This was my first foray into the BEAT TO A PULP (BTAP) series, edited by David Cranmer. He initially created the BTAP e-zine as a way to present well written stories that recalled the old traditional pulp adventures and now there is also a series of books that compile even more of these same great stories. I came across the series while exploring more pulp and noir reading, after finishing 8 Pounds by Chris Holm and I'm very glad I took the chance and got myself a copy of Beat to a Pulp: Superhero.
This volume, edited by Cranmer and Scott D.Parker doesn't just deal with the traditional "superhero"; as a matter of fact, most of the stories deal with ordinary people rising to the occasion and doing heroic things. So while not exactly what I was expecting, given the title, the excellence of the stories was very much what I was expecting and I found myself enjoying this anthology very much.
There are thirteen tales in this volume; I will highlight my favorites:
The collection kicks off with a firecracker of an introduction by Parker that really sets up the tone and theme of the book; you can also read it here as a teaser!
Jake Hinkson's The Long Drop places superheroes squarely inside the New York City police department. Cooper, a NYPD officer, wakes up in a hotel room, with no memory of how he got there or why there is a severed head in the shower. Hinson introduces a gritty, alternate reality that I'd like to see him explore further, where people with super powers have been accepted in society and builds the tension nicely as Cooper tries to unravel the mystery of who has set him up and why...
The Revenge of the Red Avenger called to mind the innocent kids from Stand By Me and The Sandlot; Billy and Carole are just a young boy and girl who are best friends and share a love of comic books. They decide to become heroes, like the ones in their comics, so they can find and fight crime in their neighborhood. Kevin Burton Smith packs an emotional wallop with this story, turning a tale of carefree innocence into one of tragedy with a powerful climax.
The femme fatale of the group, Sandra Seamans, also presents an emotional story with Moon Mad. Molly hides from the moon at night, safely amongst the nooks and crannies of the city, because the moon brings her bad "dreams". Then one night, Molly's memories won't be denied and she has to relive a terrible past in order to save a group of innocent girls. Seamans made me care very much about Molly and while I guessed the ending, it was no less sad for me when the story was over.
Benoit Lelievre gives us Doberman: Third Party Law Enforcement and introduces us to a mercenary called upon by a politician to save his twin sons from a madman. The story is just the right amount of violent and the protagonist reminded me of in some ways of Frank Castle, the Punisher. Lelievre writes a dark story and I hope he chronicles more of the Doberman's adventures.
And finally, to round out my list of favorites, is Chad Eagleton's Somewhere Beyond the Pavement. It is another tale of young kids finding themselves in dire circumstances and having to find the inner strength to fight. To live. The way Eagleton writes the story, switching from the children, to their father, to the villains and back again really creates a thrilling edge-of-your-seat story and a made it my favorite entry in the collection.
I enjoyed this collection very much and will definitely be seeking out more from the BTAP series, as well as other works from the individual authors. It is a great collection, and each story is was highly readable; there wasn't a clunker in the bunch. You can get Beat To A Pulp: Superhero here and when you do, plan on reading this action packed volume in just one sitting, it's that good!