REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #51 - March 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Mon Apr 7 09:15:17 PDT 2008

[REVIEW]  End of Month Reviews #51 - March 2008 [spoilers]
     Derek Radner's Private Journal #4  [ASH]
     Eggplant the Easter Miracle Komodo Dragon #3  [LNH]
     Godling #12  [Misc]
     Kinky Romance #3  [8Fold]
     The League #3-4  [SG]
     Possum-Man: Relinquished #5  [LNH]
     The Reverse Engineers #1  [ASH]
     Sporkman #16-18  [SG]
     Superfreaks Season 3 #14  [Superfreaks]
Also posted:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #87  [ASH]
     Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #7  [ASH]
     Series' #0  [SG]
     Thunderclap #9  [Pincity]
     Oh wow, look.  This issue has been posted within the first seven 
days after the month it reviews ends.  Which means that it's ON 
SCHEDULE.  Naturally, you would be extremely foolish indeed to bet any
money that such a state of affairs can continue.
     Only a bit of administrivia to babble about this month.  A truncated 
copy of _58.5_ #19 arrived in March for some reason.  As Lalo noted, he 
originally posted it back in December 2007.  In any case, I've already 
noted its existence as part of the block of _58.5_ that came out that 
month, so I plan to treat it basically as a repost and for the most part 
ignore it. 
     Spoilers below...
Derek Radner's Private Journal #4
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     There's a slight change of context for this issue.  Instead of 
being the writings of Dererk Radner at an earlier point in his life, 
this issue is a tie-in with a current storyline, in this case the 
'Coming Home' arc in _Academy of Super-Heroes_ and _Conclave of Super-
Villains_.  Overall this does not make for much of difference, with one 
small exception.  It adds a greater perceived sense of urgency to Derek's 
task of trying to get back to his home time period *and* manipulate 
history via time paradox to fulfil his promise to bring a number of dead 
people back to life.
     This can be seen in Derek's frustration in trying to explain a plan 
of action that Aegis can understand, let alone agree with.  In some ways 
it's a theme that's been seen in previous issues of this series, as 
Derek's irritation at people less intelligent than he is leads to a 
combination of frustration and intellectual arrogance.  It's rather like 
the classic _X-Factor_ story by Peter David wherein Quicksilver explains 
the reason that he's so snarky all the time is that, as a speedster, 
everyone else is lagging behind him and his life is like being stuck in 
line at a teller machine behind a crowd of people who don't know how to 
operate it properly.  More specifically I suspect that Derek probably 
has what Austin Grossman described as 'malign hypercognition disorder' 
in his novel _Soon I Will Be Invincible_, which is much like what 
Quicksilver described, except that it pertains to super-intelligent 
individuals being frustrated with the normals, rather than speedsters. 
And of course, leads to full blown anti-social ('supervillainous') 
behaviour rather than just snarkiness.
     Nevertheless, it occurs to me that this will be an interesting 
opportunity to see *how* Derek handles the situation.  In my 
commentary on issue 1 I noted that a large potential flaw in Derek's 
rationalisations was that these self-proclaimed superior intellects 
didn't have the patience or otherwise lacked the wherewithal to actually 
change from *within* a system that they perceived to be flawed.  Instead, 
they could only try to violently overthrow it.  Now, granted, sometimes 
vested interests or even simple social inertia mean that there are some 
situations that can't be corrected by anything other than force. 
However, a super-intelligent person should be able to at least make a 
plausible plan of how to dangle a carrot that buys off those vested 
interests.  (A really super-intelligent person may even be able to 
formulate a way around Arrow's Theorem of Social Limitation; that's the 
one that says you can't please everyone all the time.  But I digress.) 
And in this case Derek should be able to find a compelling argument to 
win Aegis over to his side.
     Of course, there are a number of variables in this, starting with 
the fact that Aegis (Castor) has already proven vulnerable to the 
suggestion of bringing back his twin brother Pollux.  The other is the 
general aphorism that it's hard to write the thought processes of a 
super-intellect and easier to show the results.  (In the latter regard 
the writers already have prepared a possible out for themselves, since 
Derek has already complained about the need to think down to Castor's 
     So I await Derek's plan is depicted in the _CSV Annual_ #2.  Which 
tool(s) will Derek use?  Flattery?  Bribery?  Trickery?  Blackmail?  Or 
an honest-to-goodness win-win strategy?

Eggplant the Easter Miracle Komodo Dragon #3
'Beige Easter'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Arthur Spitzer

     What is this?:  A running gag about the adventures of improbably 
named animals who are the iconic representatives of various holidays.
     In this episode, we learn the tragic history of the animosity 
between Eggplant the Easter Miracle Komodo Dragon and Cabbage the St. 
Patrick's Day Miracle Ferret.  Only this time it's a magic using Nazi 
version of Cabbage the St. Patrick's Day Miracle Ferret from an alternate 
earth where Hitler won WWII and who is using his powers to run a beige 
egg scheme in a plot to ruin Easter, and cunningly using the animosity 
between the Eggplant and Cabbage of the mainstream Looniverse as a 
cover, because anything that Eggplant could say or do against this evil 
extradimensional interloper would be interpreted as continuing sour grapes.
     Oh yeah, and it's probably a Beige Countdown tie-in.  Or maybe 
Beige Midnight.  Wait, no, I was right the first time; ominous 
forebodings about beige is Beige Countdown.
     I usually find that when Arthur puts out stories like this my 
response is to just stare at it in wide-eyed bemusement - occasionally 
going "Wow" or giggling slightly.
     And now, after this piece of high quality WTF-ness, we turn to 
something downright normal by superhero standards...

Godling #12
'Seeking Justice'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jochem Vandersteen

     What is this?:  Straightforward superhero adventures as mild-
mannered university professor Quentin Alexander is gifted with the 
powers of the Greek gods for the purpose of fighting crime.
     As I discovered last month (on a conscious level, at least) while 
doing these 'What is this' summaries, there are actually very few series 
on rec.arts.comics.creative at the moment that are doing what could 
stereotypically be considered straight superheroic stories.  (There are 
a couple of ways that this could be done, but that would involve a mini 
essay in itself.)
     By contrast _Godling_, Rick Hindle's various stories in the Pinnacle 
City setting, and Frumpy's _Mr Invisible_ and _Enforcers_ are all more 
or less straight superheroics.  Yet this is not to say that they are all 
the same.  Whereas the Pinnacle City material is heavily involved in the 
theme of superheroic legacy, _Godling_ has taken as an approach of 
building a superheroic tradition from the ground up.  It isn't even as 
ubiquitous as Hindle's use of legacy; it only gets shown or mentioned 
every now and then:  Godling's attempts to figure out the most effective 
way to use his powers for the greater good.  They way that Safari was 
inspired to fight crime.  And although I can't for the life of me think 
of a link, I've got a gut feeling that superheros meeting for the first 
time and sharing origin stories over coffee goes in here somewhere.
     Plotwise, the accusations against Professor Alexander come to 
another turning point as they go to court to determine bail.  At which 
point Death Dog, who is nothing if not persistent to the point of 
bloodymindedness, bursts into the court looking for Safari.  In the 
confusion Alexander and his lawyer Walker change into Godling and 
Safari and neatly defeat Death Dog.
     Under other circumstances I would probably call Death Dog's act of 
attacking a packed court room an idiot plot.  It really is a rather 
stupid thing to do.  On the other hand, it is dreadfully in character 
for him.  You get the sense that he's so animalistically driven that 
while he can be described as intelligent he hardly counts as having 
human common sense.
Kinky Romance #3
'Cut Out My Heart'  part 2 of 2
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     What is this?:  This is the other somewhat skewed romance title 
put out by Eightfold.  This one usually features unusual and often 
erotically exotic sexual motivations and relationships.
     That said, there were times when this story came close to making 
me feel like it should be named 'Creepy Romance'.  It's the second and 
concluding part of the crossover from _Doomed Romamce_ from last month, 
and... I have mixed feelings about it.  Gem, formerly Tuck, separated 
from his wife Cordelia after Gem's sex change into a woman.  He's now 
left feeling loneliness, depression, and self-hatred.  By chance she 
meets Cordelia again.  And again.  And eventually the strike up a 
friendship, with Cordelia not realising for a long time the correlation 
between Gem and Tuck.
     Investigating my feelings on the matter, I think I was disturbed 
by the one-sidedness of the relationship until the revelations at the 
very end when Cordelia realised who Gem was.  As in, Gem was obviously 
uncomfortable and nervous about revealing her full identity because of 
the risk of Cordelia rejecting her, but nevertheless Gem had a 
significant advantage over Cordelia in the knowledge department that 
in her pain-filled emotional state Gem could have used for vindictive 
purposes.  My initial reaction was that Gem had, without consciously 
choosing it, fallen into a role very close to 'stalker'.  Admittedly 
that's not quite the best description, but it's close enough.
     Standing back and looking at the overall theme of this series, I 
nod my head in satisfaction that Tom has been able to illicit such a 
response.  'Kinky' in this context does not equate to a blanket 
description of sex merely because of prudish cultural taboos;  it 
relates to how different people have different tastes in their wants 
and desires.  It's about alternative points of view in one of the 
arguably most sensitive and controversial areas of human society.  It 
makes sense that in a series that explores 'kinky', that sooner or 
later the writer will find a plot that makes the reader feel icky. 
And because of the highly idiosyncratic way that both kinky and icky 
work for this point of view, you never know  when or from what 
direction it will be arriving from.
The League #3-4
'Complications'  and  'Elaborations'
A Superguy [SG] series
by Eric Burns
     Hey, let's wander over to the Superguy list and see how things are 
going after they had their big relaunch back in October last year.
     I'll admit that for a short while I was a bit worried that the 
momentum of the Superguy list was faltering.  After so many different 
Authors started creating again, there was a period in December through 
February where it seemed only a few of them were actually putting out 
much stuff.  In retrospect this seems have been a statistical artefact 
of the way Dvandom and Greg Fishbone have been putting out short but 
frequent episodes of their series, but there were always the occasional 
other putting out longer stories.  Presumably it evens out.
     So then: What is this?:  A series about the next generation of 
superguy heroes as they try to live up to the legacy of the now disbanded 
Adjusted League Unimpeachable, gain control of the ongoing gang war in 
the balkanised and alien invaded city of Boston, and fend off attempts to 
shut them down by various groups in authority more interested in doing 
what's legal than what's right.
     A lot of what's gone on so far has, of necessity, been world 
building or world re-establishing.  There's a large (and growing!) 
cast and number of factions at work.  Plus a few mysteries from the 
interregnum, like why the Feds wanted Boston broken up behind huge 
concrete walls and what's the deal with the backhistory of Trashman's
disappearance.  Fortunately the need for exposition relief is provided 
by superhero fight scenes against ludicrous street gangs and 
mercenaries: issue 3 had Leonard Maltin Groupies, who speak in quotes 
from the film critic, while issue 4 ended with the League was fighting 
the macrame using Trudi Collective.
     Anyway, I'm not going to pretend that I haven't been having hard 
time trying to keep track of it all.  Perhaps the best indication of the 
state of affairs is that I've been reading these within a week or two of 
them becoming available, but unlike, say, _Sporkman_ or _New Exarchs_, I 
don't go back and skim read it for casual entertainment.  Moreover, when 
it came time to do this review I had to go back and reread all the 
previous issues to make sure I had things straight in my head.  It's 
entertaining but I've found it heavy going.
     With all those caveats out of the way, let's look at the series 
itself.  The current situation is 'beleaguered heroes facing impossible 
odds on all sides'.  There are a couple of ways that this could go (not 
to mention the possibility that Eric could devise something completely 
unexpected just to surprise, delight, and intrigue his readers).  One is 
that the current situation is the status quo of the series as Eric 
envisions it (at least until a random inspiration bug comes along and 
bites him and makes him want to try something else).  This presumes that 
not just the character interaction but also the tone of the series is as 
Eric wants them.  There are, however, at least two points that would 
argue against that.  First, this is the start of a series, and it seems 
likely that new characters and situations/complications have yet to be 
introduced that may subsequently change the shape of the series. 
Secondly, the tone of the most recent issues is markedly at odds with 
the tone of wistful nostalgia presented when the old ALU retired at the 
very start of issue 1.
     The other prospect that occurs to me is that this is the baptism of 
fire for the League, to develop them as characters and show the readers 
what they're like, as well as develop them as individuals to toughen them 
up for the role that they've taken on. In this option the situation in 
Boston may or may not remain stable, but after a string of increasingly 
tough conflicts where the heroes win through (albeit probably at great 
cost) and prove themselves, the situation in Boston and the threat from 
the Rogers Institute is no longer the be-all and end-all of the Leagues' 
problems.  By rights a city that's degenerated into a gang run urban hell 
(even if it does have some very strange gangs) should be an intractable 
problem to fix, but in a world where International Salvage can fix 
damaged buildings overnight the situation in Boston need not be a long 
term setup; it depends on the level of realism with which the state of 
Boston is treated.  In short I'm not sure where this is going, but under 
the circumstances I expect a lot of character and situation development.
     Plotwise: Well, the League continue to fight various weird groups in 
Boston and try to mop up the situation caused by the Lickmi invasion. 
On the other side of the equation Elizabeth Tirkoff from the Rogers 
Institute has been working her way down her short list of candidates to 
lead the Lochaber's plan to replace the League.  There have also been 
various flashbacks to fill in the details of how the current situation 
Possum-Man: Relinquished #5
'Lady Of The Manor'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Mitchell Crouch
     Oh.  So the main villain turns out to be a complete and utter 
nitwit as well.
     Okay, that may be a bit harsh.  Now that we've met the full cast, 
and it turns out that they all engage in scatterbrained slapstick to some 
extent or another, I think their collective nincompoopery is more a 
function of the writing style and humour that Tarq has chosen than 
necessarily being of the characters themselves.  Theoretically they 
could act slightly differently if they made an appearance elsewhere, 
and characters from other series could catch a bad case of 'teh stoopid' 
if they turned up here.  Theoretically.  There's the fact that when Tarq 
wrote the early issues of _Alt.stralian Tales_, which had a similar 
approach to its comedy, that Been-Out-Bush-Way-Too-Long Man wasn't 
written as a posturing butt of jokes.  And since Possum-Man *is* a 
posturing butt of jokes, he either needs his support cast need to be 
posturing butts of jokes as well, or be very very lucky in his 
superheroing activities.
     But I'm getting ahead of myself.  What is this?:  A series starring 
the well meaning but impressionable and often rather foolish Possum-Man, 
set in the city of Www.ollongong on the Australian east coast.  In this 
issue Possum-Man tracks down and confronts the Vixen, who is the master 
villain behind the various supercriminal attacks in previous issues. 
Like Possum-Man she puts a lot of store in the appearance of her actions, 
so when he turns up at her lair ahead of schedule she insists on him 
waiting while she can finish cleaning up.  Then they have a knock-down 
drag-out fight scene (during which she tries to suborn Possum-Man into 
giving up heroing) and from which Possum Man only just manages to escape.
The Reverse Engineers #1
'The Kid's All Right'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Andrew Burton
     What is this?:  It's the *other* series starring Doctor Developer. 
You see, the _Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer_ series depicts the 20th 
century activities of Doctor Developer and his wife, but this series 
shows the exploits of him and his adopted family in the 21st century 
after the world was turned on its head and rebuilding is underway. 
Comparisons to the character of Nick Fury from Marvel comics (Fred 
Hemback: 'A character so exciting he had to be created twice!') will 
be studiously avoided.
     In this episode Doctor Developer has trouble relating to Rachel, 
one of the gaggle of superhuman children that the good Doctor has had 
to take under his wing in order to protect them.  Simply put, Rachel 
reminds him too much of Lady Lawful, and he's been avoiding her.  Now, 
it's a characteristic of Doctor Developer that we've seen in _LL&DD_ 
that he hasn't got the best social skills in the world and occasionally 
needs to be belted over the head with a clue, and it seems that time has 
not necessarily improved him in this regard.  In this instance it's Moira 
Zimmerman who acts as... you know, I'm not sure what the best short form 
description of Moira relationship to Doctor D would be.  Probably den 
mother, at this point.  Anyway, it's Moria who has the task of getting 
him back on track.  Then there's reconciliation and angst -- Doctor D's 
reaction to that time travel journey that the Lady Lawful of 1996 made 
back in _LL&DD_ #4 makes that kind of inevitable, after all -- and Rachel 
gets to be the third Lady Lawful, not necessarily in that order.
     I remain intrigued by the hinted at rebuilding of Detroit under 
Doctor Developer's guiding hand.
Sporkman #16-18
'A New Rescue'  ;  'A New Profession'  and  'A New Life'
Dillweed City Blues parts 1-3
A Superguy [SG] series
by Greg Fishbone
     Having rescued as many people as possible from the wreck of the 
airship Unspoldable, Mickey finds himself stranded in Dillweed City, 
where his father is chief of police.  Thus begins the twelve part 
'Dillweed City Blues' arc.  Mickey is dragooned into the police force to 
fulfil a promise he made to his father before he started bumming around 
Europe, and is therefore unable to try to track down Jeanette, who from 
the dream sequence flashbacks has been kidnapped, or his mother, The 
Narrator.  Meanwhile, in issue 18, the new Serially Numbered Underling 
that Nobody Important created for his nephew hatches.
     Ah, so.  Mickey is moved further into a position where he came into 
contact (and conflict) with Spoonstryke.  Well, actually, that statement 
is a bit disingenuous of me.  I've been reading ahead on the issues 
posted to Superguy already, and I know that he's going to come into 
contact and conflict with Spoonstryke.  Unless Greg decides to 
radically rewrite those issues for their RACC publication, of course...
     But let's talk about these three issues.  I've already expressed my 
admiration for the way that Greg has been able to create interesting 
characterisation for both his main and support characters.  This time 
around I want to say that I really liked his handling of Roger Important. 
Now, the joke about Roger living in a cluttered house and therefore being 
driven into becoming a neatness freak as a means of expressing teenaged 
rebellion is a good one, even if it's not necessarily an original one.  I 
know I once ripped it off from Terry Pratchett, and off the top of my 
head Rich Burlew has also used it in _Order Of The Stick_.  Nevertheless, 
teenagers who act like teenagers by going against the expectation of how 
adults expect teenagers to act is always good for a laugh.  But it goes a 
bit further than that.  The moment where Roger wonders whether he should 
keep the new born Underling Thirty-One from becoming a slave mirrors the 
arguments he had with Underling Twenty-Two about her being so servile way 
back in issue 2.  The question, of course, is whether this is a natural 
inclination of Roger's, or whether it's another manifestation of his 
teenaged rebellion against his uncle supervillainy (in this case his 
uncle's creation of genetically engineered minions).  Probably the 
former, since otherwise he would have taken that job at Spoonburger 
rather than working in Nobody's underground death factory, but you never 
Superfreaks Season 3 #14
'Extreme Returns'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps
     Ah, more angst.  This is the final issue for Season 3, and it 
rounds out with a nice 'in death we are in life' theme.  Extreme had 
an argument with his wife, Amazing Woman, and feeling homesick and 
rootless he travelled back to his home planet of Neon.  However, the 
sight of the lifeless world that was destroyed by General Zon doesn't 
make him feel any better, and so he returns home and mopes a bit with 
his adoptive mother.  Eventually he goes back and reconciles with 
Amazing Woman, and discovers that she is pregnant.  This in turn 
parallels the birth of Lana and Michael baby.  Thematically: things 
end and other things begin.  We'll have to wait and see what they all 
get up to in Season 4.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at
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