I started reading superhero comic books when I was a mere sprout in the 1960's. I still love them-especially female superheroes. Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman was an inspiration, and I would probably watch the current Supergirl series even if the star hadn't been on Glee.
That's why I immediately jumped at the chance to read and review an ARC of Behind The Mask: A Superhero Anthology from Net Galley.
Sixteen of the twenty stories that appear in this volume are original to the anthology. Only four are reprints. The stories I liked best have never appeared anywhere else. Other stories were well-written but didn't appeal to me. There also were stories that didn't feel complete in themselves. They were probably sneak peeks for upcoming novels.
My #1 favorite of the anthology was "Destroy The City With Me Tonight" by Kate Marshall. I found it original and compelling. It's a riff on the idea of superheroes being linked to cities. The link in Marshall's story is much stronger. The story also deals with memory as a bond between human beings. When that bond dissipates, you feel isolated. People with superpowers feeling disconnected from humanity is a dangerous situation. The protagonist deals with an ethical dilemma that would cause her to morph from hero to villain if she made the wrong choice.
Another amazing standout story was "Madjack" by Nathan Crowder. It was a moving story about a recently deceased rock star with powers that would be very useful for someone in that profession. The protagonist is his daughter, a rock star in her own right. If this were in another science fiction anthology, no one would consider it a superhero story. It stretches the concept a bit, but I loved it. I now want to read Crowder's fantasy novel, Ink Calls To Ink.
I think that what these stories had in common is that they involved characters with enough stature to be called heroes, characters that I admired because they struggled against becoming villains. That's my motivation for reading about superheroes. I want to believe in heroes. I feel that they represent the best in us. In this world where cynicism and noir are popular, I feel that superheroes are the antidote. I found that hopeful vision in those particular stories of Behind The Mask which makes me glad that I read them.