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on 10 August 2010
Superheroes are invariably linked with a graphic medium be that TV, Film or their natural environment, Comics. I find it rare for them to appear in a prose form, in fact in recent times the excellent "Soon I will be Invincible" by Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible (Vintage)) and the new set of Wild Card Books edited by George R.R. Martin (Inside Straight (Wild Cards Novel),Busted Flush (Wild Cards Novel)) are the last ones I remember reading.

So it was good to see that Lou Anders has put together an interesting set of unlinked (as opposed to the Wild Cards shared Universe approach) Short Stories each with a different take on Superheroes. As with all anthologies some tales work better than others. For me the stand out stories were by Gail Simone (Thug), Matthew Sturges (Cleansed and Set in Gold) and Darryl Gregory (Message from the Bubblegum Factory). And even though I found the others less engaging than these they were never less than good and I can guarantee that your own tastes will affect your choice of what you like in this collection.

All in all an entertaining read and a good way of passing time until Tor Books pulls it's finger out and starts re-issuing the out of print Wild Card Books.
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on 12 May 2012
the short stories of MASKED are brilliant, the first one short story Cleansed and set in gold is Brilliant. the other stories are too the book hooks you and keeps you wanting more. just before each story is a note about the author is good. when you read there story and see what else they have writen, you want more.
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on 21 October 2012
Broadly speaking it seems that any anthology collection is generally going to have one or two standout tales, at least one real dud and a whole bunch of middling/forgettable entries. I approached Masked with the hope that the opportunity to feature short superhero tales would deliver more than one or two real gems.
Some of these stories seem to have been handed to folk that seem unsure if they even want to write about 'superheroic' characters. For the most part the protagonist don't really seem to fall into the masked hero category which might not matter if the anthology weren't called 'Masked' and therefore implied that there'd be at least a handfull of takes on costumed vigilantes and the like.
Instead wha\t we get is a bunch of character peices where the main 'hero' of the tale just happens to have a bit of a quirky ability.
That's not to say that there are no good stories here:- Avatar goes for the Kick-Ass/Super/Defendor treatment, giving another account of what might occur should someone try to give themselves over to the dark avenger lifestyle; Tonight We Fly tells of a meeting between an old-school cape and his nemesis as they reminisce about their halcyon days.
To be honest I found most of the stories largely forgettable. I read another review that went through the collection story by story not long after reading and genuinely needed to be reminded of most of the tales I'd just read.
Personally I found A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe an entertaining enough read in that there was more imagination in that one chapter than the rest of the book put together.
As for gripes? Well I found Call Her Savage completely impenetrable and felt that at no point during the story did I have any clue as to what was supposed to be going on to who and why it mattered.
In summary, for all it's unmemorable, topically unrelated and downright none-too-good content Masked is at least an attempt to do something different. Most short story collections tend to come from the horror or science fiction stables so it's nice when someone tries something new with the format.
It's just that next time - if there indeed is one - it might be good to be a bit more bold and have a few more masks, cloaks and powers and a bit less of the regular Joe with a quirk stories or at least have them written by people who actually seem to even like comics.
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