LNH: Possum-Man: Relinquished #8: Shadows and Silhouettes

Mitchell Crouch msc376 at uowmail.edu.au
Thu Sep 20 04:46:22 PDT 2012


STICKS TARQCHEVSKISON has returned to his life as the net.hero POSSUM-MAN, earning the wrath of the villainess THE VIXEN who is ridiculously, unbelievably similar to his girlfriend, MONICA JADE. Their friend STONES was hospitalised after being shot during a holdup that was eventually stopped by police officer HANK. One of Monica's co-workers, the antagonistic DAVID SAWLEY, is said to be looking for Possum-Man, and his son, DEANO, is being tutored by Professor SAH MUMIYAH, who has some connection to the Vixen. David's deceased wife, and Deano's mother, KATE SAWLEY, was once a net.hero known as ROSE. Also the villain THE WHITE BOOMER is on the loose.

For those confused about continuity, the events of Possum-Man: Relinquished take place before Infinite April.

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_____         ___  ____
\  _ \        \  \ \  /
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 | __/         || \\||  O
 ||   OSSUM-MA ||  \ |  O
/__\          /__\  \|

 An ongoing        8   8
    LNH SERIES      888
         by        8   8

-{ Shadows and Silhouettes }-

The cover shows Sticks walking down a path in a park, whistling a merry tune. The sun has an enormous smiley face, as do the trees, and flowers. The bright colours are the very definition of gaiety. His shadow, however, is that of Possum-Man fending off an attack from a sinister assailant.

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Professor Sah Mumiyah opened the door and grinned widely at the man outside the door. "Ah, Sticks! I'm so glad you could make it." He stepped aside to allow the young clown in. "Deano was so enthralled by you at the museum in issue 6, I couldn't resist the opportunity to have you help out with a few demonstrations. It does make a considerable amount of difference to his learning, being engaged in such a way."

Sticks smiled awkwardly at the professor. "Uh, thanks! Honestly, I've never really, you know, done anything one-on-one before. Usually it's just parties." While this was true, Sticks had never even considered turning Mumiyah's invitation down once he'd received it. Monica had told him that Dave Sawley was looking for the Possum-Man, and Sticks was eager to learn as much as he could about the family before he made any kind of deal with any kind of devil.

"Nevertheless, it's all the sorts of things you usually do anyway. Just simple Newtonian physics, you know."

"Uh... yeah. Um, how old was this kid again?"

Mumiyah lead him through the house to the backyard, where Deano had a green towel tied around his neck like a cape as he raced around watering the plants. "Deano!" Mumiyah called out. "Come on inside, it's time to begin your lessons."

Deano looked up at the two men, and his face lit up as he recognised Sticks. "Clown-Man!" he cried happily. He placed his brightly coloured watering can on the ground and raced inside, his arms outstretched like those of an aeroplane as he made whooshing noises. He did this because he is a young boy, and that is how all young boys behave, all the time. I am a good author.

"Hiya, Deano!" came Sticks' automatically enthusiastic reply. "What have you been up to?"

"The garden!" Deano exclaimed. "I have plants."

The boy was right. As Sticks took a moment to actually survey the backyard, he realised just how many plants there were. Small beams of sunlight snuck through the canopy as though they thought they were some South Ame.rec.an jungle, each one coloured a different shade of chlorophyll green by the bright environment.

Sticks nodded in agreement. "You certainly do! Did you grow all these by yourself, or does your dad help you out?"

Deano's face fell slightly. "Oh, no. Dad doesn't like plants since mum died. She was a net.hero, just like me!" The boy gripped his towel cape and held one of the corners up, as if to present evidence to an unbelieving jury. The two adults shared a quick awkward glance at this, but before either of them could say anything to change the subject, Deano had grabbed Sticks' hand and was dragging him out the back. "Look, I'll show you!"

"Oh, no!" came Mumiyah's hasty reply. "Come on, Deano, your father will be very cross if we don't get started on your lessons...!"

"Oh, that's okay." Deano ran into the middle of the yard, and sank to his knees, gripping the grass firmly with both hands as he squeezed his eyes shut tightly. When he opened them again, his irises were glowing a fierce green as his jungle came to life around him. "It's not like he can do anything to stop me anyway."

And Sticks' jaw dropped like it was attached to a tonne of lead.

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Or a tonne of anything, really. It would still be a tonne, either way.

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When Sticks arrived home at his apartment that afternoon, he found the door slightly ajar. Frowning, he moved forward and tilted his head, straining to make out any noises coming from inside.

It sounded like two men whispering anxiously, but he couldn't quite understand what they were saying. Suddenly, a loud gunshot went off, followed by dramatic music and what was identifiably Stones' voice yelling, "OH YEAH!"

Sticks ran through the door, desperate not to let his friend take another bullet, and was confronted by the sight of Stones strewn haphazardly over the couch, topless, throwing some kind of bite-sized deep-fried treats at the television screen as he cheered on a movie.

"Stones?" Sticks frowned. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you still be in hospital?"

"OH YEAH!" came the reply, and Stones pelted a treat at his friend. "They let me out today so I came home. Honestly, I'm kinda glad you two were out. I didn't wanna, you know, walk in you two having a limited edition team-up or anything."

"Never call it that again."

"What about-"

"Never call it _anything_ again while you're living under my roof."

Stones rolled his eyes playfully. "Oh, okay, dad. I didn't realise you'd invented a time machine and gone back to the 1920s without me." With a sly wink at the reader, he added, "Ha! Just kidding. Time machines have already been invented, because this is the Looniverse and everything is friggin' awesome." Turning back to Sticks, he continued, "Where is Moni, anyway? She hasn't seen me at the hospital for a few days now."

"Oh, you know. She's been around. Busy with work and stuff." Honestly, Sticks hadn't seen Monica since the walk in the park where he'd saved a kitten and been knocked out by the Vixen. It was the strangest, darndest thing, but once the Vixen showed up, Moni was nowhere to be seen. Absolutely weird, right? After that, they just seemed to keep missing each other. He'd received no replies to any of the texts he'd sent her, and only reached her message bank when he tried calling. Whenever he came home from work or patrol as Possum-Man there would be another missed call from her, as though she knew exactly what he was doing and when and was purposefully leading him in circles. It was just so odd!

"That makes sense," Stones nodded. "The paper has been busy lately, what with the return of Possum-Ma-"

"I don't even know who that is because I care so little about it because it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with me because I am not Possum-Man."

"Exactly! But the newspapers have been busy reporting it for everyone else. So. There's that. And this weird 'Vixen' chick who's been whomping on him or whatever. According to this article I read this morning with an oddly specific tagline that says it was edited by Moni, the Vixen is 'probably the smartest, best and prettiest ever'."

Sticks rolled his eyes. Fantastic. Apparently his girlfriend had decided to become the president of the fan club of his arch-nemesis (who was visually indistinguishable from her, other than the costume) or something. Then again, it was probably his own fault; if he didn't continually and reasonably insist that he didn't care for Possum-Man, she probably wouldn't be taking the side of his villain now. She was so sweet and caring like that!

Sticks sighed wistfully and floated off into his bedroom in a happy haze.

After a moment, Stones popped another treat into his mouth and continued watching his movie. "That's cool," he called out after his friend. "It's not like we were in the middle of a conversation about how I just came out of hospital after being shot or anything. Just walk away, that's cool. I, mean, I'm practically a hero, but that's cool." He rolled his eyes and kept eating. "Geez, the guy thinks the whole story revolves him."

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Late that night, dramatically backlit by glowing chemical apparatus, Sah Mumiyah continued work on his latest project.

"You don't understand," he was saying, projecting loudly enough to be heard by his mobile phone on his desk. "I'm working in parts per trillion here, and it's still far more concentrated than it needs to be."

"And I'm telling you that you've got it right," growled the Vixen from the other end, her voice grainy from bad reception and the poor speaker of the phone.

Sah Mumiyah winced as he poured liquid nitrogen from one Erlenmeyer flask to another for visual effect. "No, no, no. I've spent my entire career as an Egyptologist studying Netmakahn. He was a powerful sorcerer, but he was also what we archaeologists call a 'douche bag'. What we have here is more than sufficient to imbue somebody with all his traits and abilities. But this concentrated..."

"It needs to be strong," the Vixen insisted. "If we were using another test subject, then even the most concentrated serum would  barely have any effect."

"Yes, but Netmakahn isn't another test subject!" There was desperation in Mumiyah's voice as he set up a rotary evaporator with brightly coloured food dye, making sure to keep the temperature low and the pressure atmospheric to avoid actually evaporating anything. "If we tried that with him, we'd be practically resurrecting him -- an evil, supremely powerful Egyptian sorcerer. That's just... that's a terrible idea, by anyone's standards."

"That's why it's as diluted as it is."

"But even this dilute, it would turn any normal man into some kind of super-powered... villain! Don't you see? This could be used to create an army!" Mumiyah picked up a separating funnel filled with water and vegetable oil and gave it a shake.

"I can understand your concern," purred the Vixen. "But we only need one sample of it. Destroy the rest if it pleases you, Professor, but it's not going to be used to turn anyone into a villain. I just need to make someone a little less... heroic."

Mumiyah watched with a horrified expression on his face as the mixture in the funnel swirled and separated out into the distinct layers of water and oil.

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Possum-Man slipped on his mask, muttered a curse, and took it off again. He put it back on again, the right way around this time, and smiled at his competence. Yes -- look at him go! He could dress himself and everything. He didn't understand why he'd ever given this up. He was helping people, doing the right thing.

Slipping out onto his balcony, he took hold of the small loops at the bottom corners of his cape and hooked them onto the back his boots. Standing up on the railing, he took a deep breath of the night air. Yes. This was what it was all about. This was the true meaning of heroics: standing on a balcony late at night in a whacky outfit, ready to jump out into the night at a moment's notice.

But for whatever reason, the Vixen had wanted him to give this all up. Pos frowned. Why? What was she possibly up to that she needed him out of the way so desperately? He had to admit, albeit grudgingly, that she was his superior at hand-to-hand combat. She could predict his every move, and countered him so effortlessly. Maybe her power was mind-reading or something. Yeah. That would explain a lot.

Even if he could somehow beat her, though, there was still the White Boomer. Pos had been lucky so far in that he hadn't had to go toe-to-toe with him yet; with his incredible strength, speed, and the abilities to leap over buildings and create sonic booms just by clapping, the Boomer could easily beat him in a fair fight. But he hadn't been seen for so long now... what was he up to? What was he doing for her?

At least Duck McMuck and Green-on-Black were still locked away. Two less things to think about.


Pos sighed. The Vixen knew he was active again; the truce was over. He needed to end this as soon as possible.

He opened up one of his utility pouches to get out his phone, but found only a bent paperclip. Trying a different one, he found emptiness; in a third, he found two elastic bands. Muttering to himself, he made his way back inside and found the phone lying on his bedside table. He dialled a number and waited.

"Hello! You've reached Hank!"

"Hank! It's Sticks. Wait, no! Possum-Man! I mean- oh, no, wait-"

"I'm afraid I'm not able to answer the phone right now, but just leave your name and number after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as I'm able, unless I forget!" There was a pause, followed by Hank mumbling, "How do I...?" and then a beep.

"Uh... hi. Hi, Hank. It's Possum-Man." Pos breathed deeply. "I'm going to need your help."

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The following morning, police officer Hank met Possum-Man at the local station. "Well, Pos," Hank was saying, "everyone's here. I've got to say, everyone's pretty excited about your return; they've turned up to this press conference in record numbers. They're all inside now, just waiting for you to start."

Pos nodded solemnly and gulped. Somehow, he would have preferred to facing up to the crowd in his clown makeup. Nevertheless, he shook Hank's hand and marched into the conference room.

There was a light applause and several camera flashes as he took his place at the podium. A few rows back he could see Monica and Sawley, representing their particular newspaper. Monica looked positively furious about something, and Sawley appeared more uncomfortable than Pos had ever seen him before. Once the crowd had calmed down, he began to speak.

"Friends, I'm afraid I stand before you today as the bearer of bad news. It's not exactly new news, which I guess doesn't mean it's necessarily news at all. But it's still bad, and that's... bad. That's bad."

Hank, who had quietly snuck into the back of the room, grinned and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. His confidence bolstered, Possum-Man continued.

"That news... or not-news, or, uh, or whatever, is that Www.ollongong is no longer a safe place to live. It's a city we love, and it's a city we all do our part to protect, but our need to protect this city has never been greater, because the threat to the city has never been more dangerous. I'm talking, of course, about the Vixen.

"She's dangerous. There's no doubt about that. She is not, as some would have you believe, 'the smartest, best [or] prettiest ever'." At this, Monica looked ready to kill someone. "In fact, in my professional opinion as a net.hero, I think she's actually kind of ugly. She kind of... she looks like a truck, yeah? Does anyone else see that?"

"Oh my god, YES!" muttered a member of the audience. 

"Like, I think it's just the red hair. It's not attractive, at all. It's really, really unbecoming." In many ways, Pos was glad he had his goggles on. If he'd had to take the death glares he was receiving from Moni right now straight to his unprotected eyes, he didn't know if he'd survive. "But, uh, but that's not to say that all red-headed women are unattractive, of course. Some of them are probably really nice. Maybe.

"But anyway, she _is_ smart. And she _is_ dangerous. Together with the White Boomer, who escaped the police custody which even now holds her associates Duck McMuck and Green-on-Black, she... wait, did that make sense? Did everyone... does everyone know what I mean? Okay. Okay, good. But yeah. Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that the Vixen needs to be stopped. And as Www.ollongong's mightiest net.hero, I will protect- my groin!"

There was suddenly a small white dog in Possum-Man's groin, and he let out a falsetto shriek. "Careful there, Pos!" cried a young man's voice.

"Look!" cried a member of the press. "It's Possum-Boy!"

"Uh, no," said the boy. "It's me, Kidzip! Remember? The wielder of the Cosmic Zipper?" He held up the gigantic Zipper proudly. "I was in Possum-Man: Relinquished #2, and LNH Comics Presents #500. I'm famous! I've been, you know, flying around the galaxy, having whacky adventures and trying to do up the Fly of the Looniverse with Zippo the Super-Pooch!"

"Arf, arf!" barked Zippo the Super-Pooch.

"He sniffed out an undone fly, so we came to fix it." With that, Kidzip walked over to Pos and did up his fly. "There you go, buddy! Anyway, we'd better go and try to stop the Looniversal Junk from falling out now, or all of existence might be destroyed! Let's go, Zippo!" Kidzip mounted the Cosmic Zipper and flew away, doing up space-time behind him with a reassuring zipping sound as he went.

"Arf, arf!" barked Zippo the Super-Pooch, who flew after his partner.

There was a moment of awkward silence in the room as everyone compared Possum-Man's prowess to that of a small boy whose power was doing up flies.

"So... yes. As... as Www.ollongong's... mightiest net.hero, I'll, uh... well, you all know!" Pos slammed his fist down on the lectern with as much force as his spaghetti limbs could muster. "I'm going after the Vixen! She needs to be stopped, and I plan on doing just that. If anyone," he looked at Sawley pointedly, "_anyone_ has any idea where she is or what she's up to, they need to contact Officer Hank immediately. And you can all get the word out and tell her: I'm coming for her. She can run, but I will catch her. She can hide, but I will find her. She can fight, but I will beat her!"

With that the cameras went wild, and the crowd broke into thunderous applause, drowning out Possum-Man's finishing line of "Maybe! Hopefully, anyway."

Meanwhile, Monica sat in the audience, and watched. And listened. And smiled.

I feel as though I broke the fourth wall a lot to cover up how uninteresting the events of this issue are. But now the fan is on, and the shit can hit it! yaaaaay

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