We’re all living in a superhero universe. Just take a quick look around. Computers give us instant access to a large chunk of the world’s knowledge and almost limitless externalized memory. Thanks to personal technology we have telescopic vision, super-hearing, and we’re connected with each other at levels that mimic telepathy.
There are people alive right now who have silicon chips wired directly into their nervous systems and who can control computers with their thoughts. And guess what? The best is yet to come. The future’s so bright; we gotta wear iShades like Plastic Man, Captain Cold, and Geordi La Forge.
Because of this, superheroes have transcended their comic book roots. They’ve become every bit as mainstream as fairytale princesses, cowboys, and spies. You can find them on TV and at the multiplex. You can even find them in prose fiction too.
Superhero Universe, a new anthology edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum, doesn’t start too promising. It stumbles out of the gate with a trio of disappointing efforts. But readers shouldn’t reach for the TV Guide too quickly. The collection recovers spectacularly.
Without a doubt, the best story in the book is “The Island Way” by Mary Pletsch and Dylan Blacquiere. It’s about family traditions and a long-standing commitment to duty. But there are other great stories here as well. Some of the best are “The Rise and Fall of Captain Stupendous” by P.E. Bolivar, “In the Name of Free Will” by A.C. Wise, “Nuclear Nikki vs. the Magic Evil” by Jennifer Rahn, “Lost and Found” by Luke Murphy, and “Crusher and Typhoon” by Brent Nichols. As a treat, Bernie Mireault revisits his beloved comic book creation, the Jam, and there’s even a poem by John Bell that contains a pinch of Kirby Krackle. And in our opinion, you can never go wrong with Kirby Krackle.
This is the third compilation we’re seen from coeditor Lalumière (the other two include Masked Mosaic and Super Stories of Heroes and Villains). At this point we pretty much know what to expect from him. He has a weak spot for deconstructed heroes and emotional denouements. He also likes funny superheroes. Because of this, his books (including this one) inevitably strike a satisfying balance between darkness and lightness. We’re happy to report that the superhero universe is in good hands under his stewardship.
[Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen / Edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum / First Printing: May 2016 / ISBN: 9781770530874]