REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #50 � February 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Wed Mar 19 22:10:11 PDT 2008

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #50 � February 2008 [spoilers]
     Academy of Super-Heroes #85-86  [ASH]
     Anthology2 #52  [AC]  {promotional excerpt}
     Beige Countdown #5  [LNH]
     Derek Radner's Private Journal #2-3  [ASH]
     Doomed Romance #4  [8Fold]
     Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer Valentine's Day Special  [ASH]
     New Exarchs #11  [SG/LNH]
     Pinnacle City Tales #1  [Pincity]
     Sporkman #13-15  [SG]
     Superfreaks Season 3 #13  [Superfreaks]
Also posted:
     58.5 #22-27  [LNH]
     Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #24-25  [LNH]
     I want to try something slightly different for this issue.  There 
was an observation made in a (comparatively) recent _Russell's Reviews_ 
that some episodes of ongoing stories aren't always conductive to new 
readers - or even old readers trying to reorient themselves after a 
lengthy publishing delay - being able to grasp what's going on.  This is 
a pertinent point, and also segues into the subject of whether a reader 
can comfortably get a grasp of the tone and overall feel of a series in 
addition to merely what's been happening in its plot.  So I'd like to 
preface each entry with a 'what's this all about?' summary. 
     That said, it does occur to me that a summary like that is not 
something that I can imagine my readers wanting to be included month 
after month.  A more detailed summary of ongoing story arcs, sure, but 
not the series summary aspects.  I'll have to think about how frequently 
to use it; how frequently a series gets posted would be one obvious factor.
     Spoilers below...
Academy of Super Heroes #85-86
'Coming Home Part 2 - Devastation'  and 
'Coming Home Part 3 - Infiltration'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     What is this?:  You know, that may take a bit of explaining, 
since the _ASH_ series is basically a combination of science fiction 
and superhero elements in not only storytelling style but also in 
setting.  The world that it takes place in doesn't rely as much on 
the assumed details of the real world with genre elements bolted on as 
other 'superhero' worlds.  Specifically, the setting is in the near 
future approximately a generation after a worldwide catastrophe at the 
end of the twentieth century wiped out a large part of the planetary 
population and shook up world politics.  The government of the North 
American Combine has noted the increasing number of superhumans, and 
set up a school to train them.
     Thematically one direction of the series has been about 
consequences.  As in, regardless of what the actual problem the ASH 
members are facing, the overall trend of the series is more often than 
not that they're are trying to maintain some sort of status quo in the 
face of situations that can be *contained*, but for a variety of 
reasons (often political) can rarely be considered *defused*.
     Which I suppose is appropriate considering how badly things could, 
theoretically, get out of control.  The underpinning of superpowers in 
the ASH universe are that they are magical (as in, they operate by 
cheerfully ignoring any and all physical laws if necessary).  This 
extends from minor superpowers all the way up to the pantheons of pagan 
gods, and going by the example of what happened to the planet Venus, a 
moderately puissant god could probably redecorate the solar system as 
a Ditko space if he or she set their mind to it.  In-story the reason 
that this doesn't happen is that the gods all block each other in order 
to prevent one of them getting an advantage, creating a stalemate.  Out 
of story, well, I'm only speculating here, but it *is* a fictional 
setting that's more about telling stories than working out every logical 
consequence.  And of course it's more fun to write and read about human 
or superhuman level characters than about incomprehensibly powerful 
divinities.  Or to put it another way, the *threat* of gods turning up 
and using the world as their plaything (as in the 'Pyramid Scheme' 
crossover or Q'Nos's machinations) are more interesting than actually 
having them succeed.
     And that is fair enough.  However, the magnitude of the threats 
involved in those latter type of stories, and the fact that this sort 
of thing has had the opportunity to be going on for millennia, makes me 
wonder how the freaking Hell this universe has survived against the odds 
to the point where it looks *only a little bit* different from the real 
world.  There are rationalisations of course, but statistically speaking 
they can't be anything other than that: rationalisations.  The setting 
works that way because the writers, and in the end the owner, want it to 
work that way.  That makes for a rather interesting comparison with the 
LNH Looniverse, which also can be accused of having a dramatically 
driven tendency to flirt with awe inspiring but also suicidally risky 
events.  The main difference is that the ASH universe cannot necessarily 
be accused of being self aware.  It also makes for an interesting 
comparison with the Superfreaks setting, which also usually treats its 
stories in a science fictional manner of examining the consequences.  
The difference seems to be in what the starting material is; the 
presence of almost Lovecraftian entities that can erase human history 
as a by product of their own political machinations is not something 
that Martin has forced the Pepperton police to face up against.  Yet. 
     Finally, let's consider the current storyline.  Basically it's 
ongoing fallout from previous adventures, although perfectly good 
reading in their own right.  Back in the 'Four To Never' and 'Timequake' 
arcs, a group of villains from (even further) in the future engineered 
a paradox in order to make themselves temporally unassailable.  As a 
result of attempts to fix the resulting damage, Solar Max and Jen 
Kleinvogel have been stranded in the 1st century, and were laying low 
with some monks in China.
     So.  Issue 84 concluded with Solar Max and Kleinvogel being called 
to arms to help defend against a potentially world destroying demon 
called Devastation.  In issue 85 they found that merely physically 
fighting it was impractical, so they hatched a desperate scheme to push 
Devastation forward in time so that at some point one or more of the 
ultra powerful superhumans now identified as pagan gods might take 
notice and more permanently deal with the entity.  This they duly did, 
and after eventually loosing Devastation they arrived in 1976, albeit a 
divergent timeline version of 1976.  In issue 86 they did various 
errands in 1976, helping out the native superheroes of that time as 
well as trying to track down the divergence point, before heading back 
to their home timeline.
Anthology2 #52
'Serapham Wing: Doomsday Clock'
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
by Ashley Corgan
     What is this?:  This specific post is a promotional excerpt 
from the Artifice Comics shared writing universe (webpage at: ).  Like some of the Superguy series, 
occasionally an Artifice Comics story will be posted to RACC in part 
or in whole.  However, whereas Superguy and Legion of Net.Heroes 
tend overall to be superhero adventure-comedy (and I have a much 
longer examination of what that means below in the entry for _New 
Exarchs_), the AC setting tends to be more straight adventure, and 
often taking full advantage of adult presentation.
     The _Anthology2_ series itself is, as its name suggests, an 
anthology series rotating between writers.  In this particular 
instance the characters of Schezerade and Herlot have just escaped 
from the proverbial 'watery grave', and Schezerade is not happy 
with Herlot.  The full version of story indicates that both are 
trainees at an Academy that uses mecha-style Assault Training 
Armor.  Schezerade targets and sinks Herlot's AVA even as he is 
celebrating his victory in a combat training match, killing him.  
At the subsequent trial she states that he had been fixing the 
outcome of training matches, but on the basis of reading this 
story alone revenge seems just as likely to be the motivation.
      The presence of various science fiction elements usually 
associated with anime and manga, such as combat armour, makes me 
visualise this in an anime art style.  Whether this is appropriate, 
I have no idea.
     And for those of you who worry about these sort of things, a 
google search indicates that this is the first time that Ashley has 
had a story posted to rec.arts.comics.creative, meaning that 
technically she's eligible for the Newbie Award at next year's 
RACCies.  I will throw open the question to the assembled 
RACConteurs of whether a partial promotional post should be 
Beige Countdown #5
'The Bicycle In The River'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] limited series
by Arthur Spitzer
     What is this?:  A limited series that chronicles the events 
of the year leading up to the forewarned return of the Bryttle 
Brothers at 'Beige Midnight'.  Or to be more precise, as part of 
the payoff of the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis' Event/anthology 
storyline in 2007 was the revelation that that Bart the Dark 
Receptionist was playing with the Legion's collective heads and 
trying to instil fear in them.  The 'Infinite Leadership Crisis' 
was Bart's way of taunting the Legion with his power, and the 
year leading to 'Beige Midnight' is his way of letting them stew. 
     But while this particular counterpoint hasn't been addressed 
in any posted stories that I can recall, it should nevertheless 
be self-evident that Bart doesn't have a particularly good grasp 
of superhero psychology.  Trying to scare them simply makes them 
more bull headedly obstinate.  The Legion was never going to 
simply sit around and worry about their impending doom, unless...
     Unless they were weakened by fractious leadership spills, or 
encumbered with general anti-hero attitudes after a public 
disaster, or compromised by Presidential attempts to subvert 
their power for his own benefit.  Which of course is exactly 
what's been happening.
     In this episode President Hex Luthor has framed and 
imprisoned his long-time adversary Bicycle Repair Lad.  Now, you 
may recall that in issue 7 Manga Man's rather dubious actions 
were inclined towards supervillainous self defeat, and it was 
Hex Luthor who kept Manga man on track.  It was almost as if 
Hex had read the Evil Overlord's Handbook and taken it to heart.  
That has changed.  Although Bicycle Repair Lad is nominally at 
Hex's mercy, he's correctly deduced that both his attempt to take 
over the world and an attempt to discredit and remove an opponent 
that no one has so far been taking seriously are indications 
that Hex Luthor is falling back into old, supervillainous thought 
patterns.  In short, Hex Luthor is beginning to loose it.  Or 
regain it, depending on how you define 'it'.
Derek Radner's Private Journal #2-3
'Evil'  and  'Assets'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     What is this?:  Mr Radner is a supervillain in the 21st 
century setting of the ASH universe, going by the codename 
Triton.  The high concept of _Private Journal_ is that these 
are the musings of Radner written down before or in the early 
part of his villainous career, before he attained his later 
Master Villain status as leader of the Conclave of Super 
Villains and chancellor of the north African country of Khadam. 
     The second issue presents his musing on the nature of evil.  
Like the presentation of his thoughts on villainy is #1, they 
are well presented for adolescent writings, but they still have 
the hint of characterisation that he's not so much trying to get 
a clear grasp of the subject as get a clear grasp of how he can 
rationalise his own inclinations.
     The writings in the third issue are somewhat more sophisticated, 
as befits the fact that they were written later, after starting his 
supervillainous career and being caught.  'Villainy' and 'Evil' 
were basically him flirting with the idea of being a villain and 
looking for rationalisations for himself.  By comparison 'Assets' 
is a strategic overview of how to achieve his goals once he fully 
commits to being a supercriminal, so it more or less has to be 
more sophisticated.  The time for abstract philosophising is over, 
and now he has to get to the nitty gritty of planning how to 
achieve his ends.
Doomed Romance #4 
'Cut Out My Heart'  part 1 of 2
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     What is this?:  It's one of a series of somewhat skewed 
romance titles put out by 8Fold.  Now, non-superhero stories are 
quite rare on rec.arts.comics.creative.  It seems to be a 
consequence of the fact that the newsgroup originally developed 
out of alt.comics.lnh, the original newsgroup for the superhero-
oriented Legion of Net.Heroes imprint, plus the general 
misapprehension that the medium of comic books automatically 
equates to the genre of superheroes.  (It seems that the 
increasing prevalence of manga in western countries hasn't done 
as much about that latter aspect as could be hoped.)
     In the specific case of this story the two parts are done as a 
crossover with _Kinky Romance_, with the second part being posted in 
March.  This half focuses on the breakdown of the marriage of Tuck 
and Cordelia after Tuck decides to undergo surgery to become a woman. 
The story is heavy of interpersonal interaction, which is to be 
expected in the depiction of a marriage breakup.
Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer Valentine's Day Special
'Dark Cupid'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Andrew Burton
     What is this?:  She's a superheroine.  He's a reformed super-
villain and her partner.  Together they have a rather sweet 
relationship.  Oh, and kinky sex.  Frankly, the best summary of the 
_Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer_ series that I can think of remains 
'superhero sitcom'.  The heart of the series is the relationship 
between the two main characters, and there's been very little 
superhero puncheminnaface so far.
     The series takes place in the Academy of Superheroes universe, 
but it's set back in the late twentieth century, during the 'Third 
Heroic Age'.  This means that there's none of the heavy continuity 
that you get by way of crossovers between series set in a shared 
fictional present.  Of course, _LL&DD_ tends to be light on continuity 
in any case, with the stories tending to be character vignettes - and 
that holds true here with this episode being a Valentine's Day special.
     Part of the characterisation of Doctor Developer (the most overt 
part, and probably the easiest to present via cliche) is that he has a 
fetish for putting people in death traps.  In this story Lady Lawful 
gives him Valentine's Day treat by returning the favour.  Aw, bless.  
He can take as well as he can give.  Of course, Lady Lawful disguises 
herself so he doesn't know who has him restrained until quite late in 
the piece.  And it's telling that he's still turned on by it.
New Exarchs #11
'Getting Squirrelly'
A Superguy and Legion of Net.Heroes [SG/LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     What is this?:  It's yet another series written by Dave Van 
Domelen.  Yes, he's a busy boy.  Specifically, _New Exarchs_ is a 
comedy-adventure series set in the main Superguy universe (000Superguy) 
featuring a bunch of characters who started out, more or less, in the 
main Legion of Net.Heroes universe (the Looniverse).  They're actually 
nanotechnologically created duplicates of people from the Looniverse 
- although it took them a while to discover the fact.  Thematically 
they've spend a lot of their screen time in both this series and the 
previous _Exarchs_ series dealing with various aspects of other 
dimensions (dimensional travel, other dimensional counterparts, the 
magical ramifications of being non-natives...): this is actually the 
third other-dimensional invasion that they've had to oppose.
     More broadly, this series unites aspects of Superguy and Legion 
of Net.Heroes imprints.  They're actually a rather good matchup for one 
another.  Well, mostly.  Superguy as a setting tends to slightly more 
action oriented with comedy overtones, while the Legion tends to be 
outright comic book parody and veers heavily towards the anarchically 
insane.  That said, the fact that both imprints have strong comedy 
elements in them gives them both leeway to contain stories that vary 
between very serious to totally silly.  It's much like the way a 
chaotic system can integrate pockets of order, but an orderly system 
has trouble reconciling pockets of chaos into itself.  In other words, 
the presence of comedic elements gives justification for why a 
compromise about mood and tone can occur.
     As far as plot is concerned, the Exarchs are in the middle of a 
story arc.  They've reunited after several years to investigate the 
alleged death of one of their members, Paul.  Along the way they 
uncovered evidence of an invasion from 000Superdry.  The Exarchs (and, 
secretly, Jonkatta the squirrel) have infiltrated that dimension and 
are now scouting around.  In this issue we learn that Paul is indeed 
still alive, and is being held prisoner by Sung the Stainless.  
Meanwhile the Exarchs and Jonkatta have separately both had interviews 
with some of the natives.
Pinnacle City Tales #1
'Black & White Pictures'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     What is this?:  Hmm.  Now this is an interesting situation.  Up 
until the moment that I began thinking about how describe _Pinnacle 
City Tales_ and the Pinnacle City imprint in general, I hadn't 
consciously registered that Rick has not been writing some sort of 
hybrid or variation of the superhero genre like a number of the other 
entries in this month's EoMR.  This episode, like other of his recent 
efforts (_Thunderclap_, _The Goddess And The Bomb_, and all the way 
back to his early efforts with _City Of Heroes_) has 'merely' been 
generic but well written superhero fiction.  Which is not to say that 
this is all that he has produced; I still remember fondly _Legends Of 
The Eternal World_.  In any case, _Pinnacle City Tales_ is the latest 
series/miniseries by Rick set in the eponymous Pinnacle City.  Now, 
one of Rick's interests seems to be the theme of superhero history 
and tradition, and this story is another example. 
     This issue is a focus on the origin of the American Ranger, a 
cyborg superhuman who we first encountered recently in...  No, I'm 
sorry, I was going to say recently in _Thunderclap_, but a google 
search indicates he's been around as a background character since 
_City Of Heroes_ #1, published back in 1998.  
     There's an interesting mixture of Golden Age tropes and more 
modern characterisation here.  For example, it's explained that at 
the same time that the Japanese bombed Pear Harbour in December 1941, 
German submarines started bombing Pinnacle City in a similar effort 
to use surprise to knock out the superhumans residing there.  That's 
a superficially plausible reason - and who knows, it might even remain 
plausible even after the United States' isolationist stance towards 
Europe is factored in.  But is has the feel of direct and simple (and 
I mean that in a non-pejorative way) rational to get superheroes 
involved in World War 2 early.  In other words, the type of treatment 
of plot that, while enjoyed by adults, was written at a level to also 
be enjoyed by children.  In fact, the first time I read that paragraph 
I had this sudden visualisation of the way the artwork would have 
looked published in that era, all flat colours and heavy night time 
shadows as flying men zoom out from the shoreline in the direction 
of a lurking sub...
     At the other extreme are more modern attitudes, such as the 
Ranger looking back in pity at people thinking it unmanly to cry.  
One could point to this being an attitude shift in society over the 
decades, but I think it's more than that.  It adds weight to the 
notion that the American Ranger is old, and has accumulated hard won 
wisdom during his battles.  It is not merely because he's lived 
through the 1970s, and Alan Alda showed it was okay to cry.  The 
Ranger probably figured that out decades earlier.
Sporkman #13-15
'A New Victory'  ;  'A New Escape'  and  'A New 'Splosion'
Lemurs on a Dirigible  parts 8-10
A Superguy [SG] series
by Greg Fishbone
     What is this?:  Actually, _Sporkman_ already has useful flavour 
text summary of the series premise at the start of each episode (well, 
okay, after the opening scene of each episode).  The title character 
was a child superhero called Sporkboy, and as an adult is now 
traumatised by his past.
     More generally...  Well, once again we come to that rather broad 
concept of what a 'typical' Superguy or Legion of Net.Heroes series 
is, considering that both are 'open' writing universes and both have 
leeway to encompass all sorts of stories.  But if we're going to dabble 
in stereotypes about 'superhero action-comedy', then _Sporkman_ fits 
into that mould.
     The current story situation is most definitely the result of what 
has gone before.  Mickey Dunn was wandering around Europe and met 
Jeanette LeBlanc, who acted on one of her hunches to fly Mickey back 
to America to look for his mother.  However, their flight on the 
Supersonic Airship Unsplodable was interrupted when the zombie Bill 
O'Reilly unleashed a horde of man eating lemurs in order to capture 
Jeanette.  The fact that Serially Numbered Underling Number Thirteen 
captured Jeanette first in an attempt to thwart O'Reilly has not 
actually helped the situation all that much.  Now, in these last three 
episodes of the story arc Mickey and his immediate companions do a lot 
of running around trying to save as many people as possible before 
fate catches up with ironically-named airship and causes it to explode.
Superfreaks Season 3 #13
'The Sex Files'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps
     What is this?:  Another series using story elements from multiple 
genres.  And, like _Sporkman_ it has a flavour text summary of the 
series premise at the start.  In this case it's essentially a police 
investigative series, set in a world where superhero and science 
fiction occurrences are real and complicate the investigations.  
_Superfreaks_ has some soap opera character interaction between its 
cast members, but most of the focus of the series tends to be about the 
legal ramifications of all the genre elements, and it's been slowly 
adding different types of genre element over time: superheros and 
superhuman battles, cloning, and finally alien contact.  Basically, 
it's extrapolation about how law enforcement would work under those 
     One thought that occurs to me as I type this:  In real life, 
advances in technology mean a type of 'arms race' between lateral 
thinking criminals exploiting new opportunities and the cops and 
legislators trying to keep up.  For our purposes superhuman powers 
acts as a technology substitute.  Now, while the basic principles of 
detective work would remain the same (keep collecting evidence until 
you have enough to prove the crime) the police should logically be 
using both new techniques and technology as it becomes available to 
them, as well as trying to come up with new methodologies to deal with 
new and ever more esoteric types of crime.  For example, perhaps the 
Pepperton should have been making tentative steps to see what use 
supertech would have been in their investigations.  Moreover, now the 
entire alien civilisations (rather than just lone survivors, like 
Extreme) have made contact with Earth, they should also be expressing 
interest in extraterrestrial policing methods.
     I'm of two minds about the fact that we haven't seen anything like 
that so far.  On the one hand, it is a bit shortfall for a series that 
prides itself on making extrapolations of how policing in a superhero 
universe might work.  On the other hand, _Superfreaks_ can be 
interpreted as a 'hard science fiction' universe, by which I mean it 
*is* more interested in the logical extrapolations, rather than, say, 
making up technobabble to act as a plot hole filler ala Star Trek.  
Just as it is extremely difficult for a writer to convincingly present 
a direct depiction of a super intelligent person, it would be difficult 
to convincingly present a direct depiction of advanced policing methods.  
One would probably need to have (or have access to a consultant who has) 
a background in the subject to pull it off.  Still, it should be 
possible to hint at it obliquely, especially if it involves members 
of the Pepperton police department arguing about the relative merits 
of untested equipment.
     And yes, this does mean I'm expecting a Season 4.  It finally and 
belatedly occurs to me that since _Superfreaks_ is modelled on various 
television shows like _CSI_ that perhaps the 'Series end' notices could 
be better interpreted as the conclusion of a season rather than the end 
of the title altogether.  I can be a bit slow with things like that.
     Now, overall story direction.  Well, to begin with, I haven't made 
comment about _Superfreaks_ since October last year.  One thing I've 
noticed since then is that on a plotting level, the early issues of 
Season 3 were connected in a plot thread where the consequences of one 
story directly drove the engine of story of later ones.  There has 
been none of that lately; the stories have all been pretty much stand 
alones, with perhaps a cliffhanger to lead from one issue to another.
     In issue 13 there are two main plots.  In one some FBI 
investigators have to put a stop to a guy who placed a amateur sex 
videos of his girlfriend on the internet.  The problem is that she's 
a clone of Jessica Alba, and even though the video was not a revenue 
generating exercise, it's illegal to make audiovisual materials of 
clones without the permission of the donor.  The second has nothing to 
do with sex, instead involving a puzzle relating to the murder of a 
museum curator, who was murdered over a treasure horde from World War 2.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at
The Eyrie Archives of Russ Allbery which collect the online superhero
fiction of the rec.arts.comics.creative newsgroup and its sibling group
Superguy can be found at:       or   or

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