In My Humble Opinion 1#

Greetings and welcome to the very first edition of Dex’s IMHO: Random Thoughts and Violent Bastardry , the first multi-site fan-fiction review column. Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response that I received on my Reader Raves, it convinced me to expand to the whole community. A few thanks before we jump into this column. The lovely graphic button which you used to get here was designed by the talented and wonderful Kielle. Thanks to Kielle, Mirage, Jelpy, Luba Kmetyk, Lori McDonald, Mookster and Min, and to those who keep producing high quality fiction for me to review. With luck this column will be bi-monthly, presenting not only new pieces, but author retrospectives, theme reviews and the occasional interview. Welcome to the ride, kids, and keep your arms inside the column at all times...

It’s been a dreary few weeks here in Canada. Rain and wind and the cold have been the de rigeur for the last while, and the madness of exams and the final few weeks of college have teamed up to give the place all the cheerfulness and energy of a tomb. However, the bustling on-line community has not been dampened by the gloom of the April showers. With furious energy, the on-line writers have seen the creation of some exceptional pieces, and some very interesting experimentation. We have seen Lori McDonald’s return to fan-fiction, the attempted legitimization of Andrew Vincent’s saga, X and the creation of one of the largest and most riotous parties ever in the self-insertion bonanza round robin, Blues Night. The apparent rejuvenation of the X-titles has brought even more people into the community, and quite a few new writers of talent. Welcome to interesting times...

Indigo is a new writer to the world of fan-fiction, yet has entered with an explosive range of works. Her intelligent and creative plots and twists have gained a great deal of attention in a relatively short time, and her professionalism is both known and respected. Stories From The Field or "Things That Go SNAP!" is a brilliant portrayal of the fringe which would surely accompany mutants and villains in a world where they exist. The main character, a slightly unscrupulous photo-journalist, is deftly and sympathetically written. He is neither hero or villain, merely human in emotions and beliefs. He has a grudging respect for the mutants he risks his life to capture on film. Run-ins with Havok, Rogue and others have given him broken bones, long hospital stays, and the most impressive portfolio of pictures of SPB’s in his field. The writing is crisp and flowing, a first person look into a world watching the conflicts of mutants and humans. The subjects of the journalist are portrayed in a quick but careful manner, natural reactions to their situations and personalities. An entertaining view of the forgotten areas of the world of the X-Universe.

And After The Battle by Alara Rogers is a story about... take a guess... Magneto. Nearly got you there. Alara has on many occasions proven her abilities in characterization and pacing, yet in no other work does it gel as effectively is it does in And After The Battle. Joseph, largely considered one of the great mistakes of Lobdell’s run gains a respectability and personality in this story far surpassed anything in the comic. The setting is Joseph’s private thoughts following the victory over the Phalanx, during the victory celebration with the Shi’ar. Joseph is both disturbed by the party and his reactions during the battle. Reflection is the main theme, artfully describing the rage and pain which seized Joseph during the battle. His reactions to Rogue and the aliens around him are just as effective, a sense of loss and pain during a victory, the cost of the battle weighing heavily on the young man. The somber pacing and language nicely underscores the sense of uncertain foreboding in the mind of Joseph, and alludes nicely to the future events waiting for him. Remarkable work with a character written off by most as an error.

The leader of the X-Men has had almost as many varying characterizations as Wolverine. Storm is cold, nurturing, obsessive, brilliant, tyrannical, or simply a bitch depending on the story or writer. Rarely is she given the chance of development or introspection which other characters have the advantage of. However, Gates’ touching All My Life is a wonderfully human portrayal of the head of the X-Men. Storm is not only a woman of many depths and levels, but possessing surprising strength and adaptability. Her sudden love affair with a stranger is carefully written to keep things into character, the apparent impetuous behavior not at all out of her personality. It is interesting to see the reactions of the other members of the team to Storm’s sudden affair, running from wicked approval by Jean to protective fatherliness from Gambit. The Gambit/Storm connection is nicely carried through out the work, the bond formed during his rescue of the girl carrying through to the adult version. In a charming scene, Gambit confronts Storm about her ‘wild ways’ all of a sudden. Funny and touching in turn, and highly interesting.

Alternate X-stories are one of the most appealing lures of fan-fiction, since they allow the writer to explore fully the world of ‘What If?’. Small changes, tiny variations are the catalyst to cause massive disruptions in the established time stream. So, what if Warren Worthington the Third married his love, Candy Southern and left the X-Men? That is the premise of Tangerine’s piece, Broken Wings. This harsh work deals with the brutality of spousal abuse, in the reverse of the norm. Warren, older and independent of the X-Men, comes back for a visit with his wife. It does not take long for the members of the X-Men to discover that Warren is suffering horrible mental and physical abuse at the hands of Candy. The characters are extremely well written, Tangerine’s abilities in empathic description shining at the top of their form. Betsy is the unknown element in this work, appearing on the fringes for most of the story, until coming into the center of focus with the removal of Candy. The descriptions of Warren’s brutalized wings are perhaps the most frighteningly graphic and shocking. The idea of the giant, white wings torn and bent, bloody and broken is both fascinating and appalling in the extreme. Tangerine nicely dovetails the recovery of Warren with the blooming relationship between him and Betsy, creating a mood of trust and deep understanding between the two. Compelling work, if more then somewhat disturbing.

Dandelion jumped the gun slightly on the Kitty/Pete breakup and produced the humourous and touching work, Love Affairs Are Horrible. In one of the dark corners of Casablanca, two jilted lovers sit and commiserate their lost passions over a great deal of alcohol. Pete Wisdom and Gambit are seemingly opposites, yet it quickly becomes apparent that have both not only shared a remarkable amount of history, but have also been linked by the damaging treatment at the hands of their interests. Surprisingly, Remy is the real gem in this story, both empathic and interesting as he pours his woes on to the hapless Wisdom. The depth of feeling and emotion shows what the character is actually capable of, and the real bitterness at the whole loss of Rogue and the X-Men shows through. Wisdom is equally interesting, if less vocal. The depths of his feelings for Kitty are explored, with honest intensity and the unique Wisdom/Ellis perspective which made the character so appealing. Dandelion makes use of the mystic atmosphere of Morocco to it’s fullest, weaving sensual images of dim doorways, crowded streets and hot winds with the scent of spices and the desert on them. In turns touching, funny, and introspective, it is perhaps one of the best straight character pieces to appear in a while.

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable
for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body shall be
cast into hell.

Jelpy is without a doubt one of the most skilled writers on the net today. Her understanding and control of layout and pacing is her chief strength, creating the impact and surprise in the piece often with how is it merely presented. Matthew 5:30 is no exception. A chilling piece of work, it showcases Jelpy at her best. The story is an intense look at the mutants who are left behind in the great genetic war. Mutants whose powers are a useless incumbrance to their lives, rather then a gift of power and strength. People who are the target of hatred and lack the ability to defend themselves adequately. It is a first person exploration, written as a memoir of a time in this difficult existence. The piece speaks with glowing terms towards the sacrifice and dreams of more pragmatic idealists who want to protect mutants, yet a dark, uneasy undercurrent runs through the entire piece, sitting at the back of the mind like a silent bomb. The actual conclusions will be left for the reader to make, the judgement of right or wrong settling on their shoulders. A frighteningly possible piece of fiction, with the potential to terrify and educate simultaneously.

Well, another run through the mad observations which are Dex. Feedback is welcomed not only to me, but to the featured writers and works in this column. Just another quick point, if you have a burning desire to write a review about a piece, or have a story which you think everyone should know about, I am keeping space open for guest reviews by writers. Please, comic fan-fiction only. Ergo, if you have a piece you feel I should take a look at, feel free to contact me with the name, author and location. I won’t promise to review it, but I’ll at least take a look. And, most unlikely of all, if anyone feels the need to review my work, I suppose I could find room to slip it in. Anyhow, a fruitful spring, a happy month and I’ll see you soon, ‘cause you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!


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