[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #33 - September 2006 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 13 13:46:33 PDT 2006

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #33 - September 2006 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      Academy of Super Heroes #72  [ASH]
      Girls On Beach Blankets #1-3  [LNHY]
      Jolt City #2  [8Fold]
      Metal Fire #9-10  [Starfall]
      Superfreaks #[0], 1-8  [Superfreaks]

Also posted:
      Adventures Beyond Comprehension #6-9 [LNH]
      Haiku Gorilla #173-204  [LNH]
      Legion Of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #19 & 19b  [LNH]
      Untold Tales Of The Looniverse #1-2  [LNH]

     I've been busy reminiscing, of sorts, as I was visiting my Dad up
at Kempsey on the mid north coast.  You'd think that a week off from
work would gives me *lots* of time to prepare the EoMR wouldn't you?
Wrong!  You see, sometime in the next decade Dad will almost certainly
be moving from the longtime family house where I grew up to someplace
smaller, with fewer lawns to mow, and no colonies of fruit bats down
the back stinking up the place, and since I've recently bought a place
of my own, I spent most of my visit going through the many boxes of
comics and paperbacks that I had in storage in the Public Works
Department shed down the back  (Dad ran a building company, and for
government contacts needed a demountable building to act as site office,
and all sorts of stuff have been dumped in there in recent years.)  So
I went through about 15 boxes of comics, deciding which ones to take
with me.  The rest have been PURGED!  Bwahahahaha!  Quick, Gojira-san,
use your atomic breath weapon to Destroy All Comic Books!
     Well, no, it's not quite that bad.  They're going off to a second
hand book store that doesn't mind trading in well-thumbed back issues.
Because, like, I'm a C.O.O.T. (Comic Owner Over Thirty, to use a phrase
that I'm pretty sure originated on the Avengers message board during the
Kurt Busiek years) who started colleting as a pre-teen and who never got
into the habit of putting my copies in individualised protective covers.
     Anyway.  Thousands of old comics, gone.  All the Wolverines and
Batmans and Fantastic Fours.  All the post-Claremont X-Men (and even
that's a purely arbitrary cut off point, since late in his first run
Chris Claremont had already developed interminable-subplot-itis, and I
suspect that after revision I'll prune back my holdings even further).
I haven't had time to go through all the All-Star Squadrons yet, but
I'm pretty sure that once I've had time to have a final nostalgic read
through that they'll be going as well.  And then there's all the black
and white reprints.
     Oh my goodness, the black and white reprints.  The original version
of this introduction had another lengthy paragraph babbling about the
black and white reprints, which I have decided to hold off until next
     But all that careful reading of old friends before I sent them off
means that I've procrastinated on doing the EoMR.  As a result this
months edition will be rather truncated and the reviews probably rather
     Spoilers below.


Academy of Super Heroes #72  [ASH]
'Human Desire'  (Metropolis II)
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     Preparations continue (with both good and ill intent) for Rex
Umbrae's wedding in Manhattan, and in a nice bit of parallelism that
I'd completely overlooked, Essay publicly announces the date of the
wedding of herself and Peregryn.
     Two quick impressions.  First, I remain in abiding envy of the
opening scene with Julie organising the wedding party with Rex's
groomsman Anatole.  Not only does it give a partial recap of the plot,
but also manages to neatly combine two completely different pieces of
world building details (the blur suits and Julie's suspicions about
Anatole's actual position in Rex's organisation).
     Second, Arrrgh!  Don't say things like that Essay, even if you're
only making a joke!  Inviting the giant monsters is bad juju, even if
it's on the condition that they behave themselves.  Even if you don't
make use of the reality manipulation that is the basis of almost all
superhuman abilities in the ASH universe, your fiance is a mage and
should be able to warn you about how dangerous it is to invoke the
names of deity and near-deity levels of power.  They might hear you.

Girls On Beach Blankets #1-3
'Mind Powers'  ;  'Something Cool This Way Comes!'  and
'James Joyce Gone Wild!'
A Legion of Net.Heroes Y [LNHY] series
by Arthur Spitzer

     One word: surreal.
     In an attempt to wrestle that thar pesty writers block into
submission, Arthur writes some stuff.  The first issue has two girls
sunning themselves, and one of them uses mental powers (and I'm unclear
as to whether they're the type of mental powers within that '90%
untapped potential part of the human brain' that everyone is rumoured
to have, or are specific to Cherry as a wannabe Supreme Court Justice)
to kill someone.
     In issue 2 Dr. Cool J Dog arrives and spruiks for writing in the
LNY imprint.  And then in the third issue... ah, the third issue.
James Joyce arrives (much to the consternation of Van Hel.sig) and tries
to subvert the superhero genre with "thinly veiled postmodern tricks"
and "pretentious non-linear crap", laughing contemptuously at the feeble
attempts of the audience to understand the text while at the same time
seducing us with chainsaw death duels between Benjamin Franklin and
Abraham Lincoln.

Jolt City #2
'There Was A Crooked Man!'
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell

     Green Knight continues to get into the groove of being a four
colur superhero again, this time battling a former drug cartel member
turned superpowered anti-drug vigilante, the Crooked Man.  This,
unfortunately, involves some of the more baroque elements of superhero
morality, including keeping distasteful deals with villains in order to
save lives in the short term.
     So Joey turned out to be a recurring character, but only for
long enough to get killed by this issue's big bad, huh?  Okay, I was
unsure whether he was a throwaway character or was going to be a
recurring low level pest, but a quick death wasn't something I had
     One interesting subtext I noticed is the way that... hmm, I'm not
sure how to phrase this properly, the way that four colour heroics are
being spruiked over the 'nameless urban legend vigilante' methods of
crime fighting.  If it were just one example I might not have noticed
it, but twice draws attention to itself.  In the first instance the
text explicitly says that Martin feels that he's done more good work
in a few months working within the law with the police than he did from
years as a no-name vigilante, while later with have the demonstration
that by reintegrating into society rather than skulking in the shadows
Martin has been slowly rewarded by improvements in his life as he has
(last issue) found a superhero base with Roy Riddle and (this issue) a
job with Bierce Bail Bonds (The latter introducing Pamela Bierce, who
reads at first glance as a prospective love interest and, because I
don't fully trust Tom, could actually represent almost anything.).  This
sort of thing goes a bit further than Martin merely enjoying the change
of lifestyle now that he's the Green Knight - but I'm not sure whether
this should be interpreted as Martin being better suited to his current
methodologies and therefore intrinsically likely to produce results, or
whether he's being steered.  Then again, maybe it's just apophenia
on my part.

Metal Fire #9-10
'False Maria' parts 03 and 04
A Starfall [Starfall] series
by Wil Alambre

     Oh, that's right.  'False Maria' was only a four part arc.  Sorry,
the coda at the end of #10 with Poe blackmailing Reeves felt more like
bridge into another issue of the same arc rather than a subplot for a
future arc.  Actually, thinking about it, I suspect that the way there
was only minimal resolution of the interaction between Kim and Eddy
may have contributed to that as well: they join forces to trick the
programmers who have been mucking about in Kim's headspace and dispatch
the goons sent to catch Eddy, but they haven't yet had time come to
terms with what that partnership means and all the ramifications that
Eddy unearthed about Kim's current state.  I suppose I'll just have to
wait and see how these plot threads are picked up in the next issue.
     Anyway, the plot in brief across all four issues (issues 7 and 8
were reposted) is that the hacker Eddy takes a job which he thinks is
low on the immorality scale and ends up with access to Kim's mind.
She reacts badly to this - not unsurprisingly considering that she's
surreptitiously being reprogrammed to become more aggressive as part
of her recreation as a combat droid - and quickly tracks him down and
assaults him before bringing him back to her home.  Then, during one
of her periods of outside imposed downtime Eddy has the opportunity
to escape, but after noticing from the screens that her mind is being
tampered with again, he takes the risk of waking her to warn her.  Then,
as mentioned, the pair various trick or trap the forces set against them.
     Eddy turns out to have greater depths than is explicitly mentioned.
We are *told* that while he makes money committing online white collar
crime, he prefers the 'victimless crimes' of data retrieval over data
manipulation.  And for what it's worth that's an acceptable starting
point for why he sticks around to help Kim when combined with the quite
logical supposition that she could rather easily track him down again
if he tried to do a runner.  However, his *actions* in sticking around
bespeak a complicated mixture that probably includes: being more
committed to not harming others than merely doing data retrieval hacking
would normally imply; and/or brave to an insane degree; and/or sexually
attracted to Kim to an insane degree; and/or being fascinated by Kim's
operating system to an insane degree.  Oh yes, and overreaching himself,
as the video game metaphore showed.  Let's see how well he can sort
out his own motivations.
     One other point and counterpoint.  Wil mentions that some of the
scenes come across as generic: Hamilton, for instance, is cited as a
generic 'evil businessman'.  For the most part I agree.  I read the
original posts in 2001, and then reread the reposts, and for the most
part didn't remember any of the story up until the point where Eddy
started hacking and encountering resistance.  It was only at that point
that I went 'Oh yes, I remember this' and got wrapped up in the story
again as Kim tracked him down and attacked.  I'm wondering how much of
that is accountable from the 'having to set up the story elements
blues'.  I know there are times when I need to set up bits that
will be important later in the story that I just don't have time or
motivation to make interesting by putting a unique twist on, and those
early scenes of 'False Maria' read much like that to me.

Superfreaks #[0], 1-8
'Night Man And Moon Boy'
'Sins Of The Father'  ;  [no title]  ;  'Three Days Two Knights'  ;
'Deja Vu'  ;  'It's A Mad, Mad World'  ;  'Games People Play'  ;
'Choices'  and  [no title]
A Superfeaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps

     Spinning off from an 8Fold series proposal, Martin gives us a
delightful set of stories that a group of big city cops interacting
with superheroes, and taking a look at what it might be like to 'really'
have superheroes about.  I use the word 'delightful' quite deliberately,
since Martin eschews the genre conventions of the 1990s that 'real'
superheroes have to be seriously smegged in the head.  His superhero
characters are a balanced mix of the humane, self-sacrificing, arrogant,
driven, and simply damaged.  Whether this is realistic or not in a
'real' real life context is something that doesn't particularly interest
me.  Instead, we get to investigate a number of themes, such as
superhuman sexuality, without recourse to bringing it to the level of
school yard crudity on the one hand or encumbering with the plot train
that it will all go wrong in the end on the other.
     One distinct stylist trait that readers will have noticed is that
most of Martin's text is usually straight dialogue, and very readable
dialogue at that.  Long time readers will also note that Martin usually
writes stories (in whatever imprint) to the length that he feels he
needs to tell a story, with very little in the way of embellishment.
It seems to me then that Martin must be relishing the Superfreaks series,
since he's managed to put out a large number of quite lengthy posts,
using the CSI format (which seems to be a bit of a binge for him at the
moment, since he used that conceit in Untold Tales Of The Looniverse #1,
as well) to explore various superhero comic cliches while still putting
together stories with the necessities of characterisation and plot

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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