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The Secret Return of Alex Mack

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Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from JCarlHenderson
Review:
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!
Review By [JCarlHenderson] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Rating [10 out of 10]
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Philister
Review:
Wow, a serious gut punch. Wondered how you would resolve the dituation of having a near all-powerful little sis in the mix. Looking forward to seeing how Alex will recover from this.
Comments from author:
There are actually a series of tropes on the subject. They include Put On A Bus, Dropped A Bridge On Him, Brought Down To Normal, Brought Down To Badass, and even Depower. Those are all YV Tropes titles, but they're indicative.
Review By [Philister] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Maetch
Review:
I never liked Charlene and I will withhold my actual thoughts about her demise, but I hope this little incident FINALLY gives Alex the push she needs to stop goofing around like a childish dolt and actually take the fight to Maggie and her psychos.

And there's still Atron to deal with, too. I'm still waiting for her to make her big play and possibly usurp Maggie and the Collective.
Comments from author:
Back when you were lobbying for her immediate and horrible death, I was just sitting there, wondering if you would still be reading when this story arc got published. Maybe I was smiling too.
Review By [Maetch] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from fpb
Review:
I have been thinking. Some people seem to feel that Alex might go meshuggah from the grief of this loss. I don't think so. This is Saint Alex we are talking about, the ever-responsible, ever-concerned. I think her temporary unreasoning fury at Action Girl is as mad as she is going to get, and that in six hours from now - i mean the historic now of the story - she will be regretting that and trying to ring Hanna to apologize. Appalling though the tragedy is, this is one person who has long learned to put others before herself and to control her emotions when she is needed.

Villains however might have another reason to regret Shar's death. From now, Terawatt is likely to redouble her efforts. Any menace will get her immediate and intense attention. Anyone who threatens civilians will never have a hope to get away. And if she was focused before, she will be unstoppable now. I reckon that Danielle Atron, in particular, is in for a very thin time.
Comments from author:
Yes. This could have impacts on Alex.
Review By [fpb] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from batzulger
Review:
A nuclear event is a hell of a casus belli.
Comments from author:
But not the first extreme event that has been used to justify launching a war. Humans have a history of seeking out potential casus belli (I'm using the plural here).
Review By [batzulger] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Starfox
Review:
Damn, that was a punch in the gut. From happy road trip to tragedy. Though maybe Shar can take over the nanobots, and pull herself together like the iron giant...
Comments from author:
No, Shar won't be able to pull an 'Iron Giant'.

And how did the iron giant just get blasted into tiny pieces, none of which took any damage from the blast or the re-entry? Inquiring minds want to know!
Review By [Starfox] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Tabercil
Review:
Woof... well-written chapter. And I find this exchange you made in an earlier review interesting:

Laith: I get that sometimes good chars have to die to move the story. Just don't quite see why it _had_ to be Shar and now.
Diane: Hopefully, over the next dozen chapters, you'll see why.

Hmmm... sounds to me like you're going to use Shar's death as a pivot point in the story. Question is - what would it be? Hmm, possibilities, possibilities... so far the SRI have been largely reactive. Maybe the SRI now goes active & aggressive against the various Orphans that are clearly not on the side of the angels??? You have a known "nuclear" event (at least that seems to be how it's going to be spun according to batzulger's story) on American soil as a pretext.
Comments from author:
Everything in my stories is a potential Chekov's Gun. Sometimes it's a Chekov's Boomerang.
Review By [Tabercil] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Return" from batzulger
Review:
re: "Maybe not. But I had a wonderful two-hour phone conversation with my lifelong best friend, of the kind that had brightened our lives since I was eighteen, and four days later I was told he had died of cancer. I think that is quite sudden enough."

Of course it is. Sudden surprising unstoppable death. I was just using an example from my frame of reference that involved a battlefield. I am in no way suggesting that there are not other forms.
Comments from author:
Now that we can be in touch with friends and loved ones all over the world, death in all of its forms is only a phone or a computer away.
Review By [batzulger] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Hecatonchires
Review:
Shar ;_;
Comments from author:
Sorry. Just remember: I'm a horrible person.
Review By [Hecatonchires] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from DieselDriver
Review:
That was sad. You couldn't see a way to have Shar's power level out? I suppose this leaves some really hard soul searching for Alex & her extended family, even to the question of what about her own kids. With her and Ray both being changed what will her kids be like? Will they opt not to take a chance or will love overcome the fear?

Alex sure has sucky vacations.

Edit after reading many of the other reviews: I have to wonder what it would have been like if Shar had been able (mature enough at the time) to be part of the "Extraordinary League". All they would have needed to do would be to evacuate all the other characters and make sure all the gates were closed and the fight would have been on. Da'Laza might not have survived as much as she did. I can picture in my head theater the people outside the closed gates having to evacuate from the vicinity of the gates due to the sheer violence of the leakage through the closed gates.

Oh yeah, that wouldn't have left much of a story, would it? Maybe a show to watch from the vicinity of an Alpha Centauri analog.
Comments from author:
Exactly. If you make your hero powerful, you need a more powerful threat. Your only other choices are a really boring story ('ho hum, this week he fights the The Paperclip Wrangler') or a story focused on other things or an origin story where the powers don't come in until late in the story and you get to enjoy it as jerkheads get their comeuppance. King went with the third option in both 'Carrie' and 'Firestarter' and by the time we get to the big power eruption we're eager to see as much damage as the author can manage.
Review By [DieselDriver] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from MarcusRowland
Review:
Just realised that there have to be Shar-analogues in the Buffyverse, Hermione's world, DC, etc. etc., in the same way that Batman exists in multiple universes - she's an embodiment of The Plot, and way too important not to have some role in every story. Maybe she's going to turn up as an exceptionally powerful young witch in the Potterverse, or a metahuman in the DC verse. Her part in this story is over, but every universe needs a child to sacrifice to The Plot.

If you're wondering why I capitalise The Plot, this article may help

http://news.ansible.co.uk/plotdev.html
Comments from author:
No, I knew why you were capitalizing. It's more or less the same reason I capitalize when I cite the TV Tropes website.
Review By [MarcusRowland] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from (Current Donor)Speakertocustomers
Review:
Author: "Also, when I chose Charlie McGee, I knew I was going to have to nerf her, sideline her, or get rid of her. She is too powerful for the Alexverse."

That's one reason why I hated her.

DavidEmpey: "I did notice that Alex is/was almost obsessively fond of Shar (Oh no, she'll have to call herself "O'Neill", boo hoo. "Just thinking about the name change made Alex want to cry." Seriously, Alex? Seriously? Get a grip, woman!)"

And that's the other. Charlene was *ruining* Alex's life. And I genuinely do believe that the little brat was psychically manipulating Alex, and Alex's parents, and others.
Comments from author:
I did go out of my way to limit what Alex could physically do. It's easier to write a villain for Batman than for Superman. By that, I mean that there are scads of Intergang and Lex Luthor stories in the Supes canon, but in how many of them did we ever feel that 'oh no he might die from this' tension? With Superman, they had to keep upping the threat level to the multiverse-destroying tiers.
Review By [(Current Donor)Speakertocustomers] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from asqwerth
Review:
Sad now.

And this is while already half expecting it after being partially spoilt by reading batzulger's last chapter and its reviews before reading this one (learnt my lesson! Always read the main material first, from now on!).

In hindsight, I suppose one could say it was inevitable. But still.
Comments from author:
Sorry. It was hard to write too.
Review By [asqwerth] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from fpb
Review:
I was about to comment when I saw the last comment. Well, my view is that if I were a villain wanting to do something unpleasant to a heroine who has never lost a fight (so far as the world knows), I would not only think about my plans over and over again, but I would look for a period of grief and unsettlement in her life. If I were Maggie or DAnielle Atron, I would start on my long-planned murder or subversion campaign right now.
EDITED IN: " Until that sudden bolt or bullet from the blue hits a guy you were just joking with fifteen seconds ago, you just can't understand." Maybe not. But I had a wonderful two-hour phone conversation with my lifelong best friend, of the kind that had brightened our lives since I was eighteen, and four days later I was told he had died of cancer. I think that is quite sudden enough.
Comments from author:
I'm sorry for your loss. In this day and age where we have so much contact with so many people, we can see both the sudden loss and the slow, drawn-out, agonizing death. I've certainly seen both. When my time comes, I would prefer Option A.
Review By [fpb] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from batzulger
Review:
re:"I REALLY feel bad for the next villain to cross Terawatt. :)"

'clink! clink! clink'

Maggie Wall-allsh come out and play-yay! Oh Maggie Walllllsh! Come out and Play-eeee!

'clink! clink! clink'

(apologies to Walter Hill, Sol Yurick, and David Patrick Kelley)


EDIT: I honestly don't know, people process grief differently. Alex has spent her life in a mostly protected bubble in some ways. She knows that the outside world is tough and can be cruel, but this is absolutely the first time it's hit home. The first time that all her powers and skills were completely useless. It happened so fast that she couldn't comprehend what was happening as it happened.

Jack and Willow both understand sudden loss happening out of the blue. So do Hermione, Harry, and Ron. So does Az actually. If Alex talks to any of them, maybe she won't slip off the precipice. I fought in Panama, Desert Storm, and Somalia. Until that sudden bolt or bullet from the blue hits a guy you were just joking with fifteen seconds ago, you just can't understand. You have absolutely nothing to compare it to and when people lack a frame of reference they make assumptions and second guess. That way leads to really big trouble.

Will Alex recover?

Yes, people do all the time from loss. Alex has an advantage on that since she does have friends and family that are all very concerned with her physical and mental well-being. 'Will she recover in time?' is the bigger question. Especially since with the American and Indian branches gone, the Collective has basically nothing to slow it down now...
Comments from author:
Is Alex going to be out superheroing any time soon?
Review By [batzulger] • Date [21 Sep 14] • Not Rated
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