REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #49 - January 2008 [spoilers]
saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 29 18:06:51 PST 2008
[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #49 � January 2008 [spoilers]
Academy of Super-Heroes #84 [ASH]
Coherent Super Stories #14 [ASH]
Doomed Romance #3 [8Fold]
Enforcers #3 [Misc]
Sporkman #8-12 [SG]
58.5 #20-21 [LNH]
Kinky Romance #2 [8Fold]
New Exarchs #10 [SG/LNH]
Superfreaks Season 3 #11-12 [Superfreaks]
Minor corrections from last issue. _58.5_ #20 was published in
Jan 2008 rather than Dec 2007.
Let's see, what else...? Oh yeah. [adopts a Blowfeldian voice
and strokes a white cat] Since you asked Mr Russell, it was I who
nominated Dr Fay Tarif for Best Supporting Character in the 2007
What, you want to know why as well? Oh all right. I got a vibe
from her that she's a character who's competent, but also has a
slightly impish sense of humour and who enjoys her work but isn't
defined by it. Or to put it another way, while Dr Tarif's purpose
in the _Jolt City_ stories is to fill the role of the 'supporting cast
scientist', she doesn't feel like that's the be-all and end-all of her
as person. I get the impression that she could wander off and do
something completely unrelated to her work, or perhaps related to her
work in a totally screwball way (perhaps by having an adventure ala
Challengers Of The Unknown, or - Heaven forbid - getting in over her
head and getting herself killed).
I will also note that Tom said in his _Russell Reviews_ Vol.1 no.5
that the _End Of Month Reviews_ is a regular posting that he always
reads as soon as he discovers that a new issue has been posted. That
is a very generous statement that is extremely humbling to me - as well
as being a bit disconcerting. I mean, it's just me rambling on about
stuff. I am glad that that this is keeping people entertained.
However, at this point I have no plans for anything particularly special
for issue 50.
Academy of Super Heroes #84
'Coming Home Part 1 - Stormbringer'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
Just a very quick summary of this one, mainly to note its return.
The ASH series has been on hiatus since mid 2007 on account of delays
with the other parts of the projected story/crossover, post 'Timequake'.
Solar Max and Jen Kleinvogel are still stuck in the past, and
have just come to the conclusion that Triton and Aegis have probably
bailed on them (to which I say again: Aegis, you're gonna get screwed).
There's a lovely scene where the two of them try to anticipate what
Triton may be up to, only to find that trying to think like Triton
makes their brains hurt. After concluding that they don't want to
risk changing history they head for China, since to the best of their
knowledge Chinese history is pretty stable at this point and has no
significant events that they may inadvertently affect. Once in China
they are met by the Taoist wizard Seven Winds, who has been expecting
them and offers them a place to stay. They accept his offer, stay
for a few years, and discover that although recorded history details
mundane wars and politics, there are always the supernatural elements
to take into consideration.
Coherent Super Stories #14
'The Idiot Plot'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
Okay. Cute conceit. The hero, Brightsword, is child-like enough
(although no doubt his opponents would pillory him as childish) that he
thinks in terms of simple, four-colour explanations of situations and
then tends to stick with them. He usually wins in terms of overcoming
the overt threat (as he does in this story, by stopping the use of
Darkshield's Mind Sifter on various scientists employed in atomic
energy) but Darkshield is in fact a communist agent posing as a
supervillain in order to choreograph distractions for Brightsword.
My feelings on how this works as a story have gone all over the
place. Certainly on the most elemental level it has enough energy and
faux-Ditko stylistic trapping to work as entertainment. However, as a
retrospective story (as in, being written in the 21st century to fit a
style of comic set in the 1970s) I was wondering whether it would work
as part of an ongoing published series back in the 1970s. My initial
assessment was that it would not. The notion that Brightsword is such
a tool that he is regularly fooled by a communist opponent into
thinking that he had succeeded while actually being misled on a deeper
agenda is a theme/running gag that I do not think would have sat well
with a real life reading public at that time. Perhaps as a one off,
after which Brightsword would discover the truth and set about to have
a final showdown with Darkshield: sure, that would work.
Then it occurred to me that there was an observation made (I first
encountered it while reading Peter David's collected _But I Digress_,
but it may go back further than that) that the greatest and most popular
villains are the classic mastermind villains, such as Doctor Doom and
Lex Luthor, who get away with their crimes. Or more precisely, who
may have their immediate plans thwarted but who are above any sort of
punishment that could permanently put a stop to their shenanigans.
They may have lost the battle but they are still there and intend
to win the war. I know that Dvandom has at least cognisant of the
principle, since Acton Lord was developed that way in the LNH, and
sometimes it seems like the entire frickin' *setting* of ASH is built
with that in mind. And at first glance Darkshield seems to fits that
However, I keep coming back to the 'communist' part of Darkshield's
character description and think "Noooo...". To me that feels like an
element that would not sit well as part of the classic master villain
formula if used in the 1970s. In the end I have to say that 'The
Idiot Plot' works well as a story (and as a pastiche) in the time it
was really written. And that I'm probably reading to much into it by
wondering how the story would have flown back in the day.
Doomed Romance #3
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
[This is a repost of comments made directly to the RACC newsgroup.
Yes, it's being used as padding.]
Hmm. That was intriguing. But I'm not sure it was for the reasons
The 'story hook' that kept me reading was at first 'is this guy a
total cad?'. And then when it became clear that he was being so ruthless
in planning his faux emotion responses because he genuinely didn't have
any of his own, I wondered 'Is he a robot? Is he an alien finding
himself a girl friend in order to built a cover identity for himself?'
(and then I thought, no, this is *doomed* romance, not *weird* romance).
(And not having any emotional responses made the poor guy seem even
more befuddled when she started playing what looked to me like
BettyAndVeronica games on him.)
Still, by the end of the story there was enough evidence that this
was a guy who really didn't understand emotional context to convince me
of this. (Possibly he has a specialised version of Aspergers Sydnrome.)
Nevertheless I had spent so much time wondering whether this fellow was
some sort of non-human and being reassured that he wasn't, that by the
time I got to the ironic punchline the impact had been weakened. The
emotional impact, at least. I recognised straight off that it was irony,
but the reaction of how that fitted into the context of the rest of the
story was kind of 'Oh, okay' rather than any empathy for his situation.
(Indeed, it's only now as I type these words and try to articulate a
coherent reaction for how I reacted and why that I actually that there
is a cleverly structured appropriateness to the story 'Leon' being
published within the _Doomed Romance_ title. The poor guy doesn't get
it and probably never will. But that doesn't mean I have to feel for
'Pairs' part 1
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
Captain Graybeard returns, intending to steal an advanced
submarine to use as a new base of operations for his piracy.
But before that happens the Enforcers receive a letter from Super
Knight proposing to give the Enforcers his secret base as a form
of restitution, which as a plot element is handled a bit too
perfunctorily for my taste. Perhaps some form of trap is lying in
wait for future issues.
Far more interesting, well developed, and creepy was Magic
King's meeting with Lucinda, a prostitute of sorts, as well as
vampire and grand daughter of Dracula. I'm still not entirely sure
why Magic King brought Worm Woman to the meeting - whether his mind
was still somewhat clouded by Lucinda's 'programming' and he simply
didn't think straight when she asked to tag along, or whether his
mental resistance is such that he was able to manipulate Worm Woman
sufficiently to demonstrate Lucinda's control over him as a way of
setting up stratagem to free himself.
'A New Show' ; 'A New Disaster' ;
'A New Smackdown' ; 'A New Threat' and 'A New Mess'
'Lemurs On A Dirigible' parts 3-7
A Superguy [SG] series
by Greg Fishbone
In the Author's Notes for #8 Greg indicates that the mood he's
been aiming for in the early part of this arc has been that of a
horror movie. Specifically the way tension is built up early on by
having the threat only seen briefly and incompletely. Overall this
mood seems to have worked but I've been having problems with Jeanette
LeBlanc's place within it; fortunately the latter part of the story
seems to have moved into a slightly different style of story, and
this works better for the type of character that Jeanette seems to be.
But before I begin to discuss the structure of the story I'm
going to have to ramble on a bit about the structural balance between
terror and horror. This may take a while. But trust me, I'm pretty
sure I know what I'm doing.
One tidbit of information I recall from various roleplaying games
is how to play the difference between terror and horror. At its
simplest, terror tends to be based on the fear of immediate harm and
prompts the fight-or-flight response. Horror tends to be more of a
visceral reaction of revulsion against something. There are overlaps,
of course, and the latter can certainly lead directly to the former.
Nevertheless, for the do-it-yourself activity of gamesmastering these
loose definitions tend to be more useful that the blanket description
of the 'horror genre' that we get from the mainstream media.
In 'Lemurs On A Dirigible' we have two main threads of action.
One is focused on Mickey and his allies, and conforms pretty much to
the 'terror' aspect of the genre. The protagonists encounter something
scary, scream 'Arghh!' and retreat/run away. (It is also a good
example of the way that terror plots can very easily be turned into
action/adventure plots, since you only need to add the next steps of:
regroup, rearm and return to fight - which is what happens in the
latter half of the story arc.)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger we have the contest
between Serially Numbered Underling Number Thirteen and the zombie
Bill O'Reilly, using the lemur-gnawed bones of recently deceased
passengers as tokens, which better suits the mood of horror.
It is grisly and macabre. Perhaps not so grisly and macabre as it
would be if the events were not taking place in a (semi)comedic
superhero series, but that's a limitation of the setting rather than
of story structure.
Then we come to Jeanette. Now, I rather like Jeanette. Indeed,
if I'm going to confirm that that I nominated Dr Fay Tarif for the
RACCies, then I should also state that I nominated Jeanette and
Serially Numbered Underling Number Twenty-Two for Best Supporting
Character as well. (But I didn't nominate the Serially Numbered
Underlings as a group for Best Antagonist; you'll have to look to
someone else to pin the blame for that one.) For someone who isn't a
superhero and knows her limitations on this front, she is nevertheless
an active protagonist who tries to assist people in her own way and
to the best of her ability. And her angst about the ramifications
of her powers is an interesting twist on her otherwise chipper
personality. However, her personality and powers seems to be at odds
with the type of story role that she's called on to perform in the
early part of the arc. Her hunches give her a confidence, calm and
poise that makes her, paradoxically, emotionally passive even at the
same time that we know she has been active in manipulating events and
shaping the story's direction.
On the one hand, she isn't fitting into the terror/action mode of
the story: she isn't doing any of the physical running around, because
by her nature she isn't a (combat) active character. On the other
hand, she's only barely fitting into the horror mode as she is held
captive by Number Thirteen and zombie Bill O'Reilly. Fortunately she
has had some small moments of doubt about her hunches - about both
their ramifications as well as the way that they work - that she
isn't totally emotionally passive (the bit of backhistory she gave in
issue 3 about how she may have caused Docteur de la Mort to become as
supervillain could be considered foreshadowing for her doubts in
issue 12). Overall Jeanette seems to come across as someone who would
fit better in some sort of thriller adventure where, after having set
up the situation, she has to wait tensely to see if the pieces will
fall the way she wants them to after all the yelling and screaming
and running around has been done. How lucky for her that this seems
to be exactly the style that the story morphs into in the latter half
of the arc.
To make it clear that I'm not just ragging on, here is a small
sample of text of how Jeanette's disquiet could be added to, which
struck me while I was off doing long walks over my vacation in
mid Feb. It does not play on her doubts about her interpretation of
her hunches, but rather on her two captors.
| Jeanette felt uncomfortable waiting like this with only Number
| Thirteen and zombie O'Reilly for company. The promise that her
| efforts would eventually... probably... pay off for the best was
| cold comfort when faced with their ghoulish presence. She still
| had no idea what Number Thirteen's agenda was, and his indifference
| to human respect only compounded her distrust of him. O'Reilly was,
| if anything, even worse. He was a creature of horror. He seemed to
| know very well what respect for others - or at least their remains -
| entailed, and delighted in violating that respect for no other
| reason than to put people ill at ease. It was all that Jeanette
| could do to keep from fidgeting, but that would probably only
| attract their attention.
On Mickey himself I'd just like to add that I particularly liked
the moment in issue 10 where he and Samuel L. Jackson first discover
the victims of the lemurs, and Mickey identifies the cause of deaths
with almost forensic accuracy. Mickey's so down on himself that
although he correctly says that his associate (Spoonstryke, nee
Spoongirl) would have done better than him, he overlooks the obvious
points that (a) Spoonstryke isn't there at the moment, and (b) he
nevertheless still has the wherewithal to be a competent crime-
fighter. In one stroke Mickey is presented as both awesome and
pathetic. It seems to be a thematic summary of his situation at the
low point of his career, right before the upswing forced on him by
circumstances to get off his mopey butt and actually save people.
Saxon Brenton University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
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