[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #34 - October 2006 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 4 19:05:15 PST 2006

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #34 - October 2006 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      Academy of Super Heroes #73  [ASH]
      Alt.stralian Yarns #1-2  [LNH]
      Jolt City #3  [8Fold]
      Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #20  [LNH]
      Superfreaks #9-13  [Superfreaks]
      Thunderclap #1-2  [MISC]

Also posted:
      Godling #9  [MISC]
      Haiku Gorilla #205-250  [LNH]

    Where were we when we left off last month?  Oh yes, the black and
white reprint comics that we used to have here in Australia.  I know
I've mentioned this in passing several years ago, but in the name of
nostalgia it bears repeating that in Australia up until the mid 1980s
most of the DC comics (certainly the big names, like Superman, Batman,
Flash, Wonder Woman et al) were available at newsagencies only in black
and white reprint anthologies combining between three to five normal
sized stories or the equivalent number of pages.  Usually in eclectic
conglomerations.  Typically the publishers of these reprints would think
nothing of combining the likes of an old fifties-sixties era Superman
story (I definitely recall seeing what I'm pretty sure were the original
first appearances of Mr Mxyptlk and Brainiac) with a seventies era Flash
story, and a horror story from House of Secrets.  This made trying to
keep track of things like the Legion of Super-Heroes' 'Earthwar' saga
hard work, let me tell you.
     Other times they'd collect storylines together: I recall them
bringing together one extended storyline from _DC Comics Presents_
(#13, 14 and 25, now that I look it up) where the Legion convinced
Superman to allow John Ross to be kidnapped by aliens because of his
destiny to grow up to become an alien warlord, which prompted his father
Pete to go mad and take over Superboy's body in a revenge scheme, only
to be captured and put in an asylum, were the catastrophic results
of further madness and revenge schemes where only averted by the
intervention of the Phantom Stranger.  Only late in the game did the
publishers attempt to collect stories from the American originals
and reprint them in order, in a single anthology run with a single
consistent name and numbering sequence (as they did with the Flash and
the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans).
     Off on a slight tangent, while I was sorting through the old comics
last month I noticed that a number of the Donald Duck comics that we had
from the early 1970s had names of countries like 'Malysia and Singapore'
in the top left of the cover.  They're in colour, and the same size (in
both page count and physical dimensions) as a conventional comic book,
but now that I think about it I wonder if those were also reprints for
the Asia-Pacific region done under contract, or original prints intended
for only a specific geographic region.  The former seems more likely
since some of the ads for stamp collections seem very British
     But enough reminiscing from me.
     Spoilers below...


Academy of Super Heroes #73
'Hangmen Also Die'  (Metropolis III)
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     Tsk.  You know, I *try* to give an overview of pretty much every-
thing by rotating which posts/series get a review, since long experience
has demonstrated that I can't maintain a pace of reviewing everything
each month.  Nevertheless I often find myself reviewing ASH month after
month, because I'm predisposed to reread the series for pleasure and
therefore find it easy to come up with commentary.  Nevertheless I'll
recycle a comment from last month for the substantive plot direction of
this issue: Preparations continue (with both good and ill intent) for
Rex Umbrae's wedding in Manhattan.
     More generally this issue has a Warden theme to it, ranging from
the explicit musings about Warden perhaps wanting to crash the wedding
(and the readers already know he does), to the parallels with Infernion
and Umbrae's guardianship of their respective demesnes, and to Gene's
musings about Manhattanites having learnt to fear telepathic martial
artists.  Unfortunately I don't know enough about the character of Warden
to tell whether the abilities of the killer in the final scene (to shut
down other peoples' senses) is a power that Warden has historically had,
or is a logical extrapolation/inversion of his main powers of seeing
through other peoples' senses that he's recently gained, or is a logical
extrapolation of his powers that other factions are using to frame him.
(Since we already know that there are groups who are planning to act via
proxies, a frame up is not implausible.)
     Two other minor points.  I'll presume that the comment about
buildings not seeing any maint work is a typo, even though you can never
be sure with all the future tech and future slang that's embedded in
the series. :-)  Secondly, even if the Academy members can't make it to
show up in their own series, can we at least have Geod listed as being
on probation on the roll-call?  It's been four months (story time) since
she was announced as a trainee, the start of the January 2026 term has
come and gone, and (whether the public is allowed to know or not) her
time serving on the Righteous Flame means that she's hardly a newbie.

Alt.stralian Yarns #1-2
'On The Matter Of Locks'  and  'By Popular Demand'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Mitchell Crouch.

     Okay, I guess the chickens hulking out were my fault.  (This is
as bad as the time that Pointless Posting Man ended up wearing his
underpants on his head because of me, isn't it?  I really do have to
be more careful about what I write...)  Anyway, administrivia first:
The Newbie Award for this year's RACCies will not be a door prize, since
Mitchell is now the second eligible person for that category.  Remember,
voting will take place starting at the end of January, in only a few
months time.
     Basic plot: a city couple visit their country cousin, and they have
trouble coping.  Consternation and hilarity ensue.  In the first issue
they are shown the cattle, which have superpowers.  In the second issue
they discover the poultry, which also have superpowers.
     I'm finding these stories to be lots of fun.  However, let's look at
the humour.  After thinking about it, I believe that the true humour of
the series isn't so much the use of Australian colloquialisms, but rather
is predicated on the classic 'odd couple' interaction of someone from
the country and someone from the city (or in this case, someones).  And
that's a contrast which isn't really country specific, but a setup that
can work in any sort of culture that has a rural/urban divide.  Now, it's
true that there is something inherently amusing about the word 'dunny',
but I suspect that a lot of its power comes from the incongruousness of
its use - in other words, it's just an Australian-specific variation on
the rural/urban divide situation.
     A related thought just occurs to me: Given the Odd Couple paradigm,
so far the Missus hasn't acted so much as a character in her own right
as an adjunct to City Slicker Gent.  She doesn't have much interaction
with Been-Out-Bush-For-Way-Too-Long-Man except through her husband, and
in that situation she can act as a goad for her husband into more actions
that 'aren't particularly sensible'.  In other words, she isn't
necessarily stupid herself, but she is at times a catalyst for stupidity
in others.

Jolt City #3
'My Enemy Myself!'
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell

     Oh my goodness, that cover!  That cover... dripping with Silver Age
angst!  I kept expecting art credits by Steve Ditko, in homage to stories
where the protagonist would be walking down the street and have to pass
by people bad mouthing his heroic identity.
     So, at the close of last issue the Green Knight was in the right
time and place to finally defeat the Crooked Man.  Unfortunately it was
as Martin Rock rather than as the costumed Green Knight.  This is a
problem, because in his secret ID he's a rather private person, and now
circumstances force him to deal with unwanted public accolades and
scrutiny.  Then there's the scrutiny associated with 'dropping back onto
the face of the planet' after a decade of living as a homeless person
and effectively being thought dead by all levels of bureaucracy.
     And then there's the angst.  Okay, yes, I agree that Green Knight
may have allowed himself to be somewhat distracted by the euphoria of
operating as a four-colour hero, and as a result seems not to have
thought through all the steps needed to be taken for properly setting
up a secret ID.  This, then, leads to the topic that there's a
difference between introspection used for critical analysis, and just
straight brooding.  The big question is always: how do you tell the

Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #20
'Quit Cloning Around'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Martin Phipps

     Irony Man is worried about the Republicans' chances in the upcoming
elections, and convinces Doctor Stomper to clone a copy of Kid Kirby to
campaign for the conservative forces (using hair that Irony Man collected
years ago in case of just such an emergency).  The plan goes well until
the real Kid Kirby arrives back on Looniearth and gets into a Fight Scene
with his duplicate.
     This is a satire (which is parody with fangs) on the recent 'Iron
Man arranges for the cloning of the currently missing Thor for his sides
advantage' in the current Event from Marvel Comics, 'Civil War'.  I'm
now going to waffle on a bit, because I find myself in the much the same
situation as a few months ago with the _Easily-Discovered Man_ review
where I keep revising what I was writing in an attempt to try and
articulate what I felt was bugging me, and now I'm in the last few hours
before I post and I still haven't got what I want to say correct.  So
with time running out, let's dump any pretence of succinctness and
eloquence and make a jab at the core of the problem.
     I haven't been buying _Civil War_, but from what I gather of the
reviews I've seen here-and-there, thither-and-yon, I'm glad I haven't
bothered.  Perhaps I'm just getting too old.  Anyway, in the name of
dramatic tension the characters are doing a lot of stupid things.  To
the point where there are accusations of Iron Man and Captain America
are actively and deliberately being written out of character to fit the
plot, rather than the plot flowing naturally out of how the characters
would react in such-and-such a situation.  Now, granted, in Real Life
most politics is also surrounded by stupid posturing, but a fair amount
of that is propaganda for the public.  Unless one side or the other has
overwhelming means to push through their intentions, there's a lot of
backroom trading (which happens on all levels, right up to and including
situations where people do indeed 'talk to the terrorists').  But in
Civil War it seems that the main protagonists are so ideologically
entrenched that they are acting like monomaniacs.
     This situation is reprised and summarised quite eloquently in 'Quit
Cloning Around'.  As I have said in the past, for me some of the funniest
moments in the LNH have been when the Legionnaires are acting on their
personal monomanias, talking past each other and even tripping each other
up.  So here we have Irony Man, echoing the actions of Iron Man, acting
on a personal monomania, and in the process producing some hilarious satire.
     However, after that hilarity I have a second reaction, which is
disgruntlement, and it took me a while to identify where it was coming from.
For all of their arguments and Fight Scenes about what is right and wrong
about superhuman registration, both Iron Man and Captain America are
*going about it* in a way that that loses track of the main point of
superheroics: which is to protect the world from paranormal wrong doing.
At this point if Limp-Asparagus Lad were capable of making snarky
comments he would make a snarky comment about people having been
corrupted by Drama, and everyone should go and take a cold shower.  This,
however, is almost certainly an idiosyncratic reaction for me, and isn't
actually anything that Martin needs to concern himself about: his job
was merely to point out that the Emperor has no clothes, which is handled

Superfreaks #9-13
'Proposals'  ;  'Secrets'  ;  'Send Up The Clones'  ;  'The Sad Clone'
and  'Dreams'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps

     [With the number of issues falling so that all of October's issues
can be conveniently collected in the third trade etherback.  Yay.]
     Issues 9 and 10 have a relatively mundane homicide as their A Plot,
while as the B Plot Edward romances and then proposed to Mary.  There is
minimal superhuman content - partly a brief mention of the upcoming
Extreme and Amazing Woman marriage, and (more substantively) the fallout
when Mary deduces Extreme's secret identity.
     Then issue 11 and 12 return to primarily examining the interaction
of real life law enforcement with superhuman issues, starting with an
investigation of the death of a clone.  This compounds when one of the
earliest clones makes the decision to make a legal appeal to assert her
human rights.
     My goodness, no wonder AI computers are always going beserk; they
must be paranoid to the extent of psychosis about being enslaved by
humans!  Frankly, I'm with Detective Phelps on this one: I wonder how the
rulings allowing the ownership of sapient creatures that so closely
resemble humans, no matter what the exact nature of their creation was,
came about in the first place.  To me this is not so much a question of
how the clones seem to develop more complex personalities over time.
Rather, it comes from knowing the highly charged nature of civil rights
issues on the one hand and pro-choice/pro-life activism on the other in
the U.S.
     Now, you see that previous paragraph?  In at least one sense that's
a disingenuous statement on my part.  I think I can see how it was
passed, but I think it has more to do with the structure and nature of
the storytelling in the Superfreaks setting than with in-story logic.
Due to the cop show/legal profession setup that Martin is using series
the issues surrounding clone rights need to be hashed out in court, and
that most convenient way to arrange that is a ruling to have already
been made.  It's quick and doesn't require months of in-story build up
across a number of issues.  Nevertheless, while I can see that it's
useful as a storytelling setup, I found it jarring and had to stop and
think about it.
     Finally, in issue 13 we return to the topic of relationships
between the police force and Extreme Force Six, with the very pertinent
observation about how superhero teams tend to keep secrets about
paranormal activities.  The best bit for my money way the interview
with Weapon Alpha about the dissolving ninjas - so insane, but also too
true.  But there's also a whole bunch of dreams that the cast keep
having.  It could be a unifying thematic link to the story and I'm just
being paranoid, but at first I was wondering whether someone with dream
manipulation powers was messing with them.  The problem is that with
the premise and structure of this series either could be true.  Hmm,
have to wait and see on that one.

Thunderclaps #1-2
'Will of the Father'  and  'Little Steps'
A Miscellaneous [MISC] series
by Rick Hindle

     Another new series from Rick.  <sigh>  Okay, without in any way
wanting to be snarky or negative, can I put in a request for Rick to
finish at least a story arc?  Even if a series is retroactively deemed
to be a miniseries, I'd at least like to get some closure on stuff like
_Legends Of The Eternal World_ and _The Goddess And The Bomb_.  I know
he can do it, because _City Of Heroes_ reached seven issue.  Of course,
I realise that this being RACC that this might be difficult - what with
our membership being typified as having 'flashbulb-like attention spans'
and being easily distracted by the idea of writing series consisting on
haiku or limericks or whatever, and still others being unable to write
an episode faster than once a year, and, well, you get the idea.
Nevertheless, I'll just put the idea onto the wish list, okay?
     Anyway.  There's a well-crafted opening that balances both intrigue
with direct story telling (although perhaps not quite as direct as, say,
Jochem's pulpish writing style for _Godling_).  Clay Hunter tells us
that his life ended back in July, and then proceeds to give the readers
the back story that explains why.  He's the son of a famous superhero,
Thunderclap, who at the opening of the first issue is dying.  The readers
are shown the reactions of both the public and family, and the two quite
different modes of grief.  It's never stated explicitly, but Thunderclap
is estranged from his family.  He doesn't see much of his them and it's
clear from the tell-don't-show storytelling methods that his responsib-
ilities as a world famous hero have driven them apart.  They all still
love and are proud of each other, but they've also all long since learnt
to deal with the separation; so much so that Clay finds the decision of
his mother to go and see her husband at the hospital shocking.  When
Thunderclap dies (actually, vanishes from his hospital bed) Clay takes
the thunderclap pin which is apparently the source of the superhuman
powers, and eventually - on the spur of the moment - uses it, leading to
that lovely closing sentence just after he's thrown himself off a fifth
story balcony: 'All it took was three stories before I learned what it
was to fly'.
     The second issue picks up with Clay as the new Thunderclap, getting
the hang of the ropes fighting supervillains and re-establishing the
Thunderclap as 'not dead'.  His mother wondering if Clone King had
created a copy of his father was a cute touch.  I do question the wisdom
of Clay not telling his mother that he's taken over from his father.
Yes, it might save her emotional pain in the short and possibly even
medium term, but a second's thought about the matter should suggest to
Clay that if he absolutely has to take over this high-risk job, then it
will save her trauma when something similar happens again.

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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