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Devil's Cape
Rob Rogers
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries, 243 pages

Devil's Cape
Rob Rogers
Rob Rogers was born in Illinois and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his degree in English from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied creative writing in Boston at Emerson College. He lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with his wife Dina and sons Alex and Zack.

Rob Rogers website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil


"Jason tried not to think of the sound of the impact, tried not to wonder whether the hero had fallen silently and stoically to his death or had screamed all the way down."
Wizards of the Coast Discoveries describe this book on their website as "an action-packed tale of believable superheroes." It's a fair, if not entirely fulsome, appraisal. Devil's Cape is Rob Rogers first novel, yet reads as if he's been writing for years. Happily, I can report that the publisher's faith is justified, and Devil's Cape is an entertaining, effortlessly captivating read, dripping with what Alannah Myles once called a slow southern style. It's this sweltering Deep South ambience, and to some extent pacing, which makes it stand out from other superhero based novels. Occasionally, the sheer laid back approach slows to a crawl, which is usually the antithesis of the superhero genre, but the author knows what he's doing and always manages to keep things interesting enough to fill between action oriented scenes.

The title is also the name of a fictional city, near New Orleans, and like all American cities, has a nickname. In this case "Pirate Town," the origin of which is an unbroken history of criminality and corruption, dating from the first inhabitants and founding father of the city, a legendary pirate named St. Diable. The author devotes a great deal of the early part of the novel to defining the character of the city itself, and slowly building up his major players. This historical segment begins 35 years in the past, and leads up to a present where the ruling crime lord, the Robber Baron, has recently had an entire super team from another city assassinated for daring to interfere. The culprits, also featured in earlier, non-super-powered form, are a murderous carnival named the Cirque d'Obscurité. The remainder of the story revolves around how the dead heroes are avenged, interlaced with the past and future of a former street tough, now respected psychologist, named Cain Ducett. As a young man, Ducett acted like a monster, while 20 plus years on, he actually becomes one. But, in classic comics mode, we're shown that possessing a demonic form does not, necessarily, mean evil intent. There is a reasonable comparison to be made here between Devil's Cape, and J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars. Although the work of Straczynski is much deeper in its range and ambition, Rogers prose sets him on a course which will be appreciated more by mature comics fans. In particular, the dialogue and character interactions, which both seem to come from a world that is halfway familiar, despite its newness. In part, this is due to the author's borrowing and adaptations of long established comic books characterisations. Doctor Camelot; a female Iron Man, Bedlam; a flying furry demon, Scion and Argonaut; brothers touched by the power of Greek mythology, Omega; an ill-fated Superman clone, Sam Small; an alternate Atom, Kraken; a slimy Mr Fantastic, etc. It's nowhere near original, but the context and presentation make up for that. Something that also helps to weave this story into a form that we almost recognise, was the murky machinations of the local criminal organisation, and the power plays of its hierarchy. This is not a million miles away from being a southern Sopranos.

The novel is not without its faults, such as the omission of a clear example as to how the Robber Baron is able to make super-powered subordinates do his bidding. We do, eventually, get an idea of his own special ability, but this would've worked far better, in my humble estimation, if it had been shown in action as a means to enforce his will. Instead, what we're presented with is a more urbane version of Kaiser Sozé, without much to back it up. I felt like I was supposed to find this character scary or troubling, but didn't. The Cirque d'Obscurité, on the other hand came over a genuinely menacing, despite having terrible names, such as Hector Hell. This problem carries through to all their rivals, beginning with an heroic ensemble named the Storm Raiders. They sounded more like an ice hockey team than a combo to rival the Justice League. Snappy superhero identities are clearly not Rogers forte. The biggest negative I found was that Devil's Cape was not as dark a novel as it could -- and perhaps should -- have been. Rogers is a better writer than that, and I would hope in subsequent forays he is not afraid to present and play within the darkness that his creation promises.

In summary, Devil's Cape successfully melds the superhero genre with the real world in a manner which gives it its own identity, and perhaps longevity. In terms of concept and execution, it's not yet equal to the best in the business. But it is a hell of a good start, and one that is well worth purchasing.

Copyright © 2008 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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