[Rev] End of Month Reviews - June 2004

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Wed Jun 30 22:33:01 PDT 2004

End of Month Reviews - June 2004

  Reviewed this issue:
      Alt.Riders #24 and 25 [LNH]
      Anthology 2: Villains: Group Therapy [AC]
      Bride of C'thuhu #666 and 7 [LNH]
      Death of the RACCCafe [RACCCafe]
      Exarchs #29 [SG/LNH]
      Generation Zed, The New Class #5 through 8 [LNH2]
      Patents Pending Pitch, #1 and 2 [Misc]
      The Spyder: Manhunt #2 [AC]
      Vel #-5 through -2 [LNH]
      Wayward Son [AC]
  Also posted:
      Bride of C'thulhu #8 [LNH]

     This month being posted from the sunny mid-north coast of New South 
Wales, where I've been spending some mid-winter recreation leave with 
family, walking the dogs on the beach, and helping burn off scrub, long 
grass and deadwood in preparation for what will probably be another very 
hot and dry summer.
     Unfortunately, while I was indulging myself in the simple pleasure 
of slowly burning out a tree stump over the course of several evenings, I 
caught chill and came down with the flu. Please excuse me if I sound a 
bit croaky in the post that follows.
     Spoilers below.
Alt.Riders #24 and 25
'Speeed part 2' and 
' The Best of Both Worlds'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] Acraphobe series
By Jamas Enright
     #24 carries on the plot from 'Speed part 1' in last month's Captain 
Everything #1. In the wake of the good Captain's death at the hands of 
Speeed, the Alt.Riders are called in to help thwart the spate of diamond 
robberies in Got.ham city, and fail. But there's foreshadowing of future 
conflict as Speeed's current employer - someone calling themselves God - 
makes megalomanical comments.
     However, first comes #25, wherein the team has stumbled across the 
missing Barry Knewbee, only to discover that there's a separate 
Net.Elementalist (Barry's costumed alter-ego) running around as well. The 
Net.E is currently an obsessive and cranky camper fighting a horde of 
demons in Net.York, and in the ensuing fight scene with the demon's 
leader, Karmic Death, the Net.E quite casually prepares to sacrifice the 
lives of everybody in order to destroy the villain.
     While rereading these reviews for final touch ups in preparation for 
posting, it occurred to me that there were points of similarity and 
difference with the other 'mature audiences' story this month, the [AC] 
The Spyder. Both are solid adventure stories and both have situations 
where at least some of the mature content derives from inter-character 
conflict caused by obsessive behaviour from one or more of the 
protagonists. Both also show that you don't have to have *everyone* in 
the cast acting as an obsessive - having people stuck in the middle 
trying to cope (and clean up) after the extremists provides contrast. 
Alt.Riders takes that latter premise just a little bit further, adding 
touches of humour to otherwise tense situations.
Anthology 2
'Villains: Group Therapy'
An Artifice Comics [AC] anthology series
By Jason S. Kenny
     The supposedly powerless former villain Simon Cooper (Staticy) is 
growing *really* irritated with the group therapy sessions that are a 
part of his bail conditions, and in order to lash out in revenge he 
begins to organise a villain team with the intent of bumping off the 
heroes of Pacific City one by one.
     The counterpoint between Simon's anger and the bland facade that he 
presents is given an extra dimension by the way his accomplice Frank (the 
hyperkinetic Zoom Zoom) teases him as a stuffed shirt. Now, granted, 
Frank himself is treated with distain by pretty much everyone else he 
knows, so Frank's reaction to Simon may be based more on taking Simon for 
granted as the only person who talks with him to any extent rather than 
any indication of in-depth knowledge of Simon's character. Nevertheless 
they all go towards a clever little character piece about frustration 
and vindictiveness.
Bride of C'thulhu #666
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] cascade series
By Arthur Spitzer
     For anyone who hasn't had the fortune (or misfortune) to be steeped 
in long-term RACC silliness, the issue number is at least partly an 
in-joke. During the Saviours Of The Net cascade back in the late 1990s 
every third issue was numbered in an appropriate multiple of pi - goodness 
only knows what a hypothetical issue 12 of Bride will be posted as...
     Anyway, as part of a string of creative synergy too complicated to 
explain here, Arthur picks up one of the plot threads that Martin threw 
out in #5 and gives us an episode of the Legion of Net.Hippies back in 
the early 1970s. As per previous plot development, they're being mind 
controlled (of sorts) by Cyg.net.a, the Bride of C'thulhu - much to the 
consternation of Anti-Christ Lad and the Elder Chipmunks, who were 
previously the ones in control of the Net.Hippies. Then the Net.Hippies 
are informed that Richard Nixon has reputedly gone back in time to wipe 
out the dinosaurs, and set off to thwart him, nesting a second time 
travel story with the already established one.
     Cascade stories like this hearken back to the founding of the Legion 
of Net.Heroes, from which rec.arts.comics.creative ultimately sprang. 
It's weird, it's wonderful, and in addition to previously established 
Net.Hippies Arthur gives us such delights as Dr. TO-TI-DO (Turn On, Tune 
In, Drop Out) and Kid Kesey's Electric Kool-Aid Flight.thingee. On the 
one hand this sort of story is a fun romp for those of us who enjoy this 
sort of thing, and of course taking it seriously is optional. On the 
other hand, I can't help but notice that the move over the years towards 
the more structured format of writing established series has diminished 
the prevalence of add-on stories like this. As others have reminisced 
recently, a dearth of posts for only a few days once prompted the Three 
Day Lull cascade - but for better or for worse times have changed somewhat.
Bride of C'thulhu #7
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] cascade series
By Martin Phipps
     The Legion of Net.Heroes in the present (mid-2000s) recap the 
situation and the proposed solution of splitting up and having teams go 
to the 1920s, 1940s, 1960s (or 1970s, there seems to be a typo there) and 
the future to break Cyg.net.a's spell, put forward back in #5. Then they 
go out and actually make headway in doing it. Hmm, that looks suspiciously 
like plot advancement to me.
     This is a perfectly solid recap-the-situation-and-try-to-get-the-
plot-back-on-track issue, because the cascades have a tendency to wander 
a bit. They also have a tendency to develop time travel (sub)plots, as 
one of the running gags for the issue gleefully points out.
Death of RACCCafe
A [RACCCafe] post
By Arthur Spitzer
     Here's another bit of glorious silliness, whose main difference to 
the glorious silliness of the Bride of C'thulhu cascade is that any 
attempt at paying attention to events of previous stories is entirely 
optional. Yes, I know that historically the cascade/rotating writer 
stories have tended have a shaky grasp of continuity - the Saviours of 
the Net eventually used it as a plot point, and IIRC it was the death 
of the second RACC Challenge round-robin - but in this case it's written 
into the underlying assumptions of the setting.
     The two high concepts here are that the Chuggernaut gets to meet all 
of Arthur's other rec.arts.comics.creative and alt.comics.lnh characters, 
and then sets about rearranging the RACCCafe to his liking. Fun moments 
along the way include the writer's tips from the barman enamoured of the 
notion of chainsaw duels, and the Chuggernaut's argument as to whether he 
was the creation of Arthur or Jeff McCosky. Meanwhile it becomes clear 
that my habit of using obscure characters is something I'm never going 
to be allowed to live down. (I swear on a pile of Kurt Busiek comics, 
considering that the Net.Hippies were one-off characters from a flashback 
set 30+ years ago in the past, I thought that using Needs-A-Shave-And-A-
Haircut-And-A-Bath Man for a heroic death would be SAFE.)
Exarchs #29
A Superguy [SG/LNH] series
'Black Squirrel Nights'
By Dave Van Domelen (Dvandroid)
     My goodness, a Superguy story. Haven't seen one of those around here 
in quite some time. Hold up a second while I poke it with a stick just in 
case it's an explosive trap or something. Hmm, no, it's safe.
     After a long hiatus this series returns and promptly has the reason 
for the hiatus turned into exposition fodder as the characters make the 
type of comments that characters who are aware of their own fictional 
nature in a parody genre make in situations like this. Then they head 
off to the town of Marysville in Kansas, where Louie is meeting with the 
magically adept black squirrels about the anticipated arrival of agents 
from the Chinese celestial bureaucracy from another altiverse. Demons 
appear, but they are apparently illusions, begging the question of 
whether they are a distraction of some sort, and if so, for what.
     The first part is very silly, but works to underscore the fact that 
just because most of the team have come from one multiverse/genre imprint 
to a slightly more serious one, they shouldn't forget that 'slightly' is 
still a relative term. The rest of the story is a welcome advancement on 
the long running plot (from both Exarchs and the Crazy Guy series) of the 
antagonism that the gods bear to Jack and his father.
Generation Zed, The New Class #5 through 8
'The Mirror Cracked'  parts 1 through 4
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH2] series
By Martin Phipps
     In part 1 students at the Net.ropolis Academy are given a tour, 
including a cursory description of the time portation device and its 
abilities. In part 2 some of those student sneak back to use the time 
portation device, and from it receive potted descriptions of some of the 
alt.universes that have featured in the LNH imprint over the years. The 
students then decide on viewing one of the 'Evil LNH' universes, just in 
time to see the rebel mutant armies of Lagneto launch an attack on the 
Ultimate Emperor's tyrannical Legion of Net.Villains. An attack which, 
unfortunately, is distorted by the time portation device so that the 
rebels arrive in and assault the mainstream Looniverse and must be dealt 
with in part 3. Part 4 sees various visitors from the Oddball LNH 
Looniverse arrive - but as is the wont of the Oddball LNH, they tend to 
be more of an annoyance and distraction than a threat, and temporary 
annoyances and distractions at that. However, the arc closes with a scene 
from the Evil LNH setting where the mutant rebels have succeeded in 
overthrowing the LNV, only to have the evil version of Deja Dude I 
acquire rulership of the world by treachery and deceit.
     As is typical for Martin's work this story uses - and builds - on 
quite a bit of past continuity. However, in addition to all the nostalgia 
references there are also moments of satire. Particular favourites of 
mine were the reference in part 1 of the way that stories so often seem 
to depict alt.universes as much worse than the mainstream setting; and 
the LOL acknowledgement that the XXXLooniverse doesn't seem to have 
anyone under the age of 18 years old, and in any case no one risks 
getting pregnant there despite all the sexual shenanigans.
Patents Pending #1 and 2
'The Gantlet'  and 
'Misery Date'
A [Misc] miniseries
By Dave Van Domelen (Dvandom)
     These stories are in script format and represent the first two of 
six proposed eight page comics to go into a never produced anthology. The 
first issue includes a description of the series concept and set up: an 
otherwise normal patent attorney working (under duress) in a secret city 
that's the hideout for supervillains. The first story introduces the 
protagonist Jason Allan Gerald and the world he lives in now as he visits 
the mansion of Dr. Watt on business. In the second Jason takes a dentist 
named Carol (also a shanghied support staff member) on a date which is 
not-so-subtly undermined by the tech prodigy who controls the robots that 
run the city and who has a crush on Jason.
     The concept of an otherwise automated city for supervillains needing 
at least some mundane support staff is intriguing, and plays off the post-
modern notions of 'how does this work?' and 'how do normal people react 
to such weirdness?' that have been floating around the comics industry in 
one form or another since the mid 1980s. It's a pity that the anthology 
was never produced, as I suspect that this sort of thing might have done 
well. Now let's be blunt here: as a short story in an anthology put out 
by a minor publisher, not many people may have got to see it. On the 
other hand, in a market primed by Astro City, Dave's usual deftness with 
characterisation and ability to look at some of the more absurd comic 
conventions with wry rationalisation would mean that those who would have 
seen it would probably have appreciated it.
The Spyder: Manhunt #2
'The March of War'
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
By Bill Castonzo
     A heavy use of swearing marks this noir pulp story as the Spyder goes 
on the run and Harbour City is placed under martial law in an attempt to 
capture him. Political, police and press agitation all simmer for several 
days until a breakneck police car chase releases the tension for a while. 
Various character scenes along the way suggest that a number of the main 
protagonists are messed up in the head, with at best extreme obsessions, 
to at worst psychotic hallucinations.
Vel #-5 through -2
'The Man I Never Was'  parts 1 through 4
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH (LNH/LNH2)] miniseries
By Jesse Willey
     Just a quick reminder on formatting for the casual reader: the 
numbering on this series runs backwards from the negatives to zero.
     The half-human half-Dorf Vel is working as a disgruntled lab 
assistant to Doctor Stomper, but leaves after a disagreement. Both the 
Legion and Regal 13 are sent to capture him. In part 2 it becomes 
apparent that there are two versions of Vel, while in part 3 one version 
of Vel (the ex-lab assistant) and the net.heroine Jailbait are whisked 
through a portal to the Dorfian homeworld some 5,000 years in the past. 
Part 4 sees Vel and Jailbait surviving in harsh conditions, ending in a 
cliffhanger when Vel is confronted with an accusation of murdering Johnny 
Stomper from what is presumably the LNH2 future.
     Even before we get to the fight scenes, there's a lot of material 
for dramatic conflict here. Especially in the first issue Vel comes 
across more as a disgruntled teenager (angst and a grungy bedroom) than 
as an alien psychotic, and there's a lot that can be done with his 
confusion over his half breed identity (should he be civilised or is he 
the monster that the security forces treat him as?) as well as the risk 
of being too rough among the less physical durable earthlings. There's 
also a nice counterpoint in part 4 from Vel's warrior ethos when he 
wearily complains that humans like to eat meat but are reluctant to work 
in the abattoirs.
     The downsides of these stories are intermittent mistakes of spelling 
and grammar. Most of them are a minor annoyances and can be ignored, but 
on at least one occasion it caused more of a problem, when what was 
either an omitted word or comma forced me to go back and reread for 
comprehension's sake - which breaks the flow of the story. I initially 
also had troubles with Ultimate Ninja's over-the-top characterisation, 
but the teaser questions for #-4 suggests that this is a plot point, so 
I would advise readers to simply persevere on that front.
Wayward Son
'Et Sic de Similibus'
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
By Matthew J. Pierce
     Caleb Wayward continues to narrate a past adventure where he 
investigated a break-in and theft from a mausoleum that he maintains by 
proxy. In this issue Wayward discovers that the thief left a diversion 
for anyone who might come investigating: a lost and unquiet soul called 
a bonefreak attacks Wayward and his associates as it seeks a way to 
escape from its cadaverous prison.
Saxon Brenton     University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
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