Behind the Mask is an exciting collection of short stories about the everyday lives of superheroes. Ranging from laugh-out-loud funny to deliciously dark, these stories are about the ordinary day-to-day challenges facing these extraordinary individuals growing up, growing old, relationships, parenting, coping with that age-old desire to fit in when, let’s face it, they don’t.
This anthology is an extremely mixed bunch of stories. I never expect to love all stories in a collection but this one featured some crazy highs and lows for me. When I started reading the first few stories, I was sure this was going to be an anthology I would praise without end and recommend to everyone but after finishing it, I’m not so sure anymore. Some of the stories were absolutely AMAZING, but they made me expect too much of the ones that came after and the anthology lost a little of its original appeal for me, going from diverse and unique to “just” interesting.
Ms. Liberty gets a Haircut by Cat Rambo
What a way to kick of this story collection! A great one on gender identity that had a rather sad tone but still made me laugh.
Destroy the City With Me Tonight by Kate Marshall
This one was so tragically sad, OMG, my feels.
Fool by Keith Frady
Considering that villains are usually my favorites, I was a little disappointed in this one. Not a bad story at all, quite interesting actually, but something was missing. I just didn’t feel it, even though I loved seeing a villain struggling with being the bad guy.
Pedestal by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire just never disappoints, especially when it comes to short fiction. This is probably my favorite story from all of these because it’s so damn real, like, just replace this superhero with a celebrity/author/… anyone really, and it’s something we see every single day. Harassment and fan entitlement at its finest.
As I Fall Asleep by Aimee Ogden
Another quite sad story about a hero unable to quit. This is the kind of unique content I want to read about heroes.
Meeting Someone in the 22nd Century or Until Gears Quit Turning by Jennifer Pullen
I usually dig stories about cyborgs but this wasn’t really what I expected to find in this anthology and while I liked the overall idea of feeling incomplete regarding your body, I wasn’t overly impressed by the story.
Inheritance by Michael Milne
I love reading stories about what the life of heroes is like behind the scenes and this story features exactly the sad kind of content that I would expect, a story about a hero who is too busy taking care of the rest of the world, so that his family comes only second.
Heroes by Lavie Tidhar
A great story about how everything isn’t just black and white but heroes and their self administered justice just make that decision regarding what’s good and bad. Good idea and message but fell a little flat in execution.
Madjack by Nathan Crowder
Another great story featuring exactly the kind of content I expected to find in this anthology, about the loss of a hero and learning about who he really is.
Quintessential Justice by Patrick Flanagan
This one is definitely one of my favorite stories out of them all, mainly because it was so funny how it makes fun of the stupid ways superheroes “hide” their identities (e,g, different styled hair + glasses).
The Fall of the Jade Sword by Stepahnie Lai
Sadly, this one didn’t impress me at all even though I liked the idea behind it.
Origin Story by Carrie Vaughn
Considering the title, I expected something more amazing from this one because who doesn’t like epic origin stories but sadly this one was just average and didn’t do much for me.
Eggshells by Ziggy Schutz
It’s always the stories that draw your average person as a hero or show that heroes are just average people too that get to me the most and this one about setbacks in life, getting back to “normal” and asking for help was just the greatest.
Salt City Blue by Chris Large
While the idea of this specific story wasn’t bad at all, it just wasn’t for me.
Birthright by Stuart Suffel
This story could be another case of “it’s me, not you” because for most of the story I was just ???. It didn’t really get what the author was trying to tell with this story.
The Smoke Means it’s Working by Sarah Pinsker
Another case of “good idea, but fell flat”. I think the problem with this one, for me, was that it could have done better as a longer story.
Torch Songs by Keith Rosson
Basically the story of a defeated villain and I’m SO HERE FOR THAT KIND OF STORY. (also: circus setting!)
The Beard of Truth by Matt Mikalatos
The title sums up pretty good what this is about which made the whole story quite predictable and took too long to really get interesting for my taste.
Over an Embattled City by Adam R. Shannon
LOVED the idea behind this one. Somewhat Inception-y and about what our fictional heroes mean to us.
Origin Story Kelly Link
This one didn’t work for me at all. Way too much dialogue for my taste,
Overall, Behind the Mask is a must read if you are into comic books or superheroes and villains in general. It gives you a completely new look into their lives, often critically, and makes you think about how you view your favorite characters as well as real life heroes. This anthology features some great, often diverse, stories that completely blew me away, but sadly also some stories that weren’t for me at all. As I expect from an anthology, the good and the bad evens out, but after a great start, I was somewhat sad that it didn’t leave a better overall impression with me. The stories that I did love are definitely worth getting this book though, they were that good.