LNH: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #13
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon May 1 20:54:38 PDT 2006
It's been a while since I've written an actual review of a story (as
opposed to my psuedo-lit-crit essays), and I don't think I've ever
reviewed one of Jesse's stories. So, this seems as ample an
opportunity as any to do just that.
LEGION OF NET.HEROES Vol. 2 # 13: "Villains Untied"
The plot of this story, a tie-in to KILLFILE WARS, goes something
Brain-O steals a baby from Delilah Killfile at a church, only to
(possibly) be exploded by a thirteen-year-old who absconds with said
baby, who is named Sylvia. Three members of the LNH-- Captain
Pathetic, Token Girl, and Nine to Five Guy-- investigate the
kidnapping/explosion, talking to the churchfolk. Doctor Doriton is
attacked by Danehog's giant robot.
The Nine to Five Guy explains his powers to a nun, and Doctor
Doriton (who apparently now has the baby) is rescued from Dorfs by
Captain Pathetic. Monark kills Captain Pathetic, and remarks that he's
glad he's not Captain Pathetic "that sad son of a bitch" anymore. He
grabs the baby and disappears. Token Girl arrives and calls Nine to
Five Guy for help, who is apparently having sex with the nun.
Disco King tries to trap Monark but ends up trapping himself.
Monark talks with the Time Crapper and is about to hand over the baby
for information when the baby disappears. Monark escapes. Brain-O
reconstructs himself and grabs the baby. Delilah reappears with other
members of the Killfile family, among them Mordred.
Doctor Crompton and Gary Niceguy talk about his past mistakes.
Mordred tries to steal the baby, but Kickass causes him to drop it.
Kickass throws the baby ten stories into the air and is about to grab
it when he is knocked down by a forcefield that had been erected by
Psykeye. Psykeye grabs the baby and is confronted by Monark. The baby
is stolen by Gary Niceguy.
The Ultimate Ninjas fight Niceguy and grab the baby, who apparently
amplifies the powers of others. The story ends with Nine to Five Guy
and his seduced nun in bed.
First off, do you know who any of these people are? The Ultimate
Ninja is somewhat of a given to anyone even partially acquainted with
the LNH, but as for the rest of them? They're all pre-established
characters. Let's see:
Brain-O is the evil version of Brain Boy, the star of Sean
Daughtery's CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF BRAIN BOY. Both versions of
Carter Darson are incredibly powerful telepath/telekinetics.
Gary Niceguy is the son of Sarcastic Lad and some moon amazons, who
continually and constantly screwed things up over in NET.HEROES ON
Captain Pathetic is in reality Kyle Watson, the most pathetic man
alive. A stoner with a "loser aura", he can only get laid if he's in
the vincinity of Sig.ago. He was created in a childish meta-story that
parodied the big fuss that Willey made about people *mentioning* his
destruction of Sig.ago story (and thus _validating_ it in mainstream
continuity). And-- I gotta come clean here-- I was the "Amy Dreamer"
who wrote it. (Something Mr. Willey is aware of.)
So, now you know who three of the players are. I could go through
the list and tell you who all the rest are, but, since Jesse never
bothered to, why should I? The reader is given absolutely no
information as to who all these people are, what their back story is,
and MORE IMPORTANTLY, why they're all after the baby.
The baby-- Sylvia MacGuffin-- is just that: a MacGuffin, a plot
device used so the story has something to revolve around, like some
secret microfilm. Now, when you see a spy movie, the movie isn't about
the secret microfilm: it's about the heroes and villains trying to get
a hold of the secret microfilm, and what happens in that struggle.
Okay, I'll cop to that much: the baby isn't as important as the
struggle. But here's the thing: if we're not told until nearly the end
of the story *why* everyone is after the baby, if we have no concept of
what is at stake, then the struggle is meaningless and confusing. So
maybe it's better that Jesse never tells us who any of the characters
are: it doesn't really matter. Brain-O could be Brain-O or Jell-O or
Bob Oderkirk. He's just a puppet, a pawn to be moved about on the
board, in this game of baby-catch.
And all the characters seem like game-pieces being arbitrarily moved
about, red pieces for villains and white for the good guys, and all the
pieces are pretty much interchangeable. The characterizations are, for
the most part, flat. And, when they're not flat-- when they're not
just automatons-- well...
> The Ninja silently nodded. Another Ultimate Ninja leapt from the
> fire escape. He pulled out a dorfan energy sword. If Vel didn't
> get this back in perfect condition he'd be pissed. Ninja carefully
> turned the knob up to full power.
Look, I know Vel is a dorf. I know Dorfs get really pissed. I know
dorfs are really mean and violent. But: this is the Ultimate Ninja
we're talking about here!
Maybe Jesse's trying to show us just how mean and pissy Vel can be--
he's so mean and pissy that even the Ultimate Ninja shakes in his
little black ninja booties! But this is so blatantly out of character
for the Ninja. He hasn't been written this badly since Tom Russell
gave him a niece (Ultimate Nina, for the morbidly curious).
Or look at Gary Niceguy. It's not so much that Gary Niceguy would
never be in this position-- it's that I don't believe him in this
position. Hell, I don't believe (or understand) the position itself.
And that's not because the position is inherently unbelievable: it's
the way it's done. There's nothing setting it up, no context for his
actions. Beyond that, they have no weight, dramatically.
One of the biggest problems in Willey's writing is structure. His
stories are made up of many, many little scenes, each making a point or
advancing the story incrementally. Sometimes, the advancement is not
so incremental, but it's hard to tell: every scene seems the same, they
all just seem to hang there. Even in a story like this, in which one
scene usually moves into the next, the entire affair seems piecemeal,
as if it's constructed out of separate scraps of paper all taped
Ideally, a story like this would start with some kind of explanation
as to who these people are, who the baby is, and why they want to get
their hands on the baby. Setting up the stakes and the contestants.
Then, as the baby-swiping got under way, the reader could get caught up
in it, could be rooting for one side or another, could care what
And as it is, this reader just didn't care.
Jesse Willey avoids exposition like the plague, and he expects you
to know who all these people are because he does. Really, in order to
best understand Killfile Wars and its tie-in, you'd have to have read
Road to Killfile Wars, and in order to understand that, Onion Lad and
Vel, and Flames War IV, and the Team, and Boy Redundant Lad.
You can trace it all the way back to Hell's Titans, to the beginning
of his LNH writing, and find that it really forms one big story,
constantly building on what has come before. But even all the way back
at the beginning, it's unlikely that you'd understand what was going
on: he hates exposition even at the beginning, where it rightfully
A lot of Jesse's writing is full of mystery characters, surprises,
transformations. He has a lot of good ideas, I'll give him that:
there's something deliciously wrong about someone tossing a baby ten
stories up in the air. But his execution is a bit faulty.
> Brain-O floated down to the ground and into a large blue SUV. As
> soon as he got the child in the car seat and sat down he noticed a
> thirteen-year-old boy in the passenger seat. The kid smiled jabbed a
> nerve cluster in Brain-O's neck. He convulsed with psychic energy.
> "Opps!" the kid said.
> He dove into the back seat and covered the kid as the car exploded.
One can infur that it was the kid who dove into the back seat and
covered the baby as the car exploded; one could also infor that
Brain-O, convulsing with psychic energy, dove into the back seat. The
use of "the kid" to refer to both the baby and its new captor is
Touching on execution, structurally: there's no sense of beginning,
middle, and end in this story, or in many of Jesse's stories, truth be
told. It's like the whole body of his writing is one really long
second act. The first act-- the set-up, is ignored completely-- and
we'll never quite get to a satisfying third act: a conclusion, a
And this is because none of the scenes get their proper dramatic
weight. Arguably, this story's climax is the battle between Gary
Niceguy and the Ninja triplets. Here is where it should all come to a
head, where all the action and suspense should be at their highest.
But the prose is prefunctory and clipped. When every scene is written
in exactly the same way, the important scenes don't stand out. They
don't have weight.
Take the death of Captain Pathetic for example:
> "Finally I can do some good on this team..." Captain Pathetic
> There was a loud kaboom and suddenly a super powered figure in high
> tech super armor with a large helmet was standing next to Doritron .
Where's the drama? The awe?
> The man in the helmet was tearing through the shock troopers leaving
> nothing but a pile of corpses.
The carnage? The telling details?
> "Holy crap! It's Doctor Doritron and Monark!" Pathetic said.
> Monark spotted Captain Pathetic and kept shooting. With one plasma
> burst he blew out Captain Pathetic's spine. Monark was quickly
> surrounded by some sort of quantum bubble, which quickly popped. He
> stared down at Pathetic's body.
And that's it. That's the death of Captain Pathetic. It should be an
important scene. A set-piece. Perhaps some emotional resonance. If
you're going to kill off a character, that death should *mean*
something, damn it!
But if you were just reading it quickly, just scanning it over, you
would probably miss it completely. It's the same matter-of-fact style
that's been employed through out the rest of the story. And, as soon
as Pathetic is dead, Willey moves on, to the next plot point,
> "I'm glad I'm not that sad son of a bitch anymore," he said.
... and to the next scene. The next story. If I had written this
story, I would have paused here. Given the Captain a proper death.
Allowed the reader some time for reflection. Some time for this all to
And, speaking of the Captain...
It's true that I gave all my characters to the public domain, which
would probably include characters created under a psuedonym for a
silly, juvenile, and childish satirical meta-fiction. (And Jesse has
grabbed my old characters up by the handfuls, and often with my
But public domain doesn't mean that you can cut off a character's
hand, make them gay, or kill them. (And, again, in my defense: Frat
Boy *wasn't* gay by the end of LNH vol. 2 # 10. It was Saxon and Jamas
who brought that back. Though I'm kind of glad they did. It's an
interesting direction for the character and it kinda sorta gets me off
the hook. :-) )
I had no problem with Jesse killing off Terrence Coffee-- even if
his logic behind it was a little screwy. He asked, and I said okay.
But as for Captain Pathetic...
... you didn't ask, Jesse.
And I wouldn't be quite so upset about it, about you killing him
without permission, if you had even bothered to write the character
correctly. But much like the pussification of the Ultimate Ninja
(scared of Vel?) and the nonsensical characterization of Gary Niceguy,
and the way Tyler Bridge from RTKW doesn't talk or act like Tyler
Bridge from NHOP-- you're too busy filling another slot in your
stuck-in-second-act plot-schematic to actually bother to write the
character according to his or her actual personality.
Hell, in this case, you didn't even bother to write his actual
> Captain Pathetic felt stronger than he ever had. He'd heard
> stories about dorfan power dampeners from some of the briefings on the
> dorfs during the recent civil war. Ultimate Ninja wanted them prepared
> for everything. The dorfs on the other hand probably didn't expect
> to fight someone with the power to be completely useless. Removing the
> power made him almost unstoppable.
Captain Pathetic doesn't have the power to be completely useless. He
has the power to be a loser. To be the most loserly-loser that ever
lost. To be, in essence, pathetic. You know who has the power to be
useless? Useless Powers Lad II-- new character, coming soon. Not
Who is, by the way, *not* a member of the LNH. Never has been. I
wouldn't have minded you retconning him into the LNH, if it hadn't been
for the sole purpose of killing him off.
Hell, I wouldn't have minded you killing him off if you at least
made an attempt to make it count, instead of a cheap stunt. And I
probably wouldn't have minded, if you had at least asked.
And sure, I brought this on myself by releasing all my old
characters to the public domain. But you've got to have some respect
for the unreserved pool of characters-- they're there for everybody.
Maybe no one else would ever want to use Captain Pathetic. But we'll
never know now, will we? Because you killed him off and you didn't
even give him the benefit of his own personality.
And, really, enough is enough. So:
This story-- or at least the death of Captain Pathetic contained
herein-- is hereby elsewhirled.
And I hereby reserve all my old characters, with the exception of
those already reserved by others. And by others, I include Mr. Willey.
The characters you have currently, Jesse, the ones that are integral
to your KILLFILE WARS-- Electra, Carolyn, Delilah, et cetera-- keep
them and run with them. Enjoy them.
Because you're never getting your hands on any of my characters,
More information about the racc