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The Secret Return of Alex Mack

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Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from mooncowthree
Comments from author:
There are some things about Shar's faux-precognition (it is extended telepathy, not real seeing into the future) that I'm not going to reveal.

I assume because that will be important later not just because you don't want to.
Comments from author:
Well, they might be important in a different story, which may or may not get written, depending on my muse. But the Alexverse has no magic, and in my opinion real precog wouldn't work without something like magic or perhaps the Whateley Universe interpretation of precognition. Note: there are multiple 'types' of magic in Whateley and the characters still do not know whether devising is a kind of magic.
Review By [mooncowthree] • Date [23 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Magi
Given Alex's recent comments on her plan if she's outed, is that a Checkov's gun that she might be in the next few chapters? Pyre is dead, but now Shar is gone and you have to explain that somehow. Maybe go half-way and announce that the Macks adopted Pyre, but leave out Alex being Terrawat?
Comments from author:
This issue will be made clear in the next two chapters. But you have to consider that some Chekov's Guns at this stage might be for a possible future Alex story.
Review By [Magi] • Date [23 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from mooncowthree
I just remembered thinking that Pyre was a little morbid for a code name, especially for a kid. i assume this was another hint?
Comments from author:
Maybe? I didn't plan for it to be a clue, but I did pick it while knowing what would happen. My primary goal with the name was a 'fire' codename that wasn't overused already.
Review By [mooncowthree] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from ScorpioP
I've been pondering this chapter a lot. Yes, I am still miffed at you, especially at the fact that you planned it this way. I'm trying not to rant (again), so feel free to insert random "How could you?" remarks from the other reviews. That said...

In the short term, I figure Alex will react one of two ways: either she will lash out big time, or she will retreat from the world while she processes her initial grief. If she lashes out, though, the question becomes "Who does she target?" If I read the story right, the ones to blame appear to be the last four members of the American branch, at least some of whom are now dead. Not nearly a big enough focus for her rage, so who does she go after -- Danielle? Maggie? Whatever's left of the Shop? And how high will the body count rise? Will Jack and the SRI have to capture and restrain Alex to keep her from going "Darth Tera"?

I await your next chapter to see the outcome of your machinations.
Comments from author:
Ooh, Darth Tera. That could be a problem. Good thing the Batman is always prepared for everything. :D Someone recently pointed out a YouTube video of a Robot Chicken episode that had a short mash-up of Carrie and Alex Mack. Go check it out.
Review By [ScorpioP] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Zeviz
"This story has had a lot of darker spots leading up to this."

You could have a happy story in a dark world, or a dark story in a setting where the worst that happens are schoolyard intrigues. So when I say that this story used to be very happy, what I mean is that despite the dangers to the world overall, things were relatively good for the heroes: There were almost no betrayals (the fact that "there is a mole in SRI" is the biggest thing we have to worry about in over 200 chapters, as opposed to the stories where all government agencies are evil, most allies turn on each other, etc.); Alex, as you've mentioned, has one of the best family lives on TV, as opposed to somebody like [canon] Buffy; Heroes are winning the publicity war, and we haven't seen major talk of discrimination against people with superpowers; Many villains are getting redeemed, while none of the heroes have turned to the dark side; Alex hadn't gotten seriously hurt physically since about half a year ago when the laser guy attacking Playboy compound got her when she was partially transformed; And none of the named characters have died.

So while the world itself might not be a very safe place to live, your characters in this (and your other stories) are better off than most story characters.

Sir Lee, I was expecting the progression to be death of an SRI redshirt -> death of a medium-level character like one of SRI lieutenants or sergeants -> death of somebody like Riley or Jo. However, if what you describe is a more typical progression, then I guess I should have expected something like this. (I am not familiar with comic books and what is considered a standard character journey in them.)
Comments from author:
There is no standard character journey, but a lot of authors have used pieces of what has been called The Hero's Journey in lit circles. A good example of this kind of progress is Harry Potter. Or Odysseus.
Review By [Zeviz] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from AntonioCC
Talk about a gut-punch. If Shar is really dead, I'm gonna miss her.

If she is not and merely depowered, I'm gonna imitate Nelson Muntz with a couple reviewers.

Waiting for Wednesday to know what really hapenned.
Comments from author:
Sorry. It was a hard chapter to write too.
Review By [AntonioCC] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from mooncowthree
Small nit pick: for such a pivotal scene this line:

Yeah, I can see. And Hanna thinks you’ll come up with something really smart, but I don’t think it’ll work. Ooh, that’s a better idea. Thanks.

Made it really tough to stay in the story instead of having "jerk the needle off a record sound" moment. Who had the "better idea" and was the idea actually going nova? and why did you add that Shar saw "a bunch of other important stuff" in Alex's mind? Was that stuff she just pulled using her suddenly heightened powers or just important stuff she picked up over time?
Also form what I can tell here dream only showed that they needed to be there and not that she was going to die, but if so does that mean the vacation was just a way to be in the right place, right time, and not a lets have some fun before I die, kinda thing?
Comments from author:
There are some things about Shar's faux-precognition (it is extended telepathy, not real seeing into the future) that I'm not going to reveal.
Review By [mooncowthree] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from LeChasseur
After reading this chapter, I am feeling pretty bad because, with all this talks about Shar moving, I was thinking "just put her on the bus, so we can move on !".

And, you do that. It was horrifying. In multiple aspects.
One, you killed Shar. And damn if this isn't traumatic enough.
Two, you made Alex fight her, and worse, made her fight a loosing battle. Alex was absolutely ineffective, and now, the guilt will certainly overwhelm her.

I don't foresee many happy chapters in the next two-three weeks...
Comments from author:
This may take Alex a while to work through, but that doesn't mean I'm going to write a minute-by-minute account of the grieving process.
Review By [LeChasseur] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from mooncowthree
How did we not see this ages ago?!? We keep joking about your Chekov Armory and yet NO ONE(that I can tell from comments) twigged to the fact the Shar's fav movie being Iron Giant might be important! Her catch phrase was even "you stay I go no following", we were so blind....
Also not sure why you keep calling yourself a horrible person, from what I understand, writers are typically more heartbroken when they kill one of their characters than the readers because they are their creations; unless you are GRRM, I'm pretty sure he has no soul :P

You seem to be implying that that next (final?) dozen chapter will be a roller coaster. As much as I enjoy your depictions of Alex's everyday life I am excited to see things get kicked into overdrive, especially Alex's first Superman moment (solo space flight) I have a feeling gazing down at our "little blue marble" will do wonders for her grief process.
Comments from author:
I'm sure some people guessed where I was going with this part of the plot. Not everyone 'calls their attacks' so to speak. :D
Review By [mooncowthree] • Date [22 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from (Current Donor)deiticlast
Damn. I'm gonna be honest with ya: I got a little misty eyed reading this.
Comments from author:
Umm, I hate to admit it, but I was hoping for that.
Review By [(Current Donor)deiticlast] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Rating [10 out of 10]
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from SirLee
I disagree with Zeviz. While Shar's death was quite sudden, with the entire story taking place within half a chapter (as opposed, say, being stretched for a four-issue arc in a monthly comic series where fans could dial a 900 number to vote if the character would really die), it was clearly part of a story-long arc where the stakes kept being raised more and more. Alex went from jailing bank robbers to fighting supervillains to monsters to terrorists to armies; she had to go from "nobody really ever gets hurt" to "some people were killed before she got there" to "some of the villains got killed" to "some NPC soldiers got killed" to "we couldn't save everybody" to "her team killed some villains, but at least she personally didn't do it" to "sometimes we have to fight the *victims*" and now to "sometimes people we like die too."

And her journey is not finished: the hardest step is still ahead -- she will eventually be put on the spot of having to *decide* to kill another person. Not kill by accident -- although that could come at an earlier stage -- but coldly figuring that this is the only solution for a particular problem.

And then, of course, comes the aftermath. Accepting that she did it, that it was necessary, and figuring out how much the act changed her. If, having gone over that line once, if she will now find it _too easy_ to go over it again.
Comments from author:
Yes. This story isn't as much about Terawatt becoming famous as it is about Alex having to grow as a person and as the kind of person who is a superhero. Back in the Golden Age of comics, things were pretty easy personally. In the Silver Age, some heroes lost people they loved, but not a ton of them. In the Dark Age (the Dork Age if you ask me), not only did loved one get killed, but heroes became bloodthirsty killers. (I'm with Squirrel Girl on this.) Alex is in a world where people die, unfortunately.
Review By [SirLee] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Caminus
The interesting thing about all these "Shar is definitely dead" comments you're making is they don't actually reveal a whole lot of information. I mean, if you killed her off and intended to bring her back later in a big surprise, you *absolutely* have to double down on it in the comments or else nobody will buy it.

Not that I'm saying I think she's coming back, but I'm saying there is definitely a ceiling on the odds I would give betting against it. Also, that "in the Alexverse" addition to your comment about not bringing Shar back strikes me as a little fishy; after all the narrative multiverse here is a lot bigger than just the Alexverse.
Comments from author:
Actually, I would just avoid answering the question and focus on some other issue in the comment, as I have done previously when people asked me questioned I didn't want to answer at the time, like:

"You did Firestarter, are you going to do Carrie?"
"Have you considered doing Resident Evil?"
"You did Resident Evil, are you going to do another 'zombie' story?"
"Is Ray going to get powers? What about Louis?"
"How come Louis' luck is so bad?"
Review By [Caminus] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Zeviz
I can't believe you killed Shar.

On the more positive note, this is one of very few pieces of writing that affected me so strongly that I couldn't watch an in-flight movie for a couple hours after reading it, and the movies I did watch were different in mood from the ones I originally planned. Although it's good I didn't read this chapter when I wanted something to cheer me up.

The problem is that your stories used to be "everybody lives happily ever after" to the point that a major "somebody will die" prophecy was avoided by a miscarriage of a previously unknown pregnancy. So to jump from not a single SRI death in a year to one of the most painful deaths possible represents a major shift in tone. (Shar's death was as painful as Willow's or Alex' parents' deaths would have been. A death of a major SRI character like Graham or Jo wouldn't have been as bad,since they are soldiers.) I know that this is a realistic outcome of a 10 year old in combat, but your stories didn't have this kind of dark realism before, so a warning of a drastic tone change would have been nice.
Comments from author:
Sorry. I just felt that one of those annoying network tv 'TONIGHT! SOMEONE WILL DIE!' warnings would ruin things. (And aren't most of those complete fake-outs which are just plain annoying?)

Granted, we have had chapters in this story where LOTS of people died, just not main characters we cared about. I've nuked two major cities, destroyed half a dozen Russian towns, threatened a zombie apocalypse and a hate plague, unleashed a military conflict that also included supervillains and superheroes, and almost started a global thermonuclear war. This story has had a lot of darker spots leading up to this.
Review By [Zeviz] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from ShalaDakiri
While I didn't hate and loathe Shar, I didn't get all that attached to her, either.

To be honest, I pretty much knew she would be gone as soon as she said she tried CPR on the woman.

For me, I think I saw something like this coming when Alex failed to save Carrie, just not how soon or who she would lose. Story-wise, though, Shar was the most likely candidate. She wanted to be a hero, and despite her abilities, too young to fully comprehend the dangers.

I've never actually read Firestarter, so I didn't realize just how powerful she was, but the chapter had me thinking of the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga.

I imagine Hannah needed to be in this arc to provide someone capable of doing what needs to be done despite any emotional attachments.

I'm actually not sure where I think Alex might be headed right now. For some reason, I could almost see her going to Bruce. He might be all growly and paranoid, but I think he'd be able to give her space to grieve while making sure she stays safe and sane.
Comments from author:
I still think Firestarter is one of King's best works. And Charlie doesn't really come into her powers until she absolutely has to near the end of the book, and then things get hot. If you ever read the book, you can go back to the Charlie McGee arc and recognize some of the damage she did. But I also wanted someone powerful enough to help Alex take down Gojira. So Charlie McGee was chosen. Or perhaps she was Chosen, depending how you look at it.
Review By [ShalaDakiri] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from JCarlHenderson
Numbered Comments III: Revenge of the Numbered Comments

1) Don't let all the "how could you do that?", "you are so evil", and "noooo!" reviews get to you. The only reason that you are getting such reviews is that you made Shar, who could have been a really annoying character, into someone loved by all your readers (except for SpeakerToCustomers, of course). In other words, those comments are another way of saying "Diane Castle is a fantastic writer".

2) One thing I really admired about this chapter is how you used the "downtime in Alex's real life" scenes that we've become so used to as a lead in to an abrupt whiplash as things went from fun, to very serious, to horrific, and then to tragic in a single chapter. I think you may have invented "Chekov's Downtime".

3) After I read "Vegas Vacation" and thought about it, I realized that Shar may well have used her superpowers of precognition and pouting to arrange a few perfect days with the people who loved her most before she went to her death to save the world.

4) A lot of commenters are speculating about how Alex will react to this tragedy. Superhero fiction has a number of tropes that deal with just such a situation:

a) "Going Dark Phoenix" (or "Dark Willow")—Not going to happen with Alex. Aside from lacking the raw power to make this plausible, she's too grounded with her friends and family.
b) "Costume in the Trash Can"—I can't see Alex giving up superheroing. She might consider it, but she never needed a dying father figure to tell her that "with great power comes great responsibility". Her core motivations isn't guilt, but a desire to help people, to give back to the world. She's Superman ("Kingdom Come" aside); not Spider-man.
c) "Going Grim & Gritty"—No. Her own sense of morality and her faith will likely prevent this. Again, Superman doesn't do "Grim and Gritty".
d) "Giving Up on a Normal Life"—This is the greatest danger I can see for Alex coming out of Shar's death. That she might decide the problem was that she had not been committed enough to being Terawatt, that she hadn't worked hard enough, practiced enough, spent enough time hunting for the Collective, etc. I could see Alex deciding "screw college and photography and a normal life, I'm going to be Terawatt 24/7!" This option would present a tempting mix of "doing the right thing" and "punishing herself for not being good enough" to Alex. I can't see her succeeding at breaking her ties to her Alex Mack identity, but I can see her doing some significant damage to some of her normal relationships trying.
e) Coping (not really a trope)—Alex is most likely to mourn, and with the support of her friends and family and her faith, to eventually learn to live with Shar's death. Eventually, Shar may become another example of someone who Alex works to live up to, much like the pre-Crisis Superman dealt with the deaths of his parents.

5) It does occur to me that the only thing worse that Shar's death might be Shar's resurrection (after all you've been very clear Shar is dead; but this superhero fiction—dead does not preclude coming back). What if Shar someday returned as a nanite-driven, cosmic-powered entity with just enough of Shar still remaining to make her all the more terrifying and tragic. But as you've said, that would be a DC Universe "call the Justice League" level of threat, and way overpowered for the Terawatt universe. Alex would need a "league" of super-powered people to handle that level of threat. Where could she find such an "extraordinary" group of people, capable of fighting what would essentially be a god? Maybe a "reunion" with some old friends?

6) I dearly wish I could recommend this story twice!
Comments from author:
[1] And Maetch as well. :D
[4] Alex is going to have to go through the stages of grief, so she may change her attitude more than once.
[5] It was once said that in comics no one stays dead except Bucky, Jason Todd, and Uncle Ben. Since then, Bucky and Jason Todd are both back. I won't bring Shar back in the Alexverse.
[6] Thanks!
Review By [JCarlHenderson] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Rating [10 out of 10]
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