because he’s heavily modelled on Kirby’s design of The Thing from the Fantastic Four in the mid-’60s, and I couldn’t see any other artist capturing that. Better left alone, methinks.”
Blending elements from several genres and treading a fine line between snort-inducing nerdiness and noir mystery, Heropa is a quirky mix but it works. Most importantly, it deconstructs what it means to be a hero — a concept universal to any genre, super-powered characters or not. But don’t take it from me, here’s how Bergen describes Heropa. “The novel explores the nature of what is to be human, good and evil and the murkiness between the two, love, death, friendship, art-deco automobiles… and a lot more.” For a refreshing take on heroes, give Who is killing the great capes of Heropa? a shot." ~ NICOLE RODRIGUES, DORK SHELF
I’ve been in the delectably wonderful center of a reading storm. I refused to function within society for two weeks as I devoured one book after another. I believe I read about eight books in that time. They’ve all been so good that I feel a bit like a book-gollum. They’re my precious. Mine…
But I’ll share. Because I’m so awesome.
This story was the type of story you didn’t know you loved until you finished it. The power of it seeps from your toes all the way to your hair, spreading it’s fingers into your mind. Insinuating thoughts, like which homeless person will give me the first password and will I be able to answer it correctly. Or how would I design myself as a hero and what power can I have.
“Who Killed the Great Capes of Heropa?” is a fusion of noir, heroes, romance, science fiction, and dystiopia. I suppose it’s the distant future of Melbourne. Our main hero Jack, a young poor boy, finds himself ushered into a shady building via a network of comic book passwords, to be strapped in and whisked into Heropa. Almost sounds like a comic book-wonderland-express…
Heropa is a city set in a 1960s/golden/silver age of comics. It’s inhabited by Capes (the super heroes-Equalizers), the villains ( The League of Unmitigated Rotters), and every day citizens that reside in Heropa.
Jack lands in Heropa as the Southern Cross. He meets Stan the Doorman (wink wink) who introduces him to my absolute favorite Capes EVER: Brick–a self explanatory nam– and Pretty Amazonia–a tall, pretty sailor moon/anime magic girl mixture who’s super fast. Brick and Pretty Amazonia are the core of why I love this story so much. Once they popped out from the page, they remained popped and have been sitting on my shoulders ever since. The wit, the heart, the strength, the weakness, the power of these two solidified this story for me. They’re so awesome.
So Jack a.k.a. Southern Cross, Brick, and Pretty Amazonia make up the Equalizers. As they travel around Heropa, they do their regular battle-fights against the villains. Except other heroes in Heropa are dying. Permanently. Not just in the alternative reality of Heropa but also in reality. Dead.
So begins the great mystery plot of the novel. A mystery so well done that I honestly did not see it coming. I was so wrapped up with Jack and his heartache that I was oblivious to the clues.
Oh what’s Jack’s heartache? He begins to fall for one of the citizens. A frowned upon rule breaker. The citizens of Heropa aren’t real. They’re just like NPCs (for the non-gamers: NPC= non-player character; a background character of the game). Having a relationship with a citizen is also pointless since Heropa goes through a reset every 24 hours–so all the damage caused by the explosions is magically gone, the people forget what happened, and the game plays on.
Except now the citizens are remembering what happened the day before. Jack also realizes that these citizens are consciously aware, and they hate capes.
On a side notes, for any Guild fans out there, this really reminds me of Zaboo and the mermaid NPC. Yup. If you ladies have not caught the Guild, then go check it out on geekandsundry.com. It’s hi-la-ri-ous.
I can’t give out anymore info, I just can’t! It’s such an engrossing read. Even though the beginning is a bit jarring with a Cape mid moments before her death then right onto Southern Cross into Heropa, it all makes sense later on. The story is set up in fragments of the reality, alternate reality, past, present, different speakers. With a little bit of mind muscle, you get used to it.
The romance in this story is substantial. There are some sexy times, but I felt a bit sad as I read those. You could almost sense some foreboding in the cuddling. It’s Jack’s love for the banker lady that is so strong and beautiful. I want to say so much more, but it’ll ruin the story. Just know that I was sniffling then gasping. That’s all I’ll say to that.
There is a hefty supply of comic book references. I am by no means an expert so I can comfortably say that you still get the jokes. The references are explained in exposition but in a way that made me google them up later. For once, I am a bit curious about that age in comics. I usually shy away from it because it’s so dense and the fandom is irritating-know-it-all. Bergen is definitely a know-it-all of comics but this story is done in a endearing, passionate fanboy way. Plus, he was super amazing in putting a list of comic references in the back.
Sprinkled between the pages, the artwork is phenomenal. For me, the art of the comic has to draw me in before I will waste my energy on the story. If the art is ugly then it distracts me from the word bubbles. The art for Heropa was amazing and I had to add it. Check out the character art for Southern Cross and Pretty Amazonia!
My only gripe with the story is how many loose ends I was left with. So many details I was curious about. Like what was the point of plugging all these people into Heropa? That’s a lot of power and maintenance care in the real world. Was happened after the story ends. Did they all continue saving Heropa? Did you get to choose to be a villain or a cape? I wonder if this is part of an ongoing series or hopes to be one. Either way, I want to know why…my curiosity must be appeased!!!
There were rules in choosing a hero’s power in Heropa, as in you couldn’t get the power to fly or be indestructible. If I was able to pass the password chain, then I would call myself the Tailed Terror and have the ability to animorph (if you get that reference then your awesome). And heck yeah I would be a villain.
This novel is not out until September 2013!!! So hold on to your capes!!" ~ CHARLEE ALLDEN, SMART GIRLS LOVE SCIFI
Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen is a noir-style mystery set in a world of superheroes. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with that combination. But, more than that, it tackles some deeper issues, like good and evil, reality and fantasy, free will, the nature of humanity, and, more importantly, the grey areas surrounding all of these things.
The book centers mainly around Jack, whose alter ego is Southern Cross, a young and idealistic superhero who’s basically an Australian version of Captain America. He arrives to fight crime and perform feats of heroism in the city of Heropa alongside a seven-foot living anime character named Pretty Amazonia and a rough-talking pile of human masonry named The Brick, as well as other heroes or Capes living in the city.
Heropa, we soon find out, is actually a Matrix-style computer simulation in Melbourne, and all of the Capes we meet are actually ordinary people jacked into a mainframe. You’d think that, with the knowledge that none of this is real, even for the already-fictional characters, that it would be difficult to care about what actually happens to anybody in this story. But, Bergen manages to keep the stakes high throughout, whether characters are pursuing case leads, battling for their lives, or trying to find love.
As the title implies, someone has been killing off the Capes living in Heropa. Up until recently, the computer program’s safeguards prevented anyone jacked in from dying, but things have gone awry and now people are dropping like flies—both heroes and villains. And, it would seem that dying in Heropa also means dying in the real world.
Outside of the computer program, the story is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Bergen’s first novel, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. Those without at least a passing familiarity with that story may find it hard to follow along in parts. Suffice it to say that Melbourne is now the only city left on the planet, and it’s a dystopian nightmare run by a corrupt government. You can see why so many people are anxious to give their lives to an unreliable computer program instead.
Much like a lot of Bergen’s previous work, Heropa is peppered with fun references to movies, music, and other obscure bits of pop culture. The title itself is a reference to a very underrated comedy called Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Also, being that Bergen is Australian, there are a number of cultural references, idioms, and general slang that American audiences might not recognize. Fortunately, for all of these things, there’s a glossary in the back. And, even without it, there’s not much you can’t guess from context. It just serves to make things more interesting.
But, the main source of reference material in this one is, of course, comic books. Though the characters are all original creations, all of them have at least a passing familiarity with the Marvel and DC comics of our world, which prove an ever-present influence on them and on Heropa as a whole.
The book is, in general, a lot of fun. It has action, adventure, mystery, romance, and a fair bit of humor thrown in. It also has a number of interesting characters, most notable of which is the aforementioned Brick, who is loud, crass, vulgar, and completely lovable. What drives the story as much as the action does is the arguments that these characters frequently have amongst themselves. Not only are they often amusing to read, they’re one of the things that makes the book work on a deeper level than just a superhero adventure story. Their constant bickering is a reminder that, although these characters have the picture-perfect look and demeanor of moral and upright superheroes like we know from the comics, they’re actually regular human beings, with human flaws and human weaknesses. They weren’t born great. They haven’t even really achieved greatness. They’ve simply had greatness thrust upon them.
The text is supplemented by a variety of illustrations, by a variety of different artists. Many of them are of characters, but there are also pictures of logos, the city, and other important story elements. Though maybe we don’t need quite so many pictures of Southern Cross bursting through a newspaper, in general, the illustrations add flavor to the story. I’ve heard several people lament lately that the illustrated novel is going the way of the dodo. They’ll be gratified to hear that Mr. Bergen is one of the ones keeping it alive and well.
All-in-all, for anyone who’s interested in comics, superheroes, noir mysteries, or good action and adventure, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is worth a read. And, if you also happen to be interested in deeper moral and philosophical issues . . . well, then, you might get even more out of this book.
~ STEVEN W. ALLOWAY, FANBOY COMICS
"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
seat.” (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; the 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 misdirections, 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. These are 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." ~ JOHN KOWALSKI, WORD OF THE NERD
When author Andrez Bergen undertook the Herculean task of describing to me the premise of his upcoming book, I was, quite frankly, amazed when he didn’t pass out from sheer exhaustion.
“It’s a futuristic-retro superhero romp that mixes and matches 1930s Art Deco architectural lines with the gung-ho Soviet formalist propaganda style, twisted into 1960s pop art sentiment and the huge influence of Jack Kirby. Think golden and silver age American comics channeled into a dystopian future—via Japanese manga—while heavily skewed by the ’60s Marvel comic book baggage of Kirby, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko and their ilk. And then decant that concoction into the legacy of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.”
Now, I did say ‘book’, not ‘comic book’. Andrez Bergen has stuffed all these comic book concepts into one hefty novel. But the visuals so dear to comic book aficionados have not been forgotten. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is illustrated by a variety of artists from the UK, Italy, the United States, Japan, Russia, Spain, Canada, Argentina, and the author’s homeland of Australia.
“I wanted a more professional take on the visual concept and I also liked the idea of disparate visions of the same character—it’s the way comic books, after all, work in the real world. Bryan Hitch’s perception of Captain America in 2009 was far different from John Buscema’s in 1969.”
But the most challenging hurdle of all was his decision to let me read the book. I appreciate comic books for their rich history and contributions to our culture in the form of action movies, occasional fashion statements and a rich abundance of cultural references. However, my own interest in comics was short-lived, just a small dose of Superman back in grade school. I was more of a Tales from the Crypt, MAD Magazine, Asimov and Bradbury girl. And so, with my anemic comic book background, I cracked into Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? feeling like the odd kid out. Right off, I was introduced to Jack, a kid struggling to survive in the dirty ragged remnants of Melbourne, Australia. Jack and I clicked immediately, since I’m fond of survival tales, and so through his eyes I was finally able to discover what comforts and wonders can be found within comic books.
Eventually, Jack learns of an unusual way to escape his life in Melbourne and finds himself wandering Heropa, a retro-virtual metropolis that seems capable of giving him everything he needs. He gets a fresh start, food, shelter, clothing, and caring friends. Jack bumbles along, slowly figuring it all out, while I cheered and encouraged him along. Turns out Jack is a ‘Cape’ (Heropa’s superheroes) by the name of Southern Cross. He settles in with other Capes and learns more about life in the virtual world of Heropa. There are standards he must uphold; no drinking, swearing, or smoking (there are repercussions), and he quickly learns that wearing a superhero mask every day is really annoying. Oh, and there’s another fact of life in Heropa – every night at midnight, the city gets a reset. The ‘Blandos’ (ordinary folk, think non-player characters in a roleplay game) wake up in the morning and go about their jobs and lives with any mayhem, personal injuries and city damage from the day before set back to a nice tidy default. Their memories are reset as well, so every day is a new chance to do the same old things, oblivious to the repetition.
Seems simple enough on the surface, but Jack begins to discover that something is very wrong in the city. Capes are being killed more often and more flagrantly. The resets have stopped working. Alcohol is re-discovered and overly enjoyed. Jack meets a bank teller Blando who steals his heart. And that’s just the beginning of some very big changes happening in Heropa.
Meanwhile, what’s happening to the people back in Melbourne while their virtual Cape personas fight, fall in love and die? And what about the Blandos? With the reset off, are they closer to becoming real people? Are they capable of building memories and relationships and bringing lasting changes to Heropa? Is the definition of reality changing?
I taunted Andrez about writing this whole review as an allegory to a 1947 Studebaker, but instead I’ll just give you a taste. By comparison, his previous novel, 100 Years of Vicissitude, is a Mazda RX-7, able to zip through convoluted Japanese streets and change directions quicker than you can blink.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is more like a 1947 Studebaker Land Cruiser. Big enough to hold a pile of passengers and all their baggage, but with enough attitude to cruise stylishly down a vintage virtual boulevard. First gear takes time to work up to speed, but that’s all right, we can study life on the sidewalks as we pass by. Second gear gets you moving along quicker – it’s going to be bad news hitting a pothole at this speed. Third gear and you’d better be strapped in because this car’s not stopping for anything. This novel ramps up the action one gear at a time, each shift revealing faster and more breathtaking scenery right up to the very end.
As a bonus, the back of the book contains a glossary of all the slang and comic books mentioned in his story, as well as bios of the artists, acknowledgements, inspirations, influences, moments of worth in the authors life, and essential comic book reading highlights. As you can see, Andrez is not one to take shortcuts when talking about his passions. I absolutely recommend Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? You have nothing to lose but your preconceived notions. ~ LORI HOLUTA, A LICENSE TO QUILL
Andrez Bergen is an interesting cat. His first three books, in many ways, are very different from one another. One's a classic detective fiction dystopia mash up; the next is an exploration into the nether regions of the afterlife; and his most recent, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, is an homage to comic books and draws from the work of Philip K. Dick.
Actually, homage isn't really what's going on here—it's almost an investigation of the assumptions comic books are based on. You see, Heropa is a futuristic virtual reality set up with super heroes, villains, and blandos (all the people who super heroes save). The world has become such a terrible place that people have totally given up on it and they journey to Heropa mentally, if not physically. Heropa is a fundamentally (and mechanically) broken place, where the super heroes and the blandos resent each other and everything seems to be falling apart.
Bergen uses this premise as a vehicle to poke at a bunch of interesting questions: What does being a super hero mean? Would a world with super heroes be better or worse? What about all those people who the super heroes "save"? Are they real people or just objects? Can virtual reality be as important as reality?
And this is what I dig about Bergen's work in general--he takes entertaining plots and characters and uses them to explore deeper issues. Yet he's never didactic or navel-gazing; he walks the tight rope expertly.
After three books, it's clear that Bergen doesn't confine himself to one genre. In fact, he prefers to mix and blend genres with gleeful abandon. Yet there is consistency. He creates some of the most wildly imaginative places you will ever encounter in fiction. He has perfect pitch for witty dialog and cultural references. And his characters are fascinating people who you'll want to hang out with.
Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is both an entertaining and challenging read for comic book lovers and the rest of us alike. ~ CHRIS RHATIGAN, DEATH BY KILLING
We're not in Kansas anymore. Or even Gotham City. Bergen's big-hearted meta-romp wears the author's mighty affection for comic books, past, present and future, on its sleeve, and the call-outs, shout-outs and sly winks zip by faster than a speeding bullet, 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 seat.
Our hero, the suitably stalwart Jack, a modern day superhero, finds himself mysteriously transported to Heropa City, an alternate universe fantasy world purportedly set in the 1930s but where anachronisms pop up at every turn, where 'capes' run rampant and a dwindling but all-powerful group called the Equalizers struggle to preserve order.
But even with “some kind of weird blast thingy" that shoots out of his hands, Jack still isn't quite prepared for the Brick, a wisecracking would-be private eye made of concrete and mortar; the giant, lusty Pretty Amazonia who isn't above using her super powers to surreptitiously cop a feel or the expectation that he will join the Brick, Amazonia and the rest of the Equalizers in their battle
against their evil arch-enemies, the League of Unmitigated Rotters.
Yeah, the League of Unmitigated Rotters.
The author's po-mo mojo may be working overtime here, but this rip of a read, complete with some great illustrations, isn't so full of itself that it's afraid to let loose a load of Golden Age BANG! BIFF! POW! More fun than a box of old comics! ~ KEVIN BURTON SMITH, THE THRILLING DETECTIVE
So... the bold and wonderful Mr Bergen has been allowed yet again to give free range to his awesome creativity.
One would think that after producing two of the most awe inspiring novels of the last year or so that he'd be quite happy to rest his little Aussie shoulders and wander peacefully under the cherry blossom trees of Tokyo... but no, obviously he just can't help it. Thank goodness!
What has he come up with - you guessed it - another totally different and yet related novel.
From the moment I first plunged into that 'Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat', I have been challenged and rewarded in equal measure by Bergen. You see, I'm not his typical reader, not his target market, so actually, I shouldn't even be reading his books.
Thankfully though, Bergen's irresistible Aussie charm and those crazy titles tempted me to give his books a go. I'm not a film buff and I know very little about the comic scene, gold, silver or bronze (whatever that means) so dodging all the references and nods to a plethora of nostalgic characters sometimes does nothing more than confuse me. "So why do you love his books?" I hear you roar. Easy-peasy... Bergen's writing is nothing short of brilliant, his characters demand to be loved and I always end up an emotional wreck by the end.
'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' is as expected a huge accomplishment; a dystopian virtual world populated by a surfeit of heroic characters fighting off the baddies to maintain the equilibrium of their imaginary society. I know, that all sound a bit crazy. Classic comic fans will love all of the references but there is much more to this novel and if you can push aside the references and get to the heart of the despair and hopes of the characters then you will be on the way to discovering what really motivates Bergen; the human
What we have here is a love story worthy of Romeo and Juliet as two lovers from opposite sides of the street battle to save their love for one another. Add into the mix the fact that this struggle all takes place in a virtual world where the real life players are hooked up to a matrix, living in the same Melbourne that
readers of Bergen are already familiar with, then the emotion and longing for love and belonging gets cranked up to fever pitch.
Bergen deals with themes of loss, despair and hope as his real and virtual characters try to find meaning in their lives as they stumble around trying to find out why both worlds are crumbling under their feet.
This novel is an easy fit for comic book fans but please don't be put off, Bergen rewards every reader who works their way through his stories, sometimes you don't even know why you keep turning the pages but just as people will stand in a freezing cold riverbed for hours at a time panning for gold, remember that Bergen will reward your efforts richly. You will never regret picking up this, or any other novel by Andrez Bergen — tough stuff with a golden heart.
Magnificent! ~ FIONA JOHNSON, I MEANT TO READ THAT...
It wasn’t until about one hundred pages in that I began to get a glimmer of what this novel was about. That isn’t to say that I didn’t get it from the beginning, just that the many layers of the story began to show themselves as I ventured deeper into its pages.
To clarify, 'Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' is a novel and not a comic book, which probably has a few of our readers perplexed, but it actually fits perfectly in the comic book genre. Not only does this story star “capes” and villainous rogues, but it’s rich with comic references and history. This novel reads like a love note to the medium, but at the same time manages to tackle other subjects much like the medium it pays homage.
I’m not a fan of the prologue in novels. If it was important then I don’t see why it’s not included in the story to begin with, but now I’m wondering if I’ve just never had the pleasure of reading a good one. Heropa’s prologue does a fantastic job of giving you a taste of the world you’re about to enter as the character the Aerialist plummets to her death. As she falls the distance in which she will travel crosses her mind. She begins to calculate just how long it will be before she hits the ground and thinks of notable landmarks that would shorten her fall. At the end of it all though all that she can mutter out loud is, “Flame on” followed by a laugh as she continues to fall to her death.
From there the true story begins as we meet Jack. His entrance into Heropa is a bit of a mystery to us as he wanders the city’s streets. The cities citizens can’t see him for some reason except for one man that he meets. Stan the Doorman is the first to greet our costumed hero Jack, aka Southern Cross. Stan the Doorman (a homage to Stan the Man) introduces himself as the doorman and welcoming committee; he guides him to the Timely building and the two talk about the obvious homage to Timely Comics the one time title for Marvel Comics. Jack takes a ride on the elevator up to the penthouse to meet the Equalizers, the city's superhero team whose numbers have been dramatically cut.
He arrives at the penthouse and begins to take in the eccentric design of the heroes headquarters. The first member he meets is Pretty Amazonia a towering woman that’s described as a cross between Wonder Woman and Salior Moon and dragged from the pages of a manga. The next member he encounters is the Brick, a ton of bricks staked together to resemble a person.
They cover several things with Jack including the death of their former leader Sir Omphalos, which for the most part they keep tight-lipped about. They go over the rules with Jack or at least the ones that they can remember such as: no hardcore swearing, no drinking or smoking, no killing and other classic comic book tropes. It seems though, that the last rule about killing is being broke a lot lately leaving Jack and the team a mystery to solve.
A huge aspect of the story that I’ve failed to mention up until this point is that Heropa isn’t real. There are comic books references because the characters come for our world, be it a future that is on the verge of becoming dystopian. Jack or as we later learn his name to really be, Jacob, has volunteered to enter Heropa to get away from his life of hopelessness. This of course is in a way a reference to comic books and superheroes being a classic for of escapism.
The other major element of our story is the two terms created to describe the different classes of citizens that live in Heropa: Blandos and Bops. Blandos refers to the NPC (Non-playable character) average citizens of the city that are essentially terrorized by the Bops aka the Capes. Bops, of course also refers to the villains that cause the trouble the Equalizers stop. Most of the Equalizers refer to the Blandos almost as if they were trash and hate how boring they are. Because of this, most of their direct interaction is pawned off on Jack to take care of. This begins another layer to the story as Jack becomes infatuated with one of the Blandos named Louise, who works at the bank.
I’ll admit that I was put off a bit by the comic book references at first, but that’s because the mystery of the world wasn’t completely explained yet. Granted it’s not until about a fourth of a way in before the book spells it out for you, but it gives you plenty of clues prior to that and once that happens it all clicks together. While it pays heavy homage to comic books with its setting and name drops there is plenty more that it refers to including art, literature and automobiles for readers to discover and appreciate.
Author Andrez Bergen does a wonderful job of crafting a realistic fake world. It’s kind of crazy when you sit down and think about the fact that you’ve become captivated by a world that isn’t exactly real. It’s a world within a world, but because of the vivid description you manage to forget that while reading it. Aside for the realistic settings the characters also become very human throughout the course of the story. At first they start of as the tropes or homages to other characters that they’re meant to be, but once you become familiar with them they grow with each encounter. The wit and sharp dialog is also a key feature of the writing to point out. Jack’s tongue is sharp and he’s never afraid to let his mouth get him in trouble. Practically every line of dialog from him has a pulpy charm to it as if he had a dialog tree of perfect answers just cued up to use and I absolutely loved it.
While the novel isn’t widely available for purchase yet, I think that it’s going to be quite successful with fans of comic books with its references and the classic comic book feel that the story captures. My interest was piqued from the first page and I found myself more and more immersed in the story as I continued reading. It’s definitely the best non-comic book superhero story I’ve ever read. I would also be remiss not to mention that there are drawing throughout the book. Sometimes it’s of a logo or the Jack in his Southern Cross costume, but the variety of these pieces blur that line between novel and graphic novel and really do amplify the already great story.
When it becomes available I would highly recommend picking it up; especially if you’re a fan of the golden and silver age of comic books, but as a modern age reader I too found it extremely enjoyable.
Score: 5/5 ~ DUSTIN CABEAL, COMIC BASTARDS
"A comicbook world in which people didn't really die or vanish. They picked themselves up, made a quip, brushed themselves down and moved on to the next adventure. The way it used to be - so long as you were a Cape, not a Blando." The woman put a hand on his shoulder. "You don't understand. You missed that part of Heropa, when things were light-hearted and fun. Everything now is out of whack."
There is one particular part of that quote above, a very subtle thing really, that I love. I only became aware of what Andrez Bergen was doing in his prose halfway through his novel, but once I spotted it I began to notice the same technique everywhere within his writing. "The woman". It's a small thing, but repeatedly Bergen echoes the third person narrative descriptors of Silver Age comics. Scenes would open frequently in this manner - The Avenger, The Hero, The Villain. It was a particular feature of comics writing from the period, perhaps a holdover from the declamatory style of radio serials, that both engaged the reader while also insisting upon pulpy stylings as a piece of fiction.
In part this is the appeal of Who Is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa. It notes the passage of comics into a more bloodthirsty and grim period concerned with purported realism, while at the same time celebrating the carefree everyday fantasies that preceded the current era. Characters within the book debate the merits of the Golden Age or Silver Age - in fact the city of Heropa itself seems to exist in some fog of quasi-60s/70s influences - despite the Capes themselves having more modern sensibilities. I'm getting ahead of myself here though.
Southern Cross, a new hero in town, arrives in Heropa eager to join the crime-fighting band of superheroes known as The Equalizers. Except, Southern Cross is really Jack, a naive comics fan who has donned a superhero costume to live up to the example of Captain America. Wait, no, Jack is really Jacob Curtiss, a fifteen year old kid who has come into possession of an extensive comics collection..
Whoever our 'hero' truly is, he finds himself involved in a mysterious conspiracy that is altering the fabric of Heropa itself. Formerly a fun and morally upstanding place where people are unable to curse or drink alcohol, or die for that matter, members of The Equalizers, as well as their arch-enemies The Rotters, are being picked off by hidden assassins. What's more the people of Heropa, dismissively referred to as Blandos by the 'Capes', have begun to resent the property damage, deaths and trauma of superhuman battles within the city. Southern Cross just wants to be a hero, but instead he learns he is considered a threat.
There are clever allusions to the conflict between fantasy and reality at play here - the nature of Heropa itself presents a familiar dilemma to players of MMOs, in that it offers the fantasy of being a hero, but then you find yourself interacting with loudmouths named KalEl69. Also the referentiality - unlike with the disappointing Ready Player One - does not become a be-all and end-all. Jack is an expert on Silver Age comics trivia, but is flummoxed when someone mentions Breakfast At Tiffanys. It is a neat idea, demonstrating how comic book knowledge is typically exhaustive for some but also insular to the point of general ignorance. That this story about comics should be so similar to a murder mystery of the Sam Spade kind is just the cherry on the cake. The book also contains a series of illustrations, including one from Australia's own homegrown superhero creator/artist Paul Mason.
There's plenty to enjoy here and Bergen obviously relishes the opportunity to sing the praises of certain comics creators and periods. ~ EMMET O'CUANA , THE MOMUS REPORT
Just over Christmas I was privileged to read an advanced copy of 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?', fresh off the word processor of that wizard of homage, Andrez Bergen. Here are some first thoughts on the novel, which I highly recommend for anyone who entertains a certain class of fond childhood memories, and wants a cracking good read.
With this novel, Andrez Bergen takes us once more into the world of his dystopian future Melbourne, Australia - the last city on Earth. Melbourne is not a nice place to be, a polluted, dangerous and divided place labouring under totalitarian rule, where citizens are just as likely to be ‘disappeared’ by the state as to succumb to some environmental hazard or crime. In contrast with Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, which introduced the city, this time we visit fleetingly - most of our time in the novel will actually be spent hooked up to an IV drip and electrodes, with our consciousness lodged firmly in a virtual world called Heropa.
The contrast between Heropa and Melbourne forms a vivid counterpoint in the novel. Where Melbourne is decaying, filthy and dying, perpetually steaming under an acid rain, the towers of Heropa positively gleam under cloudless skies. Think of a comic-book Manhattan of the 1930’s, with elements of the 40’s, 50’s and occasionally the 60’s woven in for good measure and all ramped up Gotham-city-wise. City newsrooms bustle and buzz, the pavements are awash with swarming crowds of busy inhabitants, everyone wears hats, the women wear gloves and fitted dresses, all manner of fabulous vintage vehicles and trams ply the roads and heroes and villains do daily battle among the towers to gain the upper hand.
Heropa is a city filled with two classes of being: the Capes, who are heroes or villains - real people hooked in via remote link - and blandos, or phonies - apparently sentient humans who form the vast majority of the world’s population. These are artificial people with a small ‘p’ tattooed between their shoulder blades, and who go about their daily business as alternatively beneficiaries or victims of the struggle between the Capes.
The Capes are the main event in the city, and their battles and stoushes frequently extinguish numerous blando lives and destroy much property, only to have everything snap back into place at the midnight ‘reset’, ready for another day. The battles between the Capes are something of a ritualised affair; not so much in earnest as in a grand tradition of move and counter-move, the comic-book-like destruction staying within some predefined limits. That’s the theory, at any rate.
But something has gone wrong in Heropa. The reset has stopped working, and injury and damage are becoming permanent. For the first time, Capes are being killed - violently obliterated in Heropa, and left as brain-dead husks in Melbourne. The novel follows 15 year old protagonist and comic-book afficionado Jack, known in Heropa as the hero Southern Cross, as he weaves his way through the city, attempting with his fellow heroes (the Equalizers) to determine who is killing the great Capes of Heropa - while trying to avoid being killed themselves.
Bergen does homage really well, with frequent twists and a deft touch, and his works positively hum with his child-like love and delight in comics, sci-fi and noir. The settings, vehicles, props and aesthetics of both Heropa and Melbourne create vivid new worlds for the reader, worlds that positively beg to be explored. I felt that we have only scratched the surface of these places, and I for one hope that Bergen is not done with them yet.
The aesthetics of setting, props and costumes are compelling, lush and rich, but they would only form an empty stage set without an equally compelling study of character driving an investigative narrative. In this way, I think Bergen’s real party trick, evident in all three of his novels to date, is to craft enduring and well-rounded, believable characters who come to matter to the reader. He always seems to avoid the danger of shallow caricature that one might be tempted to suspect accompanies the genres he mines so effectively. Bergen’s characters have a ring of truth about them, and what happens to them seems to have real consequence to the reader.
In this case, we get to know the young Jack from before he enters Heropa; we first spend time with him in Melbourne, a poignant and solitary existence, his family imprisoned by the state - where he wrings as much joy out of a cache of comic books as he can. We go with him as he is introduced into an adult world - albeit a strange, virtual world, where he wears a skin-tight costume and mask on his muscled virtual adult body. We follow Jack as he then finds companionship in an unexpected quarter, in such contrast to his solitary and neglected life in Melbourne - and we also get to know his fellow Equalizers as they emerge in the narrative as characters with hearts and minds, despite their flamboyant comic-book appearance.
Without spoiling any of the fun, one of Bergen’s most compelling ideas is elaborated through a sideways exploration of the nature of artificial intelligence. Can we fall in love with someone who is not real? What does it mean to be ‘real’ anyway? Bergen brings something new to these staple questions of science fiction, making us care about characters even as we know them to be ‘fake’. The questions raised by this exploration remain tantalisingly unanswered, but there is much fertile ground to explore in future works.
I liked Heropa, I liked Jack and I liked his companions. I enjoyed spending time with them, as much as I enjoyed spending time with the characters of Bergen’s previous novels. There is something about a Bergen novel that makes it impossible to put down - I read Heropa in two sittings. As I said earlier, I sincerely hope that Bergen is not finished with these fictional worlds - there is much still to be explored, and I look forward to the next installment.
Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? will be published some time in 2013. ~ MARCUS BAUMGART , THE INK SHOT
"What really makes this book work are the characters and the dialogue... think of it as The Matrix as told through the eyes of Stan Lee and then rewritten by Jim Thompson. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome." ~ , Chicago News
"Bergen’s passion for his work shines through into his prose – clearly here is an author who knows their comic book world inside and out. The book is peppered with lovingly crafted references to comic book characters... those with more than a passing knowledge can sit and chortle to themselves as they find more and more references to classic comics. Either way, this is well-written, entertaining and an engaging read." ~ , The British Fantasy Society
"Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? combines hard-boiled of the superhero variety in a wonderfully unique and entertaining novel."
~ Dan Allan, Aurealis Magazine
"I loved this book. There’s excellent character development as the story progresses and the dialogue is amazing. The character interaction is lively, quaint, and terse. And there’s a sarcastic humor that permeates the book." ~ Talisha Harrison, La Virino Kiu Skribas
"The novel adds up to much more than the sum of it's parts, and is a cracking good adventure/mystery to boot... All in all, this was a wonderful reading experience, and I highly recommend it." ~ Shawn Michael Vogt, Weird and Wonderful Reads
"Bergen paints a world out of the conventions of pop culture and pulls liberally from the film noir of the 1940s to build an unconventional murder mystery. The result is a light read, which pulls on the strings of recognition from a pile of familiar aesthetics amassed in more than a half century since the Golden Age." ~ Brian Liberatore , At The Inkwell
"Incredibly engaging, clever and a fantastic piece of escapism — simply super." ~ , SFBook Reviews
"Striking in its detail and extraordinarily clever in its character dynamic... Andrez Bergen serves up a magical techno-noir dish of a story. An absolute jewel to be handled with delicate reverence."
~ Nicolas Forzy, Author of ALPHANUMERIC
"Highly recommend this book by Andrez Bergen! Just finished it last night — an amazing homage to loads of comics, and it's a good metahuman mystery to boot." ~ Steven E. Schend
"Andrez Bergen’s book Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a nice twist on the superhero genre, giving it a ‘noir’ twist’ with nods to the style of Marvel’s style of comic-books between the 1940s-1960s." ~ , Impact Magazine
"Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa is a wacky, funny and surprisingly philosophical tale that leaves you wondering if super heroes are actually any good, if non-heroes are worthless and if you should choose virtual reality if the real world gets to unbearable. This novel entertains you immensely and makes you think!" ~ , Daily Steampunk
"I definitely recommend this one. Within a page, I was hooked. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? delivered a great story and then some." ~ Falcon Storm, The Source
"This book is a huge tribute to comic books, with Bergen doing his characters a powerful service by making them so real and simple to connect with throughout the story. A quality tale with exceptional writing, dialect and all, and something I do hope you pick up." ~ Sunday Smith, A Book A Day Reviews
"The most remarkable thing about Bergen’s novel is the seamless blend of comic book icons into this fictional dystopian world... Heropa stands out as a unique book that blends both the noir detective genre with the rich comic book history." ~ , NerdSpan
"It’s a super hero themed mystery, so you know there’s going to be some massive action sequences and there are... the final chapter and ultimate ending is brilliant. It’s how I’d want the best comic or movie to end. The final line was perfect. I loved it." ~ Patrick Hayes, SciFiPulse.net
"One wild trip... Plays with story and character conventions much as Alan Moore did with 'Watchmen'." ~ , Geek Magazine
"Entertaining and fun, with plenty of intrigue and romance and interesting characters bouncing off each other... There’s a lot of exciting stuff in the book, and anyone who’s a superhero fan will find a lot to smile about, as Bergen enjoys putting Easter eggs in the narrative. Check the book out, because it’s a cool read." ~ Greg Burgas , Comic Book Resources
"Excellent... with a strong look into the world of superheroes, Who is Killing The Great Capes of Heropa? provides readers with an 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
"In this almost through-the-looking-glass universe, there's also room for a great conspiracy theory. There's so much going on that this isn't the sort of novel you only read the once. I'm sure I missed loads so will be going back in, but with a sense of anticipation and excitement as this time I know the treat that lies ahead." ~ , THE BOOKBAG
"A mystery wrapped in a virtual game world wrapped within an adventure that is deadly, inside and out, and also a commentary on what’s real versus what should be real... Mostly, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa is fun, with wild leaps of imagination in a world not unlike our own and [a] jokey tone that masks some serious themes." ~ Criminal Element
"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 seat." ~ THE THRILLING DETECTIVE
"I very much doubt I’ll read a supers novel better than 'Heropa', but it’s also primarily a crime story at heart, and has plenty of emotional character draw and soul to it, as well as being a lot of fun. I really, really enjoyed this, and I’d happily recommend it to anyone. Great stuff." ~ John Rickards, The Nameless Horror
"Andrez Bergen's newest book offers a unique twist on the superhero genre. Any fan of comics, harboiled noir fiction, or simply a good story will enjoy Bergen’s newest novel, much like a few reviewers have already." ~ Scott Fraser, GEEKEXCHANGE.COM
"A highly stylized retro-futuristic world, clever subversion of the heroic narrative... and a heavy dose of sardonic sarcasm guaranteed to give you a case of nostalgia for the good old innocent days of comic books where things were neat, clean and proper." ~ Haralambi Markov, SF Signal
"Fabulous book. Hands down, one of my favorites this year. It was amazing. Any writer who can pull twists and a mystery like that deserves recognition and a ton of praise."
~ Caleb Hill, Acerbic Writing
"This novel is an easy fit for comic book fans but please don't be put off, Bergen rewards every reader who works their way through his stories, sometimes you don't even know why you keep turning the pages but just as people will stand in a freezing cold riverbed for hours at a time panning for gold, remember that Bergen will reward your efforts richly. You will never regret picking up this, or any other novel by Andrez Bergen—tough stuff with a golden heart. Magnificent!" ~ McDroll, Author
"Super powered superhero literature and comic book goodness." ~ Martin Garrity, Solarcide
"The cover looks good." ~ London Writers' Club
"I have hit a real reading groove the past few days. Andrez Bergen's 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' entertains with Whedonite banter." ~ Haralambi Markov
"Blending elements from several genres and treading a fine line between snort-inducing nerdiness and noir mystery, Heropa is a quirky mix but it works. Most importantly, it deconstructs what it means to be a hero — a concept universal to any genre, super-powered characters or not." ~ Nicole Rodrigues, Dork Shelf
"This looks cool!" ~ Ron Marz, Comic Book Writer
"I ended up tearing through this over the past two days. Great job, and a really interesting premise! I wanted to let you know now just how great I thought it was!" ~ , Dork Shelf
"What a huge achievement!" ~ John T. Trigonis, Writer/Filmmaker
"Cool stuff!" ~ Erik Larsen, Image Comics
"A good old noir murder-mystery, with the comic book legacy of the past 75 years... both decanted into a near-future dystopia where heroes battle villains and the line between good, bad, and just plain ugly has become increasingly blurred." ~ , The Day The Web Stood Stupid
"Frankly, the book is several steps above what we're normally asked to review, and I think our readers would really enjoy it. It's splendidly written and original." ~ John O'Neill, Black Gate Magazine
"A typically inventive and playful take on the golden age of American comics, as seen through a noir lens. If you’ve read any of his previous work you’ll know what a magpie eye Andrez has, with influences ranging from Soviet propaganda to Dashiell Hammett to Charles Dickens." ~ Eva Dolan, Loitering With Intent
"Get your hands on 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?'—vintage pulp-dieselpunk-superhero action at its finest!" ~ , Daily Steampunk
"Bergen weaves a thought-provoking story filled with interesting characters and plot twists — these are superheroes at their best and worst, just like Stan [Lee] and Jack [Kirby] intended them to be." ~ John Kowalski, Word Of The Nerd
"With comic and superheroes having long permeated movies, television and popular culture, it’s always interesting to see people doing the reverse, and adapting funny book tropes into mediums such as literature and music.
"Andrez Bergen‘s upcoming third novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is such a novel, offering what the author describes as “a combined comic book/sci-fi/noir/pulp homage.” Because sometimes one genre just isn’t enough." ~ Carl Doherty, Shelf Abuse
"Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is equal parts sinister fantasy-mystery and open love letter to the history of comic books and capes. Each passing hero reference will have you shouting excitedly at complete strangers with all the vigor of a Trivial Pursuit revelation. Ignore their cold stares, for you are right — that totally IS Stan Lee." ~ Dave Buesing, Comic Book Herald
"Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is partly a homage to one of my favorite writers, Raymond Chandler, and a noir superhero crime fantasy inspired by a great love of the classic silver age comic heroes. Jack Kirby meets Philip Marlowe? It's got my vote!" ~ Bryan Talbot, Artist (Grandville, 2000AD, Sandman)
"Andrez Bergen doesn't confine himself to one genre or one style of writing, yet there's is consistency in his work. He creates some of the most wildly imaginative places you will ever encounter in fiction. He has perfect pitch for witty dialog and cultural references. And his characters are fascinating people who you'll want to hang out with. 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' is both an entertaining and challenging read for comic book lovers and the rest of us alike." ~ Chris Rhatigan, Death By Killing
"If Jack Kirby and Carroll John Daly had a child, science would cry and from those tears would rise Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? Who knew hardboiled superhero pulp fiction could be so great?" ~ Ryan Huff, The Geek of Oz
"Bergen delivers a tale that is equal parts crime fiction and silver age comics, with characters swimming in cultural winks and a mass-media homage that feels like the pious mutterings of an uber-fan. But it's his unique style that propels the piece, gripping in an art noveau sort of way, the clean architecture of an ornate age — long past — towering off the page. Bergen's prose tickles and his characters amuse, flanked by original pulp-style offerings from talented artists; he gives us a fresh take on a vintage tradition. Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a mad undertaking, and the madman pulls it off..." ~ Chad de Lisle, NoirWHALE
"Andrez Bergen is at it again, this time putting his unique stamp on the superhero genre. The world he builds, and the not-quite-so-super superheroes he populates it with, captivates in a way that reflects the mad genius at work in Bergen's mind. A little noir, a dash of dystopia, a pinch of alternate reality, and a heaping helping of creativity and talent make for the sledgehammer of a novel that is Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? Prepare to change the way you look at superheroes." ~ Elizabeth White, Book Reviews By Elizabeth A. White
"Great stuff! — as a huge comicbook fan, I really connected with it. It's funny, bizarre and very, very cool." ~ Scott Malthouse, The Trollish Delver
"In Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, Andrez Bergen takes his childhood creations and mashes them up with various icons and tropes of superhero literature resulting in a fresh, exciting look at crimefighters who don the capes, masks and union suits to fight the forces of evil. I need two copies of this book; one to read and the other to bag, board and save." ~ Stefan Blitz, Forces Of Geek
“Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a terrific, postmodern superhero noir. It's like Top 10 rolled into the Comicbook History of Comics, but with a wry Aussie humour all of its own. Action, mystery and yuks a-plenty, lavishly illustrated by real-deal comic artists. Get into it.” ~ Jason Franks, Black House Comics
"Twisted and warped with the best influences from pop culture — comic books and noir — this is one of the most original novels I've ever read..." ~ Jochem Vandersteen, Sons of Spade
"If anybody else is as inventive and bizarre as Andrez Bergen, then they aren't half as good a writer or everybody would know their name.
In 'Who is Killing...' pulp fiction is brought bang up to date and then slammed hard into the roots of its own mythology. Equal parts mystery, science fiction and comicbook fantasy, it's a stylish, creative, noirish romp full of darkness and fun. I don't know any other writer that could quite pull this off.
Nobody else today writes with the same dark wit, style or mad creativity. Bergen is already making a name as a cult favourite, and this book deserves all of the plaudits that will undoubtedly be coming its way." ~ Christopher Black, Available in Any Colour
"I'm loving the concept/influences." ~ Tradd Moore, Artist
"Clever allusions to the conflict between fantasy and reality at play... That this story about comics should be so similar to a murder mystery of the Sam Spade kind is just the cherry on the cake." ~ Emmet O'Cuana, The Momus Report
"Sam Spade meets the Justice League of America in a dystopian future where everybody's a superhero. Filled with clever references to the Silver Age of comic books, Bergen knows his comics and how to craft an entertaining mystery." ~ Patrick Curley, Silver Age Comics
"The best non-comic book superhero story I’ve ever read." ~ Dustin Cabeal, Comic Bastards
"An equally compelling study of character driving an investigative narrative... a cracking good read." ~ Marcus Baumgart, The Ink Shot
"Plays with the conventions of comic books/virtual reality/dystopian fiction and the good ol' murder mystery." ~ Renee Asher Pickup, Books and Booze
"Andrez Bergen offers a front seat view into his quirky and imaginative world of superheroes that feel love and pain in equal measure." ~ Lloyd Paige, Huffington Post
"Andrez Bergen is flying high with his third novel, 'Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?' This love letter to the silver age of Marvel Comics will grab you by the tights and not let go till the final page. As complex as 'The Matrix' and as immediate as a Jack Kirby splash page, Bergen's book will delight fans of comics, science fiction, and all things Australian!" ~ Jack Seabrook, Bare*Bones
"Bergen's obviously been snooping on my dreams, unearthing forgotten treasure boxes of silver age comics joy. Only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty. Reading 'Heropa' is like going back in time and meeting your parents' friends as an adult -- the nostalgia and childlike wonder is still there, but these are clearly more complex people than you surmised.
It's a pleasure to puzzle out the familiar faces hiding behind the characters' masks, and lovely to see that even through the grime and grit of Andrez's world, their eyes still have a twinkle." ~ Paul O'Connor, Longbox Graveyard
"More than simply a love letter to the silver age of Marvel Comics, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a smart, promising hit that captures the good-natured feel of the Lee/Ditko/King comic books while still feeling fresh and new. Filled with smart humor, stunning detail, and credible allusions, fans of Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and clever, pop culture-infused novels are sure add this to their favorites." ~ Andrew Cyrus Hudson, Comic Attack!
"One page into Andrez Bergen's dystopian landscape and it was clear there was no putting this book down. It reads like an open love letter to the golden age which blends in a gritty Matrixesque cyberpunk edge." ~ Matt Kyme, That Bulletproof Kid
"A highly readable tale that gives us super-heroes with a difference in a fantasy world gone sour, and does it with a lightness of touch that makes the pages seem to fly by." ~ Stephen Walker, Steve Does Comics
"Whilst flexing his comic and cultural muscles to heroic proportions, Andrez Bergen manages to plant a razor sharp tongue into a wickedly hardboiled cheek." ~ Mike Young & Marc Crane, LIL Comic
"Come away again into a mad, dystopian world sprung from the pen of the über-talented Andrez Bergen as he dances a quickstep, keeping his fans on the hop with a virtual reality love story worthy of the Jets and Sharks. Linking three highly original novels together, shifting the parameters as the ground shakes under the reader's feet seems to be Bergen's strength. No need to be a comic book fan to enjoy WisKtheGCofH? — the engaging characters will have you turning the pages in this story of true love in a virtual world." ~ Fiona Johnson, I Meant to Read That
"Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? is a mixed-media love letter to the golden age of comics and the classic detective story. Author Andrez Bergen takes you behind the scenes to Heropa, a pulp fiction fortress of solitude, where crime-fighting team, the Equalizers, led by new recruit Jack (a.k.a. Southern Cross), investigates dirty city streets to undercover a glitch in the system that is allowing immortals to die.
With nods to Batman and the Avengers, and tips of the fedora to Chandler and Hammett, Who Is Killing...? is unlike any mystery you’ve ever read. Highly stylized and forever cool — like if Rorschach had been allowed to just gumshoe and smoke, without any giant blue dongs slapping you in the face to shatter the illusion." ~ Joe Clifford, Out of the Gutter
"In a world of silver age superheroes, a murderous villain emerges. Bergen expertly combines the safety of our youth with the dangers of the present." ~ Jayden Leggett, ComicsOnline.com
"A pulp slice of comic-fu of the highest order. Equal parts homage, pastiche, and reverent Valentine, Andrez Bergen peppers this bold mystery with superb nods to the four-colour world, while also densely building a universe in which he can play with confidence — and does." ~ Ryan K. Lindsay, The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil
"When his first novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat debuted, I had an idea Andrez Bergen was going places, and his new novel fulfills that promise. An excellent book. Don't miss it." ~ Heath Lowrance, City of Heretics
"In a modern age of conspiracies and corporate agglomerates, I think Raymond Chandler would be pleased as to where [Andrez] Bergen has taken his legacy…" ~ Zouch Magazine
"Bergen relishes wacky tangents and dives head-first into philosophical dialogues that prove to be some of the most satisfying parts of his books." ~ Death By Killing
"The Umberto Eco of superhero novelists." ~ Bill Hall, The Daily Kirby
"I absolutely recommend Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? I was finally able to discover what comforts and wonders can be found within comic books." ~ Lori Holuta, A License to Quill