Invictus (Equalizer zine)
|Publisher:||Shooting Star Press|
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Invictus is a gen Equalizer anthology.
General Reactions and Reviews
As to most fans not buying zines for artwork... I'll be the first to admit I'm not like most fans. Three times within the past year I've purchased a zine because of the art, having little or no interest in the actual text (and this from a devoted writer!). One of the zines I purchased happened to be Invictus 2, and my reaction to that was to immediately purchase Invictus 3 & 4 upon arrival in the dealer's room this year,  and to hunt unashamedly for Invictus 1 (GOT IT!)through every used zine box I could find. I didn't know these people before I read these zines and I still don't know them, but they've got some damned fine writers and artists working for them. And they snagged me because I wanted to dissect those two pretty pictures and find out how they were done. It's the old fly to honey technique. And it worked. 
Invictus 1 was published in November 1991 and contains 285 pages. The art is by Dani Lane, Jayne Largent, Beatrix Lawlor and J.M. McClure (front cover).
- And May You Die in Ireland by Jane Frazier (1)
- Illusions of Sucess by Denyse Bridger (30)
- Deus by Linda Knights (52)
- Reaction Shot by Beth Didion (88)
- Lullaby by McClure/Smith (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (winner of a 1992 FanQ) (100)
- Third Sunday in June by Donna Solomon
- Once Upon an Anthill by Jane Frazier (148)
- Shortcut by Kate Wallace (155)
- Robert and the Lion by Jane Frazier (165)
- Shadow Play by Denyse Bridger (172)
- No Place Like Home by Donna Solomon (176)
- Family Reunion by Beth Didion (186)
- A Night at the Opera by A. Noni Mus (190)
- Field of Honor by Jane Frazier (202)
- A Little R & R by McClure/Smith (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (207)
Invictus 2 was published in May 1992 and contains 301 pages. The art is by J.M. McClure (front cover), Beatrix Lawlor (frontispiece), Anja Gruber, Jayne Largent and Anja Gruber.
- Morpheus by Linda Knights ("Follow-up to "Deus." Now they REALLY want the Days of Darkness files and they're willing to go through anyone to get it.") (1)
- Remembrance by Beth Didion ("Some anniversaries are not meant to be celebrated, just endured.") (42)
- Favor for a Friend by Jayne Frazier ("A voice from Robert McCall's past is on the phone, and she wants a "favor for a friend.") (46)
- Simple Pleasures, part one by M. Christjansen ("Robert takes a small vacation on the Florida coast. Just a relaxing few days in the sun and sand.") (73)
- Replay by Denyse Bridger and McClure ("A law of averages is supposed to prevent this sort of thing. In Robert's case, there's no such thing as average.") (76)
- Hi Honey, I'm Home by Beth Didion ("Mickey Kostmayer with domestic woes?") (119)
- Sleight of Hand by McClure and Smith ("Yvette is sure she has witnessed a murder. Robert and Mickey are not convinced.") (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (122)
- Shades by Denyse Bridger ("Can the voice of a nightmare be a very real threat to Robert?") (149)
- Just a Minor Distraction by Jennings and McClure ("Robert's lady love might have made a few bad choices along the way. One of them could cost her her son's life.") (154)
- Attitude Adjustment by Jayne Frazier ("Robert McCall is NOT in a good mood.") (176)
- Simple Pleasues by M. Christijansen (183)
- Last Page by Denyse Bridger ("Robert has to say a very special goodbye.") (203)
- To Err is Human by Denyse Bridger ("Mickey Kostmayer has finally met his match, now he may lose her -- to friend or foe.") (203)
- Hey Bartender by Donna Solomon ("Ever wonder what it looks like from Jeremy's side of the bar at O'Phelan's?") (258)
- Paybacks by McClure/Smith ( Mickey's actions might cost Robert his son.") (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (won a 1993 FanQ) (262)
- Character Assassination by M. S. Beckett ("A really "different" kind of story.") (295)
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1
I like the written word. The ebb and flow of text continues to amaze and delight me. Which is why I often find it difficult to read, never mind review, fanzines. Sure, you miss a typo now and again, but when participles are dangling in the margins as if fishing for the completion of a thought, or strings of adverbs form lapis lazuli sentences that go on for pages, or character description is limited to "the brown-eyed man," I swear off the stuff for my health and sanity. If you're lucky, fifty percent of the submissions are readable, and you get maybe one really solid whopper of a story for your hard-earned nickels. I've grown to expect little, and usually get less.
So imagine my coos of delight when I found the fiction in Invictus 2 to be not only readable, but enjoyable. Sentences, descriptions, plots, characterization—I was all in a swoon! And this from a zine that I'd purchased purely as a learning exercise. Yes, that's right..I bought this whopper of a zine because it had a couple of pretty pictures in it and l wanted to learn how they were done. And then I find that the fiction, my first true love, is even better than the artwork. Life don't get much better than this, buckeroos.
It's strange - in an Equalizer zine I expected to read a lot more about Robert McCall, but the fiction in Invictus 2 seems centered on McCall's son, Scott, or Mickey Kostmeyer. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but I would like to have seen a few more along the lines of "Simple Pleasures," by M.C. Christjansen. Then again, counting the number of times Scott gets kidnapped, or pissed off because his father wants him to stay behind, can get tiresome. I'm also beginning to think that Kostmeyer might just beat Kuryakin this year for the "Character Most Likely to Get the Stuffing Beat Out of Him" Award. The best story of the bunch, "Morpheus," by Linda Knights, has a shaky paragraph here and there, but it's a well-plotted thriller, true to the show's tone and tension quota. Considering that you usually put your best stories at the end of the zine, I was more than a little surprised to find that it was the first one in the zine—kind of a letdown when I plowed my way through this three hundred page omnibus and found that nothing else quite lived up to that first high. "Remembrance," by Beth Didion, a brief piece about the death of Control's wife, comes close, as does "Sleight of Hand," by McClure and Smith, but the latter suffers from an excess of character reaction and a lack of solid, descriptive action sequences. If the writers in this zine lack anything, it's that rare ability to juggle word length and attention span. More than a few intense action scenes are described, rather than played out before the reader's eager eyes (and when Mickey and any one of his girlfriends start shouting at one another, I was ready to kill for an old-fashioned gun battle or a midnight cat burglary). It's a small criticism, truly, because the writing is so damn'good as it stands, but a little more attention to and concentration on maintaining point of view, and some experimentation with scene changes and descriptive time fillers could make these stories catch fire and burn!
I will take offense at the resolution of at least one story-- "Paybacks," by McClure and Smith. It's a very brutal plot and the characters are handled well (especially Scott's mother), but I didn't buy the ending. If you set up a very realistic modern horror story, don't pull the punches at the end. Without giving anything away, let's just say that I don't believe Control's solution would have been acceptable to McCall, even though it seems to be the best solution to the problem. You don't have to tie up every knot at the end of a story...sometimes it's better just to give the reader the sense that problems do lie ahead and that they'll be worked out, even though it's going to cost.
So what about this artwork that had originally parted me from my grimy $22.00? Just some damned keen pencils lovingly screened and the occasional bitchin' pen and ink. I'm still not certain about the cover—it's an effective negative portrait, but the layout just doesn't do justice to the picture or the letters. Maybe if both had been shot down by an inch or two and a bar or corner added to ground it somewhat...that might have done the trick.
I'm not against using portraits as illustrations, but at least make certain the pictures are appropriate to the surrounding text...or place the artwork in a portfolio section. There were some really beautiful pieces that fit neither the action nor the mood of the text by which they were surrounded (like the Control and Mickey on page 16, or the cat face on page 41). There are also a few pen and inks that swim around on the page and could have benefitted from appropriate layout. The Gage on page 90 probably should have been reduced and either grounded with more background and edge, or placed as a half-page or quarter-page illo, surrounded by text, as was done with the illo of Control on page 45. My favorite pen and ink would have to be page 209--a lovely portrait with light, heart, fire, shoulders, and more than a hint of the personality of the character. My favorite pencils, both by Beatrix Lawler, are a very expressive McCall and Control on page 3, and a perfectly brilliant Scott on page 269. God, what lovely repro!Invictus 2 is a treasure—a zine that not only made me stay up way past my bedtime to catch a few episodes of the show, but also instigated a desire to write Equalizer fiction and, dammit. 
Invictus 3 was published in October 1992 and contains 375 pages. The art is by J.M. McClure (front cover), Beatrix Lawlor (frontispiece), Anja Gruber, Hindman, Jayne Largent. It won a 1993 FanQ. (89)
- Judgment Day by McClure Smith ("The cost of an Agency foul-up is a price Robert McCall is not willing to pay") (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (1)
- Brief Candle by Donna Solomon ("When she discovers a friend's terrible secret, Yvette can only turn to Robert and Mickey for help, but it looks like it's already too late.")
- Million To One Odds by Denyse Bridger--Scott often turns up looking like death warmed over, and one of his friends decides it's time she did something about it. ("Robert, have I got a client for you!")
- Memories by Jayne Frazier ("Terri and Eric need Robert's help again and they drag him back into the world of Agency intrigue") (94)
- The Haunting by J. Edwards ("Control is acting strangely, or is he? Robert has to find out.") (115)
- Looking for Trouble by B. Hartley ("Robert has had a really bad day, and it doesn't look like the night is going to be any improvement") (141)
- Echo by Denyse Bridger ("Does Robert finally have to face his greatest fear alone?) (145)
- Max'd Out by M. Christjansen ("Can you handle Robert McCall in ALL his incarnations?") (164)
- Fairgame by R. Dale and Beth Didion ("An old friend's problem seems to have mysterious complications for Robert. Who are the murderers really after?") (193)
- Boy's Night Out by Denyse Bridger ("Want to know where Barley and Scott really went after they left O'Phelan's in last issue's "Replay"?") (210)
- Pax...Eternum by Linda Knights ("The final installment in the Ann Darrow stories. Now, there's no way to protect the files ORt he lives of the people important to Robert and Control") (215)
- The First Time... or Bang! by Donna Solomon ("No, no, no! Not THAT first time! Wouldn't you love to be around when Agency personnel start swapping stories?") (258)
- Things that Go Bump in the Night by Denise Bridger and McClure ("A nine-year old vendetta is making Robert McCall's life a nightmare.") (274)
- Special F/X by McClure and Beatrix Lawlor ("Jason Masur is making life miserable for Robert and Control and enjoying every minute of it... for a while.")
Invictus 4 was published in 1993 and contains 391 pages. The art is by Anja Gruber, J.M. MClure (front cover), Koz, Jayne Largent, Sheila Rogers, and Beatrix Lawlor.
- On Drawing Edward Woodward by Beatrix Lawlor
- Defector by Denyse Bridger (1)
- Second Chance by Jayne Frazier (41)
- Once More, With Feeling by McClure and Beatrix Lawlor
- Nightmares Without End by Linda Knights (60)
- Interlude by J. McClure (115)
- Long Way Home by M. Christjansen (119)
- Sentimental Journey by B. Hartley (159)
- Bitter Medicine by W. Goodman--When McCall's son is targeted by an enemy from his past, what lengths will McCall and his associates go to to save Scott's life? (166)
- Recovery by Denyse Bridger--Scott is slowly recovering from his wounds, and getting a little more TLC than he can take. (214)
- Repeat Performance by Linda Knights (228)
- Singularity by Beth Didion and Dale (286)
- No Other Choice by Denyse Bridger--Robert is forced to take action when a woman Control is involved with turns out to be more than they bargained on.
- Fallout by McClure and Smith (also in The McClure-Smith Collection and Psychic Investigations #7) (316)
- Equalizer Lite: Scene in a Video Store by S. Ebert (350), The Good, The Bad and the Unprepared by Beth Didion, (355), Pop Goes the Weasel by L.A. Carr, (358), Prime Time by M. Christjansen (360), Old Man by Donna Solomon (369), Christmas Presents by M. Christjansen (375), Character Assassination, Too by M. S. Beckett (388)
Invictus 5 was published in 1994 and contains 327 pages. The art is by Anja Gruber, J.M. McClure (front cover), and Jayne Largent.
- Tribute to Richard Jordon by Donna Solomon
- Firestorm by Jayne Frazier (1)
- Apples by M. Christjansen (16)
- A Small Victory by W. Goodman--Sequel to "Bitter Medicine" in issue #4. McCall, Scott, Control and Mickey are on a cross country run for their lives. (30)
- Absent Without Leave by Denyse Bridger (106)
- A Single Step by Donna Solomon (139)
- Dog Days by M. Christjansen (164)
- Dream a Little Dream of Me by B. Hartley (180)
- On the Town by M. Christjansen (183)
- Compromising Position by Denyse Bridger (208)
- Recruit by M. Christjansen (221)
- Am Target... Will Travel by W. Goodman--Pure silliness. It's Scott's birthday and McCall & Co. plan on making it one to remember. (227)
- Missing in Action by M. Christjansen (235)
- A Simple Luncheon Date by M. Lawlor (238)
- Healing Touch by D. Hazlet (259)
- Requiem by McClure/Smith (also in The McClure-Smith Collection) (266)
- ^ probably in reference to MediaWest*Con
- ^ from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #5
- ^ from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4. The reviewer, Susan M. Garrett, gives it "4 trees." The reviewers in "Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine?" rated zines on a 1-5 tree/star scale.