Saturday, July 28, 2018

Superbright, by Ryan Row

★★★★★ Humorous but with an edge that bites

(Superhero) Tom’s modest superpowers only qualify him for a class D superhero license, but he’s determined to get into the big leagues. (7,167 words; Time: 23m)

"Superbright," by (edited by Andy Cox), appeared in issue 276, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: “Superbright” Tom wants to be a real hero, and he gets what he wants when he falls in the vat of “broken time.” Given the ability to see the past and future, he realizes just how bad the superheroes really are, and he ends the story determined to be better.

It's a bit sad that after the big fight at the end, when he's elevated to godlike status, the only thing he really wants in the world is honest praise from his mom. It's gratifying when he gets it.

Tom’s an awfully nice guy, and we really want good things to happen to him. This makes the ending more satisfying. It’s chilling to see the big climax at the end from Tom’s mom’s point of view, knowing that the lights falling from the sky are the other superheroes.

This is a rare omniscient narrator story, but it works pretty well once you get used to it. The steady revelation of details about people vary from shocking to merely sad, but they paint a poor picture of the superhero community.

The parallels with the real world are also clear, such as when we learn that The Light is secretly sexually harassing women, using his power to “date rape” them.

Con: The story leaves the impression that Tom kills a whole lot of people, which detracts from his nice-guy image.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Yeah, I'm not usually one for superhero stories, but this was brilliant; it reminded me a bit of Daryl Gregory's "An Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm".

    I'm not sure I'm quite as optimistic about the ending as you are, though: just before his mother speaks, Tom thinks "If she's about to lie to me, let me believe her." It's not clear to me that Tom isn't going to be corrupted by his powers the same way so many other superheroes have been.

    1. Yeah, and the fact that Tom has his flaws makes that easier to believe.