Thursday, July 7, 2016

So Not a Hero, by S.J. Delos

This week I'm reviewing another superhero book, in this case So Not a Hero, by S. J. Delos. Like the rest of superhero fiction that I read, this is a subversion or reinterpretation of classic superhero stories rather than a traditional story. As much as I've tried to get into mainstream superhero comics, every time I try I end up getting so confused and disoriented that I end up giving up trying to understand it whatsoever. Fortunately books are a medium I seem to understand and so books about superheroes are far more approachable to me than the more traditional comics.

The plot of So Not a Hero is a lot like Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, at least in its general outline. You have a supervillain who ends up switching sides and becoming a hero, which is met with some initial suspicion before they finally earn people's trust and confidence. It's a pretty simple redemption story but also a timeless enjoyable classic. In this case our main character is Karen Hashimoto who is super-strong and nearly impervious, although so dense she weighs about eight hundred pounds. Karen was previously the supervillain Crushette, right hand woman of the infamous Doctor Maniac, but after a two year stint in prison she was paroled and has spent the past six months trying to keep her nose clean and out of trouble. When Karen helps local superhero Mister Manpower, member of the team known as the Good Guys, round up a gang of supervillains and protects some bystanders in the process, Mister Manpower suggests she try out for an opening on the team. Karen is initially doubtful but accepts his offer and much to her surprise finds herself a member of the Good Guys and fighting crime.

The biggest problem I have with this book is that I feel it ends up trying to do too much and as a result doesn't give any one thing appropriate focus. Just talking about Karen's reformation which has already started before the book and her eventual acceptance by society as a hero would be enough to fill up one book without going into other subjects. Instead, Delos seems to have taken a soap opera's list of melodramatic plot lines and done his very best to try and shove every single one of them in. Unfortunate encounter with an ex? Check. Someone dying of cancer? Check. Hot steamy romance? Check. Strained relationship with a parent? Check. Someone having a baby? Check. Revenge? Check. If Delos had focused on one, or maybe two of these plotlines then I think it would have been more manageable and they'd been far more developed. Instead we have a ton of little plots, some of which are put off until the inevitable sequel, which left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

I could go to great lengths complaining about the Nice Guy TM character who whines about how nice girls never notice him and don't truly appreciate his feelings, and also the fact that Karen feels like she actually has to apologize to him for not recognizing his feelings. The fact that this plotline, like so many others in this book, receives so little attention that I feel like it's not even worth my going onto a full length rant about it. However, I will give you the short version: Listen up, ''Nice Guy''. You can't get mad at a girl for not recognizing your feelings if she doesn't know what your feelings are. She's not a mind-reader for crying out loud! You've got to communicate with people! Also, people don't owe you anything for you being nice to them, especially not a relationship and/or sex! And stop ruining fedoras! That's my hat, damnit!

There's also a part where people are discussing Karen's costume for superheroing (Can you make that a verb? I just did so let's assume yes.) that I feel ambivalent about. On the one hand, it kind of sort of satirizes female costumes in comic books and how they're little more than underwear in some cases. Karen points out how ridiculous this is and gives a firm no on her costume having anything remotely like a tit window a la Powergirl. On the other hand, Karen suffers clothing damage quite a few times during the course of the book, the rationale being that her impervious aura doesn't always include loose clothing around her body. So while her underwear might shrug off a plasma blast as easily as she does, her yoga pants won't. Karen actually gives up at one point and fights a villain in her underwear because she doesn't want to destroy the new dress she just bought. I'm not sure how I feel about it and while it could be satire, I'm not sure if it's quite clever enough. (Always a challenge with satire.)

Overall the book's okay. I didn't have anything that made me outright hate it or want to throw my kindle against the wall, but I feel like anything that So Not a Hero does, Confessions of a D-List Supervillain does slightly better. Confessions I feel has the benefit of a tighter focus on Mechani-CAL's redemption story, while So Not a Hero focuses less on Karen's redemption and more on throwing in soap opera style melodrama. If you like melodrama then this is definitely a book for you, and I don't think there was a point I wanted to stop reading it, but it definitely left me with some mixed feelings.

- Kalpar

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