REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #62 - February 2009 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Tue Mar 10 17:27:51 PDT 2009

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #62 - February 2009 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     58.5 #45-46  [LNH]
     Academy of Super-Heroes #97  [ASH]
     Beige Midnight #4  [LNH]
     Coherent Super Stories #16  [ASH]
     Kinky Romance #4  [8Fold]
     Thunderclap #12  [Pincity]
Also posted:
     First Person Shooter Man #2  [LNH]
     Guttertrash #25 [repost][Misc]
     Nothing much to report here.  The start of first semester means things 
are rather hectic, same as this time every year.  Which means that I've 
been procrastinating at writing this because I've been feeling tired and 
cranky, same as this time every year. The only significant difference that 
I can identify is that the computers at the library haven't conspired to do 
anything insane again, so far.  (Instead, this year, it's been the elevators  
playing up instead.
     So, you know, once gain you'll only be getting short plot summaries 
with only the occasional random and probably not particularly relevant 
     Oh, all right.  If you must know my sister was *finally* able to find 
herself an apartment in her price range which wasn't a run-down piece of 
crap.  This was fortuitous because the raised level of first home buyers 
grant expires in June (end of the financial year here is Australia) and we 
had been beginning to worry about finding anything at all.  Especially 
since reading (listening?) between the lines of the comments of a number 
of realtors, it seems that a lot of sellers have raised their prices 
deliberately to take advantage of the currently higher first home buyers 
grant.  So, you know, euphoria in my immediate family.
     Spoilers below:
58.5 #45-46
'Everyone's an Also-Ran'  and  'While All The Women Came And Went'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Lalo Martins
     In the immediate wake of last issue, when Smoke Ring Girl killed off  
the New Misfit's counterparts from the Evilverse (and herself in the  
process), Cannon Fodder arrives and enlists the New Misfit's efforts in  
tracking down the dead universe that the Xinerama Brotherhood are  
purportedly using a base.
     The next issue is then a bait-and-switch, as two hero teams from  
another universe are alerted to the presence to the net.heroes from the  
Looniverse by one of the Xinerama.  Supposedly the presence of some of  
the New Misfits is allowing Infinite April to affect this world as well.   
However, when agents from PANIC also turn up to escort the New Misfits back  
home it eventually (after the fight scene) turns out that the New Misfits  
were never on that world.  The final scene suggests that Disdain, of the  
Evilveres's Acla Fright, somehow survived and was setting up the deception.  
Now, I've tried doing a quick scan of past issues, and I can't find  
anything about the Evilverse suffering an Infinite April, but the logical  
assumption is that the presence of Disdain is affecting The Old School's  
universe just like the presence of a member of the New Misfits would.
Academy of Super-Heroes #97
Rising Sun Part 1 - Plan Orange
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     I was in fact going to pass over this issue in favour of _Coherent  
Super Stories_ #16, but then I had a random weird thought about it.  And,  
well, if it worked last month...
     Plot in brief is that the Light Brigade has surrounded the sun with a  
shell of photonic moths, prompting the Academy members to regroup their  
members from the various subteams, plus guest stars Netwalker and Star  
Knight, on Venus and hatch a plan.  This plan involves using Netwalker's  
cyberspacial interface powers to take the rest of ASH into the neural net  
of Goldmind's mentality, using the paradigm of Golden Age supers in the  
Pacific during World War 2 to attack with.
     Random weird thought is to wonder what other paradigms the Academy  
members could have available to them to use to attack Goldmind.  The  
comment that the Light Brigade's scheme is "the first world-class threat  
we've had that was actually visible to the whole world, rather than being  
localized or hidden away, so people aren't as jaded as they were back in  
the TwenCen" implies that there were at least a few events in the 20th  
century that were widely enough known.  After all, this is a superhero  
class universe, and spectacular battles happen *all the freaking time*.
     That said, spectacle from a *threat* alone might not be enough.  In  
order to stick in the memory an event should (a) have effects on people  
(privation effects, for preference; nothing focuses the human mind quite  
like personally suffering) and (b) last for a while, or at the very least  
have effects that last long after the event itself.  Otherwise it won't  
become a part of the cultural memory, but instead be a sideshow.  It would  
give a frission of fear and awe at the time, but afterwards... eh, there  
are still bills to pay, and food to put on the table.
     Now, thinking about the nature of the timeline for the ASH universe  
in the late twentieth century, I'm doubting whether there's anywhen to fit  
a  superhuman conflict event lasting long enough and directly affecting  
enough people to rival World War 2.  I mean, there may be one.  Or several.  
Not all of the super history of this setting has been filled out.  But then  
again, something big enough to rival World War 2 for symbolic weight should  
have massive effect on culture, and to the best of my recollection the  
only thing at all like that was the False Rapture.  I suspect most of the 
super threats in ASH's 20th century would be the same as most super threats  
in the likes of Marvel and DC: awesome threats that, once resolved, have 
changed very little - which is exactly the type of lack of symbolic  
importance that the Academy members were wanting to avoid.  It's possibly  
significant then that Dvandom has gone for a synthesis of (from a real  
world point of view) a synthesis of fictional and real events.
Beige Midnight #4
'Imperium Hex Part IV: The Coronation' 
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Arthur Spitzer and Saxon Brenton
     Biiig story.  I'm only guessing at this, but I suspect Arthur had a  
similar problem to Paul Hardy had with the ever-increasing length of the  
issues of _Legion of Occult Heroes_: the two series were billed as having  
a fixed length, and as each issue's substance grew, it became necessary  
to increase the size of each issue (ie, breaking each issue up into  
multiple postings) as opposed to renumbering each separate post as a new  
and consecutively numbered issue.
     Anyway.  The story arc composing the first third of the limited series  
comes to a conclusion.  The various heroes and villains scheme against  
president Hex Luthor, and attack him during the signing of the Freedom Chip  
treaty, with various other personal vendettas being sorted in the meantime.
Coherent Super Stories #16 
'Confessions of a D-Lister'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     With my tongue firmly in cheek I'll pronounce this story to be 'far  
too sensible'.  It's actually an entertaining deconstruction of part of the  
superhero genre, narrated from the point of view of a self-acknowledged  
D-list superhuman.  It covers such notions as the way the power level for  
so-called A-list supers has risen over the decades, the nebulosity of who  
counts as A-, B-, C- and D-list, and acknowledges the little recognised fact  
that merely having super strength isn't going to be enough to casually throw  
around cars if you can't keep the vehicle from crumpling under its own weight.
     On reflection I think the story is symbolised best by the in-passing  
mention of the guy with super accounting powers.  Hilarious, but only because  
the notion of super accounting is so far removed from what the public (both  
in-story and in real life) think of as relating to superhuman conflicts that  
humour is generated from the clash of concepts.  Then you start to think  
about what super accounting means, and all sorts of logical ramifications  
and possibilities.
Kinky Romance #4
An Eightfold [8Fold] series
by Tom Russell
     In this story we receive the narrated autobiographical story of a woman  
who is sexually obsessed with everyone she meets.  The only minor limitation  
on her arousal is that her fantasies tend to be limited to what is broadly  
plausible, in that she is not aroused by imaginary or fictional people.  Of  
course, that means she cannot disassociate her desires onto cheesecake or  
beefcake pictures, or other types of anonymous porn.  Another problem is  
that while the notion of some people of sexual activities may turn her on,  
sometimes the practise isn't as appealing.  In any case, after breaking up  
with her boyfriend because of another failed attempt at experimentation with  
a fetish, she happens upon an opportunity to start dating her boyfriend's  
paraplegic sister.
     One thing I found interesting here was the juxtaposition of the social  
roles that the unnamed narrator has available to her as a result of her self-
proclaimed uncontrollable lusts.  One the one hand she has learnt to withdraw  
into herself to keep the extent of her desires private.  On the other she has  
a connection to other people that transcends the stereotypical attraction to  
'beautiful people' - and can thereby quite honestly tell the overweight and  
acne afflicted Vivian that she is attracted to her.
     Another is how articulate the narrator is.  That's neither a good or  
bad thing.  Like the unnamed narrator of _Coherent Super Stories_ #16, it's  
quite possible that that the unnamed narrator here has had time to compose  
her thoughts rather than just tell the story on the spur of the moment.   
And even if she hadn't, it's a convention of fiction that even dialogue that  
is being made to look like it's as rambling and semi-coherent as real off-the-
cuff speech isn't really *that* rambling and semi-coherent.  (If anything,  
Arthur Spitzer's habit of using short sentences, or even sentence fragments  
or single words, comes closer to that, and there are examples this month in  
both _Beige Midnight_ and the repost of _Guttertrash_.)  However, the  
coherence of the dialogue is not quite what I'm talking about.
     During the last month I was reading a book about teen television as a  
genre, and a comment was made about the protagonists in the likes of shows  
of _Dawsons Creek_ or _Smallville_, about how exceptionally mature and  
articulate they are for their age.  Now, the age of the narrator in this  
case isn't mentioned and probably not relevant.  The point is that for  
someone who has to hide a lot of herself from other people lest they think  
she's a nymphomaniac freak, the narrator seems to be very well socialised  
in interacting with others, as well as self-aware about how her over sexed  
reactions tick and the ways in which the seem to make her different from  
other people.  Under the circumstances the reader might reasonably expect  
her to be a frightened agoraphobe who grows all tongue tied in the presence  
of others.  I suspect that the reverse is true because she's perceptive  
enough to watch others and over time learnt how to follow social  
conventions while at the same time learning how to hide the taboo part of  
herself.  It suggests that the fear reaction has prompted her to hide in  
plain sight rather than run away, if you get what I mean.
Thunderclap #12
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     Thunderclap is contacted by the American Ranger and Ace of the  
Protectors, and asked to help with finding Tommy's currently missing  
girlfriend Suzie.  It seems that Tommy being an Ancient was known about  
in at least some quarters, and Suzie was placed to watch over him by the  
government project Operation Bloodhound in case he lost control of his  
powers like the other known Ancients did.  Now she's in hiding, and  
there are fears that she may be used as a lure to get Tommy.  These  
fears are of course well justified, since she is kidnapped from her  
safehouse by the Playboy and the Ice Queen.
     Hmm.  A number of revelations, all well integrated into the plot.   
As someone who often suffers from infodump-itis with his stories, I'm  
impressed.  You'll also notice that we readers still haven't been told  
exactly what Ancients are, but the aura of mystique and disquiet around  
them is being built up layer by layer.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at 
The Eyrie Archives of Russ Allbery which collect the online superhero  
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