October 25, 2015

Book 51: Masked

Edited by Lou Anders

I may not have read many superhero comics, but I nonetheless find the concept of powered individuals incredibly intriguing and rife with possibilities. Masked collects fifteen stories of superheroes and supervillains with a pleasantly wide variety of styles, subjects, and, yes, superpowers. Though the anthology is a bit uneven, as they tend to be, I appreciated each author's attempt to reinvent a trope that often seems to have worn out its room for originality and growth. The originality never ceased to impress me, particularly in Bill Willingham's "A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too)". Willingham brilliantly utilizes a nursery rhyme structure to introduce a roster of 26 alphabetically categorized super characters, while simultaneously keeping his story moving at a fine clip. It is a silly conceit, to be sure, but the format feels appropriate and functions as both a (gentle) skewering of and love letter to the genre (which, to be fair, often relies on a good deal of silliness in all of its formats). More serious, but equally enjoyable, is Chris Roberson's "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows", which introduces The Wraith in an adventure with thematic depth, written in a convincingly journalistic style that befits its mid-1940s setting; I only wish that I could read about more of his adventures. Other stories achieve varying levels of success, but each author offers an interesting take on the idea of the superhero, a draw that makes Masked as compelling as the very ideas it celebrates and thrives on.

Grade: A-

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