Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories

Authors: Scott Snyder, Sam Weller, Jennifer Weiner, and others

Publisher:  Free Press, 2008

ISBN Number: 1416566449

At a time when superheroes are at the forefront of popular culture, dominating the box office and littering every channel on television. A time when the daily news is a constant stream of growing social awareness, political freak shows, looming terrorist threats, and rising global injustice. Comes Who Can Save Us Now? a book that toys with the pure and idealistic concepts of how heroes are perceived in modern society. Testing each virtue (and vice) to see if they can exist in our complex world.

This enticing premise is where the book succeeds and fails. Each of the 22 short stories are written in a post-war (or post golden age era for comic readers) world, but the broad time setting is a deterrence, creating an uneven reading experience. The other major flaw the book suffers from is the disparate length from story to story. There are some strong ideas that have their potential for greatness dashed by the main villain of the work: space to develop. Of course, there are some stories overcooked by heat vision that would benefit from a shorter page count

Across the board, the uniting strength in these stories are the vivid use of setting and the excellent display of the writer’s super-powered dialogue, most of these writers come from working in comic books or have a deep affinity for the scripted medium and it really shows with realistic exchanges that ring true for any lover of the four-colored literature.

The most endearing stories are the ones that play cleverly with simple comic book lore and archetypes, making for a great story with a cynical, modern take. Stephanie Harrells Lois Lane/Superman deconstruction of ‘Girl Reporter’. The ever-present nods to comic book fan knowledge in Noria Jablonskis ‘The Snipper’. The magazine expose-style take on a Batman-like figure in ‘My Interview with the Avenger’ by Tom Bissell.

Other standouts of the work play closer to real-world scenarios and tone down the fantasy and wonder. Such as ‘The Lives of Ordinary Superheroes’by David Haynes, an almost chamber piece story that reminisces over the erosion of modern values and serves as a fitting final story to the book. Or the Sean Dolittle penned, action-packed, gritty blue-collar ‘Mr. Big Deal’.

The book is written with a lot of love for a genre that has existed long before it became a marketable, blockbuster machine for moviegoers. It speaks to the diversity in theme and subject of comic books. Most of these tales echo the emotional experience the writer has derived from their reading experience. Under the cape and cowl of the stories are somber, deep emotional tales of living with dissatisfaction, without purpose, identity, or hope. Make no mistake, there are plenty of laughs as well. A mix of comedy and tragedy that slightly favors the latter. When it’s at its best, the book will serve to remind the reader of the values of imagination and inherent good. That behind the trials and tribulations life throws, there is potentially a hero in all of us, waiting to save the day.