[Rev] End of Month Reviews - Jan 2004

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Sat Jan 31 02:10:27 PST 2004

End of Month Reviews - Jan 2004

     Before I start I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm doing this 
for *my* benefit and *not* yours.
     A statement that will no doubt need some explaining.
     Over the past few years that I've been putting out the end-of-year 
summaries for what LNH stories have been published on RACC, I've 
collected the posts from email into annual subdirectories on my computer 
so that I can collate their headers information at leisure. This has 
unfortunately caused me to develop a bad habit. Unless a particular post 
belongs to a series that I consider an immediate must-read, I tend to let 
it languish - in extreme cases until it's time for me to put together my 
RACCies nominations. This hasn't had much affect on my use of continuity, 
simply because I write so slowly these days (another flaw of mine) that 
I'm perpetually several years behind everyone else anyway. Nevertheless, 
I have come to the conclusion that this JUST AIN'T GOOD ENOUGH KIDDIES.
     So I'm going to experiment with a monthly review series in an attempt 
to force myself to read stuff in at least a pretence of a timely manner.
     Yes, I agree that it's probably one of the more ludicrous reasons 
for doing something. Yes, I'm aware that it will probably crash and burn.
     In any case, like I said, I'm doing this for my benefit, not yours.


Ultimate Mercenary #3
'The Genetically Engineered Vegetables of Wrath' part 3
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] miniseries
By Adrian McClure

     This is the only LNH story for January 2004. Ultimate Mercenary is 
still with the tribe of rebels fighting against the Vegetables, and in 
response to the plot derived deadlines apparently occurring elsewhere 
in the crossover that Masterplan Lad is concerned about, he sets about an 
     As it notes in its own introduction this is a belated tie-in with 
Martin Phipps and Jesse Wiley's _Flame Wars 6_ miniseries from last year. 
It's actually only a tangential tie-in so far. For this reason it's kind 
of hard to judge it as a tie-in, simply because there are so few points 
of commonality, although that may change. One thing I did notice however 
is that the threat of the Headhunters is developed far more slowly in 
_Ultimate Mercenary_ than in its parent title. Combine the evocative 
descriptions ("T-487 could see its shadow on his screen, like a great 
white shark beneath the waters") with the 'delayed ominous buildup' and 
I think the Headhunters come across as being somewhat scarier here.
     There are some nice moments of humour, both conventional situational 
(Ultimate Mercenary has to address a group of tribesmen and finds himself 
tongue-tied, so he follows the old piece of advice to imagine them all 
dressed in an embarrassing way, ends up laughing at them, and only some 
fast talking prevents a potential lynching) to the metatextual that's a 
frequent element of an LNH story (Varda argues with the Writer about 
being forced to be UM's love interest and gets deleted from the story).
     I found the brief bit of character development that Varda got 
interesting: Ultimate Mercenary is better than the brutes of her tribe, 
and obviously a source of hope for her people, but she still finds him 
annoying. A nice rounded reaction. And then the fully silly reaction when 
she refuses to be pushed into being Ultimate Mercenary's love interest, 
causing her to be deleted from the story and causing the whole thing to 
have to start from scratch.
     This actually has ramifications later in the story (despite the 
claims of the characters that the Adrian doesn't plan things in advance) 
when Ultimate Mercenary queries Varda's absence. Not only is it good for 
a 'what are you talking about?' moment from everybody else who can't 
remember her, but is then explicitly named as a new ability. This, 
combined with Ultimate Mercenary's growing awareness of his own 
limitations (his ninja coolness won't substitute for real leadership 
skills) has UM growing as a character. It remains to be seen whether the 
extent of this growth is limited to knowledge of his own shortcomings as 
he continues to squirm inwardly at his embarrassing failures in high 
school, or if he attempts to overcome them and develop the skills he 
needs. The plan to attack the Vegetables of Wrath through the sub-
basements suggests the latter.
     A similar touch of characterisation is seen in Masterplan Lad. 
Although he is one of the annoying Mysterious Strangers who are ticking 
Ultimate Mercenary off so much, he also feels his own irritation at trying 
to balance the dramatic tension of the story against plot points happening 
elsewhere. There is no such feeling of depth from the Old Man, who is the 
other Mysterious Stranger in this episode - but he wins a special place 
in my obsessive-about-continuity heart because of his exposition about 
the Dorfs.
     In fact the only substantive problem I have with this series is the 
numerous Mysterious Strangers with conflicting goals. I've found myself 
having to go back with each new episode to keep them straight. The 
introduction to part 3 highlights their presence and confusion, attempting 
to turn a drawback into a highlight. Hopefully further episodes will 
resolve their seemingly mutually contradictory plans into a clever plot 
point rather than a laboured joke.
Anthology 2
An Artifice Comics [AC] anthology series
'Johann Weisz, Magenta: Everything Dies (Lost Legacies Part I)'
By Matthew Cavazos 

     A combination of personal taste and focusing on other imprints means 
I haven't gotten into Artfice Comics. Usually I only skim the occasional 
AC title in case there's something that might interest me, and perhaps 
prompt me to go back and read some previous issues. However with only one 
LNH title this month I thought I'd try to pad out the post, and AC is the 
only other imprint that's been active this month. In fact, Artifice Comics 
has posted 4 stories in January 2004, leading me off on a tangent to muse 
about the irony of how the Rabbit Breeders Cup Award at the RACCies is 
given out to individuals rather than entire imprints. Incidentally, has 
anybody else been having trouble accessing the Artifice Comics webpage?
     In any case, the magician Johann Weisz is in a park reading residual 
energies from a battle when the arrival of an angel temporarily blinds 
him, and he's taken back to his old home to be told something about his 
destiny by his dead mother.
     For the most part Johann's personality comes across through his John 
Constantine-like irreverence to the occult forces he's involved with. 
He's rather sparing in expressing the anger that's supposedly building in 
him throughout the story, but considering that a) he's at a disadvantage 
because of his blindness, and b) that as a presumably experienced magician 
he should have brains and good professional habit to know to not tick off 
powerful entities, this lack of expression can be considered telling in 
itself. Nevertheless, I think a few more indications of internal emotion 
might have been useful.
     One problem I did have was with the speech of the angel, which was 
indicated only by context rather than with quote marks or suchlike. 
Unfortunately, partway through the story the narration shifts from third 
person to first person narration from Johann and then back again towards 
the end. Trying to differentiate the angel's speech from Johann's first 
person account interrupted the flow of the story for me.

Saxon Brenton     Uni of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
Saxon.Benton at uts.edu.au

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