There was a time when the superhero story felt grandiose: some otherwise-normal human with an extraordinary power we’d never yet imagined, grappling with the implications of this power while also stopping some form of Evil just in the nick of time. This time, I think, has passed. We can imagine all the “powers,” and we’ve heard the stories so many times that they rarely feel new. Somehow, what once existed on the far edges of our entertainment imaginations has come to feel quaint. So what is there still for us to find, in these stories we’ve now heard before?
Perhaps it’s that very familiarity that’s become the asset with superhero stories. Our lives are filled with complexity, very little of which is solvable in a sweeping gesture. We do not get to put on capes and fly ourselves to safety. But there’s something about seeing it, even when we know the endings—some surreal embodiment of our most valued human traits, swooping in at the exact moment we know is coming—that feels bolstering. It’s hope rewarded, every time. The superhero will never get old, because we’ll never stop needing “saving” from the grind of our lives, even for just a few hours at a movie or in the pages of a book.
Rain Taxi’s best superhero-themed reviews:
Review by Isaac Butler of Super Black by Adilifu Nama (Fall 2012, online)
Hero Epics Then and Now by Eric Lorberer (Fall 2007, online)
Review by Tosh Berman of Astro Boy: Volumes One through Six by Osamu Tezuka (Winter 2002/2003, online)