Bewildering Stories

The Critics’ Corner

Don Webb writes about...

Shadowy Forces

part 1

Paul McManus’ “Change of Perspective”

Our new contributor in this issue, Paul McManus, begins “Change of Perpective” as a more or less conventional rescue story. Steel Eagle rushes to rescue a stock damsel in distress, Ladyfist, from the clutches of a stock villain, De Sade (what a choice of name!). However, the conflict suddenly changes from stock external figures to Steel Eagle’s emotional state. And that raises any number of questions.

  1. Why does Steel Eagle kill Ladyfist? The answer seems to be that Ladyfist is “a fairly low-level superhero who’d been masquerading as the daughter of a very wealthy businessman.” But why was she doing that? The connection with the “businessman” seems irrelevant; it’s mentioned once and then dropped.

  2. Since Ladyfist is a superhero of sorts, she is presumably a “mutant.” What does that imply? She appears to have super strength, which enables her to inflict serious injury on Steel Eagle. Why didn’t she use it against De Sade?

  3. Steel Eagle is a “superhero” thanks to his mastery of technology; other than that, he could be not a one-man freelance SWAT team but just a regular guy in policeman’s blue. Are “mutant” superheroes then ipso facto super-villains because they’re different?

  4. Steel Eagle concludes that his instinctive loathing is an emotional axiom. But why should it be? Is it no more than an irrational phobia, as to snakes or spiders? If so, the reader is going to shrug and say, “So what?” And isn’t irrational behavior as repulsive in Steel Eagle as it is in Ladyfist or De Sade?

In “superhero” stories as in any other, combat is irrelevant noise unless it creates or resolves an issue. “Change of Perspective” uses combat initially to resolve the issue of Ladyfist’s captivity.

The outcome of Steel Eagle’s intervention raises a second issue: does Ladyfist’s being a mutant disqualify her as a victim and make her an enemy? If so, then why? Is there a subtext here? Human and policemen regular guys must show solidarity against hand-busting powerful women?

It’s very unfortunate that Ladyfist remains a cardboard character and a shadowy force. However, in the end, “Change of Perspective” is at least a beginning: it opens the door to an interesting “larger story.”

Proceed to part 2: Julian Lawler’s Battle Seer

Copyright © 2005 by Don Webb for Bewildering Stories

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