Vaal’s Top 20 Moments In Descendants Vols 1-5 (Part 3)

Number 10: Fireworks (Waylaid)
A while back, I did an article about rules and I mentioned there that I have a lot of smaller rules beyond the ‘world’ rules I follow. One of those is that Kay and JC will never get superpowers.
 
Why? Well, like all things in life, it has a lot to do with Spider-man. Throughout his long history, Spider-man has had so many people he knows turn into heroes, villains and anti-heroes, one could make a case that in his case, the simple condition of ‘having superpowers’ is contagious. And it gets notably worse in adaptations where things are compressed, character origins are changed to fit format, and you get situations like in Spider-Man 2 where Doctor Otto Octavius is a mentor to Peter before becoming Doc Oc, and the best Spidey animated series to date: Spectacular Spider-man, where no villain besides Tombstone, Solver Sable, and Hammerhead are more than two degrees of separation from him pre-supervillain status.
 
It’s very tempting to power up existing characters because it makes for nice drama and the lazy writer doesn’t have to make a new villain/ally up whole-cloth. And I am an absolutely lazy writer, so I established the rule specifically to remove that temptation.
 
Still, it’s a little sad that these two especially hardly ever get a lot of spotlight, because this is a superhero series and when the bad stuff goes down, I’ve got to put away the squishy friends. So there’s something incredibly satisfying about letting JC just go all out here with the fireworks.
 
People probably wonder why it ended up being illegal fireworks, and that’s one of those previously lost plot threads: between Warrick and JC, JC is the id. The things he says and dreams of doing, are things that Warrick’s hero complex won’t let him do, like break the law, or devastate the economy by making a solid gold house.
 
Sharp eyed readers will notice that while Warrick uses any metal of opportunity in combat, he takes care to get even his scrap metal and cans for personal project legally. He just won’t break the law at all if he can help it. JC, being Goofus to his Gallant, not only buys illegal fireworks for his entertainment, but also uses them in his acts of heroism without a hint of guilt.
 
Number 9: Liedecker vs Colos (The Breaking Storm)
Vincent Liedecker is a badass. Conceptually, he’s the fusion of Lex Luthor and Gentleman Jim Marcone from The Dresden Files, and if I had my way, would be played by Brian Cox in his X-men 2 ‘Stryker’ look. Listen to this voice and tell me that’s not Liedecker.
 
The cool thing, in my mind, is that you know he’s badass despite the fact that for a very very long time, the most action he’d seen was throwing a kukri at an innocent book. That’s just part of his character: he doesn’t fight, because he doesn’t need to fight.
 
But some things, you’ve gotta show instead of just implying and that’s where his fight with Colos came in. And the part I think seals the deal here for me is that Liedecker doesn’t wi by force of arms, but through guile and sheer endurance. He doesn’t just beat Colos, he earns the demon’s respect and then goes on to immediately cut a business deal.
 
Number 8: Alexis’s Homecoming (Ahead/Behind)
Back in the 90’s when I wasn’t even a teenager yet, Saturday night was the television viewing version of Sophie’s Choice. While ABC was king of Fridays with its TGIF line-up, NBC ruled Thursdays with Must See TV, and Fox stepped up with their Tuesday Night at the Movies, somehow everything on Saturdays was good. ABC had Early Edition, Martial Law, Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman (as I’ve said before, the best adapted portrayal of the pair), and Walker, Texas Ranger. Fox gave us back-to-back episodes of Cops, followed by America’s Most Wanted. And then there was NBC.
 
Throughout the 90’s NBC built its reputation on its comedy Thursday chops, but the pure strain awesome on the network came on Saturdays when they came out with high concept shows that, on paper looked completely insane. They had Sea Quest DSV, a typical sci-fi story that treats space as an ocean and the ship as a submarine… except they actually were in an ocean and the ship was a submarine. And also, there was a talking dolphin.
 

Yes, this was a real thing that happened without any LSD required.
 
There was also The Pretender, about a super-genius who escaped from a shady organization that had been using him to bend the course of history who now walked the Earth, helping people while dodging (and mentally screwing with) his pursuers.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iI9C-zMwWZE

It also had the best expository opening this side of Quantum Leap.
 
And then there was Sisters, a show about four sisters (with boy names), and their drunken mother. The gimmick was that they would ‘watch’ and sometimes interact with flashbacks of their past selves to solve/cope with the problems they faced in each episode, often through the power of how awesome it is to have sisters (or at least just Teddy, who was the best).
 
It was a family drama, but even at, like, nine, I was ass-to-seat every week for this damn show, forsaking the likes of Chuck Norris and Sammo Hung hurting dudes. Why? Because this wasn’t a ‘family’ drama’ like it is today and was starting in the early 90’s, where ‘drama’ was shorthand for ‘screaming fights’. Yeah, they fought, but they also joked and teased and genuinely enjoyed being family without having to have someone die every few episodes to reaffirm that. They were people, not vehicles for drama and that made them honestly enjoyable to watch… also I had a crush on like all of them but George.
 
What’s this got to do with anything?
 
Because Alexis’s whole family is built, not really on the structure, but the vibe of the Sisters.. er.. sisters. Almost everything about them is based around the feel I got from watching this obscure show from a twenty years ago, because that feeling is something I think we all need more of.
 
In these days where our entertainment tends toward waiting for someone to have a breakdown and proving that every family is dysfunctional, I think we need to see that it’s possible to have rough spots, and still be okay and loving of our families… even if that means ruining their weeding with a shotgun.
 
Incidentally, Alexis and her family are Roma, what a lot of people call gypsies. As if proving my point, there’s a new, fantastically horrible and racist show on now called American Gypsy. Yeah.
 
Number 7: The Redeemer Incident (Here and Now)
I will now express my feelings for this moment in song, with apologies to Sir Mix-a-lot:
 
I like big Fights and I cannot lie,
You otha brothas can’t deny
When a dude with strength put that ham-fist in they face,
You get pumped!
 
Makes ya feel all tough, cause you noticed them bullets was stuffed
Deep in an AK-47
Oh Baby, I wanna roll with ya, and blast some bitches.
No homeboys gonna mourn me,
But the action m-m-make [me so–
 
On second thought, I should never do that again. I’m sorry.
 
Anyway, The Redeemer fight was, in many ways, a reward I gave myself for cranking out a full volume. And I think it might still be the biggest fight in the series, spanning the whole of Mayfield and involving the largest number of powered combatants.
 
I live for this stuff, I really do. I mean, I love and take a lot of pride in character stuff and worldbuilding is a craft and an art that I adore, writing a massive brawl is like taking a spa day. And believe me, when I wrote this, I needed it.
 
As for particularly favorite moments out of the fight? I’m partial to Juniper vs. Wolf because it’s probably the first time we see Jun for who she really is. Close after that is the entire train sequence, playing with the physics involved to fight on a train.
 
And speaking of Juniper, here we have the issue I most anticipated writing on the whole run.
 
First, a few words on foreshadowing. The art of keeping secrets from your audience is a treacherous bitch-goddess who will devour you if you take one too many false steps. On the one hand, you shouldn’t have things just ‘uncloak’ for no apparent reason in front of the audience and expect them to be happy about it. It can be done (Luke, I am your Father, anyone?), but it’s the worst in terms of the audience going ‘where the hell did that come from?’.
 
On the other hand, if you leave little clues, there’s always going to be a number of fans that ‘get’ what’s coming early and become annoyed that they have to wait to be validated for their cleverness. A writer can never know when the audience figures it out.
 
For me, it’s a bit different because exactly what Juniper’s deal was changed somewhere in the first volume, from being a Judas clone designed to mock Marvel’s use of an evil clone Thor in their Civil War arc to being the daughter of Majestrix and Zero Point.
 
And there are a lot of markers where theories could have started. In Another Kind of Homecoming, Juniper’s parents can’t be reached at all and she doesn’t seem bothered. In Little Girl Lost, Majestrix is the only other character in the entire DU I’ve ever described as having hair like Jun’s (awkwardly, because I still don’t know what to call the style. ‘Crimped’ is the closest I’ve come), and in Descendants Giant Sized #1, Juniper manifests a new power with a signature like Zero Point’s.
 
So by the time The Juniper Chronicles arrived, there were plenty of people who already knew where this was going and my challenge then was to write a reveal that’s both natural enough to appeal to the people who didn’t see it coming, but epic enough to make the wait with it.
 
Feel free to disagree on the forum, but I think having Juniper take down a guy who was trying to kill her parents and at the same time having a town be destroyed was suitable on both counts.

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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