LNH: Onion Lad #9

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 15 06:42:26 PDT 2006


cabbagewielder at yahoo.com wrote:

> 	 Onion Lad #9
> 	On the Run
> 	A Killfile Wars Tie-In Event
> 	By Jesse N. Willey

Teryaki Chick narrates this issue of ONION LAD, in which, shortly after
being granted membership in the LNH, she and Onion Lad are chased by
Dr. I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter.  The story is pretty much about
that-- the good doctor changes sandwiches and floors into
I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter while Teryaki Chick and Onion Lad run,
run, as fast as they can.

Of course, a story isn't about what it's about, but how it's about it.
The way in which the author arranges the events, comments on them,
builds them, et cetera: that's the thing that Tom "Lit-Crit" Russell
gets off on.  Unfortunately...


One will note that I'm trying to review every new story that's posted
on RACC, whether it's at length and in-depth, or just a few measly
paragraphs.  I do this for a number of reasons: first of all, to give
back to the community and let my fellow authors know they're not
writing to a void.  Secondly, and more selfishly, it gets me thinking
about my own writing: by looking carefully and critically at the
writing of others, whether that writing is terrific or not-so-terrific,
I get a better feeling of what works and what doesn't, what I like and
why.  Thirdly, I am trying to help my fellow authors by giving
constructive criticism.  So, really, I'm just trying to help everyone
feel better and be better.

Now, sometimes things that I percieve as bad ideas or
characterization-- or be they issues of structure, focus, or theme--
aren't really bad ideas, or indicitive of bad writing.  It just means
that they're things that I don't dig.  I mean, let's look at James

I can't stand the pretentious bastard.  I just want to sit down with
him and explain that the reason no one has written an extremely-long
book about a couple of dudes walking around Dublin masturbating is
because it is a fundamentally stupid idea.  I want to tell him that a
sentence should be a complete thought, and even if that complete
thought warrants a hundred words, or the addition of semi-colons and
parenthetical statements, the reader should not have forgotten the
beginning of the sentence by the time they've reached the end of it.
And, while we're at it, let's just stop him from ever using the word
yes again.

Now, I'm sure there's people who disagree with me on this count.
Probably many, many people.  And it's not that they're snobs who are
too busy turning up their nose at genre literature to see the crap that
they are toting as genius for what it is, and it's not that I'm an
uneducated philistine: it's just that I don't particularly enjoy Joyce.
 I "get" him, insomuch as I understand what he's doing and why he's
doing it: I just think it's a stupid waste of time, really.  It's not
my thing, is all.

And that can apply across the board.  The things that others enjoy and
find extraordinary can be the exact same things that make my eyes roll.
 So I want to stress, first and foremost, that everything I offer in my
comments are only that: my comments, my thoughts, my feelings.  They're
not absolute truth nor do I pretend that they are.  I just want to
reiterate that.

Now, since I'm reviewing everything I can, and since Jesse Willey is
prolific, that means that I review quite a lot of his stuff.  And since
some of things that are part and parcel of Jesse's style-- a strong
phobia of exposition, a disregard for clarity, curious but by no means
isolated ideas about superheroes, sci-fi conspiracies, a plethora of
subplots and purely functional narration-- are things I'm not exactly
enamoured with, I do seem to come back to them again and again, and to
find fault there.

I say all this just to explain that I'm not trying to pick on Jesse,
nor am I trying to beat a dead horse.  I understand that these things
are part of Jesse's style, that they're part of the artistic effect:
that they are, nine times out of ten, a conscious and deliberate
decision on his part.  I might not agree with his choices, but I
recognize that they're his choices and he's entitled to them.

Just wanted to say that.  Now back to the actual reviewing, which will
probably be much shorter.


In the beginning of ONION LAD # 9, Teryaki Chick offers the following
observations on our titular character.

> 	It took me awhile to find my room and set up all my stuff.    Not long
> after that was done, there was a knock on the door.   As I suspected-
> it was Onion Lad.   I didn't answer.   He's so damn aggravating.
> I try to push him away but no matter what I do he keeps coming back.
> It's only sweet because he's so damn pathetic.      Three minutes
> passed and he was still pushing the door chime.   Another mistake, I
> answer the door in loose fitting Power Puff Girl pajamas.

Um.  Wow.

Willey made a very fundamental mistake here when it comes to using
first person.  And that is, if you're using first person-- if you're
putting us in another person's head-- _don't_ make us hate the person
right off the bat.

I mean, sure: Onion Lad _is_ annoying.  He is _pathetic_, by which I
mean he is worthy of our pathos, of our sympathy.  His incompetence is,
in many ways, endearing.  And Teri does comment on this-- it's only
sweet because he's so damn pathetic-- but the way in which she says it,
the contempt that comes across, is unnecessarily harsh.  In fact, it
gets worse:

> 	Smiled and kissed his cheek.   I almost wanted to puke.   I giggled
> softly as he hit his head on the door frame.    Then I closed the door.

This scene has made Teryaki Chick my least favourite character I've met
all year.  And I know what Jesse is trying to do: he's trying to make
us think critically about the character, he "never said that she was a
hero" or "worthy of admiration", et cetera, et cetera.

But by using first person, Jesse _is_ asking us to identify with the
character.  He is providing direct access to the character's unfiltered
thoughts.  And, yeah, some of those thoughts may be ugly-- but I think
it would be more complex than that.  As it stands, Teryaki Chick has
less use and affection for Onion Lad than Master Blaster has for

If those stories of mine work (and the fact that other authors have
picked up on it and started using WikiBoy pretty much exclusively
paired with Master Blaster), it's because it's comedy.  Master Blaster
does not act like a hero in those stories, and sometimes his behaviour
is a little... extreme.

But I'm not writing superheroes.  I'm writing character-based comedy,
and I think meanness can be forgiven if it's funny.

It's not funny, here.  And Willey is not writing comedy; he's writing a
superhero story, part of a "crossover event", at that.  Willey's take
on certain characters-- making them, basically, immoral and
unsympathetic-- wouldn't be so bad in an actual comedy; hell, they'd be
attributes to be cherished!  But as it is, he writes straight
superheroics (and nothing's wrong with that: that's exactly what I do
over in Eightfold), and in that genre, making the heroes as bad as the
villains is _not_ a good idea.

And I think a character wanting to puke after kissing someone on the
cheek would constitute "as bad as the villain" writing.

Thankfully, this issue doesn't cut to different subplots, instead
moving in a pretty straight line from the beginning to the end.  There
are two encounters that our heroes on the run have that are worth

First, they bump into Vel, in a scene we first saw in VEL # 17.  Willey
did this once before between these two titles, and it's a nice
structural effect as part of the overall crossover: it gives the sense
of things happening rapidly and at the same time.  On the other hand,
though, and as Saxon noted in END OF MONTH REVIEWS, the timeframe of
the KILLFILE WARS crossover is fairly confusing.  So even when things
do intersect and come together-- and it was really, really nice to see
this little scene with Vel-- even when we get a better look at the
mosaic, we're still kind of lost and confused.

As for the other scene:

> 	Cheesecake Eater Lad threw a pie at me.   I ducked.  Onion Lad, who
> had been reaching into his pocket to get his inhaler, wasn't so
> lucky.  The force knocked him into the wall.
> 	"Vel... I knew you'd return to the scene of..." Cheesecake Eater
> Lad said.  "Oh it's YOU.  Revenge is mine!"
>               (See Onion Lad #1)

Um.  That was six years ago.  I think, by now, that Cheesecake-Eater
Lad has learned his lesson.  After all, he inadvertantly created
Student Driver Lass in his original revenge scheme, and met up with
Simon Velcro as a direct result of that.  By the end of that one, I
think he realized that his revenge scheme was quite futile.

> 	For a fraction of a second I saw a woman standing there.   Before I
> even realized it, I was knocked to the ground.   aLLiterative Lass was
> standing above me.   A long katana was pointed at my chest.

I'm not sure what the reservation status is on aLLiterative Lass.  If
I'm not mistaken, Charles Fitzgerald was fairly protective of aLL and
New Look Lass.

At the same time, what with her marriage to Cheesecake-Eater Lad, she
might be like Organic Lass: I mean, when either of their husbands are
threatened, it'd only make sense for them to show up, right?  Any
thoughts from the group on this?

> 	"You being Made a Member- a Mistake.   Ninja Not Know.  Once
> Killfile, always Killfile," she said.
> 	"Ooohh... Scary.   Grammar Lad would so not approve of your
> monologue, bitch!" I said.

I don't remember aLLiterative Lass speaking in such fractured English.
I remember it being a mite bit unusual, what with the aLLiterative
nature of it, but I don't remember he talking in such a staggered

Also, it's Grammer Lad.

Yes, it's mispelt: that's the point. :-)

At any rate, CEL and aLL struck me as being a bit out of character, as
much character, anyway, that the two of them had.  And I don't really
like Teryaki Chick.  At.  All.

Which makes her an odd choice, to my thinking, for a viewpoint

But, like I said: that's just my opinion.


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