[REV] End of Month Reviews #14 - February 2005 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Thu Mar 3 11:11:08 PST 2005

End of Month Reviews #14 - February 2005 [spoilers]
Reviewed this issue:
      Abecedary of Evil #5-6 [Misc]
      The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #15-16 [LNH]
      Boring Man Saves Canada Special [LNH]
      Mysteria #11 [AC]
      Pointless Posting Man #1-3 [BP/Misc]

Also posted:
      The Alt.Riders #33 [LNH]
      ASH #55 [ASH] [Jan 2005]
      Just Imagine... Saxon Brenton's RACCies #6-21 [RACCies/LNH]
      Vel #7-8 [LNH]
     I've decided to go light this month so as to keep the RACCies 
timely (voting now closed, tabulations currently being rechecked, 
awards night will be a black tie affair this weekend), so these 
reviews mainly consist of either new titles or stuff that just 
caught me attention for some reason.
     Spoilers below.
Abedecary of Evil #5-6
'Encyclopedia Grey'   and   'Flesh President'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jamie Rosen
     As a villain I found Encyclopedia Grey to be intriguing if
somewhat nebulous. The opening description is reasonably clear that
the scandals that the book collects about people are real, but I find
myself with all sorts of questions. Does it only know actions or can
it decipher motivations? If the latter then its active malice suggests
that it leaves out positive motivation and mitigating circumstances
from its summations. Does it have records of details of *everyone*
immediately on hand (probably not; that would make it an unweildingly
big book), or (since it seems to be sapient in some way) change its
layout to give only details relevant to the current reader? And what
constitutes relevant? Many people, when confronted by an encyclopaedia
that records such intimate details, would first flip through looking
for their own entries before reading up on anyone else. Does
Encyclopedia Grey present only one entry most calculated to cause
offence and horror, or does it simply throw up on everything that
could cause emotional distress through a variety of entries? And does
it have some sort of emotional manipulation powers so that its victims
will always react in the worst possible way? Does it pick on everyone
and anyone who happens to read it, or does it move around, hunting for
particular victims of strategic interest? Well, hypothesising that
Encyclopedia Grey has the option of tailoring its actions to suit the
circumstances, there are so many possibilities for a string of stories
featuring this bad guy... uh, item.
     Then we come to the Flesh President, whose story just plain
surreal but can also be interpreted as a warning about reality
manipulating superhumans who've turned bad or who have runaway powers.
As I read this post I found myself carefully analysing each bit of
surrealness, trying to work out if it was a surreal image and/or a
surreal concept (the latter, of course, being something that can be
mused upon at length to discover deeper levels of meaning and
implication). As a result it occurred to me that - rather like the
suspension of electricity in 'Day The Earth Stood Still' should have
caused everything on Earth to disintegrate as their molecules no
longer held together - that the Flesh President would have needed to
replace the laws he repealed with some very careful substitutes to
keep the world looking even vaguely like its original self unless he
was holding it together by personal whim. It also occurred to me that
he might have had to have pushed the repeals through a Congress and
Senate, and whether I really wanted to know about them.
Boring Man Saves Canada Special
A Boring Publications / Legion of Net.Heroes [BP/LNH] post
by Timm Munn
     This story is a spin-off from the _Cauliflower The Christmas
Miracle Pooch_ miniseries from last year - making it one of two
storyline to address elements of that mini, along with the _Just
Imagine..._ cascade. In any case, the Robot With Lawrence Welk's Brain
has organised an army of Snow Men to invade and take over Candada as
the first step in his plan to conquer destroy the LNH. The newly
recruited Boring Man of LNH Lan.sig is sent to save Canada, and
despite the disadvantage of not being told what he's supposed to be
saving it from, manages to do so when he meets and teams up with
Generic Canadian Super-Hero.
     There's a lot of enthusiasm here, but unfortunately that seems to
affect some of the consistency. I'm not talking about spelling or
grammar problems here (Tim's improved a lot in that regard). However,
when you have things like Ultimate Ninja handing out an assignment to
the newly inducted Boring Man, then within a few paragraphs Boring Man
ringing up Ultimate Ninja for details rather than asking at the time,
then I'm afraid that causes me to stop and wonder what's going on
rather than getting on with the story.
     Boring Man himself seems to be stuck with powers that aren't
fully under control, having settings of 'on' and 'high'. This leads to
numerous situations featuring our comedy friend: frustration. In
particular, BM's repeated attempts to get any sort of tactical
information were amusing, and the karmic justice as he used his
boredom to bring low the Snow Men he encountered was satisfying.
The Continuing Misadventures of Miss Translation #15-16
'Finishing Off'   and   'My Funky Valentine'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jamie Rosen
     After a confrontation with Pharmacy (who's absolute twitching for
a Fight Scene), Normalizer and Cheesecake-Eater Lad are allowed to
return with the other net.heroes. I found Pharmacy's powers to be
innovative, but I must question why the net.heroes didn't insist of
seeing the net.ahuman experiment victims being fed the cheesecake.
It's not a big issue, since it didn't even need to be seen on camera,
but particularly Starts-Arguments-For-No-Apparent-Reason Kid should
have been paranoid enough to want to see the normalizing cheesecake
used for its purported purpose.
     Then comes the Valentine issue focusing on Sleeps-With-Anything-
Alive Lass. And look, look: Grant-Morrisdon-esque-creatures-built-
defeated-by-ideas-rather-than-physical-confrontation. Cool.
     Ahem. Anyway. Sleeps-With-Anything-Alive Lass discovers that the
others are acting in suspiciously over-romantic manner, and stumbles
across the reason in the form of three Inamorata, who annually use the
excuse of the Valentines Day holiday to boost levels of romance to
suit their personal obsession. They try to influence SWAAL as well,
but she resists thanks to the painful-but-useful-in-this-instance
self-knowledge that her zombie state makes her far from romantically
attractive. Interesting to see SWAAL recoil from Miss Translation's
proposition (yes, I know SWAAL denied homophobia, but the context of
telling it to oneself is different to having it declared in third
person narrator mode, and looks suspiciously like denial) so maybe the
'Anything' in her name is misplaced. More grist for the subplots,
maybe - not that Jamie doesn't have enough subplots already.
Mysteria #11
'Coping Strategies'
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
by Robert Flynn and Jason S. Kenney
      In the wake of the death of Layla Burke, Bush43 is still chasing
after Mysteria trying to get her to calm down and get to safety.
Eventually he succeeds (although not before she gets the opportunity
to scream at him) just in time for the assassin - the Imperial
Magistrate - to turn up and have a go at her (and a second go at him)
before a (possible) last minute rescue by Jack Crowley.
     Mysteria is confused and an emotional mess, which of course seems
to be the point of the Magistrate's plan. It's also a theme that's
summarised baldly in the machinations in the concluding scene to
remove her as CEO of Burke Enterprises. In nay case, it allowed for a
moderately interesting twist on the
hero-fights-hero-over-a-misunderstanding trope before the main
hero/villain fight. I suppose the next question will be whether
Crowley, who the flashbacks indicate is intimately involved in this
situation, will help clear up the confusion or compound it with more
of his cryptic comments.
Pointless Posting Man #1-3
A Boring Production [BP] series
by Tim Munn
     These three posts are described as having been quickly written
up, and taking that into consideration they seem to hold together
reasonably well as pieces of writing; there are a few awkward turns of
phrase, but nothing comparable to the aforementioned Ultimate Ninja
plotting problem from _Boring Man Saves Canada_. The first story sees
Pointless Posting Man trying to stop a Stupidity plague by enlisting
the help of Dr Obadiah Zeller, only to discover that Zeller has
succumbed. The second begins PPMan's thematic quest to post with a
point, only to end up trapped in an Arabian Nightmare, while in the
third PPMan is kidnapped by aliens who inflict on him a variation on
the alien-medical-probe urban legend.
     The stories themselves don't use continuity that much, but that's
okay - there are some types of stories that don't need it, or are even
actively hampered by it. Rather, they seem to be linked more by a
surprise 'twist in the tail' ending structure than anything else,
although the running gag of Pointless Posting Man's characterisation
enlivens each episode. Actually, it's a good thing that we saw PPMan
trying to stop the Stupidity plague in issue 1, because otherwise I'd
be tempted to view him not so much as a superhero but rather as an
obsessed internetter with a habit for rambling and an occasional mania
for posts with points. As it is I'm still tending to visualise his
costume as wearing his underpants on his head, which is probably
something that Tim hadn't intended. Yes, yes, I know that by measuring
it by those sorts of standards most of the Looniverse and Superguy
should be waering their underpants on their heads - it's just an image
I can't seem to get rid of when I think of this character.
Saxon Brenton    University of Technology, city library, Sydney
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au 
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