Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 5

Last week I wasn’t completely honest with y’all. Although Part 4 of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition was titled “The Final Chapter,” there are actually a couple more stories to go before we wrap this up. I hope you can find it in your horror lovin’ hearts to forgive me.

This time it really is the end *tear*

The second to last story in this dark metahuman collection is “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge. This yarn is about how one sidekick finds his arch-nemesis and has one of my favorite endings among the 21 stories in this anthology. Z-pack is the trusted sidekick to the city’s hero Zooster, but when Z-pack has to step up to fight villain The Midshipman alone he proves to be more than capable. From then on, Zooster leaves the fighting to Z-pack so he can spend his time wooing the Athena sisters. That doesn’t mean he lets Z-pack take the credit for keeping the city safe, oh no. Z-pack does the dirty work and Zooster is there to take the credit giving interviews and smiling for newspaper photos. So where does that leave Z-pack? You’ll have to read to find out. “Gone Rogue” is one of the funnier stories in the bunch, mostly due to the hilarious punch line ending. Helge has a dark sense of humor that I think any reader will be able to appreciate. Short, sweet, to the point, and an ending that made me giggle out loud. “Gone Rogue” is a winner.

Corrupts Absolutely? ends on a bit of a sad note with Andrew Bourelle’s “Max and Rose.” While it’s not revealed explicitly how, Max has recently acquired superpowers and continues to get stronger. He has physical and mental strength, even able to control people with his mind. He hopes he can fly soon. Bourelle’s short gets at the heart of what Corrupts is all about. Max has newfound abilities, but he is not compelled to use them for good. He’s not stopping muggers from attacking innocent old ladies or disrupting bank heists. Instead Max is mind controlling women to have sex with him, using it to gain riches, and when this story opens he is manipulating the maître d’ of a fancy hotel restaurant to give him and Rose the best seat in the house. This may not sound so bad, but could this be how supervillains are born? Rose seems to think so and suddenly at this dinner at the fancy hotel, she has that epiphany which has recently been building. Everyone knows a true villain can’t find true love. In fact, it’s usually the loss of love that finally turns them completely to the dark side. Bourelle’s “Max and Rose” is the story of their relationship coming to an end, but in typical Corrupts fashion it is with a dramatic finale. This is a heartbreaking love story, the prologue to what could be a great supervillain’s tale and one of my favorites in the entire collection.

Corrupts Absolutely? opened strong, with Tim Marquitz’ “Retribution,” and ended with the equally strong “Max and Rose” by Andrew Bourelle. While there were a couple stories that I didn’t connect with as much as others, Corrupts represents a diverse group of dark metahuman fiction from a host of talented writers, rookie and veteran alike.

I was immediately intrigued when I first heard the concept for Corrupts Absolutely?. The collection quickly exceeded my expectations and what I thought would be an anthology of fun, lighthearted stories about evil supervillains turned out to be deep and often very personal. Childhood abuse, rejection from society, greed, power hunger, political corruption are all flavors offered in this anthology. A person corrupted by extraordinary ability is the perfect backdrop for some delectable mayhem, but Corrupts offers much more. While it’s impossible for every story to be a homerun for all readers, I think you will find that there are more RBIs than strikes. Did I say that right? My husband is making me watch a lot of baseball this summer. Thought I would throw that analogy out there.

If you’re like me, you will pick up this anthology because it has an interesting concept but after a few stories find that you were missing this type of superhero prose all along.

For a diverse collection of stories with a blistering pace, heavy action, and a lot of heart pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 4: The Final Chapter

We are nearing the home stretch of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition. This is the Final Chapter where we wrap up the closing stories in the dark metahuman fiction collection. Unlike the Friday the 13th entry by the same name, editor Lincoln Crisler will not come back from the grave to torment you and other mentally unstable residents of a backwoods halfway house. Not yet anyway.

I think Crisler’s team of author-heroes have almost exhausted every possible angle to dark metahuman fiction. While some of the superheroes featured in these stories are inherently corrupt by their own evil, others are puppets of the government, and others still are driven to corruption from the pain and anger of abuse and exploitation. Until now, the majority of the stories in this collection highlight the human element in metahuman, tugging on the heartstrings of the readers as we are offered a glimpse into the psyche of man and woman burdened with superpower.

This anthology closes with a healthy mix of metahuman tales, but many of the stories celebrate the Tony Stark and Bruce Waynes of superherodom. They are powerful corporate moguls for whom monetary influence isn’t enough. Or in other cases, they use their endless funds to control the superhero game, rigging a system to work in their favor, and never for the little guys.

We finally get some much needed female sex appeal in Anthony Laffan’s “Sabre” which features a powerful, seductive protagonist Leandra Shields, a.k.a. superhero Sabre. Katy Pierce, a journalist with The Informer, is determined to prove there is a connection between Sabre and Miss Shield’s company Aegis Inc. “Sabre” is one of the shorter shorts in this collection and more of the beginning of a story than a complete tale, but with an undeniably sexy edge that will leave the reader wiping drool from their mouth. I run the risk of revealing too much by saying more since this is a very brief story, but the heavy eroticism, while understated, was a welcomed surprise.

While the first two stories in this section have a bit of fun with the traditional superhero mythos, Lee Mather’s “Crooked” is a dark and violent drama. When we meet up with Leon Light, a.k.a. Lightfingers, he is making his way to Dale Howard’s place, though at the time we’re not sure why, then he heads over to his former girl Willa’s place. When he gets there Willa is missing along with their kid. Leon Lightfingers has been on the run from Jimmy Delvita, the Mouth of Truth, after taking his money for sixteen years, but his past has finally caught up with him. The history between Leon and Jimmy is deep. He took Leon in when he was just a kid, starting him in his burglary racket. All the sordid details play out from the time Leon is picked up by one of Jimmy’s henchman at Willa’s to the blistering finale at Jimmy’s headquarters. “Crooked” is one of the few stories in this collection with strong horror elements. Both Jimmy and Leon have acquired their power in tragic accidents. The former proudly displays a scar across his stomach known as the Mouth of Truth which mimics Jimmy’s emotion in its varying forms. And the latter can control objects with his mind, the result of a crippling beat down, and subsequent stroke, by his father. Only one can survive this final standoff. Vicious and cruel, “Crooked” is a heartbreaking story with a satisfying twist.

We get back into the mechanical gadgetry of superheroes with Trisha J. Wooldridge’s “Fixed.” Victoria Chattham works for a real asshole of a boss – excuse my language – Broderick. Despite her over qualifications in engineering, she’s treated like a glorified secretary. She also sports a prototype prosthetic arm, a project in which she was lead engineer. This bionic arm becomes the focal point of the story. Broderick needs her expertise to make an entire suit of the same caliber. This may sound a lot like Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, but this story isn’t about the suit or Broderick, it’s about Victoria breaking free from his corrupt power and taking back what is rightfully hers. But that requires hard work and late hours, both threatening to breakup her already fragile marriage with Bill, a serious hothead. Wooldridge reveals the volatile relationship between Victoria and Bill tactfully and the tension between them is palpable. The only trouble was I wasn’t particularly interested in them making it work. As I mentioned, Bill is a hothead, but not just a little irrational, he is at times violent and often whiny. I feel like I may have missed an integral point to what drives this relationship, besides their children. Victoria was relatable though. She’s obviously strong and highly intelligent, but marginalized for more than just her disability – she’s a Hispanic female in a predominantly male field. A minor downside for me, though, was a majority of the scenes were focused on the mechanics of the project Victoria is working on with heavy mechanical speak that went right over my head. This made it difficult for me to stay engaged. At the same time, that’s the point of the story! I suspect that fans who dabble in straight sci-fi, or fans that are less superficial than myself, won’t have that complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I like straight sci-fi too, but I struggle with too much technobabble.

Next up is a piece from a writer with a name worthy of only a tried and true badass, Cat Rambo and her short “Acquainted with the Night.” She has either the coolest name or pen name in the history of names. “Acquainted with the Night” is heavy on the supernatural elements focusing on a group of superheroes, the Weather Team, that enjoy a bit of pleasure with their work, in particular our protagonist Captain Hurricane. Unfortunately, Captain Hurricane can’t have the love he truly pines for, an alien from beyond Betelgeuse named Waterlily Elegance. “When she returned home to engage in the mating ritual that would lead to her explosion in a rain of seeds,” Captain Hurricane finds himself in the arms of Sunshine Princess. He can’t shake his infatuation for Waterlily Elegance and Sunshine Princess’ affection only fuels his anger and depression further. Too bad his convienent lay bears real fruit and Sunshine Princess reveals that she is with child. This is much like a fantasy-fueled Jerry Springer episode in its dramaticism, but despite this Rambo makes the whole tragedy play out in beautiful prose. All this culminates in a gut-wrenching conclusion that will turn any reader’s stomach. “Acquainted with the Night” has very light and dreamy prose, but seriously dark subject matter. Bravo to Cat Rambo for offering up a piece that lives up to the soft / hard dichotamy of her name.

That wraps up this edition of Bit by Bloody Bit. Remember when I said there would be no ressurection? OK, I lied. I know this isn’t the way to foster healthy relationships, but I promise this is the last time 😉

I’ll be back next week with the final two stories in this collection and the wrap-up!

Don’t wait for the conclusion to get your copy, you can pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Stop back next week for the real finale of Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition!