Or – “Apparently, I’ll Only Be Reviewing The Odd Issues Of This Title…”

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But, really, aren’t they all a little odd?  If you’re wondering what happened to my rundown of issue #2, well…  thereupon hangs a tale:  I decided after my lukewarm response to the first issue (compounded by the length of time between issues) not to recap the rest of Freshman II, a decision borne out by my overall feeling of “meh” when reading issue #2.  So, why am I doing it now?  Remember yesterday when I (jokingly) said I should recap something I didn’t like?  I went through the stack of things to be reviewed (which sits right next to my stack of comics to go  into my office/spare bedroom to be filed away) and couldn’t find anything heinous, grabbed the issue that most closely fit the bill, and went to bed.  This morning, I grabbed the first book off the stack of things to be reviewed, and am only just now realizing that it wasn’t the book I chose to recap, but the top book of the OTHER pile, which had slipped off it’s own stack during the night.  (Notice, I never said it was an INTERESTING tale…)  Since it’s Tuesday, and I won’t have time to write tonight when I’m again home with my comics, (It’s ‘Idol’ & ‘House’ night) here we are.  But perhaps, we’ll all be a little bit more careful about stacking slippery bagged comic books eh?  Knowing IS half the battle!  PORK CHOP SANDWICHES?

Fourteen college freshmen have accidentally recieved superhuman powers due to an accident involving a nutty professor and wacky hijinks ensued.  They managed (barely) to Fresh1.jpgundermine the Professor’s plan, fighting off hordes of Roid Rage fratboys, but their interactions reveal more of their character than any of them wants to admit.  Suave foreign exchange student The Flying Squirrel has been manipulated into loving The Seductress (badly injured in their first outing), while Wannabee/The Scarlet Knight deals with being the odd man out, having been going for pizza when the power-surge occurred.  Brady and his squabbling lover Renee have a breakup, and when The Puppeteer enters his mind to find out why he’s so damaged (seen here in the online-exclusive issue 1.5), they end up engaging in a clandestine relationship behind Renee’s back.  Green Thumb is so upset by the constant screaming of plants in his ears that he actually JUMPS OFF A BUILDING, but mysteriously, gets up and walks away.  Meanwhile, a children’s book character has come to life, Norrin has a date (no one is sure which is less believable), and Puppeteer’s father seems to have sinister designs on the Ax-Cell-Erator, the machine which empowered our sprawling cast…  including one whom we’ve never met.

As this one kicks off, we find Brady (who revealed to Annalee in 1.5 that he can’t read), trying to puzzle together the story of Mr. Fiddlesticks.  Renee, his currently off-again girlfriend, interrupts him, and in keeping with their current relationship turmoil, rips into him…

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Meanwhile Norrin (aka The Scarlet Knight) has asked ladykiller Jacques (The Flying Squirrel) for help with his first date, where his nerves have caused him to repeatedly throw up.  “Maybe I should just tell you…  It may seem hard to believe, but I’ve never been on a date before,” admits Norrin.  “Not ‘ard to believe at all,” replies the Gallic Gallant, showing his underlying character.  But he does, at least, agree to help the clueless Knight with tips on his mode of dress, and a little lesson in “le debonair.”

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Renee’s taunting has finally caused Brady to snap, and he lashes out with his OWN telekinetic power, smashing her through a dorm window, and threatening to let go of her hand.  This kind of abuse, while a little shocking out of context, is completely in keeping with about half of the couples I knew in college, the casual cruelty of youth mingling with the complications of grown-up relationships, mutating into a festering resentment and violence.  He hesitates for a second, perhaps remembering his affection for her, and a terrified Renee pleads with him…

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It’s tempting to root for Brady here, but keep in mind:  they’re both guilty of this sort of crap on a pretty regular basis.  Remember how I mentioned that the villain is a made-up character?  There’s another character here who some people would say doesn’t exist:  Norrin’s date, a smart, pretty, well-built girl who appreciates comic books, and calls him ‘Surfer’ (Norrin’s real name is ‘Kenneth,’ but he’s a lifelong fan of Mr. Radd).  It should be noted that I know this girl in real life, right down to her tendency to babble, but that’s she’s actually a redhead.

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She handles ALL the conversation herself, hustling Norrin out the door, and joking that “three, maybe four months, and you won’t be nervous around me at all.”  This begs the question:  Why is this woman interested in our Scarlet Knight errant?  It can’t be his sparkling wit, and he’s not incredibly handsome…  Either she’s got a taste for the geek (in which case, I wonder where she was in 1991), or something else is going on.  I suspect the latter, honestly.  It’s just a little too good to be true.  Likewise too good to be true, is the newfound spiritual connection between ‘Drama Twin’ Brady and ‘Puppeteer’ Annalee.  Brady has finally come to believe that he deserves better than the things that have happened in his life, but unfortunately makes the youthful mistake of not realizing that Renee, too, is damaged goods.  Moreover, trading Renee for Annalee is, sadly, a case of one set of neuroses for another, not that any of them will realize that any time soon…

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Sigh…  I remember when every new relationship was the strongest and most wonderful thing I’d ever experienced, and each NEW soulmate was automatically superior to the previous perfect soulmate.  Sterbakov has the silly peccadilloes of ever-changing college love affairs down pat, as Annalee and Brady think they’re perfectly in love, while Norrin and his girl (whose name I cannot recall for the life o’ me) bond over comic book movies.  Annalee decides to get close to Brady psychically again, and they nearly kiss, when their psychic reverie is interrupted by some very physical pain.

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Meanwhile, our other date is going about as well, as mystery girl asks Norrin if he’s “ready for the mind-blowing question yet.”  I think I have a pretty good idea where the other kid who got super-powers is, how about you?  Suddenly, they both notice a mysterious van parked by the road (though SHE points it out first, he said meaningfully), and Norrin pulls a light out of his pants.  “Are you, like, wearing a utility belt underneath your pants?” she asks.  “No!  Don’t be– No!” he stammers in response…

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Okay, that’s it.  I’m going on record now:  THIS GIRL IS NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS.  There’s waaaay too much ‘Hey, look over there!’ going on for her to be on the up and up.  The van screams away, knocking him down, and she helps him back up.  Meanwhile, the creatures have tossed Annalee’s mindless body into the lake to drown, and Brady leaps to save her.  He manages to pull her up, and suddenly, she returns to her body.  She had jumped into their minds, and was temporarily caught in the mechanical whirlpool.  He is scarily obsessed with protecting her, and she blows it off with a casual “if this is how our dates are gonna be, this is how our dates are gonna be,” not knowing how much a restraining order actually COSTS.  Back on Norrin’s date, she’s ready to ask the mind-blowing question.  Tugging down her top to display a trollopy among of cleavage, she asks: “In your fantasy, what’s going on under here?  Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or Slave Leia?”  She certainly flirts way above college level, don’t she?  He whispers the answer in her ear, and they kiss, as Brady and Renee are suddenly faced with the eeevil Mr. Fiddlesticks…

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The two dates have been going on in split-screen, and I can’t shake the feeling that we’re meant to take something more than just coincidence from that.  Norrin returns home triumphant, and since he snuck out on the sly, nobody knows that the villain seems to have taken Puppeteer and Brady.  Keeping in mind that Fiddlesticks seems to be working with Annalee’s father, I’m absolutely certain this isn’t by coincidence either.

The mystery is progressing nicely, with creepy little touches throughout, and a much darker tone than the first miniseries.  It’s the art that throws me, feeling very reminiscent of early Image days, with a seemingly-conscious Todd MacFarlane vibe throughout.  I liked this issue much more than either of the previous two, but I have to say I question one decision:  the genesis of the illicit affair ‘twixt Bra’ and Anna’ came in the exclusive webcomic, rather than as part and parcel of the actual series.  It’s a rather important plotpoint, as it informs 40% of the events of this issue, probably very confusing if you didn’t read it.  (I linked to it way up top, if you missed the blue text.)  The vagaries of art, combined with this frustration, pull the score down to 2.5 stars out of five.  There’s some interesting bits going on here, and I’m loving the realistically ‘college’ moments, let’s see if the delayed latter half of the mini (issue #4 was supposed to arrive in March) picks up speed and ends it all with a flourish.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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