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

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 14 20:39:29 PDT 2006

Saxon Brenton wrote:
> [REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #33 - September 2006 [spoilers]

> 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
> considered.

I'm glad I was able to surprise (and hopefully delight).

>      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,

I think this is something that's key to Martin's character, especially
at this point in the series: how much of Ray's methods, of the
four-colour approach, to keep and how much of his more "realistic"
street approach.  Both have their benefits, but people who know me know
that I certainly weigh in more heavily towards the gaudy/optimistic
aspects of the genre.

I'm trying to avoid the kind of overt metatextual themes that ran in
Speak! and the original Green Knight series, in which it could
partially be read as a history of superhero comics/the author reckoning
with and ultimately refusing Eighties Deconstrunctionalism.  One could
say that as Martin is trying to put together his new life and his
identity, the author is trying to find which aspects of the genre work
and which do not-- but I don't think Jolt City is exactly a metatextual
sort of series.

Though I hope it gives some pause for thought, my first concern is to
write entertaining adventure stories-- even if, as in the case of # 3,
there's not really much adventure going on.  I'm done, for the moment,
writing _about_ the genre in the my stories; now, I want to write the
genre.  I want to write superhero stories, and I want to do it well.  I
want, most of all, to write the kind of superhero stories I'd like to
read, which is why I try to structure my issues with a beginning,
middle, and an end: something that seems passe these days.

This does result in longer stories, but I think it's better to have a
largely self-contained and hopefully satisfying story in one chunk than
three or four.  I am mindful of length, and I'm certainly not trying to
alienate people or be pretentious about it: each story is only as long
as it needs to be, and I think every scene/line serves some purpose,
whether to advance plot, theme, or character.

> 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

I'm glad you picked up on that; that's another big concern for Martin
and, as you note by way of juxtaposition, it goes hand in hand with the
four-colour approach.

Martin's not a particularly introspective character-- especially in
contrast to Anders Cradle, who was extremely introspective and tortured
by living in his head-- but he is an introverted one.  He's someone who
is more concerned with physical action and physical reality, and I
think he's aware of the dichotomy at work here.

I think he's very uneasy socially, but as time goes on, I hope he finds
himself and his place in society in both identities.

> (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.).

Well, with Pam, I'm certainly sexing it up a bit, and consciously so; I
think she's more of a lust-interest than love-interest at this stage of
the game.  I hope this doesn't offend anybody, and I know I'm appealing
to prurient interest with my lush descriptions of her sexual
characteristics-- but what's wrong with prurient interest as part of a
larger whole?  Provoking anger and joy are perfectly valid responses
for art to provoke; why not an erection?

There's more of this in # 3, and in later issues; # 4 is more focused,
on a whole, on questions of morality and race.  # 4 won't be coming
until December; November is going to see the posting of the 80-page

> 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.

Nah; I really have no use for the "hero manipulated/steered by unseen
sources" trope.  I think Martin's well-suited for some things and not
for others; we'll see more of this journey with each issue of Jolt
City-- your destination for adventure! :-)

> 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.

At the same time, I think it does in a large part cater to the
secretive/grim'n'gritty quality that defines many 90's comics.  Whether
this is because he is working in the crime genre or not is debatable.

> characters are a balanced mix of the humane, self-sacrificing, arrogant,
> driven, and simply damaged.  Whether this is realistic or not in a

I'm not sure if I entirely agree with this assertion, at least as far
as the super-characters go; it seems to me that it's tipped more
towards the damaged/arrogant side of the equation.

> '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

And it's these extrapolations that I find most interesting about the
series, and the kind of extrapolation that I like in superhero stories
in general.  And it was one of the reasons why I wanted it Eightfold.

>      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.

Which is something else I liked: it was distinctly Martin Phipps.  I
can't speak for the Eightfoldian Formerly Known as the Joltin' One, but
I think he wasn't as comfortable with letting it just be dialogue as I
was.  But that was something Jamie, Martin & I could have hashed out
between us.

Ah well.

> 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.

I may have come off as a carmudgeon (SP) in my first review of the
Superfreaks series, but that's only because certain elements (the
transparency of the super-characters, the lack of procedure) bothered
me.  But I do find the series readable, and I am enjoying it.


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