REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #65 - May 2009 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Jun 7 02:01:35 PDT 2009

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #65 - May 2009 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     Godling #13
     Monsters 101 - An Academy Special
     Hmm.  There's not much to talk about this month.  That's a bit of a  
trend, these days, isn't it?  It's at times like these I worry about  
Arthur's conjecture (from last year) about the effects of the economic  
downturn on RACC.  [drums fingers thoughtfully]  And of course there's  
some guilt involved in that, since I certainly haven't produced anything  
in the way of fiction this year, despite having a couple of things on  
the backburner.   I should probably do something about that...
     Spoilers below:
Godling #13
'Tentacled Terror'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jochem Vandersteen
     Okay then.  At first glance this story looks like it's about a fight  
against a conjured Cthuloid horror.  And to be fair that's certainly what  
the bulk of this story is about.
     However, keep in mind that the main plot thread for the last few  
issues has been the legal case against Godling's alter ego Prof Alexander  
by Amanda Reese.  In that regard the key moment in this issue is the two  
short paragraphs in the middle of the piece where Marcus Walker  
(Alexander's lawyer, and also his fellow crime fighter Safari) unearths  
the fact that Amanda has instituted three previous charges of rape, and  
the rest of the issue reads as an intermission from the legal shenanigans  
with a perfunctory bit of angst.
     Not that there is anything wrong with this.  More often than not  
stories in the superhero genre are dominated issue-to-issue by 'action',  
while the long term soap opera subplots are juggled across longer story  
arcs.  If you think about it, this is arguably how it should be in the  
old-school style of superhero story that _Godling_ represents, since the  
superheroics are the primary focus of this type of story and the human  
aspects are important but nevertheless secondary concerns that flesh out  
the characters to make them seem real to the reader.  Other examples  
would include the way that whenever a menace shows up the hero puts his  
personal business on hold (if necessary by feigning sickness or cowardice  
as an excuse) to don the brightly coloured costume of crime fighting; or  
even by the way that superhumans can so often engage in lengthy and  
implausibly articulate bouts of exposition in the middle of fight scenes.   
The latter case shows is a rare example of how the personal feelings,  
interpersonal drama, and philosophising on the nature of good and evil  
can occur concurrently with the puncheminnaface.  In summary, the fight  
scenes get  top billing.
     So, the Reese subplot's importance is in the broader context of the  
story arc.  The overt plot for *this* issue can be summarised as: some  
drugged out college students use a copy of the Necronomicon to summon  
up a giant, tentacled monster, which duly rampages around campus doing  
property damage and eating people until Godling channels the magical  
abilities of Circe to abjure it.
     I did briefly consider whether there was any significance to the  
appearance of Cthulhu-lite - say, the divine energies that Godling is  
wielding are acting as a catalyst for other mythopoeic phenomenon to 
manifest in the physical world - but I quickly dismissed this as over- 
analysing on my part.  To return once again to the style of superhero  
stories that Jochem has been writing here, it's simply a useful genre  
convention to have random bad guys turn up for the hero to battle.   
Furthermore, such a supposition would be factually incorrect, since  
some of Godling's foes, such as Captain Wrakk, have no known  
supernatural elements to their nature.
Monsters 101 - An Academy Special
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] special
by Dave Van Domelen 
     This one-off takes the form of a lecture at the Academy of  
Super-Heroes, on one of the esoteric subjects that crop up as part of  
superhuman studies.  In this case on the categorisation of monsters, or  
'teratomorphs'.  In the process of explaining it as a beginner's level  
college class it also includes quite a bit of background on the  
mechanics of how monsters arise in the first place, and some of the  
major variables involved in how they continue to exist both individually  
and as discernible groups.
     From the perspective of writerly tricks a lecture transcript like  
this is interesting because although it presents factual details - and  
therefore for practical purposes acts as a Frequently Asked Question  
document - it also has just enough narrative detail to act as a story in  
its own right.  That narrative detail does not have to be much:  
descriptions of turning on the screen display, or the lecturer pausing  
for a drink, or even the simple statement of the details on screen  
changing.  Anything to break up the exposition.  Furthermore, within the  
exposition itself the lecturer talks more or less naturalistically, and  
he even makes asides to clarify points of information that would be  
known to his in-story audience.  Whether a real life audience would find  
it an interesting story depends on several factors, including their  
tolerance for information dumps, but at least the writer has tried to  
make it more interesting than a straight dissertation.
     In the concluding author's notes Dvandom also explains that the  
impetus for this story came while in the shower and wouldn't go away  
until he had written it down.  I can accept that - at least for the  
conscious level.  I submit however that the idea may have been lurking  
away in the back of his mind for considerably longer, since parts of the  
subject matter relate back to the discussion he and I had in the wake of  
_New Exarchs_ #11 in early 2008 when I postulated that the ASH setting  
could have its own conspiracy of intelligent squirrels uplifted by  
someone with the magene.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at 
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