REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #85 - January 2011 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Sun Feb 27 17:33:21 PST 2011

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #85 - January 2011 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Captain Sestina #1  [LNH]  {high concept 16}
     Mordecai #1  [Pincity]
     One Day At A Time #7-8  [Misc]
     Slim's Scythe  [Misc]
Also posted:
     Coherent Super Stories #25  [ASH]  {high concept 16}
     Godling #20  [Misc]
     Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #40  {high concept 16}
     Silver Arrow #5  [StarFall]
     SW10: November 2010 #2: Beyond the Door  [SW10]
     Team Xero #004  [Misc]  {high concept 16}
     So, here we are at the start of the _End Of Month Reviews_ 8th 
year.  And you know, it occurs to me that it's been quite some time 
since I stated the purpose of this review title.  It's quite probable 
that some of the newer writers on rec.arts.comics.creative are not 
aware of the reason that I started writing the EoMR in the first place. 
So, in the interests of full openness and transparency, I'll just 
repeat it every now and again:
     I'm not doing this for your benefit.  I'm doing it for mine.
     No, really.  It's that simple.  There was a time about a decade ago 
when I would let other things get in the way of my reading of stories 
posted to RACC - even stories in the Legion of Net.Heroes imprint, 
which I like to think of myself as something of a continuity nerd 
expert on.  I'd put them aside with the intent to come back to latter, 
and then I never would.  Clearly this sort of behaviour was not 
acceptable, and so I started the _End Of Month Reviews_ as a way to 
*force* myself to both read and comprehend (so, no skimming) the 
stories posted here.  This, incidentally, explains why sometimes my 
reviews read less like reviews and more like plot summaries.
     Now, if that means that there are added benefits - such as people 
having a master list of stories that they can consult when putting 
together their RACCies awards nominations; or even that the people 
who wrote the story get to fell all warm and fuzzy and loved and 
thereby are encouraged to write some more - well, hey, that's great. 
But it's not actually the main point to the exercise.
     Uh, let’s see, what else?  Well, the High Concept Challenge number 
16 ran over from late December 2010 and into January 2011, so we're 
still working with 'The Epic Poem'.
     Also, mea culpa, last month I failed to list the story _Men's 
Courses Will Foreshadow..._, which introduced the villain of Tyrannus 
Auron to the LNH imprint.
     Spoilers below...
Captain Sestina
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] story   {high concept 16}
by Andrew Perron
     This is a High Concept 16 story particularly well suited to the 
LNH imprint.  In particular to the LNH's habit of being metatextually 
aware of its own fictionality and having the characters consciously 
use superhero tropes and cliches in an attempt to shape the story.
     In this instance both the hero (Captain Sestina) and the nameless 
villain pursue their goals through specific fictional forms.  Captain 
Sestina uses stories written as sestinas as his battlegrounds against 
crime.  The villain is a destroyer of ideas who plans to make 
meaningless stories and the concept of justice that they contain, 
making the two of them natural antagonists of each other.  Captain 
Sestina tracks the villain down to the heart of the story, and after 
being briefly beaten down rallies and triumphs.
Mordecai #1 
'Revolutions End'
A Pinnacle City [Pincity] series
by Rick Hindle
     Well, the promo blurbs described this series 'Dr Who in spandex', 
and based on the way the character of Mordecai Holmquist came across in 
his original appearance in _Thunderclap_ #10 I could see how that would 
fit.  I mean, there was even an explicit joke made about the similarities 
of appearance and dress to the Ninth Doctor, but more importantly 
Slipspace was presented in a way reminiscent of 'It's a Wonderful Life'.  
It had a very Whovian feel.
     There isn't as much of that in this issue.  In fact the most Whovian 
feel comes from Mordecai's quiet musings as he watches the weary 
Thunderclap recovering from his battle in Montecaivo:  The weight of 
having done so much and knowing so much, and still having to prod 
Thunderclap into getting back in the saddle and rejoin the Protectors in 
defending Pinnacle City from the ongoing gang war.
     As Rick acknowledges in the author's notes, this issue as a whole is 
an eclectic combination of ideas.  In fact it seems that the biggest 
influence in this issue comes from the notion of intergalactic police 
forces - whether that be E.E. Smith's Lensman, Poul Anderson's Time 
Patrol, or comic book police forces like the Green Lanterns or the Nova 
Corps.  I'll admit that the idea of Mordecai being part of an 
organisation surprised me, and I'll be interested in seeing how he sits 
within the larger group.  This particularly struck me with the 
description of Mother:
>                                    Mother was, well, nobody knew 
> what Mother was.  It was neither male, nor female, and sat on a tower 
> on a planet near the galaxy's core, sending out orders
which led me off onto the tangent of wondering how competent the higher 
levels of Universal Defense Group are.
     After all, after several decades of different Green Lantern writers 
choosing to wring drama from the notion of the Guardians of the Universe 
being flawed and having their schemes blow up in their faces it's now 
gotten to the point where large segments of fandom actively expect the 
Guardians to collectively be foul-ups.  Meanwhile the character of Nova 
has frequently been able to act independently (from both interfering 
bureaucracy and helpful backup) by having the Nova Corps repeatedly be 
wiped out.  It's a fate that the Arisians of the Lensman pulps and the 
Black Warpsmiths of the Alan Moore comics have been able to avoid by 
(a) being written by one writer in a comparitavely short run of stories, 
and (b) being very cosmic and alien.  Perhaps Mordecai will fit in to 
the middle road exemplified by the Pratchett character of Lu-Tze of the 
History Monks: a brilliant operative who gets leeway because of the way 
he's managed the tricky jobs.
     Actually there are a number of things that'll bear watching out for.  
In this introductory issue the basics of what's going on are presented, 
but the concepts involved with the series are so broad that of necessity 
that can only be painted in sketchily if there's to be room left for the 
plot.  Firstly there's the tying up of the storyline form the 
_Thunderclap_ series, for which Rick is to be commended: too often many 
of us (myself included) have grown bored with a series and simply dropped 
it when we moved on to the next notion to take our fancy.  Then there was 
the necessary drama producing fight scene with an old enemy named Tolar.  
After all that there wasn't a lot of room left for an extensive 
exposition of what the Universal Defense Group actually does and how it 
operates.  For example, Slipspace itself is given a cursory introduction, 
but unless you'd read _Thunderclap_ #10 you'd be forgiven for thinking it 
was little more than some form of faster-than-light and perhaps inter-
dimensional transit path.  Overall I anticipate that there'll be a lot of 
filling in being done over the next few issues, almost certainly with the 
rescued woman Gwen getting to be the viewer identification figure who asks 
all the questions. 
One Day At A Time #7-8 
'The main guys!'  and  'Steve Henkelbert'
A Miscellaneous [Misc] series
by James Mason
     So, the mysterious voice that gave Bill (Mike Kittyman) and John 
(The Arch Mage) their powers also empowered Alex (Sir Greg).   It seems 
to want them to form a crime fighting team, and so after Bill and John 
track down and talk with Alex, the voice sends the three of them off to 
the bank to stop another crime.  (Also, it seems to have given the three 
of them narcoleptic tendencies, but that might be the comedic writing.)
     Now, shall we make wild guesses as to where Steve Henkelbert go his 
powers from?  A different but related mysterious voice?  The same voice, 
who after a fit of absent mindedness is now trying to fix his mistakes by 
sending these three dysfunctional heroes after Mr Henkelbert?  Or perhaps 
from actually studying magic and not having it dumped on him at all?
Slim's Scythe
A Miscellaneous [Misc] story
by Dave Van Domelen
     This is a retelling/recreation of a half- (three-quarters?) remembered 
tall tale.  The plot involves a local tale spinner relating the time he 
made a small fortune in one hit by harvesting frog legs for a restaurant.  
The cute twist was that he found out the exact moment when winter would 
arrive, and then used a gunshot to startle the frogs into jumping into 
the water at just in the instant it froze solid, trapping them while 
leaving their legs dangling in the air outside the ice.
     However, the tall tales format isn't entirely plot driven.  While 
the plot and its climax are clever and memorable, at least part of the 
pleasure of reading this type of story comes from immersing oneself in 
the little incidental details of setting and characterisation which in 
turn help develop the mood and even pacing.  This isn't a dramatic, nail 
biting thriller, it's simply a entertaining fantasy yarn.
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