REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #51 - March 2008 [spoilers]
saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
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]
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
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
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...
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
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.
'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
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 uts.edu.au
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