[REV] End of Month Reviews #13 -- January 2005 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Tue Feb 1 13:41:18 PST 2005

End of Month Reviews #13 -- January 2005 [spoilers]
Reviewed this issue:
      Abedecary of Evil #1-4 [Misc]
      Cauliflower the Christmas Miracle Pooch #4 [LNH]
      The Continuing Adventures of Miss Translation #12-14 [LNH]
      George Washington and the Gods of Old #1 [Misc]
      Just Imagine Saxon Brenton's RACCies #1-5 [RACCies/LNH]
      Looniverse Y #2-4 [LNHY]
      President Evil: A-Pack-o-Lies #4 [Misc]
      Shadestalker #8 [AC]
      Swamp Patrol #19 [Starfall]
      Vel #3-6 [LNH/LNH2]
Also posted: 
      Google.mesh #8 [LNHY]
      The Inevitable #2 [AC]
      Teen Fascists #8 [LNHY]
     So then. A whole year's worth of reviews done. And only now does
it occur to me that perhaps I should actually number the blasted
things. One finds oneself wondering if one is slowly going senile. I
am a COOT (Comic Owner Over Thirty) you know.
     Oh yeah, and it is now TOO LATE to put in nominations for this
year's RACCies awards. So there. Nyeah.
     Spoilers below.
Abedecary of Evil #1-4
'Aa'  ;  'B.B. Gunn'  ;  'Cauliflower Ear'  and  'Dr. Vista'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jamie Rosen
     Jamie Rosen returns to RACC ('falls back onto the face of the
internet') and demonstrates that he's been building a backlog of
stories. The Abedecary of Evil series is a collection of short stories
based on the theme of villains. Although billed as a daily series to
get Jamie into the flow of writing again, so far it's only produced
four issues. Considering everything else that he's posted this month I
think we've got grounds for hope that he's simply busy with other
projects and hasn't felt the need.
     In any case, the first issue covers the travails a cosmic entity
called Aa, followed by the story of B.B.Gunn (a villain who is
targeted by one of the next generation of villains), the therapy
session of Cauliflower Ear, and finally the secret origin of Dr.
Vista. Each story has a wildly different tone, which for the most part
works in each story. The story of Aa, for instance, has a wistfulness
about it. 'B.B.Gunn' and 'Dr. Vista' both have more straightforward
tones, while 'Cauliflower Ear' has a strong sense of the surreal.
     I'm afraid I must have been feeling particularly dense the day I
read (and reread) the first issue, since it simply did not click with
me that the sense of witsfullness created by the story was also being
felt by the mortals -in- the story - that in fact it was the vague
sense of unease that was supposed to be haunting the mortals that was
the reason that Aa's actions could be classified as 'villainy'. It
wasn't until I read the Dr. Vista story, which was more explicitly
about perception of what constitutes a hero and a villain, that Aa's
angst made sense.
Cauliflower the Christmas Miracle Pooch #4
'Beyond Heaven and Hell'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] miniseries
by Arthur Spitzer
     The concluding part of the Cauliflower miniseries continues to
grow rather thoughtful after the exuberant silliness of the first two
issues. Not that there isn't silliness here: even before we get to
stuff like the throw away line about the sentient snowmen, there's all
the bizarre celebrity-hype-run-mad that happens even in the real
world. But the focus of the story is on the Incredible
Man-With-No-Life as he gives a tour and pep talk to Misty Summer, the
little girl whose life was saved by Cauliflower. The Yggsdrasil like
growth of the One True Christmas Tree was a nice touch, as well.
The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #12-14
'Settling In'  ;  'Touching Down'  and  'Finding Out'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamie Rosen
     Miss Translation and her team mates settle into their new
head-quarters, and get a clue as to where the Normalizer and
Cheesecake-Eater Lad went from the gift basket sent by Mr Everywhere
which includes an invitation to visit the Net.Santo corporation. Along
with Cannon Fodder, they fly to Se.alt.le (using frequent flyer cards,
no less) - or more specifically, they get as far as the ruins of
Sig.ago before they have to make an emergency landing in a giant mound
of salsa. Fortunately Mr Everywhere has anticipated this and has sent
some of his minions to give the heroes a ride for the rest of the way.
Upon arrival they are given the direct answer that Normalizer and
Cheesecake-Eater Lad had been co-opted in order to create a
normalising cheesecake that could be used to cure the victims of
net.ahuman experimentation. (I immediately thought of the current
'cure for the mutant gene' plotline currently running in Whedon's
_Astonishing X-Men_ and started gibbering to myself about the
possibilities if the recipe somehow got into general circulation.)
     Of these three issues I got into #13 the most, and yes, that was
definitely because of the focus on Negative Manny, his powers and
origin. But in addition to some characterisation (despite the fact
that Miss Translation herself has the schtick of being
semi-incomprehensible, I welcome the instance of getting into her
headapce) there is an almost Grant Morrison-esque sprinkling of weird
ideas: the siren-like hakemon (curious that Mr Everywhere couldn't
anticipate its presence, but could foresee that something would bring
down the plane), the use of the salsa for crash landings, or Man.bat
(half man, half batch command)...
Just Imagine Saxon Brenton's RACCies #1-5
A Rec.arts.comics.creative Awards [RACCies] (actually LNH) cascade
by Andrew Perron, Jamie Rosen, Saxon Brenton, Andrew Perron and Martin
     Okay then, let's try to look at this objectively, shall we?
Despite the fact that I often quite enjoy cascades, I think that it's
important to remember that only a small proportion of the ones that
get started on RACC ever get finished. Additionally, the rotating
authorship means that the occasional flashes of brilliance of
characterisation, plot or theme aren't likely to be sustained.
Cascades are for fun, which is why they're typically LNH or Misc
imprints items. That this one started off with a RACCies imprint label
was original and intriguing, but not particularly significant. (In any
case this has since turned out to be a bit of confusion on the part of
Eagle, the RACC moderator, thanks to the title of the thing, and
Andrew confirms that it was intended to be kind of sort of LNH anyway.
I'll try to bear that in mind for future, and reset headers if/when I
write another episode.)
     In any case, the use of RACCies imprint wasn't likely to affect
the style of the story too much. An Omega or ASH cascade would have a
completely different feel of course, but frankly they would either be
planned out behind the scenes (becoming effectively a multi-writer
miniseries rather than a cascade) or happening over the imprint
owner/editor's dead body. Running off from that line of thought: I did
initially have concerns that a RACCies cascade might get careless with
who could or could not appear, and the effects that, for instance,
even an out-of-continuity team up of Team M.E.C.H.A., the New Mages
and the Academy of Superheroes could have, and was even running some
ideas through my mind on how to head off that sort of thing, but
fortunately the clarification about the imprint in the resulting
discussion thread has rendered that pretty much moot.
     Anyway, part 1 sees long time Legion foe Manga Man discovering a
threat to the story archives and setting off to warn the LNH. In parts
2-5 he finds an LNHer, fights him in a typical comic book
misunderstanding, then gets beaten and brought in, thereby giving him
the opportunity to put his case. Meanwhile, in parts 2-4, Pointless
Awards Man II was lamenting having been killed off (in the Flame Wars
VI crossover), but after a conversation with some stereotypically
waffly RACC readers PAM2 gets better for no particular reason and goes
to see the LNH as well, arriving in part 5. Then some new menaces -
the Shoe Devil and the Grapety Purple Man - show up.
Looniverse Y #2-4
'LNH Assemble!'  ;  'Extinction of Vengence, Chapter One'  and 
'Extinction of Vengence, Chapter Six'
A Legion of Net.Heroes Y [LNHY] series
by Martin Phipps
     It's ironic that after Arthur's launch of the LNHY imprint with
_Looniverse Y_ as its flagship title, people got enthused and wrote
quite a few stories but tended to ignore the flagship. Now Martin
picks up the ball. Issue 2 sees the villains Road Rager and Madman
Middle Finger disposed of, and Kid Kicked Out managing to talk Van
Hel.Sig into joining his new team, before both of them going off to
rescue Buxom the Vampire Slayer from Rec.ula (later, RACCula) the Lord
of the Vampires.
     Issues 3 and 4 are both somewhat different, in that they are part
of a multi-part, multi-series crossover based on the now decade old
'Acts of Vengeance' crossover from Marvel. Various villains team up
and play pass-the-parcel with their usual opponents, hoping to catch
the heroes off-guard and thereby defeat them. That plan is then seen
carried out through _Teen Fascists_ #8 (chapter 2), _Google.mesh_ #8
(chapter 5) and _Looniverse Y_ #4 (chapter 6), with references along
the way to events of other chapters in titles not actually published
on RACC. Mr Serious manages to kill Google.mesh, but a rescue mission
to Hell is able to save him.
     Now then, after reading through these and trying to think up
something that can at least pretend its profound, it occurred to me
how much of a difference in style there is to many other series posted
here. I sat and chuckled through 'Extinction of Vengence' (my
favourite part was the argument between Swell Boy and Before Satan Guy
as to whether it was wrong to tell the Teen Fascists the truth and
force them to think for themselves rather than let them keep their
faith) but afterwards realised that it was a different form of
entertainment to, say, something like the lengthy and emotionally
involved fight in the most recent Shadestalker. I think I once
summarised Martin's writing style to him in email as 'stripped down
racing plots'. Half the time it seems that they're a short story with
touches of deft but minimalist characterisation, while at other times
they come across more as an outline of a story than the story itself,
with the characters basically acting as talking heads.
     The point is that while I find this style readable enough, it
does leave me occasionally vexed and wanting to see more of the
characters and their lives. Not that mere brevity of story itself can
contribute to this: I originally made the same sort of complaint of
Paul Hardy's 'Death of the LOHverse' story in _Legion of Occult
Heroes_ about what happened to all the counterparts in that other
Looniverse: If you create an intriguing set-up and characters then you
have to expect that readers will want to read a lot about them. (Come
to think of, the balance of geopolitcs and a large ensemble cast in
_Academy of Super Heroes_ sometimes gives the same effect.) The
substantial difference between these examples however, is that with
the already lengthy and detailed episode, if the reader becomes so
involved with the characters he can consol himself with the not
implausible rationalisation that a balance of length means that not
everything could be shown. By comparison, shorter stories, especially
ones in précis form, run the risk of a 'Is that all? Aww.' reaction.
George Washington and the Gods of Old #1
'How Washington Was Summoned By The Gods Of Old On December 25, 1776'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Tom Russell
     After a mythopoeic framing sequence, the story begins with
Washington crossing the Delaware. Washington encounters an old god
that is ennamed Cassandra, and he is invited to accompany Cassandra to
meet the other old gods. Their conversation is carried out with an
immense gravitas that stands in stark contrast of the inability of
Washington's men to be serious, even in the face of having their heads
President Evil: A Pack-o-Lies #4
'The Second Term'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] cascade
by Jamie Rosen
     And here's another cascade. Pregnant Chad is captured by Lion
Brain, while the other Random Heroes continue to fight zombie senior
     You know, I think I'm going to have to go back a reread this
series. I'd completely forgotten that this cascade even existed.
Shadestalker #8
'Drowning Effect'  (Higher Ground  part 3 of 5)
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
by James Queally
     This story, like _The Inevitable_ #2 by C. William Russette, the
other Artifice Comics post for this month, appears on RACC as a
teaser. You'll need to follow the link to the AC webpage to get the
full issue.
     Having been beaten badly by Coda and the Shadow Wraith, Reggie is
offered an unpleasant choice about who, precisely, Coda will kill.
After a painful power upgrade (which left me wondering, how 'sub' is
the sub dermal change? Deep enough to affect all the veins and
arteries, totally replacing his body's blood supply with shadow?) Coda
sends Reggie off to fight and kill the Shadow Wraith. Meanwhile Ren
and Fusamasa begin to make plans to control the next District Attorney
through his wife so that when things quieten down a bit, they, as
mobsters who've accumulated themselves a history for failure, don't
get cleared out as deadwood.
     Teenage melodrama is combined onto the AC imprint's pulp tone to
create an eminently readable confrontation and fight scene. Despite
AC's harder edge than most of the parody stories that appear on RACC,
I've found that _Shadestalker_ doesn't go overboard in trying to be
seen to be hard edge - for instance, its use of swearing tends to be
judicious rather than gratuitous. I only just realised how fond I was
of this series when, after reading this issue, I saw in retrospect how
much influence it had had on the creation of Martin Wryce in the
_Daily Super Short-Short Story_ - which would partly explain how I
ended up dropping the 'adult priest has to cope with gaining
superpowers' of the original Knight of Saint Christopher concept in
favour of the 'late teenaged seminary student has to cope with gaining
superpowers' instead.
Swamp Patrol #19
'Subterranean Homesick Blues'  (Continuity Breakdowns  part 2)
A Starfall series
by Jamie Rosen
     After a lengthy hiatus of almost 3 years the Swamp Patrol
returns. Prince Hiddeus of the mole men organises an invasion of the
surface world, including a series of earthquakes as a softening up
technique. Unfortunately, neither he nor his army know about, nor have
made preparations for, the brighter light levels on the surface - a
fact that the captured Swamp Patrol members are able to use to their
     My initial impression was that this issue was a little bit
lighter on characterisation than I remember previous issues being.
Rereading it, I think that derives from 'got nothing better to do'
attitude that the characters take to investigating the earthquakes, as
well as the way Pete stops for a picnic during the investigation. The
plot with mole men is handled well enough, but I got the impression
that the story itself was marking time until the main point of the arc
came into play. I think this might be deliberate, in that some of the
characters seem to feel as though they're drifting along, as Shelley's
'fifth wheel' dialogue indicates, but we'll have to see where this
Vel #3-6
'Tenses'  ;  'Road To Dorfia'  ;  'Was, Is, Will Be'  and
'The Ripple Effect'  (Schroedinger's Planet  prologue, 1-3)
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jesse Willey
     The lives of the two alternate Vel's - the one who stayed on
earth and the one who went back in time to become the legendary Savior
of ancient Dorfia - come together in a story wrought with time travel.
Savior Vel is making preparations to influence and not-influence
history into the right direction, in the process having his reputation
teeter between a wise man and babbling lunatic as he applies future
knowledge and methodology to the problem. Earth-based Vel gets a
warning from some friends in the LNH of subspace distortion around
present day Dorfia, heralding a ruined/not ruined paradox; he and the
LNHers enlist the help of Nick Starless to travel to ancient Dorfia.
Mean while Vel's LNH2 future son Dran rescues Sigmund Freud from an
attack, and there are indications that I found rather ominous about
the possible development of the Cascaders from Dorfian heretics.
Saxon Brenton    University of Technology, city library, Sydney
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au 
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