The Alternates Game Recap – Episode #3

This is a recap of a game of my Sentinels Comics RPG campiagn, “The Alternates.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this post might help! But it might not.

The campaign represents an animated television show on a premium cable network, where each sessions represents one episode. This recap is written as a “recap” of the “episode” from the perspective of a writer who lives in the world where this (imaginary) television show actually exists. Are you confused yet? If not, you still have a chance to leave before reading on!

The Alternates Episode #3 Recap:
“Floating in Space”

By Eddie Jaczerkowski

Episode #3 of “The Alternates” is over, and there’s a lot of tragedy in this one. As always, spoilers for this episode are below, but we’ll share no spoilers for what might happen in future episodes!

Episode Recap

The episode opens with another character flashback, and this time it’s Dr. Comet. The scene is done in black & white, and it’s clearly supposed to be happening in the 40s. Since Dr. Comet does appear to be an older woman, this shows us that her origin lies in the distant past. (And don’t spend too much time thinking about how 1940 was 80 years ago even though Dr. Comet is clearly not over 100 years old – comic book time is weird, and The Alternates makes no apologies and offers no explanations for that.)

Dr. Diana Asher is an astronomer working at a big laboratory, and she’s obviously encountering some sexism. In an encounter with some male colleagues, she’s told to go find herself a husband while the men do the science. (The dialogue here was a little heavy-handed on the writers part, but it’s probably tame for what sexism was actually like in the 1940s.) She stands up for herself, and returns to her telescope. Through the viewfinder, she spots a rock floating through space (which I assume is a comet, because… “Dr. Comet,” right?). Dr. Aster is shocked, however, when the rock turns and reveals it has a demon’s face. As she steps away from the telescope, we hear a growl in the room with her, and she screams.

For some background to viewers who aren’t familiar with the comic book character, let’s expand a bit on what’s happening here. The comet that Dr. Diana Aster spotted was also home to a “space demon” that managed to possess her through the telescope. The “demon” (which is actually more like an evil energy alien) granted her potent elemental magic (related to ice and fire, both of which are thematically related to comets), but it also inhabits her, and she struggles continuously against its influence and its power.

The show cuts back to the end of Episode #2, with the heroes gathered in Megalopolis just after Oblivaeon disappeared. Bouncer’s voice is coming through Starshadow’s communicator, saying, “Oblivaeon is here! He’s destroying Rook City!”

The heroes of the Freedom Seven are getting back to their feet. Although Miss Conception and Unity have died, Heritage, Bunker, Absolute Zero, and Legacy are coming around. Wraith, who was missing for the last episode, returns, pulling her ghostly form up out of the ground and joining her teammates. In addition, Jersey Devil reappears, crackling with some sort of dark energy.

The members of Dark Watch – Harpy, Setback, Mr. Fixer, and Expatriette – round the corner suddenly, with Setback excitedly announcing that Oblivaeon is in Rook City. The others kind of look at each other and Absolute Zero tells him, “Yeah, we know.” Setback tells them that Harpy is going to open a portal so they can all get to Rook City instantly.

Heritage approaches Starshadow and asks, “Can your machine put a stop to Oblivaeon, doc?” Starshadow responds, “I think so. Whatever Oblivaeon is, the generator can push him out of our timeline altogether, and maybe it can keep him out.” Heritage nods and tells the heroes, “Alright, everyone! Let’s get to Rook City and make sure Starshadow and his machine can get the job done!”

Starshadow explains to the protagonists (Dr. Comet, Kid Radical, Jersey Devil, Cytoblast, and Quasar Kid) that the Duality Stabilization Field Generator can’t go through a portal or be teleported “because of the spacetime dynamics involved,” so he asks them to fly with him in the hoverjet back to Rook City.

Once aboard, Cytoblast and Dr. Comet start to talk about the science of it all, and Starshadow explains that “Dualities” are timelines that have split because of some divergent event. He says he had been investigating this “Multiverse,” and that he discovered timelines could be annihilated entirely if there were enough “Duality Violations.” If you didn’t follow all that, don’t worry about it. Suffice it to say, if two different timelines become too similar, they can be destroyed, and that’s what Oblivaeon is trying to do to every timeline in the Multiverse. And somehow, Starshadow’s Duality Stabilization Field Generator can stop him.

During the scene, Dr. Comet is clearly agitated. In fact, we see she makes the same face here as she did in the opening sequence. Obviously, she finds Starshadow’s tone to be condescending, and, after long decades of being marginalized in science because of her gender, his lecture isn’t sitting well with her. (It might be hard to get that all from this scene, but it’s something that’s explained more completely in the comics.)

In his explanation, Starshadow says he was watching for these “Duality Violations” for a while, but then they stopped altogether, so he eventually gave up on the research. Now there are more Duality Violations than ever. Kid Radical tells Starshadow that when he stopped tracking Duality Violations, it was like he was “skating without pads,” and “that’s not cool.” Starshadow nods politely.

Starshadow explains that his machine generates Duality Stabilization Fields (hence the name), and that these fields can prevent damage to the timeline when Duality Violations occur. And that’s how the machine will stop Oblivaeon.

Jersey Devil now reveals to the team what the audience saw in the last episode – that Oblivaeon destroyed Jersey Devil’s reality, and he somehow managed to escape. He tells the team that they must kill Oblivaeon, but Starshadow says that, while he can maybe shove Oblivaeon out of this timeline, they simply don’t have the means to kill the cosmic entity.

At this, Kid Radical asks an important question. If Starshadow succeeds in throwing Oblivaeon out of this timeline, will they just be making it somebody else’s problem? Starshadow says he thought about that, but if it’s all he can do to save their timeline, that’s better than every reality in the Multiverse being destroyed.

This whole sequence in the hoverjet goes on a little long, but it does explain a few things, and it lets us get a bit more dialogue between some of the main characters. It’s also yet another scene for the show to shift focus to Starshadow and how he fills a pivotal role in this alternate timeline. After all, he killed Baron Blade, which caused major shifts in history, and now he is in a position to stop Oblivaeon from destroying his entire reality. These are all key story elements, including Kid Radical’s ultimate question – if they kick Oblivaeon out of this reality, won’t he just go on to destroy others? (The answer is obviously “Yes”!)

The hoverjet arrives in Rook City, and the fight is already fully engaged there. In fact, the battle in Megalopolis from last episode has now moved completely to Rook City, with all the heroes from that scene having arrived here, and the Scions Judge and Jury duking it out with the remaining Prime Wardens. We also see that Infinitor, the mad brother of Captain Cosmic, has joined the battle against Oblivaeon.

Like last episode, the scene shifts around a lot, but I will summarize it as best as I can.

Haka, Tempest, and Argent Adept are fighting Judge and Jury, but Fanatic is attacking Oblivaeon directly in a righteous rage. Her attacks are having no effect, and Oblivaeon ignores her while he fiddles with a gigantic machine with huge crystals poking out of it (not named here, but in the comics these are called “oblivion engines”). Below, on the street, Aeon Men are pouring around every corner while the members of Dark Watch – Mr. Fixer, Expatriette, Setback, and Harpy – fight them off alongside Bunker, Chrono-Ranger, and the Wraith.

In this scene, we finally get to see Bouncer using his power, which is, as you might guess, bouncing. From the street, he leaps high in the air at Oblivaeon, leading with his fist, but he ends up “bouncing” off the cosmic giant. His descent is awkward, but he lands on his feet, unharmed, and turns to see some Aeon Men approaching. He leaps toward them, leading with his shoulder, finally colliding with one of the minions in a forceful crash. The collision doesn’t slow him down, though – he quickly leaps into the next nearest Aeon Man, and then to another. His technique, though effective, is pretty hilarious to actually see in action.

Starshadow’s hoverjet lands in the rubble of a leveled building, and the protagonists get out. Starshadow lifts the generator out of the jet using his powers (as black cosmic energy bubbles surround and carry the machine) and asks the team to cover him while he spins up the generator. This time, however, he takes on his full dark cosmic energy form, with those black cosmic energy bubbles hovering around him, and he works on the machine by manipulating it with his powers.

The team looks around and spots several Aeon Men coming through the rubble towards them. But as the heroes start to hunker down for a battle, a buzzing sound announces the arrival of a new challenger – Korrupton, Scion of Oblivaeon! That’s right – in this timeline, the last survivor of the Infektor race, the insect-like Korrupton, has joined Oblivaeon! (If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry – he’s an obscure character from the Enclave of the Endlings, and all you need to know here is that he’s teamed up with Oblivaeon).

Korrupton exhales a massive cloud of toxic gas that fills the area, and we see the heroes start fighting the insectoid Scion and a bunch of Aeon Men!

Back at the fight against Oblivaeon, Infinitor and Fanatic both fly circles around the top of the giant, hitting him with everything they have. Oblivaeon looks directly at Infinitor and seems to smile to himself. Oblivaeon raises his hand, facing his palm at Infinitor, causing Infinitor’s blasts to bounce off the giant’s hand, down into Rook City.

Meanwhile, Stuntman (formerly known as the villain Ambuscade) is at street level, carrying a missile launcher. He runs into a building and begins to hustle up the stairs to get to the roof. One of Infinitor’s blasts hits the building, and the whole structure collapses to the ground. We don’t see what happens to Stuntman, but it can’t be good.

Above, Oblivaeon begins to draw power directly from Infinitor, sucking the very lifeforce from him. (If you didn’t know, Infinitor’s power comes from an Oblivion Shard, which itself comes from Oblivaeon. Thus, Oblivaeon is really just taking his own power and life energy back from Infinitor.) This leaves Infinitor a lifeless husk, and we see him slowly float downward as he breathes his last.

Across the battlefield, the superhero Parse arrives on the scene. As she uses her powers, there’s a great animation effect of the world around her “digitizing” into her own “computerized” view of things. She draws her bow and stares down Oblivaeon, but as the view cuts back to her perspective, we start to see things break down, her “digital” view starts to crash, and soon, there’s a blank screen with a blinking command prompt. When the show cuts back to show her standing in the street, Parse’s bow arm slowly lowers, and she stares in Oblivaeon’s direction, mouth agape and eyes unblinking.

Back at Oblivaeon’s head, Fanatic is still trying to get the cosmic destroyer’s attention. Visionary joins her, floating high above the street, gathering all of her psychic might to attack Oblivaeon. It’s clear that no matter how much she tries, she cannot breach his defenses. Suddenly, Oblivaeon turns his head and glares at the psychic. She grimaces, furrows her brow, and concentrates harder, but Oblivaeon is somehow creating a visible feedback loop. Visionary’s powers go out of control, and her eyes flare up with psychic might. Her own psychic energy bursts in a bright flash from her head. Then, the light in her eyes goes out as she falls lifelessly back to earth.

On the other side of downtown Rook City, the fight against Korrupton continues. Dr. Comet is blasting fire and ice at the Aeon Men. With toxic gas and curved throwing blades, Korrupton attacks the heroes. Jersey Devils defeat one of the Aeon and drains his life force from him (and that Aeon Man’s lifeforce comes from Oblivaeon, so maybe that wasn’t a good idea). The essence of the Aeon Man enters Jersey Devil, and Jersey Devil’s eyes glow with a sickly yellow light.

Then, Jersey Devil becomes invisible – the audience can see him, but everyone in the battle ignores him. He moves unseen through the crowd of Aeon Men and heroes and attacks Korrupton directly. In response, Korrupton slices Jersey Devil with a curved blade, poisoning the monstrous hero with his toxins.

While Fanatic continues her attacks on Oblivaeon, Harpy harnesses massive arcane powers to unleash a spell against Oblivaeon. As the magical onslaught strikes Oblivaeon, an invisible shield that surrounded the cosmic entity breaks. Fanatic takes the opportunity to strike Oblivaeon, and for the first time, her attack lands against his body. Finally showing anger, Oblivaeon turns to face Fanatic. She holds her sword over her head, readying a sold blow, but Oblivaeon moves incredibly quickly, running her through with a sharp, spear-like crystal. Fanatic’s wings go limp, and she tumbles to the ground.

Oblivaeon turns immediately to Harpy, brings his hands up and points them toward her. An enormous energy beam fires out from his hands, but Harpy teleports away. Unfortunately, those heroes who were fighting Aeon Men in the street were on the other side of the Harpy, and the beam envelops them. In one fell swoop, Bunker, Mr. Fixer, Expatriette, an Chrono-Ranger are killed. All that remains of them are Bunker’s cybernetic parts. The Wraith, whose form is ghostly and mostly incorporeal, survives for a moment or two after the beam strikes her, but she cannot hold together her form, and she evaporates into a mist. Setback, however, falls behind some rubble and survives the attack.

As the episode reaches its final moments, the fight with Korrupton grows desperate. Quasar Kid, punching with his mighty fists in a martial arts form he calls “Boom Boxing,” is knocked out by Korrupton’s attacks. Jersey Devil is wounded by the Aeon Men, and his shadowy form seems to fade out of the fight. Kid Radical and Dr. Comet are severely injured, and only Cytoblast’s defensive maneuvers keep them from being entirely out of commision. So far, they’ve successfully defended Starshadow’s efforts with the Duality Stabilization Field Generator, but now Korrupton and the remaining Aeon Men threaten their chance at victory!

But, from out of nowhere, Jersey Devil teleports Cytoblast into the air, and Cytoblast hardens his plant form into a tree trunk, falling down and crushing Korrupton. The Scion does not get back up. Finally, Dr. Comet’s ice magic eliminates the few remaining Aeon Men, and Starshadow starts the final sequence on the generator.

Unfortunately, a few blocks away, Tempest and Argent Adept are on the ground and Haka fights Judge and Jury alone. The two robot Scions are severely damaged, and Haka smashes one robot with the other, destroying them both. He nods in victory, but a moment later, one of Jury’s giant swords skewers Haka through the chest. Oblivaeon looks down, having manipulated the blade with some sort of telekinetic power. Haka closes his eyes, succumbing to the massive wound.

Back with with the Alternates, Starshadow has fired up the generator! Immediately, Oblivaeon’s full attention changes to the generator – obviously, he knows that it poses a danger to his plans. He raises his hands once again, emitting a white beam of energy that heads directly towards Starshadow. The cosmic hero moves to defend the generator, but before the beam gets there, Heritage jumps in front of it, stopping the beam from hitting the generator.

“Whatever you have to do, you’d better do it now!” Heritage shouts to Starshadow. With a grim nod, Starshadow activates the generator, emitting a tight yellow beam that shoots past Heritage, past Oblivaeon’s beam, and finally strikes the giant cosmic enemy.

Oblivaeon’s face twists with shock, and the world around him shatters! Cracks form in reality itself, and Oblivaeon fades away as those cracks seal themselves back up. (I have to add – The animation of this sequence was really a spectacle, and it served as an excellent climax to this fight.)

We cut back to the generator, where we see Heritage collapse as Oblivaeon’s beam lets up. For a moment, everything is silent, until a song begins to play over the scene.

The show ends with a montage as “Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips plays.

The remaining heroes in Rook City as they gather around the fallen bodies Heritage and Haka. (Over the scene, the song’s lyrics are, “Do you realize / that everyone you know / someday will die?”)

It cuts to citizens of Rook City coming out of their homes to see a clear sky. In Megalopolis, police and EMTs help the injured into ambulances. In another unnamed, Aeon Men are smashing through buildings and cars, only to disappear into nothingness all of a sudden. (And the song’s lyrics here are, “You realize the sun doesn’t go down / It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.”)

Back in Rook City, Setback weeps and sobs at the spot where his teammates and his beloved Expatriette were killed by Oblivaeon.

In a heartbreaking scene, Felicia Parsons (Legacy) cradles the dead body of her father, Paul (Heritage). The look on her face is one of solemn sorrow – she is heartbroken, but she is Legacy, and she knows what the life of a superhero is. I am so glad the show runners chose to show her personal strength in this moment.

Finally, as the last lines of “Do You Realize??” play, the scene zooms out of Rook City and up to a hillside, where the city can only be seen in the distance. On the hillside stands the unmistakable form of Grand Warlord Voss, but transformed into another Scion of Oblivaeon.

The song ends, and the credits roll over silence.

Final Thoughts

This was a heartbreaking episode, and there are very few heroes left in the world at this point. The Alternates begins as an extremely tragic story, although all of this backstory was initially skipped in the comics, and it was told in flashbacks. I have to admit that seeing all of this apocalyptic destruction at the beginning of the series is a lot more emotionally draining than the way the comics told the same story. I do wonder how many viewers will stick around for a show that seems to kill all the main characters slowly over several episodes. If viewers hate The Alternates, that could really affect the future of other Sentinels shows on premium cable.

The final montage, played over a song with a bright sound but sad lyrics, really hit home. The title of the episode, “Floating in Space,” is a lyric from the song, and it nicely aligns with the opening of the episode (with the comet that gave Dr. Aster her powers floating in space) to the final scene (with Grand Warlord Voss, who comes down to the Earth after floating in space). The arrival of Voss reminds us that, in this story, the Earth is just one planet (again, floating in space) in a massive universe, in a massive Multiverse. It is at once a reminder of how small we all are, but also how larger-than-life these heroes are.

After this episode, I really have to talk about Starshadow, since we’re now seeing how important Starshadow is to the story of The Alternates. While he’s not a featured character of the comics, he is constantly appearing and reappearing, often advancing the plot as well as offering some interesting perspectives on everything that occurs.

So let’s talk a little bit about Starshadow, a somewhat obscure character in Sentinel comics in general, but a major character in The Alternates. First appearing in the early 1960s under the name “Quasitron,” he was one of several “cosmic” heroes introduced during the space race. At first, he had very potent “cosmic ray” powers. He appeared periodically throughout the 60s, often fighting on far-off planets against aliens who could easily be mistaken for Communists.

In the early 70s, he was featured in his own series, where he changed his moniker to “Starshadow,” and his powers were recast as “black hole” powers. These comics featured lots of planet-hopping adventures in far-off corners of the galaxy, but it only ran for a few years.

Through the 80s and 90s, Starshadow was occasionally brought in on stories that featured a “cosmic” or “intergalactic” origin, but he never joined a team or had his own series again. In the 2000s and 2010s, the character was largely absent from comics, aside from a few guest appearances.

…all of which brings us to Oblivaeon and the “Starshadow Scandal.”

When the Oblivaeon event happened in comics, almost every character was involved in some way, even if it was just appearing in the background. Somehow, though, Starshadow didn’t manage to make into any of the Oblivaeon issues or crossovers. Was it a clerical error? Was it a vast conspiracy? To this day, no one knows (and most don’t care).

However, a few people were very upset by this omission. Starshadow superfan and host of the popular ViewTube show, “Captain Cactoid’s Comics Cabaret,” Adrienne Costello (Captain Cactoid herself) was very upset when the Oblivaeon event ended and her beloved Starshadow was not featured. At least three hour-long episodes of her online show were dedicated to “The Starshadow Scandal,” as she called it, especially focusing on what Starshadow would have and could have done to fight Oblivaeon, and how his cosmic powers were the perfect thing to save the Multiverse. This was all tongue-in-cheek, of course, but she had a lot of followers and fans, so she generated quite the buzz with her complaints.

Enter writer Ari Litvin, who was a big Starshadow fan himself. When Ari was hired to write a series for Sentinel comics, he went back to an old Disparation story that featured his favorite character, Starshadow, and decided to write his own story in that timeline. And what better way to avenge Starshadow’s absence from the Oblivaeon event than to have him become the one who defeats Oblivaeon in that timeline? Thus, Starshadow became the hero of the Alternates universe.

Of course, the role of “Big Damn Hero” turns out to be complicated, as The Alternates will demonstrate.

That’s all for this week! I’m looking forward to Episode #4, “Falling Star,” which promises to be yet another big boss battle against the Oblivaeon-empowered Grand Warlord Voss!

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