REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #83 - November 2010 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Fri Dec 31 18:54:01 PST 2010

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #83 - November 2010 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Catman: Minor Arcana #1-4  [ASH/WRIMO]  
     Maximum Frame Purge WriMo Special  [WriMo/Acra]
     SW10: Cauldron #1-4  [WRIMO]
Also posted:
     Anal-Retentive Archive Kid: A Judicious Use Of Overkill #1-10  [LNH/WRIMO]
     A Return To The RACCCafe  [RACCCafe]
     Godling #18  [MISC]
     What Can A Cockroach Do?  [MISC/ACRA/CONTEST]  {HCC14}
     There was no High Concept Challenge 15 in November.  Instead a 
variation on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo WriMo) was held: the 
RACCoWriMo.  After some discussion about what the minimum amount of 
postings/frequency/text amounts/foo it was decided on a minimum of four 
postings across the whole of the month.  This suited both Dvandom and 
Scott, who both did weekly postings.  I managed to post more frequently 
by having only a vague plot direction to follow, but suffered for it at 
end.  Like Scott I was more or less making things up as I went along, 
with occasional set-piece cool ideas.  But like Dvandom I was writing 
a story that had to lead to an already established point in continuity.  
So when it became apparent that I'd written myself into a corner, I 
procrastinated for about a month trying to develop an ending I was 
happy with.
     On something completely different.  One of my gaming groups, 
the Future Guys From The Past, has long since allowed our pocasts of our 
gaming sessions to lapse and be removed from the hosting site.  However 
for reasons too lengthy to go into here we have restarted podcasting our 
_Lord Of The Rings_ book discussions, and the podcasts of the older 
recordings of those have been put back up after having been allowed to 
lapse as well.  TeacherDave asked me to advertise the url on the off 
chance that it might pick up more listeners: 

     Spoilers below:
Catman: Minor Arcana #1-4
'Coins'  ;  'Staves'  ;  'Cups'  and  'Swords'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] and RACCoWrimo [WRIMO] limited series  
by Dave Van Domelen
     This is a four issue limited series that features the cat man 
Edouard, who was a member of the original Academy of Super-Heroes team 
back in the 1990s under the codename Catman.  Edouard's significance 
spins off from the subplot of Ahmed currently running in the main 
_Academy of Super-Heroes_ title.  He's the patriarch of  the clan of cat 
people living in the Serengeti, is slated to make his _ASH_ debut Real 
Soon Now, and Dvandom says he took the opportunity of the RACCoWrimo 
project to introduce the character and his rather rich backhistory in a 
way that didn't clog up the narrative pace in the ongoing _ASH_ series.
     The format is of Edouard - now in his fifties - reminiscing back on 
his life and thereby presenting the opportunity for flashbacks.  Since 
the Wrimo production timescale required a number of short episodes to be 
written comparatively quickly, this format is useful because it allowed 
for Dvandom to pick and choose which scenes to depict without needing to 
worry about connecting material.  And it bears repeating, Dvandom is 
usually good at expository narration - slipping in bits of explanation 
into sentences and paragraphs in such a way as to keep the text flowing 
rather than have it form a lump of infodump that slows the reading 
experience to a halt.  The format is also thematically appropriate, since 
it emphasises that Edouard is a no-longer vigorous man looking back with 
pleasure at his achievements and regret over his failures.
     The first issue is set on Edouard's home world, an alternate history 
where 'mad science' has been harnessed to keep the British Empire active 
and strong, and where surgically and genetically uplifted animals form a 
slave class called 'Moreaus'.  Edouard is already active in the 
Underground, working for non-human rights.  However this is brought to 
an abrupt end when an attempt to tap zero point energy is disrupted 
catastrophically, and the universe is unravelled (an which is at least 
the second time to my recollection that misused zero point energy has 
done so in the ASH setting).  The second issue focuses on Edouard's time 
as a member of the Academy of Super-Heroes team, specifically on an 
adventure against Devastator when Edouard was team leader.
     The third and fourth issues deal with more personal matters that 
incidentally also set up for Edouard and his family being in Africa.  In 
issue 3 Edouard is in Israel, helping another cat person, Isabel, unearth 
her own origins.  Turns out she was a creation by the goddess Astarte as 
one of as number of possible schemes to gain worshippers in the lead up to 
the Godmarket, and perhaps unusually for the rather self-serving gods of 
the ASH universe Astarte is willing enough to let the two cat people 
marry and go their own way without becoming involved in her machinations.  
In the concluding issue the Godmarket collapses spectacularly in the False 
Rapture, and it becomes apparent that as non-humans Edouard and Isabel 
need to flee from human society completely in order to escape to rising 
tide of murderous religious fanaticism.  They decide to head into the 
interior of Africa, where they settle down with some intelligent lions 
and start to raise a family.  The closing scene in the 2026 'present day' 
has Edouard musing on the way that none of his children and produced their 
own offspring, and wondering if perhaps he needs to contact the outside 
world in order to do something about that.
Maximum Frame urge WriMo Special
'Dream Obliteration Apprenticeship'
by Timm Munn
     So, this guy Floyd Beckersley is having freaky dreams.  Let's ignore 
for the moment the author's notes that explain that this post was mostly 
an exercise in randomness, with parts of it being created by a random 
sentence generator.  I was a bit disappointed by the ending of this 
story.  It turns out that the whole things was 'just a dream'.
     Now, the fact that 'a dream' is a key element in the story had 
already been flagged, so it's not a total cheat or cop out.  However it 
seems to me to be a weak resolution compared to the strong opening or 
even the surreal middle.  The opening is powerful.  A man at the North 
Pole, having trekked there since having a dream the day before.  
Yesterday he was just a suburban family man and wouldn't have believed 
the task ahead of him.  But now he was at the top of the world to kill 
Santa Claus.  In these first few paragraphs the dream is a motivating 
force, and I was intrigued with discovering what the details were.
    Then comes the flashback to when Floyd had explained to his wife 
what he felt he needed to do.  This scene suggests that the dream is 
powerful, driving, surreal, physically debilitating and possibly 
psychotic in origin.  Beverley accuses him of trying to use the excuse 
of killing Santa Claus as a way of getting out of going and having a 
colonoscopy, and thinking about it Floyd agrees that maybe it is just 
nerves on his part.  However there are a welter of options presented 
here, ranging from the throwaway hint that Floyd has been having 
strange dreams on and off for several months, to the possibility that 
he's being caught in the crossfire between battling superhumans.  Then 
you can throw in conjectures based on only scant evidence (he's having 
a mid-life crisis, he's having a stroke).  Whatever the case, he 
experiences a string of disjointed but powerful impressions that causes 
him to fall face first into his bowl of cereal.  Whatever these dreams 
are, whatever their cause and regardless of whether they represent some 
sort of truth (by this stage of the story they're looking like psychotic 
hallucinations, but this is apparently a four colour superhero universe 
and stranger things have happened in milieus like this) they are looking 
more and more like something to be viewed warily.
     The story jumps forward to a confrontation with Santa Claus.  Again, 
this is hallucinatory.  I get impression that there may be something 
solid underneath the shifting imagery - but whether this is because the 
Santa Claus entity (or someone else) is mucking with Floyd's perceptions, 
or he's simply having breakdown, or something else entirely, can only be 
guessed at.
     And then he woke up.  In his car, with wife snuggled beside him.  
Now, okay, the story was written in a timeframe of three and a half hours. 
And strictly speaking the "and it had all been a dream" trope does create 
some linking narrative logic between everything that had gone before.  
But not enough for my taste.  It seems to me not to live up to the 
potential of the setup because it doesn't answer the questions: 'Is this 
dream an inspirational vision or a debilitating nightmare?' as well as 'Is 
there even any reality to it at all?'
SW10: Cauldron #1-4
A Superhuman World 2010 [SW10] and RACCoWrimo [WRIMO] limited series
by Scott Eiler
     These four issues depict a single undercover surveillance mission 
carried out by the United States Insight Battalion and happening over the 
span of three few days.
     Essentially, with all of the disasters that have been occurring to 
the Earth in this setting in recent times there's been an increase in 
civil unrest.  Some of it is the type of bizarre supervillain schemes 
that you would expect to take place in a four colour comic book universe 
as a matter of course.  Other stuff is basically a parallel of the Real 
Life rise of extreme right and extreme left militia movements during 
times of hardship.
     In response the United States government has been increasing the 
amount of surveillance, including by recruiting outsiders for what I'm 
guessing is basically contract work, and especially people with super 
powers.  In the lead up to election day in November 2010 the superhuman 
dance troupe Body Up is recruited to divvy up into teams of two and keep 
an eye on various trouble spots.  The commentator for this story is 
Summer Morgan, who along with her partner Holly gets stationed in the 
Maxwell Hotel in Nashville and thereafter get caught up between competing 
interests of rioters  organised by the organisation of the Satanically 
powered ex-Mayor Russell Anvernacht, and militias led by Imperilus the 
Exterminating Son.  It climaxes when Imperilus tracks down Summer using 
the tracking abilities of the Wolf Woman of Iowa and takes her hostage, 
leading to a confrontation with the Tennessee National Guard.  Other 
Body Up teams have similar problems.  The stress takes its toll on 
Summer, but ultimately she decides to stay because she suspects that 
she'll need to be around to help rescue her friends from similar 
situations in the future.  Cue ominous foreboding music as the author's 
notes in the Afterward indicate that there will be no return to normal 
for this setting.
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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