REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #44 - August 2007 [spoilers]
saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sun Sep 16 18:32:30 PDT 2007
[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #44 - August 2007 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
58.5 #7-8 [LNH]
Beige Countdown #12 [LNH]
Coherent Super Stories #6 [ASH]
Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #4 [ASH]
Mr. Transparent #1-2 [Misc]
Template #4 [8Fold]
The Stomper Files #7 [LNH]
Incarnate #2 [8Fold]
I haven't been able to think of anything particularly entertaining
to babble about this month, so let's just get on with things.
'I Don't Wanna Be a Lion 'Cause Lions Ain't a Kind You Love Enough'
'Bright Lights, Big City'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Lalo Martins
Plots continue, roughly split between those following the New
Misfits and those following Cannon Fodder and Kid-Not-Appearing-In-Any-
In issue six the New Misfits confronted the Lion Pack in Califonia,
who they subsequently defeat in issue 7 - albeit at the cost of
Hyperbolic Boy's life. Recriminations caused Dramatic Pause Lass to
leave, and complications while fighting Mother Time and the Yuppicons
in Las Vegas in issue 8 see Kiwi, the fighting Kiwi, to be left behind
as well. (Kiwis regress into feathery humanoids when hit be
devolutionary rays? Ooo, that'll cause controversy. I smell a plot
hook for an upsurge in radical kiwi Creationism...) In any case, after
the New Misfits confrontation with the Yuppicons, the Legion recruits
the services of Triangle Boy, who introduces them to the Yuppicons'
enemies, the Geekobots.
Meanwhile Cannon Fodder and Kid-Not-Appearing-In-Any-Beige-Midnight
Story fight Mister Manhandler, the so-called manager of Net.ropolis
for the Crime Empire. Then in issue 9 they change tack and try to
infiltrate as thugs in training, and thereby get taken to the newsgroup
alt.fan.bugtown. Now, notwithstanding Lalo's cute use of the 'unknown
name' listing for Cannon Fodder, the fact that CF was shown to have
intuitive mechanical abilities for Big Guns in issue 6, now combined
with the return to alt.fan.bugtown, indicates that Lalo is mining
_The Origin Of Cannon Fodder_.
Beige Countdown #12
'The New Triumvirate'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Arthur Spitzer
As the title suggests, #12 is the first issue of this series as
it counts down to 0. The series covers the period of the Legion's
history between the end of the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis' in _LNH
Comics Presents_ and into the start of the 'Beige Midnight' Event due
next year. In that regard it's rather like Lalo's _58.5_ series that
covers a period starting during the Infinite Leadership Crisis - and
since the two are dealing as much with the politics of superheroes
during tumultuous times as they are with superhero conflicts per se,
I've come to think of them as sister series.
The main plot involves Ultimate Ninja stepping down from running of
the LNH and appointing three new leaders, echoing earlier LNH leadership
triumvirates. However, all three new leaders are compromised in some
way, even if they don't realise it. Irony Man's current status quo is
mirroring that of Iron Man at Marvel Comics, and he's making a number
of moral compromises in order to head off the impending threat of the
Brittle Brothers, including working with/being manipulated by President
Hex Luthor. Catalyst Lass is being influenced by Mr Tiddles, the
Blowfeldian white cat who uses his telepathic powers to mind control
his victims. And Fearless Leader is dating Ripping Dancer, who was
dispatched to infiltrate the Legion and seduce Fearless Leader by a
villain who is probably Manga Man.
Meanwhile the first tangible forewarning of Beige Midnight arrives
in downtown Net.ropolis, as a beige tower materialises. This leads to
what I consider the funniest scene in the story, as Fuzzy tries to deal
with newbies again. Poor Fuzzy. These days she doesn't get many
opportunities to be an amusingly confusing and ambiguous presence
anymore; instead writers tend to use her as a straight man. (Hmm.
And Arthur has made good his threat to introduce So-Lame-Even-Saxon-
Brenton-Wouldn't-Use-Him-In-A-Story Lad. I must think carefully about
how to respond...)
Coherent Super Stories #6
'Immortal Evil' (End Times part 1)
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
Here's another tightly written story where an important purpose is
continuity backfill, but which manages to get in an obligatory fight
scene in order to keep the readers' interest.
Jiang Sheng is the son of villainous Doctor Hung Sheng, and who
turned against his father. We saw one of their earlier confrontations,
from the 1970s, depicted last issue. Now Jiang has settled down as a
Shaolin monk. However this story is set at the time of the Godmarket
in the late 1990s, and it's not just the big name gods who get star
billing in mythogies who are showing up. Jiang has a run-in with some
tiger spirits who are forming a Tiger Tong, and defeats them. They
quickly return to get revenge, but are catastrophically interrupted by
the climax of the Godmarket, when many billions of humans, all the
superhumans, and all the gods and spirits are vanished.
(On a parenthetical note, I found this grimly amusing for a
reason totally unrelated to the story itself. I've been musing on
the prospects of a 'realistic' story that has nothing to do with the
graphic violence based on idiot plots stories that seem to be favoured
as 'realistic' these days. Instead, taking the aphorism dating back to
Lord Byron that 'truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to
be plausible', I was thinking of having a story setting that is thrown
is to complete disarray for protagonist and antagonist alike, and then
they *never* find out what the heck happened. I'm a bit disappointed
in myself for taking so long to realise that the Godmarket is such a
perfect example of that.)
The disappearance of the Tiger Tong is only a brief respite.
Doctor Sheng has been using alien technology to slowly infiltrate
Jiang's mind as a contingency plan. When the original Doctor Sheng
vanishes with the rest of superhumanity, the contingency activates and
takes over Jiang's body to begin scheming anew.
Given the nature of the disappearance of so many people at the
climax of the Godmarket, a story set at this time has to be at least
bittersweet. And given the nature of the way Doctor Sheng resurrects
himself, the story naturally enough passes into downright dark: Jiang
doesn't even get the opportunity to grimly vow to help rebuild. The
counterpoint of that, however, is that while I like Jiang well enough,
I don't have any emotional investment to him as a character. In that
regard his story (and possibly the rest of the stories in the End Times
arc) may boil down to cataloguing new and interesting ways for people
to react in horror (and have horror inflicted on them) as civilisation
collapses around them.
This, however, doesn't hold true for the protagonist in the next
Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #4
'First To The Future'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Andrew Burton
Now, Doctor Developer... Doctor Developer I do have emotional
investment in. He's more than a bit of a geek who hasn't got a
particular broad repertoire of social skills and who gets painfully
embarrassed when he makes a social faux pas. (And sometimes they can
be doozies. I had to reread the scene where he releases Lady Lawful
from the plant cocoon two or three times before I was able to properly
grasp that, yes, he really had stuck her in a pod because he was feeling
non-social but didn't feel up to saying 'I'd prefer to be left alone
right now'. Gah!)
So, when a fight with a time travelling villain sends Lady Lawful
thirty years into the future (into a technical crossover with _The
Reverse Engineers_) I can well imagine what sort of stupid thins DD
could be temped to doing to spend more times with her again after her
disappearance in the Godmarket. Ah, angst.
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Jamie Rosen
Hmm. An archive search of past EoMRs indicates that this will be
the third, and annual, use of my 'Jamie Rosen returns to RACC (falls
back onto the face of the internet)' joke.
I have to admit the opening few paragraphs threw me, since at
first I thought it was Billy Kidman (the ostensible protagonist of the
series) rather than Dorothy Willingham describing the dream. By rights
I shouldn't have, since the early description of the wild-eyed brother
should have been enough of a hint as to the speaker's identity. But in
fact it's been so long since the last issue that both Dorothy and her
brother Grant had... not so much slipped my mind, as lost their
significance as characters for me. I even had to go back and re-read
issue 3 to remind myself of what her and her brother's names were. On
the other hand, I immediately made a connection to the person in red
jacket that she describes here and the rantings of Grant at the end of
The plot consists of Dorothy describing her dream and another
incident that may be a hallucination. Or may not. I'm mindful that at
least once already there was a Weird Sh*t moment that later turned out
to have a perfectly mundane (if not necessarily correct) explanation.
Most of the tension of this *episode* comes from the question of why and
to who Dorothy is describing these perceptions. Once I had identified
her, it occurred to me that perhaps it's simply a psychiatrist, since
she may have a similar if far less severe dissociative problem like that
of her brother.
More broadly however, the tension of the *series* seems to be,
metaphorically, whether there's going to be a proverbial axe wielding
maniac jump out from behind the shower curtain.
You see, it's been multiply established that Billy's father was
a superhero, and there are certain stereotypically assumptions about
what's plausible in the superhero genre. It could very well be that
there *is* a secret thread of weirdness behind all this. But that
should not be taken for granted. After all, the superhero genre - like
the fantasy and science fiction genres that superheroes draw so heavily
from - is actually composed of overlapping subgenres, and not all of
the automatically use fantastical elements. (I may not enjoy
grim'n'gritty urban vigilante stories, but that is far from not
acknowledging that the subgenre exists.)
With all of that in mind, it occurs to me that with four episodes
published and with several possible menaces having been identified
to some extent or other, the feel of the series so far resembles a
psychological thriller. I'm wondering if that's deliberate on Jamie's
part, or whether it's an artefact of decompressed storytelling.
Mr Transparent #1-2
'Origin' and 'Home Invaders'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Frumpy [J.M.Turner]
There's so much administrivia to deal with because of this series
before I can even get to reviewing the stories themselves that I barely
know where to start...
Okay then. First up: a welcome to Frumpy. It looks like this is
another year where we'll actually have competition in the category of
the 'Best New Writer' award at the RACCies. Yay, new participants!
(Long time RACContuers will probably be at least vaguely aware that
over the years we have had a slow, on average steady, but in specifics
erratic flow of new participants on our newsgroup. A quick browse of
the RACCies ballots back to 2002 for the vote of Best New Writer
indicates that this will be the first time that we've had an actual
contest in that category for two years running.) Now, a google search
under both 'Frumpy' and variations on 'J.M. Turner' can't find any
instances of him/her posting on RACC before, so unless the author
indicates otherwise I'll assume that s/he is indeed a newcomer.
Secondly, about the labelling. The story title indicate that they
are coming from 'Transparent Comics' - but also have a [Misc] label.
Now, while there is nothing wrong with this per se, I would like to ask
Frumpy for confirmation as to whether 'Transparent Comics' represents
the *publisher* of the comics as distinct from *universe* that the
stories are set in. Just curious.
The first issue contains Mr Transparent's origin as a university
professor who's been working on a weight reduction formula that instead
grants temporary invisibility. After rescuing a fellow scientist who
had been kidnapped he adopted the identity of Mr Transparent. By the
second issue he's established himself as a superhero and indeed thinks
of the task as a duty. While investigating a protest against a housing
development he confronts a mutant porcupine who had been taking hostages
in order to preserve some woodlands against the development.
One thing that struck me about the first issue was an impression
of archaism. This was actually a false impression (the presence of
internet usage in the second issue puts to rest any doubts about it
being set in the present day). Upon reflection I think that impression
comes from two things. Firstly, Frumpy has worked to give his
characters distinction speech patterns. Vincent Solomon - the titular
Mr Transparent - has a formal pattern as stereotypically befits a
university professor. This is even more marked in his fellow academic
and scientist Carlton Curtis, who even in great danger came across as
being rather restrained, perhaps even fuddy-duddy-ish. Secondly,
the first issue is narrated by Mr Transparent, whereas the second is
narrated in third person omniscient. This gave the first issue an air
of formality that made me briefly wonder if this was being repeated in
a club story format or was perhaps even being set sometime in the early
twentieth century. This minor distraction vanished with the change in
narrative style in the second issue.
Another thing I noticed was that Frumpy has a clear and concise
writing style. There is little of the elaborate sentence structures
that appear (and sometimes clutter) my own writing. Tom Russell likes
to compare my writing style to Proust; me, I tend to think of it as a
holdover from growing up reading comics written by Chris Claremont.
Whatever the case, _Mr Transparent_ is a good contrast, since it its
style is direct and eminently readable.
The Stomper Files #7
'The Poverty Plot'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
This series examines various comic book tropes, written in the
form of academic papers. This time around: a summary of why
characters with supposedly secure financial resources can *repeatedly*
find themselves impoverished against all common sense.
If you like the ironic humour of cliches being dissected by those
on the receiving end, then you'll be interested in these. If you're a
new writer you should probably read these anyway, since they may be
useful for avoiding some of the more obvious traps and they aren't
particularly long. (That said, this issue's topic relates primarily to
long-term characters who undergo cyclic plot recurrences, and this is
less likely to be relevant to amateur fiction writer.) Other than
that the lack of plot will mean that your mileage may vary.
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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