In My Humble Opinion #5

Itís about my twelfth pint and Iím what can kindly be called pissed. Mainly characterized by the doodling in stale beer on the table and reaching truly remarkable depths of philosophic introspective. The haze of smoke in the school pub is obliterating every detail past ten feet and the speakers have once again been turned up as to drown out any other noise. And, with that strange need every bar has for it, a television with the sound off plays brightly right over my head. Even the joy of creating new lines to dub onto ĎThe Breakfast Clubí loses its appeal and Iím forced to sink back into the meditative state of the serious lush.

Then it hits me. The fucking column. The column due mid last week. The column to make up for the column cut during the madness of my birthday and the rush to prepare for college. The column which is my only good excuse for not producing fan-fiction with any sort of regularity. That column. A lurching signal hits my legs and Iím carried out of the pub, beer in hand, to stagger up to the computer lab at eleven at night to try and remember how to type. The biggest obstacle being I canít find my fingers.

So, I type, and type, and fall asleep on the keyboard, leaving me a column that looks like an alien name created by Stan Lee. An instant deleter. By dint of the offering of carnal pleasures to the computer lab staff, I am permitted to stay the night here. A quick journey to the store for a six pack of coke and some salty products helps carry me over the drunkenness and allows my chemically altered mind to try and focus. Well, itís now four in the morning, and this is my current state. Be very scared...

Abyss is, without doubt, one of the top writers in the fan fiction world. Known mainly for his humour, Abyss has proven time and time again that he possesses a uncanny grasp of multiple characterization and action sequences. In his newest offering, SFX, Abyss brings to bear all of those formidable talents for the story. Set in the context of a mission review between high level US government agents, SFX quickly creates a tone of menace and worry for the world around it. Bowser, the man behind the Hound program, has a new team under his commend, young men and women who possess not only remarkable powers but remarkable problems too. The group, as itís first mission, is sent against the Master of Magnetism himself, and in a change from most fan fiction, they lose badly. But, again, with an uncommon subtly for fic, the battle is not the key point. Written with a great deal of power, and a sprinkling of dark humour, SFX is one of the best starting points for a story written in a long time. It showcases the unique powers and personalities of the group, from Bonesí grotesque attack abilities to the mental troubles of Flux. There is a dearth of ideas and concepts in the few first pages, enough to fill hundreds of them. And, very much exceeds expectations we have of even one as talented as Abyss.

Cute fiction unfortunately often leaves the endearing to wallow in a mess of saccharine uber-emotions and sickly statements of love and affection. However, there are those who still understand the true nature of a piece of work is not how well you can prattle on about how wonderful everything is, but show the pearl hidden in the slime. Showing how the oddest combinations can find a common ground. Small Moments by Ascian is a bizarrely touching and extremely funny tale of Deadpool matching wits with Jubilee and Husk of Generation X. As the girls stumble into a typical Deadpool brawl, accompanied by his usual rapidfire wit, a strange sequence of fights, arguments and jokes are passed between the three characters, over the heads of the unfortunate generic mercenaries. Not that the fight scene itself is gratuitous, but rather serves as a backdrop for the interaction, not a central story theme. While professing to be weak with humour, Ascian sets an extremely accurate portrayal of Deadpool and Jubilee, both casting wickedly funny banter back and forth. The story itself is a fun little diversion, with a touch of real depth into the mind of Wade Wilson.

Small Cages is another of those rare short, nearly poetic, pieces that actually manages to encompass the soul of the character in a few paragraphs. Written by the talented Kaylee, it shows the wild edge to nature that must manifest in one who controls it. Storm, always depicted as so serene and immutable, is portrayed as a violent battle for control with the raging passions and emotions which the weather emulates. There is a definite feel to this short work, an almost tangible sense of duality which encapsulates the themes explored in it. In a deft twist, the end is foreshadowed as a beginning, and tugs at the edges of a readerís imagination.

Amanda Sichter is, doubtless, one of the top writers of a psychological nature in fan-fiction today. Possessing an uncanny ability to delve inside the head of a character and bring them into the depths of real life, scars and halos intact. Night Falls On The Mountain is no exception, drawing heavily on classical themes such as the confrontation of the nemesis, and the devolution of the psyche. In the story, Wolverine and Sabretooth face off in another of their endless duels in the darkness of a mountains. This time, however, things are destined to end differently. As the philosopher once wrote, 'The longer you stare into the abyss, the longer the abyss stares into you.' and along this chilling theme does Logan do battle with his foe. Too alike to defeat each other, Wolverineís own humanity is forced to slip away again, and this time he does so to stop the only creature that he fears. Like matched titans, Sabretooth and Wolverine are locked in an endless duel, and Sichter explores one of the possible sacrifices that needs to be made to bring the cycle to an end.

There are those who can shock and elate equally with their writing. People who have an instinctive sense of plot and characterization. DuAnn Cowart is one of these, and her latest offering shows why. Stayin' Alive is an excellent window into the world of the Six Pack, Cableís mercenary team. Using both humour and drama to flesh out a scene in a variety of ways, Cowart revels in a wicked streak of fun, playing with the perceptions of the readers. While many are put off by the normal group of stories about combat oriented characters such as these, DuAnn handles them in the human element, bringing out the real emotions and life inside themselves. As a prologue, it neatly sets the stage for whatever direction she plans to take her characters. The only difficulty in the piece is a certain lack of support for those unfamiliar with the characters, however the coming chapters will hopefully correct that lack.

Climb That Mountain High by Beverly McIntyre is an interesting piece working myth and reality together in tight fashion. Spiral, an often marginalized and ignored character in these days, comes off in top form, a knot of hatred and passion. Her obsessive desire for revenge and power are deftly exploited as to further the plot of the story, revolving around several very old elements. That of hubris, and the inevitable loss of control which follows it. While it is still too early to be sure, McIntyre is obviously taking the plot towards a point in which Spiral must face her own passions, and resolve them in order to defeat what she has called forth. Although the story does suffer from somewhat stilted dialogue, it shines with the insight into the dancer of the Wildways, and her mental arguments with herself nicely augment the direction of the story.

Finally, we have Chance Encounter by Magik. While I have never been much of a fan of the authorís body of work, this piece shows what she is truly capable of. Written in the Gaiman playground of Sandman, it is at once atmospheric, chilling, and oddly compelling at the same time. The sequences in the cafť serve to establish a definite normality, from which the story takes such deviations from. Using a great deal of foreshadowing, Magik explores the odd surreal nature of the world of Sandman. While her style is closer to that of the empathetic Paul Jenkins, rather then bleak Neil Gaimanís, she uses Gaimanesque settings to twist into the darker mood that the story requires. While I canít claim a great deal of familiarity to the world of Sandman, it appears to fit seamlessly into the settings as Iíve come to know them, and deftly plays on the existing structure to create something unique.

Well, there you have it. The review column that very nearly wasnít. While the plan to bring this into a schedule of sorts seems further away as every, with my school and other concerns sweeping up my time, I am trying to beat it into a sense of order. Many thanks to the crew of DexCon, for threatening to kill me if I didnít get this bloody thing done.

Now, for the pointless ego-stroking stuff. The recommended CD for this column is the newest offering in Swing by a fellow Canadian. "Colin James and the Little Big Bad II" is a lively and eccentric mix of blues, big band, and swing which James is so comfortable working in. The sequel to the original ĎLittle Big Bandí release, from nearly five years ago, it shows a wonderful maturing of Jamesí abilities, and allows him to experiment a little more in this more forgiving time for the style. Take a listen.

This week, Iím reading Clive Barker for some reason. In specific, "The Great and Secret Show" and itís sequel, "Everville". Both involve Barkerís pre-ĎImagicaí utopia of Quiditty, a mytic Dream Sea, founded on the basis of Jungian theory and Babylonian myth. Both books deal with the misuse of power, and the oft tenuous barrier between reality and the surreal. Using the strong Tesla Bombeck as the main link between the books, Barker delves deep into the twists of the mind and the depths of passions. Often erotic, sensual, disturbing, grotesque, and marvelous at the same time, both books show the power of his intense imagination, and the beauty of his writing. These books are not for the unprepared, however. Imagery is left burned behind eyelids and into the depths of dreams from these books. Highly recommended and warned at the same time.

And finally, I would like to again direct you all to my Scottish counterpart on the world of mainstream comics, Mr. Paul OíBrian. His sometimes funny, sometimes vitriolic, but always insightful review column, The X-Axis is one of the best windows into comics done by a non-paid reader. OíBrian has a tendency to be forgiving with his letter grades, but his comments are not only inspired, but brilliant in their analysis. He focuses on X-books, but includes many others from his reading list at random. Books like ĎTransmetropolitoní, ĎHellblazerí, and ĎCaptain Americaí make regular appearances on his column. It should be on everyoneís list of Ďmust readsí.

Right, that is that. Opinions, responses, flames, natterings and whatever else can be sent to this address. Due to very odd living arrangements this year, I can be reached at the first address only on weekends, so if you need to get in touch with me mid-week, use the Sheridan addy. Or use both, whatever.... And, if you have a burning desire to review something, even *gasp*, something that Iíve written, drop me a line and Iím make some space. Well, itís pub night and Iím off to go wax my leather underwear, so Iíll catch you in the realms of chaos. Next time... DexCon Ď98! Be afraid...

Dex

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