Phase Two and Three Retrospect

Since Bill went through his own retrospect on Phase 3, I thought it was about time for me to do my own re-reading back through what Bill’s written. But mine is going to be a bit different and a bit…

Well it’s going to take a while.

So let’s dive back in, starting with Pre-Phase 2.

100 - Stasis

I’m starting off with a hard one here, because Stasis is all connective tissue, setup, and character exploration. All of Doctor Infinity’s motivations in the game were seen in retrospect once we wrestled the narrative away with Moments of Truths, so a lot of this is backfilling. It’s good backfilling, but it’s more explaining events we’ve already seen rather than presenting us anything new.

However, knowing that Doctor Infinity is coming back in later Charlotte stories, this all becomes very important.

Also, this is the first of many stories during this re-read where reading the story also means delving into other stories and game prep forum posts. It’s a good time, but it means that reading the story takes twice to three times as long as the text would suggest.

101 - An Icy Reception

Another springboard story, but much more external action than the introspection of Stasis. This one starts setting up Vyortovia as a figure in Phase Two. I know that Resistor is going to be a key figure as well as the remnants of the Secret Family are going to pop up, but I don’t remember if Kristján Ragnarsson or Katrín Helgasbarn ever show up again.

We also hear mention of the South American Superheroes Union. Link to the kinetic triples whose name escapes me? (I’m purposefully not reading ahead during this except for new stories that Bill posts, so no looking up any details ahead of time). We’ll see.

As the Dread Queen speaks about the history of Vyortovia, it makes me curious what happened to actual Iceland? We hear about the comet that Silver Streak and Tempest averted and that it affected islands like Iceland but not concrete details. Wonder if the various environmental hazards caused by that devastated the real Iceland. With a population of only ~300K and most of them living near the coast, it wouldn’t be unimaginable, but it would be tragic.

Maybe when Vyortovia switched places with Iceland, it did so with a dead land. Horrible, but sort of tragedy could have led to some of the horror we’ve seen in the Midnight Menagerie’s most recent story.

While this has nothing to do with the story, part of me imagines a backstory for the Dread Queen where she was once Vyortovia’s greatest hero who, due to the enshitification of the Sepiaverse, kept having to fall to more and more extreme measures in order to protect her people. And that’s why the Menagerie were able to reach through to her, that she saw that same hope for the future and tenacity that had been beaten out of her as she became the Dread Queen.

Could be? Who can say?

102 - Otto’s Garage

The introduction of Big Bill and Mo, though it’s going to be a bit until we get some characterization for them.

Amusing that Otto blames the Farlander/Space Bug for the Blot. I’m… 90% certain we know that’s not the case, but still humorous that Otto’s assumption is to blame the squirrelly little bug from space whose notable acts to this point were: show up at Adam and Leo’s school, and immediately get spooky by Adam.

Also our first mention of the JHHL’s rebranding as the Chosen. While my memory is hazy, I feel like not a lot happened with those kids in Phase 2 and definitely not in Phase 3 after Stingray and Ninjess joined up with Mercury. Maybe a reference here and there like during Emma and Nono’s joy ride when one of the Chosen shows up. We’ll see if I’m proven right as the re-read continues, but also not a huge loss. Lots of characters to juggle and the Chosen being more in the background is fine.

We also see Site 5 for the first(?) time. I’m pretty sure Site 5 is the main HQ for most of the Newman activities in Phase 2, but I can’t remember why it was abandoned past “we’re not welcome in the US anymore.” Like I remember the Atlantean Blood Ninjas ambushing Aria and Leo, but I’m pretty certain that happened in the Extension. (Which I’m also only now remembering existed, because I thought they were still living in the Gales’ detached garage.)

J-Bear is a nickname for Jason I feel like only Otto could get away with.

A good setup but, and I’m going to kick myself if this statement turns out wrong as I re-read more, I don’t think it really pays off until Phase 3. (Now watch that I’ve forgotten some major Otto storyline in Phase 2.)

103 - Tribunal

Skipping this one because I wrote it and, in my opinion, it was not good and a bit half-baked. Wish I’d given it the time I needed, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a dangling storyline that Bill needed to tie up.

104 - World of Swords

Short and to the point. I am fairly certain that Princess in Training directly followed this one, but I’m going in order until I get to 109 - ANTIBODY, because that one I know happened post-222 - The Golden Fleece but the rest I’m not 100% certain.

“Champions of the Night” is a good title that I’d entirely forgotten about and what I’m now going to use to refer to Enora Dralis’ followers.

We’re not to Enora quite yet, but there’s some thoughts I want to share about her. There’s a book series I read that finished up a couple years about called the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka that I quite enjoy and there’s one character whose motivations are a bit of a mystery until the last couple of books where the protagonist theorizes that, rather than be motivated by self-interest and greed like his contemporaries, the character wants to see their philosophy on what it means to wield power spread and grow, so they give up their political power to instead train the next generation. I see a lot of that same motivation in Enora, especially here (in what I presume is her narration) where she takes pride that the Void Shadow Collective is growing.

105 - HHL is Other People

This was probably the first one where I detoured majorly to re-read through both the Issue 63 recap (never feel like I say this enough but thanks Dave!) and Save the Date, so we’re getting a bonus recap after this one.

The most important thing in this story is establishing the HHL home and away teams (both of whom will become more important in Phase 3).

Blackbird very much feels like the only person holding this team together (and not particularly doing a great job of it). In hindsight, I almost feel bad styling her in the Tomb Patrol game as Roddy by stealing her nemesis’ moves. Almost.

The Home Team is mostly accounted for by Phase 3 (Tatanka and Vigil play major roles, Blackbird is the de facto leader as I recall, Guardian returns from retirement, and I want to say Oya shows up during the Atlantean flooding event) except for Hecate, who I keep wondering if she’s going to make a reappearance.

Huh, how did I miss the description of the Blot calling them “[comparable] to Coprinopsis atramentaria, or the common ink cap mushroom” and that they release an ink-like substance. More details for my eventual re-exploration of illustrating the Blot.

Special - Save the Date

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Bill’s comics, so getting to read through this one was a treat. I’m pretty sure I bought the software Bill used for these to see if I could hack in custom Menagerie skins for the characters, but no dice there. Unfortunate, but at least it was cheap (I think I waited until it was on sale for that particular experiment).

I also enjoyed Octava because her backstory was neat, her character traits were interesting, and she came built in with a story hook to pull Adam into more cosmic adventures. During the Menagerie game, Adam saw space as a scary place where only bad things came from (Sablestar, Space Bug, the Trio, the aliens that experimented on Keri) but Octava could help show him that while there were scary things in space, there was more than that. And I am really glad Bill leaned into that with the Megaverse storyline.

106 - Galaxy Brain

Another short one delving into who Rosa Rook is and why obviously evil corporation continues to operate. This has an obvious throughline to the Tyran Corporation in Phase 3, but still interesting.

A detail I hadn’t noticed before, but apparently Alex had to be rescued from a Rook goon squad? When I first re-read through this, I was assuming that it was talking about SNOWMAN’s time infiltrating Rook until I clicked the link (more detours! [affectionately]) I realized I was wrong and assume I must have made the same mistake on the first read through because this segment is so short and the event is only mentioned in passing.

Curious if this gets brought up later. We’ll see.

And with that, we finish up today’s retrospect. Next time we pick up with 107 - Grave Matters and then on to the true Phase Two stories.

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There’s a rule that the 1xx or 3xx stories chronologically precede the 2xx or 4xx stories - they’re always backstory. 109 was years before 222, and Kovačević even got promoted from Colonel to General during the time gap.

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True, but does it make sense to read backstory that won’t be relevant for for 20+ stories?
Wait, that’s somewhat true for 100 as well. And… Fine, I guess I’ll finish out all the 100 series stories and then continue to 201.

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This is a lesson I learned when writing the 300 series - write preludes that directly launch the actual fiction that’s coming up. If it’s not going to be relevant any time soon, put it on a wiki page or something.

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