[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #47 - November 2007 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton Saxon.Brenton at uts.edu.au
Sat Dec 1 17:28:03 PST 2007

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #47 - November 2007 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
     58.5 #11-12  [LNH]
     Beige Countdown #7  [LNH]
     Derek Radner's Private Journal #1  [ASH]
     Kinky Romance #1  [8Fold]
     Mr. Transparent #5  [Misc]
     New Exarchs #4-6  [SG/LNH]
     Sporkman #1-3  [SG]
     Thunderclap #8  [Pincity]

Also posted:
     Coherent Super Stories #11-12  [ASH]
     Doomed Romance #2  [8Fold]
     Kid Recap #1  [LNH]
     Superfreaks Season 3 #6-10  [Superfreaks]

     I attended a family reunion mid-November.  It wasn't a get
together of my stepmother's family, such as we had over last Christmas
(and which I described - in interminable detail - in the Jan 2007
EoMR).  This was my father's side of the family, and if you recall that
he's the youngest of 19, then you'll realise that this event involved a
much bigger gathering.  As usual it was held at Dad's place because it
has the biggest back yard, and as usual there were was the game of
musical chairs to find somewhere for the visitors to sleep (I got a
nice piece of floor down in the re-renovated back shed).
    This was actually the second year that Dad had organised such a
reunion, and with more advance notice this time there were corresp-
ondingly more relatives in attendance.  The rough head count that I did
during the speeches at lunch produced a number of between 70 and 80. 
There were people from quite far away (Aunty Moina travelled all the
way up from Melbourne), and a number who I'd never met before and who
I will inevitably make a fool of myself to when I fail to remember them
next year.  And Aunty Nancy is making a very good recovery from her
cancer operation, by-the-by.
     Spoilers below...


58.5 #11-12
'Godd Is A Concept By Which We Measure Our Pain'  and 
'Once Upon a Time There Was a Tavern'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Lalo Martins

     Ah, what a wonderful, meta-contextual piece of fan-wank this is.
     If you're familiar with the LNH setting, and you like meta-
contextual fan-wank, then you're probably enjoying this series.  If you
don't, then there's a good chance that _58.5_ is a little dry for you. 
This is especially considering that the ratio of talk to fight scenes
has been further skewed by the fact that that the Geekobots/Yuppicons
fight was summarily finished off panel.  I can't complain too much
about this without some hypocrisy on my part, since Lalo isn't the
first writer around here who's written himself into a corner, but I
will confirm that I had been looking forward to seeing the rest of that
particular confrontation.
     In any case, if you enjoy meta-contextual fan-wank then you'll
probably be able to at least follow what I'll be babbling about in this
commentary.  If not, you may wish to to scroll forward to the review
for _Beige Countdown_, which at least discusses character motivation,
or even _Derek Radner's Private Journal_, where I accuse Derek of being
     For what it's worth I felt particularly happy and hyperactive
while reading these two issues.  Admittedly that may have been from a
sugar high, because that day there had been an end-of-semester party
at work, for which I had made a double-choc-swirl-with-chocolate-chips-
cheesecake, and I had brought home and eaten a helping of the leftovers
just beforehand.  Whatever.  I was particularly taken with the
exposition by the Existents in #11 about the nature of the Usenetverse
as the collection of all LNH stories.  To my eye it looks like a more
technically accurate reason for why fictional characters can't enter
Real Life than the reason I wrote for Fourth Wall Lass in #10 - but I
wonder if Lalo's explanation will catch on, since it's also a more
subtle, nuanced and pedantic explanation.  Still, it acts as a good
starting point for a working guide on the practicalities of inter-
imprint crossovers: unless you have express permission and/or
participation from the copyright holders of the intellectual property,
then the world that you're crossing over with/into will be a copy of
some sort rather than the original ('real') version (Just a little
something to keep in mind the next time you see one comic company or
another putting in Easter egg homages to another company's characters)
This is something that takes me back to the heydays of the Torg RPG
discussion list, when we worked out how useful it was for reconciling
the use of two or more settings with radically different cosmological
setups.  Simply be realistic enough to admit that you're using an
adaptation of you favourite film/TV show/comic/novel/RPG and it no
longer matters that two multiverses are ascribed mutually contradictory
constructions: You're Only Using A Copy.  At this point you realise
that you're effectively dealing not with parallel universes, but rather
with parallel multiverses and even parallel mulitversal clusters -
and then the mathematician Georg Cantor's set theory of infinite
infinities unfolds before you and you get hit with the pantswetting
realisation that the totality of existence is a lot bigger that
previously recognised.  Mmm, parallel multiverses.
    I will quibble, however, as to whether LNH characters could only
ever 'properly' access LNH2 and LNHY story settings and are otherwise
only crossing over with parallels.  Since authorial approval was
included in various LNH/Patrol, LNH/ASH, LNH/Superguy/ LNH/Eleck, and
Crossroads/<whatever> crossovers (and it's telling how many of them
involved Dave Van Domelen) then these crossovers logically involved
the originals (and possibly also the appearance of the DC character
Impulse, since Poet received permission from Mark Waid for the
'Sudden Impulse' story).
     On other matters: there was also the bit about comedy and drama
being two of the main organising principles in the Looniverse.  I'd
never thought of them in quite those terms, instead tending to consider
them as somehow being analogues of gravity, electromagnetism, and the
nuclear weak and strong forces.  Still, it does make a certain amount
of sense, even if it means that along with good and evil, order and
chaos (inherited from Michael Morcock via the DC universe), and art and
nature (shamelessly plagiarised from the Champions RPG setting) that
the Looniverse is becoming crowded with cosmological dualities.
     In issue 12 the Time Crapper and Mother Time contacted Fourth Wall
Lass to get information to use against Bart, and perhaps seduce her to
the Dark Side of the Farce.  The parallel publishing structure of the
various series running from the Infinite Leadership Crisis onwards
means that she's acutely aware of the continuity bind running from ILC
through to Beige Midnight.  (Again, another quibble: before his powers
changed it would have been Fan.Boy who was aware of all this from
reading the published stories.  With her heightened powers Fourth Wall
Lass should simply know.)  The two villains are impressed with Fourth
Wall Lass's ruthlessness (or perhaps reluctance to tackle the really
tough problem) by not informing her teammates of everything that's
going on.  For my part I had a vignette flash into my head where the
Dvandom Stranger appears, announces that he has to deal with a problem
in another time and place but that there's also a problem in the
Looniverse that needs attending, then hands over the Editorial Staff
to Fourth Wall Lass on a loaner and says, "You deal with the local
problem".  Whereupon FWL goes "Crap." because as a superhero she
doesn't have a particularly good grasp of the Zen 'Through inaction all
things may be accomplished' method of intervention.

Beige Countdown #7
'The Last Dance'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Arthur Spitzer

     Technical stuff: this series continues to count down towards #0,
but in this case has jumped over issues 10, 9 and 8 to deal with the
Ripping Dancer plot.
     At this point I'll reiterate that Arthur writes damn good angst. 
Even when he's putting characters through sick and twisted crap (and
he writes good sick and twisted crap, too) he uses his knack for
presenting it from the character's point of view so that even while the
character is boggling (or recoiling in horror) the reader has little
choice but to empathise with their feelings.  In this instance Ripping
Dancer - who's still squeamish about being blackmailed into destroying
Fearless Leader as the cost for the potions that make her beautiful -
confronts a thematically parallel situation of an ugly young man who
kills himself by touching the Beige Clocktower.  Does she react in
horror?  Well, yes.  But she does more than that...
     Let's quickly restate what we know about the difference between
the horror genre and other fantasy genres in how they react to 'the
strange'.  In horror fiction the intrusion of the strange and unknown
into the mundane everyday world causes the characters to react with
incomprehension and fear (and with justification, since that visceral
reaction is usually a correct anticipation of the pain and death that
the strange brings).  By contrast, in other types of fantastic fiction
(most fantasy, a lot of science fiction and superhero) the arrival of
the strange can be wondrous, uplifting and even empowering.
     The empowering part is important here, because Ripping Dancer
quickly moves through her grief and guilt, and into the plateau of
bloodyminded determination to find and bring down the mysterious
supervillain (Manga Man) who has been manipulating her.  A pity that
Manga Man and Hex Luthor have already decided to sacrifice and destroy
her to further their plans.  Oooo.  Look.  A *theme*.  Just as the
whole world is on a deadline as it races towards Beige Midnight, so too
is Ripping Dancer.  She just doesn't realise it until it's too late and
she's revealed as a traitor, forcing her to flee the Legion.
     And then there's Manga Man.  Now here's a study in deeply self-
destructive tendencies.  He's one of those villains who knows that the
heroes always win but continue on anyway, because that's what villains
do.  He knows how to play his part.  He will put in immense effort into
implementing an appropriately heinous scheme for the heroes to thwart. 
Because it feels goooood to be thwarted.  To be crushed beneath the
sartorially immaculate boots of the forces of righteousness, with their
perfect smiles that reflect the light with a 'ting' when the angle is
just so.  But for that he needs a nemesis.  A nemesis who will also
play their part.  A nemesis who won't flub their lines, and who'll look
upon his heinous scheme and appreciate it in all of its malignant glory
as something that must be stopped, and who will strive in the
appropriate manner to thwart him.
     Manga Man doesn't think that the hero he's tried to craft in
Ripping Dancer will be sufficient to fulfil his own self-destructive
urge to be thwarted by the forces of righteousness.  Of course, that
was true *then*, when Ripping Dancer was still reacting in horror genre
mode, being confused, afraid and indecisive, and simply allowing
herself to be pushed along as outside events dictated.  But then she
switched over into superhero mode: she was empowered, and ready to
thwart.  Such a pity for both of them that Hex Luthor isn't the type of
villain who knows that the heroes always win, and insisted that Manga
Man move on to the endgame.  Poor Manga Man.  Your not going to get
your thwartaholic fix today.
     And now I'm left wondering whether there's a next step for Ripping
Dancer.  Will she and Fearless Leader teamup to fight and thwart Manga
Man, albeit with a different approach from her last plan?  Or will the
angst filled, sick and twisted, bittersweet ending we saw here - where
Fearless Leader rescues her from committing suicide at the Beige
Clock - be the end of her story?  Well, this is an Arthur Spitzer
story, so by past indications it will be the latter, but on the other
hand there's still more than half the series to go.

Derek Radner's Private Journal #1
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     As the title implies, this takes the form of an excerpt from the
highschool journal of Derek Radner.  At this point he is still a
rebellious teenager and has not yet taken the codename Triton, nor
started his career as arguably the first supervillain of the Fourth Age
in the ASH setting and certainly the first big name supervillain of the
Fourth Age.  The journal's subject is villainy, and its layout is a
reasonably well-thought out overview of the standard reasons that a
villain might be motivated, and illustrated by examples of some of the
major villains of the past.
     The writing, as ever from Dvandom, is good.  The structure (of
setting out a list which gives an overview of the subject) may strike
some people as very like the format of the 'how to kill a superhuman'
article from _Time Capsules_ #11, but the style is different enough
for this not to be a problem, and frankly considering how much stuff
Dvandom's been publishing lately it would be a surprise if some of his
more experimental stuff didn't occasionally repeat structure.
     As for the contents, I was amused by how hard it was to tell where
the self-important teenaged bravado left off and incipient self-centred
supervillain monomania took over.  And in a way Radner exhibits both. 
It's clear from his biases that Radner is attracted to the True Villain
archetype, since he overlooks the rather obvious argument that
indicates that a True Villain is as flawed as the other three
archetypes: wanting to live on your own terms and only your own terms,
at the expense of others, indicates both a sciopathic inability to
empathise with others as sentient beings, but more practically
indicates an inability to work with others for a constructive outcome. 
That latter in particular is a telling flaw for a purportedly superior

Kinky Romance #1
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell

     After the EoMR last month proclaimed October 2007 to be Smutober,
Tom ruefully commented that he knew he should have posted _Kinky
Romance_ in that month.  And you can see why.  In it's own way it's
even more raunchy that _Superfreaks Season 3_ #5 (Greetings Earthling.
We wish to investigate you cultural practice known as hanky panky),
_Coherent Super Stories_ #9 (I've been used as a character in a Tijuana
Bible!) or _LNH Vol.2_ #23 (a telepath is narrating badly written slash
fiction into my brain!).  In this case the theme is 'hot Amish lesbian
action!'  Except it's not quite that either.
     After an unpleasant encounter with an unruly non-Amish man who
abuses and spits on her Rachel finds her thoughts returning to the
incident and becoming aroused by it.  At first I thought the pattern of
the story would be predicated by her being attracted to the lout, but
Tom is a better and more cunning writer than that.  Instead, Rachel's
attraction was to the abuse itself, and after she confides her feelings
to her friend Leah, the two Amish girls begin to explore Rachel's abuse
fetish, taking it to increasing extremes and risks.
     The language is graphic if not necessarily totally explicit.  But
then, the story is more about the character's reaction than to abuse. 
(Or to put it another way, it's closer to literature rather than
pornography because it's about the characters rather than titillating
the audience.)  It doesn't *need* to fully and frankly describe the
girls touching their sex organs.  And indeed this might be for the
best, since the story seems to delight in cavorting at the line where
the moderator might otherwise begin to think about saying "Take it to
     One thought occurs to me that a reader may wish to ponder.  Is
Rachel's abuse fetish a fixed and absolute thing or a relative and
socially contextual one?  By this I mean: would Rachel be aroused in
exactly the same way if she had not been raised in the Amish culture,
but instead in modern Western society?  After all, in the latter case
her tastes (as shown here) would probably count as rather generic
BDSM.  If, however, she's aroused not by abuse per se, but by being
transgressive against her cultural upbringing, then what may be
shocking among the Amish would be rather tame in the more permissive US
culture, and might prompt her to explore far more extreme interests.

Mr Transparent #5
A Miscellaneous [Misc] (but technically Transparent Comics) series
by Frumpy

     In this issue, government agents are overwhelmed by the kewlness
factor of dinosaurs, and Mr Transparent isn't paranoid enough.
     This review is going to make a number of snarky comments about
Idiot Plots (plots where the characters behave in stupid ways simply
for the sake of keeping the plot moving).  In one way this isn't fair,
since I don't complain when characters in various LNH stories do stupid
things.  On the other hand, those types of stories are comedy, and
quite often parody the superhero genre conventions.  By comparison
_Mr Transparent_ isn't a comedy series, and certainly isn't a parody. 
It's a direct and to-the-point adventure series.  So when there are
several plot points that only make sense in the context of setting up
the premise, they gain disproportionate prominence.  On the gripping
hand, there plot points *were* only in the setup of the story, and once
proceedings were under way I was able to immerse myself in the story
quite happily.
     Anyway.  Vincent Solomon's friend Dr Carlton Curtis (from issue 1)
returns.  He's been working on an inter-dimensional travel machine for
the government, has become disillusioned by their motives, and has
decided to leave and keep his invention out of untrustworthy hands.  It
seems that they are mainly interested in collecting potential weapons
from other Earths, and are particularly excited about the prospect of
using dinosaurs.  Okay, stop right there.  This isn't actually an Idiot
Plot point, but: why dinosaurs?  Apart from the kewlness factor, of
course.  Sometimes you just have things happening in superhero comics
for no other reason than they're kewl.  But surely hardheaded
government operatives would be more interested in really high tech
weapons that they could pilfer from other societies.
     This is also the point where it turns out that there's only one
prototype of Dr Curtis's machine and no redundant backups of the
blueprints or research data in case of accident, making it relatively
easy for Dr Curtis to deny use of his invention to his employers.  This
is a standard genre convention, and while it's better than the cliche
of 'scientist drinks the only copy of his award winning mutagenic
formula to keep it out of enemy hands', it's still not particularly
sensible.  There's also the small matter of the creator of this not yet
backed up data being allowed to go do the exploring of the alternative
Earths himself rather than sending a properly equipped recon team.
     So Dr Curtis comes to visit Vincent (Mr Transparent) one last time
to say goodbye.  However, the kidnappers who were after Dr Curtis in
issue 1 are still after him, and in fact Skitch tries to pass himself
off as a detective to Vincent.  Now, I'm not particularly worried about
the coincidence involved in Vincent receiving the email from Dr Curtis
only moments after Skitch has been asking after him.  Perhaps I'm being
overly metaphysical, but I tend to look on coincidence as a function of
how the world physically works rather than as a shortcoming in the
psychology of the characters.  I can see, however, where others who are
more interested in the writerly aspects of story construction might
frown on the use of too many coincidences as being lazy writing.  What
stuck in my craw, however, was that Vincent immediately went and
visited Dr Curtis, without taking any precautions like sending an email
warning that Skitch was still after him, and certainly without using
his powers of invisibility to ensure that he wasn't followed.  Which
duly happens.
     At Dr Curtis's hotel room he's demonstrating his dimensional
travel machine when Skitch and his gang turn up.  Curtis and Vincent
flee to another Earth, but the machine is damaged and they are stuck
there, having to take menial jobs in order to make enough money to
repair the machine.  Dr Curtis is kidnapped by his Evil Twin, the
villain Dr Black, who wants to make use of Dr Curtis as part of a
scheme to fake his own death.  Fortunately Vincent tracks them down,
captures Dr Black, and with the reward money they are able to repair
the travel machine to send Vincent home while Dr Curtis stays.
     A random thought or two:  1) You know, I suppose I can't accuse
Vincent of being completely cliche.  If he were, he would have at least
kept a copy of the blueprints in case he needed an inter-dimensional
travel machine in a future adventure, and possibly having it stolen by
an enemy and used as a McGuffin for a chase across various alternative
Earths.  After all, superheroes are always leaving stuff like that
around on display in their Batcaves of Fortresses of Soliloquy or
whatever.  (2) I hope this teaches Vincent to be more careful.  While
I am not particularly taken by Skitch as an antagonist, I can see that
he could become a thorn in Mr Transparent's side if he decided to go
on some sort of revenge kick.  I suppose it depends on just how
'professional' he is as the leader of the purported top criminal
mercenary group, and exactly what that entails.

New Exarchs #4-6
'Something Smells Here'  ;  'Tea And Exposition'  and 
'Storage (Blood)shed'
A Superguy and Legion of Net.Heroes [SG/LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     Just a quick summary on these issues - partly because I really
like _New Exarchs_ and partly because there's an important plot point. 
To whit: issue 4 opens with what is probably a key piece of information
for readers trying to understand this arc (providing, of course, that
it's not a red herring).  In another altiverse, CEO Sung of the world
spanning 'Sung the Stainless' Incorporated, is planning an
inter-universal invasion.  Of course, Dave already used the
inter-dimensional invasion theme back in the original 'Season In
Crimson' arc in _Exarchs_ #1-24, but I'm reasonably confident that
he'll put a new twist or dozen on this.
     Other than that, plot exposition continues as the protagonists
continue to gather information on the disappearance of Paul Oakthorn
and confirm that he was probably dimensionally displaced rather than
killed.  Their scientist NPC, er, support character, Hans Zwarghoff
sets up some sensors to detect the use of inter-dimensional cheeez, and
the heroes set about trying to find some samples of the Paleoculture
cheeez for their own transportation.  Along the way there's a
gratuitous appearance by the squirrels (for upcoming events in _Team
M.E.C.H.A._) and a gratuitous teamup with Rip Davis (from _The League_).

Sporkman #1-3
'A New Beginning'  ;  'A New Hotness'  and  'A New Hunch'
A Superguy [SG] series
by Greg Fishbone

     Here's another one of several series that started/restarted
back in October on the Superguy mailing list.  _Sporkman_, however,
is being posted to RACC as a type of delayed reprint starting in
November.  However, just because these episodes were posted back in
October doesn't mean that they're in any way part of Smutober. 
No no no.  (Well, okay, the first episode opens with Jeanette LeBlanc
waking to find herself in bed a man she had only met over birthday
drinks the previous night, but by issue 2 they've deduced that they
both feel asleep and nothing carnal happened.)  Rather, this is an
October *Superguy* post, which means more of that belatedness stuff I
was going on about in the previous EoMR.
     I came to this comic knowing nothing about Mickey Dunne or his
backhistory as Sporkboy.  However, thanks to the wonders of author's
notes I now know that he appeared as an enthusiastic nine year old
superhero in _Super Seven_ and _Preeteen Patrol_.  As both the
author's notes and the story itself shows, age has wearied him.
     Interestingly most of the scenes featuring Mickey have basically
been exposition with Jeanette.  Now, this is not to say they are
without dramatic tension.  The first issue has the demonstration that
Mickey fight scenes in his sleep, and in issue 2 Jeanette reveals that
she is in danger and needs superheroic protection.  These and hints
about the pair's backhistories make for good reading, and I am envious.
I have trouble presenting the right balance between dramatic tension
and world building, and after many years of being justifiably
editorially yelled at by Jamas I tend to default to throwing in at
least one fight scene, no matter how gratuitous.
     Meanwhile there *is* a fully blown fight scene, as issues 2 and 3
have Spoonstryke (formerly Spoongirl, and I suspect the same Nancy who
Mickey referred to in #1) invading the underground death factory of
Nobody Important currently being tended by his 15 year old nephew
Roger and Roger's bodyguard, the Serially Numbered Underling Number
Twenty-Two.  *Why* the fight scene is there I'm not completely sure. 
It may be that Greg also feels the need to occasionally throw in a
gratuitous fight scene to keep things spiced up.  Or perhaps he's
introducing Spoonstryke as a supporting character so that she can show
up later and interact with Mickey.  Or (looking ahead to the episodes
that have only been posted on Superguy so far) it may be that
Spoonstryke's comments of regret in #5 of where her life has taken her
is a thematic parallel to Mickey's situation.  Hmmm.
     And speaking of looking ahead to the episodes that haven't made it
to RACC yet, at the end of #5 we are informed that 'It's not too late to

suggest a 000SUPERGUY celebrity you wouldn't mind seeing torn apart by
wild lemures while on an transatlantic airship flight'.  I would like
to suggest John Winston Howard (since only then will the RIGHTEOUS
and TOTALLY PSYCHOTIC revenge of the Australian people against the
Howard Interregnum of Australian politics be complete!  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!)
     [Saxon fully appreciates that Tarq is probably the only other
person on RACC who knows what the hell Saxon is ranting about, and that
since Tarq isn't old enough to vote yet he probably doesn't care
- Footnote Girl, who's never been in a review series before]

Thunderclap #8
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle

     This issue is the conclusion of the _Thunderclap_ series.  In
the author's notes Rick says he plans to move on to other projects set
in the same universe (which makes sense considering he's only just
recently arranged for a distinct 'Pincity' imprint tag) and perhaps tie
up some of the plot threads left dangling.  In any case, this episode
definitely feels like a wrapup story.  The heroes get to hang out and
swap stories with each other, while the villain (The Baron) gets to
quietly fume, and kill people out of spite, and prepare for his next
scheme.  Along the way there's various bits of neat superhero minutae
(like Clay musing on how he's had to adapt to the problem of swallow
insects while flying).
    And of course there's the unresolved plot points.  Some of them
- like finding out what The Baron's planning - are staples of serial
fiction.  On the other hand I'm still trying to figure out if I missed
something about what being an Ancient actually entails; the explanation
that we've gotten so far seem rather vague.  *Why* do they tend to go
insane, and why is one more crazy superhuman such a big deal?  This may
be a minor point, but it's niggling at me.
     However, for the most part the most prominent impression that I
get from this issue is one of closure.  This is emphasised by the
final scene where Clay realised that he's come full circle in his
attitude to his father's insistence on spending so much time helping
people at the expense of his family life.  Now Clay understands his
father's viewpoint and is ready to get on with being Thunderclap.
     Thinking back on the various stories that Rick has written
(particularly _Goddess And The Bomb_ and _Legends Of The Eternal
World_), I'd say that he usually comes up with a premise that's
interesting and then writes up to the expectations of that premise. 
I expect that the next project to come out under the Pincity imprint
will also be worth reading.

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 and its sibling group
Superguy can be found at:
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        http://archives.eyrie.org/superguy/   or

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