Vaal’s Top 20 Moments In Descendants Vols 1-5 (Part 2)
Number 15: All of ‘Objectivity‘
Objectivity is probably the most important issue in the series. The previous eight issues were mostly about world and character building with just hints of the Myth Arc. Objectivity brings the battle with Tome to the forefront and allows our heroes and the audience to know exactly what they’re up against and why.
The ROCIC has a long history with me too; originally appearing back in the days of Chaos and Darkness as the military/civilian command, ITPRAC—and I don’t remember what that stood for anymore. Pratt was still the General, though his name as Cratt then, and Patricia Masters was Patty and was the civilian authority looking out for the teenager heroes.
What I really love about this issue is that it’s the first ‘slow’ issue, where everything is about the characters, the world and the plot with all of the conflict being verbal. Writing this sort of helped define the series for me in terms of what was really important behind the trappings of superheroic violence. The fight between Ian and Alexis, which carries on for the next few issues, also takes place here and is something I’m proud of.
Number 14: Callie and Abscondro (Let’s Go!)
Once upon a time, comics were about fun and nothing but. This was called the Silver Age and although it often went too far into the insanity of the times and had very little sense of continuity, a lot of stuff produced back then was just a joy to read, and not in the ironic hipster way the internet sees it with now.
Back then, you could get away with naming a character ‘Magneto’ without blinking an eye and that was the tip of the iceberg. You had guys like Mysterio, Purple Man, Gorilla Grodd, Kang the Conqueror and Fin Fang Foom, Group names were things like the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. And they were AWESOME.
Today, everything is Serious Business and names have to also be Serious. That’s how we get bullshit bad guy names like Menace, Genocide, and Malice (granted, this name appeared in the 70’s, but you get the point). I’m shocked no one created villains called Rape or Murder in the 90’s to be perfectly honest.
And so we have Abscondro. Just as Magneto has to do with magnets, he has to do with absconding with things. This was all born from a conversation I had with my friend wondering if you could actually get away with having a serious or even cool villain with that kind of goofy-ass name anymore.
The fun bit, I think is that I do play Abscondro completely straight. He’s competent, serious and dare I say it—cool. His problem is that he’s got a fangirl who is arguably more powerful than him who wants him to play out the events of her fanfiction. I think it’s too his bad guy credit that he did try to play her to get the payoff, only to be caught by the Descendants.
Callie herself is a surprise favorite of mine. She was never meant to be who she is today. Originally, she was going to be Lily’s designated whipping girl (as she is in her first appearance pre-Let’s Go!) and then tell Betty off at the end of high school when she decides not to go to the same school as Lily and the others because she wants to live her own life.
What happened was that, in the middle of writing Let’s Go! I realized that the Descendants didn’t know what the audience knew; that she was sympathetic, and I needed a reason for them to think twice about canning her for her involvement (I try not to punish positive or manipulated characters). I dug through my notes and found Callie, who fit the bill so well that it feels like a I planned it even to myself now.
Number 13: Irregulars, Assemble! (Inexorable)
Callie again! Yay!
I didn’t even think of it when I wrote this, but have you ever noticed that superheros are just weirdness magnets? Some of them have an excuses for this: Buffy lives on the Hellmouth, Danny Phantom lives on the… artificially induced Hellmouth… The Big, Bad Beetleborgs have their enemies created by the same power that created them (I’m trying to add variety to my examples, you see), but for the most part, there’s very little reason why evil always comes crashing through Blue Beetle’s backyard, or how Daredevil always seems to find someone to beat up while on patrol in a city with approximately all the superheroes.
Sure, the Call To Adventure knows where you live and you better answer it, but odds on, there are people with powers, maybe even good powers and heroic hearts who just never run into Kang or Vandal Savage on their commute (Tony Stark has to take two buses and a train to run into Mandarin, but at least he makes the effort!)
The Mayfield irregulars are those people. Maybe they don’t all have the best powers, but if it comes down to it, they do not back away in the face of danger when there are people who need protection. They couldn’t take Inexorable down, but they could use what they had so that people who had nothing could stay safe.
To me, that’s the true measure of a superhero. And Callie is the one that not only recognized this in people, but made it work.
Number 12: Issac Teaches Ian the Chaos Nova (June 18/A Post-Modern Prometheus)
Family is a very special thing to me, not just in real life, but in stories. Maybe it’s the only child in me speaking, but there’s something about seeing people come together as brothers and sisters, whether related by blood or not, that really touches me.
People tease me about how much I gravitate toward Teen Hero works, and that’s part of the reason. Stories where disparate people come together and form some semblance of family tend to skew very serous and very dark, two things I’m not a fan of. Meanwhile, Teen Hero shows very often have this same dynamic presented as The Power of Friendship, and when it’s not pulled off in an overly saccharine manner, it can be very effective and touching. Despite their flaws, that’s part of why I like such non-Teen Hero works as Revenge of the Nerds, Golden Girls, The Pretender, Castle, and Bones. It’s a really eclectic mix, but what they all have in common is a group of people becoming something like a family without being bound by blood.
So you’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of only children in my main cast.
June 18 was one of the first issues where I got to explore the bond of brothers in the series, and I really enjoyed doing it.
In my mind, Ian and Issac hated one another growing up, started to see each other as human beings in adulthood, only for Ian to miss their mother’s day the first year at Freeland House, which seriously hurt his stock with Issac.
The Chaos Nova exchange has two levels to it in my mind. One is to reaffirm that they are brothers, no matter how Issac might feel about Ian at the moment, and two, to make it completely clear to Ian that he is still the big brother and still more powerful, so Ian should still listen to him. It fits very nicely with their friendly rivalry and expands Ian’s powers in the series more.
Also with regard to their relationship, I made sure that Issac being gay wasn’t an issue at all. It’s mentioned, but not as a character trait, just in the gender of the person he went out with. I think it was important to show that it is so much of a non-issue in the 2070+ setting that there’s not even any manly teasing about it between brothers.
Number 11: George Revealed (George)
As the great Hannibal Smith would say “I love it when a plan comes together”.
I’ve very little patience with plot twists that are there just to be twisty. I was bagging on M. Night Shyamalan back when he was still a genius (Except for Unbreakable, that was a great movie). But I do love the smell of burnt gunpowder when a Chekhov’s Gun fires and when the curtain goes up on the reveal of an arc-spanning question.
George was my big mystery. He’s been in the series since Descendants #0 (Alexis got the faithful call from someone named ‘George’) and grew increasingly more mysterious along the way, talking about making corporate juggernauts their fortunes, and even staring down demons, all to push the Descendants to some mysterious end.
The part I enjoy most here is that the story presented in ‘George’ is completely comic book plausible, and yet the fact that it was all a Xanatos Gambit to get the Descendants to stop Aces High makes it all suspect. The audience learned ‘the truth’, but there’s no way to know how much of the truth is real and how much is even more manipulation.
I think that’s the way you do reveals in serial stories. Too many stories (I’m going to call out my favorite TV shows, Castle on this) will introduce an ongoing mystery, use the mid-season break to advance it, then use the season finale to pull a ‘your princess is in another castle’ (pun intended) and reveal that oh this wasn’t the big bad, they’re actually serving a bigger bad—over and over again. It’s fatiguing to be teased constantly but never actually learn anything, especially when the information is constantly being hidden by way of informants dying before they can pass on what they know. It’s the conspiracy version of those couples that break up and get together over and over because the writer likes to ship tease.
No, the reveal in George has its cake and eats it too. You can choose to believe the story or you can continue to theorize about what’s really going on, at least until you learn more. It lets the story be complex without being repetitive, at least I think so, and that’s why it’s on this list.
That’s it for this week. In case you missed the second update last week, please head over to Amazon and check out my friend Justin Childress’s (Yes, that’s his cameo in the current story arc) new ebook, The Steam Punk. I read the first few chapters long ago when he was working on it and it is awesome.
Bookmark the permalink.