[Rev] End of Month Reviews - Feb 2004

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Sun Feb 29 21:50:00 PST 2004

End of Month Reviews - Feb 2004
  Reviewed this issue:
      ASH #46 [ASH]
      Shadestalker #3 [AC]
  Quickie reviews:
      Anthology 2: Dragonfly: Paths of Destruction (Lost Legacies pt 2) [AC]
      The Team Director's Cut #7 [LNH]
  Also posted:
      Silver Shadow #14 [AC]
      The Spyder: Manhunt #1 [AC]
     Bad habits die hard. Even though all the stories posted this month 
came in the second half of February, this is no excuse for the way that 
I've procrastinated over most of them until the last few days before this 
is due.
     On the other hand, I might be able to wring an excuse out of the 
usual madness of enrolment period here at UTS. And past experience 
suggests that things won't get any better once Semester 1 actually starts 
in March. Argh!
ASH #46
'Shattering Hellas' part alpha
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
By Dave Van Domelen (Dvandom)
     The _ASH_ series is the flagship title of a superhero universe that 
deliberately sets out to be an alternative (future) history. As you would 
expect from such a beastie, it varies between superheroics and world 
building, usually mixing the two to some extent. This issue focuses 
primarily on the world building, most particularly on the Moslem 
Confederation, which as Dvandom noted last issue hasn't had much focus 
on it so far. Fortunately the various info-dumps are never allowed to get 
boring, since they're all generously alloyed with lots of character bits 
- even the cynical comments in the British newcast tell the reader some-
thing about the international rivalries involved.
     The central premise is Q'Nos the Minotaur continuing to consolidate 
his power base, setting the stage for the conflict to come in the next 
two issues. There's a fight scene where the Bull of Allah confronts Q'Nos 
to try to stop Q'Nos' annexation of Crete, but it's mainly ideological 
- physical combat is brief. The meeting gives human interest, and the 
brevity of the death of the Bull gives understated menace of Q'Nos's 
power, but the scene's true importance is as a starting point for the 
tale of the geopolitical manoeuvrings that follow. As excuses for info-
dumps go it works quite well; both the newscast and the longer scene of 
diplomatic wrangling flow smoothly out of that initial confrontation.
Shadestalker #3
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
'Epithamy' (Burning Bridges part 3)
By James Queally
     Well, this certainly has the feel of an ongoing Origin story in the 
early Spiderman style, as the protagonist Reggie Evans has Weird Stuff 
happen to him that gives him powers, and despite being motivated to try 
to sort out his life, things just keep going wrong. How far you could then 
take the comparison of the Brush With Death That Acts As A Life Changing 
Event is debateable. Nevertheless, it's certainly evoked in the scene 
where he reconciles with his mother - touching without be too sentimental 
(although I do quibble that woman strong enough to actively fight to keep 
a family together would break down and shed a tear when one of the family 
finally admits that he was being a twerp). By contrast Reggie's attempts 
to do the same with his father were not only doomed by Eugene's political 
ambitions, but will probably continue to be for some time to come. In 
fact, the consequences of Eugene's political presence seem to be at least 
one engine of plot to drive the series along in the future. And then 
there's the yakuza Kozu, whose ghoulish anticipation of the havok that 
the discovery of various dead bodies will cause marks him as a worthy 
plot generating troublemaker.
     I will admit to being somewhat surprised by revelation that Father 
McKinley and Reggie are being manipulated towards evil ends; that was a 
nice twist. But then I was also surprised that the syringe of wonder drug 
that Ren gave to Devon to be used in case of emergency actually *did* 
contain a drug to enhance speed; I was half expecting it to be an 
unwittingly self-administered suicide serum to prevent interrogations in 
case of capture. 
     Due to problems with formatting it once again it needs to be 
noted that the Artifice Comics stories are originally prepared for a 
website (http://www.artificecomics.com) and later reposted to 
rec.arts.comics.creative. This probably explains the odd line lengths; at 
first glance the original story looks to have been formatted with carriage 
returns at about every 100 letters or so, while its posting on RACC seems 
to have reduced the line length to the more typical usenet length of 
about 75-80 (although comparing it with the web page and using different 
browsers gives answers of no carriage returns, or ones at just over 200. 
     I didn't find this to be particularly bothering, since this was a 
readily recognisable effect. However, anybody who might be having trouble 
reading this sort of erratic word wrap should go to the original source.
That said, I did experience some minor distraction when occasionally a 
sentence would start without a capital letter. This is not a big issue 
in and of itself, but it did surprise me given that the AC website 
describes at least a minimum of editorial oversight.
Anthology 2: Dragonfly: Paths of Destruction (Lost Legacies pt 2)
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
By Bill Castonzo
     This one's all character driven. It's 1959, and in the wake of a 
teamup and battle against Lord of Lament, Millennium Man and Dragonfly 
reflect on things. Millenium Man's growing irritation with Dragonfly's 
mystical worldview is well handled.
The Team Director's Cut #7
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series compilation
By Jesse Willey
     This series reprints, with comments, _The Team_ series -- in this 
case covering the first annual, and #19-22. The continuity may be a bit 
confusing, since the events of the annual follow up on the destruction of 
the city of Sig.ago in #25. More generally, I've noticed is that Jesse 
does great internal monologues for his characters, but his confrontations 
tend to be terse to the point of being almost abstractions. Witness the 
contrasting points of view between the heroically motivated Boy Redundant 
Lad and the despairing Duplicator on the one hand, and the fight with 
Ominous on the other, both in the annual.
Saxon Brenton     University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au

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