In My Humble Opinion #16

Back From The Grave

Itís true. Other than driving a stake through my heart, chopping off my head, filling my pants with garlic and burying me at a Crossroads (although, Crossroadsí seems pretty good at burying itself), Iíll always come back.

IMHO too.

Itís been more than a year, and whatís happened? A whole new genre of fanfiction appeared and went ballistic, Marvel pulled off writer coups all over the place and now a dozen top books have been hitting new territory, adding to the fanfiction community. If there was ever an exciting time in fanfic, this is it. A year ago, a horrid lethergy settled on the genre, with a defeatist, last hurrah, slumping towards Byzantium cloud. Now, the clouds have parted and we are in the light. Iím back, which means I have to be pedantic. It will pass.

So, I have returned with six new stories, a new home and a head full of my usual bizarre theories, half-baked opinions and personal revelations that will no doubt send people scurrying for the delete key. We have some amazing fare here, and well worth your attentions.

Where gods dare, writers follow. In human history, the greatest stories and legends have been those of our pantheons, and the archetypes created still linger in modern fiction. Shivaís tri-part nature in the modern anithero; the psychic twins derived from Apollo and Artemis, the lusty hero of Gilgamish and Thor. Of course, we also have the famed Ďbrother vs brotherí struggles of Osiris and Set. It is this setting that Diamondeís Where Light Dwells takes us. Stryfe, after his most recent death, finds himself on the sands of the Egyptian underworld, approached by Set himself. The classic deal; life in exchange for doing Setís work on Earth. Of course, Osiris will be forced to choose his own device to counter his brother. The implied choice is rather obvious.

The entire story has been meticulously researched, with extensive background into the true Egyptian figures, as opposed to the corrupted Greek versions that grew out of Ptolemaic Egypt. Diamondeís combination of naturistic dialogue and flair for emotional intonation in her writing weaves together the encounter into a perfect blend of reality and myth; man and god. Foretelling and unstated, it brings a complexity into the mutant world normally associated with the Endless. Powerful and without pretension, it lays a benchmark and promise of more.

The Ultimate X-Men section of fanfiction has exploded in the recent months, and is due in a small way to the appearance of Minisinoo Girl and her tight and powerful series featuring the team. Sheís produced nearly a dozen stories, all exquisitely crafted and emotionally powerful. Her most recent work, I Guess It's All Right is a remarkable blend of Ultimate canon, infused with elements of the original X-Men history. The story focuses on the switch of Cyclops and Marvel Girlís relationship from friends to lovers, and the repercussions of that change. Harkening back to the very first few issues of Uncanny X-Men, she adds in the disturbing and black element of Charles Xavierís lust for Jean. Tension is the theme running through the work, as the personalities strain against each other and themselves in a subtle pressure war. Minisinoo Girlís crisp dialogue is strong for both its impact and phrasing, but also the clean naturalism of it. The other X-Men serve almost as guidelines; points of diplomacy which must be observed. The complex web of emotions and tensions does not resolve in the typical yelling rant at the end, but rather evolves into something past it, still active and conscious, but endurable. In other words, it resolves itself realistically, as opposed to cliche. Alternately poignant and funny, passionate and irreverent, it stands as one of the most effective stories yet in this very new genre.

There are very few good horror stories out in fanfiction. A few about Constantine, a couple in the darker part of the genre. But really, horror really gets out due to the skill required. When a good one does come along, it makes an impact. Hellraiser: Hellfire has made an impact, and Xander Dig has proven himself to be a very scary man in the process. A very young Shaw and the early Hellfire Club start on a quest for the Lament; the box of Clive Barkerís Hellraiser fame. The trail leads, appropriately to London and the Hellblazer himself: John Constantine. Shaw is set on the trail to Bangkok, to find the Lament, and draw the Gashes to him. Caught between them and his own mad White King, it becomes a living nightmare for the powerful man. Xanderís atmospheric aptitude is astonishing, the complexity of a Barker styled horror created in dark washes of text. His characters exist in that same tone, carefully inserted to perfection inside a world overlaid on a horror. Xanderís own richly textured backgrounds and emotive references serve as the dark vehicle in which the fast and frightening plot drives forward. Elegant and visceral simultaneously, Xanderís work is a masterful addition to the genre, and certainly due for a great deal of attention for the final chapter.

One of Marvelís biggest mistakes has been the need to pretty things up. Marrow, a psychopath with a charming power was one of the great casualties of Kellyís departure. Under new writers, she quickly become undistinguishable from a potential GenX candidate. Fortunately, fanfiction writers are not as quick for forget, and in Indiana Jís case, willing to let them go. In A Matter Of Time, Indiana J peels back the veneer of civilization badly grafted on Marrow and uses rage and sorrow to bring her back to her proper habitat. Told with the dark and rich humour of insanity, the tale switches from a gleeful sort of brutality to a deeper place of hurt and pain. The abuses on Marrow are not forgiven, and the pressures simply break her. Indian J skillfully threads the back story into the narrative, never breaking the flow of Marrowís final mad dance with the broken corpse of Kitty Pryde. Skillfully rendered and told with gruesome verve, it is a fascinating broken window into a finally broken life.

First person has always been a dangerous tool to use, oft turning on the writer. Fortunately, in this case, the tool cuts to the reader instead, and Cut Right To The Quick by Phillip Hunn has a dangerous edge to it. Set in Hunnís own series, it features Psylocke attempting to deal with days of shattering abuse at the hands of Sinister and his Marauders. Coupled with that is the revelation of a child, cloned from the genetic material of her and Cyclops, who is brought back to the mansion. Hunnís writing suffers from rough patches, but the emotional investment is considerable. There is no attempt to gloss over or glorify Betsyís torture, just a series of bone clean tidbits, threaded into her thoughts and dialogue inside the narrative. The story focuses heavily on the relationship between Scott and Jean, as viewed and coloured through someone elseís eyes. It creates very different, though wholly believable interpretations of the characters. Hunnís style has also been showing signs of settling, and a smoother and more patient approach to the story. While still in work, the signs of improvement are easily apparent from the first part to the third section, and the completed work promises to be an extraordinary view of a changed Psylocke.

DarkMark is an exhausting writer to enjoy. Mostly because he produces about a metric ton of material on a weekly basis, and sets it across fifty or more years of comic history. His work has the all marks of a classic pulp comic, but set for our ultra-modern world. The Apokolips Agenda is no exception, reaching back through the immense history of the DC universe to set the stunningly vast plot into motion. The sequel to his famous "Hellsister", the story begins with a council of villains, and the re-emergence of the most significant villain of them all, Darkseid. The giant post-Crisis plot for control begins, counterbalanced by Supergirlís new relationship with a former foe, and the readapting of the heros to a new and changed world. DarkMarkís immense capacity with minor characters is almost stretched to the upmost as he cycles through dozens of heros and villains in moving forward the complex plot. Small details are almost the hallmark of his work, from all but forgotten characters to minor battles discussed out of the pages of Action comics. They is a joy infused into his characters, and a touch of the wide-eyed wonder the DC universe is so well suited for, meshed with the realism and logic of modern comics. In Agenda, already past 300 pages and still ongoing is a fascinating reconstruction of a world, woven together from plots, romances, intrigues and redemption, when heros and villains all draw new lines and decide where they now stand.

More in 30 days, and a few dark and villainous announcements. Now if youíll excuse me, Iím off to seek out young virgins with heaving chests in diaphanous nightgowns and low garlic diets.


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