[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #30 - June 2006 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 9 21:22:04 PDT 2006

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #30 - June 2006 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      Academy of Super Heroes #69  [ASH]
      Bush43 #20-39  [AC]
      Deja Dude / Master Blaster Special #10  [LNH]
      Green Knight Annual #1  [8Fold]
      Limerick Lass #1-2  [LNH]
      Master Blaster #5-6  [LNH]
      Matthew Almighty 3  [LNHY] [May 2006]
      Nostalgics #2  [8Fold]
      Vel #16-17  [LNH]
      Villanelle Villains #1  [BP]

Also posted:
      Haiku Gorilla #124-126  [LNH]
      Killfile Wars #4  [LNH]
      Legion of Net.Heroes Vol.2 #15-16  [LNH]
      Legion of Net.Heroes Vol.2 Annual #1  [LNH]
      LUV + H8 #2  [AC] [partial promotional]
      Onion Lad #8-9  [LNH]
      Pants Rabbit Lad: Author's Day  [LNH]
      Pants Rabbit Lad: Easily-Discovered Ham  [LNH]
      Unfinihsed Sentence-Verse #8-9  [usVerse]

     It occurs to me that I have not yet taken time this year to complain
about how amazing it is to have a library management software system
that breaks down in new and innovative ways but insists on limping on
pretending that nothing is wrong.  Gosh, how remiss of me.  So, do you
want to know about the inter-campus journal request software that has
suddenly decided that it will only accept requests if the pickup location
is the same as the branch that the journal is held up (thereby defying
the very principle of an /inter-campus/ delivery system)?  Or perhaps
the way a few weeks ago we had a book whose due date was seven days
before it had been borrowed?
     Spoilers below.


Academy of Super Heroes #69  [ASH]
'Beetle Battle'   (Manifest Destiny  part 5)
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelon

     I'll be up front and agree with Tom Russell's comment about the
appropriateness of the issue title: I was rather disappointed that we
didn't get an actual battle.  Not overwhelmingly disappointed, since I
always enjoy the storytelling of ASH.  But after seeing 'Beetle Battle'
in the header of the post, and reading through and enjoying what *was*
there, I stopped and thought: 'but there weren't any *battles*!'  Last
minute plotting changes.  What a bummer, huh?
     I'll also give Tom praise for his analysis of the issue's plot
structure; that approach wouldn't have occurred to me.  Still, yes, the
plot structure is impressive, and even more so when it's both tight
enough and complex enough that you have to have it pointed out to you
before you become consciously aware of it.
     On the story side, the United World meeting about the Venus
situation is thrown into uproar by the announcement that Khadam
acknowledges Q'Nos' claims on Venus.  Indeed, we also see why Chancellor
Radner is a world class supervillain: why merely throw world politics
into an uproar with your machinations when you can also send a
holographic projection to gloat at your opponents?  On Venus itself
Peregryn begins the search for Gimble and her child, and immediately
sets off an antagonistic reaction from Claudette Viau and her cabinet.
(At first I wondered if perhaps the 'Beetle Battle' was an additional,
metaphorical, reference to conflicting searches for Gimble).  Then the
stone beetles find Geod and report back to Heraclius, who comes
a'lumbering.  As Conflicto says, "Oh, crap.  We got kaiju."

Bush43 #20-39
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
by Jason S. Kenney

     Now here's an ambitious project. Jason is putting out an issue of
_Bush43_ each weekday over the two month period from early June.
Needless to say, that's a whole lotta prose.
     The main thrust of this mega-arc is political, perhaps even
bureaucratic.  The powerful superhuman Erlend/Anna Romanov/a has taken
control of Pacific City both as the leader of the New Mages superteam and
as Mayor, and coerced Bush43 (in his civilian ID of Jeffrey Carter)
under threat of violence to act as his/her/its public affairs spokesman.
Most of the story has dealt with Jeffrey dealing with a job he hates
(albeit has proven adept at) as he tries to liase between the public and
Romanov/a - the former of whom do not trust the latter and the latter who
does not care what the former think and acts accordingly.  This makes for
what I assume for normal readers is dry reading.  I didn't find it that
way - but then I'm the writer who, even after he's been repeatedly beaten
by his editor about dropping doctoral thesis into his texts, is still
happily making lengthy exposits about the history of the Legion
headquarters, describing the efforts of crusading bakers to give low
interest loans to victims of property destruction, and how a cabal of
geomancers in the Net.ropolis planning department are trying to keep at
least some of the paranormal phenomena under control.  (It has to do with
reading too much Terry Pratchett about the mechanics of a 'fantasy'
city.)  I will note that some of the factional politics of Pacific City
seems to have been abstracted down so that it can be represented as
conflicts between individuals or small groups, which helps the story
telling process.
     Breaking the plot into one week chunks.  Issues 20-24 starts with
Jeffrey been landed with the unpalatable task of spin doctoring Romanov's
execution of a teenager who had, reputedly, committed two murders simply
to see if he could get away with it under Romanov's hard-line policies.
Along the way a previous antagonist, Typhoid Mary (newspaperwoman
Cassandra Trellis) coerces him into taking her to the Pacific City
Commerce Association function, and this in turn leads to an unplanned
fight with another previous opponent: Staticky (Simon Cooper).  This
fight, by the by, acts as both a dramatic break from the political
machinations, and to presage the terrorist attack of Simon's team of
villains in issue 31 which they've been planning for some time, as
seen in the likes of _Anthology 2: Villains_ `Group Therapy' and
`Organizational Skills'
     Issues 25-29 begins with the fight being rounded off and Simon
escaping.  The release of newspaper polling statistics shows that
Jeffrey's approach to at least trying to make the public think the
governing process of the city is transparent and accountable is bearing
fruit, and gives Jeffrey more leverage to get Romanov to modify his
Machiavellian approach to politics.  Jeffrey grows closer to Cassandra,
to the consternation of some of his fellow science heroes, and the
Saturday date to the commerce association dinner arrives.
     Issues 30-34 deals with one issue of wheeling and dealing at the
dinner, then shifts gear as Simon and his associates attack.  They have
an incidental fight with Jeffrey, but their main interest is in sowing
distrust about Romanov's regime, which actually puts them in a far more
fundamental ideological conflict with Jeffrey than a mere fight scene
can.  Bush43 tracks Simon back to his apartment, but this is anticipated
and the building is blown up by Bombastic.  This, in turn, sets up a
personal conflict within Jeffrey and between him and his associates about
various modes of personal responsibility; despite his skill at spin
doctoring, Jeffrey's instincts and preferences are still focused on
street level superheroing.
     Week four (issues 35-39) sees Jeffrey gathering information and
make plans for capturing his opponents, aided in part by CandyAss (Tracy
Pine) making a deal with him for herself and Teapot.  Political fallout
from the attacks mount, as the national government refuses to send
assistance.  Probably a niggling point, but while a national level
response would very well involve leaving Pacific City to sit and stew, a
comment or two about them posturing with their own political spin may
have been in order rather than just silence.  There are other possible
quibbles, but they probably stem from differences in the political
history of the AC universe to real life, whereas that one stems from
human behaviour and should be universally applicable.

Deja Dude / Master Blaster Special #10
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Martin Phipps

     Deja Dude and Master Blaster get into a fight with their guest
Politically Correct Person over the interpretation of the themes in the
movies Land Of The Dead and the X-Men movies.  Yes, well...  Politically
Correct Person's assumptions have some validity, but are undermined by
his fallacious thinking that his interpretation is the only correct
interpretation and that audiences will be incapable of using their
intelligence to tell the difference between a metaphor and Plain Dumb
Fun.  Deja Dude's position is undermined by the fact that he's partnered
with Master Blaster, who's exactly the type of person who would enjoy a
movie for it's entertainment value but nevertheless uncritically absorb
the worst aspects of the metaphors that PC Person is warning about while
he's distracted by the fight scenes and explosions up on the screen.
     (And I should also note, these days vampires aren't just a metaphor
for disease; they also double as a metaphor for unwholesome sex...)

Green Knight Annual #1
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell

     By the looks of it, a bridging story between the death of the first
Green Knight in issues 1-7 and whatever Martin Rock gets up to now that
he's inherited the mantle from his old mentor.  Anders Cradle throws
Martin out of his life in a particularly petty manner, and since
Martin's previous bases seem to have been compromised Martin sets up
his new base at a church which, by amazing coincidence, is not only
administered by a pastor who is a superhero fan, but which also has an
unused superhero base below its cellar.  And just in time, too!  For a
crooked psychologist Dr. Tightly has been using information gained from
his sessions (including from Ray Cradle's wife, Riana) to set up a crime
spree with various bits of confiscated supervillain technology to
(a) draw out the new Green Knight to fight him, and (b) extort a ransom
for the return of Anders.  Thereafter the Green Knight methodically works
to find where Tightly is holed up while Tightly - like a good obsessive-
compulsive villain - sends taunting notes as clues.
     All perfectly good adventure, including slightly goofy bits like
Martin's concerns about people with alliterative initials (what, *all*
of them have been nothing but in the past?) and the secret origin of
the giant typewriter museum.
     There's also religious themes, both overt and covert.  Were those
coincidences (the secret base under the church, the discover of Tightly's
file on Rockhopper and Riana only after Green Knight returns to close the
filing cabinet) merely trappings of a pulp style story, or indications
of divine intervention?  I also wonder if after all the years of being
self sufficient as the nameless vigilante, that the shift to the high
profile Green Knight ID might be subconsciously prompting Martin to
begin relying on something external to himself.

Limerick Lass #1-2
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelon

     Oh dear.  First gorillas speaking in haiku, then lemurs speaking
in limericks, then villains speaking in villanelles, now more characters
speaking in limericks.  What did I say in the intro to last issue about
RACC participants having no self-control and posting whatever shiny idea
grabs their attention?
     So, there's a woman living on the south side of Net.ropolis, who
does the sensible things like seeking shelter whenever there's a
superhuman conflict.  Except one day she takes on the mantle of Limerick
Lass and starts fighting evil.  In the second issue she goes and joins
the Legion of Net.Heroes, explaining to Fred the receptionist that
although she got killed in her first outing, her limerick theme enabled
her to came back within five lines.
     But what I want to know is: that 'fit of pique' that caused her to
'run helter skelter' and fight evil, was it a "I'm as mad as hell and
I'm not going to take it anymore" type of righteous indignation, or a
more 'completely batsh*t insane' type of thing?  I have this strange
image of this demure girl speaking in a stylised format right up until
the moment she goes beserkergang on her opponents.
     And because the creative muse so often requires on overactive
imagination, I suddenly also have an image of Haiku Gorilla, Limerick
Lass and Limerick Lemur fighting the Villanelle Villains, and causing
such a hash of literary styles that Ultimate Ninja calls in Drabble Girl,
at which point the story is brought to a forcible and merciful end  :-P

Master Blaster #5-6
'The Road Back'   (The Return of Ven-Dorr, Parts One and Two)
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Tom Russell

     So, Tom has decided that since there's no real end in sight for
these stories about Master Blaster that he may as well declare them to
be a series and be done with it.  A not unjustifiable decision.
     In part one the company responsible for the perennial soft drink
Mr Paprika develops a new drink - called Pap - and hires Master Blaster
to star in the commercials to market it.  Things go well until Master
Blaster's 'cheerful misogyny' sees him beaten up and hospitalised, and
when he awakens from his coma he discovers that the sentient soft drink
dispensing machine Ven-Dorr has been given his place in the new add
campaign for the apparently quite dangerous Pap.
     Part two sees the add campaign for Pap as 'the drink so extreme it
kills you' taken to new heights as Ven-Dorr goes on a rampage, killing
thousands of people.  It seems that this is not so much for the mere
development of street cred to the soft drink, but also as part of some
as-yet unexplained antagonism of Ven-Dorr against Master Blaster.
Meanwhile Master Blaster is feeling sorry for himself and not putting
sufficient effort into his rehab, and has to be tricked into trying to
walk by his wife when she pretends to be engaging in an homosexual orgy
outside his hospital room.  Expect a climatic fight scene against
Ven-Dorr next issue.
     As ever this series earns it Acraphobe label.  However, in defiance
of my previous schadenfreude appreciation of Master Blaster's antics,
the scene I liked best in this arc was where WikiBoy thanks Sister-State-
The-Obvious for *asking* him whether she can edit him for an audio-visual
presentation.  I guess I've reached my limit for his self-centred malice.

Matthew Almighty 3
'The Final Part... Really... Honest'
A Legion of net.Heroes Y [LNHY] miniseries
by Martin Phipps

     So, it turns out that _Matthew Almighty 3_ was, in fact, in May
rather than April 2006, and I missed this fact when I reviewed Google in
order to make sure that I at least acknowledged everything that should
have been in last issue.  < bleah >
     Anyway.  The purported conclusion to the Matt Almighty trilogy.
Someone is working to remove peoples' sense of humour, a thematic
inversion of way that Matthew Pauli tried to foster humour on the
citizens of No-Joke City in the second instalment.  And despite Pauli's
assertion that there were no wikicopies other than him left with the
powers of God, this really should have set metaphorical alarms bells
ringing.  Anyway, we get to see the testing of the cure, the methodology
of which is *also* an inversion of Pauli's.  (And yes, that's one of the
dreaded Banjo Playing Kangaroos they're trying to administer it to.)
Pauli gets information that he still has an empowered counterpart, Michel
Peugot, and goes to confront him.  They talk.  There's some very good
discussion about not just free will in general but also about how
decisions are rarely binary but instead involve a continuum of choice
that must have an arbitrary line drawn somewhere.  In the end they are
still enough alike in altruistic outlook that they can sort out their
disagreement with reasoned debate using Jim Carry movies as evidence.
     Now, I've previously critiqued the Matthews for not taking
elementary precautions like giving themselves the ability to know what
people need rather than what they want.  In the context of this story it
should also be knowing what people need rather than what the Matthews
think people need, and the oversight to know what other choices would
result in, at least in general terms.  Of course, it's easy to make
these sort of critiques in hindsight.  It's even easier when you're a
comics/SF/fantasy fan who's also a gamer and therefore predisposed to
wondering whether the proverbial gift horse is in fact a proverbial
monkey's paw.  (A *really* important consideration when you remember the
original motivations that God had for giving Matthew the powers in the
first place!)  But really, an even more fundamental protection that they
should have set up reveals itself here: they didn't make arrangements to
automatically know when a fellow copy was in the middle of some project
so that they wouldn't trip over one another.

Nostalgics #2
`Inherently Disconcerting'
An Eightfold [8Fold] miniseries
by Tom Russell

     Jason Righteous' recollection continue.  You know, it must be really
irritating for Jason to do his best to integrate socially and be rejected
while someone makes it.  Personally I'm of the temperament that I'd not
be inclined to bother after the first time, but then I don't have a
superhero's temperament either.
     The somewhat egocentric Elliot Goodman organises a team, the
Nostalgics, and headhunts Reilly to be a member.  Reilly, in turn,
insists that Connection be part of it, and after some shuffling Sproing
and the Living Virus are added to fill the two final slots.  After an
account of setting up shop and how some of the interpersonal dramas
develop, Jason narrates one of their early exploits, foiling a murder
attempt at a school for young supers.

Vel #16-17
Like Father, Like Son    (parts two and three of three)
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Jesse Willey

     The concluding two issues of _Vel_.  In issue 16 the newly born
son of Seductress and Vel (Dran, who we've seen as a teen in the LNH2
alt.future) is diagnosed as having the probably fatal genetic disorder
of not being immune to his own superpowers.  Vel can think of a rather
desperate solution, but it would involve taking him to a secret research
base for treatment for several years.  Seductress is rather upset at the
idea of not seeing her son for this amount of time, and Pizza Girl
arranges for her father, Lagneto, to come for a second (actually, third)
opinion.  Vel goes and makes mysterious arrangements with Marcia.
     Okay, my initial reaction were to focus on two problems.  The first
is that, at this point in continuity, Lagneto is thought to be dead by
pretty much everybody.  Martin Phipps tried to address this issue with
an add-on - which turned out to have it's own problems.  (No, I don't
*just* mean the one of whether Charlie Risk was available to actually to
do the impersonation; I mean if the world thinks Lagneto is dead then
isn't Pizza Girl being a bit imprudent in risking his cover suggesting
that he might not be?)  The second involves the melodrama of Seductress
screaming at Vel the moment she doesn't get her own way.  Now, a bit of
melodramas every now and then is okay.  However, I've more or less grown
past the Chris Claremont style of adolescent posturing as melodrama, and
if I'm going to watch people acting like selfish juveniles I would prefer
them to *be* selfish juveniles, rather than supposedly responsible
adults.  Then I sat and thought about it, and decided to give Seductress
the benefit of the doubt: it's possible that since she had just given
birth that the situation was grating across her mothering instincts.
     Issue 17 sees Vel abduct Dran with the help of Marcia, make their
way through the LNH-HQ through the sundry assorted plotlines going on in
the Killfile Wars and the LNHv2 Annual, and leave.  This actually works
quite well.  I remember decades ago during Marvel's second Secret Wars
crossover a justifiably sarcastic comment that someone made that when
Secret Wars crossed over with John Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four,
that the Beyonder got to stand around doing nothing and look like a
doofus while the two plotlines intersected.  Not here.  Here Jesse uses
it to good story effect by having Vel sacrifice the goodwill of the
Legion to save his son, even if it means making himself look callous in
the process.

Villanelle Villains #1
A Boring Publications [PB] post
By Tim Munn

     Hmm.  Well, as I've mentioned before I'm not very good at getting
into the mood and pacing of poetry, so I'm not going to be able to
comment of the aesthetics of it.  On a plotting level, I do see a serious
disconnect between (on the one hand) the notion that the protagonist of
the piece, Belle, is a truly villainous individual who is motivated to
do evil deeds to have her name live in infamy, and (on the other) the
notion that once she's achieved her goal that we, the readers, should
have any emotional concerns about the fact that she commits suicide in
order to go out in  blaze of glory.  Sorry, but without this link, I
fail to see how the poem has any human interest to it.

Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
The Eyrie Archives of Russ Allbery which collect the online superhero
fiction of the rec.arts.comics.creative newsgroup can be found at:

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