Sunday, October 21, 2007

Path of the Bold

This book has been released into the wild!

Edited by James Lowder, this anthology contains fifteen short stories about super-heroes, centred mostly around Empire City.

I was never much into comic books, but I love super-hero movies like The Hulk, Spiderman and Superman. The stories in this collection are set mostly in the same 'reality' and include some heroes and villains in common.

I enjoyed this book's consideration of heroes, as people with fears and hang ups as well as super powers and super images. They seem real in a way that Tobey Maguire's Spiderman captured well. These heroes have concerns such as how they are going to make a living and protect the ones they love.

"Fanboy" by James Lowder depicts the making of a new super villain, showing again how easy it is to find yourself on the path from Anakin to Vader. It is really hard to break into the super hero business when the market is already swamped. They really should have published his comics.

There are powerful themes echoing in different ways throughout these stories.

The theme that found most resonance with me was the awakening. Ordinary people, down-trodden people, crushed heroes or dis-heartened heroes discovering or re-discovering their special power and, more importantly, finding the desire and courage to do something with their gifts. This is what make heroic fiction so endearing. We all want to feel like we are special, and most of us want to make difference in some way.

If you are going to be caught on the news flying through the air and catching falling cars using only the power of your mind, you might as well do it while looking good, or at least .. shiny. Clothes maketh the super hero, as they say. The "Sir Spandex" image of a super hero in bright skin-tight costumes was played upon. Super-heroes are portrayed as living constantly in the spot light of media attention. Some comic books about real life heroes are created by the real life heroes themselves! A costume is important. Apart from whatever enhancements or super powers a costume grants you, it is a focus point that fuses actions with image, ego with a visualisation of self. Costumes become icons, which have a power all by themselves. There was a cool image in "R.A.O.K." by Joe Murphy: Raymond puts on a crude Sentinel mask, and the icon in place he feels like he can help out, "Do what you can...".

"Forever Young" by Lucien Soulban was something different. It stepped far away from Empire City and showed heroes of a different sort. It showed them as reflections of old myth and recent fairy tale, subtly pointing out that we have had heroes for a long time. Only recently did they start coming in skin tight spandex.

This book is one of the most enjoyable accessible and least comic book like source of super hero fiction I have ever encountered. 9/10.

Review by Nathan Brazil at SF Site.
Get a copy of this book at

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