[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #17 - May 2005 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 4 00:03:09 PDT 2005

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #17 - May 2005 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      Academy of Super-Heroes #59 [ASH]
      The Alt.Riders #36 [LNH]
      The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #19 [LNH]
      Journey Into... #1 [8FOLD]
      Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #3 [LNH]
      Pointless Posting Man #4 [BP]
      Speak! #2-3 [8FOLD]
      Template #2 [8FOLD]

Also posted:
      Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #4 [LNH]

     Tearing myself away from reading _Science of Discworld 3_, which
came in Wednesday (almost a month after it was released overseas,
rassing' frassin' massin' grassin'...) to finish off the last of these.
     Oh yeah, and that ecology project game that I was going on about a
few months ago? Bobbie got a High Distinction for it at 92%. Thank
goodness, considering the amount of work we both put into it (although
I mainly did graphic design...)
     Guerrilla advertising: Eric Burns' webcomic 'Gossamer Commons' may
be found at:  http://www.gossamercommons.com
     Spoilers below.


Academy of Super-Heroes #59
'Ox-Body Technique'
The Romance of the Three Republics
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     The penultimate chapter of the 'Romance of the Three Republics'.
Breaker goes undercover in the People's Republic of China, gets a job,
starts nosing around, gets caught, and as a cliffhanger is about to have
plot exposited at her. Meanwhile Grind is still back in Central Asian
Confederation, is nosing around, gets caught, and as a cliffhanger is
about to have plot exposited at him as well. Mmm, yes, those scenes would
have worked nicely in an illustrated comic running parallel top and bottom
of the page. That said, the parallelism of those same scenes also hints
strongly that they are two halves of the same topic, and thus that the
Western Dragon may in fact be involved in some form of complicated
political manoeuvring with the PRoC, ala Kippling's 'The Great Game'.
     Meanwhile there's subplots and incidental action. Venus undergoes
another whopping ecological transformation. Exactly who's doing it and
what their agenda is will be big questions up there with how the fallout
will affect the politics in Montreal. It only just occurs to me that the
'how' may be something as simple as using the magical symbolism of Venus
being Earth's 'sister world', but since it's such big juju the who may
very well be tied up with the hints of involvement by the gods. There's
also concerns that Fury's son Chris might grow up socially deprived as a
consequence of his growing time manipulation powers. And along the way
there were some nice touches about the dichotomy of China's 'march back
to the past': my reaction to the use of calligraphy on computer screens
was 'Now there's an interesting permutation of Neo-Ludditism'.

The Alt.Riders #36
'What I Did On My Holidays: Agent: Paranoid Eyes'  and
'What I Did On My Holidays: Missy: Go Where Ya Wanna Go'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamas Enright

     A solo story featuring Agent, followed by a... well, I suppose you'd
call it a backup strip featuring Missy. Agent is taking part in a drinking
game, gets drugged unconscious, and spends the rest of the story trying to
track down those responsible in increasingly ruthless (and in the case of
the TV station hijack, melodramatic) ways. In the end it doesn't do him
much good, as while he is staking out a designated meeting place with a
sniper rifle he is shot through the head. In the second story Missy
returns to her homeworld and her lab, only to discover that a) 60 years
have passed, and b) the Moles are planning a revolutionary movement called
Zinkenite to gain independence from the Chubs, which Missy fears may lead
to another civil war.
     I have to admit I hadn't expected Agent's idea of a good time to be
drinking contests. I didn't really have any preconceived notions of what
I think he would enjoy, probably because I've always seen him so alien in
psychology, but drinking contests weren't contenders. The ruthlessness
was par for the course given his self-description when he appeared on
Drake's talk show, and it was amusingly counterpointed by his grasp of
the baser side of human psychology when he earned his freedom from the
TV station with the increased ratings for his televised siege. As I sit
trying to come up with something at least moderately relevant to say on
the story, it occurs to me to wonder how far Agent's grasp of human
psychology goes. Is it the case that he could have used less violent
means to get his way but just didn't care, or is he more like my character
TJ from LNHY in that he has a smegging brilliant grasp of antisocial
human psychology but wouldn't recognise a positive aspect to it if it
came up and bit him? By rights the point should be moot, since I wouldn't
put it past Jamas to actually leave Agent dead, but frankly the
non-human/superhuman physiology that Agent displays in this issue is a
potential get-out-of-dead card.

The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #19
'Desperately Seeking Miss Translation'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamie Rosen

     Sleeps-With-Anything-Alive Lass finds Miss Translation's letter of
departure. She and the rest of the team are impressed with how much effort
the communication-challenged Miss Translation must have put into such a
succinct and coherent note, as well as concerned enough to try and find
her. Using the Normalizer's knowledge of the general location of the
Vulgar homeworld, along with a psychedelic space ship that Lamar happens
to have in storage, they travel into space. However, the spaced out (in
all senses of the phrase) automated pilot brings them out of hyperspace
nearly a thousand years in the future.
     There's good characterisation, some silly puns (the Otto Pilot and
the Thai fighter) and weird concepts, as well as some cute moments of
playing with the reader's expectations. When Lamar mentions that Miss
Translation is the title character of the comic and everyone else looks
confused the initial expectation is that this is another fourth wall
reference, but actually Lamar's referring to a licensing deal.
Normalizer's satire on 'Star Wars: A New Hope' ('That's no moon!' 'Oh.
Sorry. False alarm.') was amusing as well.

Journey Into... #1
An Eightfold [8FOLD] anthology series
by Jamie Rosen and Tom Russell

     Jamie mentioned that this was meant to be an anthology series in a
separate post, by the way. The quick plot summary: Long-retired super-
villain Adam Rabinowitz is teaching piano these days. When one of his
students, Katie Morgan, doesn't turn up for lessons, a combination of
factors prompts him to put on his old costume and go to her rescue. He
manages to stop Katie's mother Sheila from killing Katie (and probably
Katie's siblings), but only by killing Sheila just after she has mortally
wounded him. Later the details of the identity of who was involved come
to light, prompting Katie to rework his costume and take on the identity
of the new, heroic Dr Metronome.
     That's the quick plot summary. Now for what it's about. I found this
to be an engaging story about the character's reactions, old regrets and
learning to be human despite them. I could add that it's about redemption
- and to a certain extent it is - but probably not in the most obvious,
cliched way that redemption stories often play out. In the most important
sense Adam had already achieved his redemption. When he intuits that Katie
is in danger, his reaction is immediate and instinctive. The same when he
realises that he can't afford to turn intangible when Sheila shoots at
him for risk of harming another. There is no LARIM [Peter David's acronym
for 'Long Internal Angst Ridden Monolgue'] about having to do this to
balance old scores; he simply does it.
     If there was one part of this story that I was not fully happy with,
it was those parts of the three paragraphs just after he's been shot and
is going into shock that emphasise that Adam was the strong part of him
while Dr Metronome was the weak part. I'm of two minds about it. My first
reaction was that while it's necessary information, it contrasts too
starkly with the style of the text around it - that the lengthy third
person narration info dump format doesn't mesh with the third person
narration description of the character's feelings and reactions. Then I
paused and tried to examine what those paragraphs do in terms of story
telling technique. Perhaps, I mused, that starkness was an attention
drawing trick used to indicate the 'life flashing before your eyes'
effect. Then I gave up because I was probably over-analysing the

Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #4
'C.S.I.: Net.ropolis'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Martin Phipps

     A hitherto unseen new member called Murder Victim Lad is found dead,
and the prime suspect is Prime Suspect Lad. However, thanks to careful
forensic work by Squeaky Clean, the real murderer is revealed as Actually-
Did-The-Crime Lad.
     It's a neat little character piece presented in the form of a murder
mystery. I found it to work less well *as* a murder mystery, since the
tension of the plot was undermined by the obviousness of Prime Suspect
Lad's codename; the only real question for me was: is his codename a red
herring or an appropriately Looniverse-style dead giveaway? In any case,
other topics that caught attention. I was half expecting Murder Victim
Lad to be revealed to have the powers to find murder victims, and his
death to be an ironic inversion by some villain or other who wanted to
cover their tracks. But just to take that name because all of the other
codenames were taken; Ick, you'd think he'd have more sense than to tempt
fate like that. Hmm, thinking about it further, wouldn't Nukes Entires
Cities Lad be a codename for a villain? And does the use of the DNA of
everyone on the LNH roster imply that Actually-Did-The-Crime Lad was a
LNH member as well? And what does all this say for the feasibility of
Random-Collection-Of-Letters-As-A-Codename Woman? And it goes without
saying that all of the preceding applies just as much to a name like
Prime Suspect Lad. Actually, Prime Suspect Lad might now get lumbered
with a schtick something like the occasionally repeating theme of the
Martian Manhunter not being trusted by his fellow Justice League members.
     I'm burbling, aren't I? Ah well. I also have to wonder at the notion
of the Legion investigating a murder in-house rather than having
independent outsiders. Of course, it's a convention for sanctioned
superheroes to have specially legislated legal powers, but still... On
the one hand, the superhero genre in general and the superhero parody
genre in specific require certain suspensions of disbelief. It's not
something that so much detracted from the story (indeed, it was a
contrivance that was needed for Squeaky's involvement) but it did make
me pause momentarily to think about the subject.

Pointless Posting Man #4
A Boring Publications [BP] series
by Tim Munn

     But I only meant that Pointless Posting Man has an obsessive
personality *like* people who wear their underpants on their head...
Oh, never mind.
     Ahem. Pointless Posting Man continues his attempt to compose a post
with a point to it, and the description of his frustration and despair at
being unable to manage this are really quite good. However, then he gets
ambushed by a mind-controlling message on his computer by the Radical
Librarians, and for a while is made to act like a monkey in the local
library. With his underpants on his head. Eventually he reverts back into
a normal headspace, but by then he's been locked in the zoo as a freak.
Trippy story. About the only thing more that I could ask for is a reason
for why the Radical Librarians are doing this (even, 'Because we CAN!!!'
would be enough) and was he targeted in particular?

Speak! #2-3
'Kentucky-Fried Redhead'  and  'Things Are Things'
An Eightfold [8FOLD] series
by Tom Russell

     Having declared his independence from the obligation of being a
superhero, Gregory flees town. He drives south, occasionally ringing
his girlfriend and in the process being more of a worry to her than a
reassurance. He gives a lift to Harry Cash, who is the aging and only-
just-out-of-prison supervillain Gas Man. They trade stories, and in issue
3 Harry gives Gregory a rundown on the basics of being a 'supervillain'.
     At this point as I try to think of something interesting to say about
the plot so far, the phrase 'transgressive' is rattling around in my mind.
Not so much as a description of the illegal or sexually explicit actions
of what Gregory's done so far; I'm prepared to go out on a limb here and
say that Tom's point isn't to scream, "Hey! Look at how crude and naughty
I can be!" Rather, it seems to me to be a good thematic summary of how
Gregory is behaving. This is particularly obvious in issue 2, when he
knows that he's doing stupid and reckless things that are out of character
for 'intelligent, methodical' Gregory Dingham but keeps doing them anyway.
Having fled in fear from the prospect of doing something constructive with
his powers (metaphorically by robbing the band, then literally by leaving
town) he's continuing to transgress against his own automatic instincts,
personality and past life. I suspect that his description of his situation
to Harry at the end of issue 2 as a stripped down unemotive version is
indicative of this, since he's trying to put emotional distance between
himself and his actions - self-induced shock. But now he's hooked up with
Harry, who for the purposes of this self-destructive behaviour must be a
godsend: he's got someone to goad him on. Dunno if this theory will hold
water in the long haul, but it's a good starting point for why he's
wilfully engaged on a moral decline.

Template #2
'I oftentimes find myself possessed by the poetry of the city'
An Eightfold [8FOLD] series
by Jamie Rosen

     In the discussion thread about the first issue Andrew Perron made
the valid point that, actually, it was presumptuous of me to assume that
_Template_ automatically *had* to have something related to superheroes;
Eightfold's genre is supposed to be a tad broader than that. Very true.
Which means that since Jamie has chosen to include a superhero element - in
this case his father's costumed legacy - the next obvious question becomes
what is its place in the story that develops. The first possibility that
springs to mind is Billy being forced into various situations where he
had to be the hero of the day despite his wishes (which might provide an
interesting initial contrast with how Gregory is handling his situation
over in _Speak_). Certainly I was half expecting to straight away have
him having to deal with the threats from his father's enemies, but that's
been relegated to subplot status for the time being. Not that I expect an
answer from Jamie on this other than perhaps a Kurt Busiek-esque 'Wait
and see', but I find myself wondering whether this was a choice made for
reasons of long-term plot structure, or character development, or just to
play with our heads.
     In any case, Billy sets up shop, gets a commission from an old friend
named Rebecca to find a book called 'The Philosopher's of Uqbar', and in
the process of trying to find it is a) informed it doesn't really exist,
b) meets a woman who seems over-eager to meet with him about it, and c) is
told it does exist, but as an extrapolation of a fiction. The issue closes
with an apparent madman ranting about how the redcoats are coming.
     By happenstance I finally got around to reading Borges' 'Tlon, Uqbar,
Orbis Tertius' last year, so I immediately recognised the reference but
at first thought it to be *only* a passing reference. Then Amelia made a
point of briefly summarising the plot of the story, giving greater
significance to both Borges' story itself and the ideas expressed within
it. Finally, the red coats seem to hearken back to the 'great long, red-
legged scissor-man' from Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run when he
pastiched it as Orqwith. I think I'll take a risk and predict a threat
to reality from a cancerous attack by a meme given physical form?

Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au     saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
The Eyrie Archives of Russ Allbery which collect the online superhero
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