REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #82 - October 2010 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Tue Nov 30 17:06:45 PST 2010

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #82 - October 2010 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #109  [ASH]
     Godling #17  [MISC]  
     Just Imagine Saxon Brenton vs. Andrew Perron in the Return of the 
          RACCies! #9  {high concept 13}
Also posted:
     Coherent Super Stories #24  [ASH]  {high concept 14}
     SW10: September 2010 #1: The Sinking  parts 1 and 2  [SW10]  {high concept 14}
     SW10: October 2010 #1: The Sunset Door
     Team Xero #002  [MISC]     
     High Concept Challenge #14 was themed 'surprisingly awesome animal hero'.
     Spoilers below:
Academy of Super-Heroes #109
'TGIF'    [The Office Part 3]
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] series
by Dave Van Domelen
     'The Office' arc culminates with several pieces of misdirection: Sal 
Napier was disappeared because of irregularities in the way he accumulated 
his old El Cabellero Verde identity/nickname rather than any problems with 
the paperwork in becoming Centurion, and the Office deals with the problem 
via a challenge for the rights to the name rather than more paperwork.  
Unexpected, but perfectly logical in hindsight, as well as amusing and 
adding a welcome piece of superhero action after several issues where the 
only action sequences have been in the subplots.
     And there's one more minor piece of misdirection.  Can you identify 
it?  Yes, very good.  For all the talk of the Academy team being on a 
recon mission with possible diplomatic potential, once the team actually 
meet with a representative of the Multiversal Office who is intelligent 
and self-aware (or can at least fake it in a meaningful manner) the story 
doesn't follow up on this opportunity.  Instead it gets sidetracked by 
the rescue of Sal.  Now, as I've already said that ending works well 
because it adds an action sequence that makes a change in the dramatic 
tension of the story.  Nevertheless, the phrasing in the final debriefing 
scene ("the immediate security matter does seem to be resolved to the 
satisfaction of our relevant government agencies") is somewhat ambiguous.  
For pacing reasons it's appropriate enough that we shouldn't see such 
discussions, however from the evidence presented it's also possible that 
immediately after the Name Fight the Academy team found themselves 
teleported back to the foyer and never got to see the Human Resource 
again.  Unlikely of course; if that had happened Solar Max would probably 
be passing on the frustration of those same agencies.  On the other hand, 
Pergryn still expresses interest in the origins of the Human Resource.  
Should we infer that the Human Resource has authorisation to clarify 
important practical security matters such as exactly what constitutes 
authorisation for someone to pass into the Office's various levels, but 
doesn't have sufficient clearance to answer metaphysical question like 
the exact origin of the Office, or why it's portals seem to be 
simultaneously reactivating across the Earth now specifically.
     On other matters: In reviewing issue 107 I expressed an interest 
in how the Multiversal Office would be depicted in the ASH setting as 
compared to its previous appearances in other imprints.  So how does it 
stack up?  Pretty much as expected, along lines I summarised at the time. 
The ASH setting is basically a science fiction setting with superhero 
trappings.  So naturally enough the Office was a potentially hostile 
environment without automatically being an innate and consciously hostile 
environment.  By which I mean, the Academy team were able to apply the 
type of reasoning abilities that are stereotypical of SF stories to work 
out the rules, and as long as they followed those rules they were safe.  
Compare this with something like the faux-Vertigo Net.Trenchcoat Brigade 
imprint, which could be thought to have an implied horror element to it, 
in which case the Office might have been motivated by conscious malice 
and actively out to get them.
     Looking at the above summary, it might be thought that the depiction 
of the Office is a little bland.  Well, maybe.  Frankly, if you want 
non-stop superhero action then _Academy of Super-Heroes_ is probably not 
your cup of tea anyway.  However in this case the dramatic tension of the 
story came from trying to carefully work out an alien and potentially 
dangerous environment before the characters' own ignorance caused them to 
make a fatal mistake - arguably the one point of fundamental similarity 
that a hypothetical SF story might have with a hypothetical horror story. 
This wasn't an adrenaline pumping story, instead it was one of rising 
dread, which was especially well realised when Sal was disappeared at the 
end on issue 108, and then the Academy team decided to bug out and more 
thoroughly vet their own paperwork in 109.  The notion of Lightfoot 
perhaps being aged several decades so that his biological age matched his 
chronological birth date was an amusing throwaway extrapolation of that.
Godling #17
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by Jochem Vandersteen
     Hurm.  I *was* going to start this commentary with the line, 'Well, 
that was unexpected.'  However, I'm pretty sure that I've done that 
before - and indeed a quick check through previous issues of the _End of 
Month Reviews_ indicates that my recap of issue 14 did just that when it 
discussed the murder of Marcus Walker by Amanda Reece.  And I'm sure I've 
made similar comments prior to that as well.  This raises the bemusing 
prospect that _Godling_ may be becoming predictable in being unpredictable.
     Anyway, the issue starts off with a punchy fight scene against Speed 
Metal (who was given powers by Master Destiny last issue), and then goes 
for the unexpected plot twist.  A twist produced by such a simple change 
in plot direction, too.
     In issue 15 Godling made what looked like a Faustian bargain with 
the crime boss Tony Gold in an effort to bring down Master Destiny.  What 
I was expecting - what I would normally expect from the story structure  
like that - is that Gold would indeed be of some help, and then afterwards 
his continued presence would be an ongoing complication in Godling's crime 
fighting activities.  You know, to milk the drama for all it's worth.
     This issue Gold is instead killed by Death Dog and his associates, 
and Gold's identity used to lure Godling into a trap.  In other words, 
Gold is given the type of story function normally reserved for supporting 
cast members like the romantic interest or the kid sidekick.  Like I said, 
a simple derailing of plot conventions.  I'm beginning to wonder if 
Jochem does this deliberately, or if he has a natural tendency to want to 
keep the overall size of the supporting cast low.
Just Imagine Saxon Brenton vs. Andrew Perron in the Return of the RACCies! #9
'All You Need To Understand Is..'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] and RACCies cascade   {high concept 13}
by Andrew Perron
     This story was written to take advantage of the theme for High 
Concept Challenge 13, 'a legacy reclaimed'.  It's a pretty obvious 
candidate for tying into that HCC, since the cascade so far has been 
making heavy use of multiple versions of Manga Man and the generational 
debt owed by the Power Manga to at least one version of the previous 
Manga Men.  In this episode one of the subteams confronts Manga Man Gold 
and learns his origin: he is the (currently) chronologically first but 
narratively not the original Golden Age Manga Man.  (Clever use of a pun 
as foreshadowing there, by the way.)
     I enjoyed this story on a number of levels.  There the notion of 
creating an archetypal culture based entity by merging a man with 
several iconic spirits, as well as the lyricism with which Manga Man Gold 
related his story, interspersed with bits of self-depreciation (needing a 
spreadsheet to keep track of the complications) or outright silliness 
(Blasferatu's power to Hide In Shadows While Wearing Loud Clothing).  
And, okay, yes, all the throwaway details of 'LNH fanwank'.
     However, while I was soaking in the ambience a critical piece of my 
mind was going: 'This won't stick.  It's too complicated.  I don't care 
if it's thematically appropriate that Manga Man be at the centre of a web 
of complicated plots, misdirection and confusion.  Complications should 
be what he DOES not what he IS.  Even if you do a summarised write up of 
this for a character roster or a wiki page, it'll probably get ignored.'
     Which is why it was rather relieved when, after the full origin was 
unwound, it turned out not to be the origin of the version of Manga Man 
who's been around since the start of the Legion in 1992, but that of a 
new character who's a continuity insert.  This is paradoxically because 
his insertion tidies the situation up, no matter how complicated the 
process is itself.
     What the hell am I talking about?  Well, it's like this...
     The idea is one culled from the comics blogosphere, and posits that 
many of the most successful and iconic comic book characters tend to be 
based on simple concepts, which may only be expanded/altered so far 
before they wander too far from their iconic status quo.  Their 
intellectual property owners may periodically experiment with the 
characters' concepts - either in an attempt to breathe new life into 
them or simple to go through the cyclic motions of the 'illusion of 
change'.  However an alteration that goes too far from what the average 
fan considers the conceptual core of the character will not be treated 
as 'character growth' or 'world building' but instead probably be 
jettisoned when the next period of back-to-basics rebooting occurs in a 
half decade or so's time.  One example would will be when the mainstream 
Marvel Universe version of Iron Man was replaced in the 1990s by the hip 
young Teen Tony version of the character from an alternate timeline.  
And then later retconned out.
     My point here is that while both the events that removed the original 
Iron Man and then returned him were complicated (involving mind control, 
alternate timeline duplicates, and then artificial pocket dimensions being 
used to reboot parts of history by juvenile reality manipulators) those 
complications were ultimately a zero sum draw.  They performed demented 
gymnastics with continuity so it ended up back where they started.  The 
status quo was restored and if the reader doesn't want to worry about the 
effects of that era (or for a newer audience, doesn't know about it in the 
first place) then they can ignore it because the end result (if not the 
process of getting to that result) had been abrogated in a self nullifying 
continuity loop.
     Andrew's Golden Age Manga Man origin feels something like that to me.  
It's a wonderfully baroque contrivance that doesn't actually affect the 
first Manga Man, and indeed via time paradox actually derives from the 
first Manga Man despite the fact that for the internal chronology of the 
Looniverse the Golden Age Manga Man precedes him.  It's a story telling 
tool that can be used to explain away any remaining unaccounted for Manga 
Men that have appeared in this and previous _Just Imagine_ cascades.  And 
maybe any in the future too, since it suddenly occurs to me that what I've 
just described fits the story telling function of things like Dr Dooms Doombots.
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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