REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #73 - January 2010 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sat Feb 27 17:12:21 PST 2010

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #73 - January 2010 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #103  [ASH]
     Godling #15  [Misc]
     Journey Into... #9  [8Fold/Contest]  {high concept 6}
     The Stars Are Just  [Misc]
     Thunderclap #16  [Pincity]
Also posted:
     Just Imagine Saxon Brenton vs. Andrew Perron in the Return of the 
               RACCies! #6  [LNH/RACCies]
     Digital JUMP! #1-3  [LNH][Repost: newsreader's digest]
     Spoilers below...     

Academy of Super-Heroes #103
'Field Trip'  [Rival Schools Part 3]
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     Okay, full points to The Ginch for both lateral thinking and 
seeing the hidden-in-plain-sight.  But you just know that now the other 
Understudies are going to be targeting him to trim back any net lead 
he's achieved in Conflicto's marking system.
     However, let's have a look at the big picture first.  In this 
episode the 'trainee superhuman' theme continues and focuses for the most 
part on the Understudies of Crime.  Justice gets no screen time at all.  
Both Red Widow and Ahmed get cursory scenes that don't present anything 
unexpected in the way their plots are developing, but do at least allow 
for some character development.  Meanwhile Netwalker does get new 
direction to his plot development as the Artificial Consciousness named 
Ectype reveals the reason why he contacted Netwalker in the first place: 
to rescue the construct ADA built by Charles Babbage.  And in most of 
these there is worldbuilding.
     In the main plot Conflicto brings the Understudies to Venus on a 
field trip with a simple instruction: place a business card with the 
trainee's name on it in a secure place somewhere among the various 
political factions established on that planet.  The story of the 
Understudies then separates in several scenes following individual UoC 

members as they go about their task, as well as the lives of people they 
disrupt and tick off.  (My favourite incidental scene of this type was 
the revelation that Bronzewing takes exception to being tracked by 
satellite, and can launch individual pinions into orbit on interception 
paths to take down the specific piece of hardware.)
     However after all the daring-do comes a rather clever twist, which 
is consistent both with Conflicto's character and with the broader theme 
of the _ASH_ series of the use of power and superpowers.  Which is: 
there's nothing in the rules of the test that compels the individual 
Understudies to use stereotypically villainous methods involving breaking 
security, causing property damage or otherwise acting outside the law.  
The Ginch realises this and simply travels around the various groups 
openly, introducing himself and handing over his business card as part 
of the introduction.  As Conflicto explains, villainy is a means to an 

end, rather than the end itself, and if it's not going to produce results 
then use another method.
Godling #15
'Dealing with the Devil' 
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jochem Vandersteen
     Hmm. Looks like the start of a new story arc, or perhaps a change 
in direction which acts as a pseudo-story arc.  Following the death of 

Safari last issue, Godling sets out to clean up the working class suburbs 
of New Troy that Safari formerly protected.  He starts by tracking down 
information on where all the superhuman beings appearing in New Troy are 

coming from, and as a result makes a deal with the minor crime boss Tony 
Gold for help in taking down Master Destiny.  Of course, Master Destiny 
learns of this effectively immediately thanks to his almost omniscient 
monitor screens.
     Predictably but amusingly all three men involved - Godling, Tony 
Gold and Master Destiny - believe that they can use this to their 
advantage and come out on top.  Going by past form Master Destiny will 
probably try a more sophisticated variation on what he's done in the 

past and keep throwing an unlimited number of superhuman pawns at Godling. 
We'll have to wait and see what resources Tony Gold has available to 
carry out his plans, or whether he's simply having himself on because 
he's misjudged the power levels involved between street level criminality 
and superhuman conflict.
Journey Into... #9
'Bitter Beans' 
An Eightfold [8Fold] series  {high concept 6 contest}
by Tom Russell
     This is an entry for the 6th High Concept Challenge:  "When the 
Earth becomes infested with hardwired aliens, one Earthling and his/her 
chocolate respond by swimming."
     Just incidentally, I find it interesting that of the four stories 
posted using this concept, that half of them used 'swimming' literally 
and the other half metaphorically.  In any case, this story is one of 
those that use it literally.  Set in 1580 during the Spanish conquest 

of the Americas, some alien cyborgs arrive on Earth and begin killing all 

the humans, Mexican and European alike, for some never explained reason.  

One of the Spaniards, Jimeno, finds that he has by chance survived the 
initial attack and makes the sensible decision to run away.  Then he 
amends this plan to going back for long enough to take some of the cacao 
beans, so that he and his family will not be destitute when he returns 
to Europe.

     Although Tom has frequently stated his love for the superhero genre, 
he also likes to play with non-superhero (even non-superhuman fantasy) 
stories.  In this case we have a protagonist who isn't the standard 

fearless hero, and that makes him interesting.  In fact, Jimeno is self 
aware enough to know that he is lazy and somewhat cowardly.  This means 
that after the initial killing spree by the aliens (which happens off 
screen, just prior to the start of the story proper) that the dramatic 
conflict of the story is invested in Jimeno's internal emotional state 
of fear versus desire: his visceral need to run away as far and as fast 

as he can and hope the aliens don't catch him, versus his greed to escape 
with some bags of beans to make his fortune back home.  The telling of 
Jimeno's emotion struggle is very evocative, from the moment when he 
wakes up in the mud and realises that he's still alive, through his 
realisation that he wants to/has to go back for some booty, through the 
terror inducing setbacks of almost being discovered.  

     Now, if this were an action-adventure story there would only be need 

for a brief description of Jimeno's feelings; just enough to explain and 
justify his motivations and actions.  But it's not, and reading how 
Jimeno deals with his fraught nerves is the main point of the exercise, 
so there lots of descriptive passages of fear and self-loathing and 
internally yelling at himself.  It's very effective for getting to know 
the character, and I found myself hoping that - despite the very long 
odds against him getting home by himself - that the weasely little man 
makes good.
The Stars Are Just
A Miscellaneous [Misc] post
by Andrew Perron
     Intriguing.  The opening setup of this short story - with mental 
battles during space flight - reminded me strongly of Cordwainer Smith's 
classic SF story 'The Game of Rat and Dragon'.  Then as the story 
progressed and the protagonist became stranded on Earth it began to look 
as though this might turn into a shaggy dog/shaggy god story, with the 
crashed pilot being slandered into being cast as Satan in the local 
mythology.  And it did in a way, but I had missed the significance of 
the title as a variation on the Lovecraftian phrase 'When the stars are 
right' as well as all the other little hints about multi-dimensional 
geometry, and being dead but not dead and dreaming.  So it came as a 
complete surprise that the stranded individual was revealed as Cthulhu, 
heroic pilot of the starship R'lyeh.  A neat little self contained story.
Thunderclap #16
'Revolutions Part IV'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     Considering how much fight sceneing goes on in this issue there's 
surprisingly little in the way of plot development.  Down in Montecaivo 
in Central America, - in what I'll refer to the A-plot because that's 

where the lead character, Thunderclap, is - Thunderclap and his allies 
continue to fight goons before Zorstorer regroups and tries to blast the 

heroes from an aircraft, and in the confusion Thrust slips off with Suzie 
as his prisoner.  In Pinnacle City itself the gang warfare spreads out 
of the low-rent districts, with the Protectors and their allies being 
spread a bit thin.  And finally in Magadan in Russia the Baron's invasion 
     Overall this feels more like the part of a film where there are 
cross cuts between parallel scenes showing what's happening and raising 

tension.  One possible problem is that as I type this I can't for the life 

of me recall ever being given an indication that these three uprising have 

any connection beyond the *theme* of revolutions; I think I'll need to go 
back and reread the back issues for any hints in that regard.  In the mean-

time, from the immediately available information in the story it looks like 
three instances of the good guys struggling through an ante-penultimate 

fight before the climax.  Going hand-in-hand with this sense of 'hard slog' 
are references to the viciousness from the villains which help set the 
appropriate mood.
    That said, there are some interesting bits, they just aren't the 

highlights of the story.  Thunderclap has the crap kicked out of him, only 

to discover to his astonishment that he comes through essentially unharmed.  

The description of Solstice's shock was quite effective.  However, these 
are only incidental highlights at a point where the story feels like its 
taking a brief breather while it gets all the players set up for the next 
phase of the action.

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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