LNH: Legion of Net.Heroes vol 2. #17

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 17 21:55:55 PDT 2006


Three different threads intersect in this Willey-penned issue, and for
once they actually tie in together in a coherent and structurally-sound
fashion (as coherent and structurally-sound, anyway, as a time loop
story can be).

The first thread follows Monark, Mystery Villain Extraordinaire, as he
tries to discover his true identity.  He does this by tracking down
people he may have been in the past and killing them; by doing so, he
ensures that he wasn't that person.  This is why, in LNH vol. 2 # 13,
(the baby-football story), he murders a person whom he believes to be
Captain Pathetic (but who is, most likely, Cap's clone, the Scarlet
Stoner).  It's also why he tries to murder Master Blaster here.

The second thread follows Master Blaster, and it's one of the more
amusing characterizations of the Caesar of Cool to hit the newsgroup
this year.  (Though he has been more popular this past year, I'd
maintain that he was always one of Martin Phipps's more endearing
creations.)  The dialogue for Master Blaster is just dumb _enough_ to
be convincing, without insulting the character.  Like this gem:

>    "Quid quo pro, you jackass," The Unmarried Master Blaster said.
>    "Look, ya moron, I don't speak Lithuanian.  Can't you see I'm
> trying to think of a plan to defeat Monark?" Master Blaster said.

Corny, yes, but that's the LNH, isn't it? :-)

I laughed out loud at the scene in which Master Blaster tries to edit
Retcon Lad much the same way he edits WikiBoy; when Retcon Lad explains
it doesn't work that way, M.B. is delightfully petulant:

> 	"There's no reason you couldn't change yourself."

All-in-all, it's very solid writing from Willey.  He did _decently_
with the Annual story as far as M.B. was concerned, but there the notes
seemed just a mite bit off.  Here, they're pitch-perfect, as least as
far as I'm concerned.  (It'd be interesting to see what his creator
thinks; Martin's interpertation of his character is different than my
take on him, and it's damn nice of him to allow me to write the
character in that gonzo style.)

The third plot-line concerns Willey's character Applicant Lad, who
jumps down an elevator shaft and falls.  And falls, and falls, and...
well, let me just quote:

> _____________________________________________
> 	And fell.... and fell and fell...
> 	_____________________________________________

And keeps on falling inbetween every other scene.  And, dear reader, if
you know that this issue concerns Monark's true identity, and if you
notice that the story keeps cutting to the seemingly insignificant
event of Applicant Lad falling-- then you know that Applicant Lad and
Monark are one and the same.

Now, if I was to do an Applicant Lad is Monark story, I would have
focused more on Applicant Lad.  Not made him the main character, per
se, but made him a more integral part of the action, had him fighting
alongside Master Blaster up until the revelation.  That would have made
it more subtle, I think, and subtelty is something Willey tries for
(sometimes, I find his work _too_ subtle for my tastes).

By focusing attention on Applicant Lad when he's doing something as
monotonous as falling down an elevator shaft, it's not hard at all to
figure out what's going to happen when he stops.  It makes it too
obvious, far beyond even a Tom Russell story.

That being said, the three threads did tie together, which I found to
be a structural improvement over most of the issues in the KILLFILE
WARS event.  And, beyond the actual execution of the mystery's solution
in this issue, the solution itself does make sense: the things that we
know about Monark, the things that motivate him, are the same things
that motivate Applicant Lad.  Does it make sense?  Yes.  Is it
satisfactory?  Eh.

For a mystery character story to really work, one has to be interested
in the mystery.  And, for me, the whole Monark thing never really
concerned me as a reader.  My interest was not stoked.

Monark was introduced in the NWO crossover that was penned by Stephane
Savoie (we miss you, Kid Anarky!!!), Sean Christian Daughtery (we miss
you, Brain Boy!!!) and Jesse Willey (we miss you... oh, wait), and
probably some others that I'm forgetting at the moment.  After that, he
made some appearances in Willey's work, as a somewhat threatening
villain with futuristic armour.

And sure, Willey tried his best, but-- it just didn't get my synapses
going.  I just didn't care who Monark was, he never really seemed
significantly evil enough to warrant my attention.  I'm sure there's
some truly heinous deeds that I'm missing, and I'm sure Willey will
tell us what they are. :-)  But for me, he doesn't register.

So, at least for this reader, the mystery itself wasn't satisfactory.
As for the solution-- my google-fu reveals a grand total of six
Applicant Lad appearances.  Two in '04, one in '05, and three this year
(those appearances being Vel # 1/2, 1, and 11; LNH Annual # 1; Onion
Lad # 9, and this story).  And, really, while this isn't quite the
equivlant of Norman Osborn-- it's damn close.

You see, as some of you younguns might not know, the Green Goblin's
true identity was shrouded in mystery through out the original
Lee-Ditko run.  Comics fan would wonder feverently about who the Green
Goblin could really be.  There weren't any leading suspects, and so the
speculation would be purely fanciful: what if it was J. Jonah Jameson,
for example, or Ned Leeds.

Towards the end of Ditko's tenure, he introduced Norman Osborn as a
shady and murderous industrialist.  No one knows what Ditko's plans
were for the character, as he left Spider-Man, forever, with # 38.
Many suspect, due to Ditko's long-term planning evident through out #
25-29, and, of course, the three-part "Master Planner" saga, that he
was getting ready to tell the Green Goblin Identity story.  That Norman
Osborn was going to be the first of many suspects, perhaps even just a
Red Herring.

And what a story that would be--!  No one could sub-plot like Sturdy
Steve Ditko.  I imagine he'd have stoked all the comic book fans of the
time into a red-hot fervor.  We would have been knees-deep in mystery,
and someone would probably have to have invented the internet so we
could all post our opinions and shout each other down and start the
first flame wars.  (It's a little strange using "we" here, because my
parents were still in primary school when Ditko left Spider-Man.  But
you get my drift.)

Ditko left, and so the first thing Stan did, after he got John Romita
(who, admittedly, could draw girls several licks better than the
moodier Ditko), was wrap up the Green Goblin mystery.  He revealed that
it was really Norman Osborn behind the mask.  Norman.  Osborn.  The guy

Comics fans, or so I've been told and can imagine, were mightily let
down.  This was the most disappointing revelation in comics history,
and would remain so until Stern wrote his "No, Ned Leeds WASN'T really
the Hobgoblin" storyline.

 I'm not suggesting that Monark should have been Master Blaster, nor do
I think Willey's solution is a bad one.  I'm just pointing out that for
a mystery to matter to a reader, you really have to stoke the fire.
Make the mystery villain a force to be reckoned with.  Give us possible
suspects, allow us to debate the probability of one choice or the

I'm not a fan of mystery characters in general, and it's because they
so often do not understand this very simple mantra: a mystery needs
clues, a mystery needs suspects, and a mystery needs to matter.

And while, yes, there were clues to Monark's identity, for this reader,
they were useless without the other two requirements.

Some nit-picks before I go:

> 	"Will you too please cut that out... we're trying to plan here.
> And my powers won't let me work for too much longer," said one of
> the newbies.
> 	"I don't even see why we let you on this team Dan," said
> Ultimate Ninja.
> 	"Because..." said a woman in a spandex suit that had slight nun
> motif going.  "I think he's the only one can really stop all
> this..."

Now, this unidentified newbie is obviously the Nine to Five Guy,
introduced in Willey's LNH vol. 2 # 13 (and the former nun was the one
he seduced).  The thing is, Jesse, WHY NOT TELL US THAT?  If any
readers missed # 13, they'll have no idea who this is and be quite,
quite lost.  Why hint around and be cute when it would make so much
more sense for you to change "said one of the newbies" to "said the
Nine to Five Guy."  And don't cite unneccessary exposition; his name,
coupled with the line about his powers, tells us everything we need to

> "You are not me... it's just one of those Freudian Luke in the
> swamp things.  You know... cause he really didn't want to admit he
> wanted to screw Natile Portman.

Um.  I think that either,

   (a) you have your trilogies mixed up, or

   (b) you have your princesses mixed up, or

   (c) it IS a Freudian thing (i.e., an Oedipus Complex).

Hmm.  The children must get their acting genes from their father(s):
Prowse, James Earl Jones, and Hayden Christianson can all act (even if
Hayden doesn't in these particular movies), while Portman cannot.

--Tom, who had pants when he started writing this post.  Does that make
me Tom with Pants or Pantless Tom?  Hmm.

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