REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #86 - February 2011 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Apr 3 16:47:12 PDT 2011

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #86 - February 2011 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Modern Zombies  [HCC]  {high concept 17}
     SW10: Deputy Ambassador to Another World 
     Superhuman World 2011: Zombies vs. Vice-President Corrigan!  {HCC17} 
     SW10: December 2010 #1:  Cauldron Book II, Part 1
     SW10: December 2010 #1a: Cauldron Book II, Part 1
     SW10: December 2010 #2:  Cauldron Book II, Part 2
     The Tribulations of Kid Review #5  [LNH/Review]
     Zombies Don't Eat Living Flesh  [StarFall]  {high concept 17}
Also posted:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #110  [ASH] 
     Coherent Super Stories #25  [ASH]  {high concept 17}
     How To Write: Kid Enthusiastic-Y  [LNHY/META]
     Just Imagine Saxon Brenton vs. Andrew Perron in the Return of the 
          RACCies! #10  [LNH/RACCies]
     One Day at a Time #9  [MISC]
     Team Xero #005  [Misc]  {high concept 17}
     Okay, yes, this is even later that usual.  I left things until the 
last moment (as usual) - and then the 'edible books' cake decorating 
project at work got in the way.  (And as things turned out I think I 
should have put more gelatine into my cheesecake to keep it from sagging 
the way it did...)
     The theme for the 17th High Concept Challenge was 'Zombies'.
     Spoilers below...
Modern Zombies  
A HCC [High Concept Challenge] and probably also Miscellaneous [Misc] 
     posting  {high concept 17}
by Tim Munn
     I liked this as a character piece.  One way (but by no means only 
way) of using a disaster situation is to examine how people react in 
extreme circumstances.  (Others include using it as a prompt for action-
adventure, and in the case of movies there's been a trend to use disasters 
as an excuse for more expensive special effects as an end unto themselves.)
     In this instance there's a zombie apocalypse that's been going on 
for an unspecified period of time, with a twist that things are not 
quite what as they seem, giving even more options for the way people can 
react.  Reilly and his companion Nelson are in some sort of military 
group - possibly a survivalist militia or possibly something more 
official like the National Guard - who have been sent out to a warehouse 
to retrieve a serum.  This serum turns out to be a way to increases 
intelligence - or, in the case of mindless zombies, restore intelligence 
and self-awareness.  In the course of the mission going SNAFU Reilly 
learns the properties of the serum from the intelligent zombies Terry 
and Throckmartin, reports back to his superiors, and for his trouble is 
thrown into a basement with no stairs to die.  Faced with his own 
eventual demise and probable reanimation as a zombie, Reilly arranges to 
use the serum on himself.
     Even under 'normal' circumstances it's strongly implied that in 
this story-setting zombies aren't automatically going to eat everyone 
(presumably they'll do so only when they're ravenously hungry, which 
isn't all the time), and the added factor of the serum that increases 
intelligence gives the zombies back a sense of self-awareness that makes 
that sort of carnivorous assault even less likely.  As a result there 
are reactions all over the place, from the denial exhibited by Reilly's 
superiors, through Betsey's horrified denial of being dead at all, 
through to Throckmartin's emotion need for a hug ("I'm sorry, but you're 
the only person that didn't want to shoot me in the head!").
     Reilly's steady growth of hysteria is interesting but make sense, 
because all through the story he's been at the receiving end of 
revelation after revelation that things are not as they seem, while over 
time increasingly loosing control over proceedings.  He is the man with 
the overview of what's going on, but rather than the knowledge 
empowering him to give him more options, all he can see is an inevitable 
death and undead, mitigated only by the choice of using the serum to 
ensure that at least he retains his sense of self.  It's as if he's a 
protagonist in one of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos stories.  No wonder he's 
giggling hysterically; he must be loosing Sanity points hand over fist.
     There was a minor point that made for confused reading; during the 
argument between Reilly and Throckmartin about who has the silliest name, 
Reilly doesn't actually give out his name until after Commander Terry 
has interceded to calm them both down.  
     Speaking of clarifying things, showing Reilly give his report, or 
even have a moment of quiet on-panel downtime to sort out his thoughts, 
would have been useful in summarising for the reader what is know (both 
correctly and erroneously) about the zombie situation as it stands.  A 
pity Reilly's growing hysteria plays against any such moment of 
     And then there's Reilly's superiors.  In the comments thread Andrew 
pointed out that they seemed to be acting incredulously for the sake of 
the plot.  Yes, definitely.  Of course, their disbelief is understandable 
on the point of view of whether zombies could be intelligent and 
occasionally non-dangerous; wrong, but understandable.  Where their 
common sense fails them entirely in the way that they leave the serum 
with Reilly.  Reilly was sent with Nelson to the warehouse to retrieve 
the serum, and it's made clear when Reilly's in the basement Pit that 
he told them he had a sample of it.  So even if Zellig and General 
Offerman didn't believe the serum could restore a zombie's intelligence, 
why didn't they nevertheless take the stuff to test their initial beliefs 
that it could be used to stop the zombie apocalypse?
SW10: Deputy Ambassador to Another World  ; 
Superhuman World 2011: Zombies vs. Vice-President Corrigan!  {HCC17}  ;
SW10: December 2010 #1:  Cauldron Book II, Part 1  ;
SW10: December 2010 #1a: Cauldron Book II, Part 1 'The Obama Spiel'  ;  
SW10: December 2010 #2:  Cauldron Book II, Part 2  and 
A Superhuman World [SW10 and SW11] series
by Scott Eiler
     These stories posted through February form a kinda-sorta group, 
depending on how you look at the strength of the linkages.  Normally of 
course the Superhuman World stories move about all over the place, 
chronicling strange events from across a world that's in crisis because 
it got caught up in the machinations of the alien Trillions.  To a casual 
reader it could almost look like an anthology series, were it not for the 
fact that there's only one writer.
     In any case, the first two of the above stories (both as listed and 
as chronologically published) flow out of the events of the story 'Beyond 
The Door' from last year.  In that story Wyatt Ferguson and his companion 
Kristi Halsted travelled to a parallel Earth in another universe on a 
mission to seek aid.  'Deputy Ambassador to Another World' follows up 
when the counterpart of Wyatt from that world (and who is also Chancellor 
of the Congress of Ordered Realities) contacts U.S. Vice President 
'Crusher Joe' Corrigan on the situation.  It's actually quite grim, 
because once it's confirmed that the Trillions have actually landed on 
Earth-SW10 the Council feels that it can do nothing to take in refugees, 
instead blockading the 'mainstream' Earth of the Superhuman World story 
setting.  This in turn leads to the vice President deciding he needs to 
blow off steam and head down to Indiana, where the events of the High 
Concept 17 story 'Zombies vs. Vice-President Corrigan!' bring to light 
new information about the 'corned beef zombies' that could be useful in 
handling the famine crisis.
     The events of the 'Cauldron Book II' obliquely tie-in to this, since 
the (as this point unfinished) multipart story is set prior to 'Deputy 
Ambassador' and is referred to in passing by the Vice President.  Members 
of the United States Insight Battalion are investigating events in 
Nashville when they are ambushed, and one of them, Holly, is replaced by a 
seal/dog-like creature called a subhuman ('Basically, a mermaid with 
feet').  The efforts to rescue her sees the other members of the old Body 
Up superhuman dance troupe that was recruited into the USIB resign - but 
that's moving forward into parts of the Cauldron Book II story published 
after February, even if it does help to explain part of the Vice 
President's testiness in 'Deputy Ambassador'.
     Now, I have to admit that I have a liking for these partly because 
they take the form of stories rather than reports.  Often the posting 
for Superhuman World have taken the form of reports from one agency or 
another.  And while these have been excellent for overviews of the 
situation (whether on a state, national or even planetary scale), and 
have also the delight of being able to drop in brief, off-handed comments 
about some weird and intriguing sounding event or thing, the fact remains 
that often they make for dry reading.  I'm pretty sure that Scott is 
aware of this, since he's used several types of ways to mitigate this.  
For example, 'Cauldron book II' begins with some of the dry reports by 
the USIB to get it out of the way, and then moves on to the actual 
narrative about Holly and Summer.  Alternatively, a number of the posts 
featuring stories from the World Journal Monthly try to flesh out their 
reports to give more human interest (which makes sense, since as a 
commercial enterprise they need a presentation format that keeps people 
interested in purchasing their product).  And of course number of 
postings filed by Wyatt Ferguson have taken then form of daily blog 
postings on his activities, which if you think about it forms an 
interesting type of hybrid: it uses the pattern of ongoing narration of 
events with dramatic buildup and release as the protagonists encounter 
and then overcome obstacles - but it's delivered in summarised daily 
chunks rather than continuous flow, thereby allowing it to jump over most 
of the minutia except for the local colour that the author (ie, Wyatt) 
thinks is really necessary.
     There are a number of instances in these stories that particularly 
struck me.  The Vice President going on a fact finding mission simply 
because he was feeling cranky was amusing.  The speech given by President 
Obama as an insert to 'Cauldron book II' read nicely, but I was 
especially taken with the cliffhanger at the end of 'Cauldron Book II #2', 
where Summer is lunged at by the subhuman which had replaced Holly.  I 
remember thinking on the first read-through 'Oh, now that's effective'.
     However, I'll mark out 'Deputy Ambassador to Another World' as 
being of particular interest on the scale of the entire Superhuman World 
story setting.  It gave not only a summary of the broad sweep of events 
so far, it also upped the perceived level of peril with the blockading 
of Earth-SW10.
The Tribulations of Kid Review #5  
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] and Review [Review] series
by Andrew Perron
     Gah.  I can't believe that I didn't realise this sooner.
     Last year I had a grump about Dvandom posting 'The Flagsuit Memo', 
which was ostensively a sourcebook/background information file for the 
ASH universe, albeit one written in the form of an email from one 
character to another.  I reasoned that if it was written from an 
in-universe perspective then it had enough elements of being a story to 
be eligible to be reviewed.  It only just occurs to me that the framing 
sequences of _The Tribulations of Kid Review_ mean that it deserves the 
same treatment - at the very least being listed as having been posted if 
not necessarily being discussed.  (I shovelled in _How To Write: Kid 
Enthusiastic-Y_ in the 'Also posted' section at the last moment for the 
same reason.)
       So, here's the premise of the series.  The Andrew Perron of 
Looniverse-A has been chosen by the RACCelestials to be Kid Review, and 
act as their agent.  He has been empowered with the Review Force to do 
reviews of various stories posted to rec.arts.comics.creative.  But 
complications keep getting in the way: the attacks by the Apathy Beast 
and then the Cardoid, or even the presence of the cloud of Chartreuse 
Retcon Hour Story, are all examples.
     In this episode the RACCelestials warn of a crisis that is 
unbalancing the forces of communication.  They send Kid Review a device 
by which he may travel into the Letters Page Dimension, and also they 
change the format of the series.  The notion of his reviews actually 
shaping the rampant forces in the Letters Page Dimension, rather than 
being used to overwhelm any opposition as it did with the Apathy Beast, 
is a twist on the use of the review Force that I'll be interested in seeing.
     Done.  You've now got a review about another review title.  But 
I'm drawing the line on reviewing stories rather than other reviews, so 
Andrew will have to post a *really* strange adventure before I'll let 
myself get sucked into doing a review of a review of a review.  So there.
Zombies Don't Eat Living Flesh
A StarFall [StarFall] story  {high concept 17}
by Ted Brock
    The author's note at the start indicates that this was written as a 
stream of consciousness experiment with no editing.  That being the case 
it holds together quite well.  For example, there's a few throw-away 
lines (the comment about being consulted by the Jackson family, or about 
combat training with her cousin Hugh (the title character of the _Silver 
Arrow_ series)) that could have grown lengthy and unwieldy (and probably 
would have if I'd been writing this as a stream of consciousness 
exercise) but seem to have naturally cut short instead.
    The story involves Miss Cleo, the self-styled Voodoo Queen of New 
Orleans confronting and defeating the necromancer Gheda.  She looks like 
an interesting character, although that may be my fondness for magic 
users talking.  Meanwhile Gheda is someone who seems to have watched too 
many Romero-style carnivorous zombie apocalypse movies, and can't seem to 
get it into his head that zombies animated by the loa Papa Legba don't 
have the craving - or apparently even the ability - to eat people.  In 
other words he's probably the type of angry nerd who's easily influenced 
by pop culture and who is using that as the template for his actions when 
he lashes out.
    And on a more meta level, he's the type of flashy and overt super-
villain who's got a shtick and uses in a direct and non-subtle way 
without thinking laterally.  Now, in a short story written in stream of 
consciousness style that's the type of villain you need.  He represents a 
direct and easy to grok threat that can be dealt with relatively quickly. 
(No necessarily simply dealt with, although Gheda and his glass jaw were 
easily dealt with, but quickly within the limitations of story length.)  
I can well imagine Miss Cleo getting peeved with him not so much because 
he's upsetting the loa, but because he's a minor distraction when she 
could be doing something more important.  It's amusing to speculate that 
in a hypothetical return appearance Gheda would be carrying out a more 
subtle plan, causing Miss Cleo to boggle: .oO(He's using his intelligence! 
No, that's not possible.  Somebody must be using him as a stalking horse.)
     The only real problem with the story that I can see is that Miss 
Cleo didn't get the opportunity come under much pressure.  Specifically, 
the brevity and stream of consciousness aspects of the story raise their 
head again and makes me wonder about her repertoire of abilities.  Mage 
characters frequently have a wide range of abilities, and a character 
with a title like 'Voodoo Queen of New Orleans' would be reasonably 
expected to do so.  Yet the brief nature of the story meant that Miss 
Cleo walked through events, displaying one ability after another without 
giving an indication of what - if any - limitations she might have.  It's 
even possible that if minimal preparation went into the character's 
design before writing started that she was given abilities on the spur 
of the moment as needed by the plot.  Again, a hypothetical (longer) 
return appearance would want to see her occasionally put in a situation 
where she didn't have an ability or talisman on hand to overcome a 
problem, and she had to think her way out.
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 

More information about the racc mailing list