The last decade or so has seen a remarkable "legitimization" of graphic storytelling, be ranging from indie "comix" to the superhero genre. The latter is a genre that's come to dominate the summer movie season, and with literati such as Jonatham Lethem and Michael Chabon as its paladins, it shouldn't be surprising that more and more fiction writers find it intriguing. This collection of twenty-two stories, six of which appeared previously in such places as Virginia Quartely Review and One Story, gathers some of these experiments in an attempt to reimagine the superhero's place in our everyday real world. One note of caution is necessary: though the word "superhero" appears in the subtitle and on the jacket, it might convey the wrong message. The protagonists of these stories are not so much heroes as they are people with paranormal abilities or attributes -- which are sometimes put to heroic purposes and sometimes not. So, if you're looking for new takes on the traditional Superman/Batman/Wolverine/Etc. superhero, you might be disappointed.
However, if what you're looking for are interesting writers taking on an interesting premise, then you won't be disappointed. I tend to measure anthologies by their ratio of stories I'm glad to have read vs. stories I'm not glad to have read, and that usually works out to roughly 1:2. In this case the ratio is reversed, and there are really only two or three stories I really didn't care for. I generally really like Jim Shepard, but his "In Cretaceous Seas" just didn't work for me, and feels somewhat shoehorned into this collection (it previously appeared in Vice). And Richard Dooling's "Roe #5" was a rather conventional clone-gone-wild story. But almost every story has at least one interesting idea or conceit that makes it worth reading. For example, although I didn't love Will Clarke's "The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children," I did enjoy the notion of a horny superhero leaving behind a bunch of bastard children with the ability to fly.
My favorite stories were probably the melancholy ones, such as David Yoo's tragicomic "The Somewhat Super," about a secret support group for those with useless paranormal powers, or Scott Snyder's "The 13th Egg," about a sailor whose exposure to atomic bomb tests in the Pacific turns him into a post-traumatic stress victim with mutant powers. The two real stunning pieces were Cary Holladay's "The Horses Are Loose," about a girl who can only use her power once in her life and must make the difficult choice of when to do so, and J. Robert Lennon's "The Rememberer," about a girl whose perfect memory dooms her to a lifetime of sorrow. Which is not to suggest there aren't some more whimsical pieces, most notably Sam Weller's "The Quick Stop 5," about a colorful crew of convenience store workers who are transformed into strange superheroes after inhaling some toxic fumes. Other standouts include Tom Bissell's mock Esquire-style magazine profile of a vigilante superhero and Stephanie Harrell channelling a somewhat jaded Lois Lane on the topic of Superman's early days.
On the whole, the collection works well as both an accessible introduction to some of American short fiction's young talent, and as an example of how a mostly visual genre can be reimagined in fiction.
"Who Can Save Us Now?" is a 2008 anthology of short stories by non-comics writers about superheroes edited by Stephen King's son, Owen. I bought this solely because of Scott Snyder's story "The Thirteenth Egg" which he revealed in a recent podcast interview with Kevin Smith ("Fatman on Batman #19" - highly recommended!) was the spark that set him on the path to writing superhero comics, so this is a review of that one story rather than the 22 stories as a whole.
Snyder's tale is set in 1946 and features Everett Batson (wink wink), a young man recently discharged from the Navy and returning to his small American town back to his sweetheart and his loving family. But something happened to Batson when he was stationed overseas. He was exposed to a massive atomic explosion and was somehow the sole survivor. And now he's back home, his skins burning all the time... and he's slowly changing.
Snyder's writing is fine, I just wanted a bit more action from his story which really isn't a superhero story. For most of it we find out about Everett and his girlfriend's relationship while Everett and his dad make a speed racer for a local derby. It's only in the last page that anything resembling a superhero story emerges, like a flare, but just as briefly it appears and then disappears and the story's over.
I was hoping to find a small gem in this short, a glimpse maybe of a character in utero or indications of the kind of stories he would go on to write in "Batman" and "American Vampire" but was disappointed with this somewhat dull slice of Americana. Reading other reviews of this collection, I'm not encouraged to take on the other stories which seem similarly written, that is they're also not really superhero stories and are more than a bit literary (read: pretentious). Chris Burnham's illustrations accompanying each story are excellent though. "The Thirteenth Egg" isn't a bad story but reading it wouldn't make you think Snyder would go on to become one of the best superhero comics writers just a few years later.
A good collection of stories written by fans of the genre and those who work with superheros e.g. Scott Snyder. There's a bit of everything in the collection, not just happy go lucky heroes but there's thriller, comedy, drama, pathos, a bit of action here and there. I read this on a 4+ hour flight and never got bored as there are no two stories alike.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this book
i purchased this book to read just one of the stories in it. for that purpose it was fine. however the condition of the book was definitely not "Very Good" i think it should have been sold as "Acceptable"