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The Secret Return of Alex Mack

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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.
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.
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]
Review of chapter "Vegas Vacation" from Philister
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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