[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #45 - September 2007 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Oct 19 21:12:39 PDT 2007

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #45 - September 2007 [spoilers]

Reviewed This Issue:
      Coherent Super Stories #7-8  [ASH]
      Enforcers #1  [Misc]
      Jolt City #11  [8Fold]
      Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #5  [ASH]
      Thunderclap #7  [Pincity]
      Time Capsules #11  [ASH]

Also posted:
      58.5 #10  [LNH]
      Incarnate #3  [8Fold]
      Legion of Net.Heroes Vol.2 #22  [LNH]
      LNH Comics Presents #235 (or #91)  [LNH]
      Mr. Transparent #3-4  [Misc]
      Tales Of The Intermezzo: Plot Device  [TF/LNH]
     A lot of time earlier this month was taken up by having the kitchen 
renovated.  It took longer than Dad or myself expected, but the effort 
was worth it.  Not so much that I now have a spiffy new kitchen, but 
that I have a spiffy new kitchen WITH CONSIDERABLY MORE STORAGE 
     Oh yeah.  And I failed to mention that 58.5 #9 was posted last 
month along with issues 7 and 8 even though I included it in the plot 
summary.  So there you go.
     Spoilers below.
Coherent Super Stories #7-8
'The End Times Part II: Drifter'  and
'The End Times Part III: Reunion'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     You may remember that in last issue of the EoMR I predicted the 
possibility that the End Times arc may boil down to people discovering 
new and interesting ways to react in horror to the disappearance of a 
large part of the world's population on 6 July 1998.  While there's an 
element of that the stories fortunately manage to stretch beyond it.
     Weapons Master's story in issue 7, for example, works as a good 
old fashioned adventure story.  A group dedicated to Aengus, Celtic god 
of love and poetry, settle down in an out of the way area and thereafter 
people in the nearby community start going missing.  The hero duly 
investigates, and it turns out that because the people at the commune 
are polytheists they have, not unnaturally, asked for some help from a 
another Celtic god with the food gathering.  Unfortunately Cerunnos 
also likes to relax by running the Wild Hunt, and Weapons Master is 
only saved when the gods are expelled from the world by the creation 
of the Barrier.
     Since Weapons Master and everyone else have very little idea 
exactly what has happened, the story ends on a far more optimistic note 
than Jiang's did last issue.  My main problem with issue seven was 
dissatisfaction with the deus ex machina (or perhaps anti-deus ex 
machina) that rescued Weapons Master at just the right moment, since 
this is exactly what saved Jiang from the Tiger Tong last issue as well. 
I accept that it's a case of dramatic timing.  However, I suspect that 
had the story been written in a longer format then Dvandom could have 
shown far more examples of Weapons Master being clever in evading the 
Wild Hunt and demonstrating why Cerunnos thought he was a fun plaything.
     The story format then changes completely for issue 8, with Amy 
Baines (formerly Ladyhawke, who we saw a lot of during the first story 
arc) going on with an almost perfectly mundane life, ameliorated only 
by the presence of a superhero son and various paranormal influences 
that have been adopted into her workplace.  Unlike the stars of the 
previous two stories, Amy has had enough screen time to act as not just 
a viewpoint character but also as a source of emotional attachment.  
Being maternal over her son's impending return to active duty helps with 
the latter.  However, whereas Jiang's story in issue 6 worked as a horror 
story (ending without much hope), and Weapon Master's as an adventure 
story (ending with an optimistic outlook that, even if Weapons Master 
had a lot of work for himself in the future, he'll cheerfully throw 
himself into fighting the good fight), Amy's story is basically there 
for plot exposition: to finally explain to the audience exactly what 
the Barrier that Tymythy Twysted created *is*.
     Now, confession time.  For anyone who's had an interested in the 
ASH setting for any significant length of time this story is the big 
payoff of the End Times arc.  On a visceral level the audience may have 
been expecting Tym to have built some 'artefact of pure awesome', as 
the name 'Barrier' implies.  However I realised quite some time ago that 
against antagonists as powerful as the gods Tym really didn't have much 
chance of building any*thing* capable of withstanding them.  I was 
therefore fully prepared for some sort of hand wave as to the mechanics 
of the Barrier, counterbalanced by some insight into how Tym was reacting 
to the situation.  I was therefore pleasantly surprised when the Barrier 
was actually explained (albeit in loose terms) as a clever trick on the 
part of Tym and Wanderer in having found a fulcrum point within the 
mechanics of the way reality works and using the resulting mechanical 
advantage to achieve their ends.  Looked at from a practical viewpoint 
it's an elegant plan that doesn't need to fall back on the Rule Of Cool 
to hand wave away holes in its logic by substituting spectacle.
Enforcers #1
'Cruises & Bruises'
A Misc [Misc] series
by Frumpy
     This series spins off from the events of Mr Transparent #3.  The 
story starts with a cruise liner being attacked by Graybeard the pirate 
and his crew, but it's clear from the opening paragraphs that at least 
one superhero (Electric Lady) is on board incognito and has been 
expecting something like this even if she would prefer her vacation 
to continue uninterrupted.  The Enforcers arrive and put a stop to 
Graybeard, even though he subsequently escapes.  More pertinently the 
fight offers several instances for the team members to demonstrate 
their abilities and in some cases their limitations.  In fact, on a 
superficial reading of issue 1 that seems to be pretty much all the 
Graybeard confrontation was for, although that doesn't discount the 
possibility of him returning in the future.  For me most of the meat 
of the story was the interpersonal relationships (worrying about the 
outcome of Super Knight's trial, Waterboy and Electric Lady's romance...)
     The second fight scene, however, combines the two.  Magic King's 
foe Dr Zomibe has found and reanimated most of the superheroes murdered 
by Super Knight's betrayal.  The Enforcers are infiltrated by the zombie 
of Winglord (posing as his own son) and there's a fight.  I do think it 
would have made for a stronger ending if Magic King's exposition had 
been held over to issue 2, however.
Jolt City #11
'Mystery Of The Two Green Knights'
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     It occurs to me that after the several issues of exploring Martin 
Rock's flaws and hang-ups (most notably including his inability to 
deal with his own childhood sexual assault) that issues 10 and 11 had 
presented the other side of the equation.  Last issue in particular 
- even though last issue had lots of action and plot advancement - still 
felt mainly like an opportunity to show how badass Martin Rock is.  
This issue we get how generally awesome he is, and topping off with 
Derek Mason (the ex-drug dealer he saved from the Crooked Man way back 
in issue 2, and who's been filling in as the Green Knight to cover his 
secret ID) asking Martin to take him on as the Green Knight's sidekick.  
Which is a nice touch of thematically tying in the Green Knight's 
attempts to make the slum areas a better place, even if it's one fight 
at a time, one small victory at a time.  Which is not to say that Martin 
is presented as perfect: in a moment of impulsiveness he manages to trip 
and knock himself unconscious (shades of the Silver Age Green Lantern!), 
and at the end there is an oblique confession to Dani about his past 
activities as the Mask With No Name, which ties in with his wrestling 
with the vexatious subject of when/if four colours should kill.
     This issue starts in the aftermath of the cliffhanger from last 
issue: Martin had just engineered a prison breakout with the aid 
of Dr Fay Tarif and the Derek-Green Knight and been confronted by 
Darkhorse.  Martin manages to beat the speedster by outthinking him, 
possibly aided by the chip in his neck.  Or at least, that's what 
Darkhorse says.  Poor Darkhorse, he just don't get no breaks, do he?  
Even the enemies of his predecessor think that the current incumbent 
isn't as intelligent.
     The trio head for the apartment of the reportedly deceased Detective 
Dani Handler, where due to Martin's presence (actually, probably that 
chip again) she is drawn back from the other-dimensional void that she 
had been sent to.  After capturing and interrogating an Apelantian, the 
group gather enough evidence to go after the crooked Assistant District 
Attorney Fisk (although he wriggles out of charges) and crime lord Simon 
Snapp on the grounds of conspiring with the Apelantian Empire to take 
control of the surface world.  The story closes with several vignettes 
as plot threads are tied up, which highlights the feeling of it being 
the end of a major story arc.  We'll have to see what direction the 
series heads in.
     A quick point about the Apelantians.  More glorious Silver Age-style 
silliness, perhaps made more so by a typo.  Now, typos can't be fully 
avoided in an online amateur fiction forum so I deliberately try to not 
comment on them unless there are so many of them that it's clear that the 
author needs to be made aware that he or she should use either use a 
spell-checker or a proof reader.  That said, when the appearance and 
immediate attack of a gorilla with a fish bowl on his head has the near 
> The simian's fish connects with Martin's already battered face
then I immediately had a mental image not of an aquatic gorilla with a 
glass vessel over its simian head, but of a gorilla body with a glass 
bowl where the head would be, in which is swimming a fish.  And because 
this was in the first two paragraphs of any Apelantians being mentioned, 
this image stuck with me.  There's no particular point to this; it's 
just something I found inadvertently funny.  I did like the way the 
captured Apelatian admitted that he thought the invasion plan was stupid 
and that he should have joined his friends in dodging the draft.  That... 
well, 'humanised' isn't the word he'd appreciate... personalised him as 
a character.
Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer #5
'You Can Go Home'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Andrew Burton
     I had a bit of a problem with this issue.
     Not with the writing, since the relationship between the two lead 
characters remains as endearing as ever.  Same with Cameron's 
relationship with Tinker Tom, come to think of it.  However, in the 
background was a minor point that nagged at me while reading.  Simply 
put: I have a disconnect between the notion of Doctor Developer having 
once been the top dog super villain in Detroit who all the other villains 
try to stay out of the way of, and Lady Lawful's comments back in Time 
Capsules #9 that one day Doctor Developer's non-lethal death traps will 
tick someone off who's going to take it out of DD's hide.  Has Doctor 
Developer mellowed since he left Detroit?  Or were the other super 
villains of Detroit such a 'cowardly and superstitious lot' that they 
were so easily cowed by the *threat* of death traps, and no-one was too 
stupid and machismo-driven to test the threat?  Were Doctor Developer's 
'know how and connections' enough to give him real control of Detroit, 
or enough for him to rule through an elaborate setup of smoke and mirrors?
     I'm sure I'm missing something here, and I'll be reading issue 6 
with interest.
Thunderclap #7
'High Stakes'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     The subject line reads #6, but actually it's #7.  And on an 
administrivia note, Rick has arranged for his stories to be posted under 
a new [Pincity] tag.  Now then...
     Ooo.  Very evocative start after last issue's cliffhanger.  
Thunderclap standing there, in pain, feeling angry and grungy, and 
suffering from the very idiosyncratic performance anxiety that 
superheroes get in life-and-death situations... 
     Anyway, Senator Simian of the Protectors identifies the American 
Ranger that they had been in conflict with as the Facebook (a 
professional impersonator, apparently) who then kidnaps Tommy as a way 
of escaping.  Thunderclap goes and recruits the help of the Fedora in 
tracking down where he's been taken, which is just as well, since the 
Blowfeldian villain of the Baron wanted to demonstrate what the serum 
Para-X13 will do when injected into a superhuman.  It doesn't sound 
pretty.  Cue last second rescue and the lovely line 'Can't I do this 
without some spandex wacko interrupting'.  Then, during the big rescue 
Thunderclap discovers that Tommy is a speedster: but will Tommy carry 
though with his promise to explain all and tell that he's an Ancient.  
(Although for that matter, does he even know himself?)
Time Capsules #11
'The Abyss Looks Back'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     This issue's excerpt from a historical document is from a small 
press edition of a manual on how to kill superhumans written by a pair 
of ex-cops who went seriously off the deep end with their ideology.  
Now, I don't have any familiarity with the purported source material of 
military and survivalist 'how to' handbooks that this is supposed to be 
based on, but its contents look like a variant on the type of advice- 
overview that some roleplaying games give to summarise the strengths 
and weaknesses of different character archetypes.  Of course, the style 
of writing - from the viewpoint of professional assassins of super-
humans - makes all the difference.  Eminently readable if somewhat icky.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
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