Welcome back to my two-week retrospective on The Descendants Volume 2, which I assure you is in no way a cheap plot to draw attention to The Devil Came Down To Mayfield, the third Descendants ebook. Okay, that’s exactly what it is. That and the fact that I was out of blogging ideas.
Last week, we got some good discussion out of my hatred for ‘mutant cure’ stories. Apparently it’s one of those things that generally requires better thinking out and better writers to pull off well and play as a gray issue and my readers would like to see someone try. I’m honestly not the guy to do it, but I suggest heading of to the Pen and Cape Society’s forum and ask if anyone there had taken a crack at it. That’s a big part of why the Society exists: so you guys can find more and different Superhero authors to read.
I am, however, still happy to discuss that issue in the comments or the forum. Who knows, you might convince me to take a run at it yet.
Anyway, on to the rest of Volume 2, which will be collected as ‘A Magitech Crisis’ in a couple of months.
Speaking of stuff we discussed in the comments: superhero genetics. In case you didn’t read the comments from last week, Marvel’s superhero families… both the hell out of me. As it stands, psychic powers pass down without trouble or complication, but everyone else’s kids seem to get powers based on a roll of a dice.
Yeah, Polaris and Nocturne exist, but where the hell did Quicksilver come from? His parents are a magnetic controller and a witch. Also, having a mother who was a witch game Wanda the mutant power of being a witch. It’s enough to make me need a drink.
It’s been a thing that bothers me just enough that I put in a good bit of work to make all the powers relatives in the DU have be related and the Tammy is the first opportunity I had to show this off. Her electrical powers are basically a more violent version of what Warrick does to control metal, stripping electrons out of ionic bonds rather than moving or rearranging them in concert.
Speaking of powers, Fellgaze might be the one character I’m most disappointed in. I feel like he was awesome in this issue, but the thing is, once people know what his power is, it’s impossible to justify them ever looking at him. Just just sort of turned into extra baggage for Aces High, so I ended up traumatizing him out of their line-up. If I ever come up with a way to upgrade his powers, he’ll be back.
And then there’s Stampede. This guy was so awesome in my head, but never quite clicked on the page, which is why he never came back. I really feel like I can make this guy awesome if I put more thought into him, but it really wasn’t clicking in this issue.
Luckily, Vorpal and Whitecoat were here, plus Tammy and I think the whole thing reads as a pretty fun romp for Our Heroes.
This was also another War of Kings breadcrumb, where Thunderhead got his first look at Vorpal, who is of course in Liedecker’s employ. In my original conception of WoK, Thunderhead, Liedecker and Wright were all going to be trying to get her was right hand woman. Shine would not have been amused.
Descendants Special #2: Promenade
I try not to use the old superhero cliché of villains crashing literally every major event in the heroes’ lives. It’s fun and or interesting sometimes, but if everything special is ruined for a superhero, I might as well just be writing in the current DCU.
And so I spared the group their Junior Prom.
Oh hey, here’s a paradox: in writing this, I came to a horrifying realization that because of secret identities being firmly in place, I robbed myself of my favorite superhero teen story: powered school dances. Sky High did it, Academy X did it. I… didn’t get to do it. It was right at this moment, combined with the previous issue, that inspired the Liedecker Institute. I needed to write stories like that. I wanted to write stories like that. And I would not be denied.
Still, even in the absence of powers, it was fun writing this, especially Warrick and Tink dancing badly. I’ve been in that couple and let me tell you this much: they know they’re dancing badly and have agreed they don’t care because they’re having a good time.
Oh yeah, dropped storyline time: Lisa getting a premonition. Inspired by the show Charmed (starring my I’m-too-old-to-be-having-crushes-this-is-unhealthy crush Alyssa Milano), there was a whole thing about the difference between a mage and a sorcerer and this was the first tell that Lisa is a sorcerer. Didn’t really go anywhere because of the whole George arc making that power redundant and inherently unreliable.
Issues #21 & 22: Come the Black Clouds / The Breaking Storm
I was that excited to be bringing Morganna back. Hell, I’m always excited to bring Morganna back. I love the psycho.
My goodness, where to start? Well first there’s the purpose of the entire ‘A Magitech Crisis’ two-parter, which is of course the ‘green flash’ that kickstarted Earth’s magic again, making wizards, witches, warlocks, hungans and voudans, not to mention a slew of magical beings possible again. My mandate was for magic to slowly return to the DU and for it all to be Morganna’s fault. That’s right, she ends up doing exactly what she set out to do in her origin story, but is now too insane to notice or care.
I also wanted to show off the DU’s conception of demons. Demons are kind of like trolls in that they’re vague enough in the source material that you can do anything you want with them and be wholly correct. Having them be possessors that can mutate their hosts was kind of my reversal of the symbiotes from Marvel: the demon wears you and changes you to their liking.
Having Liedecker fight and then cut a deal with Kolos came very late in the game, but I loved the scene, especially Liedecker shooting out the glass as a middle finger to Kolos, then managing to turn it to his advantage with a magic sword.
I meant to have these demons come back, but then I retconned the place Morganna landed as being sealed off from the rest of Faerie, so you’ll have to wait for… oh my, I almost gave some spoilers. Sorry about that. Well Rehenimaru came back and is still hanging around. She’s not a loose end, just a character I always intended to be out there being super but with a mundane life. The demon baboons are still out there too. Breeding.
Bringing back Lucian was a big thing too. It sort of came to me in a flash to make him and Ian BFFs. One day, I’ll have Ian, Lucian and Issac hanging out, watching a boxing match over pizza and beer. THIS A SWEAR!
And yes, the threat Morganna posed was conceived as a swipe at Marvel’s Decimation event—which by the way has been undone for a little over a year now. Thing was, it actually fit really well with Morganna’s continually decaying motives. She wants to wipe descendants out so magic can reign supreme.
Which brings me to another rant I’m sure is going to draw some comments: as much as I love Rogue as a character, I’m not fan of ‘natural’ powers that can easily steal other people’s powers easily. It’s just that liiitle bit over the silly line where I wouldn’t put it in The Descendants. So as a rule, anything that steals, copies or otherwise manipulates powers is magic is it’s instantaneous or scientific if labor-intensive (like the Gold). Cyn technically should be able to copy powers, but she would need to know a LOT of biology to pull it off.
I think I’m okay with Rogue because most of the time, she loses those powers after a short time. Unlike twin Mary Sues from Heroes, Sylar and Peter. Ugh.
Back to A Magitech Crisis, there’s an odd scene there where George accosts Rehenimaru. At that point in time, I was starting to warm to the idea of George being a bad guy and this interaction is the only instance where I pointed to it. Thanks to the magic of retcon, there was a reason for it, and I’ll even give you a hint: it was important for those demonic baboons to be in Mayfield beyond me liking monkeys.
This was also (holy crap, a LOT happened in this didn’t it?) where I started laying the groundwork between Vorpal and Alloy’s secret connection when she berates Hope into healing him, getting unnaturally intense. Yes, she’s guessed even then. The feather from Samael gets passed down the line to Tink, who now has it in her gauntlet.
Finally, the first time we see the Lithium Sword of Justice and of course Warrick uses it to slay a dragon.
A MagiTech Crisis: Epilogue
Everything I have to say about A MagiTech Crisis is above. All I really want to say about this is that I am really anal about how I present the series, especially now that I’m trying to put out books. This… is an abomination born of me being far less experienced or concerned about this stuff back then.
I know this is a thing readers don’t usually notice unless it’s screwed up badly, but one thing I learned from writing Ledgermain Comics is that a hard-to-navigate archive can kill online entertainment. Making multiple ways to easily find just the section someone wants is the way to go lest they get frustrated and rage quit.
The problem here is that the Epilogue is an ‘issue’ unto itself but not a Special or something like it. It’s an in-line one-shot and that’s something I had never done before and years later t bothered the hell out of me… until I saw how many comic events cheated their solicited number of issues by having and ‘aftermath’ issue. Which is why I did the same (plus a perspective shift) at the end of CynQuest.
Issue #23: June 18 (Post Modern Prometheus)
This was way more fun than I originally thought it would be. Like a lot of issues that would come later, this was an experiment in what I could do with the medium. As you know if you’ve read the rest of the series, I’ve used the ‘two parallel stories’ convention in later stories like Ahead/Behind because this was an experiment that worked well in my opinion.
As for the stories themselves, I’m particularly proud of Ian’s family. Their father and Issac sort of created themselves on the page here, something that repeated itself in Ahead/Behind. It was also difficult, because I am an only child and don’t know how siblings interact except from television. Mr. Smythe drew a lot from my Grandfather who did everything he could to teach me how to be a good man.
A big of an Easter egg here was the introduction of the Chaos Nova, finally bridging the gap from the original Chaos character I wrote in high school (who had fire-based powers) and Ian that character’s modern form. The idea that Issac is more powerful than him and enjoys rubbing it in made him a natural for teaching the technique to Ian.
On the Tome side, there was even more mythology nods as Robin Atan, who in another life and another world was the enemy of Chaos and Darkness Robata shows up here as the builder of Leo. Leo had a big part to play in War of Kings, but when that never materialized, the Aces all got sidelined. As of Silicon Soul, Adamantine Will he’s back and has clearly had some AI upgrades. Those were, themselves part of the War of Kings suite of plots and as I’ve said, I’m getting thins started again there.
It was fun writing the gathering of the materials for Leo, especially the infiltration of what is clearly the future version of the Jim Henson Company. Like Marvel and Garfield, I feel comfortable in saying that they also survived into the 2070’s in some form. There’s no way I can possibly say that in-universe, but yeah: canon.
Issue #24: Love Like Mad
Ah, the Yellow World. Considering how I roll with the retroactive Chekhov’s Guns, you would be forgiven that this is one of them, but I assure you it is not. I wrote Love Like Mad with the express purpose of it being a preview of the Yellow World Entities.
Some people have thought to call me out on my dislike of the Far Realm and Cosmic Horror in general when I have things like the Yellow World in my superhero series, especially after CynQuest. To them, I say that I’m doing something different in that these things aren’t gods, nor do they have inexplicably well-organized cults and stuff. They’re a creature from a place where physics doesn’t work like ours, yes… but they’re not in the power position here.
Think about it: all of them need to act by corrupting their user and in the case of Warpstar, he has such a strong will that they’re failing. Warpstar is in constant contact with at least three of these things (I’m on the fence about how much sapience the shards maintain) and they still can’t overpower his own natural evil.
But then there’s Madrigal Madigan. Because I intended for him to recur and not be freed from the corruption, I went out of my way to make it so that the guy kind of deserved it. I mean really, who asks mean to Juniper? That’s like… beyond evil.
His sanity crash was interesting to write and I feel like I learned from that and was able to do better with Vorpal later on in her miniseries. For a while there though he wasn’t limited by range with his reality warping and he was having effects city-wide. In the end, I actually felt it made the reality warping more interesting if he had limits he didn’t necessarily understand.
This also marks the first real appearance of the Superhuman Intervention Unit. They originally had a miniseries where they fought the Strigoi from Spider’s Seven. The first chapter is written, but I decided it was too gruesome for The Descendants because the Strigoi unchained is like Ru only more heinously evil.
One weird choice I’m actually still surprised that I made was shrinking Cyn and not undoing it at the end, forcing her to have one hell of a pig out session to regain 120+ pounds off camera.
Less bizarre is the first appearance of Cyn’s terrible acting and improvisation skills and the Gal Incognito alias. Shapeshifters in fiction are always awesome at acting, so I thought it would be nice if Cyn just… wasn’t.
Also, I miss her at the museum desk. I know I gave her that job back, but she’s been kind of out of focus lately. Like Kareem, she’s getting more focus real soon.
A lot of you have told me that you don’t really read comic books, so here’s a little insight into Annuals. An Annual issue is something special that the writers sometimes get permission to dd to their runs. They’re outside the usual numbering of their series, and while they might tie up some loose strings, they are traditionally bonus stories and adventures that may or may not have an effect on the stories to follow. Not every series has them and not every year will have an Annual.
What I’m getting at here is that they’re not like season finales to TV shows, they’re just a little extra. I think a lot of people don’t really get that the Volumes are really just a convenient way of structuring the archive and the Annuals are just a marker of another ‘year of comics’ if Descendants was a comic franchise. Every time I’ve done an Annual, someone emails me saying it wasn’t a good end to the series because it was too short and they’re not really supposed to be.
Annual #1 kind of was because Volume 1 actually is one big contained story arc, but none of the others are because Volume 2 is when I realized just how big I could get with this series (4.5 million words, baby).
Annual #2 is probably the most Annual-y of all the current Annuals. It’s just a bunch of vignettes about where the characters are right now and I loved it. That’s why I keep doing and experimenting with other vignette stories like Everyday Heroes, How The World Changes, Fond Farewell, and One Week. Holy crap, I do a lot of these.
I especially love the Vorpal/Voice segment where Vorpal admits that it’s nice to hear someone cares about them. I really love these characters together. Not necessarily in a shippy-sense, but they really seem to care about one another in spite of their awful situations.
Liedecker and Sameal’s scene was something I had in mind from the moment I introduced Haut. I had the feeling that Liedecker instantly regretted bringing him on because he was a more psycho psycho for hire than Vorpal and he didn’t have any obvious means of controlling him. He doesn’t say it, but Liedecker is more than happy with the result as far as putting Samael under his heel.
Some people have asked why we haven’t seen Samael since Volume 4 and I’ll reveal that here: Liedecker knows that Samael isn’t just a man you send to do the job. He’s the man you send to kill everyone and salt the earth behind him. If he puts Samael out there, it’s like dropping the atomic bomb. Therefore, he’s keeping the man in reserve as a power card to play from his sleeve to do as much devastating damage form surprise as he can.
More practically, he framed Vorran as Samael’s boss and so can’t use him regularly for Mayfield underworld work.
For those of you who just want more Liedecker in the main series, two words: Descendants 79.
And with that juicy tidbit, I think I’ll take off.
Before I do, I’d like to announce that the think I was talking about on twitter about a Rune Breaker video game is… dead. But a d20 World of Ere RPG? Yeah, I’m doing that. Not just the WOE 3.5 and 4e rules, but a full game.
I’m going to start a blog detailing it, or take it to the forum, but how’s this to whet your appetite: First level magic abilities include creating water, hovering 5ft, and ripping out a tiny portion of someone’s lifeforce to fuel your spells. Yes.
First level weapon users can look forward to; putting on a display of prowess so badass that your opponent is off their game for the rest of the fight, knocking one enemy into the other, and clotheslining someone trying to move past you with your polearm.
First level skill monkeys? How about… talking to your opponent and being so engrossing they lose initiative, tumbling between squares well enough that enemies waste attacks on squares you’re not in anymore, and hitting enemies with ricocheting bolts, arrows and bullets.