[REV] End of Month Reviews #15 - March 2005 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Sun Apr 10 22:14:31 PDT 2005

[REV] End of Month Reviews #15 - March 2005 [spoilers]
Reviewed this issue:
      Abecedary of Evil #7-9 [Misc]
      ASH #56-57 [ASH]
      The Alt.Riders #34 [LNH]
      The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #17-18 [LNH]
      Guttertrash #25 [Misc]
      Just Imagine... Saxon Brenton's RACCies #22-23, Epilogue 
      Swamp Patrol #20-21 [Starfall]
      Time Capsules #7 [ASH]
      Vel #9-12 [LNH]
Also posted:
      The Discontinuous Adventures of Starlit Mansions 
      Stolen Garbage #9-10 [Misc]
     Once again, March has been insanely hectic. It's just 'that time 
of year'. Additionally however, I've been helping my sister with the 
design work of an alpine ecology-derived board/card game for her 
university science course, and we spent a lot of time over the last 
few weeks getting that ready for beta testing. In any case, these 
writeups are once again all over the place in terms of length, detail,
amount of insights, and the amount of babble I'm prepared to put into 
    Meanwhile, guerrilla advertising for favourite comic books: 
The GIRL GENIUS comic of Phil and Kaja Foglio is going online from 
18 April 2005. See: www.girlgeniusonline.com
    Spoilers below.
Abedecary of Evil #7-9
'Gorilla Friday'   ;  'Holtzmann'   and   'I... The Living Islet'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jamie Rosen
     Issue 7 features that old standby, a talking super gorilla. In 
this case the scientist super simian feels obliged by a death bed 
promise to his creator to continue her work to uplift to sapience all 
manner of plants, animals, and even otherwise non-living matter. This 
he does humbly, someone apologetically, and not without remorse. But 
it won't stop him; that will have to be left to the heroes.
     Issue 8 has an ordinary bank robber transformed by an alien's 
raygun and transmogrified into a shambling creature. He's turned back 
to normal by the intervention of a superhero who deduces that he needs
vitamin C.
     Issue 9 tells of how the islet I becomes self aware, then reasons
that the presence of a shipwreck survivor is the proximate cause of 
it's self awareness, and out of fear takes steps to make sure that 
no-one who arrives can ever leave.
     Overall I found #8 to be the weakest in plot, but paradoxically 
the strongest in the style it emulates. The problem is that for me the
mood it recreated was of one of the throwaway stories where weird 
stuff happens and has to be stopped. Jamie writes that it was designed
as Golden Age kitsch; my reaction was more Silver Age kitsch, but when
you get right down to it the kitsch of both periods tends to have 
significant overlap in its disposability. While it's certainly within 
the brief of costumed heroes to fix as many bizarre problems that come
along, this lacked the emotional weight of the other two stories.
Academy of Super Heroes #56-57
'Eager To Please'   and   'Bigger Problems'
The Romance of the Three Republics
An Academy of Super Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelon
     Breaker has been temporarily diverted to Singapore. Under the
rubric of building political goodwill she helps with both the training
of the local SEATO superteam, the Assembly of Heroes, and their
attempts at a resolution of the problem of the merlions in Singapore
harbour, as well as enduring rubber chicken state dinners. Issue 56
sees Breaker give up - for now - on getting the Assembly working
together as a team to the point where they clear out all the merlions,
and instead focus (successfully) on simply capturing one for study so
that a control method can be redeveloped. The issue ends with Breaker
confronting a Chinese Anchor saboteur who attempts to kill her. She
acquits herself well in the fight in issue 57. In fact, although he
outperforms her, Breaker exhibits none of the visceral fear that
previously troubled her when faced by proxies (metaphorical or
otherwise) for the Chinese government; she seems to be coming along in
confronting her fears just nicely, but then that was the rationale for
her coming on this goodwill tour in the first place. Things are
settled, a thank-you reception is arranged, but then the resentful
Giantess goes berserk during the speeches. Oops.
     Meanwhile, subplots continue to simmer. I admit to great
anticipation for when (presumably) Peregryn finally arrives at
Montreal on Venus; the several scenes over the last few issues suggest
that the will be a clash on political grounds - against the Sans Rogue
government and the anti-Sans Rogue rebels - complicated by whatever
geological upheavals seem to be occurring on Venus. Green Knight seems
to be turning into an undifferentiated blood clot with only an outward
human semblance, Simon Smith gets a possible prophetic dream, and
Beacon continues to socialise with Geod.
     But this month's extended psychobabble will be on the meeting of
Thom O'Ryan and his brother in issue 56. Thom foresees the rise of a
superhuman oligarchy - although his reasoning approaches it from a
different angle from that which Grind gave Solar Max in ASH #41. He
points out that since the Owens Effect means that increasing numbers
of superhuman parents will result in an increasing proportion of the
superhuman population, that the mere presence of so many superhumans
will have impacts on society. And since the superhumans of the ASH
universe are, at base, reality manipulators of the 'wishing lamp'
type, then they'll be able to arrange the world to taste.
     When you think about it, this puts a bit of a different spin on
the rise of superhumanity in the ASH universe to that in other story
universes. The ASH superhumans have a something of a loaded deck in
their favour compared to the Omegas or Marvel's mutant. (The mechanics
of the Wildcard might put them in a comparable position, but those
superhumans are hindered by living in a world forced to be a parallel
of Real Life, and so like Marvel and DC comics the logical
consequences of their powers will never be properly explored.) In any
case, the implications seem to be that the ASH superhumans will be
having an effect on their society earlier than their mere numbers
would otherwise suggest.
     These implications coincidentally tie in thematically with Time
Capsule #7 also released this month (see below). If one were taking
comfort in a conservative view of superhumanity's impact on the world
- that superhuman populations would for a long time be a minority -
then the Paraball League would probably have been 'just' one of a few
ways to sop up the activities of excess superhumans and keep them out
of trouble, in much the way that some ex-paragangers having been
getting older, thinking about their futures beyond the gangs, and
started taking up studies at the Academy. And in the here-and-now of
current ASH setting of 2025 it probably functionally is. However,
following through with the idea that superhumans will be having a
disproportionate impact, both in influence and/or numbers, Paraball
can be viewed as also being one of disparate threads of superhuman
culture that will develop and eventually consolidate together as the
proportion of superhumans grows. After all, no amount of Paraball can
hope to sop up an excess population of superhumans if that population
grows to become a majority of the population overall. Eventually the
sheer number of superhumans involved will mean that they cannot be
sidelined as 'singular' sportstars or paramilitary heroes - and their
mere presence and attempts to earn a living for themselves will begin
to have more and more of an impact of the mundane 'economy' - with all
of the possibilities for middle-class resentment and backlash about
'them' taking 'our' jobs that in our day and age are reserved for
other minorities.
     But under Thom's thesis, by then it would be too late, since
*numbers* of superhumans doesn't automatically correlate to how much
influence they have.
Alt.Riders #34
'Silence About The Sky'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamas Enright
     After the events of the Alt.Riders Election Special, the
Net.Elementalist comes and collects the other members of the team from
prison, where they've been since they were mind-controlled into trying
to assassinate the president of the Loonited States. It seems that
Net.York city has been emptied of all living things, and in return for
a presidential pardon the Alt.Riders have to investigate. They enter,
some of them have an obligatory run-in with a looter named Ninja-san,
while others discover that absence of people is directly related to a
civic attempt to get peace in the city. The latter information is
forwarded to the LNH for Occultism Kid. Then at the end Rotanna turns
up, still tracking the parasite that passed through her dreamland, and
it turns out that Missy is pregnant.
     Considering how harshly Agent reacted to the Net.Elementalist at
the suggestion of being involved in the assassination attempt by his
own choosing, I think his insouciance to the rest of the team when he
insisted that he could have escaped at any time and would have if he
felt it necessary is... based on fact but probably gilded with a very
large measure of posturing. Although sometimes it's hard to tell with
Agent, because in many ways he's as alien as Missy; it's just that
he's better at faking human reactions. And speaking of reactions, the
team's collective 'Again' reaction to having been mind controlled was
hilarious, but this being a slightly darker toned book it was
appropriately leavened with some embarrassment on the part of the
The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #17-18
'The Beginning Of The End'   and   'The End of the Beginning'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamie Rosen
     The various team members split up to investigate different
occurrences, although Miss Translation stays home, working hard at
writing a brief letter to announce her departure. Lamar goes to a
focus group meeting to try to work out a new name for the team, and
there gets attacked by Major Dad and his android Nielson Family (and
their television references), who are out for revenge against focus
groups. Starts-Arguments-For-No-Apparent-Reason Kid and Normalizer put
a stop to someone covering everything and everyone in the library with
plastic. And Sleeps-With-Anything-Alive Lass and Blue Wave go to the
maternity ward of the hospital to investigate why so many paranormally
powered babies are being born.
     This is all perfectly readable comic book homages and parody, and
in particular I was sideswiped by the Kid Paternity gag. That left me
sniggering for a while. On the subplot front it seems that Miss
Translation feels she must leave, but of course the fact that her
feelings and motivations tend to be opaque to the reader leaves a lot
of mystery about why this should be so. We'll have to see how her team
mates react; I suspect it will be with appropriately interesting
amounts of confusion and argument.
Guttertrash #25
'A Suicide In Destiny City'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Arthur Spitzer
     Arthur gets the okay to resurrect Abhay's old Guttertrah series
and tells a bittersweet story of dissatisfaction with utopia. It's a
four part post, by the way. Anyway, a shining happy utopia is
presented, with a crime scene. Members of the now-defunct Destiny
Patrol, The Mirror and Shadowraiser, investigate the death of a woman
that looks bafflingly like a suicide. Clues are followed in the
victim's VR system logs, leading to a tableau of disturbing scenes.
Then the pair talk about the case and the possible motivations behind
it, which broadens into a wider discussion of dissatisfaction with
perfection. This is contrasted with a 24 Minute Story in the notes
section at the end.
     In the notes Arthur also muses on whether the twist ending makes
or breaks the story. Makes, in my opinion. When it was first revealed
that the scenes of the first two parts were VR fabulations, my
immediate reaction that the entire world had been a falsehood, and
that Charlie had been taking refuge behind a totally artificial
identity of Shadowraiser. Then came the growing realisation that there
really were nanobots to take care of a person's every whim and that
everyone really was invulnerable. This refocused the theme of the
issue squarely onto Charlie's desire for Alice and his inability to
deal with her suicide. It also raises interesting questions about
whether the anti-suicide stance of the VR Alice had any basis in fact
or whether it was the creation of Charlie as he creates a
near-Freudian idolisation of her - but then, as noted, the story is
deliberately ambiguous in some regards.
Just Imagine... Saxon Brenton's RACCies #22-23 and Epilogue 
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] and RACCies [RACCies] cascade
by Saxon Brenton   ;   Martin Phipps   and   Martin Phipps
     Naughty Martin. Naughty, mischievous Martin. I was going to pass
over a writeup of this cascade, but Martin decided to jump to the
Epilogue before the penultimate few chapters had been written, so I
suppose I need to explain that while it's be *concluded* it hasn't
been *done*. And now that I'm here I'd better do a plot summary.
     Issue 22 is an interlude which is hopefully amusing, but with no
advancement in the plot.
     Issue 23 takes up straight after the RACCies ceremony. The evil
robotic duplicates are revealed and much exposition of the plot takes
place. It turns out that the court case was won, and that the virus
that had been threatening the story archives had been thwarted. This
leaves finding the kidnapped LNHers as the only major task remaining.
     The Epilogue winds everything up, revealing that Firewing and
Bluetooth did indeed try to betray the other LNHers at the bidding of
the Shoe Devil and the Grapety Purple Man, and that the only (known)
remaining Manga Man is Manga Man Gold after the horrible fate of Manga
Man Black and the self-sacrifice of Manga Man White (this is getting
as bad as the Acton Lord multiplicity; ob. really old LNh reference:
which of the Manga Men had the really bizarre taste in pizza
toppings?). In other news the characters think they've caught up and
sorted out their continuity (except for Limp-Asparagus Lad's, which is
still receding at a vast faster-than-light velocity despite the siding
time scale) and Cheesecake-Eater and aLLiterative Lass have had a baby
Swamp Patrol #20-21
'The All-New, All-Different Swamp Patrol'  and  'Going Out Of My Head'
Continuity Breakdowns part 3 and 4
A Starfall [Starfall] series
by Jamie Rosen
     Returning home from investigating the earthquakes and confronting
the Mole Men of the previous issue, the Swamp Patrol finds themselves
in an X-Men pastiche: Frank's house is inhabited Inspector Carruthers
(sporting the name Professor Carruthers, baldness, and a wheelchair)
and an alternate version of the Swamp Patrol with a mission to promote
understanding between normals and Paragene Actives. The main
characters of the series are welcomed as long-though-dead founding
members of the Swamp Patrol, and then a fight scene between the
X-version of the Swamp Patrol and the Disciples of Evil of a similarly
revamped Redemption renders them unconscious in time for the next
shift in paradigm.
     Issue 21 sees the main characters imprisoned as mental patients,
with backhistories which, if true, suggest a variety of sometimes
violent conditions. They escape, only to discover that the hospital
exists in a grey void.
     It's coming towards the end of the arc, so presumably we'll start
to unearth solid evidence as to who or what's playing silly buggers
with their headspaces.
Time Capsules #7
'Paraball 2025 Wrap-Up'
An Academy of Super Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelon
     This issue's historical document is a pamphlet spruiking the
history and current (2025) season of the Paraball League, and
naturally enough focuses on the hows of developing a baseball variant
for superhumans and how it interacts with the non-superhuman leagues.
Vel #9-12
'This Is Spinal Taup'   and   'Interlude'
Schroedinger's Planet  parts 6 and 7
'The Rebel Letter'   and   'The great And Perilous Journey'
The Search For Carina  parts 1 and 2
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] (and occasionally [LNH2]) series
by Jesse Willey
     Schroedinger's Planet comes to a conclusion. Taup tries to steal
the remnants of the Power Kirby within Sing-Along Lass, is thwarted,
but manages to (rather gruesomely) steal the body of the monk Vel.
This, however, is all just a distraction from the real task of trying
to save the planet Haven, which Vel manages to do by creating a number
of Asteroid L-like satellites and making it *seem* as though Haven
blew up. The quantum bubble remains, however, leading to ambiguity
about the whole thing. During all of this, Sing-Along Lass went
missing, and the next arc starts off a search for her. This is
complicated by a rebellion by the letter Q, and if subplots are any
indication will be further complicated by the return of Screw You Over
     I am of mixed mind about the retention of the quantum bubble and
the resulting ambiguity about Haven's fate. On the one hand it creates
a slightly ironic state of affairs that it had been created by the
actions of Vel and his companions, and therefore was a symbol that
they had *probably* always saved Haven once the causality had worked
itself out - but that they couldn't have been sure of that when they
took up the task. On the other hand my first reaction was this was a
needless dumping of angst onto the already brooding Vel's shoulders.
After all, it's not as though we haven't had time travel stories
before where history is unambiguously corrected. And on other matters,
the rule that Carina will turn up again because unless you see the
dead body a superhero isn't dead also applies to villains; wonder what
Taup's going to be up to with the other Vel's body?.
Saxon Brenton    University of Technology, city library, Sydney
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au 
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