REVIEWS: Russell's Reviews, Volume One # 6

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Feb 11 10:47:40 PST 2008

Two days late?  Well, that doesn't sound like

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/       \      /___  |/ / /___  |/\/___/     NO. 6


   I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the
nomination process for this years RACCies, and,
furthermore, I'd like to thank anyone who nominated
something of mine. :- )
   I was very surprised by the nomination of Dr. Fay
Tarif by at least one of you.  Pleasantly surprised,
mind you-- and very, very touched.  I'm glad that
someone besides myself has taken a liking to her.
   Granted, the nominations are of course private and
I in no way want to violate that.  But I'd be very
interested in hearing what people like, or dislike,
about Dr. Fay so that when she makes her reappearance
in the Eightfold Universe I can provide more of the
good stuff and less of the bad.
   I myself nominated my flame war with Jesse Willey
for Best Flame War, ostensibly to recognize his
invaluable contributions, but also because, to be
frank, it _was_ the Best Flame War of the year.  Not
to count chickens before they've been
hatched/accidentally omeletted, but, seriously:
nothing else last year really came close.
   On a whole, in fact, discussions on RACC have been
downright civil.  Flame wars have become a very rare
thing indeed.  But there has been a number of
interesting discussions on RACC.
   And so, humbly, I'd like to suggest that next year
we introduce a Favourite Discussions category (in
addition to, and not replacing, Best Flame War), and
that we then proceed for the rest of this year to
create a number of viable nominees.

58.5 # 22 [FEB 1, 2008], Martins

   I found this issue of 58.5 much easier to follow
than its immediate predecessor.  Partially this is
because I had read said predecessor and thus had more
of an idea what was going on, whereas I had not read
the predecessor preceding the predecessor of this
issue.  Partially this is also because there was far
less going-on; this installment is much shorter and
the plotline fairly simple: Lauro, being near death,
prays to Laran, the Etruscan god of war, inviting the
deity to make its home within its earthly vessel.  The
god then makes short work of nearby Evil LNHers and
introduces himself to the New Misfits.  At issue's
end, the Evil LNH reacts to this new element.
   Laran is depicted as being nude, which as far as I
recall is consistent with depictions of him in
Etruscan art.  This is played for a few laughs, and
the women-folk especially have no problem with his
chosen mode of dress.
   This reminds me of the excellent film EASTERN
PROMISES, directed by David Cronenberg and starring an
extremely naked Viggo Mortenson.  I have recommended
the film highly to all my friends, but always making
sure to caution them that Viggo Mortenson is extremely
naked in it.  Any male that hears this is somewhat
perturbed; the women, on the other hand, become very
   For some strange reason, when I earlier recommended
THE PIANO as starring an extremely naked Harvey
Keitel, women generally had a very different reaction.


   The "living god" trope has arguably been a part of
the superhero genre since its inception, and so I
think it is worthy of some discussion, evaluation, and
definition.  First of all, what is it exactly?
   I'm not talking about the idea of a god or god-like
being existing within a particular superhero universe
or story, which is fairly common and prevalent. 
Whether it's a god with a real-world mythological
counterpart, such as Thor or, in this case, Laran, or
a god created specifically for a fictional universe,
such as Galactus, the concept of gods with powers
beyond the ken of mortal men is in some ways at the
very heart of most superhero universes.
   (Though I refuse to give any serious thought to the
often-repeated banality that superhero stories are
"the new mythology".)
   No, what I'm talking about is the very special sort
of story in which a character becomes an avatar or
vessel for a god's power or actual presence or both,
sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. 
Depending on the circumstances and the author's use of
the trope, it can be used to raise questions about the
nature of identity and, less frequently, theology.
   And-- as many of my readers know-- there is no
theme I find more exciting than identity: the elusive
mystery of personality, of what makes us who we are
and makes us act the way we do.  And, like I was
saying, here is a trope that's positively loaded with
possibilities: what's it like for a man to share his
body with a god or, in this specific instance, what's
it like for a god to walk among men?  What does it
feel like to inhabit another body, to move around with
someone else's muscles and sinew?  Does changing
physical form also change some aspect of the god, and
if so, does it only change the outward ways the god
expresses his core self while leaving the core self
unchanged?  Is there a difference, then, between a
core self and the way we express ourselves in the real
tangible world?
   I'm practically foaming at the mouth now, and I've
only just gotten started.  There's hundreds of
questions this trope could raise.
   Now-- at least at this point in the game-- Lalo
hasn't raised any of these questions, not yet.  And
I'm saying that this is a deficiency on his part:
after all, he's just gotten started with this and I
think he's really more of a plot-based writer.  And,
though my preference for the texture and depth that
comes with character- and theme-based stories is
probably well-documented, there's nothing wrong with
plot- and idea-based writing and, in fact, I do derive
a great deal of pleasure from it.  A good story
well-told or a marvelous idea well-extrapolated can
touch a reader in ways that are perhaps more immediate
than more digressive prose.
   But one of the problems with plot-based
storytelling is that it can sometimes skimp over the
human element, as it were.  As soon as Laran made his
appearance, I was anticipating the reactions of the
rest of the cast and, in particular, of his mortal
host's cousin.  And while we got a little bit of the
former, there was none-- absolutely none-- of the
latter.  And I felt this void somewhat acutely.
   I wondered if perhaps I had missed something in the
previous issue, and so I combed over it in case she
had died.  But, no, that did not seem to be the case. 
Somewhere between that issue and this one, she just
   And the thing is, it was that reaction, above all,
that I was looking forward to.  In fact, it was the
reaction-- the scene-- that Lalo was building towards
with these two issues, whether he was wholly conscious
of it or not.
   1. He set up the testy relationship between the
cousins and their religious differences.
   2. Lauro is left for dead, and Dramatic Pause Lass
expresses remorse; she thinks he is dead.
   3. Lauro dies and allows Laran to take his body,
thus paying off the religious plot thread.
   4. And so, the inevitable conclusion: Laran in
Lauro's body meets Dramatic Pause Lass and there is a
reaction, thus paying off Dramatic Pause Lass thinking
he is dead.
   Which, technically, he is-- but you see how that
structure, that plot, plants the seed of anticipation
in the reader's mind: what will Dramatic Pause Lass
think of all this?
   And then, nothing.  It was a little frustrating:
the gun was on the mantle-place in the first act, and
it disappeared mysteriously in the second, but it
never went off in the third.

   I may have been a little too harsh when discussing
my feelings about the Beige Midnight event.  I'm
   It's true that that piece, which appeared in our
last installment, was more about feelings than facts;
it was not an objective look at the Beige Midnight
story but rather a very subjective explanation as to
why my interest in the LNH has waned.
   And it's also true, as Arthur said in response to
my post, that there have been big multi-author
crossover events in the past which never stopped
anyone from writing before.  And it's true that the
status quo has, in effect, changed only a piddling
   But that's not the way it _felt_.  At the end of
the Infinite Leadership Crisis, there was an
expectation in my mind that everything would return to
normal.  Instead, it ended on a note of uncertainty,
with the leadership of the LNH up for grabs, an
ideological gap between Irony Man and the Ninja
widened, LNHQ destroyed.  Things weren't reset, but
rather had only just begun.
   Now, many of these things have been resolved; on
many points, the status quo has been restored, and so
my accusation-- that the LNH's continuity has become
inaccessible-- holds considerably less water.  But at
that time-- at the end of the Infinite April, with
various legionnaires tied up once more, it certainly
felt and to a certain degree was less accessible.
   It's not that there's anything particularly bad
about the storyline-- with one notable exception-- but
rather that the timing was a bit of a turn-off as both
a reader and a writer.  And sure, I guess it serves as
a parody of the tendencies of big crossovers to only
serve as preludes to even bigger ones.  But parody
generally works on a smaller scale.  I mean, one could
do a parodic comic poking fun at the pacing,
storytelling style, and general misogyny in Dave
Sims's Cerebus, but that doesn't mean you have to do
three hundred issues of it; one would more than
   Still, other than the aforementioned and
soon-to-be-mentioned one notable exception, I have no
qualms with the storyline itself, and certainly none
with its authors.  I certainly didn't mean to hurt
anyone's feelings.
   I'm sorry.

BEIGE COUNTDOWN # 5 [FEB 2, 2008], Spitzer

   This was a nice didactic character piece, and I
mean that quite sincerely as a compliment.  There's
nothing at all wrong with didacticism, especially if
it's done well; in fact, the superhero genre, which so
often pivots on the conflict between good and evil,
sometimes thrives on a didactic approach.  And
didacticism is at the very heart of fables and
morality tales; if the moral the story illustrates was
muddy and unclear it wouldn't be a particularly
memorable, useful, or even adequate example of the
   When discussing literature or art of any sort, one
often extols nuance, subtlety, and ambiguity at the
expense of simple clear communication.  If a story can
be reduced to one thematic statement, we are told,
it's not really worth telling, is it?  And while I'm
certainly not one to turn my nose at fine nuance,
subtle writing, and stories that contain a multitude
of gorgeous, fully-rendered meanings and themes, I do
think this point of view is a bit unfair and fails to
take into account the fact that writing a good
didactic story can sometimes be just as difficult as
writing a good story of that other type.  It's really
not a matter of one type being better than the other,
but rather that they are simply different types of
stories that approach readers at different
   When people respond unfavourably to a didactic
story, morality play, or fable-- often accusing it of
being "on the nose", of hitting its point home with a
sledgehammer, et cetera-- they are often just failing
to "tune" their brains to its frequency.  Of course
it's on the nose!, of course it telegraphs its point
in big bold letters!: faulting it for that is like
faulting Tolkien for writing about elves and hobbits.
   And it's just as likely that persons who decry that
other type of story for being thematically "on the
fence", for raising questions without providing
answers, for not making "sense", are similarly missing
the point.  (They're the sort of people who are
probably frustrated with light for being both a
particle and a wave.)
   At the same time, that's a rather easy way to
deflect criticism, isn't it?  It's like saying you
can't fault a romantic comedy for being too sappy or a
slasher film for being too gory.  In such a world no
critical standards would exist and thus no need for
criticism, and without criticism, either from external
sources or self-inflicted, there is quite frankly no
way for a writer to grow.
   It is then simultaneously fair and unfair to
criticize something for being precisely what it is. 
It is unfair to judge Mitch Albom's work by the same
standards one uses to judge the latest Updike novel. 
Albom is one of America's most gloppily sentimental
writers, and he once deflected this criticism by

"Since when did sentimental become a bad thing?
Everybody's favorite movie is a sentimental movie --
It's a Wonderful Life, or The Wizard of Oz. Nobody's
favorite movie is some dark, dysfunctional slasher
story. Everybody's favorite song is a sentimental
song. So why all of a sudden is it bad to be
sentimental in books? Critics have a problem with
sentimentality. Readers do not. I write for readers."

And so, what he's saying in essence is, it's unfair to
criticize my work for being sentimental.  What's
telling about the examples he uses-- WONDERFUL LIFE
and WIZARD-- is that they are not sentimental films. 
They are emotional films, earnest and sincere films,
but that emotion is earned: earned by skillful
performances, strong writing, and most of all, pain--
real, sincere, deep and powerful pain that makes the
happy ending true and strong instead of sappy and
lame-- you know, like everything Mitch Albom has ever
written or ever will write.  Sentiment is not
equivalent to emotional storytelling; sentiment is
demanding that the audience get emotional without
doing the work or having the talent necessary to make
that emotional impact.
   And so, while I do think a lot of otherwise very
smart people close their minds to didactic
storytelling (and also to its seemingly more
illustrious opposite), at the same time there's
absolutely nothing wrong with faulting a didactic
story for being a bad didactic story.  There's a
difference, for example, between hitting the reader
over the head with something and giving the reader a
   All this is my way of saying that didacticism, in
the right hands, can be used not to appeal to the
reader's brain but to strike them deep and quick and
true in their bones.  The work of Jack Kirby is
didactic, as is the work of Samuel Fuller and Elvis
Presley.  Not bad company, that.
   And while I'm not exactly placing Arthur Spitzer in
the same sphere as those heavenly heavyweights, I will
say that this issue of BEIGE COUNTDOWN is a damn fine
example of good didactic storytelling.  It clearly
demonstrates the two sides of Hexadecimal Luthor, both
in the dialogue and by dramatic example.  The dialogue
is (and I'm sure you're sick of this word by now)
didactic: Bicycle Repair Lad tells Hex, and by
extension the reader, exactly what these two sides are
and how this psychological flaw is going to bring Hex
tumbling down.  This is followed by Hex debating
whether or not to kill Bicycle Repair Lad.
   What's interesting about this moment is how it
reinforces the point twice over.  Hex argues with
himself that killing Bicycle Repair Lad would also
kill the Old Hex Luthor that Bicycle Repair Lad says
will sabotage him in the end: in this point of view,
killing his old enemy would be the proper action for
the New Hex Luthor.  And yet, killing Bicycle Repair
Lad is actually an Old Hex Luthor kind of thing to do
and the New Hex should leave well enough alone.  (In
the end, of course, he doesn't kill Bicycle Repair
Lad.)  This duality, communicated clearly and
effectively, shows us how deep-seated the Old Hex
tendencies are within the New Hex, thus proving
Bicycle Repair Lad's point.
   So, all-in-all, with skill and humour, Arthur has
written a fairly strong story of an unjustly maligned


   But what was that one notable exception I mentioned
earlier?  And, furthermore, how infuriatingly
ambiguous will I be about how it relates to Beige
Countdown/ Midnight in particular?  The answers, dear
reader, await you beginning in the very next
   The evil government trope has been a part of the
superhero genre since before it even existed.  If, for
example, Robin Hood can be considered a sort of
ur-superhero, then his arch-enemy is the government
itself.  That's probably a major component of why the
legendary outlaw is so popular: he's the ultimate
anti-establishment figure, one scrappy guy (give or
take a few dozen merry men) bringing down a corrupt
system single-handedly.  It's a good story, one that
emphasizes the power of individualized energies; his
success or failure largely depends on himself.  He's
smarter, cleverer, faster, more agile, and more
inspiring than those that he opposes.  And, to top it
off, he is the best archer in all of England.
   It is on those merits that he succeeds, and they
are thrown into sharper relief when pitted against the
slow, stupid, and largely faceless government-- a
government comprised of boobs born into privilege and
fat wealth.  Even those members of the government who
have individual faces-- such as the much maligned
Prince John and Guy of Gisborne-- are, in the various
itinerations and retellings of the legend, less
creative, energetic, and able than the outlaw of
   Compare him with the equally legendary Arthur, who
succeeds and subsequently fails not because of his own
actions but because of destiny, of birth.  Robin Hood
earns every victory, while in the case of Arthur-- the
ultimate establishment figure-- it's all pre-ordained.
 He's great because he's Arthur, not because of
anything he's done.
   It's interesting to note that the story of Robin
Hood is one of success-- the individual trumping the
system-- while the story of Arthur is one of failure--
the system collapsing on itself.  In both cases, it is
the system that loses and  the imaginative and angry
outsider who wins: in the former case, the illustrious
Mr. Of Locksley, and in the latter, disenfranchised
Mordred.  In some ways these legends provide two
different points of view on the same basic plotline.
   In order for this kind of story to work, though,
the government has to be unjust and oppressive.  No
one would want to read about Robin Hood bilking the
New Deal or fighting Tibet's government in exile. 
   When the superhero genre really got started, in the
late 1930's, a variation on the evil government story
formed an important part of the genre's appeal.  The
earliest superheroes-- including Superman's original
characterization-- were highly-destructive vigilantes,
unafraid to take a life when necessary, and operating
very much outside the law.  Naturally, the law--
police men, politicians: the government-- takes a dim
view of this and attempts to apprehend the hero.
   Now, the government in this case isn't technically
an "evil" one: they're basically good people doing
good.  But it is similar in that the government and
the protagonist are pitted against one another, and
that the audience's sympathies are intentionally
aligned with the protagonist.  This does pose the same
sort of problem hinted at above: it's hard to cheer
someone on when he's terrorizing the good guys.
   There are two ways the genre adapted this trope to
make it more palatable.  One was to minimize it,
positing an uneasy alliance between the vigilante and
traditional law enforcement.  The cops and politicians
can't condone what the vigilante does, but they allow
him to operate in a sort of gray zone because of his
astonishing results.  With the advent and popularity
of the supervillain, the superhero's activities are
further compartmentalized: like the national guard,
their aims are similar to those of policemen but they
work in different spheres that seldom overlap.
   The other way the trope was adapted was by
injecting some injustice back into the mix: the hero
is falsely accused of some crime and he must evade the
police, and sometimes other heroes, while attempting
to clear his name.  One can't blame the police and one
certainly can't blame the hero, but you _can_ root for
   But it wasn't really until the seventies, when
distrust of the government was understandably high,
that the Evil was put back in Evil Government as far
as the superhero genre was concerned.  The famous
Secret Empire storyline which ran from Captain America
# 169-176 includes pretty much all the elements that
we've come to associate with the modern-day trope of
the Evil Government.  The government is in the hands
of corrupt and frankly fascistic individuals who
vilify the story's hero or heroes through the
distortion, manipulation, and control of the mass
   This last bit is perhaps the most important.  While
in the much later Civil War storyline there exists
regular, non-super persons who support Captain
America, there is no such support in Secret Empire. 
In the latter case, Captain America's greatest enemy
is not really Richard Nixon but rather the Madison
Avenue ad man in CRAP's employ.  The vast majority of
the public turns against Cap, and even those who seem
to support him-- such as the Sanitation Unit that
attempts to bust him out of prison-- are actually part
of the Empire, attempting to further damage his
   This manipulation of the media and thus the
public's perceptions-- a very subtle form of
brainwashing-- posits a world where even truth is
suspect, where no one and nothing-- not even your own
thoughts-- can be trusted.  This level of paranoia is
one of the most identifiable themes in the writings of
Phillip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs, both of whom
wrote often surreal stories about brainwashing, shadow
governments, and surveillance states.
   Their work-- moreso, I think, than Orwell's 1984--
is a major and visible influence on the cyberpunk
genre, where the Evil Government trope has gotten the
most mileage.  Here we have heroes who are outlaws,
fighting against a corrupt and at times faceless
system that oppresses, manipulates, and violates most
of its citizens.  A world where truth is truly
relative, where media manipulation runs high, and the
line between government and big business is hopeless
   The thing that separates the vast majority of
cyberpunk fiction from the proto-Evil Government story
of Robin Hood is the ending: ninety-nine percent of
the time, the system wins.  Spirits are crushed,
bodies are broken, and there's really no point in
fighting it.
   There are two quotes, I think, that really sum this
up.  One is this very serious direct quotation from
cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling, which I found on the
Cyberpunk Wikipedia article.

"Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a
human being.  And we can do most anything to rats. 
This is a hard thing to think about, but it's the
truth.  It won't go away because we cover our eyes. 
This is cyberpunk."

The other quote is a paraphrase, to the best of my
memory, of a story someone in my old roleplaying group
told to try and explain cyberpunk.

"I walk out of the stinking, fetid bar, stepping out
into the smog-filled air as the curfew sirens blare
into the bleak, dark night.  And then my arm fell

   The defining and prevailing emotion of cyberpunk,
then, is pessimism.  The world sucks and always will. 
Anyone who thinks differently or thinks they can
actually make a difference is a fool and a rube.  And
this pessimism comes out of the setting; this
pessimism is born out of the nigh-invulnerable and
ever-present Evil Government status quo.
   And this is why the Evil Government trope can be a
very poor match for the superhero genre, which is, in
most itinerations, an inherently optimistic genre.  A
story in which the hero is crushed by the system is
not particularly optimistic or inspiring.  This is
doubly true in the superhero genre which, in most
cases, is a serial form of literature: would anyone
really want to read a series about someone who loses
again and again and again while evil goes not only
unpunished but rather rewarded?
   The basic premise of the genre-- that people can
make a difference and that good triumphs over evil--
is frankly irreconcilable with this most extreme
version of the Evil Government trope.  The only times
the trope has really worked-- the Secret Empire
storyline, though it has not aged particularly well,
is one of those times-- is when the Evil Government
is, to some degree, thwarted.  While Nixon's legacy
might remain intact, covered-up by the government, the
threat of the Secret Empire is over and Captain
America's good name restored-- even if he chooses to
abandon it for the duration of the next storyline. 
Order is restored, and in many ways, superhero stories
are about the restoration of order and the correcting
of injustices.
   And yet, even then, the Evil Government trope in
many ways undermines the entire genre.  To illustrate
my point, I'm going to turn to a far wiser man than
myself, the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack
Obama.  In his book "The Audacity of Hope", Senator
Obama recounts being asked why he wanted "to go into
something dirty and nasty like politics?"

"In response, I would usually smile and nod and say
that I understood the skepticism, but that there
was--and always had been-- another tradition to
politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of
the country's founding to the glory of the civil
rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea
that we have a stake in one another, and that what
binds us together is greater than what drives us
apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth
of that proposition and act on it, then we might not
solve every problem, but we can get something
meaningful done."

I was asked more-or-less the same question during my
brief, eventful, and unsuccessful foray into politics,
and I gave more-or-less the same answer, though not
nearly as eloquently, and perhaps not as coherently,
as Senator Obama.  (As I'm sure this piece more than
ably demonstrates, I do have a tendency to digress.)
   You see, for me, superheroes and politicians aren't
that far off.  Yes, there's the occasionally bully or
pervert abusing power, but all-in-all, I'd like to
think that the vast majority of persons in both fields
are basically good people, striving to do the best
they can with what they've got, trying to make a
difference and sometimes even succeeding.
   The superhero genre believes in people, and it
believes in justice, and so it believes in a legal and
political system that more-or-less works and
more-or-less tries to do right by the citizens.  And
so the Evil Government trope, which is diametrically
proposed to the fundamental sort of beliefs upon which
the genre as we know it is based, can cause a severe
case of cognitive dissonance.
   And I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad
thing; cognitive dissonance and ambiguity are some of
the best tools an artist or author has at their
disposal.  Because I trumpet optimism doesn't mean I'm
against complexity; quite the opposite, really.  But
some tropes tend to have an exceedingly poor track
record and so they turn me off as a reader.
   And the Evil Government story, which basically
states that politicians are slimy and that the people
are stupid, easily-manipulated masses, is one of those
tropes that often results in bad storytelling.
   And I think a large part of what turned me off from
Beige Midnight is the foregrounding of the Evil
Government as headed by Hex Luthor.  Now, yes, the Hex
Luthor as President storyline certainly falls under
the Evil Government heading and has been the status
quo for a long time now.  And, yes, he has done
various Evil Government-y type things.
   But the recent introduction of a net.ahuman
responsibility act kinda brought my distaste for the
trope up to the fore, as it were.
   Now, all that being said: I don't dislike the way
the Evil Government storyline has been handled.  For
one, Hex's defeat is fairly inevitable, and for two,
it's not really an Evil Government storyline so much
as it is an Evil President storyline.
   The other reason that I can stomach the Evil
Government trope in this particular itineration is
that it is metatextually similar to that old Captain
America/Secret Empire storyline.  To wit: the Secret
Empire story was a very pointed (if at times clumsy)
story about the betrayal many Americans felt in the
wake of the Watergate scandal.  Here was a President
who broke the law and ordered others to do so, a
President who tried to use cover-up and spin to
protect himself and to disguise his abuses of power.
   It was, then, the right story for that time. 
Imagine if a similar story had been told in the
Kennedy or Johnson eras-- times when distrust of the
government naturally did not run quite so high.
   Well, the Evil Government trope as utilized by
Arthur Spitzer and others in this particular storyline
is also the right story for the time.  We live in a
world where media manipulation does run very high; I
live in a country where persons can be held without
trial and tortured for no reason at all; a country
where the President flagrantly abuses power and
exercises a sort of stupidity that defies all logic.
   If ever there was a time for a good Evil Government
story, this is it.
   And so, while I have a general dislike/distrust of
the trope itself, I can say that nothing about its use
in Beige Midnight bothers me an inordinate amount.


   I _like_ digression.

LEGION OF NET.HEROES VOL. 2 # 24 [FEB 3, 2008],

   This was an amusing little story, as far as tales
of vampire bovines go.  Saxon neatly extrapolates a
number of things both from the setting and the
characters while using a fair amount of playful prose
and precise word choices.  All-in-all, it's the sort
of thing one's come to expect from Saxon, and he
delivers it, and so: yay!
   The second story was also amusing, though I'm not
sure if Jesse Willey will think so.  The whole Entire
City/Country Destroyed By Great Evil trope is another
one I'm not too found of, but I think I'll save that
discussion for another time.
   I don't have a whole lot more than that to say
about it, which makes me feel a little guilty: Saxon's
stories are so infrequent that I like to put as much
into my comments as possible because I don't know
quite when I'll get the chance again.

58.5 # 23 [FEB 4, 2008], Martins

   I'd like to go on record saying that Smiley was the
character I had the most interest in.


   I really, really, really enjoyed the short dialogue
scene between JakZak and Jen about the possibility, or
lack thereof, of a romantic entanglement between them.
 It's the sort of nice character moment that sometimes
gets lost in the various plots, subplots, and ideas of
the ASH universe.
   The scene tells us something about both characters,
about their perceptions of one another, and balances
on the delicate line between forthrightness and
believability.  They don't talk around the issue, but
confront it head-on, while the conversation still pays
attention to the rhythms, hesitations, and flow of
real, every-day, honest, and awkward conversation.
   It's a very strong and very concise piece of
writing which I enjoyed immensely.

SPORKMAN # 13 [FEB 6, 2008], Fishbone

   There was a higher number of sharp, witty
laugh-lines this time around.  As usual, I don't
really have a whole lot to say about this series or
this particular installment, other than, in regards to
the former, it's very funny, and in regards to the
latter, this particular issue was firing on all




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