Scribbler’s Saga #15 – Danica Shade: This Party’s Soo Dead

Posted: February 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

My first thought reading Danica Shade: This Party’s Soo Dead written by my friend, Joe Burns – my most useful superpower must be what I call the Missing Scene Alert. I have generally been able to feel my way through structure at an intuitive level leading to “I noticed something that should be on the page and isn’t.” But, let’s discuss what this book is and the many things that are great about this short but vastly entertaining tale before letting pesky things like a question only slightly less impertinent than those that arise at or from a current year Presidential press conference spoil the soup. 

Danica Shade is a young lady, or she-drow (dark elf for those who didn’t play Dungeons & Dragons during their misspent youths) with a decided fondness for the modern Overworld city of Los Angeles. Ms. Shade once worked for the Federal Government in capacities best likened to – “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” – and has since retired to enjoy zombie-themed first person shooters with her best friend among the humans, the diminutive nurse/seamstress Kaylee. Danica has seemingly abandoned her subterranean homeland and formal speech patterns, despite the racism of surface dwellers, in favor of bloody crimson mayhem delivered with a smile, snark and pop culture references (to the extent that the three aren’t synonyms repeated for triple emphasis).

A word about the author arbitrarily inserted here between describing the character and getting to the meat of the story. Mister Burns and I share time at a comic book-centric creator group somewhere in the South Bay (for me it’s easier to use the comic book group for my midweek writing session than to drive to the Valley). And neither of us pencil, ink nor color being writers, thank you very much.

Despite being comic book fans who can wax craptological about our formative books, I certainly feel an unconscious and unintended bias towards people who draw. So Mr. Burns hit on a brilliant strategy to keep up with the product arms race among the creators: do illustrated prose to introduce a character and create fans for eventual Kickstarter campaigns for graphic novel sequels without breaking the bank paying an artist. Yes, I will copy this with my own work when I figure out how to find my own ass with a hunting dog and a map.

So back to the bone-crushing adventures of Danica Shade, she of periwinkle skin and pink hair, as she is continually interrupted one Halloween weekend by dark forces intent on keeping her from the first person shooter Zombie Dawn 7 (FYI, a quick type of the title into Wikipedia brings us to an IRL mobile gaming site that probably wouldn’t go near the console versions depicted herein). Whether it’s two racist douchebags mugging a another she-drow from home or Danica’s past as Secret Government Agent walking uninvited through the door with a mission dossier in hand. And I do mean bone-crushing, counting up the broken knees, elbows and ribs in this gruesome dark tale is almost as fruitless as keeping track of the repetition of Brain and Spock’s Brain in the eponymous Star Trek:TOS episode.

Adventure walks in the door the night before Halloween in the form of Jackson, Danica’s former handler recently moved over to Homeland Security Arcane Threats Division. A necromancer, Malachi Gideon, is being imported by a corporation that stole the Obelisk Gate to open a portal for purposes of world domination. Danica has a day to organize an invitation to and costume for the corporation’s Halloween party.

Kaylee breaks out the pushpins to make a costume whining about the Plus One on the invitation until Danica cracks. They enter a castle allegedly built by witches in 1200 CE, despite Europeans not arriving anywhere near California before about 1600 CE. Danica parts with Kaylee in the bar amid the pulsing beat of loud House/Techno music and sets out to save the world…

I found reading this generally awesome story completely pleasurable. I’m a sucker for bone-crushing fistfights clearly inspired by roleplaying games where heroes and heroines come from unlikely places and beat back the Darkness one more time. And I couldn’t help enjoying Danica’s smile, snark and pop culture references as she personally depletes the Southern California contingent of foul Undead Beasts with quite a bit of humor.

But, you did hear me lead this review with missing scene? We now come to the faint whiff of liquorish flavor to go with the sugary taste of Red Vines. During the lead up to the Halloween party, Danica consults a local Arcanist (wizard), Cullen “Cole” Drake for the skinny on Big Bad Malachi Gideon learning the intel in the dossier is completely FUBAR because Necromancer Malachi Gideon should, in strict point of fact, be substituted by Lich (Undead and Extremely Powerful Former Necromancer) Malachi Gideon. Cole relates this information with such fear in his dust filled office that you expect him to blow Los Angeles immediately (or yesterday with a time travel spell).

However, Cole sticks around to take over as the mission support voice on the earbud (see Tom Arnold in True Lies) from Pixie, a gnome hacker sure to appear in future stories. The sharp reader simply asks the question – shouldn’t we see Danica and/or Kaylee’s attempts to persuade the reluctant Cole to join the fight on the page?

Yes, this is a short story/novella and most cool but extraneous things that would fill the novel, movie or Wagnerian opera versions of this story need excising. But, letting a moment where Danica would need to ask for help isn’t, to my eyes, one of them. One apparent flaw amid a gem of a head-breaking introduction tale to a character likely to thrill us for years? My friend is basically ahead of the game.

I will close repeating that I really enjoyed the read. And wax craptologically about the actress likely to wear purple makeup for the movie role…Scarlet Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence? Oh, and to tell you I paid Joe for my copy, which hopefully counteracts the friend conflict of interest reading this review, at least a little…

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