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22 for All and All for One

By Staff | Aug 12, 2008

Twenty-two short story writers and novelists team up in one anthology to bring superhero tales of a more literary bent in “Who Can Save Us Now?” edited by Owen King and John McNally and accompanied by great illustrations by Chris Burnham.

From a female reporter who has a hand in shaping the public image of a beloved superhero, to a few young people finding their powers for the first time, to a town coping with the offspring of a hero who literally flew away, to a man who can change televangelists’ messages, this book runs the gamut, from serious to silly to thoughtful to poignant.

I had two favorite stories in the anthology. The first, written by Sam Weller called “The Quick Stop 5,” follows a traditional origin story with a twist. It’s like “Clerks” meets “Spider-Man.”

Six convenience store workers are doing inventory when a gas truck delivering a new blend of gas accidentally has a spill. The six employees run outside to see what’s going on, holding whatever they had on hand and find the fumes change them, linking them to whatever they were holding: Marty, the manager, was holding a bottle of vitamin water, and he becomes stronger. Kayla, the cute high school girl, was restocking the condom aisle and ends up becoming Prophylactic Girl. Douglas, nicknamed “Dip” was carrying his usual tobacco and becomes a walking wad of tobacco. Mama, holding a slushie, can now shoot slushie waves. Tim had a hold of beef jerky and his limbs become long and stretchy like the jerky. And McManus was smoking weed in the bathroom and now gives off a cloud of secondhand smoke. When the six rescue a trucker from a crash, they catch media attention — and the attention of the owner of their company. They are offered to be the face of the corporation, a cool new superhero team — if they lose McManus. The public relations people have figured out how to spin the tobacco angle (and broker an endorsement deal from Phillip Morris) but can’t square away the illegal drug. The five ditch McManus and go for money and fame. But who is really helping people?

My second favorite, written by one of the editors, John McNally, called “Remains of the Night” takes a look at the silent assistant of the superhero — the butlers.

The main character has faithfully served his boss, the Silverfish for 20 years. The Silverfish isn’t exactly likable — he has a silverfish farm in the basement, acts like a silverfish and is more than a bit eccentric, but the main character has learned to live with it. He swaps stories with his fellow butlers — Tommy, who is Spiderhole Man’s butler and as such must keep holes stocked with necessities for his terrorist boss, and Oula, who is the maid of Earwig Man, the Silverfish’s arch-nemesis. The main character is in love with Oula, but it’s not until Oula declares her secret love for Silverfish and the Silverfish’s memoir ridicules his faithful companion that the butler decides maybe it’s time to not be so faithful. But when the butler decides to do away with his boss, he finds complications he didn’t bargain for.

A funny, ironic story, despite the fact that it’s a superhero and his butler, it is highly relatable as a “bad boss” story.

And there’s many more highly entertaining stories inside!

Contact Amy at amendhall@graffitiwv.com