REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #74 - February 2010 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Tue Mar 30 18:22:29 PDT 2010

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #74 - February 2010 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Coherent Super Stories #19  [ASH/Contest]  {high concept 6}
     Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #9-10 [ASH]
     SW10: The Last Chocolate Crop  [SW10/Contest]  {high concept 6}
     SW10: The Last Chocolate Crop, Part 2  [SW10/Contest]
Also posted:
     Digital JUMP! #4  [LNH][repost]
     Digital JUMP! #5  [LNH]
     Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #34  [LNH/Contest]  {high concept 6}
     SW91: Hemmed In  [SW91]
     SW09: The Warm December, or One Last Bit of Sun  [Sw09]
     I keep forgetting how insanely busy things get at work at the start 
of semester during February and March each year.  Fortunately it seems 
that the only thing that's gone wrong with the computer system *this year* 
is that several thousand of the continuing students didn't have their 
borrowing expiry dates for 2010 extended past March 30th.
     Uhm, yeah.  What else?  Well, I spent the first weekend up the coast 
at another Brenton family reunion, this one called together to cover four 
recent birthdays: Uncle Colly (70), Aunty Val (75), Uncle Rexy (80) and 
Uncle George (94).  Rough headcount for this gathering: 90 or perhaps 
slightly more.  I ate far too many cakes and pastries and lamingtons.  
But on the plus side, we used The Volleyball Net again, and nobody ended 
up having to go to hospital this time (last time, at Dad's 50th birthday, 
he snapped his Achilles tendon while playing a game).
     Hmmm.  As I work through the Eyrie archives for February double-
checking that I have all the stories listed, I find that Andrew's _Digital 
JUMP_ posts (repost of issue 4 and new post of issue 5) are truncated 
after a few lines, whereas they appear in full on Google groups - which is 
exactly the opposite of what usually occurs when I have posting problems.  
     Spoilers below...     
Coherent Super Stories #19 
'IMP in the ARPANET'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series  {high concept 6 contest}
by Dave Van Domelen
     As a result of the tie for the 5th high concept challenge, the theme 
for the 6th contest was cobbled together to produce the almost surreal 
(but mercifully not dada) "When the Earth becomes infested with hardwired 
aliens, one Earthling and his/her chocolate respond by swimming."  Some 
of the entries took this seriously and literally.  Dvandom didn't and 
decided to have some fun with it.  This is demonstrated in several ways.  
His description of the artwork as 'Steve Ditko style at his most bizarre 
and otherworldly' is one of them.
     The other is, quite simply, that it's a Brightsword story.  
Brightsword habitually gets to do the fun, weird stuff.  The fact that 
this means that sometimes the story is of dubious canonicity seems to be 
a minor technicality.  The disclaimers surrounding the Santa Claus-as-a-
vampire story 'How Brightsword Saved Christmas' is the obvious example, 
but the revelation that Darkshield was choreographing distractions for 
Brightsword in _Coherent Super Stories_ #14 is another stand out in that 
regard.  And while this story has no such caveat, thematically the notion 
of the depicted events not necessarily being literally true gets a nod 
with the art description of flashbacks being "twisted and warped to 
reflect how the memories are perhaps a bit untrustworthy."  Me, I'm happy 
enough with the notion that Brightsword is some type of weirdness magnet, 
and that this is simply the sort of thing he has to deal with.  Whatever 
the case, Brightsword gets the weird stuff, and he's perfectly matched 
with the drug themed villain of the LSDemon, Sergeant Pepper-style costume 
and all.
     So, in this case some superconducting metal was discovered in a meteor 
and hardwired into the ARPANET, the late 60s early 70s precursor of the 
internet.  That metal turned out to be an alien life form, and began taking 
over the military communications network.  After being called in to deal 
with the situation, Brightsword enlists help from the LSDemon and sends 
the alien on an acid trip with some spiked chocolate.  Or at least, the 
mental representation of some spiked chocolate.
Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer #9-10 
'Other Family'  and  'The Ties That Bind'
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series 
by Andrew Burton
     Ah, more Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer romantic comedy.  And 
it definitely is romantic comedy rather than a soap opera or even a 
melodrama - despite the highly wrought situation that occurs in issue 9 - 
since the latter two imply far more interpersonal conflict and strife.
     As I was rereading through #9 I was amused to realise something: 
look, there's a fight scene!  Despite the nature of Jennifer and Cameron's 
day jobs, you don't get to see many of those in this series.  Then again, 
it's not involving either of the two title characters, instead falling to 
guest star Fleet as he battles The Clanking Replicator.
     An aside: The Clanking Replicator.  What a wonderful name.  It 
sounds evocative - although after further thought that evocation may be 
misleading.  A machine entity capable of lasting/travelling to the Big 
Crunch is probably not going to be quite so much of a shambling, half 
wrecked thing as the word 'clanking' implies.
     So, the big idea behind this story is that Fleet is an alt.future 
version of Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer's son, Tom.  "But!" I hear 
you cry, "How is this even possible considering that Lady Lawful died 
during the False Rapture?  In fact, isn't it part of the bittersweet 
nature of the _Lady Lawful And Doctor Developer_ series that their 
romance is doomed?" 
     The answer is a good old-fashioned comic book technobabble handwave.  
It may even be possible that Kirby Dots were involved.  Fleet has some 
form of vaguely explained...  No, scratch that, his ability to manipulate 
reality isn't even *vaguely* explained.  The only explanation of his 
powers is that he can think in parallel from perceiving multiple states, 
from which reality manipulation must be extrapolated, presumably via 
some kind of quantum mechanical juju.  (See?  I told you it was good old 
fashion comic book technobabble handwave.)   Possibly he's a genius level 
inventor and it all derives from devices built into his armour.  Whatever. 
Anyway, Fleet needed to ensure that he gets born, so he manipulated 
history a little to create a small-ish alternate timeline where the Crash/
False Rapture/Day the Music Died did not occur and his parents lived long 
enough to bear him.  Then at about age six his powers started to manifest, 
bringing the risk of the alternative timeline being discovered and 
exploited/attacked/have Bad Things happen.  (Hmmf.  Something-near-to-not-
exactly like the problems that Timeslip had when his temporal powers 
started to manifest, I guess.)  And having reached the point - from 
Jennifer and Cameron's point of view - that Tom starts manifesting his 
powers, it's incumbent on Fleet to arrive and deal with the consequences 
of the paradox he's engineered for himself.  Cue more angst as the 
knowledge that the bubble of the alt.timeline is about to be popped.  
Except that Cameron uses parental authority to get Fleet to smuggle 
Jennifer away from her historical demise.
     Which leads me back to a thought that I had at the time of posting.  
No matter how subtly done, a breach in the Barrier that was created to 
expel the gods in the first place is an exploitable breach in the ASH 
universes' defences.  However, my original logic on this matter is 
demonstrably wrong.  Carelessly I was focusing only on smuggling Jennifer 
away to safety.  Clearly the existence of the six year duration alternate 
reality is *also* a threat in that regard.  (On a tangential note, it also 
makes me wonder where Jennifer and Tom went off to, and whether they can 
return now that both sufficient time since 6 July 1998 has passed and 
Devastator was able to punch holes in the Barrier.)
     Along the way there are various pieces of characterisation that I 
liked.  Jennifer acting like a superhero even when she's being a mother.  
Also the banter between father and son on technicalities:
>                        Fleet continued, "None of this is real."
>     "It is real, Thomas," Cameron insisted.
>     Fleet looked at Cameron.  "It is real in the sense that it's matter.
> It's energy.  Yes, by that limited definition, this is all real."  
     By contrast issue 10 deals with less universe shaking matters, 
focusing on the start of a Valentine's Day date during 1996.  Again, 
several of cute moments, which at this point in continuity are focusing 
mainly on how Jennifer and Cameron's relationship is developing.  In 
particular Cameron's insecurities lead to this wonderful bit of
nerdishness anxiety:
>      He'd worked out a statistical model based on the romance movies, 
> and was pretty sure that while Jennifer was indeed most like the female 
> leads, he was most like the people who ended up rebuffed at the climax 
> of the films.  The only problem with that model was, as far as he knew, 
> there was no boyfriend-to-be lurking in the shadows to displace him.
     All perfectly readable character driven stories.  I barely even 
noticed that there wasn't a fight scene in issue 10.
SW10: The Last Chocolate Crop 
SW10: The Last Chocolate Crop, Part 2 
A Superhuman World [SW10] post  {high concept 6 contest}
by Scott Eiler
     One interesting element of the 6th HCC contest was that in order 
to help demonstrate that the mad libbed concept was viable is that the 
co-winners of the 5th contest (Scott and myself) decided to throw in 
stories - although both of us declared these ineligible for voting.  A 
further interesting factor was that the two stories that took the concept 
seriously as a starting point for either stories about psychological 
terror (Journey Into... #9; last issue) or for action-adventure (The Last 
Chocolate Crop) used the entirely of the contest concept literally.  By 
contrast the two stories that decided to have fun (Coherent Super Stories 
#19 ; Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #34) both used the notion of 'swimming' 
     The Last Chocolate Crop is a simple enough story of how a African 
prince by the name of Abu Asantematse has to smuggle genetically modified 
coffee and cocoa beans into his homeland.  After getting as far as the 
river border he has to give up his cover job as a tour guide and swim, 
which puts him at the mercy of a gunboat and then a crocodile.  Not 
sequentially, I should add, but in a type of obstacle stacking to raise 
tension more-or-less simultaneously, so that he can't flee from the 
crocodile but rather has to fight and kill it.  One minor thing that 
struck me in an "Oh yes, of course" revelation was the use of the 
pre-established aliens, the Trillions, that Scott has been in the 
ongoing mosaic story of the Superhuman World setting; why create a new 
alien threat when there's one just waiting to be reused?  The second 
part of the story expands on Abu Asantematse's travels as he gets home and 
has to deal with some greedy members of his countrymen: so if the story of 
Abu fighting crocodiles wasn't badass enough for you, then the scene of 
his fighting off four men, all while seated on the ground because of being 
crippled by the crocodile's bit my slake your thirst.
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at 
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