REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #57 - September 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Oct 12 21:17:11 PDT 2008

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #57 - September 2008 [spoilers]
     Academy of Super-Heroes #92  [ASH] 
     Beige Midnight #3  [LNH]
     Silver Age Superfreaks #6  [Superfreaks]
     Thuderclap #10  [Pincity]
Also posted:
     New Exarchs #14  [SG/LNH]
     Guardian Sentai RoboMan #14-15  [PSP]
     Is there something I can babble about in the introduction for this  
issue?  I mean, apart from the fact that it's spring and I've been busily  
picking/washing/freezing mulberries for making pies later in the year  
when I get cravings for something other than butterscotch meringue? 
     How about a webcomic recommendation?  Fans of _Dr Who_ (especially  
obsessively geeky fans) may find Richard Morris' 'The Ten Doctor's'  
fanfic amusing.  I wasted something like two or three hours reading  
through these in one sitting. 
     Most recent page:   
     Archive at:   
     Spoilers below...
Academy of Super-Heroes #92  [ASH]
'Kheper's Path IV - Newborn Dawn'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     Okay, so that's what happens when Contact tries to use That Chair:  
Heckle and Jeckle (or at least, their mythological precursors) turn up  
and give some tidbits of advice, because, hey, they like Aaron and Paul.  
Cute, quite unexpected, and yet perfectly logical when considering the  
context of the presence of Odin's High Throne in Manhattan.  That said, I  
keep coming back to the idea  (and admittedly this may only be me playing  
what-if games in my head) that Contact might not take the hint about how  
dangerous using the High Throne is, and instead of leaving well enough  
alone take the alternative path of getting more thorough training from  
Peregryn in preparation for the next time he thinks he needs to use it. 
     Plotwise, the investigation into Devlin Marx's 'murder' winds up.  
In short, it was carefully staged suicide.  Or as Contact summarises:  
"suicide-by-proxy of a man who may not actually be permanently dead",  
since Marx's scheme also involved an attempt at longevity by copying  
himself into a clone.  Additionally there was all the evidence planted  
to throw suspicion on Marx's opponents/peers in the world of shadowy  
power brokers to keep them weakened and off balance - but there's also  
the subtle implication that all other factors being equal Marx could  
*not* have acted without duplicitous intent.  I suspect that he  
couldn't help himself.
     This can be extrapolated from Marx's own actions, by the way.  
My inner Vaarsuvius (with typical over-analysis and sesquipedalian  
loquaciousness) suggests ignoring the practicalities of pulling off  
such a complicated scheme without attracting an investigation from  
high powered superhumans such as the Academy, and instead stick to  
the moral/ethical context.  If Marx was so worried about the state  
of his immortal soul at judgement by Ma'at, then faking his murder  
and throwing suspicions onto others - even if those others were more  
than just antagonists of Marx's and were instead the worst sort  
individuals - is not likely to lighten the weight of his heart.  And  
as mentioned in the Author's Notes section, he's destabilised his  
allies as much as his opponents.  If Marx was worrying about having  
done bad, then he should have been changing his style, and maybe a  
series of 'to be opened in the event of my death' letters should have  
been the way to go.  Instead, he couldn't give up his obsession/
compulsion for being sneaky.
     Along the way there's a vignette of a parental murder-suicide in  
Grimble's childhood.  Interestingly, this brief and nasty scene has more  
emotional weight than anything else in the story, including the ain't-
it-cool but rather slick machinations of Marx and co, or even the maybe-
we-won't-see-each-other-again farewell of Contact and Gene.  This got  
me thinking about how well the crime investigation format of 'Kheper's  
Path' suited the type of world building that Dvandom favours.  But then  
I realised, Gimble's past trauma wasn't even anything that Contact and  
Detective Kelly unearthed as part of their investigations.  Perhaps it  
would be best to think of it as tying off some of the loose ends from  
earlier in the story arc, when red herring subplots were flying thick  
and fast.
Beige Midnight #3
'Imperium Hex Part III: The Final Piece'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] limited series
by Arthur Spitzer, Martin Phipps, and Saxon Brenton
     (I can't really think of a unified thematic approach to discussing  
this, so I'm just gonna waffle all over the place and cannibalise the  
commentary I had for issues 1 and 2, 'kay?)
     With the release of _Beige Midnight_ we reach the concluding parts  
of the year-and-a-half long meta-plot mega-arc that's been running since  
the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis' last year, through the _Beige Countdown_  
series and the various _58.5_ and 'Intermezzo' tie-in stories.  At this  
point I think I need to  mention, at least in passing, the context of  
how we came to be here.  In April 2007 the LNH imprint had its 15th  
anniversary, and various LNH Writers ran a month long series of one-
per-day stories where a different Legionnaire was saddled with the  
responsibility of being LNH leader for a day before vanishing  
mysteriously at midnight.  The in-story reason for this was a scheme  
by Bart the Dark Receptionist, who was acting as herald for the Bryttle  
Brothers, Dekay and Diskolor, and trying to freak the Legion out as part  
of preparations for the latter's return.  Along the way president Hex  
Luthor has been implementing his own plans to stop the Bryttle Brothers  
in a way that cements his grip on power, which has in some ways has kept  
the Legion of Net.Heroes from being able to act as a coherent team. 
     (And while I'm here I suppose I'd also better acknowledge that  
there's been some controversy on whether a big DC and/or Marvel style  
cascade of comic Events � where one thing leads into another and each  
Event is merely a launching pad for the next change in status quo � was  
wise/workable/structurally satisfying/foo.  Personally I can see both  
sides of the story.  But the thing I find most interesting about my  
reaction is that as I watched the pro- and con- arguments, I thought  
'Feh'.  I guess I've gotten so old that I either have enough energy to  
care about writing stories or about the controversies, but not both,  
and I made my choice to dabble with issues of _LNHv2_ that took advantage  
of the Beige Countdown period's status quo.  Intellectually I think I  
should feel smug about that, but at this point it's just another datum  
point.  Sorry.)
     Moving on.  In a real way I'm probably indebted to Arthur for  
wanting to write a story that actually ties up the 'Hexadecimal Luthor  
as U.S.  President' situation, since I introduced the notion in the  
first place as a parody/homage of DC's 'Lex Luthor as U.S. president'.   
And while I have always known how I wanted the situation would be resolved,  
I probably needed a metaphorical kick in the pants to actually get around  
to doing it.  (Actually, in that regard I should probably note that I  
owe Tom Russell a similar debt of gratitude for publishing the 'American  
Nightmare' story arc in _Hailku Gorilla_ - wherein Hex successfully  
repeals the 22nd amendment that would otherwise have limited him to  
only two presidential terms, in the process giving him more menace  
than a politician encumbered by an expiring incumbency would warrant.)
     The basic plot, at least in the first four issues, is that Hex  
Luthor is making a power grab to entrench his power, using various  
means, and different groups within the Legion are working surreptitiously  
against him.  This includes Arthur's A plot that Fearless Leader has  
put together an under ground resistance while at the same time Catalyst  
Lass and Hell Catalyst are in Hex's Hexfire Club and not as mind  
controlled/mind monitored as the villains would like to think.  Also  
included is my B plot where a group of LNHers go off to find a plot  
device for exposing Hex's grab for permanent incumbency to public  
scrutiny.  It goes without saying that even if a casual reader weren't  
familiar with either the characters we were using or with the subplots  
we were writing, then they would still be able to tell that two different  
people were contributing, because our writing styles are quite radically  
different.  I'd like to think that if we wanted to either one of us  
could have mimicked the other's style, but because we're proceeding on  
parallel subplots neither of us has seen a need to bother.  Actually,  
while I'm on the subject of story structure and mechanics I should  
mention the way that my B plot is mostly filler at this stage of the  
game compared to Arthur's A plot.  You'll notice that the threats that  
my characters are facing don't relate directly to their goal, but rather  
are explicitly there as something for them to be menaced by so that they  
can build up narrative momentum � whereas Arthur's characters are actually  
fighting the real menace.  Again, the parallel plot structure means that  
these two approaches don't clash too much, but at the same time it does  
show that the two stories could have been posted in separate miniseries.  
Just an observation.
      Nevertheless, this does seem a good point out the flexibility  
of Arthur's characterisation.  Normally Arthur defaults to writing  
character plagued by existential doubts; good, solid, sick-and-twisted  
stuff.  This is not the only trick in his repertoire however.  Take a  
look at the narration by Catalyst Lass in issue 1.  Over the years  
Catalyst Lass has evolved to have a default personality of bright, perky,  
intelligent and competent, and Arthur uses it to good effect by showing  
how dangerous a combination that is.  Apart from being uproariously funny,  
you get a genuine sense that Catalyst Lass is an enthusiast who enjoys  
life, including the game of pulling the wool over the villains' eyes.
Thunderclap #10
a Pinicle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     Carrying on from the cliffhanger in issue 9, Thunderclap has been  
frozen within an ice block by the Ice Queen.  He tries to do the  
'annoying superhero banter' shtick to buy some time and perhaps  
elicit some inadvertent information that he can use against her.   
Unfortunately, hypothermia makes Thunderclap delirious and her tirade  
sets him off into superhero angst over his own anxieties.
     Then he looses consciousness, and either regains it and meets or  
hallucinates regaining it to meet Mordecai Holmquist, who looks like  
the Christopher Eccleston Doctor and who ten uses the interdimensional  
Slipspace to guide him through a 'It's A Wonderful Life'-style montage of  
how the lives of others would have been worse if Clay hadn't taken up  
the identity of Thunderclap.  Of course, this begs the question, was the  
meeting with Mordecai real?  Eh, well.  Logically it must've been, since  
an angsting teenager would probably have hallucinated ways in which the  
lives of others would have been *better* if he hadn't become Thunderclap.   
However, once again my inner Vaarsuvius would like to remind the  
audience that common sense often plays a poor second fiddle to dramatic  
narrative in fiction.  Anyway, Thunderclap is reinvigorated with a sense  
of purpose, and wakes to find that he has been rescued by the hero duo  
Clusterbomb and Athena, although the Ice Queen had escaped in the interim.
Silver Age Superfreaks #6
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps
     (Which, according to comments-after-the-fact, was supposed to have been  
labelled 'Mightnight').
     In one sense this story can be considered typical of _Superfreaks_.  
This is not so much in terms of plot, although it is certainly true in  
the broadest sense of 'something relating to superhumanity occurs and needs  
to be investigated by the regular police'.  Rather, _Superfreaks_ is quite  
specifically a combination of the police investigation and superhero genres,  
and the police investigation tends to predominate.
     In this instance Super Soldier is investigated for murder/manslaughter  
of a bank robber.  He's put on trial (under his nom de guerre, thanks to  
national protection of his secret identity), and ultimately found innocent  
on grounds of justifiable homicide.  Later he gets tapped on the shoulder as  
the leader of the reformed Extreme Force Six.  (Obviously, this is set prior  
to current continuity, and certainly prior to Super Soldier's death in  
_Superfreaks Season 2_ #5.)
     Anyway, if this story had been structured as a typical superhero story,  
then the investigation and trial would be a setup for a 'loss of public  
confidence' story, possibly with the 'superhero on the run from the law'  
twist.  Most likely it would have been part of a nefarious scheme by his  
archnemesis to discredit him.  If written for the Golden or Silver Ages,  
then the villain would have been motivated to remove the hero so as to have  
a clear shot at his attempts to take over the city/country/planet.  If  
written for the Bronze or Iron ages the villain's motivation would more  
likely to have been revenge, pure and simple.  Eventually the hero would  
have exposed the plot against him, and his status quo as a hero would be  
restored to universal acclaim.
     This is not to say that the valid and quite complex doubts that Alan  
Russell voices at the end of the issue about unaccountable authority would  
not have had some place in such a story.  However, I believe it is the case  
that such a story would have had a dramatic purpose of deliberate persecution  
of the hero protagonist, rather than what we have here, which is a routine  
prosecution of due process.  And *that* is how you can tell _Superfreaks_  
has the police investigation as the dominant half of its genre pairing.
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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