As I mentioned in my intro, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains is filled with smart, imaginative, inspired stories taking place in a variety of versions of the superhero genre. Every anthology out there tends to be a bag of “mixed nuts,” with a smattering of excellent, noteworthy stories (represented by the cashews, obviously), a handful of solid, if somewhat standard, stories (the almonds), and a large amount of mediocre entries (the cocktail peanuts of the literary anthology world). Super Stories of Heroes & Villains smashes that standard like that big, angry, green guy, delivering remarkable tale after remarkable tale. (It’s very much like opening your mixed nuts and finding only cashews!) While the quality of the stories may maintain like an unmovable Man of Steel, the variety of the content of the entries is amazingly diverse. Science fiction, crime-noir, dark horror, alternate universes . . . all of these and more are touched on in this collection. And, while some contributions do have that “aw shucks” nature of the era of the campy superhero (think Adam West), there are plenty of stories that also feature bleak, thought-provoking, or unexpected elements to even out the balance. My personal favorite yarn in the volume is the first entry in the book, Kim Newman’s Ubermensch! which depicts a world where the man who’s faster than a speeding bullet happened to be raised in Nazi Germany. In all honesty, I very much enjoyed nearly every offering inside Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. (James Lowder gets a special shout out for his Evil Dead meets The Shadow meets Dick Tracy contribution.) It’s truly an assortment that will thrill long-time comic book sniffers and also appeal to the casual comic book fan looking for some unique and exciting reading material.
I’d also be remiss not to mention the talented and well-known array of writers assembled for Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. Like a veritable Justice League of award-winning and bestselling authors, the list of contributors includes Christopher Golden (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), James Lowder (Hack/Slash), and many, many more!
If I had any negatives at all to offer in regards to Super Stories of Heroes & Villains, my notes would all be on the visual end of the book. While the cover design is bright and eye-catching, it seems to lack originality, using generic comic book themes which will cause it to easily disappear into the ether of a crowded book shelf in the local Barnes & Noble. I also think the book would really benefit from some genuine comic book art at the beginning of each story. The layout would provide a much more appropriate avenue for the generic comic book themes to be incorporated in the design, and the art styles of each piece could be as varied as the stories themselves. It would do nothing but improve the experience created by the anthology and make the book even more attractive to fanboys and fangirls. Despite my nitpicking, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains is still incredibly solid as is and definitely worth picking up.
You can find out more about Super Stories of Heroes & Villains at the official Tachyon Publications website and you can pre-order a copy of the book here.