Publisher: Damnation BooksISBN:
13th April, 2012Words:
Corrupts Absolutely? collects twenty brand-new stories from veteran authors and newcomers, each with a unique perspective on what it might really be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age. In the center of such a roiling mass of uncertainty and excitement lies one important truth: the fight against good or evil is never as important as the fight for or against oneself.
(Review first published at Thirteen O’Clock, June 2012)
Given I was raised on comic book superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Teen Titans and others, the meta-human fiction anthology Corrupts Absolutely? was always going to have instant appeal for me.
Edited by dark fiction author Lincoln Crisler, Corrupts Absolutely? Sets out to take comic book heroes beyond the confining rectangular borders of comic pages into a prose format and, when taken as a whole, the stories pack as much punch as The Incredible Hulk on a bad day.
Borrowing from some of the more adult comics and graphic novels of the 1980’s, like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, the heroes (and villains) in these 20 tales are as human as the rest of us, with troubled pasts, crises of conscience and revenge on the mind. The theme of the anthology centres on how power can corrupt and each story rides that theme like a speeding bullet into catastrophe (ok enough of the metaphors).
From the very first tale – Tim Marquitz’s “Retribution” about a nuclear-powered man who exacts explosive revenge on a Middle Eastern village on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks – you know immediately that the interpretation of what is a “hero” in this volume, will ride a very thin grey line indeed.
In my view, the strongest tales are in the first half of the book. Bram Stoker Award-winning author Weston Ochse’s piece “Hollywood Villains”, about a young man who can make anyone do anything not only forces you to sympathise with the villain as he psychically torments some of Hollywood’s more unsavoury characters, but makes you feel that his victims deserved it.
Jeff Strand’s “The Origin of Slashy” focuses on the victim of a rape who decides to become a vigilante and kill men with sex on their mind. The matter-of-factness of Strand’s writing adds considerable impact and there’s certainly no hero in sight in his story.
Edward M. Erdelac’s “Conviction” is a fantastic gangsta style tale about a young man trying to distance himself from the wrong people, only to be pulled back in. Erdelac captures the language and character of Abassi exceptionally well and provides imagery that lasts well after the final sentence.
Other standouts included the darkly atmospheric “Mental Man” by William Todd Rose, Joe McKinney’s “Hero”, “Crooked” by Lee Mather, “Acquainted with the Night” by Cat Rambo and “Max and Rose” by Andrew Bourelle. “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge, a humorous tale that reminded me of the film Mystery Men was a welcome addition to break up all the angst.
The only downside to the anthology was that there were possibly a few too many stories that reminded me of a certain rich billionaire with a mechanised suit.
All in all, Corrupts Absolutely? was a great escape, providing very interesting pastiches of heroes and villains. Hopefully Mr Crisler might consider putting together a second volume in the not too distant future?