Not All Heroes

by Rhodeworks

Original ONGOING Action Drama Psychological Sci-fi Anti-Hero Lead Cyberpunk Female Lead Grimdark Male Lead Martial Arts Multiple Lead Characters Mythos Post Apocalyptic Secret Identity Strategy Strong Lead Super Heroes
Warning This fiction contains:
  • Profanity
  • Traumatising content

"Thirty years ago, the world went mad. Today, it continues to fall apart."

The year is 2061. The Golden Age of empowered heroes ended in the cataclysmic fires of The Collapse. Costumed demigods brought the world to a dire precipice and individuals and institutions are still picking up the pieces, still walking the precarious tightrope of a world-shaking paradigm shift.

The world is not as it once was. The relics of the Golden Age, natural and artificial both, stand as monuments to a period of history that some wish to forget. All across the known world, individuals and institutions try to guide the new world towards salvation, preservation or destruction.

In a city on the verge of collapse, Sabra Kasembe dreams of being a renowned hero, even as her idealistic efforts draw her towards a future where the only crowds calling her name are her victims. Pavel Fisher is a weary ex-hero, bereft of powers and costume in the wake of horrific trauma, listlessly searching for purpose.

When their lives intertwine with that of the iconoclastic mercenary known only as Leopard, whose murderous associates threaten to usher in an apocalypse, the trio realizes that maybe — just maybe — three people can change the course of history.

But heroism and villainy are matters of perspective — and narrative.

Not all apocalypses are cataclysmic. And some say apocalypses don't merely end.

Not All Heroes began on August 29 2017. Updates Tuesdays and Fridays weekly. Visit the Wordpress site for further information on the world. Comments and feedback are encouraged!

“The greatest folly of any hero is not recognizing the tension between salvation, preservation, and destruction.”

Author's note: If you enjoy Not All Heroes, please consider voting for it at the Top Web Fiction listing here. Comments and feedback are encouraged!

Tags to help searching: superheroes, superhero, superpowers, superpowered, TradLit, scifi

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score
  • Total Views :
  • 178,729
  • Average Views :
  • 889
  • Followers :
  • 264
  • Favorites :
  • 83
  • Ratings :
  • 78
  • Pages :
  • 1,724
Go to Table of Contents
Rate it
Fiction breaking rules? Report


Things Fall Apart

2nd Anniversary
Great Commenter (IV)
I Am Ascending (VI)
Fledgling Reviewer (I)
Toplist #500
Group Leader (III)
Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
Prologue ago
Chapter 1.1 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 1.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 1.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 1.4 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 1.5 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 1.6 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 1.7 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 1.8 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 1.9 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 1.10 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 1.11 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 1.12 (Fisher) ago
Source 1: IPSA Email (dated 2043) ago
Subject 1.1: Ironheart ago
Subject 1.2: Bushranger ago
Chapter 2.1 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 2.2 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 2.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 2.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 2.5 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 2.6 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 2.7 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 2.8 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 2.9 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 2.10 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 2.11 (Leopard) ago
Source 2: Court Extract (2052) ago
Subject 2.1: Esmer ago
Subject 2.2: Desi ago
Chapter 3.1 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 3.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 3.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 3.4 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 3.5 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 3.6 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 3.7 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 3.8 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 3.9 (Fisher) ago
Source 3: Subject 463 (?) ago
Subject 3.1: Sergeant Vega ago
Subject 3.2: Great Barrier ago
Chapter 4.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 4.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 4.3 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 4.4 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 4.5 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 4.6 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 4.7 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 4.8 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 4.9 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 4.10 (Fisher) ago
Source 4: Dossier 9-0138474 (2061) ago
Subject 4.1: Ironforge ago
Subject 4.2: Ironforge ago
Chapter 5.1 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 5.2 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 5.3 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 5.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 5.5 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 5.6 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 5.7 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 5.8 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 5.9 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 5.10 (Leopard) ago
Source 5: Exarch's Foreword (2051) ago
Subject 5.1: Aegis ago
Subject 5.2: Gate ago
Chapter 6.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 6.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 6.3 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 6.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 6.5 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 6.6 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 6.7 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 6.8 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 6.9 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 6.10 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 6.11 (Sabra) ago
Source 6: IPSA Priority Message (2044) ago
Subject 6.1: Anima ago
Subject 6.2: Ada ago
Chapter 7.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 7.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 7.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 7.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 7.5 (?) ago
Chapter 7.6 (Sabra) ago
Source 7: IPSA Overview (2061) ago
Subject 7.1: Santiago ago
Subject 7.2: Fulcrum ago
Chapter 8.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 8.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 8.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 8.4 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 8.5 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 8.6 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 8.7 (Sabra) ago
Source 8: Neo-America Overview (2061) ago
Subject 8.1: Tiger ago
Subject 8.2: Ajax ago
Chapter 9.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 9.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 9.3 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 9.4 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 9.5 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 9.6 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 9.7 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 9.8 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 9.9 (Sabra) ago
Source 9: The Letter (2061) ago
Chapter 10.1 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 10.2 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 10.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 10.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 10.5 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 10.6 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 10.7 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 10.8 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 10.9 (Leopard) ago
Chapter 10.10 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 11.1 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 11.2 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 11.3 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 11.4 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 11.5 (Jack) ago
Chapter 11.6 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 11.7 (Fisher) ago
Chapter 11.8 (Sabra) ago
Chapter 11.9 (Jack) ago
Epilogue ago
Conversations 1 ago
Conversations 2 ago
Conversations 3 ago
Conversations 4 ago
Prelude ago
Arc 2, Chapter 1 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 2 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 3 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 4 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 5 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 6 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 7 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 8 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 9 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 10 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 11 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 12 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 13 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 14 ago
Arc 2, Interlude 1 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 15 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 16 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 17 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 18 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 19 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 20 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 21 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 22 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 23 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 24 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 25 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 26 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 27 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 28 ago
Arc 2, Interlude 2 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 29 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 30 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 31 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 32 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 33 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 34 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 35 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 36 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 37 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 38 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 39 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 40 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 41 ago
Arc 2, Interlude 3 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 42 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 43 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 44 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 45 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 46 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 47 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 48 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 49 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 50 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 51 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 52 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 53 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 54 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 55 ago
Arc 2, Chapter 56 ago
Arc 2, Crescendo ago
Postlude ago
Arc 3, Before ago
Arc 3, Chapter 1 ago
Arc 3, Chapter 2 ago
One More Final ago

Leave a review

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

The philosopher's dystopia

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I am examining a new superhero story, I always have one question in the forefront of my mind, and that is the following:

"What’s new here?"

Ever since the birth of the superhero web-series there has been a dirth of people attempting their own interpretations of the genre, meaning, to my mind, that any given example within it needs to have something individual and unique in order to stand out. In the case of Not All Heroes, that unique thing is an exploration of the hero itself, and of sociological philosophy.

Not All Heroes has three protagonists, and the funny thing is, I don’t think any individual one of them would be able to carry the story on their own. We have Sabra, the young idealist, we have Leopard, the troubled antihero, and we have Pavel, the man who failed. Each of them is unique in their own ways, and certainly shows enough dimension to be interesting, but it’s the contrasts they create with one another that allow the story to show its colors. Sabra, presented on her own, would likely strike a reader as a standard hero, all great potential and bright futures and a narratively assured path to victory. But contrasted against Pavel, a man who has tried to follow the same path, and encountered nothing but regret, she is able to be seen as far more visibly naive. That’s just one example, and I don’t want to waste all of your time wittering over character contrasts, but I hope you get my point. Needless to say, I think the character writing here is quite skilled, and the story is interesting enough to see you through.

Now, onto some of the more technical aspects of writing, both in general and in the superhero medium.

Number one, spelling, grammar and syntax. I give this one five stars. The grammar is good, same with the spelling, and while there is the occasional issue with words that shouldn’t be there or instances of the spell checker correcting a misspelling into the wrong word for a given sentence, they are getting less and less as the story goes on. The writer clearly does his editing, and it’s better than most you'll find on here.

Number two, Character and story writing. Well, as shown above, I think they’re rather high quality. I would award Rhodeworks high marks on this one. Each character has a different approach and world view, and they play off one another wonderfully. Suffice to say that this story has the second best character writing I have encountered on a Royalroad listed story. I find it superior to Worm in this respect, which is no small achievement.

Number three, game mechanics (I tie this in to style and story). Now, some of you might be slightly confused. I find it very important in a superhero story that the powers be balanced enough that almost any character could conceivably beat any other character in a fight. I find this allows situations to be a lot more dynamic and conflicts more engaging (Plus it means characters have to think their way around problems instead of just punching them . . . Looking at you, Goku). I think the author has done pretty well in this respect. There certainly are OP figures out there, but a lot of the mechanics are structured in such a way that almost no one is just flat out immune to someone else, and even a regular person with a gun is still able to effect the flow of conflict. Here I award five stars. Very well designed and balanced, particularly Leopard's sections.

Number four, theme and unique aspects. Now, here, I award high marks once more, but it’s a slightly conflicted one. I find the explorations of morality and philosophy to be quite in depth, and the author tends to leave things open enough to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions rather than forcing a viewpoint, which on it’s own, I respect enough to award a full five, but it’s dragged down a bit by the fairly boilerplate "The world’s gone to crap because some people were dicks" setting. It’s still well explored, and the story doesn’t particularly suffer for it. It just feels like flawed perfection, if that makes sense.

So, in conclusion. A good story. Unique enough to stand out among the relatively flooded beast that is the superhero genre, and interesting enough that the characters are able to hold my attention. Not exactly my cup of tea, but if you’re looking for an introspective action thriller, then this might be exactly what you want. It is certainly among the highest calibur of what Royalroadl has to offer.

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

Mystic, Mythical Music

A quick summary: NAH is a dark, gritty, almost noirish take on the superhero genre. There are some mythic, mystical notes to the worldbuilding that provide an extra flavor I’d say reminds me of Halo: writing this review I am distinctly reminded of the gorgeous Gregorian vocalizations that made you feel you’d stepped into something otherworldly. I don’t mean mystical in the sense of DC/Marvel who need to justify magic-using heroes in their kitchen sink universes. I mean that this mythic feeling pervades the entire work and elevates it. Though, the first notes of this song are slow, methodical, so that you’re not quite sure of the vastness of the music you’re about to hear. We follow Sabra, a young girl with a driven heart and a chip on her power-armored shoulder, Fisher, an ex-cape that mourns for his former life, and Leopard, a man that doesn’t quite know who he is or where he belongs, and because of that, ends up in the worst places.

It took me some time to appreciate Not All Heroes. It was slow going for the first arc or so, and I found that my hectic life schedule didn’t allow me to appreciate the slow entrance of NAH enough. There are some flaws, and I’ll go ahead and get them out of the way now. Some of the POV switching, especially in the early arcs, like a piece that is changing key every measure or so, or time signature, or adding an extra beat. There are some small info-dumps – though, compared to other serials I have read, including my own, they are negligible – but nothing I couldn’t look past. My largest complaint was the slow going, and I realized that wasn’t so much a complaint as it was that I hadn’t been able to concentrate on the entrance, as subtle as it was.

You’ll notice that I’m primarily using musical language to describe this serial. That is because, simply put, Not All Heroes feels like music. The piece blossoms as the three threads come together, combining their different keys into a beautiful piece that crescendos into action-packed sequences interspersed with thoughtful meditations on the philosophy of being a hero. More than that, on the philosophy of being a human. There are motifs present in the work, as in a good piece of music. I’ll point to one of Sabra’s mantras that show up time and time again: "I am because you are."

Perhaps I am cheerleading a bit here, but as I reached the end of Arc 9, and have begun the most recent arc, I realized that I would be cheerleading this serial for quite some time. Because Not All Heroes is mystic, mythical music, and it deserves it.

I absolutely recommend NAH if you like superheroes. I think it’s a must-read of the genre. I recommend it if you want dark and gritty. I recommend it if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope in the grittiness. I recommend it, I recommend it, I recommend it.

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

I've been a follower of the Not All Heroes webserial for more than a year now. This grim superhero story is extremely rewarding if you stick through the first few chapters and get to the meat of it. I would liken it to the 'Heroes' TV show (first season only - the good one!), but less mainstream and with even better development of characters.

The story is written from the point of view of three characters (not all of them are empowered) who live in a rather dystopic timeline of Earth in the future. Funnily enough, I thought I had a favourite character, but the development arc is so good for all characters that I have trouble 'siding' with any one character as the timeline continues - it really deals with a lot of ambiguous morality. The story explores tough questions about responsibilities, motivations and consequences, where utilitarianism and Kantian theories clash and do my head in. "Just do the right thing!", I find myself yelling out, and yet I can't offer a clear solution to the predicaments these characters find themselves in. And so I read on.

The writing style is concise as no word is superfluous. The vocabulary adopted is a wee bit more sophisticiated than the average American's so be warned that it is not "easy" reading. I'll give the style a 4.5 out of 5 just because I know it's not for everyone. It pays off though because the writing in so few words doesn't waste your time. A lot happens within a chapter and they end at micro-cliffhangers which keeps readers on their toes. There's hints and details that the story comes back to later that I probably miss out on but more attentive readers would appreciate the forethought involved. The grammar is impeccable which allows for smooth reading. Grammatical issues raised in comments left by other readers have mostly been due to difference in stylistic choice.

I'll save the best part for last: the best part of Not All Heroes is the ensemble of unique three-dimensional characters that I have come to care deeply about. This author's strength lies with the expert way dialogue is handled and kept very genuine to each character. Not one character is stereotypical or lazily written. When I read Not All Heroes, I am taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I have laughed and snorted at funny character reactions, felt super anxious with suspense, and cried from heartbreaking and touching moments.

I recommend this story to people who are after a refreshing read on their journey to/fro work (or even during work hours if you can get away with it). It has a lot of heart and gently prods you in a philosophical way.

My own scoring system below.

Regular updates: 10/10

Feels: 10/10

Thinkies: 10/10

l nimbus
  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

Not all stories can pull it off.

Not all stories can make a memorable cast.

Not all stories can draw you in and make you read for hours on end. 

Not all stories make you CARE. 

Not all stories have impeccable grammar. 

Not all stories have riveting action and uniquely enthralling worldbuilding. 

Not all stories have the mythos and backstory needed for you to ponder them for hours on end. 

Not all stories can continue when they recieve FAR less love then they should be getting. 

Not all stories are as good as Worm and Ward. 

Not all stories have side characters that make you give a damn. 

Not all stories can be complex and superb brainfood. 

This isn't one of those stories.

This is one of the stories that does everything right. 

This is one of those stories where you wish you could rate higher than 5 stars. 

This is one of those stories that will be remembered for a long time. 


Moist Nugget
  • Overall Score

Grammar issues are almost nonexistent, the the style is unique for RRL (which ties in to the characters), the characters are well developed and fleshed out and I'm really not sure about the plot.

I'm on Ch. 2.8, plot doesn't really exist in this novel rn. There are hints of what things are leading up to, but this book doesn't seem to be the right fit for RRL. (it's a slow buildup) 

What I mean by that is that almost all the other novels on this site are balls to the wall when it comes to power-ups/plot development/and action. This book has all the above, but it's significantly spread out.

(there haven't been any powerups or shows of extreme power from any of the mc's, and I doubt there will be any) 

This is less of a light novel and more like an actual NOVEL. Something that you take your time to read through on paperback in a library or when you're relaxing. 

There are 3 MC's and the Author actually took the time to flesh them out, so 24 chapters in and I've basically read 8 chapters of 3 stand alone stories that have just barely begun to mix together (ch. 2.8)

Can't stress enough that this is NOT at light novel, it should be counted as a full fledged book. You will burnout if you try to rush through. 

The author should keep up the good work. 

Callisto Prime
  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

One of the best stories on RRL and one that not enough people are reading. This story is incredible and complex and thought provoking. While it follows three protagonists, each one of them is defined really well and has their own point of view and voice. It is similar to Heroes with how the various characters cross over with each other.

It can be slow like some of the other reviewers say but the plot is always moving forward and all the setup starts paying off. If you're looking for a superhero story, this one has thrilling action, cool powers, a little bit of romance, and a fascinating, detailed world filled with intriguing characters in complex situations. This is a very well written story and the author's grammer and spelling are perfect. Read this now!

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

Jerks in Capes and the Future

This story is absolutely AMAZING so far. The characters are all interesting, I was even able to get attached to one or two of them at this point. The concept is incredibly fascinating as well as the setting.

You write so well and I love this story to pieces.

Keep up the good work!

  • Overall Score

Surprised it doesn’t have a bigger following

Not too much to criticize. There are next to no grammatical errors. Each character feels unique to the world, each with their own aspirations and identities. 

Talking about the world, it is has been fully thought out and developed with the past of the world fully affecting the characters actions. The author fully understands the idea of showing and not telling when it comes to figuring out the history and tensions that exist because of it.

The only unfortunate part about this novel is that it has a very small following. Partly because it hasn’t had enough exposure and partly because it’s a slower paced novel which lacks both instant power ups, op characters and isn’t based in a video game world or system.

Would highly recommend that anyone checks this novel out and not only that but gives it a chance for more than a couple of chapters.

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

Is The Golden Age Dead? Or Simply Forgotten?


It’s a word that defines an era of movies, of comic books, and of writing. Some of these so-called heroes are dark avengers, others are teenagers with everything to prove, and others still are lost orphans from the beyond that is space.

But as superhero stories are told time and time again, we often look to see what is done differently and how the mold is broken. We tire of the same old story, of the same heroes saving the same damsels under the same frame of four-color love or dark ’90s edge.

On some level, Not All Heroes fits into many superhero tropes. But on another level, it defies them, and in the process, creates something engaging and expansive in the process.

Our story takes place in a future where the world has suffered great cataclysm and strife, and it is clear that the empowered are both a gift and a curse to the world. Entire cities are gone, thousands are dead, and the world has shifted to monitor super-powered activity in the best way possible. As the story often states, the Golden Age is long gone, with heroes such as Miss Millennium, The Sentinel and others only a reminder of sordid and overplayed heroics that never really could fix the world in the first place.

Enter our main three characters. Leopard, a mercenary in the self-titled group called the Animals, who believes that by upsetting the balance of the world order they might somehow make the world a better place in the process. Then there’s Sabra, a young girl with dreams of making a change on the streets with the help of a cobbled together power-armor. And finally, Fisher, a former hero who lost his hands, and who wallows in his somber past and the idea that heroes are truly dead.

One of this story’s greatest strengths is most certainly its narrative. Much like a show in the line of Heroes, it seamlessly weaves through three distinct narratives covering its main three protagonists. You find yourself caught up in their struggles, their colorful supporting cast, and you smile with satisfaction when story arcs cross over with careful detail and consideration. The author is excellent at describing action with simplicity, and the characters are able to keep you interested as developments happen and the world is solidly built in the process. More than anything, Not All Heroes embraces the ideas of traditional superheroes, but also puts that same idea under a strict microscope. It isn’t afraid to eschew traditional heroics, but it still remembers itself to be a superhero story through and through, and those initial values still shine brightly.

It can get quite political at times too, and if I had to pick a weakness, this might be the only one I can think of. With the introduction of the empowered policing force later on, the red tape really begins to pile on for all three of our characters, and this is where some of its cons lie.

Sometimes, characters spend long discussions and the exposition can sometimes come off as somewhat preachy, but it is a rare occurrence considering the length of the story. It works in the end, but it can sometimes affect the pacing to the point where the story uncomfortably slows to a crawl.

On the plus side, a great deal of the characters outside of the main three are extremely well-developed, with the best examples being the domineering Aegis, the scheming Monkey, the enigmatic Gate, the violent Taurine, and the ever-inspiring Miss Millennium herself. As another slight con, I do feel some characters lack enough physical description to make them stick in your mind, but I wonder if that’s a purposeful move on the author’s part to make us forge our own image of those characters in our heads.

Without spoiling anything further, Not All Heroes is a fantastically written tale of somewhat dystopian superheroics that plays with expectations and heartstrings alike.

The narrative often reminds out how the Golden Age is dead, and with it, those heroes that so represented the best and brightest that the humanity has to offer.

But from what this story has to offer up to its most recent point of publishing, I have to respectfully disagree.

The Golden Age survives, and though its light is somewhat dimmed, I sense that it only takes a few to keep the flame burning.

Perhaps the fire of true heroes will be seen again one day, even it it takes three to keep it bright enough for the whole world to see.

End score: 4.5/5

  • Overall Score
  • Style Score
  • Story Score
  • Grammar Score
  • Character Score

There's a lot to dig into

Not All Heroes is a gritty tale of superhumans struggling to achieve their ideals in a world where the concept of "superheroes" has pretty much evaporated. Clashes between superpowered heroes and villains nearly destroyed civilization, along with the rise of intelligent machines and supers gone completely insane. This forced surviving societies to reassess and adapt into a manageable compromise. Most supers now work as government-regulated law enforcement teams that deal harshly with empowered criminals, even as they conflict with with one another.

The story rotates between three main characters, each with their own goals and troubles that intersect, throwing them together into the larger conflict of a once-great city going to hell in a handbasket. Each arc also includes interludes from other character perspectives as well to flesh out the narrative and further build on the world and history.

On the good end, the story does not waste time getting right into the action and the grit. I never felt outright bored with a given chapter; the story has character introspection, cape politics, and action, but never overstays its welcome on any of those fronts. It’s nice to see main characters that are proactive right from the start instead of wallowing in their situation or being completely hamstrung by circumstances in the beginning.

Likewise, I feel there is good chemistry between many of the characters. There are a lot relationships and history between various pairs and groups, and the dialogue helps solidify those connections. The personalities all bounce off one another well, and the three main characters are good foils to one another.

There is also a lot of history to unpack, so there always seems to be a steady stream of new information about the world unfolding as you go. It’s a very "busy" world, with a lot going on, and a lot having happened prior to the story, that keeps those who like worldbuilding engaged.

However, that also leads me to what I feel is the main flaw. It does feel like a BUSY world, almost too busy, in fact. Very quickly, we’re introduced to multiple characters with multiple supporting casts and multiple organizations in conflict. What doesn’t help with this is that the rotating perspectives occur every single chapter. Now, I like rotating perspectives in web serials, but here, I feel doing it so quickly makes the initial couple of arcs rough to get through.

Other stories I’ve read that have rotating perspectives will either do one perspective per Arc, or at least do a few chapters in a row from one character’s perspective before switching. At the very least, this will be done in the first few arcs, to give the reader time to soak in the details of each specific character’s situation, before establishing the next.

While the main characters’ stories do quickly intertwine, the beginning few arcs were somewhat overwhelming, even for me. A few times, I kept losing track of some characters as I went. Thankfully, there is an extensive cast listing on the website, if you need the reminder. Now, granted, I was marathoning this story in a couple of big chunks, so that may have lent to that problem. This might be better mitigated if the reader takes a bit of a slower pace at first.

On that note, though, once I got a few Arcs in, and the characters started meeting up and everything was pretty well established, I found it easier to follow and groove into the storyline. It all comes together well, and even as the reveals keep coming, I had a firm handle on the core story by that point to roll with it.

I recommend this story for those who enjoy a rougher edge to their hero fiction, where the heroes have to grit their teeth and power through dark times but manage to keep at it, and also for those who enjoy a richly realized setting.