Title: Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology
Editors: Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson
Authors: Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, Sarah Pinsker, Kate Marshall, Michael Milne, Aimee Ogden, Nathan Crowder, Keith Rosson, Stuart Suffel, Jennifer Pullen, Matt Mikalatos, Patrick Flanagan, Ziggy Schutz, Keith Frady, Stephanie Lai, Chris Large, and Adam R. Shannon
Genre/Category: Superheroes, Slice of Life, Supervillains, Anthology
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Meerkat Press
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in review are my own. Additionally, the spoilers in this review range from mild to kind of major.
Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others. It is partially, a prose nod to the comic world—the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.
The authors in this collection, both established and new, are all dexterous and wonderfully imaginative, each deserving of their own form-fitting uniforms and capes. Some of the stories pulse with social commentary, like Cat Rambo’s whimsical and deft “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut” and Keith Rosson’s haunting “Torch Songs.” Others twist the genre into strange and new territories, like Stuart Suffel’s atmospheric “Birthright,” Kate Marhsall’s moving “Destroy the City with Me Tonight,” and Adam Shannon’s reality-bending “Over an Embattled City.” Some punch with heart and humor, like Matt Mikalatos’s satisfying “The Beard of Truth” and Chris Large’s adventurous “Salt City Blue,” while others punch with bite and grit, such as Michael Milne’s evocative “Inheritance,” Aimee Ogden’s poignant “As I Fall Asleep,” and Jennifer Pullen’s heartfelt “Meeting Someone in the 22nd Century.” Some of the stories feature characters who might not be superheroes in the traditional sense, yet are heroic nonetheless, such as Sarah Pinsker’s imaginative “The Smoke Means It’s Working” and Stephanie Lai’s majestic “The Fall of the Jade Sword.” Some shine a unique, captivating spotlight on supervillains, like Keith Frady’s dramatic “Fool” and Carrie Vaughn’s romantic “Origin Story.” Some are somber, ponderous works, where our heroes consider their impact on the world, like Lavie Tidhar’s regret-tinged “Heroes” and Nathan Crowder’s resonant “Madjack.” Others tread more light-hearted waters, with heroes adjusting to the sometimes-comical, sometimes-stressful life in the public eye, like Seanan McGuire’s entertaining “Pedestal” and Patrick Flanagan’s lively “Quintessential Justice.” And then there are the softer, quieter moments between heroes, as they navigate their extraordinary lives in their own unique ways, such as Ziggy Schutz’s tender “Eggshells” and, of course, Kelly Link’s captivating “Origin Story.”