REVIEWS: Russell's Reviews Volume One # 8

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Fri Feb 22 22:28:30 PST 2008

In my opinion, it's time for

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/       \      /___  |/ / /___  |/\/___/     NO. 8

58.5 # 26 [FEB 15, 2008], Martins

   I have to say that Locked Room's future slang had
been annoying me until the revelation, early in this
installment, that she was basically making it all up
or cannibalizing it from other fictional sources. 
That, plus the heavier reliance on the slang, made it
very appealing to me and very funny.
   I kinda wish there had been more of it-- that her
slang had become extra-dense and unintelligible, that
it had been turned all the way up to eleven, as it
were.  But it was still very funny at nine.
   I'm reserving judgment, of course, as to whether or
not Locked Room will be dead at the beginning of the
next issue.  This series _does_ seem to have an
awfully high mortality rate.  I did much the same
thing in my old LNH series, JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY. 
My thinking at the time was that a high death rate was
   Looking back at it now, it just seems kinda
cynical, and I have to admit that that series has not
aged well.  Well.  Except for the giant toilet planet
with the poop island.  That was probably the greatest
idea I ever had.
   I'm not saying that this series, or its high death
rate, is cynical, though.  I will say that Lalo seems
to have a knack for killing off characters just when
I'm really starting to like them. :- )

PINNACLE CITY TALES # 1 [FEB 16, 2008], Hindle

   Some are good at comedy, and some are good at
sci-fi, and Rick Hindle is good-- very, very good-- at
writing superheroes.  If THUNDERCLAP showed mountains
of promise with every issue, I think the premiere
installment of PINNACLE CITY TALES confirms it.
   It's a vignette, really-- an old superhero, the
American Ranger, looking back at his earlier life and
origin story.  But it's a vignette that's grounded in
details and extrapolations, and details and
extrapolations are what makes a superhero universe
   Example: in the PINCITY universe, German forces
attack on American soil, trying to take out Pinnacle
City and its costumed adventurers.  This alternate
history approach is extended to the end of the war
which, if I'm reading it correctly, did not result in
the bombing of Hiroshima but the peaceful surrender of
Japan when they heard the Ranger was on his way.
   I love that.  It deals realistically with the
question of how things would have changed with the
addition of superheroes into the timeline.  And it
does this with a loving eye towards the history of the
genre.  Most attempts at "realism" try to jettison the
silly and insane (translated: balls-awesome) concepts
of the Golden and Silver Ages, concepts like the Boy
Commandos, given a tweak as the Kid Militia.
   It's full of spot-on Golden Age characters,
characters with blunt and obvious on-the-nose names:
Trip Havok, Dirigible Man, and the Futureman.  Great
names that, more than echoing other characters in some
kind of parody, instead echoes the feeling, the ethos,
the power of the Golden Age.
   The cybernetic details foregrounded in the framing
sequence make one acutely aware of their weight, feel,
and physical reality.  It reminded me somewhat of
OMEGA NIGHTS in that it lent a sense of physical
presence, albeit a different sense of presence, to the
   Rick's prose moves nicely and is generally pretty
tidy.  Sometimes, a clever turn of phrase is weakened
by overextension.  For example, the lines

"His parents disapproved of him marrying someone who
wasn't Irish.  Her parents disapproved of him because
he was Irish, not an Italian."

would have more punch if he lost those last three
words, which upsets the vaguely chiastic effect.
   But, yeah, Rick writes good superhero stories.  He
doesn't write anti-superhero stories or superhero
parodies and he doesn't write _around_ a superhero
story; he writes honest-to-gosh superheroes with
thought, imagination, and wit.

ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES # 86 [FEB 18, 2008], Van

   Having missed this story the first two times, I of
course can't say if things were clearer or more
entertaining the third time around.  But I could
basically follow what was going on, and there were a
number of details to enjoy: the comparison between the
technology of the two eras, for example, the bit about
Tibet and the diverging branch of time, and the
conversation between our heroes and Delta Rose was
very finely-tuned.


   This issue of ASH took place largely in Michigan,
more specifically in Detroit and Ann Arbor.  For those
of you who are not current or former Michiganders--
though I think God intended us all to be Michiganders,
otherwise we wouldn't be given the map at birth-- Ann
Arbor is one of the two major "cool" spots in
   The other is Royal Oak.  Both of these cities sport
fine art house theaters, a number of restaurants,
relatively low crime rates, specialty shops, and paid
parking.  But don't think that they're
interchangeable.  Ann Arbor is far superior, and it's
not just because it's home to the main campus of the
University of Michigan (there's also a Dearborn
campus, fittingly called University of
Michigan-Dearborn, situated next to our very own
"Harvard on the Rouge"-- Henry Ford Community
   No, the reason why Ann Arbor is a better place to
hang out than Royal Oak comes down to its higher
quality of lesbians.
   Both cities are tolerant of, supportive of, and
home to many members of the GLBT community.
   But the lesbians in Royal Oak are generally very
rude and unpleasant.  They're extremely
confrontational and likely to deride or insult
heterosexual persons.
   The lesbians in Ann Arbor, on the other hand,
generally tend to be very open and relaxed.  If you
were to ask lesbians from either city for directions
to one of its hot-spots, the Royal Oak lesbians would
say something along the lines of, "We're lesbians! 
Look at us!  Grr!", the lesbians of Ann Arbor are more
likely to give you directions or assistance.  "Yeah,
we're lesbians.  There's a great used book store just
two blocks down."
   We bought some furniture from lesbians in both
cities using craigslist.  When we introduced ourselves
to the Royal Oak lesbians, they just grunted.  They
pointed to the chair and told us it would be fifty
   When we introduced ourselves to a charming couple
in Ann Arbor, not only did they sell us a nice
bookshelf, but they made us breakfast, offered us tea,
and entertained us with a few songs they wrote for
acoustic guitar.
   So, if you're living in Michigan or planning on
visiting (good Lord, bring some spare tires!), stay
clear of Royal Joke.  (And Detroit.  And Flint.  And
Taylor.  And Ypsilanti.)  Instead, spend your time in
Ann Arbor and Dearborn.
   True, Dearborn's lesbians aren't quite on par with
those in Ann Arbor, and we don't have an arthouse
theater, but we do have probably the best comic book
store in Metro Detroit, Green Brain Comics.


   I like smart people.  Even if I disagree with
someone's viewpoint, even if someone has a viewpoint
that I find repugnant-- I still like that person to be
intelligent, witty, and in some ways logical.
   I mean, look at William F. Buckley.  Lord knows I
don't agree with the man.  But I have to admit, he's
not a stupid man.  I disagree with him vehemently, but
I can respect and in some ways enjoy the intelligence
with which he conducts himself, even if I feel that
intelligence is in the service of incredibly
destructive ideas.
   Eavesdropping on the private thoughts of Derek
Radner, I get the same feeling.  I don't always agree
with what he has to say (though I'd say I'm actually
much more in agreement with him on many points in this
second issue), but I do enjoy seeing an intelligent
person argue and debate-- albeit with himself--
intelligently, logically, and reasonably.
   It provides a deeper and in some ways more
seductive reading experience than if, say, the same
points of view had been espoused in a rant devoid of
intellectual heft, supporting arguments, or any
semblance of logic.  I might not agree with what Derek
Radner has to say, but I have to thank God that he's
more like Buckley than Coulter.


out in his author's notes, comments on a rather
interesting discussion on RACC, began by our dear
friend Martin Phipps on the topic of the depiction of
Good and Evil in fiction, life, and superheroes.
   During said discussion, Martin attributed certain
viewpoints to Western religion that seemed at odds
with, well, the very basic tenets of Western religion.
 The conversation somewhat evolved into a theological
discussion of sorts.
   I want to say that I was in no way trying to
proselytize.  My theological arguments were not
intended to be objective arguments for my beliefs, for
they have no more sway over areas of objective fact
than old episodes of Star Trek.  My arguments were
only intended to comment on what I saw to be
misconceptions-- and popular ones-- being used to tie
Western religions to the two out of the three
viewpoints which were being argued against.


   In that same discussion, as I said above, the topic
of free will came up, at which point Jamas Enright put
forth an extremely technical argument, to wit, that
because consciousness is the result of physical and
chemical reactions, that everything we choose is a
result of those actions.  And: the higher creativity
and imagination that humans display over other life
forms and machines are the result of us having more
neurological connections in our brains.
   And, you know what?  He might be right.  He might
be one-hundred percent correct about all that, and I
will gladly concede it.
   And I am glad for his scientific rigor.  But-- and
you knew there was a bouncing baby "but" on its way--
I don't think it was strictly a scientific argument. 
I think it was really more of a metaphysical one.
   And it's true that my arguments, being largely
metaphysical in nature, can't really hold a candle to
scientific ones.  When I realized this, I decided to
drop out of the conversation.
   And I'm not trying to start that conversation up
again exactly, but the whole thing _did_ remind me of
something I heard once about R. Buckminster Fuller,
which I'll paraphrase to the best of my memory and
ability here.  Fuller and a friend were observing the
setting of the sun and his friend said, "What a
beautiful sunset!"
   At this point, Fuller became irked.  "It's not a
sunset," he said.  "The sun doesn't move.  It's an
   And, yes, Fuller is absolutely right.  The sun
doesn't move around the Earth, it doesn't rise and
set.  Scientifically, the term "sunset" is a lie, a
mistake, a fraud.
   But aesthetically?  A sunset *is* beautiful.  Bands
of orange and red flaring across the sky, melting
below the horizon as darkness slowly creeps o'er us.
   Well, that's not right either.  According to
Wikipedia, the visually pleasing effect we commonly
call a sunset, and that Fuller would call an
earthrise, is actually the result of Mie scattering--
the scattering of electromagnetic radiation by
spherical particles.
   And yeah, it's true, and I'll gladly concede that
point.  But I'm still going to call it a sunset, and I
sure as hell am never going to say, "What a visually
pleasing arrangement of colours on the visible
spectrum resulting from the Mie scattering this
   It's a little like trying to woo a lady.  One
should tell her that she's beautiful, gorgeous, or
angelic; that she's intelligent, smart, witty, or
funny; that she's kind and sweet.
   You _don't_ want to tell her that her body is
highly symmetrical, her brain has a high number of
neurological connections, and that she conducts
herself with tact and altruism.
   I found that out the hard way.

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