REVIEWS: Russell's Reviews Volume One # 13

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sat Apr 5 09:25:29 PDT 2008

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/       \      /___  |/ / /___  |/\/___/     NO. 13

SERIES' # 0 [MAR 30], Rinehart

   It is times likes these that my woeful ignorance of
the Superguy universe gets me in a spot of bother, as
it were: I don't know who the Sage is, I don't know
who Dustin Estranger is, and I really don't know what
just happened.
   Now, James Rinehart does give us enough, I think,
to follow it in a general sense.  The Sage, who either
knows everything or is convinced that he does, is
clear enough, though this being my first exposure to
the character I can't say if he goes much deeper than
that (or if he even needs to).  I'm not sure if
Estranger is a new character, or if he's someone
familiar to Superguy readers, but either way-- from
the Sage's reactions and his unerringly eerie smile, I
know that he's up to no good.
   And whatever that transaction was about-- whatever
it is that Dustin won and the Sage, presumably, lost--
I'm sure will be revealed in future installments. 
And, as far as stoking one's curiosity, Rinehart does
an admirable job of it; he creates the air of mystery
and danger without making the characters too
mysterious and obtuse.
   And so, while I think I might have gotten more out
of the story had I been more familiar with the
characters and the setting, at the same time the
author did give me enough information to get the gist
of it.  It's a nice little beginning, and the best
thing about a beginning is that, of course, there is
more yet to come.

THUNDERCLAP # 9 [MAR 30], Hindle

   Thunderclap returns!
   Thunderclap, in case you're just joining us, is one
of the very few straight superhero series on RACC. 
There's a fair share of "superheroes-plus" (LNH and
Superguy are superheroes + comedy, ASH is superheroes
+ scientifiction, Superfreaks is superheroes +
procedural), and in the past, there's been quite a few
anti-superhero stories (superheroes minus super minus
heroes) but not many authors who are currently just
writing stories about guys in tights fighting crime.
   Now, I'm not saying that straight superheroics are
better (or worse) than superheroes-plus, or that one
or the other is harder to write; all I'm saying is
that not many people write straight superheroes around
these parts, that Rick is one of them, and that Rick
is good at it.
   Part of that is because he's able to pull out some
particularly nice details-- for example, that the
Protectors get a leave just like the armed forces, or
the subtle humour evident when super-speedster Tommy
blitzkriegs Clay with text messages.  This kind of
detail work is a huge part of what lends the genre a
degree of verisimilitude, what makes the world they
inhabit feel real and vibrant and transcendent.
   Rick understands the genre, and more importantly,
he understands his characters.  He's obviously put a
lot of thought into Clay and his friend Tommy; he uses
first-person to get us into Clay's head without
bogging us down in there.  He keeps the plot in
progression while allowing Clay's thoughts, dreams,
fears, aspirations, anxieties, history, and
personality to peek through.  To give us such a strong
sense of who Clay using first-person without resorting
to momentum-molassesing monologuing and angst is a
neat trick indeed.
   Rick also employs a number of broader types, such
as the vote-hungry Mayor.  Now, there's nothing
actually wrong with using a stereotypical character;
the mistake made by a lot of authors, amateur and
otherwise, is that they believe their flat stereotype
is a deep characterization.  Rick knows that the Mayor
is a cliché we've seen a hundred thousand times, and
he plays him for laughs and keeps him peripheral to
the action, and this makes for an effective use and a
strong contrast with Clay.
   If I have one major complaint, it's that the
story's over much too soon.  A lot of stories on
RACC-- comedic and serious both-- end just as they're
starting to build up steam.  And I got that feeling in
this case.


   Perhaps this is just my own personal taste, but I
like the feeling when I've finished reading a story--
even if it's part two of a three-parter or a
ten-parter or whatever-- that I've finished reading
it.  I like to feel that the author has taken me on a
journey, a progression with a beginning, middle, and
end-- even if that end is just stopping for breath
before the next beginning in the next installment.
   That journey doesn't always have to be a plot-based
journey; it could be emotional or thematic.  I could
come to understand something about a character more
fully, or I could come to some realization, whether
stated or subtle, about the world.
   In a series heavy on sub-plots, one strand could
have a beginning, middle, and end while the others are
more nebulous.
   I dunno; maybe I'm the odd-man out here-- but I
like the feeling when I reach the end of a story that
that's the best possible ending for it, that it ended
for an organic reason, a story reason, rather than
something arbitrary like "well, I've hit my
predetermined length".
   And I'm not saying that's why Rick ended this issue
where he did; I think it had more to do with ending on
a cliffhanger.


   The thing is, there are two kinds of cliffhangers,
and I guess for lack of a better term I'll call them
true cliffhangers and false ones.
   When the reader reaches a true cliffhanger, there's
not only a sense of surprise and shock but also a
sense of things coming together.
   For example, a common cliffhanger in comics is The
Big Villain Reveal on the Last Splash Page.  If it's a
villain the reader might be familiar with-- a villain
that the reader and the hero have a history with--
then that cliffhanger is a true cliffhanger.  A true
cliffhanger gets the reader's mind going: they're
trying to figure out what will happen next issue,
they're talking about it with all their friends.
   A false cliffhanger, on the other hand, relies
solely on surprise and shock.  There is no sense of
things coming together because there is nothing to
come together.
   If you look at the end of my own JOLT CITY # 3,
that was a false cliffhanger.  If I had set up Nathan
Willis before-- perhaps in the GREEN KNIGHT series,
during the Iraq War flashbacks in # 6-- then it would
have been more of a true cliffhanger.  But because the
reader had no idea who this mysterious gunman was or
what he wanted, it wasn't really much of a
cliffhanger; the reader has nothing to go on and
therefore nothing upon which for his imagination to
   At the end of THUNDERCLAP # 9, our hero is frozen
in a block of ice by a villainess with ice powers.  We
don't know who she is or what she wants; we're fairly
certain that he'll escape, though there is still the
question of how; it doesn't really generate the
suspense and excitement one expects out of a
   And so, in my opinion, it might not have been the
best place to end the story.


... then all the stories on RACC would be
thousand-and-a-half line monsters.
   So, as always, feel free to ignore me. :-)


   Or, more precisely, 1,471, next up, we have

BEIGE COUNTDOWN # 1 [MAR 31], Spitzer

   And this is probably the most satisfying LNH story
I've read in a long time: psychologically probing and
mercilessly funny (that's my fake heart!), with an
abundance of gag lines (now that's a dead person's
funeral home!)-- an homage to "For the Man Who Has
Everything" that is smart enough to adapt the concept
to the character of the Ultimate Ninja-- it's just a
very, very strong story, one that uses Arthur's
by-now-trademarked special brand of insane WTFness and
dream logic in a deep way.
   In short, it's terrific, and you should read it,
now.  Even if you've read it before, you should stop
reading what you're doing and read it now.

SPORKMAN # 19 [APR 1], Fishbone

   The story continues apace, in its incremental
fashion.  Earlier in this same edition of RUSSELL'S
REVIEWS, you'll note that I talked about the theory of
each episode of a series having its own internal
consistency, a beginning-middle-and-end, be it
plot-based, thematic, or whatever-else.  Well, one
series on RACC that generally doesn't have that is
SPORKMAN, and a cursory glance at my previous reviews
doesn't indicate that I've had any kind of real
problem with that before.  And, in fact, in this case,
I don't.
   Why is that?
   I'm not really sure myself exactly.  I think the
series does remind me of "Rocky and Bullwinkle", in
that each episode is short and funny and-- especially
the case during the epic Box Tops storyline that
dominated R & B's first season-- not a whole lot
happens.  It's enough, I suppose, for it to be short
and funny.


   I did enjoy the corrupt cop test that Mickey's
partner, Martini, administrates in this issue.  And
the flashback from PRETEEN PATROL was funny as well as
being indicative of the respective personalities of
Mickey and his father.  And Greg's material from 1995
was just as fresh and as funny as his material today;
maybe he'd like to repost some of that old series in
TEB chunks?

SERIES' # 1 [APR 3], Rinehart

   This issue was posted late on Thursday, and there
is an awful lot there-- a lot of jumping around in
time, a lot of characters, et cetera-- a lot to
digest, and quite simply, two days isn't enough to do
so.  And so, I'm postponing my review of this issue
until I've had the proper amount of time to process
it; a proper review should appear in next week's


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