Review: End of Month Reviews #67 - July 2009 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Aug 2 20:45:43 PDT 2009

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #67 - July 2009 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     Godling #14  [Misc]
     Revengers #1  [Contest]  {Contest #2}
     Thunderclap #15  [Pincity]
Also posted:
     High Concept Challenge #1  [Contest][Misc]  {Contest #1}
     The second High Concept contest is currently running, which combines  
two concepts from the joint winners of contest 1.  Details of the  
concepts are 'superhumans worrying about their superhuman offspring' 
[ ]  
and 'intelligent (non-anthropomorphic) animals' 
[ ].  The  
second contest is running for three weeks starting from the receipt of  
both concepts, so by my calculation entries for this second round should  
be in by the 10th of August.
     Spoilers below:
Godling# 14
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jochem Vandersteen
     Well, that was an unexpected death.
     To summarise, at the trial Marcus Walker presents his evidence that  
Amanda Reece is a serial litigator and thereby successfully defends  
Professor Alexander against her allegations of sexual assault.  At the  
congratulatory party afterwards Ms Reece shows up, has a brief rant, and  
shoots Walker, killing him.  The final scene depicts Godling requesting  
from the Greek gods permission to raise Mr Walker from the dead and being denied.
     This episode largely answers the long running question - implicit  
rather than explicit - of just how unhinged Amanda Reece is.  As in, what  
is the balance between her anger and her cunning in carrying out her  
agenda of revenge against men?  The answer seems to be that anger  
outweighs cunning (and with it, common sense) by a large amount.  Her  
reaction here indicates that it hadn't occurred to her that repeatedly  
using the same method in the courts would leave a paper trail and might  
attract attention.  She seems to have simply stumbled onto a tactic that  
worked and used it mechanically without trying to anticipate possible  
complications and countermeasures.  Her shooting attack on Marcus Walker  
in public is also an indication of someone whose obsessiveness means that  
she isn't good at developing alternate plans; even her frustration and  
rage from her defeat in court can't fully explain away her loss of  
impulse control as a temporary aberration.
      (Incidentally, I say 'largely answers' because this is, after all,  
a superhero genre story, and there is always the remote possibility that  
Ms Reece may go even more insane - and since her gambit of revenge  
through the courts has failed, become a costumed villain with a M.O.  
for attacking socially well-connected men directly.  However, given the  
way she attacks Marcus Walker I suspect that's rather unlikely.)
     The story is direct and to the point.  This is fine; the _Godling_  
stories are usually like that.  However for some reason I keep returning  
to the final scene with the gut feeling that it's a bit rushed, but I'm  
not entirely sure why.  It's not something so crude as being too short in  
terms of word count.  On the other hand, the scene seems to have all the  
necessary elements of plot and characterisation needed to make it coherent  
for the reader: Godling thinks that Marcus Walker's death is unjust and  
wants to resurrect him, the gods say no and point out the problems caused  
the last time he tried that sort of thing, Godling gets angry but  
eventually concedes the point.
     I dunno, maybe I'm worrying about something artsty-farsty like the  
notion that all the scenes in the story are short, but for the most part  
they're action scenes and they work by being short and therefore having  
a rapid-fire delivery, while by contrast the final scene is about dwelling  
on the emotional consequences which conceptually needs to drawn out a bit  
longer for the character (and the reader) to stew on.  The problem with  
this later analysis of the scene is that a longer write up would probably  
put it at odds with the style of the rest of the story and run the risk  
of looking like padding.  Anyway, considering how long this has been  
bugging me without a solution presenting itself, I'll simply chalk it  
up to something nebulous and leave it at that.
Revengers #1
A [Contest] posting
by Martin Phipps
     Before we begin, Anal-Retentive Archive Kid wants to point out that  
this story is labelled as [Contest] and it definitely deals with the two  
notions of the second High Concept contest.  That said, the way the themes  
are treated, as well as the presence of both Pepperton and Professor  
Javier, also indicate that it's set in the Superfreaks imprint.  So there you go.
     Captain Amazing is from a family with several generations of  
superheroes, so he's a bit concerned that his son John apparently has no  
powers.  However, events reveal that John can talk to animals.  Not through  
any identifiably 'superpowered' manner, such as by psionic means, but  
rather through paying attention to the tones and body language that they  
use to express themselves.
     Not that the mechanics of talking to animals is the main point.  The  
main point is that Captain Amazing has to deal with the notion that even  
if his son has an atypical ability, John might not want to dress in a  
colourful costume and fight crime - and as it turns out he takes up a  
career as a court translator, dresses up in a suit and tie, and fights  
crime.  Looked at from this angle, it's a treatment of the old theme of  
intergenerational conflict as parents react with dismay as the children  
don't carry on with the family business - albeit a treatment with costumed  
superhero trappings.
     Looked at from another angle this story is also thematically  
consistent with other Superfreaks stories, particularly the original  
_Superfreaks_ series.  Traditionally superhero stories have tended to  
have the mundane world and the superhero world largely separate, but when  
they (frequently) come into contact it is treated as an unprecedented  
occurrence where the mundane world reels in fear and confusion as property  
damage occurs.  Superfreaks, of course, has inverted that to show the  
mundane world trying to deal with the super world by establishing legal  
precedents and case law, and generally bringing order from chaos.  I'm  
sure I've mentioned this before, but it's a very science fiction-ey  
approach in a genre (four-colour superheroes) that by its nature is  
usually presented in a fantasy format.
     Finally, there's the way that unusual abilities are presented as  
non-binary.  As in, John's multi-lingualism is explicitly not a  
'superpower’ as far as the experts can determine.  But it's still  
unusual enough that, typically for legal stories set in Superfreaks,  
there is some controversy about it being used in court.  In it's way  
that's also quite normal for many superhero stories, since each  
character is an individual with specific powers and origins and  
costumes, and you don't see Stark Industries mass producing defensive  
armour for the Avengers or lots of heroes making use of Pym particles. 
And it acts as an underlying counter current for the Superfreaks attempts  
to legally categorise the superhuman.  Ignore for a second the habit of  
heroes and villains choosing gaudy individual costumes; how easy would it  
be for the law to deal with those powers and phenomenon which explicitly  
violate testable physical laws or otherwise work outside of the framework  
of observable reality?
     Hmm.  Looking at the above list of themes, one thing that strikes  
me is how far my random babblings have wandered from the twinned contest  
themes of the second challenge.  So I'll just finish by making the  
observation that this story doesn't use the concepts of 'superhumans  
worrying about their children' and 'intelligent animals' equally.  This  
is neither a good thing or a bad thing.  Considering that different stories  
have different structural needs, it's actually reasonable enough that some  
concepts will receive different levels of emphasis.  So, just as a matter  
of record, I will note that 'Generations' makes strong use of the  
'superhumans worrying about their children' theme, but uses 'intelligent  
animals' as a minor trapping.
Thunderclap #15
'Revolution Part III: Martyrs'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     The story picks up from the showdown cliffhanger of last issue.  The  
immediately accounted for heroes have all met in the Montecaivo castle.   
Nakata has been revealed to be a double agent and has betrayed them to  
General Echevarria, who himself has been revealed to be the American  
Ranger's old foe Zorstorer.
     Some tense banter occurs between the Ranger and Zorstorer as they  
bicker over some of their shared back history, most particularly the loss  
of Zorstorer's eye, and then the 'immediately accounted for' that I  
mentioned above becomes relevant, as another group of heroes from the  
Protectors who have been kept as mission backup arrive to play cavalry  
and start the fight scene.  Lest their arrival be interpreted as a  
deus ex machina, this group have been mentioned before in #14 as 'BSA  
shocktroops', and we simply haven't been following them in the narrative.   
It's a nice touch to let their presence be foreshadowed but kept away from  
the forefront of the reader's attention, so as to help build tension amid  
all the betrayals and villain revelations.  Actually, other nice touches  
are little things in Thunderclap's reactions as a young man: as he watches  
and is impressed by the teamwork of the Protectors he is also able to  
throw in that Solstice Powers "is hot", or the Star Wars reference.
     In the melee the brothers Ace and the Playboy fight each other,  
seemingly to their mutual destruction.  There's another bit of back  
history (presented as narration rather than dialogue) for why these two  
fight, and perhaps more importantly fight without resorting to immediately  
lethal force.  And headdeskingly (that's a word I just made up, because  
it's a more evocative verb than 'frustratingly') although Thunderclap  
makes good his primary mission objective to rescue Suzie and remove her  
from danger, she counters that she's a trained Bureau of Superhuman  
affairs agent and insists that he return her to the fight so that she  
can play her part in the combat - whereupon it turns out her part is the  
narratively important task of being captured by the bad guys.  Anyway,  
that brings us to the concluding cliffhanger, with the heroes either shot,  
captured, missing in action, or in the case of Thunderclap himself being  
beaten into unconsciousness by goons.  Or is it?  There are a number of  
characters from the Protectors who aren't accounted for in the final  
melee.  Maybe Zorstorer has brought in enough goons to overwhelm them as  
well, or alternatively it could be that Rick has carefully chosen which  
members of the cast to focus on so as to make it look as though a general  
rout is happening, when actually the problems depicted may in fact only  
be in one tense but unrepresentative area.  We shall have to wait and see.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at 
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