Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gilgamesh II

First off, I should say that Gilgamesh II is like Leonard Part 6: not that they both star Bill Cosby, but that they're both misleadingly nomenclatured to imply that they are sequels. Gilgamesh II is, instead, a study of two aliens, the last of their kind, sent to earth as infants to reproduce and carry on the species. Unfortunately, a droid messes up and sends two male infants, thus dooming the entire race to eventual extinction. Jim Starlin writes and draws this four-issue series, and imbues it with a wry sense of humor all the way through. It's pretty creative stuff, too. One of the infants grows up to become the ruler of the entire earth (a massive corporation) after a nuclear meltdown, while the other grows up in the jungle and has little knowledge of what's going on elsewhere. When one brother dies, the other goes to extreme lengths to bring him back to life, with a surprising result. Unlike much of Starlin's stuff, Gilgamesh II isn't dense or excessively cosmic/metaphysical--it's written and drawn in a clean, smooth style. I don't think it's been collected or reprinted, but a lot of sites are selling it for a buck an issue and it's worth the cost.


At a library used book sale, I stumbled across the digest collection Gravity for a quarter (if only all my comics were so cheap!). I had never heard of the character, who was added to the Marvel Universe in 2005--since the mini-series collected here, he's been quite the cosmic hero, having saved planets and being named Protector of the Universe or something:

This digest is of a far more down-to-earth vein. The superhero named Gravity is a freshman student from Wisconsin who moves to NYC to attend NYU. The series is very much an homage to early Spider-Man, as Gravity tries to balance being a super-hero with going to school and having a girlfriend. I found it genial enough, though not necessarily something I would yearn to read more of.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Coyote Moon

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)



RATING: 3/5 Stakes

SETTING: First Season (summer)

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles, Cordelia

ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Rose, Lonnie, Hopscotch (werecoyotes); Dr. Henshaw (friendly doctor); Spurs Hardaway (villian)

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY "The seedy carnival looks like just the thing to give Buffy and her best buds, Xander and Willow, a break from staking bloodsuckers. Some greasy food, a few cheap thrills--what more could a Slayer ask for? But then Buffy senses something evil behind this carnival. Xander and Willow aren't so sure. They don't buy Buffy's notion that the carneys are somehow connected to the corposes turning up around Sunnydale. It doesn't help that her two best friends are each interested in someone at the carnival. Which puts the burden of proof on Buffy. Can she find out what's going on in time to save her friends? Or has the Slayer become the prey?"


Coyote Moon, the second original Buffy novel, is a solid if unspectacular story about the arrival of werecoyotes in Sunnydale (disguised as a carnival) and their attempt to resurrect their long-dead leader.

Buffy spends most of the novel attempting to gain proof of the carneys' true nature (with Giles' help), while Xander and Willow are seduced by two of the carneys. Xander's terribly luck with the ladies holds out, as his new girlfriend Rose simply wants him and Willow to be the human sacrifices necessary to resurrect Spurs Hardaway, a Buffalo Bill Cody type of Western performer who died exactly a century ago and discovered the secrets of "skinwalking" from an unnamed plains Indian tribe, which allowed him and the other performers to become an animal by donning its skin. After being captured by the werecoyotes, Buffy manages to escape with the aid of Hopscotch, a renegade werecoyote who wants her to stop the resurrection because he was the one who secretly killed Spurs Hardaway to begin with. In her own inimitable style, Buffy manages to arrive at the resurrection just in time to drive a silver knife through Spur Hardaway's werebear form and save the day.

The novel has some strong elements. Xander's teen lust for Rose is depicted well, as are the feelings of love and hurt that Willow feels everytime Xander fails to notice how much she loves him. Also well played is a scene where Buffy interrupts a Xander-and-Rose makeup session, prompting Xander to tell Buffy off. Other highpoints include Xander trying to grow a goatee (failing miserably) and some interesting use of Native skinwalker stories. Overall, Coyote Moon is a competent addition to the Buffy line and has the feel of a first season episode. It's by no means a page turner, but it also doesn't prompt groans of dismay like some other books in the series.

(c) 2003 Jeremy Patrick-Justice (

Separating Church and State Our Tradition


Separating church and state our tradition

Jeremy Patrick, Special to The Windsor Star

Published: Monday, November 27, 2006

Is the separation of church and state Canadian? Much has been written recently about the increasing influence of the "religious right" in Stephen Harper's Conservative government. The commentators share a fear that decisions affecting all Canadians are increasingly being made on the basis of religious faith rather than sound public policy. In the United States, controversies over the proper relationship between religion and government are often settled by judicial invocation of the "separation of church and state" reflected in the American Constitution's Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains no such clause, however. Although it guarantees an individual's freedom of religion, it does not explicitly forbid the state from endorsing or supporting a particular religion (or religion in general). During the last federal election, Harper stated that "the separation of church and state is an American constitutional doctrine, not part of Canada's legal or political tradition." This simply isn't true. Indeed, Canada has a long history of separating church and state in most contexts.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the government provided extensive privileges to certain religious denominations. The Church of England, for example, received special favouritism in political appointments, the selection of legislative and military chaplains, and marriage laws. In Quebec, the Roman Catholic Church was closely enmeshed with the provincial government. However, these close links between religion and government slowly fell away. The enormous controversy over the Clergy Reserves is a good example of this trend. In the Constitutional Act of 1791, one-seventh of all public land in Upper and Lower Canada was allotted for the support of Protestant clergy. Income from this land, comprising almost two and half million acres, was channeled solely to the Church of England. Not surprisingly, this provoked intense jealously among other religious denominations, and the controversy was seen as a contributing cause to the failed rebellion of 1837. To placate some of the denominations, the Reserves were partially opened to other denominations in 1840. According to the great Canadian religious historian John Moir, even the mere existence of the Reserves in this form led to a 'bitter and noisy' dispute, and after several more years of controversy, the Reserves were finally abolished in 1854.

The disentanglement of religion from government did not occur overnight, it was a gradual process that is still going on today. However, the proclamation of the Charter in 1982 sped up this process. Although the Charter doesn't have an "Establishment Clause" per se, the courts have used other provisions of the document to reach the same effect. For example, the courts have held that the Federal Sunday Closing Act was unconstitutional because it had a religious purpose; that public schools could not teach Christianity or begin the school day with recitations of the Lord's Prayer or Bible verses; that legislatures cannot begin their meetings with sectarian prayers; and that property disputes between competing factions of a church must be resolved by secular principals.

There are still some remnants of an earlier age, but they appear to be of the relatively minor, non-coercive type of symbolism that in the United States is referred to as "ceremonial deisms." For example, the Canadian national anthem makes reference to a deity, the House of Commons opens with an avowedly non-denominational prayer, and the Queen, formal head of state, is required by English law to be Protestant. Otherwise, with one exception, it's hard to think of any legislation or practices in Canada that would constitute a clear violation of the American Constitution's Establishment Clause as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The major exception, of course, is the existence of publicly funded religious schools in Ontario. Since Confederation, the Constitution has guaranteed the right of Catholic schools in the province to receive support from the government. This is clearly not a minor "breach" in the "wall" between church and state. However, even this link between church and state is allowed only because it is specifically guaranteed in the Constitution. Otherwise, the Charter's guarantee of religious freedom and equality would probably be applied by the courts to invalidate the practice. The recent voluntary decisions to end public support of religious schools in Newfoundland and Quebec are simply further examples of the ongoing trend to separate church and state in Canada.

New controversies always affect how the state views its role vis-a-vis religion. Should Sharia law be enforceable? Can courts force an Orthodox Jewish husband to ask for a religious divorce?These are all questions that will have to be answered in the future. What's clear is that the country's legal and political history demonstrate that the separation of church and state is a Canadian value, not just an American one.

Jeremy Patrick is an Assistant Professor in the American-Canadian joint degree program at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. His article "Church, State, and Charter: Canada's Hidden Establishment Clause" is forthcoming in a comparative law journal.


FROM THE ARCHIVES (Comics That Time Forgot)


Issues # 1-6, Limited Series, Marvel Comics, Jan. 1988-Apr. 1988

Louise Simonson: Writer/Plot

Terry Shoemaker: Penciler

Carl Potts: Inker/Plot

Allen Milgrom: Co-Inker (# 6)

Joe Rosen: Letterer

Christie Scheele: Colorist (# 1-4)

Max Scheele: Colorist (# 5, 6)

Bobbie Chase: Managing Editor

Bob Harras: Editor

Tom DeFalco: Editor in Chief

With the ability to travel between dimensions and harness the very essences of Law and Chaos, powerful beings known as Spellbinders hold the key to the continued existence of the universe. As each Spellbinder gains the strength to fight off The Other and save the universe, he or she slowly becomes insane with the power and becomes as dangerous as The Other itself. Whence a new Spellbinder arises to defeat the one before it, and the circle continues.

Such is the backstory and ultimate plot within Marvel Comics 1988 mini-series Spellbound. Written by Louise Simonson of Power Pack fame, Spellbound follows the story of Erica Fortune, her brother Roy, and her sister Sally. On one fateful day, Snugg and Snarl, slaves to the evil Spellbinder Zxaxz, steal their master’s mystical crown and bracelets and send them to another dimension. The objects come to the possession of Erica Fortune, who eventually realizes her destiny: to become the next Spellbinder by defeating the power-mad Zxaxz and save the universe.

There are obstacles along the way, of course. Zxaxz doesn’t take it lightly, and enters Erica’s dimension to stalk and constantly harass her. The revelation of her powers causes the media to hound Erica and her family, making them virtual prisoners in their homes. Worst of all, the more Erica uses the power of the crown and bracelets, the more power-mad she herself becomes, until she risks being as bad as Zxaxz or worse.

In the end, The Other, seeing the two Spellbinders locked in conflict, decides to seize the opportunity and enters Erica’s dimension as well. Zxaxz and Erica are forced to join together to defeat him in an epic battle. They force The Other back to his native dimension, but the only way to ensure his ultimate defeat is to follow him there, leaving Earth behind, perhaps forever. What is the final fate of Erica? Does she defeat The Other? Does Zxaxz betray her? Unfortunately, after 16 years, we’ve never found out.

Spellbound is an enjoyable and worthwhile story nonetheless. The story isn’t about the ultimate resolution of the battle, but about the events leading up to it in the lives of one of its primary characters. Indeed, the story is more about how others react to Erica’s gaining power, such as her relatives, co-workers, and friends, than it is about super heroes fighting demons or other such comic book conventions. In many ways, its also a story about growing up and growing older, as seen through the eyes of Sally and Roy.

Spellbound is set firmly in the Marvel Universe thanks to an enjoyable, but probably unnecessary guest appearance by the New Mutants in issue # 4. Erica, Roy, Sally, and the others have real personalities and the story doesn’t drag when focused on them—if anything, their day-to-day struggles are more fascinating than the grand universe-shaking plotline.

It looks like Spellbound was designed to leave the possibilities of sequels—at the end, as mentioned, Erica’s ultimate fate is unknown, while Roy comes into possession of the bracelets himself. As far as I can tell, there never has been such a sequel and the primary characters have never appeared in any other Marvel Comics.*

Spellbound isn’t an amazingly written story, filled with humor or pathos. But it is a good story—one worth reading and peeking into the lives of the Fortune family. Considering how many comics regurgitate the same basic plot, that may be quite the achievement.

*After writing this column, I received some very useful information from Don Campbell regarding Spellbound. It seems that the story was completed in a five-part storyline in Marvel Comics Presents # 138-142 (1993). In Campbell's words:"The story is written by Bobbie Chase and it begins with an increasingly-insane Erica living in a crystalline palace on a planet in Zxaxz's dimension. Taken by surprise, Erica is trapped inside a crystal by Zxaxz who then goes to Earth to retrieve his order and chaos rings from Roy. After Zxaxz takes Roy, Sally, Andrew, Snugg and Snaarl to his dimension, Roy uses the rings to create a black hole that destroys both Zxaxz and his dimension. After they return to Earth, Erica breaks free and, seeing her brother and sister only as rival spellbinders, attacks them, killing Andrew, the man she loved, in the process. In the last part, Erica returns and tries to kill her siblings but they manage to weaken her with light and Roy seals her in crystal like Zxaxz did but he goes one better and surrounds the crystal with metal. The story ends with Roy using the order and chaos rings and the crown to destroy themselves with their own power, thereby "retiring" as a Spellbinder. All in all, this is not a terrific story. Its main (only?) virtue is that it provides an ending to a storyline that otherwise would probably have been left hanging forever."

What do you think? Contact me at

Halloween Rain

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)


Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder (1997)

RATING: 3/5 Stakes

SETTING: First Season

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Joyce, Aphrodesia

MAJOR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Samhain (Pumpkin King); Glenn O’Leary (town nutcase); Claire Bellamy (Bronze manager); Nick Daniels (Bronze assistant manager)

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY “Around Sunnydale, they say a scarecrow saturated with Halloween rain will come alive and slaughter anyone in sight. (Lovely place, Sunnydale.) Buffy’s best friends, Xander and Willow, used to think the tale was nonsense—but after a few adventures with Buffy, they’re not so sure. Even without a maniacal scarecrow, a Sunnydale Halloween is a truly horrific happening. There are enough zombies and vampires about, ready to party hearty and eat some brains, to keep the Slayer and her friends up all night. And then the rain starts to fall . . .”


The first original Buffy novel sticks closely to the style of early first season episodes. All the basic elements are here: a fight against vampires near the Bronze; Giles in full research mode at the library; patrols and battles at a cemetery, etc. The main plot of Halloween Rain is the emergence of Samhain, the Pumpkin King, a powerful demon that inhabits the body of a scarecrow on Halloween. After disrupting a vampire attack in the basement of the Bronze, Buffy learns of Samhain’s existence from Sunnydale’s resident madman, Glenn O’Leary. She ends up near a cemetery when legions of zombies attack, and manages to escape them only by running into a cornfield—and there, of course, Samhain makes his move.

The novel is clearly written with a young adult audience in mind, as it’s slim and straightforward. Most of the characters are written well, but without the witty dialogue of the television show. Some good moments include a Halloween party with Xander as Indiana Jones, Willow as the X-Files’ Scully, and Buffy as a pirate; Giles telling of the 17th Century Irish Slayer Erin Randall; and a scene where Samhain manages to scare Buffy almost to death. Overall, Halloween Rain is a simple but solid Buffy novel, more of interest now for its nostalgia appeal than for anything else, though it would serve as a good introduction for adolescents unfamiliar with the Buffyverse.
(c) 2004 Jeremy Patrick-Justice (

The Shroud

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Comics That Time Forgot)

The Shroud

The Shroud # 1-4, Limited Series, Marvel Comics, Mar. 1994-Jun. 1994

Writer # 1-4: Mike Barr

Art # 1: M.C. Wyman (pencils); Malcolm Jones (inker); # 2: Wyman & Jones; # 3: Wyman (pencils); Jones & Koblish (inkers); # 4: A. Williams (pencils); Jones & Koblish (inkers)

Colorist # 1-3: Mike Thomas; # 4: Thomas/Wang/Mendez

Letterer # 1: Joe Rosen; # 2: Rosen/Krol/Crespi, # 3: Higgins; #4: Rosen

The early nineties were an explosive time for comics—McFarlane’s Spider-Man, X-Men # 1, and others set sales records in the millions. At a time when it seemed like every issue of every comic was an instant collectible and investment, Marvel Comics released a slew of comics in the time period. One result of this comics glut was a four-issue Shroud limited series.

Helmed by Mike Barr, best known for crime- and mystery- themed comics, the series featured one of Marvel’s perennial third-string heroes. The Shroud debuted in the mid-70s, racking up several appearances in Super Villain Team-Up and the first Spider-Woman series, before going on to make occasional appearances in Spider-Man, Avengers, and West Coast Avengers.

Although a somewhat interesting character, the Shroud was definitely not one of Marvel’s most innovative. Take any child under eight, hand them a copy of the Shroud, and they will instantly say "Batman." And indeed, the similarities between the Shroud and Batman should not be minimized. Each with a dark bodysuit, long cowl, and white eye-slits, the pair obviously look alike—but they also share a common origin. As a child one was walking down the streets at night with his mother and father, when a nondescript thug shot and killed both parents in cold blood. Vowing vengeance on all criminals at his parents graves, the child became obsessed with training both his mind and body to the peak of perfection—including trips to the Far East to soak up ancient wisdom. Yes, that’s the Shroud’s origin I’m reciting, as described on pages 15 and 16 of the first issue of the limited series. The artwork for the origin flashback has so many similarities to depictions of Batman’s origin—down to the detail of the child’s mother wearing a pearl necklace—it easily could appear in an issue of Detective Comics and no one would notice a discrepancy. Of course, instead of encountering a bat crashing through a window, the young Shroud joins up with the mystical Cult of Kali at a remote Asian temple. He was left blinded by the process, but with senses increased to make up for the lack (ala Daredevil). Eventually he also gained the power to create clouds of murky darkness around his person.

Apart from the uninspired origin, the Shroud did have some interesting qualities. First, he was primarily a West Coast hero—some of the best Shroud stories I remember as a kid took place when he was the leader of a band of criminal misfits called the Night Shift. Although the Shroud was ultimately acting for the greater good by pretending to be a villain, his role as a criminal leader caused some interesting conflict with other West Coast heroes.

As for the Shroud limited series, my first reaction is to shrug. It’s not a terrible story—but then, it’s not a great one either. It involves a cliched plot involving the Shroud getting involved in a struggle between two rival mob leaders, and, although every new Marvel series must have a Spider-Man appearance by issue # 3 (or, for some periods in Marvel history, Punisher, Wolverine, or Ghost Rider), Spider-Man appears in all but one issue of the limited series. There are some nice elements however, such as interesting revelations relating to the Shroud’s origin at the Temple of Kali, and the story does a good job of creating some good supporting characters for the Shroud—an aged mentor and two associates, named Cat and Mouse.

Thus, the limited series succeeds at what every limited series should—redefining the character in some way or telling a significant part of his or her history—but failed in another part—telling an interesting story to begin with. I for one liked the Night Shift and was disappointed by their absence.

Apparently the series did not make a name for itself—but in the comics glut of the early nineties, few new series could. The Shroud has laid pretty low since then, making an occasional appearance in a Marvel Comic here and there, but on the whole far less often than he did in the late seventies and eighties.

Tell me your thoughts at and I’ll see about posting them here!

Blasphemy Law Should Be Repealed

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Newspaper Columns)

Blasphemy law should be repealed

Toronto Star

July 06, 2008

Jeremy Patrick

Last month, after a long debate, England abolished the ancient common law offence of blasphemous libel. Historically, the crime of blasphemy was committed whenever "contemptuous," "reviling," or "scurrilous" statements were made about God, Jesus Christ or the Church of England.

The offence had been the basis for hundreds of prosecutions throughout the 18th and 19th centuries before falling into a period of dormancy after 1922. Surprisingly, however, the offence was suddenly resurrected as the basis of a successful private prosecution against a gay newspaper in 1977. Subsequent private prosecutions against Salman Rushdie's book The Satanic Verses in the late 1980s and against the musical Jerry Springer: The Opera just last year were unsuccessful but equally disturbing to modern proponents of free speech.

What most Canadians (even most lawyers) don't realize is that our own Criminal Code also prohibits blasphemous libel and sets a penalty of up to two years in prison. The statute doesn't define what constitutes a blasphemous libel. Instead, it only notes that statements made in "good faith and conveyed in decent language" are exempted.

Although the last known government prosecution was in the 1930s, the law was invoked in private prosecutions at least as late as 1979. Why should we worry about a law that hasn't been used in decades? Dusty old laws can often be perfectly innocuous and even humorous – like the purported Kentucky law that says you have to remove your hat if you come across a cow on the road.

However, obscure, little-known statutes like the blasphemy offence can also serve as a dangerous extension of police or prosecutorial discretion, creating a greater opportunity for threats of enforcement that lead to self-censorship by cautious publishers. And unfortunately, dead laws don't always stay dead when prosecutors are desperate: a statute prohibiting the spreading of "false news" was inserted into the first Criminal Code in 1892, used once in 1907, again 63 years later in 1970, and for the third and final reported time in a high profile conviction (overturned on appeal) of Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel in the late 1980s.

The Charter, of course, provides strong guarantees of freedom of expression and religion. If the blasphemy law were to be invoked again, it's likely a court would strike it down. Even this should be of limited consolation. The cost and time to mount an effective Charter defence is not insignificant, nor is it perfectly clear that an enterprising Crown attorney couldn't analogize the crime of blasphemous libel to constitutionally valid laws prohibiting anti-religious hate speech.

Of more practical concern, however, is that the existence of the crime of blasphemy in Canadian law could make it harder for the Canadian government to criticize repressive blasphemy prosecutions in countries where free speech is given short shrift. For example, according to the March 6 edition of the Los Angeles Times: "A funny thing happened in November when Britain launched a righteous protest over Sudan's arrest of a British schoolteacher accused of insulting Islam by letting her students name a class teddy bear Muhammad. But it didn't take long for someone to point out that Downing Street was standing on diplomatic quicksand: Britain itself has a law making blasphemy a crime."

Even if the risk of appearing hypocritical is small, the ongoing existence of a criminal prohibition on blasphemy in the Criminal Code directly conflicts with Canada's public- and self-image as a pluralist, multicultural democracy with a strong commitment to freedom of speech and religion.

The prohibition is simply a sad reminder of a time when disagreeing with mainstream religion and using "uncouth" speech was enough to merit a prison sentence. We should be disappointed that Parliament has let it remain on the statute books for as long as it has.

Jeremy Patrick is a PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and has written on blasphemous libel. He welcomes feedback at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Cyber Anniversary and Funeral

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of this blog (177 posts so far) and I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out. I think I originally envisioned more posts about law and politics than I did comics, but I just find pop culture more fun to write about most days. As for popularity, I feel confident that with dedication and perspiration, I can eventually raise the readership of this blog into single digits (and I've made at least $ .02 off of advertising). Unfortunately, on the far side of this information superhighway colloquially known as the "Internet", Yahoo is shutting down all of the free Geocities websites, meaning the decade-old Jhaeman's Library is slated for demolition by the end of the year. In the next few months, I'll be moving most of the content on that site over here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Tunnels is, like a slew of recent young adult books, allegedly "the next Harry Potter." The concept is solid: a young albino boy named Will, his pudgy friend Chester, and Will's museum-curator father discover a series of massive, deep tunnels below London and are soon being stalked by strange-looking fellows that nobody else seems to notice. When Will's father disappears, Will and Chester decide to venture into the depths to find him and uncover an underground world they never knew existed. I wanted to like this novel, but I simply found it kind of boring: interminable scenes of walking, only moderately interesting characters, and not enough action. (I should acknowledge I read it in French, so if the book contained amazing style and wit, it probably went right over my head--though on the other hand, Harry Potter held up quite well in French, so who knows).

Torchwood: Skypoint

What a fun book! My favorite Torchwood novel so far, Skypoint is # 8 in the series and (unbeknownst to me when purchased) is set somewhere in the middle of season two (i.e., some major spoilers abound). Something preternaturally fast that can move through walls is haunting an apartment building in Cardiff, and it's not Rift-related. The book is fast-paced and engaging, with a focus on Owen (I'm starting to realize that the person prominently featured on the cover is not necessarily prominently featured in the novel). The Torchwood series of media tie-in novels are right up there with Babylon 5 and Star Wars in terms of quality, and far exceed the average Buffy, Lost, or Star Trek book.

Return to Torchwood Main Page

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Issue Special # 12: Star Hunters

SERIES: Star Hunters

DATE: 1978

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: David Michelinie (writer) & Al Milgrom (editor)


It could be a coincidence that this comic about a band of rebels vying to defeat a galactic evil empire has nothing to do with a certain well-known movie about war among the stars which preceded it by several months. Regardless, Star Hunters, at least judging by this final issue (# 7), was a pretty entertaining book. A very Irish hero named Donovan Flint leads a rag-tag group of heroes on a quest to overthrow the all-powerful Corporation which rules much of the galaxy. In this final issue, Flint manages to take over a Corporation prison and organize the thousands of inmates into an army to retake Earth. However, during the attack, Flint's starship takes damage and he's forced to crashland all by himself on Earth, which is a problem because Flint's unique genes will begin to mutate unless he's rescued right away. According to the cliffhanger ending, next issue features "The final battle with the Corporation! Plus: A new Adam Strange feature!" On the letters page, Cary Burkett mentions some changes with the creative team but promises "the new team is going to attempt a foray into outer space adventure like you've never seen before. Stay with us." In fact, this new foray will be like something you'll never see at all, given the sudden cancellation of the series. Alas, poor Star Hunters, I knew it, Horatio.

Film Crew # 3: Wild Women of Wongo

On one island, there are beautiful women and ugly men, while on a nearby island, there are beautiful men and ugly women. If only like can pair up with like, everyone will be happy! That's the basic plot of Wild Women of Wongo. The Film Crew's version wasn't especially funny, but I always enjoy watching riffed movies with my sig-other: in the ten minutes or so before she falls asleep, she goes "heh heh heh" and it's very cute.

Doctor Who: Edge of Destruction

This little two-parter rounds out the The Beginning DVD set. Basically, it's a budget-saving episode that takes place entirely within the TARDIS and involves the Doctor and his companions acting crazy and trying to figure out what's wrong. 45-year-old spoiler: it's the TARDIS! Overall, kinda boring, but I have to say they really pack on some quality special features, like a long documentary on the show's origins. Apropos of nothing, I feel compelled to mention how Susan bugs me more and more, even though I liked her in the pilot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 18

This was the final session in the big trial storyline and I had a lot of fun with the cross-examination of the witnesses and defendants. It was kinda fun to show how, without any ret-conning, each character could be easily tied to the Separatists. In order to determine the verdict, I had everyone individually roll a Persuasion check against a high DC that was modified based on how much evidence they were able to assemble and they all ended up being acquitted. The new character of Kravlex Mex was an alternate for the player who ran the character Marpa.

This was also the last session before a long summer break--Tarn's player left and never returned which was unfortunate because he was a great character in the storyline, Marpa and Natany's players went to Germany and came back for the next major story arc, while Arresta and Zero's players stuck around for a few one-shot sessions over the summer where their characters worked as Republic Intelligence operatives. I'm sure my sig-other will comment, but for me it'll suffice it to say that Arresta was quite thrown by Tarn's sincere protestations of love last session and his casual dismissal of her in this session!


It has all come down to this: scant minutes remain before the beginning of the trial that could forever brand the accused as war criminals and potentially even result in their execution. However, all is not lost: diligent investigation has turned up several pieces of evidence that, if presented in the right way, could be just enough to win an acquittal. Across Coruscant, hundreds of thousands of beings watch the holofeeds to learn the fate of Tarn Tamarand, Arresta D'avilos, and Marpa Zalon.

Several weeks have passed quickly on Coruscant and the trial is almost ready to begin. The holonews report that Marpa Zalon hasn’t made a public appearance since the battle at the aquarium, but law enforcement doesn't seem to be alarmed, as his tracking signals continue to transmit normally. Arresta and Tarn continue their dalliance, which has now become the stuff of tabloid discussion. Zero and Natany have moved into Marpa’s workshop for the time being. By order of the Senate, the Holonet has been closed to non-military traffic, except for censored news broadcasts.

Tarn continues his training at the Jedi Temple, which now involves trying to use the Force to stop hurled projectiles before they hit him. After his kiss with Arresta streaks across the holosphere, he is summoned before the Jedi Council to explain himself. An obviously irked Council tells him to make a choice: the Jedi or Arresta. Tarn quickly states that becoming a Jedi is his first priority. The Council also explains that it is still investigating the claim that Jocasta is involved in recent events, but it has released Jedi Knight Creen from previous orders to remain planetside.

[AG 200]

Tarn, Arresta, Zero, Natany, and the barrister Doolb Snoil meet at the Judicial Center the morning before the trial is to commence. Marpa doesn’t show up to the trial, leading to a short recess for the judicials to follow his tracking signals and pick him up. However, it turns out that the signals have been falsified by modified droids and that Marpa is nowhere to be found. A visibly angry Rap-Seri tries to badger the accused and their investigators into revealing where Marpa is, but everyone claims ignorance. The trial re-commences, with Marpa to be tried in absentia.

Arresta gives a nice opening statement, but otherwise the first day does not go well for the accused. Greesh Leedo claims that Marpa was actually a Separatist member of the Techno-Union under a different name, rogue Gran Jedi Fallael Jorinth tells about Tarn’s stated interest in joining the Separatists on Bothawui, and Lt. Jaarza of the Mongui Palace Guard claims that Arresta is a separatist and shows a holovid of her stunning her “Republic loyalist” father.

[AG 201]

The second day sees testimony from a Bothawui hotel clerk and starport technician to establish that the accused were in the area on the day of the massacre, and pilot Maytoc Kolene tells about his being assaulted and shackled by the accused in the Ansion system. Later that day, Tarn tries to get in contact with Master Yoda but receives the brush-off. Rap-Seri storms into the defence conference room and bullies the accused and their investigators into following a lead about Marpa’s whereabouts. It seems that a xenophobic human-centric group called Purity First claims to have abducted Marpa and want 10,000,000 credits for his return. Rap-Seri says that the judicials don’t have the manpower to investigate an unconfirmed report, but that he wants Marpa back in the courtroom to be convicted and rot away in a Republic penal colony. He introduces everyone to Kravlex Mex, an Anx street fighter who had recently escaped from Purity First.

Kravlex leads the others to coordinates in Coruscant’s undercity, where a mazelike collection of tenements, maintenance tunnels, and condemned factories are inhabited only by squatters, gangs, and other unsavoury types. The group spends several minutes outside the entrance to the Purity First hideout talking strategy, but eventually sentries discover their presence and launch an attack using grenades and slugthrowers. The silver-robed and hooded racists are routed, with Zero brutally finishing off any survivors with point-blank shots to the head. The tunnels themselves prove treacherous. Natany and Arresta are hurt when the ceiling to one tunnel collapses, burying them in rubble until Tarn and Krevlax manage to dig them out. Natany and Zero then hang back while the others move forward to continue exploring. Tarn’s intuition through the Force alerts him that the body of a Duros they find has been booby-trapped, and it also helps him avoid an ambush. The remaining Purity First members put up a fight, but they are clearly outmatched by superior firepower and only one survives to be hospitalized. It becomes apparent that the group’s claims to have Marpa were a ruse to extort cash and attention. Krevlax escorts the prisoner and a rescued Neimodian to the hospital, while the other members of the group return to their homes. Arresta tries to get Tarn to talk about why he has suddenly become so cold and distant, but he claims to be too tired to talk.

[AG 202]

The last day of the prosecution’s case-in-chief sees testimony from a Bothan forensic investigator and a Metropol holovid expert, along with a last, surprise witness: a clearly troubled and disturbed Ycram, who claims that he and the others “were responsible for all of it.” The defence calls Ignatius D’avilos to the stand and elicits his testimony that the accused were quite helpful in getting his skyhook up and running. He also confirms that it appeared that a ship was falsely using the transponder signal of Delia’s Ultimatum. Jedi Padawan Lee testifies favorably about the accused’s actions on Ansion. That evening, Arresta confronts Tarn. Tarn seems to blow off their past several weeks together as a couple, and says that his “oath as a Jedi” prevents him from having relationships. Arresta is clearly angry and hurt and feels that Tarn has just been using her.

[AG 203]

The final day of the trial commences. Zero testifies about his and Natany’s discoveries in Bothawui, and he also gives a surprisingly cogent explanation of Marpa’s discovery that the holovid is a fake. Arresta takes the witness stand to explain what happened on Mongui and how the accused have remained loyal to the Republic through a variety of hardships. After closing arguments, the jury very quickly returns a verdict of Not Guilty. The accused have been exonerated, and their tracking devices are removed.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Tarn, Zero, and Natany chat excitedly about the outcome and a promised lunch, but Arresta is distracted by a delivered message: an invitation to the wedding of Prince Char de Mingay of Corovia and . . . Princess Arresta D’avilos of Mongui.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Han Solo Adventures

Brian Daley's The Han Solo Adventures was a much better read than I thought it would be. Set a few years prior to A New Hope, this trilogy of loosely-connected books is about Han and Chewie jumping from scheme to scheme, trying mainly to make enough money to keep the Falcon flying. It's fast paced, witty, and full of memorable supporting characters. One thing I especially like is how each of the books takes place in sectors of space beyond Imperial control. The description of the Corporate Sector is quite well done and a really interesting place for original Star Wars stories (I've used the Corporate Sector as the setting for the current story arc in the role-playing campaign I'm directing and it succeeds in getting players to think differently about what will and won't work).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Random Law Review # 4

Christian Diemer's and Amalija Separovic's Territorial Questions and Maritime Delimitation with Regard to Nicaragua's Claims to the San Andrés Archipelago, 66 Heidelberg Journal of International Law 5 (2006).

Well, I signed up for random and this is about as random as it gets. Nicaragua has filed a case with the International Court of Justice, arguing that the San Andrés archipelago falls within Nicaragua's legal territorial boundaries instead of that of Columbia. The authors analyze the history of the claim and come down on Columbia's side for two main reasons: (1) Columbia has a long, uncontested history of exercising practical control and sovereignty over the islands; and (2) in the 1928 Barcenas-Esguerra treaty, Nicaragua appears to relinguish claims to the archipelago.

This was an interesting article for me to read because it really gets about as close to pure law as you're going to get--so much of what I do and read is "law" as a thin layer on top of what is basically history, politics and policy making, science, or some other discipline. But what's going on here--interpreting treaties, drawing boundary lines, etc.--is something no other discipline can rightly lay claim to doing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blasphemy in Pre-Criminal Code Canada

I'm happy to report that I've finished the next chapter in my dissertation, Blasphemy in Pre-Criminal Code Canada: Two Sketches. It looks at the history of Canada's legal prohibition on blasphemy through case studies of two time periods: Quebec in the New France era and rural Ontario in the early 1800s. It's been a frustrating chapter to write for several reasons: the Quebec legal documents are illegible (at least to me and a couple of people I've shown them to), not because they're in French but because they're in faded handwriting; the Ontario documents are sparse, with little more than a single indictment or affidavit for an entire case; and I spent way more time on the chapter than was justified by the scanty number of pages it turned out to be. I think I got the most out of the materials that I could, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm happy with the outcome. The good news is that now I can turn my attention to another chapter of the dissertation, hopefully with better results.


Heartburst by Rick Veitch was originally released as Marvel Graphic Novel # 10 back in 1984, though I understand a company called King Hell has recently come out with a new edition. I picked this up for $ 2.99 at a used bookstore a few weeks ago and I was surprised at how interesting and creative it was. On a forgotten colony hundreds of lightyears away from Earth, society is ruled by a theocracy "divinely inspired" by what no one realizes are simply old television shows, finally making their way across the cosmos centuries after the programs originally aired. The colonists are in a genocidal war against the planet's natives, and inter-species mating is strictly verboden--which, of course, means the son of one of the colony's notables is going to do just that. It's a story that's hard to explain without giving too much away, but it's definitely worth picking up (with quality artwork to boot).

Torchwood: Another Life

My second Torchwood book, and the first in the series. Owen is the featured character in this one, as he finds himself intrigued by an online virtual world where he comes across an old girlfriend from six years back that he decides to look up in real life. Of course, there's also an alien spaceship trapped in Cardiff Bay that's causing massive flooding and the need to track down its body-hopping pilot. I thought the book was pretty well written and has a pretty dark tone, but something about it just didn't quite grab me. It was fun to see one of Owen's old flames (though, as usual in novels like this, things don't turn out well) and the subtle hints about Ianto being up to something in the basement.

Return to Torchwood Main Page

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last Issue Special # 11: El Diablo

SERIES: El Diablo

DATE: 1991

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Gerard Jones (writer), Brian Augustyn (editor)


In a lengthy column on the letters page, writer Gerard Jones explains what he was hoping to accomplish with El Diablo:

"A while back we set out to create a comic book that would cast a new--and more humane--light on the icon of the costumed vigilante. We wanted to create a fictional city that functioned as a believable human community, and not just one of those metaphorical 'urban hells' that usually pass for cities in comic books. We tried to bring in some of the cultural and social realities of America in the present, without relying on any easy, didactic 'topicality.'"

Although the series only lasted sixteen issues, most of these ends were accomplished: El Diablo really is as much or more about the fictional southwest town of Dos Rios as it is about costumed adventuring. Politics and racial tensions between Whites and Hispanics are a major theme in the story, and are handled in a thoughtful and interesting way. The series wraps up nicely as the man behind El Diablo decides he can accomplish more as a city councilman than as a costumed vigilante. Jones writes that DC was quite supportive of the series and offered him an additional four issues in which to wrap things up after cancellation became apparent.

"[S]o what's it all add up to? Not an awful lot. We've left the comic book mainstream just about exactly where we found it over a year ago. Lots of obsessed, twisted crimefighters haunting the streets of urban hells that seem born of particularly timid middle-class nightmares. But I'm glad we had a chance to sound a somewhat different note for a least a little while. I'm glad we were able to present . . . the idea that social action is the truest kind of heroism . . . That America's cities, for all their troubles, are the laboratories of global society, and that the human community might still be able to heal and improve itself."

After Life

This was a really interesting, though-provoking film that I highly recommend. In After Life, everyone who dies passes through a way station where they have three days to decide on one brief memory that they would like to carry with them through eternity. The employees of this station (people who were unable to choose) then spend three days putting together a set and props in order to recreate that memory; once you've see your memory recreated on the screen, you move on to the afterlife. It's a little slow-paced and is subtitled, but don't let that put you off--this is definitely a movie worth seeking out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I was a really big fan of the 80s DC series Suicide Squad (a concept I think would make for a great role-playing game), and my favorite part of the book oscillated between the hijinks of Captain Boomerang and the stone cold killer-ness of Deadshot. This assassin-for-hire actually has a history dating back several decades, but it was only in the 80s that he became really popular. His first limited series was quite dark (his son is molested and murdered by a pedophile), while his most recent solo outing is more in the nature of standard comic book fare. After finding out that he has a daughter from a drunken night with a prostitute ('kay, maybe not that standard of fare), Deadshot moves into the kid's crime-ridden neighborhood to put things right by cleaning the place up--of course, the mob and hired super-villains get involved and there's lots of shooting everywhere. It's a pretty good series, though I wouldn't call it great. And I'm still not convinced that the new uniform (above)is better than the old one (below).

Doctor Who: The Daleks

Although I've spaced them out on the list, Rogers Video Direct (I was tempted to write "Roger's VD" but that would imply something wholly different) thinks I need more Doctor Who in my life, so I've now seen the seven-part serial The Daleks. I found this far more entertaining than the first serial, as the Doctor et al. find themselves trapped on the mostly dead planet Skaro, home to both the Daleks and human race the Thralls (sp?). The black-and-white cinematography works well here, giving the planet a creepy, desolate feel. Watching these old episodes, I find myself liking the First Doctor quite a bit, mostly because he has a nice air of mystery and unpredictability around him, along with a certain amount of cold-heartedness. Doctors Eccleston & (especially) Tenant, on the other hand, sometimes just seem too nice, as if they're the perfect incarnation of goodness in their abhorrence of violence, concern for the down-trodden, and unflagging optimism (they also all too often save the day at the very end of the episode with some impromptu techno-babble solution, but that's more bad plotting than bad characterization). Downsides for me here were the Thralls (better than the cavemen, but still kinda boring) and Susan (she has this really grating acting style whendver she's supposed to be nervous or frightened, which consists! of delivering! each line! of! dialogue breathlessly as if! she had just! finished running! a marathon!).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Random Law Review # 3

7 Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property 102 (2008)
Back around 1996-1997, in my first year of undergraduate studies, I got myself seriously addicted to an online role-playing game called Nitemare (later, Arcane Nites). This was a text-only game (MUDs in ancient parlance)--I was just a little too early and too poor for the modern full-graphics games like World of Warcraft or Ultima Online, of which I'm sure I would have become even more crazily obsessed. I had a ton of free time as an undergraduate and I filled pretty much all of it playing this game (my memories are a bit fuzzy, but I was the leader of some sort of knightly clan) (eventually, I got a real-world girlfriend and the game didn't seem that interesting anymore, but that's another story). Anyway, the reason for my rambling is that my experiences as an undergrad a decade ago made this selection in the Random Law Review Experiment a really interesting one for me.

Kunze's article talks about the one-sided contracts between on-line game developers and on-line game players--for the most part, those Terms of Service agreements that nobody ever reads gives enormous powers to the developers to do pretty much whatever they want in the virtual world, including deleting characters and their creations on a whim. The problem is that this isn't just a frustrating thing for the players, but that many virtual worlds have economies tied to real-world dollars, where people buy and sell their virtual creations for real money. For example, Kunze talks about a case where Second Life stepped into a virtual land sale, decided something was improper, and banned the seller from the game--a move which cost the real-life seller several thousand real-life bucks. My favorite example is from a game called EVE Online where one of the characters online acted as an investment bank and eventually collected deposits of 790 billion in in-game currency, which was worth about $ 170,000 in real-world currency; after getting that much in the bank, the character simply took the money and ran. Predictably, this led to frustrated depositors begging the EVE Online developer to punish the investment banker player, but the developer refused because such scams were part of the game's intentionally lawless atmosphere.

The sections of the article on improving Terms of Service agreements was a bit dry, but the subject of how real-world law gets dragged into virtual disputes really is an interesting one.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Last Issue Special # 10: Haunted

SERIES: Haunted

DATE: 1984



After buying several DVD-ROMs of classic Marvel series, I've tried to sell or even give away a bunch of now duplicative comics with no luck. I mention this only because Overstreet informs me that my one and only issue of Charlton's Haunted is worth some cash because it was a low print run final issue, but I don't believe them. There's not really a lot to say about issue # 75 of this ignominious horror series, but I'll do my best. First, that scene on the cover has absolutely nothing to do with anything that happens inside. Second, the comic is made up of several short stories reprinted from earlier comics, each in standard twist-in-the-tale format (a nightmare that may be real! a growth serum that backfires! murderers receiving comeuppance!). Last, there is no mention whatsoever that this was the final issue. Shed a tear now for those millions, or thousands, or maybe even tens of forelorn Charlton Haunted fans, desperately searching the stands late in 1984 looking for an issue # 76 that would . . . never . . . arrive.

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

Rogers Video Direct was kind enough to send me An Unearthly Child, the very first Doctor Who serial, starring William Hartnell. The First Doctor is quite a cranky old man, dismissive of human beings but also strangely passive at times. I quite liked the first part of this four-part serial, in which the Doctor's grand-daughter (Susan) is investigated by her teachers at school because she sometimes knows way too much in fields like science and history, and sometimes knows way too little (how many shillings are in a pound, etc.). It has a nice air of mystery, and when Susan's teachers eventually encounter the Doctor, quite a row develops. It's downhill after that, as far as I'm concerned, as a bit of a tussle results in the Tardis accidentally being sent back to caveman times where the last three rather boring parts of the serial are about the subtle nuances of caveman inter-group dynamics and the quest for fire. It's funny, because if you were to watch this serial and not know anything about what was going to happen next, you might think the male teacher (the one in the picture who is not the Doctor, is not the caveman, and is not a teenage girl) is the star of the show, as he makes most of the important decisions and seems to be the de facto leader of the group.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Film Crew # 2: Men With Diapers

My second Film Crew movie, The Giant of Marathon, wasn't quite as disturbing as seeing Blanche from the Golden Girls doing a prolonged striptease. This one did contain more men in loin cloths than the T.O. Church Street Gay Pride Parade and the interesting historical lesson that the Greeks apparently defeated the entire Persian fleet by swimming underneath the invaders' ships and sinking them with sharp spears. It was also kinda interesting to read about the production of the four Film Crew movies on this cool website I discovered ("Wikipedia" or something, it could be big someday):

The episodes were produced in 2005 in association with Rhino Entertainment, who were to distribute the episodes on DVD. However, Rhino was approached by Jim Mallon of Best Brains, who threatened to pull future releases of MST3K from Rhino's distribution unless they passed on the series (Mallon claiming that it was "too similar to MST3K" and that Rhino had to choose either MST3K or Film Crew).[citation needed] Rhino then ended their relationship with The Film Crew. It wasn't until 2007 that arrangement were made with Shout! Factory to release the material (requiring some "looping" of lines from the original scripts - specifically, "Bob Honcho" was originally named "Bob Rhino", and this had to be changed due to Rhino no longer being the distributor).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Last Issue Special # 9: M.A.R.S. Patrol: Total War

SERIES: M.A.R.S. Patrol: Total War

DATE: 1969

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Unknown (no credits)


The Earth has been invaded by bald, human-looking "aliens" wearing Elizabethan-era neck ruffles and puffy pantaloons! Who will save us? Only the M.A.R.S. Patrol("Marine Attack Rescue Service")! As the aliens themselves put it, "Our armament is superior, but our principal enemies, the Americans, have one weapon we cannot match . . . ingenuity and coolness under fire!" After ten issues of alien-bustin' action, will the vaunted Russ, Joe, Ken, and the Skipper manage to defeat the "Baldies" once and for all? Unfortunately, we'll never know as we're left on the final page watching our heroes fly off to stop another alien attack, as a bystander sagely opines "That fighting quartet thrives on action."
And man, those great painted Gold Key covers sure were false advertising given the mediocre artwork inside . . .

Monday, May 4, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign Recap Extra: Holonet # 3

The third and final of my Coruscant Holonews handouts, emphasizing just how public Tarn and Arresta's relationship has become and the disappearance of Marpa.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Last Issue Special # 8: Turok, Son of Stone

SERIES: Turok, Son of Stone

DATE: 1982

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Paul S. Newman (writer)


I only have two issues of Turok, Son of Stone, and no independent memory as to how they got into my collection. One of them happens to be issue # 130, the last of the series. From what I can tell, Turok and his younger (brother? friend? lover?) companion Andar are Native Americans who have become trapped in "Lost Valley", which is filled mostly with dinosaurs--the series is about their attempt to find a way out of Lost Valley and back to their homes. I was struck by the sheer number of creatures they manage to kill off in just this one issue: 9 massive dinosaurs, 2 giant prehistoric crocodiles, and some sort of humongous sea reptile (now we know conclusively why dinosaurs went extinct: it was Turok & Andar!). For those of you hoping for a happy ending, no luck--the issue ends with Turok & Andar no closer to finding a way out than before, nor with any mention whatsoever that this was the final issue.

The main thing I find surprising about Turok is that the concept has somehow managed to spawn various subsequent series, an archival collection from Dark Horse, a video game, an animated movie, and (coming up next year) a live-action feature.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 17

This was the next-to-last session in the big trial story arc, and probably the most important session of the campaign in terms of on-going repercussions. Marpa managed to accomplish something quite impressive in an action-filled escapade, though for now I have to keep exactly what happened a secret. Through a careful review of previous recaps and handouts, Tarn and Arresta managed to figure out Jocasta's true identity, something I hadn't expected to happen until much later in the campaign (though surprisingly, they haven't really used this knowledge yet). Finally, Tarn and Arresta consumated a relationship that had, until that point, been mostly flirtation.

How this last bit occurred is kinda funny. At the beginning of the session, I slipped Tarn's player a note "Tarn is feeling slightly more amorous than normal; but this isn't mind-control, so don't go crazy." (I almost never give players directions on how to role-play, but there was an artificial force acting on Tarn that I can't reveal yet). Tarn's player somehow interpreted this along the lines of "Tarn is being mind-controlled and should act like Don Juan," thus surprising me and everyone else during the session with his sudden passion for Arresta. I chose the tasteful "and the scene fades to black" option when it was clear the two of them weren't going to stop.

Zero and Natany really stepped it up this session and came up with some good evidence to use at the trial. The big battle at the Aquarium was a lot of fun, with water, dead fish, and shards of glass everywhere. One of the memorable things about the battle is that I made everyone make a Balance check to move without slipping--it wasn't a difficult role, the sort of thing you'd probably succeed on 2 out of every 3 times. After Marpa slipped once, however, his player kept trying again and again for several consecutive rounds and fell down every single time. It was a comical combination of terrible luck at the dice and a bit of a stubborn streak in the player.

Update (June 18, 2012):  I've added the secret information about exactly how Marpa Zalon managed to escape Coruscant and start a new life as Daal Mordo.  The sequence where they're trying to destroy the tracker droids and fight off a scavenger gang while speeding through the mazelike Undercity in an air-car was damned exciting and quite memorable.  Marpa certainly earned his escape and assumption of a new identity through clever planning, excellent flying, and a whole lot credits!


The search for evidence to exonerate the accused has started to finally bear fruit, thanks to expert computer research, travels across the galaxy, and thousands of credits in bribes. After meeting with Doolb Snoil to discuss their findings, the accused and their hired investigators have been invited to a Royal Masquerade. What happens next remains to be seen, but time is dwindling before the trial begins.

Two weeks pass. Greesh Leedo is reported dead after an explosion at his hideout during a raid by metropol judicials, while the ball has been delayed and will now be held at the Royal Icqui Aquaria. Marpa's time is well spent at the comp-sci lab as he uses extremely sophisticated techniques to uncover evidence that the holovid is a compilation of real footage of a massacre aboard Mercy's Errand layered together with real footage of the accused fighting in Mongui; he also uses special equipment to slice into the signal sent by the subdermal tracking device and the hovering surveillance droid to learn what type of information is transmitted,  forges a false identity and a duplicate signal to be sent by the tracking devices; sets a date for the surgery with Je'Taru, and learns that Prosecutor Rap-Seri has a hidden file on Ycram. Natany and Zero investigate in the Both Sector; they learn that there are major discrepancies between what the holovid shows and the layout of the ship, and that according to starport sensor logs there is a short period of time when it looks like Delia's Ultimatum is in two different places at once. They confirm that the accused were held briefly in an internment facility but were released by a Bothan officer named Iraek Tav. Tarn continues his training at the Jedi Temple, but his lessons with the Clone troopers have ended. Now, Master Creen expects Tarn to venture into seedy and dangerous undercity bars to wait for fights to break out and then try to use the Force to "persuade" the inhabitants to stop fighting. Arresta's fame continues, even as she's caught by paparazzi outside of a seedy spice den. Speculation continues about her relationship with Tarn.

[121 AG]

Arresta, Marpa and Tarn meet with Zero and Natany at Doolb Snoil's office to discuss the progress of the investigation. The investigators share the results of their Both Sector trip with the accused. With this evidence adding credence to the accused trio's claims of a ship with a falsified transponder, Arresta agrees to ask her Uncle Ignatius to bring records from the Xoorzi Skyhook. Most importantly, Marpa tells the others that according to his analysis, the famous holovid was actually pieced together from multiple sources and is a fake.

After the meeting the group splits up to prepare for the masquerade ball. Emerging from her bedroom to get some assistance with the zipper on her dress, Arresta finds Tarn in a romantic mood. Tarn tries to get Arresta to acknowledge the special connection between them and manages to obtain a few kisses. Heading onto the landing pad to meet their waiting limo, they find themselves surrounded by the press. Suddenly, they are attacked by two thugs spouting anti-Separatist epithets at Arresta. Arresta manages to kick one in the face with her high heel, but Tarn saves the day by calling on the Force to “persuade” the attackers to halt. In the face of an armed and dangerous Jedi, the two thugs run off. After a paparazzi flash-bulb inducing kiss, the couple proceeds to the limo.

Tarn's heightened libido makes for a awkward ride with the rest of the group, but eventually they arrive at the aquaria. They are met by Senator Orm Mandell's chief aide, as well as by Arresta's escort for the evening, Fabio. Arresta reminds Tarn that "Jedi don't dance". Following some pointed remarks between the two men, she waltzes off with Fabio. The ball is well-attended, including an appearance by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. While Marpa observes the crowd and Zero and Natany observe the bar and buffet, Tarn encounters an alleged representative of Republic Intelligence who requests a debrief on the anomaly. Tarn tells him he’ll have to talk to the others and think it over. Arresta and Fabio rejoin Tarn, and the Jedi asks the Princess to dance. Unfortunately, he steps on her feet and sends her spinning into Senator Mandell, spilling punch all over him. The Senator is good natured about the accident and remarks that he still owes them a favour before leaving to get cleaned up.

Arresta thinks that Tarn's sudden romantic interest is an attempt to make fun of her and she heads to the ladies room to get away. Tarn seizes the opportunity to use the Force to convince Fabio to leave. Fabio encounters Arresta on his way out and tries to get her to leave with him. She tells him to go away, but he comes on stronger. Tarn intercedes and after a bit of a shoving match, Fabio departs.

Marpa, Tarn, and Arresta talk in the safety of Marpa's new silence bubble generator, and decide to talk with Senator Mandell. Coincidentally, his aide has tracked them down to meet with the Senator. They collect Zero (sobering him up) and Natany and head to the meeting. Arriving at the isolated corridor, they find Mandell and two other Senators from the Appropriations committee. It is obvious that Mandell thought that they had called this meeting and that this is a trap. Fingers tapping on glass reveal the perpetrator - a very alive Greesh Leedo.

Senator Mandell is hit by a harpoon to the chest before anyone can act, and then Greesh Leedo calmly shoots him in the face with a blaster as water and fish spill out into the sealed corridor, trapping everyone inside with the assassin and his crab droid scouts. Zero opens fire and manages to destroy two of the droids. Marpa attempts to place a tracker on Greesh --who seems to recognize him and calls him Balan. While Marpa keeps slipping and falling in the water-filled corridor, Tarn and Natany concentrate on Greesh. The Ryn uses his tail to trip up the assassin and keep him from escaping. Greesh fires several shots from his blaster carbine at Tarn, but the Jedi narrowly manages to dodge the bolts until Greesh loses his grip on the wet rifle and it slips from his cybernetic fingers. Tarn uses the Force to push the weapon beyond Greesh’s reach. The assassin dives for the drainage pipe but is wounded by Tarn's lightsaber strike, giving Zero a chance to grab Greesh by the leg a split-second before he could escape. The assassin offers a bribe if Zero lets go, but Greesh is quickly overpowered and emergency first aid keeps him alive to answer charges. Meanwhile, Arresta destroys the remaining crab droids, but not before they ruthlessly murder the other two Senators. She summons help. When the Judicials arrive, they seem confused about Tarn's strange lightsaber and then forget about it.

Hoping to avoid another uncomfortable limo ride, Arresta slips out and heads home. Tarn becomes worried and chases her back to the apartment, where he successfully seduces her. A few times.

[126 AG]

Tarn and Arresta have become lovers and their pillow talk includes their reluctant suspicions about Marpa. Neither believes he is evil, but Tarn is very upset at the dishonesty. Arresta tries to convince him that the past shouldn't matter so much, that who a person is today is much more important.

They talk about why becoming a Jedi means so much to Tarn. He is still coming home bruised and bloody, so Arresta follows him to a seedy bar where he seems to be starting and stopping fights with strangers. Arresta confronts him about how worried she is and tells him that she has suspicions about Master Creen. Tarn is touched by her concern and declares that the only order he would refuse would be to stop loving her.

Tarn visits Master Creen and decides, at the last second, not to tell him about the strange lightsaber. He also barters information from Black Sun about Jocasta in exchange for information on the anomaly. He does not reveal anything about the military reasons for that mission. In exchange for the information, he gets a communications frequency.

When contacted by Tarn and Arresta, Jocasta is willing to provide proof of their innocence if Tarn will repudiate Master Creen publicly. Tarn and Arresta review the evidence and realize that Jocasta is actually Creen's presumed dead Padawan. Despite being unsure of Creen's innocence, Tarn is reluctant to repudiate his Master. He and the Princess do not confide in Marpa but do contact Jedi Master Sarigar. Tarn again decides not to discuss the lightsaber, but does convince Sarigar to help them, if they can get Jocasta to Coruscant.

Marpa enlists Zero and Natany in his carefully-orchestrated escape plan.  Marpa prepares to jam the signals from the tracking device and droid and replace them with his counterfeit versions.  He then enters an abandoned dwelling deep in the undercity.  Zero & Natany try to shoot the tracker droid with ion guns from their hiding places, but they miss!  Zero has miscalculated the strength of the ceiling and it collapses, tumbling him from his hiding place in the apartment above, where he had cut a hole in the floor to shoot through.  Marpa also tries to shoot the droid but is surprised by the falling Zero and stumbles himself, hitting the ground hard and breaking his arm.  The plan appears to be a miserable failure when the shouts of approaching undercity gang members echo through the apartment, but the trio quickly regroup.  A couple of well-placed shots destroy the surveillance droid and the trio dash for their waiting aircar while Marpa’s guardian droid holds off most of the gang members; one of them breaks through, however, and leaps onto the back of the aircar just as it takes off.  Even with a broken arm, Marpa manages to fly through the dark and winding maze of the undercity while Zero and Natany make short work of the clinging gang member by shooting him in the face.  Marpa drops Zero and Natany off in a safe place, turning over his workshop to them in exchange for their help.

Marpa pays the Kaminoan crime doctor Je’Taru 25,000 credits for a full identity change and removal of the subdermal tracker.  After several days recuperating, the Duros makes his way off planet to begin a new, third life.

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Last Issue Special # 7: Blue Beetle

SERIES: Blue Beetle

DATE: 1988

THOSE RESPONSIBLE: Len Wein (writer), Denny O'Neil (editor)


I realize I haven't blogged at all about Blue Beetle (version 2.0, Ted Kord), even though he's my favorite DC super hero (I even dressed up as him in a mom-made costume for Halloween when I was twelve or so). The adventures of BB and Booster Gold in the late 80s Justice League International was my entry point into the DC Universe; in that series, Blue and Gold were portrayed as heroes out of their league (pun intended), C-list members living down to their reputations as comic relief.

The solo Blue Beetle series of the same period had a very different take on the character: Ted Kord was a traditional serious super-hero, balancing attempts at a private life, running a business, and fighting crime. Subplots and super-villains were standard stuff, and although the book wasn't bad per se, it just wasn't nearly as much fun as Blue Beetle was over in JLI.

The last issue of the solo series manages to wrap up most of the on-going subplots: Ted's father returns to take over the family business, Ted's love interest is given the boot, and Ted himself leaves hometown Chicago to start a new life. In a column titled the "Rest-in-Peace Department," writer Len Wein thanks "the faithful readers who have stayed with us through thick and thin over these past months, your loyalty has been appreciated more than you can ever know. We've done this for you and we could never had done it without you."

I always imagine that Booster Gold makes fun of Beetle, since Gold's solo series lasted 25 issues and Beetle's only lasted 24.