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The Darker Mask Paperback – August 19, 2008
From Publishers Weekly
Themed along the grayer areas of superhero fiction, this anthology of 18 original stories nonetheless covers a wide spectrum. One standout is Switchback, by Ann Nocenti (Daredevil), in which teenage Mimi must try to cope with both her strange mind-control powers and the shards of familial ties that still bind her to her broken family. In Tat Master, Edgar award–winner Naomi Hirahara (Snakeskin Shamisen) introduces tattoo artist Eye, who discovers the ability to bring her designs to life while on the run from her abusive boyfriend. Shamus winner Peter Spiegelman (Black Maps) pulls off a classic tale of superheroics meeting reality with In Vino, Veritas, delving into a simple tale of ethics and love through the viewpoint of lie-detecting Veritas. Deceptively simple and entertaining while never skimping on serious topics, this tight anthology will satisfy any superhero enthusiast. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When most of us think “superhero,” we tend to think of world savers, people in costumes with special powers. But what about superheroes for today’s world, people who are “plain old us” (to quote the editors’ introduction)—not world savers but “flawed and scared” people who live in the real world . . . and occasionally outside it? This mostly excellent collection of 18 short stories features contributions by such notables as Lorenzo Carcaterra (about a vengeful healer), Walter Mosley (a cursed crook), and Peter Spiegelman (a crime fighter whose secret elixir is wine). These aren’t stories about cartoon heroes, although some of them, like Spiegelman’s, feature some of the trappings of comic-book superhero tales. They are, instead, stories about recognizably human characters whose lives have a dark and scary side: in L. A. Banks’ “Dream Knights,” for example, the heroine works for a paper-supply company, but when she is asleep, she battles evil in the dreamscape. Not all of the stories here are gems, but none of them are duds, either. A solid and interesting collection that should appeal to fans of the superhero genre, especially those willing to explore the subject from a new and darker perspective. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It is also a very R-rated world, with expletives, blood, violence, and drug use. That part is almost a shame, as it reduces the audience for some well-crafted stories. Would the stories lose their grit or their message if "watered-down" to a PG level? I don't think so, but perhaps it is best that the younger set still cling to a less-murky, rose-shaded world of super heroes where justice does win, and the cavalry comes in before the fight is over.
The stories are as varied as the authors in this collection - some of the standouts include THE PICKET by Wlater Mosley, THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN by Alexandra Sokoloff, SWITCHBACK by Ann Nocenti and my personal favorite IN VINO, VERITAS by Peter Spiegelman.
While the stories all have mature themes, the style and characters range from comical to disturbing. As in real life, the price of victory is sometimes dear, and who the real hero is may depend on the viewpoint presented. You may not even root for the lead character in some of these stories, but they will hold your interest.
The cast of contributors is as varied as the stories gracing the pages. They are a virtual who's who in the zone of scientific and fantasy phenomenon. The eighteen stories they present, have diverse yet similar themes. THE DARKER COLLECTION is referenced to works by earlier Sci-Fi authors like Byron Preiss and Michael Chabon. This collection of original prose stories celebrates superhuman beings that fight to save the world(s). The stories have a certain uniqueness, which is enhanced by characters that bring a broader range to what constitutes a hero. These heroes are not predominantly white and male, as in previous tributes. They are more urbanized, and will give readers new legends and new myths, as it equips everyday people with the power and perception to become much more than ordinary. Beings that will help foster a new melting pot, in other dimensions.
THE DARKER MASK: Heroes From The Shadows offers an eclectic mix of bestselling fiction writers and artists: Walter Mosley, L. A. Banks, Naomi Hirahara, Lorenzo Carcaterra, Tananarive Due and Stephen Barnes, Mike Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ann Nocenti, Jerry Rodriguez, Reed Farrell Coleman, Doselle Young, Mat Johnson, Peter Spiegelman, Alexandra Sokoloff, Christopher Chambers, Gary Phillips, Victor LaValle, and Wayne Wilson, who commandeer some of the worlds most captivating and most abstract fantasies. The stories are enveloping and provoking; they take readers beyond predictable. Prepare to take a ride that will feel like REM sleep.
Reviewed by aNN
of The RAWSISTAZ(tm) Reviewers
This is a collection of stories about low-end superheroes and crimefighters who mostly battle evil on a very small scale. The tales are penned by an eclectic collection of authors, some obscure, some famous within their circles, and they have various backgrounds, but most share one trait: they shouldn't be writing in this genre, and most of them apparently shouldn't be writing at all.
Some take the excuse of their venture into this field to dash off prose so purple that it soars off into ultra-violet. Others have apparently never heard real people have actual conversations, so clumsy and painful is the dialogue they dish up. Yet others decide to embark on mannered experiments in stilted would-be lyricism. So bad are many of these stories that I suspect the editors actually hate their contributors and are deliberately exposing them to public ridicule.
The good: Gar Anthony Haywood's "Heatseeker", about a skip tracer with some unusual but minor powers; Naomi Hirahara's "Tat Master", about, well, a tat master and her uncanny creations; Mat Johnson's "Henchman", about a dude who takes up the life of a henchman for hire; Walter Mosley's "The Picket", about the recipient of a terrible gift; Gary Phillips' "And What Shall We Call You?", about a neophyte vigilante with no gift but that of common sense and the foresight to plan ahead; and Peter Spiegelman's "In Vino, Veritas", about a former member of a superhero team who has a truth-sensing ability.
The bad? Everything else, particularly the stories by Wayne L. Wilson, Alexandra Sokoloff, Ann Nocenti (who should know better), Victor LaValle, and Michael A. Gonzales (who seems to have written his story on a dare to be as floridly over the top as possible).
The plentiful interior illustrations are pretty nice, though.