REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #96 - December 2011 [spoilers]

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Mon Jan 23 16:16:47 PST 2012

[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #96 - December 2011 [spoilers]  
Reviewed This Issue:
     Shadow Shift #1  [MISC]
     Tales From The Tesla Institute #1  [StarFall]
     LNH20 Comics Presents #1-5  [LNH20]
     SW10: Powernaut 1941 #1-8  [SW10]  {HCC25}
     SW10: Worse Than Useless? 24 Minute Challenge  [SW10/HCC]  {HCC26}
Also posted:
     Academy of Super-Heroes #115  [ASH]
     Clueless Lad Team-Up #1  [LNH20]
     Coming To Grief  24 Minute Challenge  [LNH20/HCC]  {HCC26}
     Generation 2.0 #1-5  [LNH20]
     Godling #23 & 24  [MISC]
     Going Solo #6  [StarFall/HCC]  {HCC26}
     The Great Catastrophe #1  [LNH20]
     Journey into Procrastination #1  [MISC/HCC/JE]  {HCC25}
     La Femme Fantastique  [MISC]  {HCC25}
     Legion of Net.Heroes: The Web Comic! #48
     One Day at a Time: The Chronicles of Mike Kittyman #22  [MISC]
     Spellbinder #4  [Starfall]
     The Super Wizard From Space #25-26  [MV] 
     SW10: Adventures Of Lady Sherlock #1: The Report  [SW10]
     Hello.  Anal-Retentive Archive Kid here.  Now, although Saxon is 
too cowardly to confirm it explicitly, in the last issue of the EoMR he 
tried to imply that the absence of this series for almost a year was 
the fault of the Apathy Beast.  As a personality archetype that's lived 
in his headspace for over a decade now, I can tell you that this is 
bulldust.  There's only Limp-Asparagus Lad and myself in here, and any 
delays were due to his own laziness.  Trying to offload blame onto the 
intervention of an NTB villain just doesn't hold water.
     Okay, with that out of the way, let's deal with the consequences 
of aforementioned hiatus.  There were two new writers appearing on RACC 
in 2011 who haven't had an introductory review yet: Ryunosuke in June 
with _Shadow Shift_ #1 and Leto in November with _Tales From The Tesla 
Institute_ #1.  This is not acceptable, and therefore this issue will 
begin with belated coverage of those two issues before moving on to a 
small selection of stories from December 2011.
     On matters of administrivia, the 26th High Concept Challenge came 
out right at the end of the month, and requires a 24 minute story 
beginning with the phrase 'I knew things were going wrong when...'  
Also, back issues of _Godling_ are being posted with some quite nifty 
artwork on the blog   and the _Academy of 
Super-Heroes_ issue posted in October 2011 was #114 rather than #113, 
Also _Captain Sestina_ was left out of my Looniverse eligibles listing. 
[ARAK looks up at the audience, who are bewildered by the last reference] 
What!?  Look, unlike the lazy writer, I actually clean up my own messes!
     Spoilers below:
Shadow Shift #1
A Miscellaneous [MISC] series
by Ryunosuke
     This opening issue sets up an uncomplicated premise.  Well, 
uncomplicated for one of the genres of fantastic fiction, at any rate.  
Ordinary high school student Josh is dragged into an alternate dimension 
by monstrous creatures called reavers that want to eat him or just 
plain kill him.  With a bit of assistance he manages to escape back to 
his own world, however when he tries to get an explanation for what has 
happened his contact informs him that he is still in danger from the 
reavers.  We can clearly expect more conflict as either the reavers 
attack, or Josh acts to defend himself, or both.
     The story premise may be unambiguous, but there are still plenty 
of areas in the background that have unanswered questions to keep the 
reader interested.  At least some of them should be answered by when 
Josh meets Raijin - although we should never underestimate the capacity 
of mysteries to be drawn out when a character begins to explain some-
thing to the protagonist and then gets interrupted when the villains 
attack.  After all, that's basically what happens with Abaddon this 
issue.  In any case, apart from the obvious questions of 'who are these 
people, and what are they up to?' one question that springs to my nit-
picky mind is: is the alternate dimension, populated with beings named 
Abaddon and Raum, a literal hell or merely a vicious alien ecology?
     A more metatextual one is: is the genre of this series best 
described as superheroes fighting monsters, or a more Nightbreed-like 
horror story with superhuman conflict?  Okay, those are two extremes for 
something that might not be so clear cut, but the distinction remains 
useful.  Look at it this way.  The fact that the mutation that Josh 
experiences while trapped on the other side gave him claws impresses 
Raijin, prompting Raijin to comment, "Maybe this'll be easier than I 
thought."  Even Raum's comment, "You weren't supposed to change so 
quickly!" points in this direction.  To me this hints at the type of 
exceptionalism that is stereotypical of the superhero genre: people 
having or gaining some advantage in fighting against a threat.
     On the other hand the prose style reads like a horror story.  The 
descriptions of the locations, Josh's confused and panicky reactions... 
And then at the end, the brief description of the emotional alienation 
between Josh and his father.  (Actually, that raises another question: 
is this state the result of Josh's shellshock from encountering the 
reavers, or is it the normal state of affairs between these two?)  None 
of which is to say that the _Shadow Shift_ series can't try to combine 
the two genre outlooks in some way.  Especially if Josh turns out to be 
a scrapper who adapts relatively quickly rather than accumulating post 
traumatic stress disorder.
     So, is there anything wrong with this series?  The only thing that 
jumped out at me was the way the reaver Raum tended to speak in 
exposition-ese when gloating or ranting at Josh.  Since the dialogue of 
the other characters seems to flow more naturally in context, that could 
either be a deliberate facet of Raum's character, or merely an artefact 
of the need to include a bit more information at that point in the story.
Tales From The Tesla Institute #1
'The Assistant'
A StarFall [StarFall] series
by Elena Klazinga (Leto)
     The next new series has a similarly straightforward series concept, 
but with a twist.  Nikola Tesla has set up an institute for 'exploratory 
sciences and engineering' and is doing cutting edge practical science.  
(The promotional posting seems to indicate that for the purposes of this 
series, and presumably the StarFall setting, that he's 'back' rather 
than 'still around'.)  The twist is that the opening story doesn't focus 
on him, instead focusing on his assistant, Ms Genavieve Ciernik.
     This is a small but intriguing point that my attention keeps 
returning to.  Why introduce a story setting with Nikola Tesla in such a 
prominent position and not use him as the protagonist, or at least one of 
the viewpoint characters?
     I find it unlikely that Elena wanted a setting where an exotic 
accident such as the one that takes place at the climax of the story, 
and then merely picked Tesla as a storytelling shorthand method of 
justifying the presence of the exotic high technology the plot needed.  
This is, after all, a lengthy post with a lot of detail being put into 
the characterisation.  If the author had needed a generic mad scientist 
for plot (or even plot device) purposes then she could have created one 
of her own and easily invested enough detail into him, her or it to 
create a rounded character.  So, no, unless other information is forth-
coming I think I'll stick with the premise that it's the specific 
character of Tesla who is one of the important people in the series.
     In the meantime, 'The Assistant' is essentially a character piece 
about Gena.  I liked the line "Gena wasn't a dull looking girl, but one 
watching could get the impression that she was doing her best to become 
one."  Effectively, making herself look like the stereotypical female 
scientist.  There are several potential readings in that, ranging from 
Gena being a drab personality, to Gena dressing to deliberately downplay 
her femininity for some reason.  Given that historically Tesla was shy 
around women and was reputed to be able to make better emotional 
attachment with pigeons, plus the fact that Gena seems to look upon 
Tesla as a mentor figure, I get the impression that she's deliberately 
dressing to fit in.  Given that the Tesla presented here is not quite 
the eccentric personality that he was and continued to become towards 
the end of his career in the 1940s, I'm not sure that that is actually 
necessary on her part, however.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.
     Does that given the impression that Gena is deliberately moulding 
her professional character in order to advance her career?  Well, 
possibly, and to be fair she wouldn't be the first person, male or 
female, to do so.  However, I don't think that's quite the case.  My 
gut feeling is that she's deliberately moulding her professional 
character in order to advance her prospects of working personally with 
her hero Tesla, rather than as another researcher at the Tesla 
Institute.  Her speech to Bert that ends with, "...the lab's still 
surprising me.  For that kind of experience, I don't mind sacrificing 
some of my time for him" could be counted as an overt argument for the 
former, but her self-sacrificing actions at the end of the issue are 
an even stronger argument for the latter.
     (And in either case, I also get the impression that it's not that 
big an example of self-recreation for Gena.  Bert's concerns about her 
working late are only barely reflected by one moment of tired and 
snappy behaviour, whereas most of the time the point-of-view narration 
indicates she really has got a calm and profession demeanour.  If she's 
putting on an act, it doesn't seem to be a particularly difficult one 
for her to maintain.  Moreover, she's enough on the ball even after the 
demands of with both her own work and her assisting Tesla that she was 
able to notice the advance warnings of something strange going on with 
the 'force field' testing, as well as both her and Bert having identical 
simultaneous reactions in dealing with the crisis when it unfolds.)
     Ah yes, the crisis.  The climax of the story introduces a bit of 
action into what had up until that point been primarily character 
driven.  The shield experiment goes out of control...  Not so much 'goes 
wrong' as ramps itself up to a level where the people who set it in 
motion no longer have much control over it.  All of the Institute's 
power is being used by the experiment, Gena pushes Tesla out of the way 
to keep him being fried by the electrical surges.  She gets zapped 
instead, and has either gained superpowers (if we're working in a 
four-colour superhero paradigm) or has been pushed to posthuman status 
(if we're working in a general science fiction paradigm).
LNH20 Comics Presents #1-5 'The Spoon of Destiny Saga'  Parts 1-5
by various  (Adrian J. McClure, Lalo Martins, Andrew Perron, Dave Van 
Domelen, Martin Phipps)
     This was the last entry to be written for this month's EoMR.  All 
the other entries were written up  by the first half of the first week 
of January, but I've been holding off while trying to think of an 
angle that would be suitably impressive for something like the event 
marking the Legion of Net.Heroes' 20th anniversary.  No such luck.  So, 
instead of gravitas you'll just have to put up with semi-random babbling.
     The twentieth anniversary of the Legion of Net.Heroes will be in 
April 2012.  For those of you who were here, you'll recall that the 
fifteenth anniversary was marked by the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis' 
Event, where the LNH writers got together to publish a story a day with 
the theme of a different LNH character holding the leadership position. 
After much discussion in late last year it was decided that the Event 
for 2012 would be to reboot the imprint / spin off an updated version 
of the imprint under the LNH20 label  (The original LNH imprint 
continues on unaffected).  The obvious comparison is to the reboot that 
DC Comics gave their shared universe last year with their 'The New 52', 
and the LNH reboot likewise includes starting a new continuity such 
that it's easier for new readers to grasp what's going on.
     (As an aside, I have been wondering to what extent the LNH20 
reboot might suffer from 'classic storyline repeat-itis': the observed 
tendency of particularly DC (with its various reboots, particularly of 
the Legion of Super-Heroes, since the original Crisis On Infinite Earths 
in the mid 1980s) to retell - with or without major variations - the 
origins of its protagonists and the major villains as well as to retread 
the major storylines of the past.  And by the time they've done that 
they've chewed up at least a year of publishing before they can get to, 
you know, actual original stories, thereby effectively trapping them-
selves in loop of perpetual long-form recap mode.  I'm suspecting the 
LNH20 aren't likely to suffer from that.  After all, the major comic book 
publishers have also had policies to recap their protagonists' origin 
stories regularly, on the grounds that "each comic is someone's first". 
The LNH, or any of the net.fiction imprints published on RACC for that 
matter, don't have that problem both because the easy accessibility of 
back issues in the archives as well as the fact that this writing is a 
non-paying hobby rather than a business model that can't afford to risk 
alienating potential readers due to obscurity.  The LNH in particular 
would simply throw out a gratuitous footnote or editorial note and then 
proceed with the story.)
     The other significant design factor explicit in the reboot is the 
availability for use of characters.  This has long been an issue with 
the classic LNH, even though for the most part it has been able to be 
dealt with amicably.  Nevertheless, over the decades there is an 
accumulation of in-practice free-for-use characters that are actually 
abandoned writer characters (like Cheesecake-Eater Lad, Occultism Kid, 
and Fuzzy), instances of different writers having different interp-
retations of characters and having to come up with contrived explanations 
(ie, the duplication of Catalyst Lass into Catalyst Lass and Hell 
Catalyst), of reserved characters continuing to be used because of their 
links to other characters (such as the way aLLiterative Lass was 
romantically linked to Cheesecake-Eater Lad, and rather than make a big 
fuss in-story about why they should break up has instead incrementally 
ended up with a 'happy ending' of being semi-discretely married off to 
him and becoming the mother of his child, so that she can now be referred 
but is perpetually off-stage), or characters like Ultimate Ninja who 
were given over for general use on the condition that their status quo 
isn't altered, but whose popularity or position in the Legion is such 
that they get used a lot and thereby accumulate unwanted baggage (such 
as the way Ultimate Ninja's real name being revealed as Lenny).  And then 
there have been the shouting matches that have resulted in people leaving. 
This is why the subject of character availability was also factored in 
during the creation of the LNHY imprint in 2004.  Bottom line: it's an 
ongoing topic of debate.
     So how's the LNH20 imprint going?  Reasonable enough, from the looks 
of it.  Through its first month (and looking back on its the second 
month) it seems to be getting good traffic compared to the LNH2 
imprint from the early noughties, and a bit more than the LNHY imprint 
in the mid-noughties.  The number of participants in the opening cascade 
storyline in _LNH20 Comics Presents_ is a good sign, and it's also 
brought in repeated story posts from otherwise non-LNH affiliated 
writers.  And as Andrew Perron has commented, enthusiasm tends to beget 
more enthusiasm.  On the other hand, net.fiction imprints come and go.  
For example, there was once a time when I would not have believed that 
the once mighty Superguy imprint would have been reduced solely to the 
prolific output of Gary Olson.  The Legion of Net.Heroes (in whatever 
incarnation) has a powerful and flexible storytelling engine because of 
its parodic nature - but that doesn't guarantee publishing immortality.
     For my part I've been pondering if there's any storyline I can write 
that I feel fits LNH20.  For a half week or so in early January I was 
overcome by the fevered thought that perhaps I could move the _Limp-
Asparagus Lad_ series from LNH to LNH20.  Not duplicate the character 
concepts you understand, but move the whole series: the original 
characters and their histories, the series' back-story and ongoing 
storylines.  The whole kit and caboodle.  This of course would be a 
catastrophic affront to continuity, much like the way the _Legion of 
Super Heroes_ was thrown into disarray in the wake of the Crisis On 
Infinite Earths when Superboy was deleted from continuity.  But instead 
of trying desperately to find a continuity patch to fix the problem, the 
hypothetical LNH20 _Limp-Asparagus Lad_ series would deal with it by 
gratuitously highlighting the problem at every opportunity.  I even 
worked out that the only thing truly stopping this swap over from 
happening was whether or not an obscure point of continuity surrounding 
the LNH Sig.Lad is replicated in LNH20 (Dvandom has pointed out that it 
doesn't, but further noted that it would be easy to include a piece of 
back history that would have the same effect).  That single limitation 
still holds true, but it has since occurred to me that there are a 
number of LNH continuity specific jokes that I would like to include.
     (Another aside:  I'm on record as saying that I think of 
Cheesecake-Eater Lad as the iconic heart of the LNH.  Now, LNH classic 
will continue on as normal.  But in the last half week I realised that 
in the hypothetical event that it was shut down, and all those orphaned 
writer characters from the early 1990s were placed off limits, I would 
feel compelled to write the occasional Cheesecake-Eater Lad fan.fic and 
post it on alt.comics.lnh.  Just because.  It was an odd moment of 
introspection and self-revelation.)
     Anyway, after all that waffle, let's have a look at the first five 
issues of _LNH20 Comics Presents_.  As mentioned, the opening story is 
a cascade, in a deliberate echo of the original LNH cascade, 'The Cosmic 
Plot Device Caper'.  The opening issue follows the audition of Nerf Lass 
(daughter of the LNH20 Sig.Lad and MechaKat) to the Legion, setting her 
up as a reader identification character for much of the weirdness that 
follows.  And pretty much immediately the plot lines multiply, as the 
evil supercomputer Ultravac, head of the terrorist group WHATEVER, 
launches a scheme to retrieve to Spoon of Destiny.  Nerf Girl is sent 
with a group to the Net.ropolis Museum, Professor Penumbra leads a team 
to question the inter-dimensional entity Rwtn-T'bol, and the LNH 
Espionage Squad is dispatched to Italy.  Meanwhile Acton Lord has taken 
an interest in his niece Nerf Girl, and in a tie-in that will probably 
get included in the collected trade etherback edition is grooming a 
nemesis for her.  Other tie-ins in parallel titles such as _Generation 
2.0_ have also swirled about, complicating matters in the way that all 
good chaotic add-on cascades should.
SW10: Powernaut 1941 #1-8
'The Powernaut Smashes Through!'  ;  'Un-Occupy Europe!' ; 
'Aryan Man!'  ;  'Le Resistant!'  and  'Who Is Le Resistant?'
A Superhuman World [SW10] series  {HCC25}
by Scott Eiler
     Two things of note here.  Firstly, it's usually the case that the 
mosaic narrative that Scott has been building in the Superhuman World 
setting consists of various stories that take place sometime around 
about the setting's subjective present.  But obviously there's no rule 
that mandates this, and this miniseries jumps back in time to World 
War 2.  It tells the story of Powernaut, formerly a sickly young man who 
through sheer determination uses physical and mental exercise to raise 
himself to the peak of human perfection, and then (in the best tradition 
of superhero comics) travels to occupied Europe with the intention of 
punching out Hitler.  He meets the French hero Le Resistant, who was 
inspired by Powernaut's passage through France, and who assists 
Powernaut in his battle with Aryan Man.
     Powernaut is clearly drawn from the comic book archetype of the 
weakling who overcomes his weakness.  However the intersection of the 
story with the High Concept Challenge #25 ('The French Hero') also gives 
him aspects of the inspiring/patriotic character.  While it's not the 
case that he's one of the flag-suit costumed heroes, the plot point that 
his journey across Europe inspires the French can be seen as an extrap-
olation of his by-his-bootsraps origin.  It may not be a complete 
equivalence, but if Charles Atlas can help inspire 90 lb weaklings to 
become heroes of the beach, then Powernaut can help inspire the French 
to take back their country.  
     The other thing to note is that this story is drawn in comic 
strip form rather than text only, and available at
     The art is rather cartoony.  Which is fine.  I mean, let's review 
what we learnt from Scott McCloud's _Understanding Comics_ about iconic 
versus representational art.  Art that isn't fully 'realistic' can 
nevertheless still impart meaning by having its shapes and forms 
transmit representative, iconic meaning rather than literal, photo-
realistic information content.  In other words, instead of just seeing 
the things, cartoony art lets us see the things as a combination of what 
they are and what they represent, even if this is at the expense of 
exact physically identifying characteristics.  There's a number of 
instances of that in the _Powernaut_ series.  Obvious examples are 
things like the map shapes of entire countries being symbolically 
menaced by the Nazi swastika.  There's also the use of 45 degree angle 
lines to indicate movement (and of course, arms akimbo superhero 
stances are therefore great for suggesting movement even when the 
character is standing still).
     More subtly, I quite liked the talking head shot of Le Resistant in 
issue 7, which by the positioning in a three-quarters pose so that his 
jaw line protruded below his collar bone managed to give the impression 
of him leaning forward, as if talking in emphasis.  By comparison I was 
less impressed with the transition of Paul to Powernaut in the first two 
panels of issue 1, since there was a radical change to the shape of his 
face that I was left wondering if there was some sort of super-soldier 
serum involved to not only give him more muscle mass but also change the 
bone structure.  I felt this took the iconic representation of someone 
transforming himself into a 'square jawed hero' too far, and I found it 
SW10: 'Worse Than Useless?' 24 Minute Challenge
A Superhuman World [SW10] series  {HCC26}
by Scott Eiler
     Oh, that's cute.  Wyatt Ferguson goes on vacation and stumbles 
across some of the mad science technology built by Ellipsis, which has 
been released for public use under open source agreements.  Wyatt has 
forebodings about this, but as the Vice-President points out, the 
recent climate disasters mean that they're short on options.
     Notwithstanding Wyatt's concerns, the fact that up until now 
Ellipsis was the only person who could get his technology to work gives 
one possible answer to the old question of why inventors of super-
science gadgets use them to rob banks rather than patent them.  That 
said, there are still many possibilities for complications that this 
situation.  The one that springs to my mind is why one government or 
another hasn't tried to grab a monopoly on the Ellipsis tech as a 
strategic resource.
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 

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