The Darker Mask Heroes From The Shadows Edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers-- Review
This book is an anthology of eighteen short stories about heroes. They are not just superheros. The short story, Strega's Last Dance is about a witch who gets her revenge on the local crimelord. Avatar is about a man who sweeps away evil and is the next incarnation of the buddha or other religious figures.
There are of course many superheroes, but these heroes are often not what you expect. Walter Mosley's Picket is a young thief who acquires his powers in a most unusual way. The Henchman becomes a villain to feed his family and pay child support.
A number of these heroes come from the poor quarters and the ghetto, Dred is a heroin addict, The Remover is fighting urban blight, and Flow is found by accident by a crew of thieves. There is a strong urban component to this anthology.
My favorite story in this collection is The Whores of Onyx City by Michael A. Gonzales. Sage Steel is a young girl who watches her mother die and is taken in by Dr. Sax who trains her to become a superhero. She must fight Kidd Babylon and his Wild Bunch who are selling drugs and pimping women.
My second favorite story is In Vino Veritas. Veritas is a hero who can smell lies. He must drink to avoid being overwhelmed by the people around him. I won't give away anymore.
The mix of authors is excellent; the husband and wife team of Steven Barnes and Tannarive Due, Walter Mosley, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ann Nocenti, L.A. Banks, Naomi Hirahara, and many others. There is a very diverse ethnic background among the different writers.
At the end of the book, they give one paragraph biographies of the editors, writers, and artists in the book. There are four artists who do black and white illustrations throughout this book. I especially like the illustration of the hero, The Alienist on P.334. are Brian Hurtt, Jeff Fisher, Shawn Martinbrough, and Sean Wang.
This is a very entertaining anthology with a different take on what it means to be a hero. I did not find any stories in this anthology which were not readable. This is a real accomplishment for the editors.