The Letters Page: Episode 86
The final Baron Blade story of the Multiverse!
Run Time: 1:12:01
Sure, we are still the fools that mess around for the first few minutes of the episode, but then we get right down to the story! And what a story!! We go through all 12 issues of the Burying the Blade limited series, though not in a page-by-page way, so much as a "telling all the story" method.
Just before the 37 minute mark, we use the long-lost spoilers tag! There is spoilery stuff in here for the OblivAeon story, so if you want to avoid that info for a bit more, skip from there to the questions section!
Speaking of which, we get to your questions just after the 45 minute mark.
We'll be recording this month's Extrasode live on this Thursday morning, so if you're a Letters Page Patreon supporter at that level, come join us for that!
- The Burying the Blade limited series started in January 2016 and runs 12 issues through that whole year [and so ends in Dec. 2016, the same month as FF #800 and FFA #30 to conclude the OblivAeon story]. While that's when it's published, it covers story material ranging back pretty far using flashbacks.
- The story picks up just after Cosmic Contest ended with NightMist dropping Baron Blade through a portal into the Realm of Discord [Cosmic Contest was in May 2015]. He's got a severely injured arm following his fight with Fanatic in the semifinal round. He's also fresh out of devices as he had to pull out all the stops during the fighting. He's still got his handy scalpel, though. So: he's injured and none of his backup plans were designed for such a contingency, but he's still Baron Blade.
- First things first, he cuts up his shirt to help immobilize his messed up arm (he can't quite make a sling out of it, so he settles for just wrapping fabric around himself to hold his arm to his torso).
- Then he gets to wandering. The last time he was in the RoD was when he was trying to fight Legacy in a Positive Energy Field during Vengeance, a fruitless task as the field would heal any injury. That's just what he could use now, though, so off he goes to try to find it again. Unfortunately, trying to navigate the RoD is a pretty hopeless endeavor as the "landscape" shifts a lot and knowing where you are by keeping track of where you've gone doesn't really work in such a place as this.
- Anyway, during his wandering his injuries are catching up to him as the adrenaline from the battles wears off. He also finds himself stalked by a shade beast (that's not really a name for this kind of thing, more a general-but-also-insufficient description - it's partly made of shadow, but also has tendrils of some kind of magical energy, spiky bits, antennae made of madness, etc.). This goes on for a while as it keeps its distance at first, but he knows that he will need to do something about this eventually, but how? As a stroke of dumb luck, he runs across a portal fiend (we learned a little about them in Episode 54 and more on how they work in Episode 65) - he doesn't know what this thing is and he's alarmed at first, but then he looks into its eyes and he finds himself elsewhere in the RoD. That was handy for his immediate situation, but this is kind of a preview of what existence is likely to be for him from here on. Him wandering around the madness that is this place without much agency until he succumbs to his injuries.
- In any event, after falling through the portal fiend's portal he's in this weird orange and purple field of not-really-grass grass with a stream and pond nearby. He drinks from it (an ill-advised move, but whatever), and then notices a figure standing behind him. It's... his father? He quickly determines that it's some kind of figment of his imagination/hallucination, but this prompts our first flashbacks.
- We get him "walking through" a varied set of his memories as a youth when he interacted with his father. He's reliving them, but is both his young self and his current self simultaneously and is actively participating (not just a passive audience). This sets up how the rest of this title is going to operate - they describe the situation as "lucid flashbacks" [being similar to lucid dreaming I would assume] due to his agency within them. Rather than getting narration through caption boxes we have Blade standing there talking about what's going on. Among the memories here are things about his father (who wasn't a good guy), him killing the previous Legacy, coming to power in Mordengrad, etc. The writers are using this as an opportunity to retell his origin stories and modernize them (because they happened ages ago in the publishing history).
- An issue opens up with him standing there with his arm strapped to his body and holding a walking stick (with eyes on it, because things in the Realm of Discord seem to have that going on a lot). He's standing in front of what would just be a featureless expanse of grey soil if not for all of the equations/formulae that he's scratched into the surface with his stick. He's trying to make sense of this place and is failing/frustrated.
- After a mild tantrum, he settles back down and decides to throw out everything he knows about how reality works and start approaching this from first principles. How does space/time work here? What are the states of matter [they joke a bit about him naming one of the exotic forms here after himself]. It's unclear exactly how long he's been here at this point (the way "time" works there is also not helping - he's not eating or sleeping but subjectively it feels like he's been there for weeks), but he's having to be crafty (hiding/fleeing from stuff, etc.).
- Eventually during his travels (while getting out of the way of a stampede of some creatures that don't have legs - the hair on their backs is prehensile and drags them along) he finds this weird upside-down cave. He finds a dead portal fiend there and dissects it (scalpel FTW!). Inside these things are nothing/everything. The eyes of these things are basically clear glass prolate spheroids that just focus into this hole in space within them. Blade thinks to try to use this non-stuff inside this portal fiend somehow, but before he can do much with it, this "nothingness" inside dissipates as it's no longer being contained by the body. On the plus side, he's able to make a cool cloak out of the skin of this thing (with the head as a "hood"). His injuries are edging him closer to shock as things have gone on and he shivers a lot, so it helps keep him warm. Additionally, a lot of the other weird creatures here avoid portal fiends just because they don't like being randomly dropped somewhere else (because if you are existing in one place in the RoD and then get sent to a random place in the RoD, it's almost assured to be someplace worse for you to be), so the disguise element is useful.
- Having found this weirdness about their internal nature, Blade sets out to study them more closely. A lot of the codified details given in the NightMist's Little Black Book of Monsters episode is actually sourced from this story. As somebody who's well-established as "pro teleportation", he's very interested in these things. He eventually manages to coax one over to him to do its thing. As it approaches, he flips the hood of his cloak down so he's looking through the eyes of the one he's wearing when he locks eyes with the living one. As he's pulled through, he feels some strange "snap", like he was being tethered to reality again with a rubber band and then that broke. He winds up in the Nether Nest, a 5th-dimensional space within the RoD which is where the portal fiends travel through. It's a mostly-empty space with remnants of nests, but as he looks around he sees portals winking in and out of existence constantly up in the space above him (along with whatever is traveling through the portal fiend portals - they're not here long enough for it to register with them, but they're still passing through briefly).
- Ok, so now he's got enough of a handle on how this teleportation business works here to actually formulate a plan (the only prior plan he's had since arriving was "find the positive energy field"). There's lots of technobabble here about what he's doing and how his tiny grasp of the 5th dimension he's dealing with here allows him to better understand the normal 3+1 dimensions he's used to - probably to the point where he's got a better grasp on the topic than any other human.
- Further flashbacks from this portion of the story: dealing with NightMist and her portals. He has no means of learning magic here, so that's out. Plus, "magic" is the cheating way to do this. For him, it's SCIENCE! or nothing.
- He reworks the portal fiend eyes in his hood (very carefully over a long amount of "time" and he's got just the one set) from these prolate spheroids into lenses. He's pretty sure they'll get them to take him home, but he needs a power boost to do so (just jumping through one of these "normal" portals won't do it). Here's where he finds the Nether Fiend - the "queen" portal fiend mentioned in the Argent Adept episode, less like the queen of an ant colony, but this really ancient progenitor of them. Think analogous to an ancient dragon or something. He approaches it and uses its eyes to portal out, using his lenses to allow cross-dimensional travel (which isn't something the portal fiends themselves are capable of), sending himself to Mordengrad. Home sweet home!
- Blade's looking pretty weird and scruffy at this point (shaggy beard, ragged clothes with bandages made from his shirt and lab coat, portal fiend cloak, walking stick with eyes that have withered to husks upon leaving the RoD [so we know how at least some of the weird eyeballs on everything stuff would act when brought out of the RoD now]) and the first person he meets is... Baron Blade. Like, standard Silver-Age, in his prime, most-iconic version of himself. Obviously this is a Blade-bot, but the bot doesn't like being called out on that (it's been him too long and is malfunctioning to the point where it really "thinks" that it is him) and so he winds up having to fight this thing. It's a fun enough fight, but the real Blade wasn't in any real danger of losing to it.
- [This section also has a fun aside when they were distinguishing "Baron Blade" from "Discord Blade" with the latter being hastily pronounced as "Disco Blade" which sent them off on a tangent about redoing variants of everybody - not changing any mechanics, just updating the art and putting "Groovy" in the name somewhere (e.g. America's Grooviest Legacy: "He's got the mustache." "Yeah he does."]
- Another series of flashbacks to many previous Blade-bot-related stories. We also establish here that the flashbacks apparently aren't a Realm of Discord-generated thing and will, apparently, continue.
- Something that they may have meant to mention earlier: Blade was driven to get home not just because being in the RoD sucks, but because he remembers why Jansa had held the Cosmic Contest in the first place; that there is some big existential threat looming. After he defeats the Blade-bot he kicks Mordengrad into high gear in preparation for whatever it is that's coming.
- That gets us into flashbacks about Mordengrad and various pieces of tech throughout the years (walking tanks, Mobile Defense Platforms, etc.). Burying the Blade is really there for three reasons - to explain how Baron Blade got out of the Realm of Discord, to set up his transition to Luminary, and to remind readers just how important this guy has been to Sentinel Comics.
- The first things he does once he's got his shop up and running again is to cut off his injured arm and replace it with a mechanical one. The next thing he does is build some kind of "cosmic viewing device" that he calls The Celestial Occulus so he can try to figure out what's going on out in space (he uses the "nether lenses" he made from the portal fiend's eyes as important components of this). Once he sees the evidence of what's coming he decides that the only way forward is to join forces with his old foes (he views the whole world as a system with resources and the resource of "getting, say, Legacy to do what I need him to do" is a valuable resource for opposing the coming disaster), which is when he takes up the Luminary name (although he showed up as Luminary in another title the same month as BtB #1 - so this is an after-the-fact explanation for a character that's already around and doing stuff).
- The next few issues go over the stuff that we've seen him doing/what they talked about him doing in the OblivAeon story: making the Freedom Five's suits, modifying his Celestial Occulus into the Celestial Translocator (they call it that, but it's the Terralunar Translocator in the game - it's a one-use thing, teleporting the big chunk of the moon burns it out). It's handy to have this companion series going on so the main comics don't get bogged down with the descriptions of what all of these things can do while relating things back to the history of Sentinel Comics:
- More flashbacks: making the suits prompts him remembering times he fought with them and how they could have operated even more effectively if only they could do [x], so he builds the suits to let them do [x].
- Other types of flashbacks about him being the "hero of Mordengrad" - how the people work for him and his causes while he makes the place better for all of them. Sure, they might not have much choice in how their lives as far as what work they do and whatnot, but their needs are also taken care of and that counts for something, right? It's not like he rules them because of the power trip it gives, he genuinely cares about the people of Mordengrad (which is why he took over in the first place). He has a plan for what's best for them and they better get in line, but it's only because his plan is generally working for the people's well-being that he keeps at it.
- By issue #11 we've had the reveal in the main comics that Luminary had been working with Voss (BtB comes out near the end of the month, so whatever other reveals are happening that month are already out there by the time it comes out). So here we get to see that when he used the Celestial Occulus to find that something bad was coming, what had happened to clue him in was Voss communicating with him through it. Also a fun bit during their planning with Blade planning on using this thing they were talking with to drop the moon on OblivAeon, Voss saying that that probably wouldn't be necessary, and Blade retorting with a "No. We're doing this!". Moon shenanigans are apparently non-negotiable. This is different from what Voss was doing with the heroes which was entirely one-way communication, while Blade/Luminary is able to actually converse with him to plan things.
- So, given the end-of-month place in the schedule, BtB #12 comes out after the defeat of Voss/OblivAeon and the death of Luminary and his funeral. This issue is primarily concerned with flashbacks to the life of Baron Blade, some events we know already, other new ones. Just a big tribute issue, culminating with the funeral seeming much like it occurs in the other comic. Then the perspective changes to that of the figure lurking in the background of the panel where Legacy's giving his speech at the graveside. It's Baron Blade (complete with facial scars once again due to the explosion when Voss blew up his arm).
- Flashbacks to when he "died", was taken to a morgue, etc. All this time his repair nanites are working overtime to put him back together, basically keeping him in a coma of sorts while they work. Once he wakes up, he uses his teleportation gear to swap places with the Blade-bot that he encountered once he returned from the Realm of Discord (he kept it around once he defeated it).
- Back to the present, he reaches into a pocket and pulls out the third nether lens (portal fiends have 3 eyes, he only used up 2 of them in the Celestial Translocator). He fits it over his damaged eye and teleports out.
- In the backstory we've been told, when he took the name Baron Blade he cast aside the name "Ivan Ramonat", but in the Video Game America's Greatest Legacy calls him Ivan in their nemesis dialog - is this a way for the hero to needle the villain? How did Legacy learn his name in the first place? Is it just dramatic effect? It's mostly dramatic effect, but the line during his dispute with the Soviet general wasn't that he would never use the name again, but that he (the general) would never hear it again and then that general is killed. It's more about the other guy than him.
- Baron Blade is one of the primary antagonists of the setting, but there are also alternate reality versions of him who killed Young Legacy - would "our" Baron Blade have done that or is it too low even for him? Yeah, he'd do that if he could. He killed Legacy's father, has been trying to kill Legacy for a long time now, and would absolutely kill Legacy's daughter if given the chance. They will say that by the end of the Multiverse era he's become more pragmatic about it. He totally could have killed one of the Legacies during that final battle at the end of the OblivAeon event, but he didn't because it would be counter to the overriding "we have to win this fight" goal. He wants to "win" his feud with the Parsons family, but by then he's trying to come up with ways to "win" without necessarily having to kill them.
- Any particular event/discussion point/epiphany that was had during the fight in the positive energy field that turned him away from the "kill Legacy at all costs" motive? There's a lot of yelling back and forth, but it comes down to Baron Blade during the talky part of it saying something like "We've hated each other for years!" with Legacy replying that he doesn't hate Blade, only what he has done. Blade was under the mistaken belief that they had an equal hatred towards each other, but it's a really one-sided nemesis relationship. Legacy feels about Blade about what he feels about any of the other world-threatening supervillains he's stopped over the years. That does represent a break in the intensity with which Blade approaches their relationship. Subsequent Blade appearances aren't as vicious - Vengeance was the peak of that, even the later Vengeance: Returned story was more a team thing than his old "I will make them pay" thing. It was the place where his behavior became less "kill everybody" and more "make Mordengrad better".
- We see on Luminary's incapacitated side that he faked his death - how long is he able to keep that a secret? Three or four issues. Maybe a month in-setting. The stuff happening here was around the time of FF #800, but by the end of the RPG Starter Kit materials it's known that he's around and those stories include FF #801-803. He knows that the big tree in Megalopolis is what took up all of that OblivAeon energy and he's trying to access it as the real plot of those stories. The people in Mordengrad knew right away, but were told to keep them quiet.
- Does he have any regrets about not betraying/killing the heroes? Does he miss being a "hero"? Adam figures he has a lot of regrets spanning his whole life - constantly going back over/reanalyzing his past actions. Christopher agrees that he does that reflection, but says that "regrets" is the wrong way to describe how he feels about it. He doesn't blame himself for how things turned out. He doesn't regret his actions, only the outcomes. He's very happy with what he's managed to do for Mordengrad, but he's likely pretty miserable in his own isolated/hated-by-the-world life. And while that is his fault, he lacks the self-awareness to recognize that.
- On "Triple Cross", why are they shaking with their left hands? That's how Thorathians shake hands. Just a cultural difference and Luminary rolls with it.
- The flavor text on "Repair Nanites" cites BtB #12 and mentions that they tickle, is this from his post-sacrifice recovery? Yes. That's the first thing he said after "dying".
- We see Luminary often using a one-button remote control, why did he need this to activate his devices? For the same reason that he called things "Terralunar Impulsion Beam", "Nether Lenses", of "Celestial Occulus" - because it's more dramatic to have a specific gizmo to activate this stuff rather than having it built into his arm or something.
- Regarding Luminary's various Doomsday Devices, does he reminisce about his various prior doomsday devices? Yeah, we get flashbacks to those older plots when he's developing the ones to take on OblivAeon. That's where he works out what to make in the first place (adapting old plots to the current situation).
- Do we see more of Mordengrad and its people? During the story we see a few, both in flashback and modern day. They've always had a sense that the populace was supportive of him, but we didn't often have a chance to see the extent of it. This series drives home that they love him.
- Muahahahahahaha? [They acknowledge the question mark, but don't actually form a response. I think this is a missed opportunity given that this was the end of a Powerhound2000 letter.]
- How do the Devices come into play? Are they little nano-devices that expand? Presumably the Orbital Death-Laser was already in place, right, but what about the Saber Battle Drones or the giant Regression Turrets? They're things that he's deployed in various places and (at the risk of repeating themselves): showmanship! It's much cooler for him to have robots prepared in drop pods in a satellite or something to summon when needed (the pods being in Mordengrad red and purple and playing the national anthem when deploying drones, obviously). The point of this analogous to the point that in a debate you're often not trying to convince your opposition, but the audience. The showmanship in OblivAeon isn't to impress the Scions or Aeon Men or anything, but the other heroes.
- Why is Baron Blade so hot? Adam just draws him to be the coolest (which to Adam he is). Why do you think he's so hot?
- We've heard about some of his future in various places already, but is there a "Future" for Burying the Blade? To answer that question with another question: Does Baron Blade seem like the kind of guy to fake his death again?