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Edited by Lou Anders
Review by Drew Bittner
Gallery Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439168820
Date: 20 July 2010 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

What is it about superheroes that continues to capture the imagination? There are probably lots of answers to that question, but to me, it's the creation of a modern mythology. Superheroes (and supervillains) are larger-than-life figures who wield powers we cannot match, but have the same flaws and foibles most of us do. They're us, but more so.

Which is why Masked is such a fun read.

Edited by Lou Anders and featuring a terrific line-up of writers (many of whom are comic book writers), Masked delivers heroes and villains who run the gamut from the world-shaking to the penny-ante.

Leading off is "Cleansed and Set in Gold," by Matthew Sturges, wherein a superhero might be able to defeat an overwhelming new breed of monster--but has to face a terrible risk by doing so. Sturges' story deserves its pride of place; it has a conflicted hero facing a pyrrhic victory, with his team depending on him. Well done.

"Where Their Worm Dieth Not" by James Maxey deals with the Retaliator going after his archenemy, the Prime Mover, only to find that the path of justice is never easy...and sometimes friends make the hardest enemies to beat. Mike Carey describes a heist gone wrong in "The Non-Event," wherein superpowers don't mesh quite the way the mastermind hopes (great story!), and Mike Baron (in "Avatar") shows that being even a non-powered vigilante carries a heavy burden.

Daryl Gregory explores what happens when sidekicks learn too much about their mentors--and decide enough is enough--in "Message from the Bubble Gum Factory," and Gail Simone provides a henchman's point of view in "Thug" (one of the best stories in the collection).

In a review like this, the temptation is to go on and deliver a short synopsis of each story and a critique--but that's not workable; there are just too many stories deserving of mention. The above are all terrific, but so are the contributions by Paul Cornell, Bill Willingham, Peter and Kathleen David, and Mark Chadbourn, to name but half of the total. Honestly, it'd be hard to identify a weak entry in the bunch.

Lou Anders has assembled a collection of engaging, entertaining and sometimes even thought-provoking stories about the human (and superhuman) condition. Many of these characters will stay with the reader long after the book is set down.

Now if only we could find the ongoing adventures of some of these characters on the spinner rack...

Strongly recommended.

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