[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #46 - October 2007 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton Saxon.Brenton at uts.edu.au
Tue Nov 13 12:34:54 PST 2007

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #46 - October 2007 [spoilers]
[2nd post.  I'm greatly afeared that Plain.txt Faerie is out to get me.]
Reviewed This Issue:
      Alt.stralian Yarns #14  [LNH]
      A Beige Countdown Special  [LNH]
      New Exarchs #1-3  [LNH/SG]
      Rad #92  [SG]
      Six-Gun Judas #1  [8Fold]
      Superfreaks Season 3 #1-5  [Superfreaks]
Also posted
      Beige Countdown #11  [LNH]
      Coherent Super Stories #9-10  [ASH]
      Doomed Romance #1  [8Fold]
      Enforcers #2  [Misc]
      Haunted Man #1-2  [8Fold]
      Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #6  [ASH]
      Legion Of Net.Heroes Vol.2 #23  [LNH]
      Mega-Sized Coherent Super Stories #1  [ASH]
      Possum Man: Relinquished #3  [LNH]
      Third Heroic Age Rosterbook  [ASH]
      Weird Romance #1-2  [8Fold]
     Looking over the sexually suggestive shenanigans in _Coherent
Super Stories_ #10, _Superfreaks Season 3_ #3, and my own _Legion of
Net.Heroes Vol.2_ #23, I believe that I shall arbitrarily declare
October 2007 to be... Smutober!
     At least on rec.arts.comics.creative.  There was a somewhat
different vibe over on the Superguy list.  That writing group was in
a slightly-more-than-a-year long lull until Gary Olson posted a new
issue (_Rad_ #92) and set off something of a chain reaction of revivals
and relaunched series.  You can see for yourself at the Eyrie's
archives at http://lists.eyrie.org/pipermail/superguy/
     Of the admittedly small number of those posts which I sampled in
the wake of that upsurge, I noticed that these stories tended to have a
strong sense of what I've seen called 'belatedness' in regard to fantasy
fiction: a sense that the world-that-was has passed away and the
protagonists now have the task of questing to make (or remake) the world
into a better place along the lines of what was lost.  Nostalgia and
bittersweet reminiscences and all that.  More specifically, a number of
series have used the Real Life length of the break and translated it
an in-continuity hiatus of some sort, and begin their stories with the
protagonists retiring as individuals or teams, and then after a while
having the action pick up again.  I find this particularly interesting
because _Rad_ #92 is billed as part 2 of a 10 part arc called 'The
Of Rad' which started with this sense of belatedness - even though part
was posted back in August 2006.  Is Gary Olson prescient?  Is he
manipulating the other Superguy Authors via the morphogenic field?  Or
did they all simply think it was a good writerly trick to use to cover
the gap during which all their series were on hold?  Hmmm...
     Spoilers below...
Alt.Stralian Yarns #14
'The Ame.rec.an Dream'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Mitchell Crouch
     Ooo.  Poor bloody Contempo Weapons Lad - cursed with a Death
(which is worse than a Death Touch, because at least with a Death Touch
you can stand on the other side of the room and still order a cup of
     Plotwise: Team Q teleport back from Syd.net to Alt.elaide.  And
then, in the very best tradition of LNH-style super team stories, they
squabble a bit and then go off and do something totally mundane and
self-centred: in this case play online games at an internet cafe.  Once
there they are attacked by Mundanio - who is a postmaster driven insane
by net.hero related stuff - which sets off an extensive fight with
Contempo Weapons Lad over who has the right to use the title 'Master Of
Mundane Materials'.  After all that Contempo Weapons Lad and Team Q's
leader, Questionable Logic Man, get into an argument about whose fault
it is that Team Q are being thrown out of the country, whereupon QLM
utters an ill-thought out insult "where ever Contempo Weapons Lad goes,
people just die".  Then, once the rest of Team Q drop dead, Contempo
Weapons Lad decides to take Questionable Logic Man to the Legion of
Net.Heroes for revival so that he can get the Death Presence curse
lifted (and where he will no doubt meet up with Obsessive-Compulsive
Boy, who has been making a pest of himself there).
     You know, thinking about it, I suddenly realised how complex a
character Contempo Weapons Lad is.  I'm suddenly intrigued with the way
Tarq has managed to make him such a sympathetic lead.  After all,
Contempo Weapons Lad is only intermittently heroic or sensible.  He's
nowhere near as scatterbrained or selfish as Questionable Logic Man, but
there are still better heroic examples, such as Azure X.  There's an
interesting balance of character traits going on inside CWL's head.
A Beige Countdown Special
'Debate This'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] posting
by Arthur Spitzer
     MacLaughlin Man has a dream where he effortlessly defeats and
humiliates the senior Legion members.  Then he discovers that it *was*
all a dream and feels cruddy.
     Amusing, but I would argue that MacLaughlin Man lacks the
introspective wherewithal to feel cruddy about himself.  Methinks he'd
just rant and rave and blame somebody else.
New Exarchs #1-3
'La Cosa Nostalgia'  ;  'Cheeezballs!'  and  'Literary Devices'
A Superguy and Legion of Net.Heroes [SG/LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     This is one of the series to be boosted out of somnambulance by
the Superguy revival.  Which means that we get to see what the cast of
Exarchs have been up to during the interim - yay!
     As the endnotes for issue 1 explain, Dave has decided to bring the
plot about the other-altiversal god Erlang chasing Jack (Crazy Guy) to
an abrupt conclusion, on the not unreasonable grounds that it was an
eeevil plot and had already brought about the dissolution of his two
previous Superguy series: _Crazy Guy_ and _Exarchs_.  I also seem to
recall some trouble with dealing with continuity contributed to the end
of the last series, but I won't quibble over that.
     In any case, the precipitous disposal of the Erlang plot leads into
that belatedness stuff I was rambling on about in the introduction. 
The first issue opens with the final battle against Erlang after what
has apparently been several months of running fights.  Forgeheart,
Katena, Skysabre and Oakthorn give up their elemental powers to boost
Crazy Guy's divinity into an active state.  Then there's a break of
years, and the scene cuts to a get together of the now powerless Anna,
Kat and Richard.  They reminisce about stuff, including the apparent
death of Paul (Oakthorn).  (Hmm, and Louie's been permanently trapped in
squirrel form?  I wonder if that's a deliberate or inadvertent parallel
of the way his LNH counterpart Lenny is stuck in squirrel form?)  Then
they reform as a group to investigate the suspicious circumstances
surrounding Paul's apparent death.
     Needless to say there's a lot of exposition in that second scene,
although a lot of it's setting up the plot for future issues.  Compare
this with Eric Burns' _The League_ #1, where the old Adjusted League
Unimpeachable voluntarily wind up as a team, and most of the exposition
at the farewell party is pure nostalgia.  More belatedness, which is
emphasised after the several year break by the next generation of
metahumans taking up heroing and the previous generation wondering what
to do about them.
     Back to _New Exarchs_: in issue 2 Kat (Katena) and Richard
(Skysabre) go and talk with Paul's lab assistant Dr Hans Zwarghoff, only
to be attacked by a guy who teleports about using a cheeseball.  This
confirms some of their suspicions, exposited in issue 3, that Paul had
been working on a form of cheeez that has the dimensional travel
capabilities of spam.  Tsk.  Looks like *another* invasion from another
Rad #92
'That Is Certainly A Mammal'  (Rad Returns, Part Two of Ten)
A Superguy [SG] series
by Gary W. Olson
     While we're wandering around the Superguy archives and leaving
dirty great footprints all over the place, hows about we have a look-see
at the purported instigator of the current renaissance.
     Now, fair warning in advance.  When I became aware of the fact
that the new episode of _Rad_ was the 2nd of a 10 parter, I went and
read part 1 as well - BUT I also deliberately read them out of order
so as to see whether someone jumping on to this series would be able
to make any sense of it.  The good news for Mr Olson is that issue 92
holds up very well indeed in that regard.
     The opening sequence with the villain The Programmer was intriguing
and acts as a good hook for the reader.  Then we cut to Rad arriving to
collect his daughter Rumi and Mighty Guy's son Johnny Clark (and
anvil) after the two youngsters were caught buzzing an areoplane. 
Rumi's bored with Earth, you see.  All that belatedness stuff that I've
been rabbiting on about?  That happened last issue, and now that her
parents are back they're happy but Rumi isn't, and she's not looking
forward to being stuck on Earth and sequestered away from galactic
culture for a year.  Things only get worse for her when they all go to
a cookout at the home of ex-briefly-US-president Manny Seconds.
     Again, there's a lot of small talk at the party.  Since I'm nowhere
near as familiar with the back history of Rad or Superguy in general as
I am with Exarchs and the LNH I'm assuming that most of that small talk
consists of either nostalgia or plot setup - but there's also a strong
element of this information being there for Rumi to be bored about so I
can't fully discount the possibility that some of it might be random
waffle.  But I genuinely doubt that.  In thematic and plotting terms it
makes far more sense to make use of the accumulated continuity minutae
of a long-running series and have Rumi react against that: it highlights
the fact that she's an alienated outsider.
Six-Gun Judas #1
'High Midnight'
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Jamie Rosen
     _Six-Gun Judas_ is a series in a genre that we don't often see on
RACC - a western.  And it's simply full of gritty western gunslinger
anti-hero-ness.  But with a tagline like: "My name is Judas Iscariot. 
I kill people for money.  Always have, probably always will." the reader
should have been expecting that.
     This particular episode is a western/horror story.  Although to be
honest the opening sentence:
| The sun was a brilliant stain against the night sky when Judas
| Iscariot rode into the town of Stewart's Pit, New Mexico.
is strongly evocative of westerns with the way that gunslingers ride
into town, but not necessarily of a horror premise.  The sense of
wrongness that it presents could just as easily be a teaser lead-in
for a fantasy situation as a horror situation (the later, of course,
basically being a nasty version of the former).
     In short: Judas has been called in to kill the person responsible
for the perpetual daylight over the town of Stewart's Pit.  It turns out
to be a preacher who's using it to keep the vampires infesting the town
at bay.  And Judas, holding true to type, kills the preacher because
it's a paying job.
     It will be interesting to see what sort of character development
Jamie adds to the lead protagonist.  As presented here Judas doesn't
have the moral complexity of an antihero.  This doesn't necessarily mean
that he's unworkable as a title character: in theory he could be used
indefinitely as the point-of-view character in an ongoing exploration
the setting.  Nevertheless a focus character without at least some
empathisable traits might make it difficult to gather a steady audience.
And then there's the question of whether Judas is the Biblical Judas
Iscariot, but I'm guessing that that is a mystery that should be drawn
out for as long as possible.
Superfreaks Season 3 #1-5
'Rasputin Syndrome'  ;  'First Contact'  ;
'The Invasion Of The Booty Snatchers'  ;
'Die Hard At An Intersteller Conference'  and
'Hu Are You (Hu Hu Hu Hu)'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps
     [The scene opens with Comics-Snob Boy of the LNH is sitting in
an overstuffed chair.  He raises his glass of cognac in greeting to
the reader.]
     "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Tonight I will be reviewing
the third season of Mr Martin Phipp's _Superfreaks_ series.
     "Now, longtime readers of the _End Of Month Reviews_ will recall
that at the end of _Superfreaks Season 2_ the opinion was expressed
despite claims to the contrary, it was almost certainly the case that
_Superfreaks_ would return.  Were this one of the lower class reviewing
publications then I fear that the inevitable comment to be made would
Toldja so!  Tolja so!  Tolja tolja tolja!  Neener neener neener!
     "However, being the adult and - dare I say it - sophisticated
patron of the arts that the End Of Month Reviews is, I am sure that
it would never descend to such juvenile and pugilistic name-calling. 
And so let us proceed:..."
     [sound of the needle being swiped off an old vinyl record:
     Okay, that's enough of that.  I was going to write the whole of
review in Comic Snob Boy's voice, but I can forsee him using most of his
time to sneer at Martin's homaging various pop culture plots and images.

Oh well, I only needed him for the neener neener neener gag anyway.  But
that brings to mind a topic to waffle on about rather than merely doing
a plot summary.  Long-time RACC readers will recall that Martin likes to
pastiche various comic book, TV and movies - occasionally repeating them
in summarised form, or more often satirising them.  There are elements
both of these in _Superfreaks Season 3_, plus the taking of elements and
themes and weaving them into something new.
     Now, even allowing for the fact that this is a fan forum, some of
the... Comics-Snob Boy would no doubt use the word 'plagerism'... is
pretty blatant.  For example, it's transparently obvious that Scott Grey
and his wife Jean are meant to be analogues of Cyclops and Marvel Girl/
Pheonix.  So when in the first issue it's revealed that there's a killer
disease specific to mutants called 'Rasputin Syndrome', it was almost
frustratingly obvious to me that their son, Nathan (a Cable analogue)
would contract the disease and need to be taken into the future to be
healed.  In retrospect I'm honestly surprised that Martin chose not to
use the theme of clones to give Scott a duplicate wife to parallel the
Madeline Prior situation.  In any case Jean is so upset about the (even
temporary) loss of her son that she has a psychotic episode that looks
like a recapituation of the Dark Phoenix storyline...
     Any then Martin does something completely unexpected.  The amount
of mutant energy that Jean put out during her fight with Extreme is
by aliens (the Vulcan like Dullkins) who make contact with Earth and
bring along a number of other extraterrestrial species in issue 2.  This
in turn causes various complications for the Pepperton police
a murder mystery involving aliens in issue 3 and an anti-alien terrorist
situation in issue 4.  Then in issue 5 Nathan comes back from the future
and goes to school at Javier's so as to learn to control his impressive
array of superhuman powers - by joining a class of mutants who are
brought forth as a group in a scene very reminiscent of similar scenes
that Martin has written before in various LNH and LNH2 series.
     I'm not entirely sure what to make of all this.  Well, apart from
the fact that _Superfreaks Season 3_ turned out to be nowhere near as
predictable as I had at first thought.  Perhaps it's just fanboy
appreciation.  Perhaps it's playing 'what would happen if' games by
taking well known situations and changing them slightly.  Perhaps Martin
simply wanted a springboard for the alien contact situation and used
some familiar plots as a soap opera shorthand way of getting to the
he wanted (you'll notice that the storylines given over to the police in
the first two episodes are either setup for the Rasputin Syndrome story
or the continuing subplot about the Goodhead Corporation's underhanded
cloning practcices; they don't get a full A-plot until the murder
in issue 3.)
     Anyway, a final random thought before I wrap up.  Up until now the
main themes have been how the presence of costumed superhumans and
have affected the situation in a criminal investigation setting.  Now we
get to see how the presence of entire alien civilisations affects the
mix.  That's making the setting very 'dense' in accumulated weirdness. 
Or to put it another way:  Superhuman can have great impact on the world
depending on how powerful they are, but here, as in many comic books,
they tend to be in the minority and so their impact on the legal system
could theoretically be restricted to a small subsection of case law. 
Clones, however, took the intrusion of the strange to a new level, since
in the Superfreaks setting almost anyone can own a clone.  Now, with the
inclusion of entire alien civilisations, we have the prospect of Earth
culture and law being thrown into disarray.  This is because of the
simple precedent from Earth history that when a stronger culture
socially, politically, economically or militarily) encounters a weaker
one, the weaker one is frequently distorted in some way - even when the
stronger one isn't intending to conquer or exploit to other, the simple
transmission of new ideas via cultural imperialism causes upheaval.  The
aliens in this case are analogues of various Star Trek aliens, which
means the probably have a variant of the Prime Directive.  They aren't
likely to try to conquer Earth the way General Zon wanted to.  But
despite a probable presence of a Prime Directive they could great impact
     In the end it's possible that very soon we might be reaching a
threshold point for where the Earth culture depicted is so distorted by
the presence of all these fantasy and science fiction elements that it's
no longer representation as a 'real life' setting.  Whether that makes a
difference or not to the credibility of the stories remains to be seen.
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
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