REVIEWS: End Of Month Reviews #98 - February 2012 [Spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Fri Apr 13 17:41:50 PDT 2012

[REVIEWS] End Of Month Reviews #98 - February 2012 [Spoilers]
Reviewed This Issue:
   Bite-Sized Tales of the LNH v20 #5  [LNH20]
   Kung-Fu Holmes  [LNH20]
   Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer #27 Special  [ASH]  {HCC27}
   LNH20 Comics Presents #10-13  [LNH20]
   Menace #1  [LNH20]
   Nudist Man: Origins  [LNH20]
   One Day At A Time: The Chronicles Of Mike Kittyman #23  [MISC]
   SW10: Superhuman World 2011: The Element of 
     Surprise  [SW10]  {HCC27}
   Ultimate Mercenary #6  [LNH/LNH20/FWVI/4W/RACCies]
   Worse Than The Disease  [ASH]
Also Posted:
   The Element Of Surprise  [ASH]  {HCC27}
   Looniverse Y #10  [LNHY/LNH/LNH20]  {HCC27}
   Seeing If I Can Post Man: The Dark Poster Returns  [LNH]
   SW10: Powernaut #6-9  [SW10]
   Team Xero #16  [MISC]  {HCC27}
     [ Anal-Retentive Archive Kid walked through the Legion of 
Net.Heroes Headquarters to the Plot Device Room.  It was locked, of 
     [ Now, there had been a time when it would be locked to keep 
Easily-Discovered Man Lite out.  Because it housed the Legion's 
membership status board, you see, and after the continuity snarls 
in the early issues of _The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man_ there 
was no freaking way they were going to let EDMLite anywhere near 
something that told you exactly where every single LNH member was.
     [ These days it was also locked to exclude Anal-Retentive Archive 
Kid as well.
     [ ARAK paused just outside the Plot Device Room, feeling an 
uncharacteristic wave of weariness and regret overtake him.  Easily-
Discovered Man Lite.  Ever since the Writers had decamped en mass to 
the LNH20 imprint, Lite and Deja Dude were the only other Writer 
Characters in the LNH classic setting apart from himself who were still 
active and being written by their original creators.
     [ He dismissed the thought; now was not the time for angst.  
Nevertheless, he continued to stare blankly past the door.
     [ And then Anal-Retentive Archive Kid thought:  No.
     [ And Anal-Retentive Archive Kid thought:  That's not angst.  
That's apathy using angst as an excuse.
     [ And then Anal-Retentive Archive Kid - for who overthinking 
something was not necessarily a flaw - thought:  Oh, you cunning Beast.  
You've got more than one trick up your sleeve.
     [ He squared his shoulders, then unlocked the door by tapping 
Ultimate Ninja's pass code into the touchpad and stepped inside. ]
     The theme for the 27th High Concept Challenge was 'The Element of 
     Spoilers below:
     [ The Apathy Beast roamed through the text, snuffling and growling 
at the intrusion into its territory.
     [ (All text was its territory, all story was an intrusion.)
     [  It stalked up to the review of _Bite-Sized Tales of the LNH 
v20_ #5 and started gnawing bloody great chunks out of it. ]
Bite-Sized Tales of the LNH v20 #5  
'I Never Metafiction I Didn't Like'
A Legion of Net.Heroes 20 [LNH20] series
by Adrian J. McClure
     Well well.  Right off the bat, a problem.  Not a particularly 
troublesome problem, of course, but still.  As the continuity note 
introducing this post explains, Adrian created this series as 
an anthology for one-shot short stories, 
and retroactively included a number of 
small LNH20 stories as the first four 
issues, including 'Kung-Fu Holmes' 
(which I want to also touch upon, 
briefly) as issue 4.  So, which 
order to write them up with in 
the EoMR?  Decisions decisions.
     Well, no, not really.  I'm 
belabouring light work for the pur-
pose of humour.  I'll format them under 
the original titles they were posted as, and 
leave any retroactive organisation for the purposes of internal 
continuity and the publishing of a hypothetical trade etherback.
     In this      story Fearless Leader and January Frost discuss the 
meta-                    fictional state of the LNH20 universe.  Oh, 
how                        could I resist a story like that?  Well, I 
                              helped to inspire it, so I guess it's 
                                 partly my fault. ;-)
                               In what is essentially a question and 
                             answer session the two of them outline 
what                      they refer to as the 'metafictional theory of 
reality'.              At base this is the notion that comedy and drama 
are the two        major forces that define superheroic reality; an 
idea that's been ported over from the LNH classic imprint.    Their 
discussion goes a bit further, positing that the complex       interplay 
of these forces generates a variety of genre tropes,               and 
the extent to which people being... well, 'forced' may             or 
may not be too strong a word... to conform to those tropes     have free 
will.  The discussion concludes with the pithy summary that   the forces 
of comedy and drama are simultaneously making the world more random 
and structured (drama to give the universe form, and comedy to 
give it movement?  If so, then there's another idea from LNH 
classic), meaning it's simultaneously undergoing 'Cerebus 
Syndrome' and 'Reverse Cerebus Syndrome'.  And then, to keep 
the whole thing from being a dry infodump, it's capped with the 
appearance of a literal reverse Cerberus, a dog with three bodies 
connected by one head.
     Actually, despite      that last line of mine and the misgivings 
expressed by Adrian           in the end notes, the story isn't just 'a 
big metafictional                infodump'.  Yes, it's overwhelmingly 
an infodump.  How-                 ever it also weaves in bits of 
characterisation and              descriptions of backhistory.  I liked 
it, but then I would.           Other people with have different 
reactions, but it's made the token effort to be a piece of fiction in 
       its own right.  (Which does create one interesting effect 
          that I noticed only now as I come to type up this 
           review entry:  The infodump aspect is obviously 
            meant to be a guide on how the Looniverse-20 
          setting works.  But because the information is 
         expressed in a conversation as speculation, 
       it's very suggestive rather than declarative in 
nature.  It's only when it gets to the end notes and 
Adrian makes the statement that at this point only the 
immigrants from the LNH classic setting are aware of the 
Writers that we get a firm statement on how this information 
should actually be handled.)
     [ Anal-Retentive Archive Kid arrived.  He had kitted himself out 
in a lambent armour, a defensive suit of hard light hologram and force-
fields, plus some other bits a pieces of weaponry that he thought might 
be useful.
     [ The Apathy Beast spotted him, snarled and began to stalk towards 
him.  ARAK fiddled with the controls of a timeindex manipulator, 
intending to slow the Beast's passage of time to a crawl and thereby 
remove any advantage of speed the creature had.
     [ This made no change that ARAK could see.  .oO( Interesting, ) 
thought ARAK, unable to stop himself being analytical even in the face 
of approaching danger.  .oO( These readings show that it's resisting the 
temporal drag.  Huh.  And here everyone thought it only had emotional 
manipulating powers.  Okay, let's try lagging it as well. )  ARAK 
activated another device, and between the two effects  everything  else 
in  the  area   began   to   move   incredibly   slowly.  .    .    ]
Kung-   Fu   Holmes
A   Legion   of   Net.  Heroes20   [LNH20]   special
by   Tom   Russell
     As   already   noted,   this   has   been   retroactively  declared 
to   be   _Bite-  Sized   Tales   of   the   LNH   v20_   #4 .
     The   main   thing   that   struck   me   about   this   post   is 
that   it's   more   of   a   vignette   than   a   fully   fledged   
story.   I   mean,   it's   a   story   in   the   sense   that   it   
has   a   problem   to   be   resolved,   but   that's   done   in   the 
most   cursory   of   ways,   via   the   use   of   Mr   Ellipsis's   
powers   to   elide   around   events.   For   the   most   part   it's  
a   post   that   introduces   (or   re-  introduces,   in   the   case 
of   Mr  Ellipsis,   who   was   originally   called   Mr  Elision   in 
his   LNH   appearances )  new   characters   to   the   LNH20  setting .
That   makes   it   more   like   the   character   introduction   posts 
that   dominated   the   original   LNH   waaay   back   when   it   was 
starting   out   on   the   newsgroup   rec. arts. comics   in   the   
early   1990s .    Back   when   everything   was   either   what   we   
now   call   chaotic   add- on   posts,   or   simply   throwing   mud   
at   the   wall   and  seeing   what   stuck .    Before   people   
started   writing    structured   net. comic   series   with   ongoing 
     Of   course,   chaotic   add- on   cascades   and   one- shot   
stories   posted   as   random   inspiration   struck   someone   never 
really   went   away .    Nevertheless,   I'm   wondering   if   the   
current   state   of   effective   near  blank   slate   of   the   LNH20
setting   makes   it   particularly   amenable   to   this   type   of 
introductory   post .   Regardless   of   whether  or   not  introductory
posts   become   more   common   now   in   the   LNH20   than   they   
were   in   the   second   decade   of   the   LNH ,   is   it   the   
case   that   they'll   be   useful   in   the   elimination   rounds   
of   the   great   demolition   derby,   as   new   characters   struggle
to   find   a   place   as   a   high   profile   member   of   the   
revised   Legion?
     Is   it   the   case   that  -  whether   consciously   or   not  - 
the   LNH20   writers   are   ( or   should   be )  searching   for  the 
iconic   character   of   the   next   Cheesecake- Eater   Lad?    Or  is
that   just   me   searching   for   a   metaphor   to   round   out  an
EoMR   entry?
     Ah   well .    So,   plot   wise,   Kung- Fu   Holmes,   Counter- 
Clipper,   C'Mon   and   Mr  Ellipsis   rescue   kittens   from   a 
multi- sided   attack.
     [ Anal-Retentive Archive Kid killed the slow-down effects.  He had 
noticed that they were starting to hinder the Apathy Beast's progress.  
But only at incredibly high levels of power and only at the point were 
it was being a burden to himself as well.  It had been like moving 
through treacle.
     [ .oO( Not an effective strategy, ) he thought.  .oO( Still, Dr 
Stomper should find the data interesting. )
     [ The Apathy Beast charged.  ARAK used the armour to leapt over the 
Beast and out of immediate danger.
     [ However, he landed hard, leaving impact prints and cracking the 
text. ]
Lady Lawful and Doctor Developer #27 Special  
An Academy of Super Heroes [ASH] series  {HCC27}
by Andrew Burton
     Mmff.  You know, at times like this I get disgruntled because I'm 
pretty sure that    I'm going to    be repeating, in one form or another, 
assessments that    I've  given     before.  But anyway, I enjoy this 
series for the      characteris-     ion.  Indeed, I'm almost jealous of 
the  seemingly      effortless       way that Andy handles his character-
isation.  Which     is kind of       belabouring the point, because in 
the unlikely   event  that any long-  time readers haven't consciously 
noticed it    yet, characterisation     is the main point to this series.
No, really.   Go back and look at   past   issues.  Only very rarely are 
there actual   superheroic fight  scenes,  or even confrontations.  Most 
of the stories   involve simple  domestic   incidents, usually expressed 
in terms of   the  love story/   soap opera    of Lady Lawful and Doctor 
Developer's  relat-  ionship.  It's engagingly     written, with the 
dynamic     that Jen-        nifer being kind and   Cameron is 
adork- able.  I'm guessing   that is much the    same reaction from the 
rest  of the  RACC readership,  since _Lady   Lawful and Doctor Developer_
is quite pop-  ular when it    comes out.   For example, this story won 
the 27th High  Concept Chall-  enge by a  comfortable margin. 
     However  the flip side of  this that   it does make me wonder how 
Andy would   handle the plotting  of an ext-   ended sequence or even a 
storyline.  A pity that _The Reverse Engineers_  series hasn't progressed,
since it  seemed to configured for that type of    storytelling, whereas
_LL&DD_   seems to be vignettes.
     In  this case, the plot is quite simply that  Jennifer (Lady Lawful)
is volun-   teering as a presenter at the Halloween  session of the local
science and   industry museum where she works in her  non-costumed day 
job, when     Cameron (Doctor Developer) wanders       in with nothing 
better     to    do for entertainment that       even-  ing.  Since this 
is set    early    in his post-supervillain    career,  he doesn't know 
her    secret id-   entity and doesn't      recognise   her, and Jennifer 
gets   an evening   watching how he      interacts with  children as he 
      assists her   with the pres-    entation of super-  hero science.
     [ The Apathy Beast launched itself after Anal-Retentive Archive Kid.
In return Anal-Retentive Archive Kid used a x-ray laser cannon to shoot 
at the Apathy Beast, leaving scorch marks all over the place. ]
LNH20 Comics Presents #10-13  [LNH20]
'Switch Play'  ;  'The Assassination Squad'  ;  
   'Chaos Reigns'  and  'The Floating City'
A Legion of Net.Heroes 20 [LNH20] series
by Andrew Perron, Martin Phipps, 
   Adrian J. McClure, and Martin Phipps
     The plot continues. ## In part ##  10 the Espionage Squad is 
introduced, and after a b ## it of a  ##  distraction from a fight with 
the Swords of Penitent Aut ## hority in ##  the Vatican vaults, retrieve
*a* Spoon.  Next the Recove ## ry Man mak ##  es arrangements with 
Ultivac to assemble an Assas ## sination Sq ##  uad to kill the returned
Googlemesh in accordance with ## the Recovery ##  Man's agreement with 
the dragon in the LNH-HQ's bas ## ement, and th ##  en attacks Google-
mesh and the just-happens-to-be ## -there-at-the-t ##  ime Generation 2.0,
 while Fearless Leader, January  ## Frost and Doc N ##  ostalgia 
interview the Cranium ## for LNH  ## membership.
     In part 12 the p ## ower put  ## out by the Spoon of Destiny and 
the Retcon Ball causes ## the city  ## of Net.ropolis to float into the 
air, as well as being  ##  revealed  ## as what's causing Doc Nostalgia 
to be in two places at  ## once.  The ## three members making up the LNH 
leadership also debate  ## admitting t ## he Cranium, and there's some 
backhistory about Doc No ## stalgia’s a ## nimosity to the original 
Cranium and how that car ## ries through ## to the fifth and current 
clone of the Cranium.  Th ## en the team  ## at the museum face the 
reality warping powers of ## Mister Morris ## on.
     Then in part 13, Goog ## lemesh sends  ## away Generation 2.0 to 
safety while he faces the  ## Assassination  ## Squad on his own, and 
the children return to the  ## LNH-HQ to upda ## te Fearless Leader on 
the situation.  The Espiona ## ge Squad arrive ## and realise that they 
aren't the only ones to poss ## ess a Spoon.  A ## nd Brian the pizza 
delivery guy is transported  ## somewhere by wha ## t is presumably a 
third Spoon.                  ## 
     Pant pant pant.          ##
     It's all perfectly dement ## ed stuff, but I'll just make quick 
note on the need to explain th ## ings.  Much of the story is depicted 
in conventional show-don't-tell ## form.  However, in a cascade you get 
a proliferation of plot threads ## and sometimes you need info dumps to 
explain what's going on. This is ## particularly the case when you get a 
continuity ## snarl, as happened ## here with Doc Nostalgia being in two 
places at  ## once.
     Actua ## lly, the Doc Nostalgia situation highlights another 
interestin ## g aspect of this.  It's becoming almost a default situation
for the LNH ## leadership trio to be discussing some matter.  It doesn't 
happen all  ## the time, but many, perhaps even most, of their appear-
ances in bo ## th this series and elsewhere have been in this format.  
Now, there's ## nothing wrong with this, but I find it telling and 
amusing that ## when Doc Nostalgia has already been said to be off 
leading the  ## team at the museum, that the... cliche of the leadership 
discussing ma ## tters is so strong that the various Writers automatic-
ally assume t ## hat Doc Nostalgia  must be present for those discussions
as well.
     [ The Apathy Beast seemed to be only moderately singed.  It leapt 
upon him, forcing the laser from ARAK's hands.  The armour kept ARAK 
from being crushed under its weight, and the strength enhancing servos 
allowed him to grapple with it.  The two of them rolled about, kicking 
and punching and clawing at each other. ]
Menace #1
'Cat Among The Pigeons' part 1
by Lalo Martins and May B.
A Legion of Net.Heroes 20 [LNH20] series
     Obligatory administrivia:  May B. is a new writer to RACC.  That 
means she'll be tied up and sacrificed to the volcano at the newbie 
award in next year's RACCies...  Oh, wait, hold up...  Lalo, am I 
correct in thinking that May was the same May Fonseca who edited some 
of the early issues of your _58.5_ maxiseries?   Hurm.  Hey, Anal-
Retentive Archive Kid!  Can I have a ruling on this, please?  Is she 
excluded because of past participation due to editorial input?
     [ Anal-Retentive Archive Kid looks up from where he has the Apathy 
Beast by the throat and is  punching it repeatedly in the face, while 
it tries to snap at his hands with its blood flecked jaws.  "No.  
Despite the phenomenon of both ghost-writing by subcontractors and of 
rewriting by editors, the rules covering the 'Best New Writer' award 
indicate that the author named in the indicia of the story will be 
deemed wholly responsible for a specific work of fiction, although they 
may, at their discretion, nominate a second for the purposes of any 
duels of honour that may result...  Arghhh!!!" he concluded, as the 
Apathy Beast bit down on the hard light force field of his armour 
encasing his forearm.  "Sunnava b*tch!" ARAK growled.  He knew the 
automated medisystems of the armour would be pumping happy drugs to 
keep him from going into shock, and aerosol synthetic flesh-foam to 
plug any wounds.  He rolled onto his back and used the strength 
magnifiers of the armour to kick the Beast off of him.  It landed with 
a crash in the review, breaking off a large chunk of review text, 
causing it to dangle by only a thin remaining shred of a sentence. ]
     This story is nominally stars Pantra, who has been assigned to 
find and bring in a team of superhumans who were involved in a major 
stuff-up and who have gone to ground.  It's set early on, during the 
invasion by the alien tomatoes known as the Lycopersions (up until 
                                                           now this 
                                                         has so far 
                                                        only been 
                                                      as tantalising 
                                                    over in the 
                                                  'Spoon of 
                                                cascade in 
                                              _LNH20 Comics 
     And the people she's hunting down are...  Well, they seem to be 
some of Lalo's New Misfits characters from his LNH classic maxiseries 
_58.5_ in the late noughties.  On a purely technical level I find this 
interesting, since pretty much all of the major characters are imports 
from the LNH classic setting - but I haven't been paying enough 
attention to the backhistory discussions on the lnh-authors mailing 
list to know which ones (if any) have been transported across from the 
original setting, and which ones are their LNH20 counterparts.  And keep 
in mind that 'transported across' could involve some quite complicated 
mechanics, far more so than an individual just being dumped in another 
universe as... say... Ultimate Mercenary has been in his story episodes.  
It could involve people having some or even most of their back history 
being copy'n'pasted, meaning that they have retroactively always been 
there - something that off the top of my head has been done at least 
three times before in various old LNH series.
     This last point is more than me nitpicking on old LNH trivia, since 
the New Misfits characters (if that's what they are (still) calling 
themselves) are described as having been involved in major stuff-up and 
as a result have gone to ground.  The same thing happened in _58.5_.  So, 
big question, is it the same event that's been copy'n'pasted over?  Or 
have they been careless enough to make a similar mistake again?
     Let's talk about characterisation.  The New Misfits scene is mainly 
plot setup, but Pantra gets a bit of characterisation that emphasises 
that she's a cat.  Not just the through the use of lolcats jargon, but 
the way she's cruel even when she's being friendly.  She plays with 
people, in the teasing way cats do with their prey.  However on top of 
that is the added dimension  of suffering from attention deficit disorder
(or as TV Tropes would describe it, Attention Deficit... Oh, Shiny!).  
This creates an interesting question.  Is Pantra's playfulness (and, yes,
cruelty) an innate and standalone personality trait, or an act to cover 
her inability to focus?
     [ Anal-Retenetive Archive launched a disintegrator attack which 
landed square against the Apathy Beast... and seemed to have no effect 
other than to obliterate the review that it was standing on. ]
Nudist Man: Ori.i  ;  ~     .
  :   .      ..      .               ..    
 '        .                      ;
   .                                        .
     [ ARAK boggled.  Was the creature really that tough?  Or did it 
have a specific invulnerability to disintegration?  He had been able 
to bloody its face when he had been punching it...  Ah!  Of course!  
It was the Apathy Beast.  It damped down energy, usually creative 
energy in others.  But it made sense that it would be resistant to 
energy attacks.  That was why the disintegrator and the laser cannon 
had done less damage that physical damage.
     [ Ohhh, crap.  That meant an extended fight scene of hand-to-hand 
melee.  Anal-Retentive Archive Kid was suddenly really glad he had 
chosen to use the lambent armour.   He reached for a sword, but the 
Apathy Beast was upon him again.  They scuffled, breaking more text in 
the process. ]
One Day At A Time: The Chronicles Of Mike Kittyman #23
'Names Are Hard'
A Miscellaneous [MISC] series
by James Mason
     And speaking of cats, here's 
another of James' cat themed series.  
Okay, yes, it's got an ensemble cast, 
but when the initial title gains a sub-
title 'The Chronicles of Mike Kittyman' at 
issue 19 then you can see which direction thi-
ngs are heading.
     The cast itself stabilised long ago, so 
it's no longer the case that the protagonists 
are making spectacles of themselves as they 
flail about, trying to come to terms with 
their superpowered situation.  Instead, 
for the most part the regulars are now 
playing straight men to the weirdness 
of various situations that they en-
counter as a team.  (Well, for the 
most part.  Sir Greg's impulsiv-
eness gets a highlight in this 
issue when she acts protectively 
towards Mike.)  And of course 
this continues to be suppl-
emented by the creative use 
of sound effects, as well 
as the Announcer's continued 
and only-mostly-successful 
attempts to get on top of 
his job.
     In this issue the groups 
drops off one villain at the police 
station (Carlotta Zanzibar, captured 
last issue), and is promptly confronted 
by the return of 'that guy who tried to rob 
that bank once' (Steve Henkelbert).  But the 
newcomer that the group gets to boggle at is the 
obsessive compulsive Sgt Charles T. Carver, who they 
meet when the army arrives to take the miscreants into 
custody.  That said, the Arch Mage's question that if the 
authorities can't keep Henkelbert in prison then how will 
they hold Zanzibar is not only pertinent, but becomes 
more so if Carver is in charge of a prisoner transp-
ortation.  Expect more slapstick comedy to ensue.
    [ In the scuffle ARAK finally managed to get ahold of the sword.  He 
couldn't simply activate it, since it wasn't built in to the armour.  It 
was an honest-to-goodness vorpal sword.  He'd taken care to make sure 
that once in place it couldn't be knocked from his hand, but he still 
had to get it there first.
    [ Finally it was done.  ARAK swiped with the sword, and missed, 
carving the next piece of text in twain. ]
SW10: Superhuman World 2011: The Element of Surprise  [SW10]
'The Element of Surprise'
A Superhuman World [SW10] series  {HCC27}
by Scott Eiler
     The plot in short: The 
Council of Black Mages is di-
spleased with the tinkering wi-
th Earth's orbit that Ellipsis 
has carried out, and prepares to 
confront him on their terms (with 
magically incited natural disasters) 
rather than on his terms (with scienc-
e (although I get the impression that 
maybe mad science based technology would 
be a better description where Ellipsis is 
involved)).  The story depicts a meeting of 
the Council as the situation is discussed, 
and as the member Gaio Matrix (secretly an ex-
traterrestrial observer) steers the resolutions 
in the direction that he wants.
     The structure of the story allows for the sum-
mary of past events, and Scott uses that to his advan-
tage as the Council ruminates on the situation and what 
they dislike about it.  There is a lot of references/url 
links to past stories here.  Now, I'm fine with that  (it 
would be hypocritical of me to complain about info-dumps and 
continuity porn, after all).  However it does occur to me that 
apart from some cursory characterisation of Gaio in the form of 
his anticipatory gloating, that the story is very much in the form 
of a prologue for future stories.  This, in turn, ties in with the 
use of the 'The Element of Surprise' theme, as Gaio reviews the upsur-
ge in volcanism and concludes that Ellipsis and his followers will be 
caught off guard.
     [ A chunk of text fell down and hit the ground immediately in front 
of the Apathy Beast. ]
caught off guard.
     [ It caused no harm, but briefly distracted the Beast.  ARAK used 
the armour to leap over the Beast, and began hacking at its flank.  The 
Beast twisted and rammed at ARAK, trying to squish ARAK.  The armour 
protected him.  The text wasn't so lucky. ]
Ultimate Mercenary #6  
'Crossing the Streams'
A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] (mostly) 
by Adrian J. McClure
     This is an example of Adrian 
trying to tie up loose ends with his 
old series in an attempt to explain 
how the character of Ultimate 
Mercenary made his way to the LNH20 
setting.  It's heavily metafictive.  
Not only were the original issues 
metafictive, but Adrian has chosen 
to explain the several-years-long 
hiatus between issues in metafictive 
terms, using the concept of the major 
characters having all been stuck in 
Limbo.  The character of Masterplan 
Lad is metafictive, because although 
he is a Joseph Campbell style wise 
old mentor, it's made explicit that 
part of his task is to lead Ultimate 
Mercenary not just to enlightenment, 
but also to the correct storyline.  
Certainly the major villain is meta-
fictive, because the whole concept 
of the Crossover Queen is based on 
the idea of manipulating stories to 
suit her purposes.  And at the centre 
of it all is Ultimate Mercenary, 
whose nature is more satirical that 
metafictive (the whole son of a clone 
of a clone of a clone of a son of a 
fan thing).
     I think this contrast is express-
ed in the qualitative difference of 
the way the characters get to snark 
about the failure of the Authors that 
brought them to the situation that 
characters find themselves in.  Every-
one gets a least a short offhanded 
jibe.  However Ultimate Mercenary’s 
brief fourth-wall breaking comment are 
limited to things like his rhetorical 
question about whether a story this 
slow is being written by George R.R. 
Martin.  By contrast the Crossover 
Queen gets to exposit about the death 
of usenet at length and indeed build 
an entire villainous plot on it.  More 
pertinently, Masterplan Lad gets an 
impassioned speech that both rejects 
the Crossover Queen and denounce the 
formation on a new LNH imprint.  And 
tellingly, Adrian gives all these 
characters valid points of view, which 
makes the drama and tension of their 
interaction all the more palpable.  
(I have a half-baked but amusing 
vision of Masterplan Lad roaming 
around the LNH20 setting acting as an 
antihero, trying to undermine the 
setting purely because he sees it as 
the product of a villainous scheme 
and therefore illegitimate.)
     [ Finally ARAK managed to get a free swing.  He faked a dodge, and 
then swung.  One swipe wasn't enough.  The Apathy Beast rounded on him, 
but ARAK had found his groove, ARAK and fell into a pattern of bouncing 
about on the balls of his feet, his speed and desterity heightened by 
the armour.  He dodged about, hacking at its hamstrings and also leaving 
slices in the text. ]
Worse Than The Disease 
An Academy of Super-Heroes [ASH] one-shot  {HCC27}
by Dave Van Domelen
     Aaannnd    for a final segue,   here's another   tory with a major 
purpose to exp-   lain away an old     plot problem.    In this case it 
doesn't use meta-   fictive terms. Dr   Sheng, for all    his brilliance, 
hasn't made the dis-   covery that Tym   Twysted did, and   doesn't 
realise he's fictional.   Nevertheless,    from the ASH set-  ting's view-
point there was the plot    dangler about   the similarity bet-  ween 
humanity and   the alien Santari, and whether   anyone on Earth    would 
know about the   link, and this sets out to exa-   mine the subject.
     The format   is the very specialised infodump   of the villainous 
gloat.  Dr Sheng   is old school, you see.  So, the   Santari nobleman 
Agrap Cas'r comes   to Dr Sheng to employ him to sol-   ve the riddle 
of the Santari org-  an transplant rejection problem.     However Dr 
Sheng has already b-   een employed by another member of     House Cas'r 
to trap and kill Agrap.  Once Dr Sheng has Agrap paralysed, he takes 
the opport-    unity to explain that he's already solved the mystery 
Agrap was int-    erested in, but has no   intension of releasing the 
information. Then   Agrap dies.
     From a techni-   cal standpoint Dvandom   uses the routine of 
varying the text of    the infodump to keep it   interesting.  The 
dialogue is intersper-   sed with descriptions of   physical actions, 
emotional reactions, and   titbits of characteris-    ation.
     [ The Apathy Beast took the better part of valour and scarped.  This
involved a fast but limping retreat, favouring one leg.  Despite this 
apparent victory Anal-Retentive Archive Kid wasn't feeling particularly 
triumphant.  He would've loved to indulge in the belief that he had 
scared the thing off, but the creature was at least somewhat intelligent.
That meant that it may have simply made a strategic withdrawal.  The 
difference being that an animal could be scared off in a territorial 
duel, but a thinking being could withdraw with the specific intention of 
returning at a better time.
     [ Twitter appeared, moving in with super speed.  "Hey wow.  Will you
look at this mess," she said, gazing around the mess in a particularly 
sightseer-ish way.  Then, "Wendle! Crap! Lemme call a doctor," she 
squeaked when she finally noticed him, and vanished.
     [ Anal-Retentive Archive Kid was starting to hurt.  Either he was 
beginning to come down off the adrenalin high, or the drugs that the 
lambent armour had been pumping into his system were beginning to wear 
off, or he'd aggravated the wounds to the point that the drugs were no 
longer effective.  He glanced at the hand that had been bitten by the 
Beast, half expecting it to be badly mangled.  It wasn't.  Well, not 

uch.  The armour had constricted about the limb automatically to hold 
it still, but by looking close he could see that it was broken.  
Moreover, beneath the soft glow of the armour he thought he saw the skin 
darkening from extensive bruising.  He grinned mirthlessly.  heh.  At 
least it had kept the limb from being bitten off entirely.
     [ He tried to stand up.  Whereupon he discovered that he wasn't up 
to it.  His body decided to sit down again and have a little rest.  Which
was bad.  He reached for a communicator in order to call some medical 
help, then remembered that Twitter had already left to get help.  Then 
he decided to call for help anyway.
     [ Twitter reappeared.  "Organic Lass is on her way.  You'll be fine.
You idiot!"  She punched him in the face.  "Ow!  Argh!" she cried, 
massaging her hand thathe'd just punched into the armour's transparent 
helmet carapace.
     [ "Be careful," he admonished her.
     [ "Why didn’t you be careful?  What did you think you were doing?  
Why didn't you get someone to help?"
     [ "There's never anyone around to call on," he explained in a 
reasonable tone.  Or what he hoped was a reasonable tone.  He was feeling
kind of woozy.  "The Writers always contrive for there to be only as many
people as they need to drive the plot.  You know that."
     [ She gave him an exasperated look.  "Yes.  Now turn off that 
     [ "And let you punch me in the face again?  No thank you.  Now get 
me a sterile container to store some of this gore," he said, holding up 
a blood cover arm.
     [ "Someone blows their nose and you want to get a sample of it," 
she quoted from Ghostbusters.  She flickered for a fraction of a second, 
but now she had the requested plastic container.  "Why are you wanting 
to get samples?  Do you want to blood match it?" 
     [ ARAK grinned.  "Cell samples.  DNA.  Dr Stomper will love this." 
He realised that Twitter was staring at him.  "What?  If I can't kill 
it, then I can at least help Dr Stomper find a cure.  If Dr Net.ropolis 
can fiddle with it's DNA to increase the potence of its apathy powers 
[_Saviours of the Net_ #9a 'What Do Deus Ex Machinas Dream Of?' - 
Footnote Girl, then we can do something to fix it." ]
Character credits:
     Anal-Retentive Archive Kid created by Saxon Brenton.
     Twitter created by Rob Rogers.
     The Apathy Beast identified (not created) by persons unknown, 
and almost certainly Free For Use - if you're feeling brave enough to 
try to handle it...
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 /


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