Friday, May 24, 2013

Wearing the Cape review

    Wearing the Cape is a Capepunk novel I really-really like. It manages to do something which very few novelists and writers are willing to do today: tell an idealistic story about superheroes. The majority of superhero novels out there are either adaptations or deconstructions. Wearing the Cape starts with a simple premise: what if a nice but otherwise ordinary girl was given the power of Supergirl?

    Wearing the Cape isn't a solo superhero novel. Hope Corrigan, soon to be the superhero Astra, is part of a world which has had superheroes for over a decade. They have their own version of the Justice League/Avengers, signature superhero ("Atlas"), and an entire subculture born out of the development of superpowers. It's a well-developed world with the role of superheroes explictly defined as search and rescue operatives or assistants to police.

    The novel chronicles Hope's journey from being a newly discovered "Breakthrough" to becoming a fully-fledged hero. The novel shows a remarkable take on the superhero genre, illustrating with celebrity comes perks (even when you're in a selfless business). Hope not only has to deal with being suddenly the strongest woman in the world but also the newfound fame that comes with her position.

    I especially liked the character of Artemis, who swiftly becomes Hope's version of Batman. The two have a natural easy-going friendship which works despite how completely different they are. The other supporting cast members are equally enjoyable with the characters of Seven and Atlas surpassing their archetypes to become fully-realized individuals. Even the villain, the deliberately oddball named Teatime Anarchist, has many a surprise inside him.

    Marion G. Harmon impresses with the strength of his world-building. We not only get insight into how superpowers arrived in the world but the social impact and what sort of laws exist covering them. We find out what superheroes are legally allowed to do, what they're not allowed to do, and what they do with the majority of their time. In this world, superheroes do more rescue work than fighting supervillains and that's kind of cool. We even get insight into how superheroes deal with their groupies and make money in their profession.

    The villain of the book, sort-of, is intriguing. Aside from the thoroughly awesome name of Teatime Anarchist, we get a time-travel plot which makes sense. The paradoxes of time-travel often leave my mind spinning but they're spelled out here without much flourish. Real supervillains are rare in this setting so the arrival of a group of them is devastating to our heroes. I didn't expect several events in the book and the author deserves credit for surprising me.

    Is Wearing the Cape perfect? No, I can't say that it is. Hope seems a bit naive and we never quite get into her psyche as deeply as I want. Likewise, the team of supervillains we meet later in the novel goes beyond stereotypical. Despite this, I absolutely adore the novel and am actively looking forward to sequels from the writer. I heartily recommend this novel to anyone with even the slightest interest in the superhero genre.


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