Absolute Power to the People

The question posed by this anthology isn’t nearly as provocative as it’s intended to be. Think about it. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? That’s a silly question. Of course it does. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. The punctuation mark in the book’s title is superfluous.

But we admit, provocative or not, metahuman conduct is not always above reproach. And that’s what this short story collection is all about. After all, anyone who can turn his body into an atomic bomb, reanimate the dead, and reach god-like awareness should probably be monitored closely (Doctor Manhattan, are you listening?). Let’s face it, if you can kill the Pope, orchestrate the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, stab Lady Gaga, and rape a cheetah at the zoo, then your moral compass needs a new frame of reference.

Every single author in this book has created a superhero who exists in an ethical gray zone. One guy brings his “righteous fury” to North Waziristan, a woman gives her parents cancer (oh, that’s bad!), a boy from the ghetto solves his neighborhood’s gang problem in the bloodiest way imaginable, and a rape victim exacts her savage revenge upon a string of innocent (?) men. To quote author Jeff Strand: “There was a new superhero in town, or serial killer, or whatever.”

The editor has done a fine job of assembling a batch of stories filled with attitude and badassery. We particularly enjoyed “Hollywood Villainy” by Weston Ochse, and “Ozymandias Revisited” by A.S. Fox for their insane and unwavering voice. We also dug “Mental Man” by William Todd Rose because it contained a dose of Death Note-like narrative suspense. And since we always get a kick out of sidekicks, we have to give an enthusiastic thumbs up to both “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge, and “Pride” by Wayne Ligon.

Our favorite story, however, comes from Anthony Laffan.  “Sabre” is a story about rotten superheroes and corporate espionage. It gives the reader a peek into a world where Stark Industries, Wayne Enterprises, OsCorp, and LexCorp all vie for cutting edge technology and information. It’s not pretty. For example, after staging a mock hero/villain fight in order to steal schematics and blueprints from a rival corporation, the owner of Aegis, Inc., is accused of being “the worst superhero in the world.” The accusation sticks because it’s right on the money. But never mind. “You’ve got to take opportunities where you find them,” she says with a grin. “It’s the American way.”

[Corrupts Absolutely? / Edited by Lincoln Crisler / First Printing: March 2012 / ISBN: 978-1615726158]

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