REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #60 - December 2008 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Thu Jan 1 15:19:39 PST 2009

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #60 - December 2008 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #95  [ASH]
     ASH Holiday Special #1  [ASH]
     First Person Shooter Man #1  [LNH]
     Girls On Beach Blankets #4  [LNHY]
     Jolt City Adventures #1  [8Fold]
     Mading Mysteries #3  [Superfreaks]
     Thunderclap #11  [Pincity]
     This month coming from my sister's place on the mid North coast of  
NSW.  As I sit here typing this intro it's New Year's Eve morning, and  
I'm glancing out the window at the kangaroos who have wandered in from the  
national park next door and are grazing on the front lawn.  I trust you  
have all had a safe and happy festive season.
     Hmm.  A few Christmas story repeats this December.  _Cauliflower the  
Christmas Miracle Pooch_ miniseries, of course, but that's understandable  
as it was a well done, well received schmaltzy Christmas story, and bears  
repeating as a RACC Christmas classic in the same way that movies like 
'Miracle On 34th Street' or 'It's A Wonderful Life' get repeated.  If you  
haven't seen this series yet, then at the very least you'll want to read  
issue 4.
     What else?  Cats?  Rob suggests we do cat stories in 2009?  Is this  
in addition to or in place of gorilla stories?   And is there where we  
create *another* telekinetic  cat and give it the really bad name of  
Puss-psi?  [Ducks and runs for cover under the reviews...]
     Spoilers below...
Academy of Super-Heroes #95
'Billions Served Part III: Test For Echo'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     A small note before beginning on this issue proper.  My trip up the  
coast for the holidays was by train, and to keep myself occupied for the  
7-and-a-half hours I read a printout of the most recent twenty-or-so issues  
of _ASH_ plus associated crossovers.  I was therefore able to find a  
reference in _Conclave of Super-Villains_ #28 that had been eluding me  
recently: the exact provenance and significance of the five-ankhs-in-a-star  
symbol on Brightsword III's helmet when Walters offered it to him in  
_ASH_ #93.  So I feel comfortable raising the estimation of the chances of  
the Freedom Alliance being dupes for the Impossible Five from "highly  
probable" to "almost certain with allowances only for a deliberate bait-and-
switch on the part of the author" (a jump of approximately 90% up to 99.5%).   
That done, other questions arise.  Obviously the Impossible Five will be  
monitoring the Freedom Alliance through those tattoos/decals/what-have-you,  
but what other esoteric properties might the Alliance's equipment possess  
that the Alliance members may or may not know about?
     Meanwhile, as is so often the case, plots and preparations continue.   
The Rush decide they don't like being fall guys to the Impossible Five and  
cut a deal with the Cybernostra in Manhattan.  On a similar thematic note, a  
previous-and-now-expelled leader of Atavarangers has cut a deal with the I5  
and is leading a new team (the Pentarangers) who steal away the defeated  
Akuryu just at the Atavaranger's moment of triumph over the sorcerer.  The  
Freedom Alliance meet with the Academy of Super-Heroes.  And the Light  
Brigade begins its plan to wrest control of the sun.
     I'll admit I was expecting considerably more snark in the ASH/Freedom  
Alliance meeting.  Actually, thinking about it in retrospect, I was half  
expecting the Freedom Alliance to make trouble (yes, even at a meeting  
pre-arranged via government agencies) and the Academy to have to restrain  
themselves to a measured response in the face of provocation.  This would  
have been thematically consistent with many of the situations that ASH have  
found themselves in over the course of the series.  
ASH Holiday Special #1
'How Brightsword Saved Christmas'  ;  'A Good Start'
'Eight Tiny...Reindeer?'  ;  'Snow Place Like Home For The Holidays'  and  
'Twas The Night Before GIMF...'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] posting
by Dave Van Domelen  ;  Andrew Burton  ;  
rapfic  ;  Brian Freesh  and  Saxon Brenton
     Okay, I am jealous.  Dvandom's notion of Santa Claus as a morally upright  
vampire in 'How Brightsword Saved Christmas' is just so dementedly freaky cool.   
(I can see why he reserving the option to renounce it from ASH canon if he feels  
the need, however.)  Only the voyeuristic, hyper intelligence hamsters in 'Eight  
Tiny...Reindeer?' even approach it in weirdness.
     That said, this is a Christmas/festive season anthology, so weirdness  
shouldn't be the main judging criteria.  So then: do these stories have schmaltz?   
Yes, they all have schmaltz.  I'd given top honours to 'Eight Tiny...Reindeer?'  
for this category.
Girls On Beach Blankets #4
'A Beach Blanket James Joyce Brand Eggnog Margarita Mix Christmas!'
A Legion of Net.Heroes Y [LNHY] series
by Arthur Spitzer
     This post brought to you by the James Joyce Brand Eggnog Margarita Mix.
     This story is essentially a number of vignettes strung together.  It  
has a common theme that's used as a running gag, characterisation, and pacing  
-- but it does not have a plot per se.  If you wish to read something surreal  
and amusing then this could appeal to you.
First Person Shooter Man #1
'Connecting To Server'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Nicholas O'Connor
     Okay, let's get the administrivia over with.  I know I sound like a  
broken record when I do this, especially after all the crossposts  
rec.arts.comics.creative received from the Artifice Comics webpage, but:  
here's Nicholas O'Connor, he hasn't posted to RACC before, so keep him  
in mind for the door prize of 'Best New Writer' when you're nominating  
and voting in the RACCies.
     Anyway, this is a Secret Origin story.  In classic Silver Age style  
William Smith is struck by a lightning bolt while playing a first person  
shooting game and gets thematically appropriate powers from it.  Now if  
this were written for an imprint with a pretence of more than only  
occasional seriousness, I could babble on about the natures of superpowers  
being determined by the traits and obsessions of the person receiving them.   
However this is the LNH, so that level of pseudo-verisimilitude probably  
counts as an optional extra.
     Thereafter First Person Shooter Man goes off to join the LNH, and  
several comedy tropes are enacted.  The LNH receptionist is casual enough  
to let him answer the telephone while she's preparing to go to the shops,  
whereupon FPSMan gets to deal with a bank robbery, which just happens to  
have been arranged by an antagonist from the same online game and who now  
goes by the name Server Admin (which, come to think of it, makes me wonder   
whether anyone else was also affected by that lightning bolt, and whether  
they received powers as well).
     A fight scene ensues, the villain escapes, the minions are captured,  
and the loot is returned.
     A line that I found particularly amusing was:
| Hey, I may be a living FPS, but there's still laws!
because, let's face it, the way people tend to behave online when they  
don't have to deal face-to-face with the consequences of their actions,  
a living first person shooter would be among the last person you would  
expect to care about laws.  Which may be at least partly the point.  A  
hero with first person shooter game powers would be someone who knows  
when and when not to apply the gaming conventions for social good; a  
villain would likely be someone who wouldn't be able to tell or simply  
wouldn't care.  With that in mind, I wonder what Server Admin's  
motivations are.
Jolt City Adventures #1  
'Just Another Day'  
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Saxon Brenton
     This one is mine, and looking back on it after more than a year I'm  
still particularly happy with it, especially the mood of gleeful villainy  
in the opening.  However, that's because the opening is explicitly a rip-
off of a favourite short story called 'The Chekov Strain' from a collection  
of RPG fiction based on the old Torg game in order to get the style, and  
I probably copied too closely.  Anyway, the gleeful villainy is counter-
pointed by the weariness that Acrobat is  beginning to feel, and which  
will later prompt him to give up heroing to joining the army.
Mading Mysteries #3
'So Clone'
A Superfreaks [Superfreaks] series
by Martin Phipps
     Three actresses apparently go on a shooting spree, but Mading gets  
suspicious and discovers that the killers were in fact clones.  Then he has  
to harass the authorities into following up on that evidence (even bringing  
in forensics experts with experience in cloning from another country) in 
order to clear the names of the innocent.
     Meanwhile there's also an opening vignette where it is strongly implied  
that Mading is subconsciously using his reality manipulation powers to  
enlarge the breast size of his female students.  This is another instance  
demonstrating that the author's stand-in characters share his interest in  
beautiful women, and you just know that if this were happening in the  
Looniverse that Self-Righteous Preacher would be insisting that Deja Dude  
take remedial training in controlling his powers.  However, while we're here  
lets see if I can entertain you with a BS theory.  What if that opening  
vignette is in fact a subtle hint that the killers in the shooting spree  
really were those actresses, and that it was not until Mading took an  
interest in the situation that the shootings were (deliberately or  
otherwise!) retconned into being the responsibility of clones?  
[Dragnet style sting: Dum-da-DUM-DUM!]  And to think I almost missed this  
one because it was posted so late on New Year's eve.
Thunderclap #11
'One Starry Night'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     After the fight and revelations from last issue, Clay heads home to  
take a hot shower and bandage his wounds, only to be shanghaied by  
Gretchen and shoved into a tuxedo to attend a charity ball.  This issue  
is mainly character driven (Gretchen having dating problems with Kelly  
Baker; Clay telling Gretchen about the alt.timeline that Mordecai showed  
him; Tommy getting drunk and throwing up on Clay's shoes...).   
Additionally, there's a subplot showing where the Baron has gotten off to:  
he's been invited to join some super villains in conquering part of Russia  
and set up an independent country with no extradition treaty, which  
(along with any other benefits) will allow the Baron to try the old "you  
can't arrest me: I have diplomatic immunity" trick.
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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