REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #56 - August 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Mon Sep 15 20:15:44 PDT 2008

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #56 - August 2008 [spoilers]
     Exarchs #13  [SG/LNH]
     Jolt City #16-17, 17.5  [8Fold]
     Post Modern #1  [AC]
     Shadestalker #2 (2008 ver.)  [AC]
Also posted:     
     Beige Midnight #1-2  [LNH]
     Guardian Sentai Roboman #12-13  [PSP]
     Running late.  Having severe cranky attacks at myself for 
running this late.  Not gonna bother finishing off the half-
finished review of Beige Midnight, or even make more than a 
cursory attempt at making sure grammar and spelling are correct 
for what I have written.  So there.   
     Spoilers below:
Exarchs #13
'What Hiatus?' 
A Superguy/Legion of Net.Heroes [SG/LNH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     Hurm.  Once again Dvandom takes the fact that time has passed 
in both real life and the Superguy setting, and made mention of 
it/explained why it happened.  In fact, in this case it's even 
been turned into a full blown plot point rather than just an 
explanation.  As Hans explains to Agent Brubaker, time does not 
run at the same rate between 000SUPERGUY and Sung the Stainless' 
dimension of 000SUPERDRY except when the two worlds are directly 
connected with a portal - and since there are technical reasons 
for being unable to keep a long lasting portal up and running, 
months have passed in Superguy while for the Exarchs scouting out 
Sung's world only hours have passed.  I'll admit that it's a 
clever idea, and also that intellectually it's the type of 
playing with continuity that appeals to my taste.  Nevertheless, 
I'm still mindful that the last time these sort of creative 
handwaves became necessary (as opposed to being merely random 
acts of weird inspiration) that they were warning signs that the 
previous Exarchs series was in trouble because of overambitious 
plotting leading to flagging creative interest.  The author's 
notes in #13 seem to indicate that this problem has been overcome 
for the nonce - but I like _Exarchs_, so you'll excuse me if I 
remain paranoid.
     The plot, as such, is that Agent Brubaker gets the 
aforementioned briefing from Hans about the time differential 
between worlds.  'Meanwhile' the Exarchs get a bare minimum of 
plot advancement as they swap information with the Duke Earl and 
his tribesmen, the Suedes.  Months later in 000SUPERGUY a squirrel 
makes contact with Hans.
Jolt City # 16-17, 17.5
'The Sensational Character-Find of 2007, Part Five of Six: ... The 
          Fourth Estate!' ;
'The Sensational Character-Find of 2007 Part Six (Finale): Totem!' and
'The Costume'
An EightFold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     So, what can we say about this story arc? I know, how about 
'crap continues to fall on Derek Mason from a great height'. Well, 
at least until the end of the story arc, anyway.  In issue 16 we 
have the wake for Moses Mason, Erika takes Derek's advice and checks 
herself into hospital, and Martin, Pam and Dani all arrange to move 
into Derek's house as borders. But the A-plot is that some scheming 
politicians dupe Derek into playing poster boy for a populist but 
ultimately self-serving council motion. During all of this Derek 
gets to play the unwilling younger counterpart to Martin's 'angry 
black man'. He can see that Martin's situation isn't somewhere that 
he wants to be, but he just can't seem to help himself. This allows 
Tom to play with his stated liking for writing ambiguity into 
character motivations, as Derek tries to manage under emotional 
weights that have been with him for years in ways that keep him 
from falling apart but which sure looks like anger to everybody else.
     Now, to be fair it's not just Derek behaving in a prickly manner.  
A large part of the time the entire supporting cast of this series 
cannot help but snark and snarl at each other. Which, come to think 
of it, leads neatly into the notion of... superhero soap opera.  
(Or - if this were a humour title - superhero sit com.)  Let's be 
clear, from a practical viewpoint the idea of Martin, Pam and Dani 
all renting at Derek's to help pay the housing bills is both well 
intentioned and quite feasible - especially considering that 
they're all in on the necessity of keeping secret identities.  
However, from a dramatic viewpoint it also allows for all sorts 
of storytelling possibilities as people get on each others nerves.  
Which they do, even when motivated by the best of intentions.
     Things continue in this manner throughout issue 17, with Martin 
at a loss over how to short circuit Derek's growing alienation, 
until he finally decides to take a different approach. Throughout 
her hospitalisation Erika has been slipping into depression and 
suicide attempts, and Martin intuits that her self-hatred is somehow 
compounding Derek's.  So he sets an example for rejecting cycles of 
hatred by going and telling her that he forgives her. Perhaps 
surprisingly this works, and Derek follows his example to cast 
out the emotional pain that is troubling him. Now, don't get me 
wrong, I liked this approach; but I'm trying to be realistic in 
saying this is probably because I'm a sucker for happy endings and 
that occurring as it does at the end of a lengthy character arc it 
probably fulfils a visceral need in the reader for closure. I 
suspect that in genres where the protagonist does not typically 
get to save the day by implementing a Cunning Plan(tm) this 
probably would not have worked, on account of being too simple a 
tactic. In any case, this closure is rounded out in issue 17-and-a-
half with a vignette of the costume that Derek has chosen for 
himself as the Blue Boxer.
Post Modern #1
An Artifice Comics [AC] story
by Jason S. Kenney
     A casual glance at the series title might cause it to be misread 
as 'post mortem' - which would be thematically appropriate. Pacific 
City has been destroyed by the forces of the Imperial Magistrate and 
all that's left is to pick up the pieces. Longtime readers who 
nevertheless only read the AC stories on rec.arts.comics.creative 
will most likely be familiar with the lead-in to this setup from 
the ginormous run of 'Bush43 Daily' material posted back in June 
and July of 2006, where Bush43 - both in and out of costume - was 
desperately trying to prepare against the Imperial Magistrate's 
feared return.
     The focus character here is Cassandra Trellis, sometime 
girlfriend of Jeffery Carter/Bush43. The story opens with a brief 
flashback to the main fight scene, then cuts to the memorial service 
a year later, when Johann Weisz contacts Cassandra about helping him 
track down people who may, in turn, know where Jeffery has vanished 
to. This turns out to be at least somewhat deceit, as it is mainly 
about tracking down and rescuing superhumans who have been captured 
and held at a government facility. Diplomatic immunity and 
government deals protect them from the consequences, but their 
expulsion from Australia makes it look as though these leads now 
run dry. Assuming this isn't a one-off story, then the 'post 
mortem' investigations of where Mr Carter has gone will need to 
take another tack.
Shadestalker #2
'Don't Panic'  (Homes And Churches  Part 2 of 3)
An Artifice Comics [AC] series
[by James Queally]
     I am not completely sure what to make of the context surrounding 
the posting of this story, so I'll lay my confusion out on the table.  
I recalled a small handful of _Shadestalker_ stories being posted to 
RACC several years ago (issues 3-5, and 8 according to google), and 
while I enjoyed them, I didn't enjoy them so much as to follow up 
on reading the full archive on the AC website.  Partly this is a 
matter of time, since I tend to focus most of my reading geekery 
and emotional investment on the LNH imprint (and, okay, yes, stuff 
written by Dave Van Domelen).  Partly it's also a matter of personal 
taste, since the noirish pulp sensibilities of the overall AC 
imprint is not something I normally turn to for my escapist 
entertainment.  The result of this is that I am by no means familiar 
with the full canon of the Shadestalker stories.
     So, after reading this story I went back and checked how well 
it fitted with the subsequent issues -- and discovered that there's 
a difference between the arc names (compare 'Burning Bridges' for 
the first three issues of the original postings with the 'Homes And 
Churchs' of the 2008 version).  However, this does not seem to be 
a case of a second volume of the series.  Comparing both versions 
of issue 2 (the original versions are still on the AC website as 
of this posting of the EoMR), they both involve Reggie's origin 
story.  So, superficially, this looks like it may be a revised/
editor's cut/possibly even reboot version, or somesuch.  Heck, at 
this point I'm only guessing that the author of the 2008 version 
is still James Queally.
     But enough of the minutiae, what of the story?  Well, it's 
pretty good, if somewhat melodramatic.  Reggie Evans and his pal 
Devon Lane have just had a robbery go wrong, and while Devon is 
sanguine about killing someone, Reggies freaks.  They run before 
the police arrive, and while Devon goes on to do a second killing, 
Reggie ends up in a church where he first manifests the eponymous 
darkness powers.  Along the way Reggie's parents (well, I presume 
on the basis of their surnames they are his parents) argue with 
similar melodramatic fervour, and some yakuza scheme. 
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at
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