edited by Lincoln Crisler
Damnation Books (2012)
I may not have collected comic books as a boy, but I was always fascinated by superheroes--and the villains they fought. The whole notion of gaining some incredible ability that no other person on the planet possessed offered so many questions. The most pressing one probably being: how would I fare as a superhero? Lincoln Crisler has brought together over twenty stories that ask a similar question, with the characters in each story falling well short of nobility more often than not.
While not all the characters depicted in this anthology are corrupted to a point of outright evil, they are all irrevocably changed and see the world much differently from mere mortals.
Take Tim Marquitz's "Retribution," which kicks off the anthology, and the heartache a man who lost his family on September 11th, 2001. That event poses as the real corruption and the man's hunger for vengeance against the terrorists responsible. That and his discovery of a superpower with a wholly devastating reach. The emotions came through in this story as sharply as the destruction the man leaves in his wake.
"Hollywood Villainy" by Weston Ochse delivered a great take on mind-reading, as a Chinese kid hounds a couple of two-bit hoods in L.A. by getting in their heads and doing some Machiavellian-style manipulation. Piss Boy is not to be trifled with--though the name needs work. "G-Child" by Malon Edwards had a great X-Men on crank vibe with a couple of teammates battling it out in a suburb when one of them, for lack of a better term, starts hulking out on the neighborhood. The interspersed backstory of the other hero's childhood and torment with her family wound up working great as she tries to subdue her rampaging partner, but it did take a little while to get used to, with the frequent scene switches.
Karina Fabian's "Illusion" might have been one of the most haunting stories, about a boy who can essentially absorb the knowledge of those around him--and just about everything else in their head. Deryl feels a bit plain at the start, one more angst-ridden teen trying to survive high school--boo hoo--but Deryl's story of loss, in more ways than one, really felt like a tragedy more so than just about any story in the book. And that's saying something.
And , I gotta say, Abassi from Ed Erdelac's "Conviction," is easily the most all-out do not f--k with me kids I've seen in a story in a long time. The narration from Abassi feels a bit muddy in the beginning, mainly because he's so introverted and withdrawn. But as the story progresses and Abassi's world becomes clearer, the severity and suddenness the young boy's powers seem inevitable and a bit poetic.
Some of the superpowers in the book are subtle, some so obscenely over the top they boggle the mind, and while you might see some allusions to some of DC's and Marvel's iconic characters, there isn't anything that feels derivative or unimaginative. All the characters strike their own chords and not all of them are so quick to take the easy route when given incredible gifts.
I found it really intriguing to read about these characters, because their own pettiness, jealousies, and frailties shine through in a relentless way. If you always thought Superman was too much of a boy scout, then you need to read this anthology, because the Boy Scouts of America are nowhere to be found in its pages.