Review: End of Month Reviews #72 - December 2009 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sat Jan 30 16:15:24 PST 2010

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #72 - December 2009 [spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
     Digital JUMP! #12  [LNH]
     Journey Into... #8  [8Fold/Contest]  {high concept 5}
     On The Deadbeat Special: Beige Happy Hour!  [NTB]
     Superhuman World: December 2009 #1: The Mayas Were Right!  
                    [SW09/Contest]  {high concept 5}
Also posted:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #102  [ASH]
     Fuchsia Grabbag Surprise # 5  [8Fold]
     Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #32:  [LNH/Contest]  {high concept 5}
     Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #33:  [NTB/Contest]  {high concept 5}
     Superhuman World: October 2009 #1: Dawn Of the Trillions  [SW09]
     Superhuman World: November 2009 #1: Iv  [SW09]
     Superhuman World: December 2009 #2: The Book of Ends  [SW09]
     Okay, so.  My holiday period was again spent with family at my 
sister's place at the beach.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were hot 
and windy, but the subsequent days were drizzly with rain - which was 
just wonderful because the moist ground made it easy to do digging in 
the garden.  I was going to wax lyrical about all the rainfall (and 
indeed flooding) received inland, but unfortunately one wet weather event 
doth not a drought break.  Nevertheless the scenes on the news of the 
good burghers of Coonamble waiting through the afternoon and into the 
evening for the floodwaters to start flowing down their dry river bed 
were heart warming.
     The fifth High Concept challenge (the anarachnoid) has closed, 
been voted on, and won with another tie.  The sixth challenge has been 
meme-spliced from the co-winners' suggestions to produce the rather 
surreal "When the Earth becomes infested with hardwired aliens, one 
Earthling and his/her chocolate respond by swimming."  Voting closes 
mid February.
     Spoilers below...
Digital JUMP! #12
'LEMBAS! Turn Down Your Lights Where Applicable'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
by Andrew Perron
     Anal-Retentive Archive Kid insists that I remind everybody there's 
a gap of missing issues from _Digital JUMP!_ #5-10.  This is actually a 
pertinent point, since the gap of several issues and delay of several 
years (issue 11 was posted in 2005) gives a very good reason for 
reintroducing the characters the way this episode does.  This issue is a 
character piece, with four separate mini stories for each member of the 
ensemble cast.  Now, if this were a real comic published by whoever and 
distributed by Diamond, then those would indeed by *mini* stories, 
approximately 8 pages each.  But this is text-based net.fiction, and so 
instead Andrew has produced an issue where each sub-story is almost the 
size of one of the regular posts.  Yes, I checked; I have a filing cabinet 
with two drawers worth of hardcopy printouts of this type of stuff.
     Apart from the size of the issue, the other thing that grabbed my 
attention was how dense with information this story was.  And I'm not 
just talking about characterisation and back history needed to reintroduce 
the characters, nor the brief continuity check of what guest appearances 
they have made in the meantime.  Andrew has gone and collected a wealth of 
Looniverse specific information and sprinkled it into the story.  I think 
the relevant phrase is 'fanwank'.  I'm given to understand that this is 
supposed to be a pejorative, although personally I've always had a hard 
time understanding why.  YMMV.
     The first story features Casey von Aluminfoil.  By contrast with the 
superhero shenanigans that the other three get up to, this is a rather 
down-to-earth piece about choosing where he wants to go with his university 
choices - enlivened with only a bit of superhuman top dressing.  If 
anything it emphasises the fact that Casey is the normal one.  Well, 
relatively normal one, considering that Malachite (Shining Tungsten 
Magister) and Carmine (Crimson @venger) are both aliens and should probably 
be acknowledged to have a different baseline for 'normal'.
    Apart from the continuous snippets of comedy ("Jeez, even in my own 
vignette I'm not the main character."), another thing that caught my 
attention was Casey's indecision over his education choices.  Oh-ho, I 
thought.  Are we up for some Hamlet-style dithering?  And then I recalled 
that Casey has previously been the sensible one, so on reflection he was 
probably just overanalysing his options for humorous effect.
    The second two are variations of the superhero theme, as Malachite 
and Carmine both go off and have adventures.  In both cases it presents 
the opportunity to showcase their personalities and powers, which to date 
haven't had much chance to be explored.  The difference between the two 
scenes is that Malachite is simply wandering around Net.ropolis, enjoying 
the ambience of the city, and happens across a minor civic problem with a 
damaged rail line, while Carmine goes out and actively hunts down crime 
to fight.  This first gave me that slightly fuzzy feeling of satisfaction 
combined with embarrassment that I get when I read about costumed heroes 
going about being ostentatiously civic minded, which I usually use as an 
indicator of well-presented Silver age ethos.
    The fourth story with James had him, typically enough for Kid 
Enthusiastic, throwing himself into a large number of projects.  However, 
after rereading a thought struck me: James isn't presented as a source of 
confusion.  In the first few stories his whirlwind energy and seeming 
non-sequitors were causing bewilderment for everyone he met (issue 4 was 
a high point for this).  He still hasn't slowed down, but now it seems 
that people are used to him - even police chief Trousers, who exhibits 
the very Sam Vimes-like attitude that superheroes are his to hate, and 
who by rights you would expect to have a very low threshold of tolerance 
for the type of hyperactive lunacy that Kid Enthusiastic excels at.
Journey Into... #8  
'Brave New World, With Such Awesome In It!'  
An Eightfold [8Fold] series   {high concept 5 contest}
by Tom Russell
     This is an entry in the fifth High Concept Challenge: the anachroniod, 
an artificial person who has been inactive since at least before World 
War 2, and awakens to deal with the modern world.
     Although Tom chose to use a robot with a non-human shape, in terms 
of story telling he followed what is arguably the most straight forward 
interpretation of the terms of the challenge.  The robot horse known as 
the Grey Gelding is Depression-era automaton that is reactivated and goes 
out to discover what the early 21st century is like.  The Gelding talks 
with people.  A lot of people.  He tries to learn about the current world 
and in the process looks like he's doing a good job of coming to terms with 
it.  Compare that with other HC5 stories, such as 'The Mayas Were Right!' 
where the looming presence of the Wooden Man arrives and aggressively 
ignores any humans present while recalculating the calendar to fit current 
astronomical circumstances, or 'Gathering Dust' where the steel leviathan's 
circumstances and story purpose are to be lied to in an attempt to get it 
to self-destruct.
     All that social interacting gives full opportunities to compare and 
contrast the attitudes of different eras.  And if that wasn't enough, the 
character of Dr Palmer Smith, who is one of the scientists who helps 
reactivate the Gelding, is also bought to bear.  Dr Smith is burdened 
with a distaste for the modern world and is nostalgic for the 'golden 
age'.  It's subtle, but I get the impression that his fixation with 
becoming the Grey Gelding's new Rider is a symptom of thinking of the 
robot as a historical artefact to be treasured as an interactive museum 
piece rather than as a person who needs to learn how to get along in the 
world.  Which is ironic, considering that he and Dr Fay Tarif are the two 
responsible for reactivating the gelding after he has been on display in 
a museum for seven decades.
On The Deadbeat Special: Beige Happy Hour!
A Net.Trenchcoat Brigade [NTB] story
by Arthur Spitzer
     So, another revival (this one after 12 years).  However, this is 
more a case of cleaning out old files and finishing off old series that 
no longer interest the author than of bringing something back on an 
ongoing basis.  In an oblique way this shows, because it occurred to me 
that if this had of been just part of an ongoing sequence, or even if 
Arthur had had the interest to make this episode longer, then it might 
have been interesting to see what Big Stick the Dvandom Stranger used to 
coerce Dr Deadbeat and GrimSloth into performing their appointed task.  
(That's how I see the Dvandom Stranger working, and for that matter the 
Phantom Stranger, in my personal fanon, you see.  Normal people need to 
be made aware of a problem and perhaps given a small nudge, but ultimately 
they have free will - so while the Stranger will give all assistance 
possible he cannot make their choices for them.  Bad guys are typically 
just a threat to be dealt with.  And in between their are all the people 
(the likes of the LNH, the NTB, and theoretically anyone from any another 
story universe that the Stranger needs to team up with) who regularly 
deal with Weird Sh!t and act as allies in whatever story is being told.  
Of these the overtly heroic only need to be made aware of a matter and 
they will then leap to do the right thing.  The more... hmmm... 
'relentlessly dark grey in morality' members of the NTB need to be coerced.)
     Anyway, Arthur decides to write one final Dr Deadbeat story, and 
thereby take the premise out into a back alley and give it the damn good 
kick in the guts that it deser... that it, the respectful send off it 
deserves.  Dr Deadbeat has been trapped in an illusion of suburban 
mundanity by Dr Molar.  The Dvandom Stranger arrives, dispels that 
illusion, and charges Deadbeat with gathering an army of trenchcoaters 
for the upcoming confrontation in the Beige Midnight crossover-Event-thingy.
     Unfortunately the Dvandom Stranger has chosen... badly.  As Arthur 
observes in the writers notes, there's no way that someone as irresponsible 
as Dr Deadbeat would become involved with anything as civic minded as 
fighting in Beige Midnight.  So, after collecting a bare few (okay, at 
least one) Deadbeat and GrimSloth decide to ignore the whole deal and 
head off for another reality.  Which tells a lot about Dr Deadbeat, 
really.  Not just that he's lazy, cynical, irresponsible and criminally 
negligent.  No, you already knew all that.  Merely that he thinks 
laterally.  He knows he's a fictional character, so he knows than hanging 
around in any of the realities related to the LNH or NTB imprint is a 
waste of time if the Bryttle Brothers really do come out on top.  So 
instead of going to a Naughty Teenaged Babe reality in the Looni-multiverse, 
he heads off to a Naughty Teenaged Babe altiverse, implying the all-but-
now-defunct Superguy imprint where writer inactivity means that there are 
currently no multiverse threatening Events and he can party uninterrupted 
in the imprint's back story.  Dr Deadbeat: morally reprehensible, but 
not stupid.
Superhuman World 2009: December 2009 #1: The Mayas Were Right!
A Superhuman World [SW09] series
by Scott Eiler
     Another high concept 5 story featuring an anachronoid.
     I rather liked this one.  Now, it has to be said that the brevity 
of the story and the fact that it's a vignette for a larger mosaic 
setting are still making me hunger for longer stories that focus on a 
particular aspect of the Earth being thrown into a new orbit.  However 
I outlined my arguments for that in the last issue of the EoMR for 
'A Date With Darkness' and I don't see much point in belabouring them 
again.  Suffice to summarise that the short posts that Scott has been 
putting out usually have interesting premises to them and could very 
easily be used as a seed for a much longer rendition of a story.
     So, what did I like about this?  Well, I think I might have Shiny 
Object Syndrome on this one, because it's the concept of the Wooden Man.  
Now, the Wooden Man doesn't do much in the way of interacting with 
people, other than defend its temple.  Probably it can't do much 
interacting with people, since it's literally an astronomical calculator 
and may well not have any social interaction functions built into it 
other than taking orders from the Corn Man priesthood.  Certainly not 
in the way that the Grey Gelding interacts with people in _Journey 
Into..._ #8 (above).
     (The weird comparison strikes me as I type this: it's probable that 
the Wooden Man isn't the type of monster that Dr Who would be able to 
confuse with babble or harangue into submission, and instead would be 
something that must be Run Away From.)
     But the circumstances beg the question: how sophisticated is the 
methodology of the Wooden Man's calculations?  Is it capable of 
recognising that the Earth now has a more elongated orbit, and factoring 
what that means for the redone calendar?  Or will it rise again in only 
a few years and have to recalculate all over again?  That might make it 
a tourist attraction, come to think of it.  And if the Wooden Man has any 
sort of self-awareness beyond the mere fact of its duty to recalculate 
the calendar, might it not become frustrated with the need for more 
frequent activity.  Of course, having self awareness beyond its duty 
makes it closer to a person, regardless of what it's made of, and that 
raises all sorts of other possibilities for likes and dislikes.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at 
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fiction of the rec.arts.comics.creative newsgroup and its sibling group  
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