Behind the Mask (Meerkat Press, 2017) is a collection of twenty super hero stories, but you won’t find a lot of knock-down, drag-out fights between heroes and villains in this anthology. Instead, Behind the Mask focuses on super heroes dealing with matters of everyday life, while still having powers, nemeses, and the myriad other issues with which super heroes are confronted.
The stories range from funny to poignant, sometimes touching on both ends of the spectrum within a single story. A number of the stories feature heroes who are still learning things about their powers or their very natures. Kate Marshall’s “Destroy the City with Me Tonight” is one of the stories that uses this to delightful effect, as the hero and her nemesis discover more about what they are. “Eggshells,” by Ziggy Schutz, features a hero who doesn’t feel pain and whose skin cannot be broken, but can still be brought low by a concussion. Tracking the hero over the course of the year following her concussion gives a touching look at the issues that someone with a traumatic brain injury deals with.
Other stories touch on heroes trying to get by in the real world. When Seanan McGuire’s main character in “Pedestal” needs to go to the grocery store, she deals with paparazzi and the impact their actions have on both her and innocent bystanders. There are also tales of heroes coping with the absence of a parent. Michael Milne’s “Inheritance” has a young hero who has inherited powers from his father coming to terms with both those powers and the father who was never around when he needed him, while Nathan Crowder’s “Madjack” has the hero dealing with the death of her alien and somewhat estranged father.
Though as is the case with many anthologies, there are likely stories that an individual reader may not like as much, Behind the Mask is a solid anthology, filled with well-written and -edited stories that fans of the super hero genre will enjoy. You can learn more about the anthology and where to buy it here.