REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #52 - April 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Tue May 6 22:15:48 PDT 2008

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #52 - April 2008 [spoilers]
     Beige Countdown #1-0  [LNH]
     Conclave of Super-Villains Annual #2  [ASH]
     Jolt City #12  [8Fold]
     Series' #1  [SG]
     Wall Street Angels  [ASH]
Also posted:
     Coherent Super Stories #15  [ASH]
     Derek Radner's Private Journal #5  [ASH]
     Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #8  [ASH]
     New Exarchs #12  [SG/LNH]
     Sporkman #19-21  [SG]
     Unbeatable  [ASH]
     I'm going to bite the bullet and start using the date stamps on 
stories as the appear in the Eyrie archives rather than going by the 
Google copies - something that I probably should have done ages ago.  
It's not going to make much difference in most cases because of the 
format I use for the _End of Month Reviews_ (although thinking about 
it, it will have more affect on the Looniverse RACCies eligibles come 
November).  However, this does mean that there will be a bit of juggling 
this month, as _Beige Countdown_ #1 is one of the stories that was 
variously date stamped March or April depending one whether I  
consult Google or Eyrie.
     Spoilers below...
Beige Countdown #1-0
'In The Palm Of The HeartThrob'  and  'The Book Of Deus Ex Machinas'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] limited series
by Arthur Spitzer
     This brings us to the end of the _Beige Countdown_ series.  
OR DOES IT!?  There were a number of issues skipped along the way, which 
Arthur may or may not get motivation to go back and fill in.  Now, in 
the past I've mentioned the poor track record of various writers, myself 
included, in getting the motivation up to fill in such gaps.  There's me 
(twice with _Limp-Asparagus Lad_), Kyle Lucke with _CHEEEZ Corps_, and 
Andrew Perron with _Digital JUMP!_.  A strong suspicion can be raised 
that when you start leaving holes in your series that you're loosing 
interest in writing rather than merely having time management problems.  
I just hope I haven't jinxed the  matter like I seem to have done when
Andrew lost interest in RACC.
     So then, issue 1 is a character piece focusing on Ultimate Ninja, 
who is being kept prisoner in a dreaming state.  I wasn't familiar with 
the aphorism from wReam that the only real way to write Ultimate Ninja 
badly was to have him fall in love, but Arthur has put even that 
limitation to clever use.  The Ninja attains a measure of happiness 
marrying another ninja, Lady HeartThrob, and because this goes against 
the aforementioned fundamental character brief, his rational side 
realises that the situation is wrong and works to wreak everything he's 
gained as a way of goading himself to wake up.  Which he does.
     Finally, in issue 0...
     Oh, sorry, I lost consciousness there.  Despite all my efforts, 
I'm not familiar with every single point of continuity from every single 
RACC story, and so the sight of Continuity Porn Star's tattoos briefly 
reduced me to drooling idiocy.  Hold up, let me mop up that slobber.  
There we go.  Right then.  For the most part the various main plot 
threads are brought to a climax (but not a conclusion) where they can 
be ported over into _Beige Midnight_.  The main points however can be 
summarised as Occultism Kid's search for the Book of Deus Ex Machina (and 
the backhistory of how it came to be hidden where it was), and Bart' s 
success in summoning the still-sleeping presences of the Bryttle Brothers.
     An observation:  the way that the magical battle back in the 1950s 
played out suggests that the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade types would be better 
at handling (or at least surviving) the upcoming crisis than the Legion of 
Net.Hero types.  I wonder if that's a tension building device, or whether 
it's indicative of the way the Beige Midnight plotlines have been mapped 
out, or whether it's simply the way the NTB guest appearances occurred?  
That question not only applies to the NTB as a whole, but also on a 
smaller scale with individual members.  For example, does the appearance 
of the Jellomancer (and his apocalyptic blackberry jello) simply act as 
a portent of doom, or is his presence a random guest appearance that can 
metaphorically be ascribed to Continuity Porn Star?  I don't particularly 
mind either way; the Jellomancer is a character that I've always liked 
and who, if I were a faster writer, I'd probably try and do an NTB 
miniseries for.  But it probably makes a difference for the casual reader.
     A second observation:  A story of this nature has to flit about 
between scenes for two reasons.  Firstly because it needs to touch upon 
the main plot threads, secondly because it needs to show the impact of 
the approaching crisis on a range of people.  However, there needs to be 
emotional investment if the reader is to care about the characters and 
what's happening to them.  For the most part that's handled well with a 
primary focus on Occultism Kid, and most of the other characters get bits 
as well.  The bit with Catalyst Lass cheerfully going about to deceive 
Mr Tiddles was a nice touch, for example.  Nevertheless, I'm sitting 
here worrying that the combination of an ensemble cast, plus the late 
appearance of the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade, may make this look like the 
equivalent of an Event comic from one of the mainstream publishers.  
That is to say, a reasonable enough story that nevertheless looks like 
it's padded with gratuitous continuity references.  Which brings us back 
to Continuity Porn Star, I suppose.  The issue I'm thinking of is not so 
much a question of accessibility (although that point has been raised by 
Tom Russell, and it is not invalid) but a more academic interest in 
whether there's a different point between 'real' comics and our amateur 
fiction for where the line between acknowledgement of past continuity 
and gratuitous continuity lies.  Hmmm.
Conclave of Super-Villains Annual #2
'Revelation'  (Coming Home part 5)
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen, Tony Pi, and Andrew Burton
     What is this?:  A series devoted to the exploits of a supervillain 
team, and set in the Academy of Super-Heroes universe.  There are a 
couple of ramifications to that.
     Firstly, even if you haven't read the original _CSV_ stories from 
years ago (or for that matter, the stories that crossed over into _ASH_), 
you may have seen the more recent issues of _Derek Radner's Private 
Journal_.  Right from the start the Conclave was set up by Triton to be 
a power base on the scale of world politics.  And in its own twisted way 
it's thematically appropriate that even though Triton lost control of the 
Conclave quite some time ago (real world publishing time) that in this 
story he manages to create/initiate/be given control of a completely new 
power base in the up-until-now hidden city of El Dorado.  And remember, 
he still has Chancellorship of the rogue state of Khadam.
     In any case, a consequence of Triton's initial establishing 
principle is that the CSV's adversaries tend not to be small.  The 
Conclave tends to get opposition from world governments and their 
sanctioned superteams, or - as was the case with the arrival of the 
Impossible Five back in the 'Four To Never' arc _in ASH_ - from other 
'world beating' conquerors and villains who see the Conclave as a 
powerful opponent.  Not just a powerful rival, but a powerful defender 
of the current status quo for their own selfish purposes.  Ironic that.  
Still, we've seen the Conclave ally with the likes of the Academy, STRAFE 
and EUROPA against particularly dangerous threats several times: such as 
against the recent paradox in Monaco engineered by the Impossible Five, 
the apotheosis of Rebus in the 'Pyramid Scheme', and very indirectly 
against the arrival of the world serpent.  In a very real way the 
Conclave is now just another world political faction, albeit one with 
more strained than normal diplomatic relations.
     Plotwise, Triton had been stuck in the past as a result of the 
machinations of the Impossible Five.  With the assistance of Aegis he 
has sets about moving forward in time and setting up situations 
(including *apparent* paradoxes) to their advantage.
     Now, I've been puttering on and off with a review for this story 
all month.  The notion of a story about retconning away chunks of 
previous stories sat ill with me, but I wasn't able to put my finger 
on why.  I still can't, and in the end I think it may have been unfounded 
suspicion of the retconning trope because of the way it's been used badly 
so often in mainstream comics in the past.  But there are counter-
examples.  Arguably the best known would be Alan Moore's work on 
revamping the Swamp Thing's origin and on Marvelman/Miracleman.  
Fortunately this story doesn't come across as a mere plot contrivance 
(or worse, an editorial mandate).  It acts as a story for its own sake.  
Triton's machination are fun to watch (even if I was, like Solar Max 
and Kleinvogel in _ASH_, half expecting something far more grandiose 
and convoluted), and better still there is emotional impact for the 
characters involved to work through.  Of course, most of the emotional 
impact is of the 'this is a weird situation, how do I react to it?' type. 
That type of introspection is rather common in Dvandom's work.  However 
there's also the scene where Triton joyfully realises that in the creation 
of El Dorado his scheme has borne fruit better than he could have possibly 
imagined - and it's all his to play with!  That was just sheer superhero/
pulp adventure fun.  Points also for the characterisation of Solar Max's 
single mindedness at one-step removed.
Jolt City #12
'A Beginning...!'  (The Sensational Character Find of 2007 Part 1)
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     Huh.  I'd lost track of the fact that issue 11 of this series was 
published back in September 2007.  Well, the original individual issue 11 
in any case, since the trade etherback compilation of #2-11 also came out 
this month, but was so big that it only showed up in the Eyrie archive.  
Still, that means we need to know...
     What is this?:  A series depicting the adventures of the Green Knight 
in the eponymous Jolt City, and which revels in using some of the more 
fantastical and improbable comic book superhero elements.
     As the title says, this story is a beginning - both to a new story 
arc and to the career of Derek as a superhero sidekick.  Yet at the same 
time it also acts as a recap for the previous arc.  Green Knight, as 
Martin, not only starts to teach Derek the superhero trade, but also 
tries to find Derek a part time job that can be used as a cover for any 
absences while fighting crime.  In the process he revisits many of the 
characters and situations that have appeared in the series so far, 
encounters new ones (the Hobby-Horse), as well as recapping pieces of 
hitherto unknown backhistory (Castro hiding out in Jolt City, the ghosts 
of Lincoln and Booth).
     All the characters seem to be behaving with the own personal 
idiosyncrasies (for good or ill).  I'm in agreement with Father Riddle 
on in worrying about the triangle between Martin, Pam and Dani.  That 
looks to me as though Martin's once again refusing to deal with personal 
problems and letting tensions build while he concentrates on the easier-
to-handle superhero concerns.
Series' #1
A Superguy [SG] series
by James Rinehart
     After seeing the conjunction between this entry and that for _Jolt 
City_ immediately above it, I was gripped by the impulse to wonder: What, 
another beginning?  Which is fatuous of me, considering that this *is* 
the start of the series.
     So, what is this?
     To tell the truth I'm not sure if I can give an honest appraisal of 
that just yet.  With two issues posted (this and a #0 opening starring the 
Sage) the series still has a 'gathering of the cast' combined with 
'cryptic secrets that will soon be revealed' feel.  Comments by Mechaman 
on-list indicate this will continue for a few issues, but even without 
that confirmation I would be inclined to treat this title as pending its 
final form and simply wait and see what happens.  At this point I'm not 
even prepared to say for certain that the story will be continuity heavy; 
the prevalence of  pre-existing characters suggests it will, but for all 
I know Mechaman is doing a Chris Claremont and parachuting in favourite 
characters and has no plans beyond that.
     Which is not to say that things have not been interesting so far. 
The vignette with woman in the mirror particularly piqued my interest. 
And the appearance of the Sage was amusing; I vaguely recalled the 
character from previous Superguy stories cross posted to RACC, and my 
first reaction was: 'Hmm, time does not seem to have mellowed him' :-)
     Overall, I recommend that we 'wait and see'.
Wall Street Angels
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] one shot
by Dave Van Domelen
     What is this?: A one shot story showing the activities of a group 
of angels as they prepare for the False Rapture/Pagan Rapture/whatever-
you-wish-to-term-it that concluded the Godmarket in July 1998.  It's 
always been explicitly part of the ASH setting that various uber-powerful 
mages with reality warping magical abilities were the basis of pagan 
deities, which in turn tied in with the mechanics of how superpowers 
operate.  In this case we meet some mages representing the Judeo-
Christian-Islamic faiths who are taking a more low key approach to the 
     The story is well written and entertaining.  However, it is 
presented in a format that makes it impossible for me to take it 
seriously on a literal level.  On a metaphorical level?  Yep, sure.  
But not on a literal level.  The problem is this:  I can accept that 
the gods have taken on the *trappings* of modern marketing methods to 
lure in worshippers, but I find it jarringly anachronistic that such 
powerful entities would actually embrace modern business parlance in 
the equivalent of their day-to-day existences.  Markets, after all, are 
a way of regulating supply and demand, and for beings capable of wishing 
into existence almost anything they desire, there would be no need for 
markets.  Even the fact that the Godmarket *is* acting as a way of 
distributing a resource that they have no way of whistling up from 
nothing - mortal faith - is insufficient reason for them to be acting 
like this, since the Godmarket is a short term scam that cannot possibly 
be having that sort of impact on their intrinsic behaviour.  And that 
argument goes double for the angels seen here, since by their own 
admission they are keeping a low profile in the Godmarket and probably 
have better tools for subverting the activities of the pagan gods.  In 
short, the coy references to Abrahamic mythology expressed in marketing 
jargon read to me more like a comedy sketch focused on wordplay than on 
a form of storytelling in (semi)naturalistic prose.
     For the most part I'm happy enough to rationalise that these events 
probably happened somewhat as depicted.  I simply suspect that 'liberties 
have been taken with the dialogue'.  Whether this handwave works for 
anyone is an open question.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at
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