Thursday, November 18, 2010

Masked Review: Secret Identity

Paul Cornell wrote this story. Who, if you did not know, also worked on Doctor Who. What episode, you ask? Oh, just "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood." Also known as the most quotable two-partner of Doctor Who EVER.

His blog is located here.

He's kinda cute, too.

On to the review! Watch out for spoilers.


There's this scene only a couple pages in where a group of university kids try to get into a gay bar. The bouncer refuses them entry on the basis that they're straight. The Manchester Guardian doesn't understand how this makes sense. The bouncer explains they're only here to point and laugh. The Manchester Guardian still doesn't understand, and frankly, neither do I.

What kind of straight people go to a gay bar just to make fun? Have they never heard of lesbians? Have they never even seen a lesbian? If there is one thing I know to be true, it's that you NEVER fuck with lesbians. The only conclusion I can draw is that these kids have absolutely no problem with... No. They actively desire to wake up in a Dumpster the next morning, their wallets and purses empty, their faces broken up and reconstructed like they'd been worked on by a knife-wielding Picasso.

The before is on the right. Don't laugh. She'll never be a model now.

The Manchester Guardian is the superhero of Secret Identity if you haven't caught that yet. He's gay. Not just a superhero who's gay, but a gay superhero. The difference is important and necessary to this short story. As a gay superhero, the Manchester Guardian can't wear a mask. It wouldn't make any sense. He'd be hiding who he was.

It's here where a number of Superman parallels pop up. The Manchester Guardian's real name is Chris Atlas. His boyfriend's name is Jim Ashton. Jim gets referred to (in story!) as Lois Lane. Chris wears glasses, and Jim lampshades what a piss poor disguise that is. Because, really, everyone in the Superman-verse is probably brain-damaged from all the kryptonite that's just lying around, saturating their water supply. Plus, both Superman and the Manchester Guardian have the same powers. Although, Superman's are because he's an alien, and the Manchester Guardian gets his through a magic word. Which is more Captain Marvel than anything else, but whatever.

You also get the question of who exactly Jim is dating. Is it Chris or the Manchester Guardian? This is something I associate more with the movie Spider-Man 3. If you've never seen it, there's this scene where Mary Jane flips a shit over Spider-Man kissing another woman for some publicity photographs. Never mind that Mary Jane is an actress and KISSES OTHER PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.

IRL, too! What a bitch.

Here's where the twist comes in. When Chris is the Manchester Guardian, he's straight. When he utters the magic word, his body changes. Muscles forged from pure fire and testosterone, flight, bulletproof teeth, etc. A side effect, Chris and Jim speculate, is that his brain chemistry alters in such a subtle way it renders him heterosexual. He's already had sex with a female cat bugler (holy shout out, Batman!) and he's afraid he won't be able to resist next time he encounters her.

Jim is understandably upset at this turn of events. And it's nice to know that Chris is, too. He wouldn't be very heroic if he wasn't.

Luckily, much earlier in the story, he was able to procure a supervillain's hat that grants wishes so he's able to wish himself into two separate entities. Chris and the Manchester Guardian. Happy endings for everyone!

See, I liked Secret Identity. It's a cute story and doesn't try to be anything other than that. There's minimal angst, the dialogue is realistic, and I LOL'd in multiple places. As opposed to Cleansed and Set in Gold, which had a great premise and only a so-so execution, Secret Identity has an eh premise, but it's polished perfectly. It manages to hit every note it needs to succeed. We get little details here and there on how the world has adapted to superheroes and villains; it even touches on issues of coming out, acceptance, and identity. Normally I'd probably give a story like this a 3, but since Paul Cornell obviously knows what he's doing, I have to give it a 4 out of 5. He really took the time to edit and make what little plot he had shine.




    I hope he put that into the story somehow.

  2. I would have made sweet, sweet geeky love to Paul Cornell if he had.

  3. Can't you do it anyway? And adopt sweet, sweet, geeky babies?

  4. I don't know how his wife would feel about that. You know how the British are.