The Darker Mask
Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers (editors)
Tor, Aug 2008, $25.95
This eighteen tale collection focuses on both the superpowers and personal issues confronting superheroes in their everyday lives. The tales are well written and fun to read as family troubles, economic woes, and ethics become front and center as the mask to hide one’s secret identity so one can have a life is treated much darker than most comic books do. Especially strong are L.A. Banks’ “Dream Knights” that brings a different reality to Manhattan; "Switchback," by Ann Nocenti starring teenager Mimi learning to restrain her mental powers that she desperately wants to use to manipulate her dysfunctional family members to behave like the Nelsons; Walter Mosley’s “The Picket” who takes his alterego name from his mom. Perhaps the most insightful is “Vino, Veritas” by Peter Spiegelman in which superheroes face the truth of their decision processes and the outcome. With drawings enhancing the angst of the superheroes (one look at Gar Anthony Haywood’s “Heatseeker” explains why a picture is worth a thousand words as no one will want to mess with that man), this is a strong anthology with no clinkers as all the contributors provide interesting darker looks at those behind the masks struggles with questions of ethics.