We’ll be at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend at table B6B with books, t-shirts, and more, come say hi!!

Since we’re on the road today and busy all weekend, comments will take longer than usual to go up.

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  • RobotAccomplice

    I’m having a hard time following all the nuances of this conversation. Maybe I just need to start over at the beginning.

  • Spencer Preston

    Awe! I wanted to see a throw down between Ali and Furnace. Is this the end of the chapter?

  • Crysta Swarts

    “They make reasons for things to be okay the way they are.” BOOM. I’m a bit speechless over that.

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      A truth that hurts.

  • Daniel Vogelsong

    “MARY! I don’t want to be a superhero! I certainly don’t want to be a Youtube Sensation! I wasn’t trying to provide you escapism!”
    Alison is unintentionally made herself an anti-millenial. I predict Furnace will appear from the water, and Alison will have to get him off her lawn. Damn kids these days.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    Should not have let go of the lightbender Al.

  • persephone_the_wanderer

    So, there have been a lot of posts lately about how Moonshadow is clearly in the wrong, because vigilante justice is always a bad idea compared to the rule of law. And they make a number of good points – a well-functioning justice system is more reliable, less prone to abuse and personal idiosyncrasy, has more of a chance of effecting large-scale deterrence to crime, etc. And this is all true. Given a well-functioning justice system, pursuing vigilante justice against one person you know to have gotten away with their crimes is probably a bad idea.

    Moonshadow’s claim, however, is that we don’t live in a world with a well-functioning justice system; that it goes systematically wrong in clearly identifiable cases. She might suggest a comparison with Jim Crow. Yes, the South had a system of justice – a system in which a white man (or a gang of them) could always just murder a black man and get away with it. If it’s 1900, then the Civil Rights movement won’t start winning for another half a century. In that case, is it still wrong to pursue vigilante justice against lynch mobs? Or, in Moonshadow’s case: if there’s a certain crime which the existing justice system systematically allows people to just get away with; if it doesn’t look like that system is going to change, say, next year; if _you could do something about it_ – wouldn’t you?

    • Mechwarrior

      He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not
      become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss
      gazes also into you — Friedrich Nietzsche

      If you can’t change things without being as bad as the people in charge of the current system are, you can’t change things.

      • UnsettlingIdeologies

        “They make reasons for things to be okay the way they are.”

        • Mechwarrior

          Hardly. But by adopting the same tyrannical methods as the previous oppressor, a freedom fighter insures that should they win, nothing will change but the name of the tyrant. Mary is doing nothing but strengthening the idea that violence and terrorism are legitimate ways of dealing with the people you dislike, just like the people she claims to oppose. You can’t murder your way to peace.

      • Cake

        Actually I think you can avoid being just as bad as the people in charge of the system. Once you enact your change/delivered your justice upon the people who were abusing it, turn yourself in and face that same justice you demanded.

        • Jeremy

          What happens when the next person chooses to follow that model? Is everyone encouraged to kill anyone they think is guilty of something?

          I read comment sections on some websites where many of the commentators consider lots and lots of people in the world evil. The idea that one can kill anyone they think is evil seems terrifying to me.

          • Cake

            I’m not encouraging it, in fact it’s the opposite But, you can already do this and other people are already doing this.

            What I was replying to was the Idea that you cant make change in a corrupt system without yourself becoming corrupt or just as bad as what you are fighting. I think you can mitigate the harm or damage that is done to the system by offering yourself up to judgement.

            For a mild example the movie “A Few Good Men” where a Colonel thought he was doing the right thing by illegally ordering his men to punish one of their own. The real crime was not that he ordered one of his men to be beaten, but instead he abdicated his responsibilities and tried to evade the consequences of his actions.

        • Mechwarrior

          And your supporters will say stuff about extenuating circumstances and let you off- can’t throw the hero of the revolution in prison unless they become politically inconvenient.

          • Cake

            “And your supporters will say stuff about extenuating circumstances..”

            Umm how is that different than what’s happening now? Just about every accused person has supporters that wants them left out, or thinks that their sins were justified. Just because someone has supporters doesn’t mean they automagically get away with whatever they want. It’s still up to the jury.

          • Catherine Kehl

            Well, no, these are just the ones you hear about. Most folks who are accused? No one gives a damn outside of maybe a few members of their own families. They make some kind of plea bargain and never see trial (well over 90% – seriously, look it up).

          • Cake

            I know and I agree.

            What I don’t know is how your response goes with the subject of enacting change by stepping outside the system without becoming just as bad.

          • OoO!

            I don’t get it: what’s the problem with being bad? All that matters is if the consequences of your actions are better that the consequences of inaction. Ozymandias was an impressive mass murderer, and he probably saved the world. So does Moonshadows “lesson plan” make the world a better place?

            Pro: She creates discussions about rape culture and ex-superhero mental health. Some victims may feel glad that they are finally being listened to.

            Con: The families and friends of the rapeists will be sad. People will be slightly more inspired to think of violence as a solution to their problems. It probably doesn’t work as a disincentive towards rape. Allisons mental health decreased slightly.

            (8 months late. I wonder if anyone will ever read this comment?)

          • Vigil

            I’ll add to your list a bit:

            Cons: Some people who are guilty of rape will be dead (which may matter, depending on whether you think a truly despicable person’s life still has value). If Mary occasionally makes a mistake, a much smaller number of people innocent of rape will be dead. There may be detrimental effects on other efforts to reduce rape and sexual assault – e.g. Furnace told victims not to speak out, and that statement despite being unreasonable sounded more reasonable to the general public given the superpowered killer running around attacking those accused but not convicted of rape (Speaking of which, another approach Mary could have taken which would likely be more PR-friendly might have been killing convicted rapists after their laughably short sentences ended. Given the difficulty of actually getting a rape conviction in the US legal system, the charge of “maybe they were innocent” would be dead in the water with that approach). This might mean the norm moves towards victims speaking out less, when without Mary’s intervention it would have moved the opposite direction, which could plausibly have been a key part of a vital cultural change.

            Pros: Sexual abuse is usually a pattern of behaviour on the part of the perpetrator, so by killing those rapists Mary likely saves a number of people, 0-2 orders of magnitude higher than the number she killed, from being raped or sexually assaulted. Sexual violence and physical violence go hand-in-hand, so Mary likely saves a number of people, 1-3 orders of magnitude less than those she saves from rape, from being killed, and others from domestic abuse.

            I don’t think the “lesson plan” can motivate lasting change in society. But the real question is whether it does widespread harm – if not, then Mary’s charge against Alison “why are you coming after me, and saving him, in particular” rings true: When you have built your perfect world, THEN you can come after the rapist-killing vigilante.

    • SpoonyViking

      Isn’t it better, though – at least in the long-term -, to strive for the well-functioning justice system?
      The main issue with vigilante justice is that at some point (if not from the start) the vigilante will be enacting personal satisfaction, not justice. I wouldn’t want to give that power to any individual, no matter how well-intentioned they claim to be (or even may truly be).

    • Graeme Sutton

      Moonshadow’s claim is wrong. The modern american criminal justice system has problems, most of which are slowly but clearly and measurably improving over time, but it’s still multiple orders of magnitude better than anything she is offering or ever will be able to offer, regardless of whether we pretend that we can trust her judgement of who is guilty or not.

      • The American Justice System is little more than a source of cheap labour thanks to privatized prisons and racist drug policies. Its a cruel joke used as a weapon against the disenfranchised.

      • Catherine Kehl

        How much of this is a matter of perspective?

        I mean, I grew up a middle trending towards upper-middle (daughter of a computer science professor, and what that meant changed an awful lot during the eighties) white girl, born in the early seventies.

        Most of my life I was told by politically active, feminist women (i.e. the ones who gave me any advice on such things) that trying to press charges on a rape was something that should be approached with your eyes totally open, as it was in the big picture totally worth doing, but it was also likely to be traumatic and wreck your life, at least for a while. Certainly, you should expect that you will be on trial more than the man you accuse.

        And I saw rape trials, and yeah, that is exactly what I saw.

        Now think about how much privilege I had to bring to bear.

        I don’t know how much justice there is for a lot of people. A lot of things have gotten better. But if you’re the one who isn’t being heard, or is actively being abused by those in authority, what – sit down, shut up, and wait for things to get better? For how long?

        What happens to justice deferred?

  • GreatWyrmGold

    Mary seems less stupid now. Equally crazy, much less redeemable, but less stupid.

  • guest

    “they can’t do anything to you!”
    Surely they can though? i dont remember the specifics of her anaomly but she could still be knocked out by gas right?

    • Kid Chaos

      If the Feds really wanted to lock her up, there are ways. I mean, check out Cleaver’s new and improved cell; you think they don’t have contingency plans for Mega-Girl? They’ve been giving her a pass up until now, but if she goes bad…

    • SpoonyViking

      I presume not if her invulnerability is actually some kind of telekinetic forcefield, though, as it seems to be.

    • scottfree

      Maybe? I mean, she has a few years of experience from fighting supervillains, right? (assuming none of them were government “tests” to see what would stop her). That’s in addition to her training as a firefighter, which would further train her on operating in smoky, oxygen-depleted environments.

      The need to breathe is there, but she can probably punch through any structure that’s being filled up with gas, and now that she can fly it’s not like they can just plunk her underwater and expect her to stay there.

    • Some guy

      The one guy in the Feral arc seemed to neutralize her pretty well. Have that guy stand behind Cleaver so Alison can’t throw a shoe at him and you can figure it out from there.

      • Rod

        That was before she could fly.

        • That same guy

          You’re assuming whatever method of propulsion she uses can overcome Ignominio’s telekinesis, or that she would be willing to become less indestructible by using it while in their presence.

    • UnsettlingIdeologies

      I don’t think we have any reason to believe that’s true. From what little we know about her anomaly (which is very little, since the super-scientist’s explanation turned out to be wrong), it seems to function through some sort of localized, unconscious, incredibly powerful telekinesis. It is powerful enough to make her virtually invulnerable and precise enough to be able to impact the way her body heals on a molecular level. It is precise enough that it somehow protected her from death by electric shock (possibly by keeping her heart beating in a regular fashion despite the current or by actually redirecting the electrons that make up the current so that they didn’t flow through her in a way that was fatal or debilitating). I even get the impression that she doesn’t get sick. I would not be remotely surprised if her telekinetic shield could function as a sort of filter that only allowed actual air through to the alveoli in her lungs and kept out any toxic chemicals.

      Not to mention, she was a world-class superhero whose primary arch-nemesis was a super genius telepath. I really can’t imagine that nobody ever tried using knockout gas (or other toxins) against her.

    • Wise Old Guru

      Thing is…Allison has military training. Apparently really good military training that kicks in immediately when a guy teleports near her or something nasty is headed in a direction where there might be civilians.

      “How to deal with gas” is probably one of the things she got trained on. Pretty sure it involves blowing hard and blowing away all the gas (she can knock things over by shouting), or jumping straight up through whatever the intervening roof is and getting high above the gas and a mile or two away.

      And even if they catch her (most likely scenario is that she surrenders peacefully because it’s the Right Thing To Do), you can’t kill her, you can’t restrain her (we haven’t really seen an upper limit to her strength, and it’s looking like she might have some kind of incredibly powerful telekinesis she can direct outward even when immobilized), and even if you do sedate her with gas and lock her in a vault…well, she’s a famous and well-liked celebrity superhero with tons of friends and enemies with superpowers who might be motivated to bust her out, and whatever facility you try to hold her in can’t realistically prepare for all of them.

    • If you’re the amoral “them”, you can easily defeat Mega Girl by capturing her family and killing them if she resists arrest.

  • Some guy

    I was hoping that cops would have shown up to haul Moonshadow off, but have it turn out to be one of her illusions, and the word “Sucker!” in big cartoony letters appear in front of Alison.

  • Kid Chaos


  • MinorGryph

    Well that pretty much confirms Moonshadow’s victims were not all guilty. She doesn’t care if she makes a mistake, sending a message is more important to her.

    • motorfirebox

      That confirms the possibility that some of Moonshadow’s victims may not have been guilty. Which was already a given, because Moonshadow is human and humans make mistakes. For what it’s worth, Alison herself doesn’t appear to believe Moonshadow has killed an innocent person yet.

      • weedgoku

        But it’s okay for her to make mistakes and murder innocent people unjustly. But not anyone else, which seems to be her entire reasoning. The justice system has failed so it’s time to murder! Who cares if a few innocent people get murdered along the way too…

  • Eric Johnson

    ALICE While you talk, he’s gone!

    MORE And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

    ROPER So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

    MORE Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

    ROPER I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

    MORE Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast-man’s laws, not God’s-and if you cut them down-and you’re just the man to do it-d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

    • An outstanding reference! I must watch A Man For All Seasons at least twice a year- while it provides a pretty biased, idealized view of Thomas More, it makes a number of fine moral and legal points eloquently and intelligently.

      I think, with this passage, you’ve captured what my fundamental problem with Mary’s form of unsanctioned vigilante justice is: it is too prone to abuse. What *will* Mary do when she has laid flat all of man’s laws, hm?

      • Mechwarrior

        She’ll live in her kingdom of Might-Makes-Right until someone with more firepower than her decides that they want to be the one making the rules.

  • Graeme Sutton

    Don’t let her get away, whatever you think about how sympathetic she might be that girl is clearly batshit.

  • dochylo

    the “home movie to prove what a boy scout you can be” comment makes me wonder when exactly she left, I think it was actually in the last page, where Mary touched her head.

  • Mechwarrior

    Check above.

  • Mechwarrior

    I’d have quoted Joseph Stalin if it were relevant. It’s the quote that mattered, not the person responsible for it.

    That assumes that people don’t pay attention to your methods. But they will. And that will include the people who disagree with you. And when those people take up the same methods toward you that you’ve been using the whole time, what then?

  • Mechwarrior

    Either one is still a murderer. And your hypothetical presupposes that she has absolute knowledge of the guilt of anyone she kills, which she obviously does not.

  • Mechwarrior

    Fortunately, in the real world, one isn’t limited to the dichotomy of “murder people without trial” or “do nothing.”

    • Catherine Kehl

      Though I think part of the question is what good is it, really, being a superhero? (Though I think Moonshadow could do some amazing fucking evidence collecting.)

  • Kid Chaos

    “You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

    • chaosvii

      “What I’m trying to do here is move beyond those ideas into a world where no one has any reason to fight one another. But you can’t make an omelette without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disemboweling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others.”
      -General Tarquin, Order of The Stick

  • Kid Chaos

    Cleaver could cut her, but he’s very slow and clumsy compared to Mega-Girl. Still, maybe he could keep her busy while the Feds sneak up on her. Hmmm…

  • Jeremy

    So if someone murders a number of “bad” people, they earn credit to murder innocent people? I think that kind of cold calculation is guaranteed to go wrong. How do you explain it to the family of one of the innocent people – “Well, the formula just didn’t work out for you.”

    • Thats more or less how it works in the real world. Murder is perfectly acceptable as long as you’re killing people your society dont like. How many cops get off scott free for unlawful killings? As long as you have implied societal consent, you’re free to kill any undesirable.

  • Jeremy

    Unfortunately, change is effected by what preceded it – so change that is initiated by terrible acts will quite likely continue to be shaped by those terrible acts.
    If someone thinks they can slaughter thousands of people to make the world a better place, the slaughter of those thousands is going to carry over.

    One of the reasons democracy is special (even when it is messed up!) is that it holds out the idea of nonviolent change, the opportunity to change the system without murdering all those that came before. That is a simple but powerful idea.

    New systems built on blood will carry the stains with them.

  • There’s only two real ways to change a system. One is to simply tear down the old one, which is a bloody, destructive mess and usually leaves you worse off than you were when you started. The second is to force the majority to confront their own hypocrisy, which sort of works, but usually only results in minor improvements. So yeah, those are your options, and neither one actually works to any real extent. The End.

  • Look what NOT being a vigilante has done to her. If life is just going to suck anyway, why bother trying to follow the rules?

  • There would be more Furnaces anyway. Literally nothing she does has any impact at all other than on the individual level.

  • StClair

    If you look a bit down, I had the same thought.

    • Mechwarrior

      Yeah, I saw that, but I posted this shortly after posting the one you replied to, while all the comments were locked up in limbo.

  • Lostman

    Forget her, what does this say about us?

    • Catherine Kehl

      That’s pretty broad – is this a drinking coffee or drinking beer discussion? (Okay, for me it’d have to be coffee.)

      I guess the questions are, what things do we involve ourselves in (rather than standing aside – and seriously, no matter who we are, if we’re anything vaguely human shaped we’re going to do a lot of standing aside because there are just too many things going on) and then what limits do we put on how we involve ourselves in them.

      I’ve only been in a handful of real fights. I used to be kind of known for putting men who tried to grope me in joint locks at tech community related social events. (So many layers of fucked up there.) I don’t avoid bad areas or being out at night – besides the training I’m 5’11”, fairly muscular, and there are probably a lot of postural and movement cues for anyone with a clue – but I’m really busy and generally keep to an early schedule. But I don’t tend to freeze easily and will step in. (And if I’m reasonably in command of the situation, have a lot of training in how not to really injure people. Which is all fine and good, but weapons when I’m unarmed, multiple attackers, someone who’s just better than me and a) the lethality is going way up and b) there’s still a good chance I’m toast. Studying martial arts is great. Sparring is awesome. Fighting sucks. Especially since I value things like being able to perform microsurgery, and giving lectures with obvious facial bruises is kind of embarassing. <= Yeah, the last time was supposed to be a friendly match.)

      But I mostly live a kind of safe life, and I'm given a lot of protection by my class, skin, education and money. Most of my undergraduate work was more or less aimed at working for the State Department (Chinese L&L, International Poli-Econ, a bunch of central asian languages – yeah, my education is kind of fucked.) I didn't end up doing that – politics, BTW, being a more insidious place where maybe you can do good but can you keep your hands clean while doing so? I didn't even manage to volunteer in October of 2001 (one of the languages I speak is Uzbek, the primary language of northern Afghanistan. Long story.) I spend a lot of time, now, thinking about, assuming I stay on the academia ride, do I want to focus on being at the best research institution, where almost by definition I'll be working with relatively privileged students… or do I want to go teach somewhere where I can make more of an individual difference, knowing that by doing so I'm going to effectively give up much of my research career. And I might bail and do something else, too. When it comes to justice, I'm playing in the shallows, mostly.

      How much do you seek things out? What does it mean if the course of your daily life means that you don't have to confront these things directly? How is it different when you are directly involved? A close relative was a stripper for several years, which made me very aware that strippers and other sex workers often aren't really given much legal protection (better where we were, but a lot to be desired.) If something had happened to her and the police had blown it off… well, I probably would have used the tools I had at hand. Which at the time meant I would have cashed out a chunk of stock options and rallied the lawyers. (And maybe someone to handle PR?) I'm pretty mellow, and I do try to work inside the system, but I eventually hit my own "I official am out of fucks, burning it to the ground," point. I think pretty clearly when I'm angry, but I'm not really sure that's an improvement. And if the fact that I tend to reach for the pen rather than the sword means that someone thinks I'm a better person, they might want to rethink their criteria – because I reach for it because I think I can do the most with it, long term, and it has everything to do with class and privilege, and nothing much to do with the fact that I really am trying to be a good person.

  • motorfirebox

    That’s kind of the same thing. If Superman checks into prison, that’s not anybody ‘doing’ something to him, it’s him punishing himself. And frankly, sitting in a prison that you know you could walk out of at any time with no consequence doesn’t sound like much of a punishment. The punishing value of imprisonment—the reason being imprisoned sucks—is the loss of freedom. If you went in freely and you can leave freely, you haven’t lost anything.

    Besides, if Alison were willing to sit in prison for her crimes, she’d be there already. She’s guilty of manslaughter, and of aiding and abetting a known mass murderer/war criminal/organized criminal head/whatever you want to call Patrick.

  • motorfirebox

    That only works if Mary just wants to kill rapists, like some kind of invisible Dexter. In places where violence is rampant, one more person committing violence would be lost in the noise. Mary’s kills only attract attention in the US because the rate of violence here is so low. She wants the attention, not the kills.

  • motorfirebox

    That’s not really accurate. If she didn’t care about killing innocent people, she’d have let Furnace blow himself up.

  • SpoonyViking

    You could also ask, do you want to give up the power to avenge insult, dishonor, or injury done to you or to your family to some king, or president, or to a bunch of random people who don’t even know you?

    Yes. That is, after all, the basis of society: each one of us giving away something of our freedom in exchange for living together in a safe and orderly community. There is a balance that must be struck, of course, so that we give away neither too little nor too much of our freedom, but the whole point of living in society is that we can’t just act on our individual interests with a complete disregard for others.

    You mentioned the Norse justice system. I know you’re playing the Devil’s advocate, but Viking Age justice was actually terrible. All the community (represented by the assemblies) was acknowledge an individual’s right to seek compensation from those who wronged them; actually obtaining that compensation was entirely up to the invididual and their strength of arms, or the strength of their clan (which often led to generational vendettas).

    Look at Njal’s Saga, for instance: the assembly decreed that Gunnar should be exiled from Iceland for an amount of time (three years, if I’m not mistaken), but he decides not to go and continues his life as normal, and noone says anything to the contrary (up until his enemies take the opportunity to attack him, of course). Now, Gunnar is an honourable and just man, but that’s still an example of the powerful individual flouting the rules of society for his own benefit; should we accept that sort of thing just because the individual is a good person?

    And woe betide any jarl who insisted that her efforts were unlawful, for he might have well find himself losing the support of his subjects.

    No jarl would do so, but the families of those killed by Moonshadow would go after her. Following the templates of the sagas, that would lead to her killing a lot of people until they finally got her. So, instead of one wronged individual and a (hopefully) punished and rehabilitated criminal, we’d have a whole lot of deaths. 🙂

    • Loranna

      I got a reply! YAY~! Now we shall duel to the death! . . .Or to the first slice of pizza, whicever ^_^

      Do keep in mind, the sagas were written, by and large, centuries after the Norse were “a thing”, by Christians. And also remember, stories where Things Don’t Go Right make for better stories than Things Go According To Law, End Of Story. So the events detailed in the sagas might be exaggerated. (Of course, the same caveat applies to me, when I make my case >.>)

      As for whether Viking Age justice was actually terrible . . . well, I haven’t lived under it, so I wouldn’t know one way or another. Having grown up under American law, I’m clearly not very keen on having to avenge wrongs done to my family all by myself! (Trust me, I’d be bad at it; I tripped over the last sword I picked up and it was only foam rubber.)

      As for powerful individuals flouting the law . . . well, I remember the OJ Simpson case. I remember feeling upset that he got away with flouting the law (the whole “the glove don’t fit” part really caught in my craw.) I’d agree that we shouldn’t accept that the powerful and wealthy can flout whatever social contracts we agree to – but I’d also note, the powerful and wealthy have been doing that since time out of mind. (Maybe I should throw a foam rubber sword at them ^_~)

      I don’t think the Norse felt that everyone could just do what they wanted and left all enforcing of vengeance – or justice – to the individual; the Norse -did- have laws, and even, I’m told, had lawyers! But they did have a different balance of personal freedoms and community expectations than we do nowadays. Some of that, I am sure, was due to the limitations of the day – the Norse lacked the infrastructure/communications tech/political development/what have you that we have today, so of course they couldn’t run their society the way we run ours. But they, like we today, were born and raised in the society they were in, and likely had the same biases toward it that we have toward our own systems – and the Norse did do a lot of traveling and trading, and so were exposed to other cultures, other ideas. So I suspect there was an element of conscious choice to live as they did – at least, for as long as their society lasted.

      And that was my intended point. We, as a society, have chosen to create this society we live in now – or chosen to remain in it – and thus see Moonshadow’s actions in a certain light. Other cultures, with a different balance of personal freedoms and community expectations, may well see Moonshadow’s actions differently. . . . And yeah, the Norse -probably- would have balked at a woman doing all this avenging (though the Norse gods never challenged Skadi’s right to avenge her father), but hey, no society’s perfect.

      I think. If you know of one, by all means, please tell me ^_^

      (Apologies in advance if anything in my post causes offense; I am not trying to be offensive, and I understand that Moonshadow’s actions have . . . raised a lot of thorny issues.)

      Also, since I haven’t said this in a long while . . . awesome writing and awesome artwork. SFP is in my personal top five webcomics, especially thanks to this arc! The writing – and the commentary too! – has given me lots of inspirations. Thank you!

      – Loranna

      • SpoonyViking

        No duelling, please! I can cut myself while wielding a hammer, imagine if I had an actual sword. 😛

        Do keep in mind, the sagas were written, by and large, centuries after the Norse were “a thing”, by Christians.

        Quite true! But the stories themselves are older than that. Off the top of my hat, the Hávamál and Kormak’s saga, at least according to current scholarship, show little to no signs of Christian influence. Kormákssaga is especially relevant for this subject, since the protagonist, Kormak, is punished by the story for not conforming to society’s rules (he didn’t pay the gold price for the two sons of a sorceress, and he believed himself to be stronger than any sorcery).

        […]the Norse -did- have laws, and even, I’m told, had lawyers!

        They did! Njal from Njal’s Saga (you might also find it as The Burning of Njal or The Saga of Burnt Njal, if you’re interested) was a very knowledgeable and successful one. But the enforcement of the laws was the responsibility of the wronged individual, or, often enough, their family. In addition to Gunnar, Njal’s Saga provides Hrútr Herjólfsson as an example of people who exploit the laws to their advantage by means of being stronger and more skilled fighters.

        And yeah, the Norse -probably- would have balked at a woman doing all this avenging (though the Norse gods never challenged Skadi’s right to avenge her father), but hey, no society’s perfect.

        Hm, that’s a tough one. The standard role of women in Norse revenge stories would be to encourage (or nag) the men to act, or helping them in a covert manner (see, for instance, Sigyn, Sigmund’s sister, in the Volsunga Saga, or Brynhild’s vengeance on Sigurd in the same work). On the other hand, we do know of some warrior women in the sagas; even if they’re not shown specifically in a mission of vengeance, if they acted as warriors in everything else, it’s safe to assume they’d also carry out vengeances.

        Oh, and I’m not offended, don’t worry. 🙂 I actually find this topic especially interesting, since I’m writing about vengeance discourses and the right to punish in Literature, and my own city (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) has seen many acts of vigilantism recently.

        Honestly, I can’t even say I think Moonshadow’s actions are wrong. If the people she’s killed were actually guilty (and the implication seems to be that they were), what she did was enforce justice when the legal system failed to do so. I just think it’s dangerous to enforce her system of retribution on a social level, and I’m especially wary of innocents being killed (what she refers to as “mistakes” in such a cavalier manner).

      • SpoonyViking

        Geez, I had a long reply typed here and it had been accepted by the moderators and everything; then I edited a typo on my part this morning, and now the whole post is gone? Aw, well. Sorry, but I’ll have to just sum things up. 🙂

        1) The sagas were written in Christian Iceland, but much of their content (although we’re still debating how much) comes from Pagan Scandinavia.

        2) The Norse did have laws and lawyers, but the power to enforce those laws fell mostly on the individual, not on the community. The community might declare someone an outcast, for example, but it would be up to the interested parties (if any) to physically banish the outcast.

        3) Female characters in Norse revenge stories mostly assumed the role of inciters, or acted by proxies. That said, there were warrior women in Norse Literature, and if they acted like warriors in all other matters, they could also act directly as avengers.

        4) I wasn’t offended at all! 🙂 This discussion is very interesting to me, since it’s directly related to my thesis.

  • Catherine Kehl

    I’ve noticed that. My read was that if the subject matter was heavy enough, it was omitted. I mean, hell, what would you put?

  • Catherine Kehl

    I think there’s also a not unsubtle distinction between violence committed to keep acts from happening while they were being committed, and violence committed on people who have committed bad acts in the past and maybe will again. (I am not saying “this one is good and this one is bad”, merely that they are not the same.)

  • Catherine Kehl

    Have you followed at all the ongoing saga of all the untested rape kits across the country, and what has come out as they are being tested? We’re talking hundreds of thousands of kits, from women (mostly women) who were raped and had evidence collected from their bodies (a process which is seriously not fun)… which for whatever reasons were never even tested. This is still going on. For that matter, they keep finding more kits.

    In many cases, it was because the rape itself wasn’t taken seriously, or the woman wasn’t considered credible. Y’know, rape. Y’know, women. Sometimes it’s as simple as they called once, she wasn’t home, end of story. I mean, we have the records. Or, in many cases, it was just a matter of policy to shelve them (testing rape kits costs money). So the evidence was there… except, for all intents and purposes, it was treated like it wasn’t, and the women and their families (if they were lucky enough to have family support) were just put off. And sometimes were lied to.

    Convictions have been coming for the testing, even after all this time (at least for those that aren’t past the statute of limitations) even with all the information that wasn’t collected because the investigation was dropped. Or more chillingly, they’ve discovered things like serial rapists – they don’t know who they are, but in Cleveland, at least (that’s where I am, and I’ve followed the local story a bit more as our local public radio have had the police detectives on to talk about it) several women were raped by the same man. And in all cases the investigations were dropped, and he just went on raping, and the evidence sat on a shelf. They still don’t know who he is. (Keep in mind, most women don’t go to police, or don’t go to police in time to have a rape kit run – believe me, the urge to go take a very long shower can be extremely strong. So when you have several rape kits over a period of years, you’re probably looking at an order of magnitude more actual rapes.)

    So, yes, sometimes convictions don’t happen because of lack of evidence. But don’t kid yourself that that even touches on the whole story. And, of course, poor people, and people of color are disproportionately likely to be ignored. As ever.

  • Catherine Kehl

    I loved that exchange, but part of what struck me about it is that Moonshadow was making a statement about privilege. And, really, she’s watched how people treat Al for a good long time (though clearly she has her biases.) She probably has some pretty good clues.

    But as with many discussions of privilege when you’re talking about single instances, you’re talking about someone else’s motivations, and who can really say anything for sure? Probabilities, sure. (Which is why controlled studies and statistical significance addresses the subject well.) But I bet Al is thinking of that conversation during her haircut pretty hard.

  • fairportfan

    Blackstone’s Formulation:

    It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.

    …and there are others, like Mary, who would hold it the other way.

    The truth is somewhere between.

    • motorfirebox

      Mm. I think Mary’s position is that it’s okay to let ten guilty persons escape in order to guarantee that one innocent doesn’t suffer unjustly, but that a hundred or a thousand might be pushing it.

    • Mechwarrior

      Oh? And how many innocents is an acceptable sacrifice?

      • fairportfan

        Ask Blackstone and all the other interpreters of the Common Law down the centuries.

      • fairportfan

        (I’m at the computer now, not on the tablet, so i can be a little more expansive.)

        Blackstone’s Formulation is the first concise statement of a cornerstone tenet of the English Common Law, which is the basis for statutory law in most or all English-speaking nations.

        It is essentially the underpinning of “innocent until proven guilty”.

        It is the reason that criminal law requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”. It is why, in the US and England and most other common law-based systems, someone who is guilty but cannot be proven conclusively so to be goes free.

        And the reason it is particularly apropos here is that it is very hard to unkill an innocent person after you find out he wasn’t guilty.

        Your question has some point – if we’re not talking summary capital punishment immediately rendered by a disturbed person who is not thinking clearly on the matter.

        How many innocents are you willing for Mary to kill in order to make sure none of the guilty escape?

  • Tsapki

    Only if the new people who get put in charge are better. We’ve seen this in criminal organizations, where the head man is taken out, either killed or locked away.

    And what happens is the situation suddenly gets mroe violent because now there is a power gap and all the other people who can fill the position will suddenly try to fill the position while causing all manner of collateral damage. Killing the boss of a crime ring or a corrupt system does not dismantle said ring or system and often the thing to keep it running is to just put a new person in charge unfortunately.

  • Tsapki

    To be fair, Moonshadow has a pretty useful power to just slip away mid conversation with minimal planning.

  • GreatWyrmGold

    That’s not the part that made her less redeemable.
    To me, someone who does bad things and refuses to even recognize them as bad, let alone ask for forgiveness, is far, far worse than someone who does bad things and admits it.

  • Rod

    Problem is, “authorities” can’t afford to ask, and then be turned down. THAT is what their “oh, it’s alright, she just made a mistake” allowance is REALLY about.

  • Rod

    But do we even know that? I mean, yeah, I think eventually she might just break out of prison and do whatever she wants, but I suspect if she did something horrific enough, and enough people shamed her and demanded her liberty (and made the punishment light enough… a few years, say, as opposed to life,) she might actually be willing to accept it.

    • Rumble in the Tumble

      >I suspect if she did something horrific enough

      >and enough people shamed her
      >and demanded her liberty
      >and made the punishment light enough
      >she might actually be willing to accept it

      Goodnes gracious, how nice of her. Truly, the right person to uphold the law. You know, the one she and other superheroes are fighting for.

  • Rod

    That… would be a level of awful I hadn’t contemplated. And it would really, really be quite the coup de grace on Mary’s part.

    I’m hoping it’s not the case, though, presuming that she really had wanted to get Furnace’s confession on video, and hadn’t just set this all up to frame Alison.

  • Rod

    It never turns out how you expect. I’m firmly convinced a plot-line similar to Kira will always develop: a lethal vigilante starts out just by directing their evil actions toward good ends, but it eventually warps them, first in justifying killing in self-defense (because it’s not like no one will be hunting them down,) and eventually in having them take glee in innocent people finally “getting theirs” because they were in the way and became a threat.

    So, sure… if someone has no qualms about, say, eventually having to take out their own mother or spouse because the loved one figured out their secret, then there’s not *too* much risk involved from that angle. But I think most of us, if we knew it was going to go that far (and that’s not at all an unreasonable expectation,) would never even contemplate taking that path.

  • Prodigal

    “They make reasons for things to be okay the way they are.”

    “…I’m not afraid of making mistakes in order to make a difference.”

    No irony in the juxtaposition there at all.

  • weedgoku

    Except that Moonshadow is more akin to the the lynch mob than the few people who tried to stand against them. She is judging a group of people, taking it into her own hands to commit vigilante justice against them and anyone who gets in her way winds up getting attacked.

    Lynch mobs were absolutely horrific and are the perfect historical example of why vigilante justice is wrong. Without the facts, without evidence someone would stir up a group of people and get them to murder someone who may or may not have commited any crimes, they just decided that since the law didn’t punish this person they would.
    There were several documented cases where a white man, dressed in black face, would commit a crime and then blame their own acts on black men who would be murdered. There was one notable case where a police station tried to shield the innocent man they were after and once the mob started to murder cops, they handed him over.

    The judicial system is far from perfect and it has many failings but it’s in place to prevent things like this from continuing to happen. When people with the same mentality like moonshadow go off half-cocked they inevitably start hurting innocent people. She already has and presumably didn’t even know if furnace had or not. Furthermore, murder achieves nothing. It doesn’t deter future rapes because criminals almost always assume they’ll get away with it. So she’s killing just for the sake of killing and justifying it with “but they’re bad people!” when murdering a bad person is still wrong.

  • Jeremy

    I’m not sure I see vigilante action as self sacrifice. It seems like it could just as easily be a way to feel self-righteous and powerful – “I know how things should be, and I’ll make it that way.” or “I’m angry, and you’re going to pay!”
    Some vigilantes might just enjoy having an excuse to hurt others.

    Someone that really wanted to dedicate themselves to positive change could do so in ways that didn’t involve vigilante violence. Education, advocacy, protection, law enforcement – they can all involve a lifetime of sacrifice for change, without becoming a murderer.

    Murder like Moonshadow is doing is flashy and short term. It won’t get to the root causes.

  • Jeremy

    in the case of killing people who participated in lynching – would that actually accomplish anything? Such action would likely make things worse, leading to retribution against people of color and reinforcing the paranoia and militarization of the lynch mobs.

    It’s worth noting that lynching is no longer common. That’s not because all of the potential lynch mob participants were slaughtered. It’s because of changes in laws, education and social structure Slaughtering people impedes social change, it doesn’t facilitate it.

  • Mechwarrior

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder if Mary used “boy scout” deliberately as a slam against Alison for not being a “real” woman.

  • masterofbones

    Vigilantism is one thing. Moonshadow is a full-blown megalomaniac. She caused a dam to be destroyed because she decided to “go big or go home”.

    So after this MASSIVE act of destruction of millions of dollars worth of equipment, an unknown number of casualties(probably low), and unknown effects of a loss of a major power source, AFTER ALL THAT, Al is letting moonshadow go.

    Al really likes letting people go that have shown complete capability to do horrible things and have shown no regret or intent to change their ways. At least patrick had the excuse that he can manipulate her/she wants to jump his bones.

  • chaosvii

    I don’t know if I could ever be comfortable with that sort of martyrdom.
    Far as I’ve ever figured, isolation does terrible things to people even when they’re not dehumanizing other people who happen to cross a certain asshole threshold. Doing it willingly might make it easier to cope with, but for how long?
    But on a less abstract level, I know why I can look at that choice and say no. I’ve done emotional damage to people I care about, myself especially, out of an inability to cope with how one of my dear friends was isolating herself from me due to the emotional abuse she was scarcely enduring.

    The hypothetical that is being proposed here has the hallmarks of myth written all over it. The embodiment of all that is badwrong as a role that can be ursurped.
    A heroic sacrifice that is eternally painful or can be portrayed as a fate worse than death and therefore a greater sacrifice than simply dying.
    The sacrifice stops a greater badwrong from being unleashed on those that can’t defend themselves from the badwrong.
    Badwrong as a whole isn’t actually being beaten, but through trickery it’s being “weakened” somehow by using badwrong against itself for a goodright reason.
    It’s not practical in the least, it doesn’t actually make mere mortals better at defeating the terrible badwrong that’s being prevented, and any badwrong that is being done supposedly justifies itself in perpetuity by the claim that it is an overall decrease in badwrong.

    No risk of the new devil being disconnected with reality here! The mission is for a goodright cause, and it’s being done free of charge! It’s for your own good, you see, and if you don’t believe me that’s fine by me, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my methods are disagreeable to most people. But that doesn’t matter anymore, being hated is just part of the job that I signed up for. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over there healing the world though mass-murder of badwrong monsters that I know totally deserve it. Perhaps if you’re lucky, you’ll see that it’s better this way.

  • Silva

    No. It’s correctly identifying that Allison is irrelevant. If she acted like Mary, they’d get scared to death, and certainly wouldn’t react with – nothing.

    • SirKaid

      Except that there isn’t anything that they can actually do to her against her will. If Allison went around murdering rapists and thieves and jaywalkers then what could they realistically do to stop her, other than ask? She’s invincible and incredibly strong and can fly, plus her powers are getting stronger over time.

      Allison might or might not be relevant due to her relative inactivity, but she can get away with anything because she’s unstoppable unless she agrees to be stopped.

      • Gryphonic

        Alison does have that traditional weak point of superheroes – a mundane family that can be threatened. I’m dead certain they’re part of the government’s Mega Girl Contingencies.

        • Jake

          I’m not so sure, I’m sure that they’ve got analysts looking into it, but threatening the family is a big gamble. There are too many ways that it could go horribly wrong. First of all, there’s the question of whether or not the government would be willing to go through with it. Detaining and possibly executing someone simply based on them being related to someone (even someone who could technically be considered a WMD) is an incredible leap to take in a modern democracy, and Alison is smart enough to know that. So if it’s a bluff, Al could just as easily call them on it, or more likely counter it with a threat to take out a high value target (the president, the cabinet, major military installations, etc.) if her family is harmed. Even If they have the political will to follow up on that threat, it’s not a weapon that they can use again. Once they’ve killed one of her family members, Alison is more than likely going to go on a rampage to ensure the safety of her remaining family members. Kill them all, that leave’s Al with nothing to lose and most likely a lot of hate, that’s not a position you want her to be in. I think that as of right now, the government’s Mega Girl contingencies boil down to “give her whatever she wants and hope she let’s us live.”

  • Silva

    If she wanted to murder up the chain of war rapists in Africa, she wouldn’t take long to go after white Westerners.


  • Mechwarrior

    Which means that she’s failed before she ever started. She should try asking Master Yoda what fear results in.

  • Defenstor

    At least she’s honest about her willingness to murder someone who was falsely accused, being a mistake. Instead of another instance of false rape accusations being heralded as “bringing attention to the problem”.

  • Jeremy

    I think that is a good point that history is full of blood.

    I do think that the violence has lasting effects, even if progress is made. We might be able to move forward in society despite the violence, but I hope that we don’t consider the violence the key element of the change. One of the hopes of democracy is that it offers at least the potential of change without violence, even if that potential often isn’t realized.

    Also, I see Moonshadow’s vigilantism as very different from trying to overthrow a dictatorship. Violence wasn’t her only option – there are other ways she could have made a difference, ways that would be both legal, and more likely to be successful. Murdering people and is polarizing. If anything her actions are likely to trigger backlash, rather than positive change.

  • Arkone Axon

    I find it interesting how Mary has not only literally become the very thing she claims to despise, but she’s also completely destroyed her ability to affect real change.

    Alison has killed people by accident, as a tragic side effect of stopping war machines and supervillains from killing even more people. But she never set out to kill, or wrote off innocent people as “mistakes.” “I’m not afraid of making mistakes in order to make a difference” is the same mindset as “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

    Furthermore, her motives are highly suspect. She’s not trying to HELP anyone. She just wants to kill, and she’s found acceptable targets. She’s channeled her jealousy and fear into sadistic urges, and found victims that she can count on supporters to blame for it. Even there she’s not doing it right; is she unaware that confessions gained via truth serums are inadmissible for a reason (specifically, that they’re unreliable)? We’re supposed to be believe that the fire wielding superhero is a rapist because… she stuffed him full of sodium pentathol and encouraged him to confess?

    And the worst part is her powers gave her the potential to be one of the most effective and even terrifying heroes of them all. Photokinesis like that makes her the ultimate spy… and thus, the ultimate whistleblower. All those powerful men in clean offices making deals with smug little smiles? Imagine their expressions when their secret documents end up on wikileaks. Then they assure everyone those documents are fraudulent, made up by Moonshadow! …And then the e-mails regarding their propoganda campaign to cover up and control the damage come to light. And so they have to meet in private to speak face to face… and then the tape recordings of their conversations end up aired to the public. Mary had the power to take down more bad guys then Alison ever could… and she’s given that up. Now the men in those offices can simply say, “who are you going to believe – honest businessmen and pillars of the community, or a serial killer?”

    …And that’s not even touching on how she denied Alison’s womanhood just because Alison doesn’t see herself as a victim. That’s… that’s just… wow.