Friday, March 28, 2014

Nothing this week

Sorry, my week has been miserable work wise.  Yes, I got the next batch of comics read, but I need time to digest my reviews of them.  Next week, I promise.

I was going to post something about what went up on Chainsawsuit last week.  But, I think you guys have heard enough of my comments about criticism and how it should be viewed.

Next week, the conclusion of ReviewSPLOSION!  Until then kiddies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 21

            “You left me behind!”

            How could she have been so careless?  L’lorne had spent so much time thinking of ways to get into the Asylum, she hadn't thought to check up on Deborah and make sure she was still sleeping.  If she had seen her awaken, at least she could have intercepted her before she got inside, and now they both stood there, face to face, right in the heart of the Asylum.  “Yes, I did.”

            “How could you?  This is my mother we're talking about.”  The girl was near hysteric in her anger, and L’lorne had to quickly squelch the sonic detectors in the room as well as set up a sound deadening field to keep Deborah's voice from alerting everyone and their uncle.

            “I wanted to do some reconnaissance.  See where the weak points were and. . .”

            “BY COMING INSIDE!”

            L’lorne grumbled silently.  This wasn't going to go well.  How had she gotten in anyway?  The ventilation ducts was good, but how did she get into them?  Didn't matter, really, she was here now, and L’lorne would have to deal with the situation.  “Yes, by coming inside.  I wanted to make sure your mother was actually here before we both tried to get inside.  I'm a touch more agile than you, so I figured. . .”

            “You didn't tell me.”  Deborah was starting to recompose herself, but was still visibly angry, crossing her arms in a very scolding manner.  L’lorne considered flooding her system with something to calm her down, but it seemed she was doing it herself.  Good, L’lorne wasn't completely sure it would have worked anyway.  Deborah was obviously starting to resist the less overt influences L’lorne had been working on her.  She shouldn't have woken up until morning.  Still no excuse for not watching her more closely.

            “I decided to do it after you fell asleep.  I figured you wouldn't notice.”

            “Would you have told me in the morning then?”

            Good question.  “I suppose it would depend on what I figured was the best way for us to get in.  But seeing as you found your own way in, I guess it's a moot point.  How did you get in, by the way?”

            “Oh, I asked the ghost.  He told me of a secret way in he had developed, right before he moved on.”

            “He moved on then?  That's good.”

            “Why didn't you try to help him move on?”

            Not a good question.  Not because she hadn't thought about the answer, but strictly because Deborah was unlikely to enjoy the answer:  Because L’lorne didn't consider it important.  The ghost would have moved on, eventually, but helping him?  That wasn't even a remote thought in her mind.  Deborah likely would disagree with that sentiment, probably figuring that helping others, even the otherworldly, should be a priority.  Have to break her of that eventually.  In the mean time, she would need to answer.  “I figured he might know something more that could help us.  Apparently I was right.  Good work.”

            Deborah smiled at the compliment, half hearted as it truly was, and released the remains of her more heated anger.  She would still be upset for a while, but at least she wasn't screaming any more.  “Well, now that we're here, let's find my mom.”  She turned to the large cylinders.  Their dark forms, highlighted by only displays and indicator lights, dominated even the massive room.  “What's in these things.”

            “I haven't had the chance to look yet,” L’lorne started, already accessing the data files remotely.  Lots of genetic information, familiar information.  Oh no.

            “I'll look,” Deborah announced, her hand digging into her pockets for the glasses before she had even finished her statement.

            L’lorne looked very quickly, just as the glasses slid over Deborah's ears.  The first cylinder, what were the odds?  “No don't!” L’lorne cried out, but it was too late.

            Deborah screamed.


            “Mother!”  L’lorne pushed past the people who crowded into the small hut. Her brother's both looked at her, one with disgust the other with surprise, as she stumbled into a kneeling position next to her mother.

             Denofors looked far older than L’lorne could remember, and she gently grabbed her wrinkled hand, afraid that too much pressure would shatter it.  The old woman opened her eyes and smiled.  “You came back.”  Her voice was weak and old, but still had that loving tone that L’lorne had grown to love.  With her free hand, Denofors stroked L’lorne's face.  “You've grown to be a beautiful woman.”

            “Oh mother, I'm sorry I didn't come back sooner, I was just so busy and. . .”  L’lorne stopped her explanation and buried her head into her mother's shoulder.  “I got here as soon as I could.”

            “It's alright,” Denofors said as she patted her daughter's head.  “Most believed you were dead, though I'm sure they're more than surprised right now.”  She eyed her sons, the youngest of which turned his head away.  The other continued to glare at Lloren.  “I knew better.  Though you did cut it rather close.”  L’lorne said nothing as she raised her head.  The tears trickling down her cheeks was all the response she really needed.  “Now then,” Denofors said as she wiped a few of the tears away.  “Tell me what you learned about the stars.”

            “The stars,” L’lorne smiled, remembering her promise.  “They're just like the sun, only so far away they look like points of light instead of disks.  Like the sun, they're really huge, many times bigger than the biggest thing you can imagine, made of a gas that is hotter than the hottest fire ever.  There are arcs of fire that fling out every once in a while, and they even have spots.” 

            “More amazing than I ever believed,” Denofors said quietly.

            L’lorne thought to continue, but it was obvious that her mother was starting to fade even as she spoke.  “Mother, you can't die now, there's more to tell you.”

            “And there is much I must tell you, but there is no more time.  I'm sure I will learn all I need soon enough, but you, you will have to learn everything on your own.  I'm sorry.”

            “Don't be, please don't be.”

            “I am.  But I know you Lcorn L’lorne, you will figure it out.” Denofors' eyes closed for a moment, opening only slightly.  She moved her hand on top of her daughter's hand and held it for a moment.  “I love you.”

            “I love you too.”

            Lcorn Denofors, she who bathes in the light of the stars, died.  L’lorne wept for a moment, holding the still hand of her mother.  The hand of one of the priests pressed itself against her shoulder and pulled slightly.  The hut began to empty as the rituals of passing were beginning.

            Tears welled up in her eyes as she moved outside, followed by the crowd of family and friends.  L’lorne leaned up against a nearby pole and let her tears come.  She didn't break down into hysterics, but she cried anyway, weeping long and hard.  It was only when her eldest brother, Mcorn Gunah, approached her that she pulled back on the tears to try to greet him with a smile as best she could.

            “Damn you,” Gunah growled back at her, and grabbed her wrist with such a tight grip that she almost instantly lost circulation in her hand.  For a moment she was surprised, but the next instant was nearly pure instinct.  L’lorne spun her hand around and grabbed his wrist back, then twisted it up and over, braking his grip and forcing his arm behind his back.  He squealed for a moment in pain as she pushed him down to his knees.

            “Don't ever do that again,” L’lorne responded with a sudden flood of anger.

            “I'll kill you traitor!”

            “Gunah, L’lorne!”  The familiar, if older, voice of her younger brother was enough to convince L’lorne to break her hold and Gunah snapped back up into a fighting stance.  “I said enough!”

            “She's a traitor Phulan,” Gunah started to argue.

            “Go home Gunah,” Mcorn Phulan ordered.  “I will come get you when it's time for the burial.”

            “But. . .”

            “Go home now.”

            Gunah turned from his brother and glared at L’lorne.  “I will kill you for what you did to father, I swear it.”  With that he stormed off, heading for the far end of the village.

            L’lorne watched with wary eyes, then took a deep breath.  “I knew neither of you would be happy to see me, but I didn't think. . .”

            “Father,” Phulan said without looking at L’lorne.  “Gunah blames you for what happened to father.”

            L’lorne studied her brother's form, far older than she last remembered him, but still younger than herself.  She saw her father's stern frame and face, and her mother's eyes and nose, and most of all she saw the markings that once was her father alone.  “You took his position.”

            Phulan still didn't look at L’lorne, instead he focused on the people selling things in the nearby market.  “I had to.  Father was so angry when you left, he and Gunah went off to look for you.  Someone had to fill his role, and with mother's help I did.”  He finally looked up at L’lorne, directly into her eyes.  “I wanted to go looking for you too.  I was young, but I understood enough to know that you shouldn't have just left like that.  I wanted you back.”

            “I had to, he promised to teach me. . .”

            “All about the stars, I know,” Phulan finished.  “Mother told me, explained it to me as best she could.  Father refused to accept it.”  Suddenly his face grew very sad.  “He died while looking for you, three winters after you left.  An accident, but Gunah blamed you.  He still does.”

            “I'm sorry.”

            “For what?  Father was a hot headed fool.  If he had just let you go, he'd still be alive.  He couldn't let his pride go though, and kept at it.”  Phulan shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  “Gunah will kill you if you stay too long.  He is a warrior now, in charge of one of the stronger groups.  They will come for you as soon as the burial is over and there is nothing I can do to stop them.”

            “Yes, I understand.”  L’lorne reached out for her brother, but he stepped back.

            “Good bye L’lorne.”  Phulan turned and left without another word.

            L’lorne stood there and felt the tears coming again.  They were flowing when his hand landed gently on her shoulder.  “Not the welcoming you were expecting?”

            “He didn't even want to touch me.  Gunah I understand that, but Phulan, we were so close.”

            “Perhaps that's why, and maybe he'll change his mind before we leave.”

            L’lorne shook her head as she wiped the tears away.  “I don't think so.”  She began to look around the small section of the village they were in, trying to find something, anything, that could distract her from the pain.  The small market stand seemed busy as usual, and she watched with waning interest as the farmer bartered for tools and clothing.  All this seemed completely normal, but with a sniff, L’lorne looked closer.  “Something is wrong.”


            The baskets of grain looked alright, but the grain was strange, not quite right.  Her eyes moved down to the next stand, and found something similar.  She then looked up at the mounds that dominated the village, and looked at the various temples and buildings.  All seemed normal, looked normal, but something was definitely wrong.  “I can see that there's something wrong.  But I can't figure out what.”

            “I wouldn't expect you to see that yet.  In a few more years, maybe, but not now.”

            “What is it?  Tell me, please.”

            “Very well.”  He took a breath, then let his smile fade away.  “This place is dying.”

            The phrase was enough to put all the pieces together and she began weeping again.  “No, it can't die.  I can't let this happen.”

            “Stopping it would be hard, especially with the way they feel about you right now.”

            “I have to, this is my home, these are my people, I have to help them.”

            “Then I will help you, however,” he raised his hand to make his point.  “There will be another problem in the future.  Remember chess?”  L’lorne nodded, her hand instinctively going to the T sharped piece of twisted metal that hung from her neck.  “The people who invented that game are coming here.  They will play to win, but I don't think anyone else on this continent will be able to stand up to them.”

            “My people can.”

            “Perhaps, perhaps.”



1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
4. It's obvious, but I'm not sure I can move the second section and still have the story flow right, but if moving it might be best, say so.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wild Webcomic ReviewSPLOSION! Part 1

We interrupt the lack of reviews on this review blog for:


Yeah, I got the first batch done and am well on my way through the next.  If you missed it, I got 10 comics via the blog's email account and have decided to do them all in two potent batches.  And I managed to get the first batch done early, so yay for that.  So let's see what's in the first, shall we?

251.  [IMG] Insert Image - Right from the get go, here's a comic I likely wouldn't have read if it hadn't been sent to me.  And right after it was, the comic ended, so now I feel really bad about not reviewing it sooner.  Anyway, this is not a comic for me, because it's a Christan comic.  It is NOT, as I initially feared when I realized what it was, a comic that beats you about the head with a Bible until you believe, and I appreciate that.  No, it's more telling jokes that the Christan community would understand and relate to, and does so while being generally approachable.  I mean, it's a fine enough comic, and the jokes I got were funny enough (including the $6.66 stuff), but most of it is beyond my understanding.  I am sad that it is ending (because he wants to eat and the comic doesn't pay for that), and hope he changes his mind, but I'm not sad I read it.

252.  Blue Blaster - I'm glad to see the increase in the number of superhero comics out there, and Blue Blaster is a fine addition.  I like that it doesn't do the straight-to-heroing angle, allowing the main character to explore the other side of the fence for a bit.  This leads to actually a great direction for the overall story and I really want to keep reading it to see how things turn out.  I will file one serious and one not so serious complaint.  Not so serious is the lack of color.  The line work is fine, and conveys the story quite well, but for a comic called "BLUE Blaster" the only time we know it's blue is from the covers.  I suspect this was done with an eye toward publication, but a touch of color (like Dead Winter does) might help improve the art quite a bit.  The more serious issue is that while the story claims it's set in a college, it's high school.  High school is not college in my experience, and it grates me when college is shown like high school.  I may have to write an article on that.  Once I decided that the story is actually about a high school student (senior year is fine), the story flowed much better for me.  I'll still be reading it of course, it's quite good.

253.  Bohemian Nights - It's easy to sum up this comic:  A group of friends whose lives didn't quite turn out like they wished it had, spend their weekends drinking, dancing and partying to forget it for a while.  Oh, it's not all about the drinking thing, it covers their lives when not doing that and I enjoy it.  It's rather young (less than 100 strips) so it's hard to judge how good it'll be in the long run, but so far, so good.  The only thing that might turn a reader off is the art.  Loose would be the best way to describe it.  It's not bad, far from it, the art is distinctive and easy to follow and identify, but the loose structure might come off as "bad" for people who judge quickly.  I like it well enough and I will continue to read it.

254.  Licensed Heroes - This comic has one joke:  Bureaucracy sucks.  Comics can work with just one joke, and this one does it quite well.  That said, it does get old after a bit, though I suspect that's more the way I read the comic during an archive dive than any fault of the comic.  After a bit, I just want SOMETHING positive to happen this band of adventurers without a proper adventure to go on.  I suspect that if I got it in smaller doses, like a standard update, it wouldn't be so bad.  It's a fun look at swords and sorcery settings, something Dungeon Crawl Inc. messed up terribly.  Worth reading, at least I hope it isn't as depressing.

255.  Rudek and the Bear - I don't know if I would have found this comic normally, mostly because the site isn't really about Rudek and the Bear, it's about another comic, but I'll get to that in a moment.  This is a kind of historic comic, set in 1929 along the Polish/Soviet border.  Which is told in the introduction page at the beginning of the comic.  I would complain more about it, but in this case, some kind of set up is necessary (though I don't much like this set up).  The comic after that is, well, kind of generic.  It reminds me of early Beetle Baily strips (after he joined the military) or some of the silly 50's shows that involved the military in some way.  Nothing wrong with this, the jokes are simple and rather funny, but I've seen enough of it to know it's nothing special.  The most interesting thing is the setting and, well, the art.  It looks old, and I know it's the shading because there's a later strip that has no shading and it looks much more modern than the rest of the strip.  It's weird, but interesting.  That said, this is not the main comic, and it's currently on a kind of hiatus while the main comic, Zuzel and The Fox, is being worked on as a graphic novel, covering  a lot of the same territory.  I'll probably follow the comic for a bit to see if it starts updating again.  Nothing special, but nothing terrible either.

That's it for this week.  I should be reading the next batch of comics by the time you read this, so next week, reviewSPLOSION part 2, until then kiddies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 20

            The Asylum looked even scarier in the dark.  Its tall, imposing walls looked even more tall and imposing in the limited light of night.  The darkness itself was made even greater by the giant lights that ringed the top of the walls and the towers.  Which made it that much easier for Deborah to creep along the wall.

            “It's along the north wall, located halfway between the third and fourth towers.”  The image of the ghost of David Engera appeared in a small corner of the glasses, his voice as clear as crystal as the recording of their conversation earlier that evening.  It was odd that the ghost's voice and image seemed to ease her fears as she found the giant “block of stone” that Engera had directed her to.

            “There are six stones shaped like small crosses around the perimeter of the stone,” the ghost said.  The stones were there, one directly over the center of the stone, one  directly underneath it, one to the left of center and one to the right, with the last two at the bottom left and bottom right corners  “Press them in this order:”

            She pressed the top one twice, bottom one twice, then the left and right ones twice in sequence, followed by the bottom right then bottom left.  There was no noise as the massive stone moved out almost an inch, then slowly rolled up and out of the way.  “It won't be open for long, so get through it quickly.”

            Deborah obeyed and was inside just as the stone door lowered back into place.  Looking back, she could see through the fake stone, confirming that it was just a fancy, but very secure, vent covering.  “The ventilation system was reinforced, supposedly to prevent excess sound, but instead it should allow you to crawl through the ducts without being detected, for the most part.  Just don't say much or they will hear you.”

            She slowly began her crawl into the depths of the Asylum, taking care not to say much of anything, but fearing her every movement was being telegraphed right to just the wrong people.  Within a few meters she stopped at an intersection and mentally told the glasses to continue the playback.

            “The first intersection you come to is the main part of the security net.  You can't see them, but hundreds of lasers crisscross the intersection, waiting for someone to break them.  Do so and the entire building will lock up tight.  Just to make it more difficult, the system pulses in random patterns, so you can't simply deflect it with a sequence of mirrors.”

            “Show me the lasers,” Deborah whispered as quietly as she dared.  The glasses obeyed and soon the pulsing movement of the lasers became visible.  The show was neat, in and of itself, but she wasn't there to watch.

            “Now there's a keypad located to your right.  Punch in 6186320320 into the pad and it will deactivate the lasers for a few moments.  It will also disable the automatic locks for the doors, so if you do trip the alarm, you'll still be able to move through the facility.”

            Sounded easy enough, but there was no keypad on the right hand wall of the duct.  Nor was it on the left.  Deborah began to get a bit frantic, and began looking around desperately.  A moment or two passed before she spotted the pad, on the other side of the wildly flashing lasers.  “Crap.”

            End of the line.  Nowhere else to go without alerting everyone within 50 miles of her presence.  Deborah laid up against the wall of the duct and sighed.  Back to the house was looking to be her only option.  She couldn't imagine going back, waiting for L’lorne to come back, if she came back, and being alone during it.  Really alone now that Engera had moved on to where it is he was heading.  She wondered about that while watching the lasers and their seemingly random flashing patterns.

            Random patterns.  Almost as random as the data stream she had looked into.  No, she couldn't do it again, could she?  They wouldn't leave a hole in the pattern, that would be ridiculous.  But then, having someone capable of predicting when the hole would form is pretty ridiculous.  So maybe, perhaps, she could.

            Quickly moving into a crouch, she began watching the lasers.  She relaxed her eyes and let them wander over the bouncing light beams.  The thought that perhaps a hole wouldn't form for hours, or even years, were pushed to the back of her mind, and she focused on just the lasers.  Minutes passed, her legs began to cramp, her eyes began to bug and get tired, but she held firm.  Any moment now, any moment.

            NOW!  She didn't even have time to think about what she was doing, her muscles simply acted as she jumped forward.  The lasers flashed around her for a moment, then ceased for the briefest of moments as her body flew through the intersection.  Her body landed with a dull thud on the other side and she froze, sure that the alarm would flash, that she hadn't made it.

            Nothing.  The lasers continued to bounce between their various emitters and receivers, as if she had never been there before.  Deborah allowed herself a slight chuckle and she keyed in Engera's code, shutting down the lasers for good.  She had done it, this time without any prompting from L’lorne or anyone.  She crawled away from the intersection and followed the rest of the instructions as Engera's recording directed, more than pleased with herself.

            The room beyond the vent plate at the end of her journey was so brightly lit, she barely moved to enter it.  There had to be someone inside if it was this bright in there, yet there was hardly any sign of them.  She strained her ears listening for even the slightest sound of a person working inside or a joking guard, or something, but nothing.  How could it be so bright and no one inside?

            As Deborah went to scratch her own head in a bit of frustration, her fingers tapped against the glasses, and she suddenly remembered she was still wearing them.  Only a few days ago she had never worn glasses, and now she was so used to these, she forgot she was wearing them.  Didn't help that they did everything possible to make themselves so easy to use.  With a smile, she pulled them off and stuffed them in her pocket.

            The room was, as she suspected, actually nearly pitch dark.  The only lights were those of the machinery and that wasn't likely to give her away.  With a solid kick, she knocked out the vent cover and stepped into the room.


            Deborah looked up.  “L’lorne!”



1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
4. Does the time line for this sequence, from Deborah waking up to this meeting make sense?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coming Reviewspolsion

Hey everyone.  I need to apologize.  I'm terrible at checking comments and email.  I mean, awful and terrible.  Almost 2 months passed before I remembered, hey, I have an email account for this site.  So I just checked it and several people sent me suggestions for comics, typically their own.

I feel all kinds of terrible about it, so I need to do something about it.  First, I need to try to remember to check the freaking email account.  Second, I need to review those comics.  I actually have 10 of them, so two batches to review.  However, my work schedule is all kinds of stupid, so I need time to do them.

I'm reading the first one now, so I'm hoping to have at least the first batch done by, um, two weeks from now.  Hopefully, possibly, maybe.  I'll do what I can.

So, in the spare time I have (which is shockingly little, damn early mornings and long hours), I'll be reading comics and hopefully have at least one batch of reviews up, followed by quickly by another one.  Biggest explosion of reviews I've had in quite a while, possibly ever.  Then I'll have to tap into my rather lengthy actual future read list.

That will take a long time though.  Until next time kiddies, when I'll have something.  The time after that will be the reviews, I hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 19

            L’lorne stood against the darkened wall of the Asylum and waited for the guard up in the tower to turn away.  He would, eventually, or she’d make him if need be.  She looked towards the old house, double checking that Deborah was fast asleep.  Leaving the girl behind on this midnight expedition was necessary.  Sure, they knew her mother had been brought here, and probably still was, but what else was inside?  L’lorne had to know before they went in, because if Ritch 'arrd was inside, all her plans could be ruined.

            That and it was fun to play the role of a cat burglar.  The guard had turned away, and L’lorne quickly climbed up the bare concrete wall with her bare hands.  Her fingers barely touched the rock as she pulled herself up and over, finally landing on the other side of the wall without even an audible thud.  A quick dash across the small courtyard and a quick flash through the door’s electronic lock and she was inside.

            Her examination of David Engera’s plans, as well as those she had complied with her own sensors, had confirmed the multiple layers of security the building had been built with.  Redundancies were everywhere, electronic locks backed with old fashioned key locks and simple detectors and cameras.  Some of the systems looked practically medieval, but they worked perfectly well with the more advanced systems, allowing nearly total control of the facility and those inside.

            None of which could actually stop L’lorne.  As she passed by cameras, she directed them to not see her or her actions.  Doors and locks gave way with a simple touch, and sensors were overridden with a mere look.  The hardest thing to get around was the multitude of guards that strolled the halls.  L’lorne used the great skill of misdirection and her own gymnastic abilities to overcome this obstacle, though she did consider simply killing her way through.

            That would spoil everything, though.  Killing people would throw everything into chaos, and it would be impossible to get Deborah in through all this, and there was the chance that her mother would be moved as the panic increased.  Better to do it the silent, stealthy way.

            Tomorrow, she and Deborah would be back, first walking through the front door, just as they did at the CDPC, then breaking off from their intended path and finding their way to the secured area Engera had highlighted.  It might even be a good idea to be a touch lost, so Deborah can help find their way through the building.  Yes, that would be good.

            How to get around the guards with her though?  L’lorne considered this as she braced herself against the ceiling, disappearing from their view.  Fighting them wouldn't really be a challenge, but doing this trick with the girl in tow would be nearly impossible.  Also fighting them would help endear her to Deborah that much more.  Of course, she would have to not kill them to do it, or make it appear that way at least.

            The hallways were well marked and brightly lit. It was built like a professional, modern incarceration facility, not some gloomy dungeon as the exterior suggested.  The density of the guards seemed to grow as L’lorne got deeper inside, and nearer her goal.  Perhaps fighting them would be too much.  Disguises might prove more effective for the distance and time they would need to spend inside.  Fighting their way out would seem more plausible than fighting their way in at the very least.  L’lorne backtracked a bit, noting the locations of various laundries and locker rooms.  The problem would be getting Deborah into a uniform, as they were very, very unlikely to come in her size.

            Checking the map, L’lorne found she was right in front of the hallway down to the most secure section of the Asylum.  The doors were locked with a combination of electronic and mechanical locks, locked in a tandem system.  The guard in the nearby booth, that had suddenly developed a blind spot where L’lorne was now standing, held one set of keys while the authorized person held another set.  Turned together, they would easily open the door.

            This presented a problem.  They would only have one set of keys.  Teaching Deborah how to pick locks was a possibility, as was simply making a key, but neither seemed all that interesting.  As she thought on the options, the door clacked open, and she had to step aside, then dive in quickly behind the leaving person.  He looked to be either a doctor or a scientist, standard white lab coat and all.  Before slipping in, L’lorne stealthed up.

            It was a good thing, the hallway ended only a few meters in at yet another door guarded by a pair of heavily armed guards.  Neither saw as L’lorne approached them, studying their weapons and gear as she did.  A scan of the walls reveled a sequence of retracted wall partitions that opened to create a staggered pattern to the hallway.  It would slow any attacker or escapee, while giving the guards a smaller area to concentrate fire and extra cover from armed opponents.  “Very clever,” L’lorne whispered.  Neither guard heard her.

            These two could come in handy, and she touched each on the shoulder, attaching an invisible, but very potent, line to their nervous systems.  On command they would become her willing puppets, a perfect diversion for responding guards to run into.  She then pushed the door open that was held by just as complicated a lock system as everything else, and entered the room.

            The room was big, just as the plans had said, but it was also densely packed with equipment, especially a dozen giant cylindrical structures that dominated the room.  Each one a maze of pipes, wires, control panels and displaces.  L’lorne was about to check the contents when a loud clang drew her attention to the large air vent just to the left of the door.




1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Retrospective: Life of Riley

This is a comic I've been meaning to reread for a long time.  Something like, oh, 7 years, give or take a few months.  So why do it now?  Mostly because I don't have the time to read any other comics (job has stupid hours).

Still, Life of Riley is something I've been missing for a LONG time.  And I mean missing it, as I reread the comic, I get this odd joy, like something has been missing from my life and now it's back, even for a bit.

Life of Riley is one of the comics spawned as a result of the success of the second wave of comics, things like Penny Arcade and Sluggy Freelance.  Amongst it's peers is Exploitation Now!, and it's the 8th webcomic I read.  Yeah, I got nostalgia goggles on for this one, and I'm not even going to hide it.  Still, I tried to be objective going into the archive dive and found that I was being sucked back in very quickly indeed.

So what drew me back?  Well, the art is quite good for one.  Considering how old this comic is (it started in 2000), the art outdoes a lot of comics I read today.  What I like to see is distinctive characters, and this has it in spades.  There's also patterns of looks.  Demon characters are in red, angel/good characters are in blue, hell some of the characters have emoticons on their shirts indicating their alignment.  The action sequences are sensible, easy to interpret, and a lot of emotions can be gotten from the actual faces of the characters, even early on.  The art is better than solid, which is something I can't say about a lot of strips.

The writing is, well, dense.  Rereading it, I'm surprised at how MUCH text there is in this thing.  There are reasons, of course, but wow, is there a lot.  I guess I didn't notice it back in the day because, well, there weren't a lot of comics on my read list at the time, so I didn't notice how annoying it was.  And even now, it still wasn't annoying because I already knew everything and would skip large chunks of text.  For a newcomer, it would get old, but it leads to a lot of strip density.

That's one of the positive thing about the comic, strip density.  Every strip has something important going on, except for the silly "no strip today" strips (which are far more entertaining than my "no post" updates).  Between the text and the art, each regular strip adds a great deal to the comic and the universe of it.

Which is what really draws me in, the universe.  It's not a well planned world, but it grew organically over the years, and it feels, well, right, and interesting, and kind of terrifying if one examines it closely.  It's also not restrictive, allowing enough flexibility to expand and tell other stories within it.  I want to write stories for this universe, or even write fanfiction for the main comic.  I'll get to that later.

That said, the comic isn't perfect, at all.  It is partially a product of it's time.  This is when the initial popularity of comics like Penny Arcade were most keenly felt, so the early strips are very much a gaming comic.  It still maintains a bit of this as the comic goes on, but it does fade away, pretty much once the paintball war against the demons of hell gets going.

Which is where the other problem with the comic is, kind of.  I wrote an article a bit ago about Culmination Events in comics, and Life of Riley has two.  One is incomplete as it is at the end of the comic.  The other, is effectively the 3rd story of the comic.  How does that work?  ClanBoB.  What is ClanBoB?  It was/is a gaming community that the artist and writer belonged to at the time, it was even the name of the website when LoR was still updating.

Life of Riley began life as a community comic, so the paintball war story was the culmination event for the community known as ClanBoB.  There's a strip that features the BoBs arriving for the battle, and as just a reader of the comic, I have NO idea who any of them are.  But the people in that picture know exactly who the others are, probably, it has been over a decade now.  The result of this is that the comic feels backwards as the development of the actual comic characters doesn't really start until AFTER the big culmination event.

Once that begins, the comic finally comes into it's own.  It's not a gaming comic any more, it's not strictly a humor comic (Cerberus raises it's head here), but a fun adventure comic that has some great moments.  My favorite is when the narrator of the comic has enough of with the events of the story and starts ranting about how damn stupid it all is.  It's hilarious, at least to me.

So should it be read?  My nostalgia goggles say yes, do it now.  Realistically, though, it is a very niche project.  First for the old ClanBoB, and later for LoR fans, which I am.  I guess if exploring this era of comics, it fills that role really well, and it represents the work of the artist and writer.  Perhaps that is the biggest reason to read it though, as once the rather abrupt ending, right at the climax point of the story, there is no more.  Dan and Arron (artist and writer respectively), to my knowledge, have done nothing else.

I'm glad this is one of the few comics that while dead, is still available to read, and should be read so the guy running the site keeps it up.

Anyway, until next time kiddies.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 18

            Deborah snapped awake.  The old house was quiet and dark, far darker than she remembered it looking earlier.  She chuckled are her own foolishness and pulled the sunglasses from her pocket and put them on.  David Engera had just died into his cereal and was slowly fading away, preparing to repeat his sad loop once more.

            What really caught Deborah's attention was the absence of L’lorne.  She had been laying up against the tattered remains of a couch when Deborah had fallen asleep, and now she was gone, with no indication as to where.  “Now where did she go?” she said bitterly.

            The glasses responded instantly, displaying a local map and placing a solid red dot in the location of L’lorne.  Inside the Asylum across the street.  Deborah quickly looked through a slit in between a pair of boards, but couldn't see L’lorne anywhere.  “She left without me.”  The pain of betrayal burned for a moment, and she grabbed her coat from the floor she had been using as a blanket and started for the door.  She head over there and confront L’lorne, demand to know why she had been left behind and. . .

            And how was she going to do that exactly?  She didn't even know how L’lorne had gotten inside.  Her companion could do some amazing things, so getting in was probably easy, really, but how was Deborah going to follow?  Her hand clutched the doorknob for a long moment of thought and finally she withdrew it.  There was no way to follow L’lorne, none at all.

            Slumping down into one of the kitchen chairs, she could just about cry.  Engera busily filled his bowl with cereal and rolled out the plans for the Asylum, just as he had done innumerable times before.  “Bet you would know a way in,” she said, tears slowly swelling in her eyes.  The ghost ignored her.  If only she could ask, if there was a way in he would know it.  She wondered how L’lorne had done it earlier.  Was there some secret trick to it all?  What had L’lorne said to get his attention the first time?

            “EXCUSE ME!”  Deborah shouted it, and much to her surprise, the ghost snapped up in nearly as much shock.

            “What the, “ he started, almost yelling it out.  “Damn it all, what are you doing in my house?”  Deborah froze for a moment.  The ghost was actually looking right at her, talking to her.  She hadn't expected that to happen at all, and had no response ready.  “Well?”

            “I'm your neighbor,” she said, stuttering through a slowly completing thought.  “I came over to visit.”

            “Do you know what time it is?”

            “Uh, morning?”  She could only assume morning, that's when normal people eat cereal, isn't it?

            “Yes, morning, now could you be so kind as to leave me in peace?”

            “Whatcha doing?”  A plan was forming, it would be hard to recover, but maybe, just maybe.

            Engera sighed.  “I'm eating breakfast, if you must know.”

            Deborah shook her head and tried to sound younger.  “I meant with that.”  Could she even touch the plans?  Talking to a ghost is one thing, interacting with one and its belonging was something else entirely.  She dare not try it, not yet.

            “That?”  His eyes perked up.  “Why, they're the plans for that big building they're building across the street.”

            “What's it for?”  Sound more innocent, Deborah kept telling herself.

            “Well, um,” he scratched his chin for a moment, his morning stubble making a slight scratching noise as he did.  “Sometime people get really sick, and they go out and do horrible things.  So we're building this place to put them until they get better.  But we don't want them to get out, so I had to design it to be very, very secure.”

            “Oh,” Deborah said in a sickingly fascinated way.  It felt so wrong to act like such a baby, but she had to do it, for the moment.  “Can they put other people in there?”

            His face grew taught with a touch of anger.  “Not if I have anything to say about it.  This place is for keeping the sick, not a prison, no matter what anyone says.”  His finger began stabbing at the table.  “No, it's no place for real, sane criminals, or people that you want to simply make disappear.  I won't have it!”

            Deborah startled back as Engera nearly shouted his deceleration at her.  That was alright, though, it gave her a window.  “But what if they did put someone who wasn't sick in there, what then?”

            “They won't as long as I'm alive.”

            “And if you did end up dying?”

            Engera chuckled.  “That won't be for a long time, I assure you.”

            “But you're not alive anymore.”  Deborah's tone had become very serious all of a sudden, and the ghost blinked in surprise.

            “Excuse me?”

            “You're dead, you've been dead for a long time.”  It felt wrong to continue lying to the man about what was happening, though at the last moment she wondered if this would spoil her attempt to get information, but L’lorne had been teaching her to trust her instincts, and they were saying tell him, so she did.

            Engera shook his head and chuckled.  “I'm sorry, I'm not playing that game today.”

            “Look around you, this house has been abandoned for years.”

            He was still chuckling when he did as he was told, to humor the little girl, obviously, and had he been human, he likely would have turned grey.  “My house.  What's happened to my house?”

            “You died.  No one moved in after that.  It's been abandoned ever since.”  It was working, somehow.

            “But, that's impossible, I mean, I just woke up and. . .” he couldn't find the words to finish his sentence as he noticed the fridge was gone, the lights were out, everything was in tatters from years of neglect.  He was shaking, scared now.

            “The milk,” Deborah said, remembering what L’lorne had said.  “It was poisoned.  You were killed.”

            “Who would do such a thing?” he snapped, then grew quiet.  “Donalds, that son of a bitch.”

            “My mother is in your asylum,” Deborah continued.  “She's not sick, she's done nothing wrong, but they put her in there.  I need to get to her, get her out, can you help me?”

            “Your mother?  Why?”  Deborah didn't know, but the ghost seemed to understand that without a word.  “Alright, I can help you.”  He dragged the plans near him.  “You need to remember all of this, can you do that?”

            “Yes.”  Silently, she thought RECORD, and the glasses responded.

            “Thank you,” she said as he finished.

            “No, thank you.  They killed me to make my asylum a political prison, just as I thought they would.  I just wish,” he trailed off, sighing as he slumped into his seat.  “I just I knew what I should do now.”

            “Move on,” Deborah said.

            “To Heaven you mean?”  Deborah shrugged.  “Yeah, I don't know if I believe in it either.  But, I am a ghost now, so perhaps there is something to it all?  If I think I can go on hard enough, think I can?”

            Deborah took in a breath.  “I guess it's all you can do.”

            David Engera's ghost leaned back, closing his eyes.  And then he, and all his things, were gone.  The house was silent at long last.

            “Good bye,” she said to the empty house.  “And thanks again.”


Questions 1. What kind of person is Lcorn Llorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?