REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #42 - June 2007 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Jul 15 21:19:57 PDT 2007

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #42 - June 2007 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      58.5 #1-5  [LNH]
      Coherent Super Stories #3-4  [ASH]
      Jolt City #9  [8Fold]
      The Reverse Engineers #0  [ASH]
      Superfreaks Season 2 #13-17  [Superfreaks]

Also posted:
      Alt.stralian Yarns #13  [LNH]
      An Important Public Service Announcement!  [LNH]
      Bob And Charlie #3  [BP]
      Crisis On Three Earths  [LNH/LNHY/Superfreaks]
      Haiku Gorilla #297-308  [LNH]
      LNH Comics Presents #91, 98, 121, 498, 502  [LNH]
      Thunderclap #6  [Misc]

     Okay, I'm late (again).  But in the next few days the UTS library
is going to be activating sanction blocks for fines on students' exam
results, so I know I have to get the EoMR done *now* before things get
too hectic.
     However you don't want to know about my problems.  You want good
old fashioned comic book fun.  So as part of a vaguely defined
bread'n'circuses program, here's something to keep you entertained:

     Your teenaged and young adult superheroes are sitting an ethics
exam and read this question:
|    You and your team have been catapulted through time to Egypt under
| the reign of Pharaoh Shishak right in the middle of his contention
| with Moses in the lead up to the Exodus.  In a process that is
| surprisingly familiar to you, a political wrangle has spilled over
| into physical conflict with wide-screen special effects, and many
| people are suffering after being caught in the crossfire.  The last
| of the Ten Plagues is due within the next 48 hours.
|    Do you:
|    a) Do nothing because you don't want to risk changing history.
|    b) Do nothing because you don't want to risk angering God.
|    c) Try to mediate between Moses and the Pharaoh in an attempt to
| minimise the loss of life, since the point of the exercise is to get
| the Hebrews out of Egypt and differences in the way this is carried
| out will merely result in a divergent timeline.
|    d) Have a knock-down drag-out fight scene with the Angel of Death
| in an attempt to stop the angel, in exactly the same way you would
| oppose the machinations of Tezcatlipoca or Cthulhu; on the grounds
| that contrary to the propaganda YHWH is not really the creator of the
| universe and has no right to murder innocent children as part of a
| political terror campaign; with the climax of the fight seeing the
| Angel of Death trapped in a pocket dimension from which it will
| inevitably emerge, lusting for revenge, in the present day.
|    e) Other.
|    Show all working out.

     Spoilers below:


58.5 #1-5
'Break Away'  ;  'Higher And Higher'  ;
'The Times, They Are A-Changin'  ;
'You've Got To Cheat A Little, Steal A Little'  and
'Turn Off Your Mind, Relax, And Float Downstream; It Is Not Dying'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] limited series
by Lalo Martins

     Well, there's irony for you.  Lalo wandered back to RACC after
several years away, only to discover that he'd /just/ missed the whole
Legion of Net.Heroes 15th anniversary 'Infinite leadership Crisis'
project.  Which didn't actually stop him from going ahead and writing
some Infinite Leadership Crisis stories after the fact, for which we
should probably be glad, because many of the rest of us were kind of
still suffering from burnout.
     So, anyway.  _58.5_ is nominally intended to run as a sort of
run-up to the Beige Midnight project.  Plotwise it starts during the
Infinite April period of the Infinite Leadership Crisis stories: the
kids from Acra Flight (now called the New Misfits) have arrived in the
present (as per _LNH Comics Presents_ #91) and President Hex Luthor
initiates the government black ops program PANIC to infiltrate the
superheroes to see what they're up to.  The New Misfits join up with
LNH's charity mission work, and the youngsters from PANIC happen to do
the same.
     Meanwhile signs and portents of foreboding... stuff... keep popping
up (and thereby acting as catalysts for further plot development).  The
New Misfits meet 'Whino Lad', an addled net.ahuman who was driven mad by
some calamity.  Cannon Fodder is warned by a member of the Xinerama
Brotherhood that his fellows want to destroy the Looniverse because it's
in the way of their attempts to remove alt.comics.lnh and thereby tidy
up the newsgroup hierarchy.  And Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour
Story mysteriously becomes Kid Not Appearing In Any Beige Midnight Story,
prompting himself and Cannon Fodder to investigate what this Beige
Midnight business is all about.
     Since the basic structure of the series is reminiscent of the _52_
comic put out by DC in the lead up to _Infinite Crisis_, it follows that
there is likely to be a lot of issues to _58.5_.  This leads me to wonder
if stretching out the story over so much text may cause readers to loose
track of what's going on as the plot strands weave about each other.  The
obvious way of dealing with that is judicious recaps - and to an extent
we've already seen this happening with various footnotes and plot info
dumps.  Now, I don't particularly mind that sort of thing; indeed, my
reputation on this matter should give a hint that I could handle more of
it if it became necessary.  But that also means I'm having a hard time
judging what *other* people may find it tenable as reading material.
Still, standing in contrast to the plotting is the characterisation,
which has been solid.

Coherent Super Stories #3-4
'Turbulence'  and  'End Of An Era'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen

     Like _Jolt City_ (below), I enjoyed these stories but was brought
up short by the conclusion.  For completely different reasons, of
course, but nevertheless I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I
feel about them.
     Issue three is a simple enough story of a superhero teamup against
an extradimensional invasion.  The opponents, codenamed the Z-lians by
Dragonfly, are Don Quixote's hereditary foes.  When revealed they turn
out to be giants from Norse myth, and are more numerous and powerful
than had been anticipated.  The heroes fall back and regroup, make a
counterattack against the giants' home base, and put the kibosh into
the invasion plans.  (With yet another instance of a hero sacrificing
himself for the greater good by strategically blowing up a piece of
critical equipment.)
     Issue four has the careers of Dragonfly and Ladyhawke winding
down, especially in light of Dragonfly having had to have a leg
amputated because of cancer.  (Kids!  Don't use backpack mounted
nuclear generators to power your super gadgets!)  Then two time
travellers happen along, and agree to fill in for Dragonfly and
Ladyhawke temporarily to give them better cover in maintaining
their secret identities.
     Right then.  The arrival of Solar Max and Kleinvogel after the
events of `Four To Never' in _Academy of Super Heroes_ was amusing.
As in, it gave me a 15 second long honest-to-goodness Blue Beetle and
Booster Gold style bwahahahaha! laugh.  I suppose I should have
expected something like that.  Then once they realise that they're in
an alternate timeline, Solar Max decides to pre-empt the rise of several
of the major villains of that history says will arise during the third
Heroic Age: Doublecross, Devastator, and Lord Ebon.  It'll make the
world a better place, even if it's not his world.
     Now, here is the point that boggles me.  Not necessarily in a bad
way, but I still keep returning to it and wondering over it.  The thing
is: the way the timeline had been sent off in another direction to the
mainstream history of the ASH stories set in the early 21st century.
My problem was not the logic of the characters - specifically, Solar
Max, within the story.  He follows good old fashioned Utilitarianism-
based superhero ethics.  (Or perhaps he's following the advice of the
fourth Dr Who: "Of course we should interfere.  Always do what you're
best at, that's what I say.")
     What intrigues me is the way that this four part story was set up
as a historical record and overview of the Second Heroic Age, including
the rather depressing conclusion to it, and then got yanked off to one
side as an alternate history was created with the sudden inclusion of
Solar Max and Kleinvogel.  I kept getting the feeling that this should
have belonged in _Stranger Tales_ with the Dvandom Stranger narrating it
rather than Bobby Baines.  From the author's notes at the end of #4 I
see that Dave wasn't originally planning events the way they turned out,
so it looks as thought the story simply got away from him.  Or to put it
another way, it looks like there was a storytelling conflict between the
author's intention to record the end of the Second Age on the one hand
and respecting the integrity of Solar Max's characterisation on the
other, and Solar Max won.  Now, if Dave's intention (to stick with a
historical record that gelled with the rest of the ASH stories) had been
stronger it would have been easy to pull off, since Solar Max and
Kleinvogel *are* sudden and unexpected outsiders and in storytelling
terms could have easily been left out.  This leaves me wondering if
(a) the dislocation of future history by the Impossible Five in _ASH_
set down a mood for stories about dislocating history in general, and
(b) whether Solar Max got preferential treatment as a second generation
author insert character.

Jolt City #9
'...a.k.a. the Hallucinated Man!'
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell

     And here's the other story that I liked but has an ending that makes
me go: Bwah?  In this case I'm getting a sense of disconnect of mood.
     Lets do the plot summary so that I can properly articulate my
concerns.  After much work the police and Green Knight get a break-
through about where all the vibra-jackets are coming from: they're being
manufactured on a parallel Earth inhabited by intelligent snails.  Green
Knight teams up with Darkhorse to shut down the workshop, free the
snails, and get evidence to convict Simon Snap.  However, later the
evidence is targeted and destroyed, at which point Green Knight and
Dani prepare a sting operation using Green Knight's secret ID Martin
Rock.  The issue ends with crooked assistant District Attorney Fisk
reporting Dani as dead and framing Martin.
     Now, to reiterate: I liked this issue.  It flowed, at least as
far as plot is concerned.  It had a lot of fun stuff, including some
immensely goofy elements that brought a smile to my face (a parallel
Earth full of French speaking snails who use teeny tiny atomic weapons
against their foes.  hee.  And then there was poor Darkhorse's misnomer
as Dipshit: "Not cool, man.  Not cool.")
     However at the same time those parts seem disconnected in mood.
Or rather, inverted in mood.  The complicated inter-personal angst
of Green Knight's private life and the outre Silver Age elements of
the action-adventure-detective procedural romp in the first half jar
when the nasty twist at the conclusion is unveiled.  I'm assuming that
this contrast is deliberate: a way of catching the reader off guard with
what is definitely a dramatic moment.  Nevertheless, when I reached the
end of the issue I found myself going 'huh?' and having to think about
the ending again.  And, no, unlike last issue I don't think I was being
to analytical here: on the first read-through I was just reading it for
entertainment rather than with pseudo-editorial intent.
     (There is also the minor matter of the reported death of Detective
Dani Handler, which elicited from me a first instance response of 'I
dunno if that's a satisfying way to resolve a love triangle plot'.
I'll also need to reserve judgement on whether she is actually dead:
given the suspicions raised against Fisk he cannot be considered a
trustworthy source of information and may in fact be simply mucking
with Martin's headspace.  Why he would bother given Martin Rock's
social standing is another question.)

The Reverse Engineers #0
'New Kids In Town'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Andrew Burton

     Huh.  So, Doctor Developer is getting a second title.  I recall
Andrew making comments about other stories set further into the future of
the ASH setting, but I had expected that these would not be forthcoming
until more of the setting of _Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer_ had been
established.  Oh well.
     Not much that I can really say at this stage.  One of the things
that occurred to me a while ago was that a post-God Market version of
Doctor Developer would have two main/obvious options: go completely off
the deep end or continue working as a square-peg-in-a-round-hole hero
because 'that's what Jennifer would have wanted'.  It seems pretty clear
from comments early in the text, backed up by actions later on, that it
was the second path that he took.  At a guess I can imagine that details
will be forthcoming when he gets some downtime and has the opportunity
to angst a bit.
     Less clear is what sort of mood and dynamic the series will have.
It's obviously a gathering-of-the-cast story, but despite the setup of
trying to raise a bunch of superpowered kids I'm not sure whether this
will necessarily have a family dynamic like _LL&DD_ had.  Or even in
the same ballpark as _LL&DD_ had.

Superfreaks Season 2 #13-17
'Operation Secret Galactic Crisis-War Of Infinitely Legendary Storm 2
Tie In'  ;
'Shrank  ;  'The Ant-Sized Man'  ;
'Superfreaks 2048'  and  'Superfreaks Forever'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps

     Just a quick note on this series, since Martin claims to be
wrapping it up.  I'll take him on his word on that, but also note that
Martin has the wherewithal to quickly write up more stories if for some
reason a wandering muse decided to bite him and give him inspiration
for a Superfreaks Season 3.  (Okay, yes, I admit it: I'm envious.)
     The writing is pretty consistently good.
     Thematically I liked the way that Bizarre Extreme was both depicted
and treated as an angry teenager who would, once he'd worked out his
conflicts, probably grow up to be a great hero.  This was a solid
extrapolation of the notion that if clones are both sentient but not
mentally identically to their donors, then they're going to have
identity issues.  And of course, it gets more complicated when you throw
in the complications like 'physically they're only a few years old' and
sterotypical 'superhuman teenager' angst.
     As far as type of story goes the Beyonitor story in #13 gave me a
bit of a problem because it wasn't what I would normally think of as a
'Superfreaks' story (a juxtaposition of the social concerns inherent in
both the superhero and forensic detective genres).  Further thought
on the matter suggested that I may have been a bit to narrow in my
definitions: it may not have had a specifically forensic law element,
but it did have the element of Detective King arguing what the social
consequences of the use of unfettered power without forethought would
be.  That more like the science fiction plot where someone talks down
the nigh-omnipotent alien - although happily Detective King didn't make
appeals airy-fairy concepts like justice of indominability of human
spirit, and simply explained how economics works.  You don't get that
many 'talking down the nigh-omnipotent alien' plots where the
protagonist uses common sense rather than just high sounding waffle.
     (Or possibly Martin was just setting up for the punchline in
'Crisis On Three Earths'.  For which my response remains:  Deja Dude,
stop teleporting into other universes and stirring up $#!t with
well-nigh omnipotent other-dimensional entities.)

Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at
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