Superguy Reviews, June 17 - June 23, 1996

WARNING! Contains spoilers for posts from 36 Crazy Plots #5 to Team Mecha #86.

The New Review Crew is Jesse Taylor, James Rinehart, Jon Lennox, Eric Sturgeon, Chris Angelini and *THE* Mason Kramer.

0: Abysmal (I've seen Power Rangers fanfic better than this.)

1: Very Bad

(Ooog. Give me Tales to SMURFIFY any day.)

2: Bad

(Little White Dojo. 'nuff said.)

3: Very Poor

(Better than Tales, but not by much.)

4: Poor

(I liked it. It was better than Cats.)

5: Mediocre

("Eh." Okay, not bad, but not good either.)

6: Good

(Genuinely good read. Basic Superguyage.)

7: Very Good

(High basic Superguyage. The difference between 6 and 7 is fairly slim.)

8: Excellent

(Very high quality writing.)

9: Exceptional

(Really excellent, even for Superguy. Can have no serious flaws.)

10: Perfect

(The kind of thing that leaves you sitting there in front of the screen going "whoa...." for a while. These are VERY, VERY RARE.) Also known as "What's this guy doing slumming with us hacks?"

SG: 36 Crazy Plots #5 -- Dave Van Domelen
We start off with a fun yet completely (?) irrelevant song, then get into the action. Well, sorta. First we go through the characters beating up Jimmy for his mistake from last episode, THEN we get to the action. Jack finds out who, what, and where, and cycles off to San Francisco to have a... 'talk' with a badly-punned Mr. Shen. Sadly, it turns out to BE a talk. A couple pages of exposition worth of talk, even. Then, just as we despair of getting any action... the episode ends with a bang.

I'm not quite sure where this series is going (though a sneak peak at the next episode gives a clue about that), but I hope it's going somewhere soon. This particular plot is dragging, and seems to have completely derailed from the original plan. Granted, this happens, but...

Jon: Abs Stirge: 6.5 Mason: 6 Jesse: 6 James: 7 Chris: 5

Total:6.1 -- "I can tell by your bad dubbing that you're a Hong Kong boy."

SG: MM R, # 13: Exposition -- Dirk Meyers
I apologize in advance for how banal this capsule will sound. A summary almost insults the issue, but here goes. This issue opens with Manman's opening of the BlandPerson Memorial bus terminal, which he accomplishes with his usual mediocre 'flair' while his adoring supporters look on. Meanwhile, Fabulo - looking Excellente as usual - trades quips with Mindy in the FastDangerous sports car, and a hat is almost irretrievably lost. The other Manman (the one who seems to be dead, or at least doing a remarkable imitation of that state) sits with Juan Valdez, sucking back glass after glass of oatmeal flavoured water, and wishes to go home. Juan reveals that they must wait for help from outside. While back in the vale of tears which we know so well, Andy the Coffeeburro fails to cure the SortaDead Manman. Jane Insane attempts to explain Manman's disappearance to Andy, hinting at a significant amount of as-yet-untold back story, including her trip to the highly dangerous La-La Land with Dadaman, where she began to gain superpowers. Upon their return to Earth, Jane and Dadaman discovered traces of a plot which involved Manman, somehow, prompting them to fake his death. But because of the death's non-mediocrity, Manman should have awakened by now. Something Is Wrong. The very much alive - but you'd never know it by his taste in food - Manman appears on television, blandly explaining to everyone why he'd be running for office if he were running for office which is isn't so just forget it. He does his usual mediocre job of this commercial spot, and finally a voice-over is given the job of selling Manman to the public. In our last scene, Ed the traitorous sidekick continues toiling in his Job From Hell(tm) at WallStore. He's given an assignment from Slam. And so, the issue ends.

The problem with encapsulating a story like Manman Returns is how much of the issue depends upon style of presentation. MM R remains one of the most masterful craftings of mood and feel on Superguy today. The narration and plot can become, at times, very simple and basic - yet that appears very much to have been the goal. It is as though you are looking through the eyes of someone who watches the action, understands little of it, but sees that there is a much bigger picture in the background. The entire series is an excellent read, and this issue is no exception. New readers might have a bit of difficulty jumping on at first, but this is to be expected with any series which has an underplot running through it. In all, an excellent issue of a series which has managed to maintain its mood and feel consistently throughout.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 8 Mason: 7 Jesse: 7 James: 7 Chris: 8

Total:7.4 "Smile at clean-looking children, eat anything, get behind stupid nuts with guns."

SG: TFKATHP #42 -- Mike Escutia
This wild ride, which appears to be the penultimate chapter of the Altiversal Theory series, opens in the middle of a pitched aerial battle. During this, Jon Perceptor seems to fall to his death, although in actual fact he fell through a Mysterious Glowing Rectangle. D'Terminant's troops move in on 000PRECOGS, where the LNHers, Keepers and 001NORMALGUYers are fighting a losing battle to hold the area secure against D'Terminant's robot troops. Neon Lad takes an Air Roboto flight into another glowing rectangle, and Reverb Boy rushes in after. At this point, Birdseye Perceptor, Soundbat, EG and Search Lass show up and join the fight. Altiversal doubles see each other, and double take. The rectangles are revealed by a Keeper to be viewing windows onto other Altiverses, and to enter one without protection is extremely dangerous. Earth Girl - with protection - enters the viewing rectangle to retrieve the Little LNHers Lost, only to discover that this window looks in on 666SUPERGUY, which is about to explode and disrupt the window in the process. Oopsie. In the Nick of Time (patent pending), Earth Girl returns with the two net.heroes and the entire group is set upon by robots again. Everyone runs, and Soundbyte manages to provide a distraction which allows the heroes to escape. Jon Perceptor shows up, lies about how he survived the fall, and flashes back to the terrible events which he saw in the viewing window through which he fell. Finally, the heroes split up into two teams, both ready to make a last-ditch effort to end D'Terminant's threat once and for all. Just as they're ready, word comes in: D'Terminant has taken 000PRECOG's control room, which is a Very Bad Thing Indeed.

This installment of Altiversal Theory maintains a good pace of action, although at times the plot seems to suffer a little for the sheer volume of things 'going on'. Also, the altiversal doubles of the Hero Patrol seem rather superfluous in this issue, serving as foils or firepower but not getting any significant part in the action. I suspect that Mike has something planned for them in the future, and hope that their being relegated to the back burner was just an unfortunate necessity in an already full issue.

On the other hand, this issue manages to pull off some nice effects, most noticeably: foreshadowing. Followers of Hero Patrol and TFKATHP have probably long suspected that _something_ big this way comes, but until now there've been only teasing hints of this. Further, the issue is just good clean fun, maintaining a dramatic tone without taking itself too seriously.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 7 Mason: 7 Jesse: 7 James: Abs. Chris: 6

Total: 6.75 "Good grief. More of us."

SG: Adjusted League Unimpeachable #105 -- Eric A. Burns
Eric Burns continues his final Origins arc with an episode that quite easily could _end_ some other Authors' arcs. But it goes much farther than that, adding more dimension and questions to the tension already building. Starting off, he tantalizes with a slice of forseshadowing, subtly revealing the rebuilding of an certain archvillain's infrastructure. And does it in such a way that it is glaringly obvious to the readers, yet following an old maxim of Poe, one can see how people reading the document he created find it totally innocent. He follows through with the requisite (well, maybe not) continuity note running gag, and an amusing comedy beat, if mildly a bit too much an injoke for specific people.

And then, he gets down to business. The next scene brings together omniscient and know-it-all. The Sage gets probably one of his most unique visitors ever as Gary Shapiro, the Transcended Faith, tries to ask the one who knows all, one of the few questions he's not qualified to answer, and in doing so reveals a few new twists to the game. The Sage, oddly, answers by not answering but griping. And gives Faith his solution, sort of.

He continues the foreshadowing as both sides, the ALU and the Megabracer-wielding M'Yet, make their final preparations for the showdown. On the ALU side, this is rather sobering as, even though this is the first time they've been in a major crisis together at "optimal" strength (or close to it, since Mike's still sans tihorn) for a long time, they STILL are likely to be overclassed. But as the pros and heroes they are, it doesn't matter; they've got a job to do. M'Yet, on the other hand, apparently is waiting for an Event to happen to complete his destiny.

A cut-away brings us to an event that has been waited for since before Healer even came to the ALU, let alone became the Academy head. Faith, spurred by his visit to the Sage, seeks out Elizabeth. A good bit of insight is gleaned from the psychologist by the omnicient being, yet in an odd way, Elizabeth's questions are deflected.

And then, the Main Event. ALU vs. supposed godling. I'm not going to even attempt to describe the battle involved, save the fact that it is text worthy of the supposed cosmic scale of this crisis. More than one surprise was revealed, as the ALU attempted to shut down M'Yet without destroying the Quadrant.

Even though the last twist is relatively predictable, considering the arc's focus, the text will still catch you. And Sabre, proving his craft again, leaves you happy you've read it, yet speculating what happens next. Excellent work, and following up on this WILL be difficult.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 10 Mason: Abs. Jesse: 9 James: 8.5 Chris: 8

Total:8.9 -- "Oh, California. The Mission Statement. You *would* trigger the Mission Statement, Len."

SG: 36 Crazy Plots #6 -- Dave Van Domelen
This episode starts off with a nice spot o' exposition on the nature of Continuity and why, specifically, continuity sucks. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the story, but there's nothing wrong with that. Starting off where the last episode left off, we see Jack riding down the road burning, after having had a firebomb explode all over him. After annoying his Author by failing to say anything particularly witty or insightful, Jack manages to recover from this and goes and talks to "Slow Moe" Shen, the Tong thug who he suspects planted the bomb. Shen gives evidence that it couldn't have been him, and offers to help Jack find out who -did- activate the firebomb -- on the condition that Jack has to help him for a while to prove his loyalty. Jack accepts, albeit reluctantly.

This episode was just sorta there. It wasn't bad, but neither was it stellar. The opening digression didn't make very much sense -- normally, you don't expect the opening digression for a story to make much sense, but for this one, there was the feeling that it should have made a little sense, but didn't. The ending just sort of stopped -- it was, again, just sort of there. This episode -was- fairly entertaining, but really just felt like filler. Hopefully the next one will be better.

Jon:Abs Stirge: 6 Mason: 5 Jesse: 6 James: 6 Chris: 5

Total:5.6 -- Of course, it's also possible the Author in question is deliberately disrupting continuity to see if anyone's paying attention.

SG: Spotlight On... Far From Home...#22 -- Chris Angelini
There are certain themes and scenes that just Will Not Die on this list. Not that this is a bad thing, totally. I mean, some of them are staples of superhero and action fiction in general. Others are some of the trademarks that make the list what it is. But it's a fine line to tread after a bit. Even with the many variations one can put on a theme (like a certain five sided concept), it can take a LOT to avoid running it into the ground.

So having two characters dueling with swords in a Dark And Steamy Tunnel as part of an Eternal Struggle can be dicey at best, with the Highlander references abounding easily on the list and off of it. So it's quite pleasant that Chris Angelini not only can bring the scene to life, but do it with new characters that once again come to life to play out their drama as thinking and feeling beings worth caring about. Within lines, we have Lucy and Kyle defend their philosophical positions, verbally, and then in a nicely choreographed display of swords and sorcery which ends in a moral, if hollow victory for Kyle.

Not resting the pace one bit, Frobozz takes us back to Kyle's place as Kyle attempts to prepare to leave once again for elsewhere. Unfortunately, this includes a rather bile-filled spat with his current girlfriend, which leads to tragedy and understanding as Lucy springs one last trap.

As usual, Frobozz does a bang-up job making plain all the emotions of his characters, and draws in the reader to their plight...almost. In honesty, Melanie, the above girlfriend, to me was the weak link, if there was one in this prose. Such intricate detail was given to Kyle and Lucy that the revelation that Melanie was a prop in more than one sense actually didn't sit well with me. But this doesn't take away any of the raw emotion and tension that exudes from this piece.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 8 Mason: 8 Jesse: 8 James: 8 Chris: Abs.

Total: 8 -- "Not at the end. This...was... never... about... _you_, damn it!"

Rhythm Masters #2.3 -- James Rinehart
This post is a flashback to a year ago (July 1995, to be exact), when the Rhythm Masters were on a gig in Springfield, home of Team M.E.C.H.A.

Anyone commenting on how weird it is that this is a year ago in continuity for the Rhythm Masters but -current- continuity for Team M.E.C.H.A. will be dragged out into the street and shot.

Reba, after annoying her sister Syl with loudly-played Rush at 8 AM, goes to the eternally-plagued-by-robot-battles Battlefield Mall in Springfield. At the same time, Jenny, who is manning the phones (so to speak) at Team M.E.C.H.A. HQ, gets a message from Dr. Zwarghoff (who is currently in another Multiverse along with Team M.E.C.H.A. and the Grangers -- see the Grand Tour). Zwarghoff apparently set up a system to activate in case of his disappearance, having assumed that said disappearance could only be caused by his enemies. His automated factories would produce robots to attack Springfield unless he were released from prison.

Of course, he was currently in another Multiverse, which meant that there was literally no way to deactivate the robots before they began their attack. So, Jenny scrambles the Irregulars at the group's Battlefield Mall headquarters, hoping that it would be one of the locations to be attacked.

Meanwhile, Reba notices that something's up, and goes investigating, getting pulled into the fight between the Irregulars and two rather odd transforming robots. Just as the Irregulars are getting stomped, backup shows up from the rest of the Rhythm Masters. Of course, as the episode ends, it's not really clear that they'll fare much better...

This episode was good, if not exceptionally so. Even though it focuses on a battle with the robots, a lot of emphasis is put on the characters, as opposed to the whompage. That being said, the battle's premise felt maybe just a bit tired -- "Oh, look. Robots show up and attack the mall, and our heroes fight them off. Again." But other than that, the battle itself was fun and well-written. All-in-all, a good episode, and definitely worth reading.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 7 Mason: Abst. Jesse: 6 James: Abst. Chris: Abst.

Total: 6.5 -- "Oh, wait. Don't tell me. It's a Ford Bronco."

SG: Team M.E.C.H.A. #85 -- Chris Meadows
Chris Meadows starts his second post-Tour arc with a little bit of foreshadowing on a long-dormant plotline from the days of TM's little hiatus. From there we go into a fight scene that intimates that PenumbralPerson(tm) and the team have been duking it out for the past few weeks, and, then the rest of the battle we're into a fight scene as the M.E.C.H.A. members royally trounce the Bubble Gum Smashers, with a side trip into wackiness as Robotech_Master makes a nod to parody by combining two sources that mesh smashingly like acid and water.

Now, while the ep does continue the arc with our authorial parody villain, and arguably set up the next ep, a few things did come to mind. As much as the silliness of the BubbleGum Troopers and the .... other nemesis were, there was a rather stagnant feel to this episode. Nothing really moved the plot further, save for a last minute bit of foreshadowing. The forshadowing in the beginning may or may not have anything to do with the plot in general, but is so vague that and any standard Mad Scientist diatribe/threat could be placed there. Generally, while amusing at points, this ep felt like filler, even down to the general blandness of the fight lines. Not a great way to start off an arc. A nice read, but skippable, if you're fighting backlog.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 6 Mason: Abs. Jesse: Abs. James: 6 Chris: 6

Total: 6 -- "PenumbralPrism(tm) Power PARODY!!"

SG/SF/MW/WW: Analogs #17 -- Nopporn Wongrassamee
Almost every author wants to come close to blowing up the universe at least once. I mean, take a look at the list's more sucessful Authors. Some of them have done so multiple times. And, perhaps in truth, there _is_ a bit of a formula to it. A "crisis" on the horizon is predicted, people start to prepare for the crisis, details are vaguely revealed, and eventually the Event is revealed, causing all Hell to break loose.

Nopporn, in the past few episodes of his group of series, _has_, to his credit, followed this formula. Sadly, this ep proves that a formula is not enough to make an episode or arc successful. Indeed, part of the problem _was_ the fomulaic aspects of this episode.

Apparently, the intent was supposed to be relatively simple, focus on the four Altiverses before the Event, and the immediate consequences after. Right off, let's cover a minor stylistic quirk before I hit the plot problems. Perhaps if each section had been longer than about 40 lines per segment, the idea of the literary device of repeating the ending statement would have been less annoying. Another problem becomes evident when the Event actually happens. A Problem big enough to make the reader halt and go "Waaaaiiiit." The buildup of this entire series had seemed to be the action of forces trying to tap the supposed power source that Mary Sinclair represents. But when the organics hit the recirculator, it's all because of -- in a way, WAY too literal sense -- a plot device. One apparently with no relation what so EVER with Bane or any of the other antagonists proffered. Why, then, HAVE the past 17 episodes been building them up?

Then we hit the consequences. Okay, the concept of the lynchpin unbalancing the rest is acceptable. But why does this cause the others to go to full power? Again, without much true connection save for an expository explanation from a previous episode, there again is no real connection to anything. Detracting from this even more is the rather narcisstic antics of the SF portion, and instead of being a defining moment of the crisis, everything is instead stuck on a morass.

Taking Balance out of the equation is what caused the mess in the story. I can't agree more, and hope that Nopporn will apply this piece of wisdom to his writing.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: Abs Mason: Abs Jesse: 4 James: 5.5 Chris: 4

Total: 4.5

AA: Death to Scooters! Death, I tell you! -- Jesse Taylor
"Yeah, Mason?"
"This is the list of stuff I have to review this week, right?"
"Why is there an AA on it?"
Larana looked at the list, puzzled. "Huh. So there is. Someone in production must have screwed up. I mean, how can you review an AA?"
"Dunno, but I'll give it a shot..." Mason leaned over his computer and started typing.
It's been quite some time since the last installment of AA Theater, and no one's quite sure what was going on in the last one. Including, it seems, Mr. Taylor, whose task was to write this one. He was so stalled, in fact, that he had his Muse announce to the world that if things kept going the way they were, the episode would go without a script.
This was, of course, a mistake, and chaos ensued.
(Those who would like to point out that chaos generally ensues whether there's a script or not can keep their comments to themselves.)
The Swedes go on a date. All of them.
General Lord Reverend Sabre rallies most of the Authors to take on the evil legions of the scooters. The traitor in their midst warns Pickle, AKA God Emperor Pickle, and they prep for battle. One of their preparations include recruiting one of the new Authors, Stirge by name, to help them. And, just as a bomb (with the Plaid Author atop it) is about to to smash into Stirge... the ShadowyWriter gets the script finished, just as the credits roll. And, at the end, some gratuitous forshadowing.
This, friends, is appalling. Disgusting, even. And I'm not saying this because I only got two lines, both of them gratuitous. No, I'm upset because, once again, it was *silly*! Totally, completely, one hundred per--
"Uh, Mason?"
"Yes, Larana?"
"AA's are SUPPOSED to be silly."
"...right. Uhm..."
This is a prime example of what the AA's SHOULD be like. I hope that whoever's next follows this example.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 8 Mason: 7 Jesse: Abs. James: 6.5 Chris: 7

Total: 7.125

SG: Series With No Name #10 -- Jon Robertson
After a valiant try at an introduction, the curtain manages to open with Michael Dasher driving down an interstate, enjoying the open road, ignoring the great philosophical opportunities that are streaming past. The good android arrives at his father's company headquarters, where he proceeds to cause the receptionist on duty to commit a minor 'oops'. The padded wall receives good use as head is applied to it.

Michael heads upstairs, where he is immediately and without hesitation ignored by his father, who is hard at work. A little minor destruction of the office gains Michael his father's attention, and they proceed to catch up on things. Michael explains to his father how he and possibly his computer intelligence sister SARA were raised to sentience. He also admits to having snuck out of the house during his adolescence, and how that related to his emotional development. Then they proceed to have a father-son talk off-screen.

This issue is a nice, quiet, sedate one, which is appreciated after the turbulence of the previous arc. It sets out to reveal a little bit about Michael Dasher, his early years and his relationship with his father. And it succeeds very well, because things are kept simple and straightforward. Characterization is the rule of the day, not villain-stompage or foreshadowing... and given the goal of this episode, this was a good design choice. My biggest concern was simply that I would've liked to see more of Michael and his father's discussion, as the revelation which the reader is permitted is rather intriguing. Short or not, however, SWNN #10 works very well as a breather piece.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 7.5 Mason: 7 Jesse: 7 James: 7 Chris: 6

Total: 6.9

SG: Team M.E.C.H.A. #86 -- Chris Meadows
The issue opens with the Penumbral Person (tm) compiling a killer virus which he is prepared to unleash upon Team M.E.C.H.A. to end their threat to him once and for all (muahahahaha....). In a scene all too horrifyingly familiar to those of us who've stayed up all night coding for a project the next morning, upon compilation the virus Just Doesn't Work. At this point, the so-called Master of the Net arrives on the scene, offering his services in exchange for the elimination of one of the few entities who could oppose his attempted takeover of the local 'net. A little time passes and the storyline crawls a little closer to the hobgoblin called continuity. Summer and her machine intelligence daughter Jenny join forces and enter the 'net, searching for dirt on the Penumbral Person (tm) who seems to have hidden his tracks far too well. A Dark and Mysterious Shape enters the picture and follows, attacking the pair. It appears to be a particularly nasty piece of viral programming which chases the Dynamic RAM Duo back to TMHQ's computer, which is then cut off from the rest of the 'net by the sinister virus. It attacks the pair on their home turf and Summer, spurred on by a desire to protect her daughter, orders Jenny to a computer which can be physically separated from the 'net. Jenny goes, and in one of this series' best moments, Summer buys Jenny the time she needs to make the transfer at the cost of her own life.

This issue's best feature, in my opinion, is its approach to technology, ie as a backdrop against which the story is set, as opposed to the focus for said story. The characters of Jenny and Summer are given a chance to shine here, and are not overshadowed by the series' ever present technological bent. Summer's acceptance of Jenny as her daughter at the last moment is a beautiful twist, made moreso by her longtime refusal to take on the role of mother. Poignancy is something I'd like to see more of in Team M.E.C.H.A.

This aside, this issue does have one somewhat large flaw. My biggest gripe is with the Master of the Net, who is a Legion of Net.Heroes villain, and who sent me scrabbling into the LNH archives for a bit of perspective. Readers who keep up only with Superguy will have a different perception of this villain from those who read both Superguy and LNH, and might think that he appears just a little bit too 'out of the blue'. Hopefully this can be changed without resorting to long 'back history' posts. Other than this gripe, however, Team M.E.C.H.A. #86 is well worth the time spent reading.

Jon: Abs. Stirge: 7 Mason: Abs. Jesse: Abs. James: 6 Chris: 6

Total: 6.3 "There was supposed to be an earth-shattering 'kaboom'! Er...I mean why didn't the program run?!"