The Letters Page: Episode 30
Akash'Bhuta and Akash'Others
Run Time: 118:27
This show covers more time than any other episode. It's also one of our longest episodes! Appropriate.
Around 5:40, we posit that this episode won't be longer than the Argent Adept episode. We were wrong. But just barely! Still, we shouldn't have been surprised.
It takes us about half an hour to go through the first couple hundred million years. Then, we start slowing down, only covering thousands or even hundreds of years at a time. Bear with us! We eventually get more into the blow-by-blow stuff that happens in the pages of Sentinel Comics.
At the beginning of the question section - around 45 minutes in - we clear up a thing that we straight up did wrong. We have officially said before the Akash'Bhuta's first appearance was in Prime Wardens #1. There is no way that's correct. Her first appearance was in Virtuoso of the Void #12, and we even know that! We were shocked to look back at what we'd released publicly. We just wrote down the wrong first appearance. We're very sorry.
On to the rest of the fantastic questions! So much to unpack!
A few fishy things happen in the other questions. Another letter from the Cult of Gloom, Princess Cool asserts that she's the original, and we're pretty sure that Biomancer is up to something...
In the future section, we first go over when the timeline split occurs in the Akash story. Then we talk about the rough stuff going on in the Sentinel Tactics timeline.
For the Sentinel Comics RPG timeline, we have to use the SPOILERS tag. From 107:00 to 114:22 so that we can talk about [redacted] and [redacted]. We also take one more question! Enjoy!
As we mention at the end of the episode, we're recording on Thursday this week, and we're actually recording TWO episodes on that day, due to Gen Con. So! Get your Visionary and RevoCorp questions in by early Thursday morning at the latest! Anything after that won't make the cut!
Looking forward to seeing some of you next week at Gen Con!
- We start hundreds of millions of years ago with the Void, and the Nexus of the Void - a point in reality that's connected to the Void, every reality has exactly one Nexus, but they can wind up in different places in each reality too. In the "primary" reality, the Nexus was originally located on a distant planet and was under attack by a bunch of shadow creatures/parasites who wanted to feed on the Void energy. Their feeding wound up destroying the Nexus, which is bad (this might be the earliest/biggest "and then everyone died" yet), but allows the Nexus to regenerate elsewhere. It does so on the planet that would eventually be known as Earth (this was still long enough ago that Pangaea was still a thing).
- When it reforms on Earth, it combines its Void energy with the essence of the planet itself to create spirits - embodying the various elements of the planet - and these combination void/elemental spirits are meant to protect the Nexus in case the parasite armies find it again (which they do within a million years or so). The spirits help, but are insufficient to the task and are failing. That is, until one damaged spirit is helped out by an undamaged one - allowed to draw some of its Void/Spirit energy to recover. It draws too much, however, and winds up destroying the helpful one. This seems to work by Mega Man rules, though, and the spirit is healed and has become more powerful by incorporating aspects of the other spirit into itself - coming to the realization that this feeding on Void energy = becoming more powerful is the goal of the shadow creatures, and that it can pull the same trick. It intentionally consumes the other spirit defenders - becoming something more and less than a spirit.
- This marks the beginning of the 100,000,000-year War between this former spirit against the parasites (with the development of the planet and life going on around them). Over this time, the Nexus generates additional spirits as part of the defense strategy, but few actually get much time in the fight because this initial spirit thing just consumes them as well. Eventually, the spirit wins - the few remaining shadow parasites leave the planet and head out into space. The Nexus calls out for the spirit to return and go back to being a reasonable Void spirit, but the spirit refuses to give up its power - burying the Nexus deep in the Earth and sealing it away (along with several other spirits).
- More time passes, but now it's not war but a time of growth and evolution. The spirit is one of Earth, Life, Chaos, Destruction, etc. and spends time creating stuff - moving around continents, shaping biomes, and whatnot (not creating life, although helping to shape it by changing the environment). Eventually a big asteroid hits the Earth which doesn't really harm the spirit, but causes a lot of problems for life on the planet (including the dinosaurs that it was having fun experimenting with - so it grabbed a bunch of them and isolated them on this island where they could be protected). More happy times experimenting with life follow, now encouraging adaptability as a desired trait (giving rise to the ascendancy of mammals).
- Now we're up to around 5 or 6 million years ago and early humanity is beginning to show up and have some minor interactions with this spirit. This is the first time that anything's shown a desire to interact with it or even real awareness of it. They start anthropomorphizing it as "Mother Earth" or "Mother Nature" which kind of begins its own establishment of an identity - taking something of a humanoid appearance for the first time and whatnot. Early on she's got some worshipers, but she winds up destroying them since she's fairly chaotic and is used to operating on the timescale of millions of years (and she doesn't get anything from worship).
- The Nexus is still sealed away, kind of aware of what's going on but unable to affect anything as the only being out there that had a connection with it severed that connection. With the rise of humanity, however, the Nexus begins to get fits and starts of other connection points (the very rare natural attunement to the Void that was mentioned in the Argent Adept episode). It can't reach out to connect to them, but there's potential for one of these beings to reach out to it. This is the first new thing to happen to it in over a hundred million years, so that's exciting.
- The place where this first connection is made from is ancient Sumer - while music had existed for thousands of years already, this was an early place that encouraged things like ritual and finding answers to the unknown, etc. This culture resulted in the first person to 1. Use music as 2. part of a ritual to 3. reach out to this intangible source of power - connecting to the Nexus and becoming the first Virtuoso of the Void. This unsealed it (although it was still buried), but brought the wrath of the spirit, who then was named Akash'Bhuta. They fought and the spirit, who had one a war of a hundred million years against an army of shadow creatures, lost to this untrained, brand-new Virtuoso whose direct connection/attunement to the Void (whose energy Akash was created from, but whose own connection to the Nexus had been severed) prevailed. Akash was forced to retreat deep into the earth for hundreds of years recovering.
- Now we're getting into human history and the rise of civilizations, though, and a few hundred years can result in fairly large changes. She reemerges, wanting round two with this upstart Virtuoso. He's gone by now, but he'd found others like him and had established the tradition of the Virtuosos. They'd raised the Nexus and kind of set up shop there in case they were needed. This starts the cycle of fight the current Virtuoso(s), go into recovery for hundreds of years, emerge, repeat that goes on until we get to around 1700 C.E. and the time of Franz Vogel, the Crimson Conductor. He was ready for her and she knows the score by this point - things never go well for her - and she knows that she needs to change something. She's also had several millennia to develop an animosity towards the Nexus (that, now that it's unsealed, continues to call to her which is annoying) and the humans who have been interfering with how she feels things should be going on Earth.
- So, during the fight with Franz, she takes some of her Void essence and uses it to corrupt him so even when she's defeated and locked away, she still has a connection to him that he can't sense. This results in his desire for more power and he starts seeking it rather than doing the thing that he's supposed to be doing (finding/training new Virtuosos). Instead, he finds the potential Virtuosos, but then kills them to take their energy himself. This allows Akash'Bhuta to feed on this energy as well through her connection to him. Eventually, this causes Franz to burn himself out. He dies and his instrument, a conductor's Baton, is lost to history. So, Akash'Bhuta has gotten an unexpected power boost that will allow her to come back sooner than usual, is set to be more powerful than ever once she reemerges, and there aren't even going to be any Virtuosos to counter her because Vogel broke the line - there's nobody left to train up new ones.
- Into the 1800s, there's a potential Virtuoso in America - a young woman who's particularly good with the fiddle - but there's nobody around to train her in the ways of the Void or to prepare her for the threat posed by Akash'Bhuta (who can sense her). Akash emerges early and smashes her fiddle, severing her connection to the Void. Now the line of Virtuosos is good an thoroughly disrupted for around 200 years and the time that Anthony Drake touches an old Bell in a museum exhibit. She's almost fully reformed at this point, but can't do anything to stop it this time; the Nexus had been straining for any new connection and so he's flooded with knowledge and everything that was mentioned last week and he gets right to work as a Virtuoso.
- Now we get to the comic that introduced her - she shows up in a minor form in a few issues of the ongoing Virtuoso of the Void comic where he fights her by himself. At a meta-level, the writer introduced who her as this chaotic earth spirit just used her as a handy recurring enemy, it was a later writer who noted the potential to use that as a tie-in to the vague antagonistic entity mentioned in the Argent Adept's backstory, inflating her importance/power and inventing all of this preceding backstory here. This brings us right up to her first major crossover event, Freedom Five Annual #10, which included The Freedom Five, Expatriette, and unexplained appearance by Chrono-Ranger, and the heroes who would eventually become the Prime Wardens.
- Shortly after that comic came out we get the Mother Earth one-shot comic that is what actually goes into all of this backstory since the FFA issue was all about the fight. This points out an important change - she comes back more quickly now instead of needing hundreds of years to recuperate as she did pre-Vogel and the Argent Adept is likely to need friends to stop her repeatedly.
- Her next major appearance, coincidentally, is in the launch issue of the book where he has those friends, Prime Wardens #1-3. This title is always about "huge, major threats" and she's just the kick-off event for it. AA tended to have the biggest threats of all of the team, but it wasn't meant to be an AA-central book. The team puts her down hard, and she's out regenerating for a while this time.
- Next time we really see her, it's due to Professor Pollution happening to be messing up the area that Akash is recovering in. The Naturalist comes to wake her up/help her (see the Naturalist episode) with the result that she emerges, but not just to move to a different area to slumber some more, but coalescing into this humanoid form and becoming something of an anti-hero as Akash'Thriya and working with Naturalist - not so much doing superhero stuff as protecting the earth/environment. She's still got a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but isn't actively trying to kill all humans, so that's a nice change. Nobody really trusts her, but she eventually gets some respect from some heroes. She even goes with the Prime Wardens to Dok'Thorath at one point (see the Prime Wardens episode, not likely to be out for a few months).
- During OblivAeon, Akash'Thriya is involved in fights against various Scions (and against a lot of Aeon Men, she's really good at taking out Aeon Men apparently), including a few notable ones in Megalopolis. The heroes are losing and she realizes that she can make a difference. Like how she gained power by siphoning power from her fellow Void spirits (and other entities over the eons), she can give out power to others for "exponential returns" (this giving of power is a major character moment for her). She uses most of her energy to create a massive tree in the heart of Megalopolis, Akash'Flora, that lets off a lot of glowing spores that fall on heroes, empowering them, turning the tide of the fight.
- She's utterly spent at this point and Argent Adept (who's never really warmed up to her) is there with her as she's dying after this act of self-sacrifice - he knows that if she goes to the Nexus of the Void it can help her. She knows that this would change her as it's always been calling her back and she's reluctant as always. AA convinces her in the end and she returns to the Nexus along with AA and Naturalist (AA is doing stuff with the sleeping Void spirits there, Naturalist is helping Akash reunite with the Nexus itself) when they're ambushed by the Scion Voidsoul, who is there to attack the Nexus as part of the effort to destabilize reality. Akash attacks it, the Nexus recognizes that she's performing her original purpose of "protecting the Nexus" and grants her power again, changing her from the form that she had created for herself into a more Void-energy, almost metallic form.
- She returns to the general OblivAeon fight after this, in her new Void form, and is a major and important part of the fight, but spends all of her energies again in the fight. All that remained of the Akash'Thriya form and the Void energy imparted by the Nexus dissipates and/or goes back to the Nexus and is no longer a separate entity. The only trace of Akash'Whatever left is Akash'Flora in Megalopolis.
- The Argent Adept episode mentioned that Akash'Bhuta first appeared in the Virtuoso of the Void book and that the Prime Wardens first formed in FFA #10 in the early-'80s but existed for a while before they got their own title, but in the Unity episode it was mentioned that FFA #11 was in the mid-'90s - does that mean that there's a whole decade without a Freedom Five Annual issue being published? Yes - as has been mentioned previously it's not an "every year" title, just "at most once a year". Gaps in publication happen (and even the numbering is weird in that sometimes it'll be published with the year instead of a sequential issue number that people would have to go back and count in order to figure out which number they're actually on).
- Akash'Bhuta's first appearance is listed in several places as being Prime Wardens #1 which looks like a '90s comic, but how can this be given the timeline we were given in the AA episode? Is this a technicality in that she wasn't given a name or something until then or similar? Nope, this is a genuine mistake made by the guys - when they saw this question they went down the rabbit hole of information sources publicly available and even discovered that their internal documents has this error - it was never the case that PW #1 was her first appearance, it should be listed as Virtuoso of the Void #12. It's an even worse error in that PW #1-3 tells what's really the last Akash'Bhuta story given the next time we see her is when she's coaxed into becoming Akash'Thriya.
- How long has she been around? 250,000,000 years.
- Has she been around long enough to know who Gloomweaver was before becoming Gloomweaver? Yes, but she wouldn't care and hadn't been keeping track of humans because they didn't matter until the Virtuosos showed up in which case she only cared about them and then cared more about recent heroes - it's a change in her time-scale of attention that happened too recently for her to care about Gloomweaver.
- Has she tangled with any of the other long-lived heroes (like Ra or Haka) in the past? No, she was generally slumbering/recovering.
- Can she leave Earth? Akash'Bhuta could not (too tied to the Earth itself), but Akash'Thriya can (and does!) due to the intrinsic change she had to make to become Akash'Thriya.
- Where'd the name come from? It was given to her by the ancient Sumerians.
- What does the "Akash" part of the name mean? "Akash" isn't a word with a specific meaning, but has to do with consuming/devouring but also with the land itself.
- Does she come into contact with Citizen Dawn (citing the dinosaurs on a card) and are they in a similar weight class? Akash'Bhuta and the Citizens of the Sun don't fight or really interact. Dawn is a little weirded out when Akash drains the life energy from the organisms there. They're not in the same weight class - although Akash is more powerful she's not at all ambitious like Dawn is. Dawn's lesser (although still impressive) power, her association with other powerful people, and her drive towards specific goals probably makes her a more dangerous villain, though.
- We know that she takes on a few different forms/names - are there other, older names/forms we haven't been told about yet? "Akash'Bhuta" is her first name from the pages of Sentinel Comics - prior to humanity she had no name and didn't manifest in the familiar form we expect from the game materials. Going from void-spirit-guardian to the amalgamated nature spirit fighting the shadow creatures involved some major changes, but once the process settled down there wasn't really a manifested "form" to speak of until she started aping early humans' appearance.
- What's going on in the card "Entomb"? The art implies that the heroes are being petrified (which would take them out of the fight) but the card just does damage and only even sticks around if somebody doesn't take damage, so what's really going on? It's not turning them to stone, it's turning them to wood - the process takes time (and is painful, thus the damage) and the heroes have to break out of it, which theoretically they do (which is why it goes away).
- Akash'Bhuta seems to be an avatar of the Earth and a unique creature, why does she appear humanoid in the first place? Why female? She decided to do this - she probably doesn't see herself as female as concerns of "gender" are beneath her to begin with - as an expression of the fact that she embraced the "mother nature" label that ancient humans assigned to her.
- How much free will does she have? Is her role of "destroyer" one that she has to play out? She didn't have much free will initially as a Void spirit, but she has plenty of it by the time she became known as Akash'Bhuta. She's represents the "chaos" of the natural world, but she's also a protector of it and therefore opposing OblivAeon is right up her alley. She does gain some measure of empathy in her transition to Akash'Thriya, but there's also a major amount of humbling that went along with that transition.
- Her power comes from the Earth, but it's also said that she can take power from the Void, how strong is her connection to the Void and how does it differ from the connection of the Virtuosos? What happened when she became the Spirit of the Void and what did she give up to do so? What she "gave up" has kind of been discussed in that she became more like she was in her origin. She no longer has a connection to the Void since she severed her connection to the Nexus when she buried it/sealed it away. She can draw Void energy through a conduit (like from Franz Vogel), but she lacks the ability on her own for most of her existence.
- It's been hinted that she's changing into something new; how does this affect the relationship between her and the Virtuosos? More discussion of this in the future section as the nature of the relationship differs between the reality.
- On "Allies of Earth" we see her doing something to dinosaurs, what's going on? She wasn't killing the dinosaurs (and there are plenty of them on Insula Primalis anyway). [They don't actually specify what she was doing to them, but from the card effect I'm guessing that she is doing the life-force draining thing mentioned in the Citizen Dawn part earlier.]
- During OblivAeon, she gives some of herself to the Void, the same source of energy as her nemesis - does this change how she looks in the future? Do we see a Sky-Scraper-sized avatar of the Void running around? No, because she dies. A lot of the impetus for this question is addressed earlier (her relationship to the Void in general).
- It was mentioned that the Virtuosos of the Void have unique color signatures and Akash'Thriya's Spirit of the Void form looks a lot like Argent Adept's silver - are those related? Her Void form's color isn't coming from the Argent Adept, her form is coming from the Void itself and she looks a lot like she did at the beginning and the similar color is coincidental.
- Does she come into being fully intelligent and knowing her purpose is to wreck up the place? How does the first Virtuoso defeat her? Does the rivalry start there or is it tied into her being? Most of this is covered - she came into being knowing that she needed to protect the Nexus and her personality developed more over the next 100 million years of war, leaving her with more desire for independence. The only reason she opposes the Virtuosos is because they're aligned with the force that wants her to return to her original state. The first was able to defeat her because he had direct access to the power that created her and was, basically, able to "blast her with herself".
- Could she control a rain forest from Russia or is she restricted to her immediate area? She has a local "presence" and can't really control things that are too far distant. She can "travel" through the Earth to somewhere else very quickly, but that's not the same as controlling things remotely. She doesn't really need to manifest in order to "be" there.
- Do her worshipers show up a villains at some point? No, that was a very long time ago in the pre-Virtuoso era.
- What changes her from vines to lava forms? When she gets really angry. These different forms are related to the aspects of the spirits she consumed way back in the long war and she uses ones that are appropriate for what she's up to (she started as mostly "earth" but absorbed, like, a plant spirit and a lava spirit and so on).
- Is she angry with Lifeline for trying to blow up 2/3 of the planet? Yes.
- What city did she blow up in "Rejuvenating Entropy"? It's only a part of a city and she was doing a lot of destruction stuff as part of that Prime Wardens arc, but the specific one shown on the card is Dubai. It's not like when Atum blew up an entire city.
- Will she still be fighting Virtuosos of the Void or are they cool now? That's another future question.
- <ship>Akash/Naturalist?</ship> They can see a world, where OblivAeon stuff didn't happen, where it's possible that there could be a version of her that's more human where it could happen. Not in any of the canon timelines.
- What is her motivation in destroying stuff? She represents nature overcoming the achievements of humanity over time, her personality is something of "fanatic purifier", she kind of resents all things man-made. She's not really out to "rule" the planet because she kind of is the planet.
- It was mentioned that other planets don't have Akashes or Virtuosos, but do other planets have something like Akash? The only thing that's like her are Void Spirit guardians for the Nexus. In other realities there might be more things that followed a similar route to power (defending spirits consuming one another, etc.) but it was this weird confluence of events that led to her, specifically.
- On "Disrupt the Field" we see her taking a swing at Young Legacy while Omni-X watches, what universe/timeline is this taking place in (is this one where Baron Blade killed Paul Parsons VIII and/or is this the one that Omnitron took over, etc.)? This card's art is from the universe leading to the Iron Legacy story as the comics showed scenes from both iterations of events (Blade killing Paul or Blade killing Felicia) that got there eventually. It's mostly just showing that, Hey, here's Felicia as Legacy fighting Akash in Megalopolis since these were all familiar people/concepts (that is, it's an isolated panel/a few panels rather than a major story). There is an Omnitron in this universe, but it's not the "same" as Omnitron X.
- What's her motivation re: the Naturalist's backstory/initial transformation? She was sleeping - his company was damaging the environment and in her state of slumber she reached up into his dreams, threw a spark of magic at him, and went back to sleep. It took much less effort than manifesting would have.
- She doesn't have a visible mouth, can she talk? She doesn't have any quote on game cards, but in the video game she has intro dialog, so is that a mistake? She can "talk", but it's not by forming a mouth and making sounds with those mouth parts, but she could cause vibrations in the environment to "make words happen". Progeny does not and cannot talk. She doesn't have any quotes on cards because she rarely has any reason to communicate with humans, but as Akash'Thriya she does so more often. It's not psychic communication, but it's not like "normal" hearing either - it's more that the vibrations she causes travel up your body and you hear it in your head.
- Is she responsible for AA's original incap art? Are the skulls present from people she killed? It's a comic book cover and there's a long tradition of covers showing stuff that doesn't necessarily happen to get you to pick it up (and fake-out character deaths and whatnot).
- What prompts her to grow/shrink or change her form? Taking a small form to caress a bound AA seems more of a human reaction and you'd think that the lava form would always be a good defense against heroes trying to smash her limbs so why not always be lava? Some of the form stuff was mentioned earlier and it's not like the vine form stuff is necessarily always going to be less damaging that lava, so she changes as appropriate for what she's trying to do at the time (plus there's a lot of artistic license reasoning going on - "which look is cooler for this image?"). Everything she's manifesting is "her" as much as any of the humanoid bodies. The size change stuff is likewise more for drama than anything - it's as much storytelling for comics purposes as anything else. She's smaller as Akash'Thriya because she's more limited in that form, but it's also easier to interact with people that way.
- Is the change necessitated by the damage Professor Pollution was causing the first big change in her eons of existence? Pretty much already answered, but yes this is the first change to her in the pages of Sentinel Comics.
- In the video game, the nemesis dialog with Argent Adept leading the heroes implies that she's devoured past Virtuosos; what are the consequences to the planet when she's victorious over the Virtuosos? The only two she devoured were Franz Vogel who she got sneakily after he defeated her by implanting that conduit between them as mentioned. The second was the would-be first American Virtuoso, the fiddler mentioned, who Akash was able to awaken earlier than usual and so got to her before she could even really get started (even though she wasn't a Virtuoso yet, Akash was still able to benefit through the natural Void connection present and so was able to "consume" at least something there).
- How does a being made of earth and plant matter consume/devour anything? It's not the same as biological "eating", it's a matter of feeding on their energy and power, not their bodies.
- What would the consequences to the world be if she were destroyed? She couldn't be "destroyed" as long as she was able to retreat into the world itself. Destroying the world would certainly do the trick. However, when she was in danger of being corrupted by Professor Pollution she chose to change her being into Akash'Thriya, a much more fragile form that lacked that safety net, but is more adaptable. However, the planet doesn't depend on her existence however - without her it goes on just fine.
- The divergence of the two timelines happened before her doing the Akash'Flora thing and so the tree only exists in one of them - so therefore her trip to the Nexus and becoming the Spirit of the Void only happens in the RPG timeline. In Tactics she fights OblivAeon, takes a lot of damage, and winds up reverting to an older form - burrowing down into the Earth with an expectation that she'll be gone for centuries again while she regenerates. So...
- Tactics - she winds up regenerating faster due to the acquisition of some OblivAeon shards. The place that she is resting happens to come into contact with a bunch of them, and this unstable power source changes her. She becomes even more unstable and dangerous. She becomes less a creature of nature and more one of pure destruction. She only really has three forms at this point. And you can see the recorded livestream of Adam doing art of Akash'Dharsha here. In this timeline, she's definitely still fighting the Virtuoso of the Void (and is particularly furious with him) and is straight-up a villain.
- RPG - Spoilers The Void-Form of Akash'Thriya is dead, but it's not like Akash'Whatever has a brain, so the chunk of her that was used to make Akash'Flora is still her and Argent Adept is taking care of her and she is helping him find other instruments and communicating with him a bit. There's not much else going on, but they did get spoiler questions: Is the communication between them two-way or more like talking to your dog? It is two way, but it's not like it's happening with words. At first she's even kind of dumb since she's, y'know, a tree. Is it communication in a way that anybody else could even understand? He's the only one who can hear her at present. She could communicate with new Virtuosos if any show up. Could she communicate using any part of the tree? She can sense what's going on around her through any part of the tree, but the communication gets easier the closer you are to the trunk. Does she lose leaves in autumn and/or do the seasons effect her powers? 'Powers' are tricky because she's a tree - she looks like a deciduous tree, but she keeps her foliage year-round and doesn't grow like a tree would. You could cut it but it would be very difficult given how big and tough it is, but counting rings wouldn't tell you anything. Will she continue to fight Virtuosos? There's no animosity between them at this starting point.