Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review of "Charlotte Bronte before Jane Eyre," by Glynnis Fawkes

 Review of

Charlotte Bronte before Jane Eyre, by Glynnis Fawkes ISBN 9781368023290

Five out of five stars

Excellent biography in graphic novel form

 I have long been a proponent of education in whatever form it takes. Whether it be in textual, comic book or in the form of a graphic novel. In this book the graphic novel form is used to describe the life of Charlotte Bronte before she became a published novelist. It is very well done.

 Not only does it portray the struggles of families due to regular deaths from disease and other ailments, the economic plight of women in the early nineteenth century is described. Charlotte’s father recognized that his daughters needed to be educated and he did what he could, sending them off to school. However, even with education, jobs such as being a teacher/governess were fraught with problems. The children often did not have the slightest interest in learning, only in being difficult. All three of the Bronte sisters were writers and initially started out with poetry, using aliases so that readers would not know that they were female.

 While the dialog is not verbatim concerning what the Bronte girls said, it has to be very close. The tone is that of a nineteenth century young woman and they sound very much like their writings. One of the best attributes of a biography is that when dialog attributed to the subject is not being quoted, it sounds like them. In other words, they could have said it.

 This is one of the most educational graphic novels I have ever encountered. It captures the life and struggles of nineteenth century women in general and Charlotte Bronte in particular.

Review of "Asterix and Cleopatra," by Rene Goscinny

 Review of

Asterix and Cleopatra, by Rene Goscinny ISBN 9780752866079

Five out of five stars

The fun of puns with a little history

 Asterix and his giant sidekick Obelix along with his fellow Gaul Getafix receive an Egyptian visitor that is desperate for their help. The visitor is Edifis, one of the main architects working under Queen Cleopatra. Edifis has been told that he needs to build a massive palace in three months or he will be fed to the crocodiles. Faced with such a fate, Edifis travels to Gaul in order to seek help.

 Overjoyed, the three Gauls, along with the dog Dogmatix, travel to Egypt and set to work against the long odds. Made even worse due to the nefarious actions of rival architect Artifis. He is very jealous of Edifis over his acquiring the contract.

 Much is made of the size of Cleopatra’s nose and some of the dialog boxes are written in hieroglyphics. The most amusing ones are when the character is clearly swearing, first time I have ever seen swear words in comics expressed in such a manner. This is a very fun book, Asterix and his comrades are very entertaining characters and there is even a bit of history thrown in. The book is well worth rereading in order to catch any jokes missed the first time.

Review of "G. I. Zombie 3," DC Comics

 Review of

G. I. Zombie 3, DC Comics

Five out of five stars

Minor crime investigation becomes a major disaster

 There is a major gunrunning operation in and around Sutterville, Tennessee and federal officials are investigating. Unknown to them, they are far more well-entrenched and funded than the usual such groups. In retaliation for the investigation, the criminal group launches a missile that strikes an animal hospital. It contains an extremely deadly bioweapon that turns all creatures that encounter it into mindless zombies. This includes snakes, dogs, cats and humans. To make matters even worse, once another creature is bitten, it is also turned into a zombie and that is independent of species. Therefore, the unleashing of the weapon is an act of apocalyptic annihilation.

 The government has a man on the scene that is invulnerable to the zombie influence and is in contact with the federal officials, including the army commanders. He is able to meet the mayor and learn the basic layout of connections the town has with the rest of the country. Given his information, the federal forces are preparing to mount a quarantine and counterattack.

 I am generally of the opinion that there has been far too much emphasis on the zombie in recent literature. While some of it is quite good, in too many cases it is simply bandwagon minimal quality storytelling. Not so with this one, there are clearly powerful forces driving the world to destruction. Certainly, far more than simple small-town and rural gunrunners.

Review of "Red One, Undercover Part 1," Image Comics

 Review of

Red One, Undercover Part 1, Image Comics

Five out of five stars

A dangerously divided America

 It is 1977, Jimmy Carter is President of the United States and he is working hard to get the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks  (S.A.L.T.) treaty passed by Congress and accepted  by the American people. There is a powerful and radical religious movement in the United States that is in favor of extreme violence against those they consider the enemy. That group includes people that believe in the principles of the most limited censorship and are perceived as communist sympathizers and supporters of all forms of birth control.

 There is a man known as the Carpenter that engages in a violent vendetta against the enemies of the religious groups. Into all this mix there is a female agent of the Soviet Union known as Red One that is operating in the United States. She receives her orders directly from the leader of the Soviet Union and her goal is to do what she can to help President Carter convince the American public to support the S.A.L.T. treaty.

 Red One battles the Carpenter in order to save the life of a young, pregnant woman. She also stands up against a group of men armed with boards intent on doing severe damage to people planning on making a movie they don’t approve of. There is also a woman running for Governor of California with a platform based on the radical religious movement. Like most politicians, underneath the veneer of religious wonderfulness, she is ruthless and willing to violate any of the religious premises she claims to support.

 This is a great story about an unusual super soldier set in very difficult times in the United States. The country appears to be on the verge of a violent takeover by religious extremists and ironically, an agent of the other superpower works to prevent that. It is an instance of the adage that many times the greatest enemies of a country are those that claim to be the most ardent patriots.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review of "Asterix the Gaul," written by Rene Goscinny

 Review of

Asterix the Gaul, written by Rene Goscinny ISBN 9780752866055

Five out of five stars

Amusing parody constructed largely of puns

 The context of this graphic novel is that the armies of Rome have conquered nearly all of Gaul in 50 BC. The only section that remains free of Roman control is a village on the ocean surrounded by four fortified Roman camps. The Romans very much want to take over, but they are held in check largely by Asterix, a tiny Gaul that consumes a magic potion that makes him very powerful. He is capable of knocking the heads of entire groups of the toughest Roman soldiers.

The names are humorous, for example there is Getafix, the Druid that makes the magic potion, Cacofonix is the Gaullic musician, Obelix is a giant, very strong Gaul, there is a Roman soldier named Crismus Bonus and Caligula Minus, the Roman spy. The dialog and situations are generally over the top. For example, when he is captured, Asterix says, “I’ll be loquacious all right! I’ll loquace like no one ever loquaced before!”

 A fun read all around, this nonsense bears reading and rereading. Although there are times when you have to look and read closely to catch all the gags.

Review of "Sixty Sketches of Iowa’s Past & Present," by William J. Wagner

 Review of

Sixty Sketches of Iowa’s Past & Present, by William J. Wagner

Five out of five stars

A history lesson constructed from sketches of structures

 Iowa was a state that possessed a great deal of natural building materials, from native lumber to stone. When Europeans started moving into the state, they initially built temporary structures, but it was not long before more permanent ones were constructed. Schoolhouses, churches and government buildings were generally built to last. Homes of the wealthier class were also solidly built, so well put together that many were still in use a century after construction.  Several  famous people were born or lived in Iowa, among them Wyatt Earp, Herbert Hoover and Mamie Eisenhower.

William Wagner was a sketch artist that spent his time making drawings of famous, even if only locally, buildings in the state of Iowa. Sixty of those sketches appear in this book along with lengthy textual explanations of why the building is famous. While some of them were in good shape at the time they were drawn, others appeared to be in decline. Fortunately, most of them have been taken over by people or organizations that are dedicated to preserving them.

 There is a lot of local history in this book. Since overall history is made up from a series of overlapping local events, there is a great deal of the history of the state of Iowa in this book.

Review of "How to Make Money Blogging," by Bob Lotich

 Review of

How to Make Money Blogging, by Bob Lotich ISBN 9780989894500

Three out of five stars

No depth, several self-references

 With only 53 pages that includes the title pages and TOC and containing a lot of whitespace, this book is extremely short. That is not a problem if the text is dense with valuable data, that is not the case here. I have been writing online for over twenty years and have done well at it.

 This book is for beginners, there are many links to online tools with recommendations to use or avoid. Some of the advice is very sound, such as the recommendation that you first hone your skills by writing insightful and meaningful comments about what others have written. Nevertheless, the content in this book is best read online through observation, contributions and reading tips written by other bloggers. The book is easily read and has value but can be done without.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Review of "Superman Elseworlds Annual 6," DC comics

 Review of

Superman Elseworlds Annual 6, DC comics

Five out of five stars

The Tarzan story melded with the story of Superman

 One of the most popular fictional characters is that of Tarzan, a boy of British aristocratic origins that was raised by apes after his parents were killed when he was an infant. While there were other stories down through history of feral children being raised by animals, most notably that of Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome, Tarzan is the one most widely known. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of the Tarzan character, wrote over 20 books featuring Tarzan and the character has appeared in live-action movies, animated films, cartoons, a television series and two radio programs.

 In this comic, the rocket ship bearing the infant Kal-el does not land in the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent, but in the jungles of Africa in the late nineteenth century at the time when the British Empire was at or near its’ peak. The infant is suckled by a she-wolf and grows to be an integral member of the pack. With greater size and most of the powers associated with Superman, the developing human Tarzan becomes a power among the animals of the jungle.

 Enter two expeditions of people of European extraction, one of which contains the headstrong reporter Lois Lane and in the other the brilliant, but eccentric Lex Luthor. When there is a clash between the animals and humans, Tarzan makes contact and is befriended by Lois. She teaches him to understand English and since Tarzan is very intelligent, he learns quickly.

 Lex proves to be the nefarious and dangerous man in this story that he was in nearly all the other episodes of the Superman adventures. Through his machinations, Lex, Lois and Tarzan end up in England where Tarzan performs before amazed crowds. In a great ending, Tarzan becomes a well-known member of the British royal class and one of the most famous British literary figures appears in one of the last captions.

 While nothing in this story is really new, the melding of two old stories retold many times is perfectly done. Setting the arrival of Kal-el in Africa in the late nineteenth century was a stroke of genius. This is a great story, one of the most imaginative Superman stories ever created.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Review of "1602 Part Two," by Neil Gaiman

 Review of

1602 Part Two, by Neil Gaiman

Five out of five stars

Interesting and unusual rendering of the Marvel characters

 It is Elizabethan times where witchcraft is a clear and present danger from the leaders to the masses. Anyone with an unusual appearance or significant capabilities is in constant danger of being accused of practicing witchcraft. The British colony of Roanoke has been established in North America and Virginia Dare, the first child born in the colony, is to travel to England to meet her majesty, the Queen of England.

 Sir Nicholas Fury is an agent of the crown, working in intelligence. He encounters Carlos, a wheelchair bound man that runs a home for young people with unusual talents. As was always the case in those times, the rulers of the various sections of Europe are engaged in intrigue and manipulation against each other. Dom Daniel, an Inquisition figure in Spain, employs Wanda and Petros as his talented servants, for they retain their powers. In the land of Latveria, Count Otto von Doom is sending his agents in a quest for information and associated treasure.

All of these are easily recognized as modified characters from the modern Marvel universe. The background for the story has been very well developed, and it is clear that the misplaced individuals are in great danger. For their new world is a very dangerous one, where the slightest hint of unusual powers or even expressing an opinion contrary to dogma can get you ostracized or killed. The reader develops a strong interest in reading the entire story.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review of "The Enemy," by Lee Child

 Review of

The Enemy, by Lee Child ISBN 0385336675

Four out of five stars

Inner warfare among American military is unsettling

 While I occasionally read a military thriller, this was my first Jack Reacher novel. Reacher is an army investigator that is suddenly transferred with no real reason given. The timeframe is New Year’s Day of 1990, when the Iron Curtain is falling down with a surprisingly mild and non-violent thud. With no Soviet Red Army backed up by the Warsaw Pact forces to plan against, the U. S. military is facing a massive downsizing. This is especially true for the armored divisions in Europe, their metal fighting behemoths are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

 A general of the armored forces is on his way to a major planning conference when he stops at a seedy motel where most of the rooms are rented by the hour. He suffers a fatal heart attack when he is about to meet his connection. Reacher is called in to investigate and one of the first things he notices is that the general’s briefcase is gone. Since it had to contain an agenda for the meeting and that agenda is an important state secret, there is pressure to find it.

 Reacher makes an unwarranted and dangerous assumption, and it gets him in trouble. At times, it appears that he has no real allies in the military and when two elite Special Forces soldiers are taken down, Reacher is suspected. This puts him within the crosshairs of people that should be his allies. As expected, Reacher prevails and tracks down the perpetrators, which are most unsavory.

 The timeframe of this book was before the famous “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy of the U. S. military. Therefore, some aspects of the plot are very dated. What is most disturbing is how quick and easy other members of the military are to turn on Reacher. The placing of personal interests over that of the country by people in the military is always troubling, even when it is in a work of fiction. Reacher is also slow to grasp a very obvious major clue.

Review of "Travelers No. 8: Springtime for Vlad Tepes in Romania," comic written by Tony DiGerolamo

Review of

Travelers No. 8: Springtime for Vlad Tepes in Romania, comic written by Tony DiGerolamo

Five out of five stars

One of the most unusual opening segments

 Vlad Tepes was a ruler in the Eastern European province of Wallachia in the fifteenth century and he is the source of the legend of Count Dracula. He was the second son of Vlad Dracul, who was the ruler of Wallachia when Vlad was young. Known to history as a cruel man, few people would have voluntarily traveled to the castle of Vlad Tepes.

 In the opening of this story, a traveling circus is moving towards the castle occupied by Vlad fifty years ago. The scenery is unpleasant, yet consistent with the legends of how Vlad ruled his lands. There is a temporal shift to the present where the owner of a deli is offering up samples of what he is considering as new menu items. A woman in a fur bikini wearing a Viking hat, a small man with elf ears, and a man in a padre outfit are among the patrons.

 The plotline then takes another twist, as the reader learns that everyone in the group are vampires. They move on via a wagon and when they arrive to give a performance for a king, one of them states that they are “the jolly jugular jugglers.” A pun on the jugular vein of the neck, a prime target for the vampire. The group goes before the king and when he tries to destroy them a twist of fate that is actually a bobble saves them. In conclusion, there is a happy ever after unusual love story.

 Bizarre is a light word to describe this oddball comic. Yes, it is an overdose of the vampire plot device, but that heavy hand is lightened with humor and genuine stupidity. One does not often encounter stupidity when the characters are vampires.

Review of "Sgt. Rock 383, A Piece of Paradise," DC comics, December 1983

 Review of

Sgt. Rock 383, A Piece of Paradise, DC comics, December 1983

Five out of five stars

Great warrior yearns for peace

In war literature Sgt. Rock is almost unique. While he fits the definition of super soldier in that he is very good at what he does, Rock is always thinking along the lines of, “Why must this be done?” He reminds you of the political adage, “Those who fought in war are often the strongest proponents of peace.”

 In the title story, Rock is separated from Easy Company and falls unconscious into a mountain village that has been spared the ravages of the war in Europe. When he wakes up his uniform and weapons are gone, and he is clad in a local male outfit right out of a German Oktoberfest ad. He is told that he no longer needs his devices of war. While war does not come to the village, Rock eventually gets his equipment back and rejoins the fight.

 So many characters in the war literature are depicted as enjoying their role in the world. No so with Sgt. Rock, his thoughts on what he is doing are worthy of the most advanced philosopher. If only all the warriors and those who send them into battle thought as much about it as he does.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Review of "Yesterday’s Enterprise," season 3 episode 15 of Star Trek The Next Generation

 Review of

Yesterday’s Enterprise, season 3 episode 15 of Star Trek The Next Generation

Five out of five stars

One of the best episodes in the series

 This is another one of the episodes in STTNG where it is strongly hinted that Guinan has enormous powers. Her intuition is so acute that it can detect a change in the timeline. The premise is that some form of rift forms in space/time and the Enterprise C passes through it. In the normal timeline, it was lost with all hands, in fact it was destroyed by the Romulans.

 The Romulans were attacking a Klingon outpost and the Enterprise C was responding to the distress call when it was destroyed. When the Enterprise C passed through the time rift, there was a dramatic change in how history unfolded. In the normal timeline, the Klingons were impressed by a Federation starship defending them to the death and a peace treaty was signed between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Absent the treaty in the new timeline, the Federation and the Klingon Empire have been at war for over two decades.

 Guinan somehow senses this and convinces Picard that all is not right, for the Enterprise D is now only a warship. Tasha Yar is alive in the new timeline and she plays a major role in the attempt to reset the timeline back to what it should be.

 This episode is a strong one, indicative of what should have been given more emphasis in the series, what Guinan really is. While she clearly does not have the powers of Q, there are aspects of her existence that should have been more thoroughly explored.

Review of "Dark Horse Presents # 8 Series 2: The Massive," by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson

 Review of

Dark Horse Presents # 8 Series 2: The Massive, by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson

Five out of five stars

Ten short stories, all in a dark mood

 The name of the publisher fits the mood of these short stories. All are dark and feature bad things that have happened or seem inevitable. The range of what has gone wrong is considerable, for example the first story has as a backdrop some form of global apocalypse that has led to the death of millions of people. Britain seems to have been hit particularly hard, for it is mentioned that large numbers of people are leaving. Another features sets of talking animals, one set is composed of dogs and one cat and the other is a small herd of sheep. Otherwise, all appears normal until it is revealed that the sheep died in a barn fire.

 There is a brutal fight over demonic possession of a recently killed man, the chronicles of a brutal mercenary, a pseudo-Tarzan, a freak of nature that is repeated in the introduction of a serial story, a bizarre time loop involving cloning and a murderous granny. There are no happy endings here and little in the way of happy beginnings.

 The stories are dark, often brutal, yet oddly riveting. If you are looking for a mood uplifter or some yuks, this is not the literature for you. Yet, if you find the macabre and bizarre oddly refreshing, then these stories will work for you.

Review of "Fantastic Four 284," Revolution!, Marvel Comics Group

 Review of

Fantastic Four 284, Revolution!, Marvel Comics Group

Five out of five stars

The oppressed rise up

 The premise of this story is that Ben Grimm has quit the Fantastic Four and the She-Hulk has taken his place. However, the story opens with the She-Hulk acting like a meek and terrified slave and is being cruelly treated by a vicious overseer. She is begging for food and water along with some emaciated slaves that are being worked to death.

 She-Hulk then encounters Pearla, the former queen of the upper world. She reveals to She-Hulk that her kingdom was taken over by the Psycho-man, a villain with the ability to manipulate powerful emotions of fear and terror. She-hulk and the rest of the Fantastic Four are under the influence of Psycho-man. Pearla begs She-hulk to snap out of her fearful state, at first to no avail.

 The wicked overseer comes back and injures Pearla, snapping the She-hulk back to normal. When Pearla sees a crowd of overseers blocking their path and expresses concern, She-hulk simply says, “No problem” and makes it so.

 The rest of the Fantastic Four work together to defeat the Psycho-man and make sure that he will never again be a threat to anyone. The story ends with Sue Richards making a definitive statement about her future role in the Fantastic Four.

 This is a great story featuring She-hulk, one of my favorite comic characters. She is a strong woman in the literal and figurative sense and in my opinion the perfect replacement for Ben Grimm. While she lacks some of the humorous bent of Grimm, in her own way she is just as talented at spouting the one-liners that make light of the darkest moments.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Review of "Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: Thumbelina," DVD

 Review of

Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: Thumbelina, DVD

Five out of five stars

One of the most touching fairy tales

 The story opens with a woman conversing with a witch and she expresses her desire for a child. In response, the witch gives her a barleycorn and tells her to plant it. She does this and in a short time a plant grows, and the flower opens, revealing a very tiny girl. Small enough to fit into a walnut shell, she is given the name Thumbelina.

 One night while she is sleeping, Thumbelina is carried off by a mother toad that wants her to be the bride of her son. With the help of some fish and a butterfly, Thumbelina escapes, only to be captured by a stag beetle that wants to use her to impress his version of the ladies. He abandons her when they reject Thumbelina.

 Alone and nearly frozen as winter sets in, Thumbelina is taken in by a female field mouse. One of her friends is a mole and she tries to play matchmaker and have Thumbelina marry the mole. Out of gratitude for saving her life, Thumbelina reluctantly agrees. Fortunately, she is rescued by her friend the swallow and she eventually encounters a fairy prince her size. They quickly fall in love and she receives a pair of wings so that they can fly away together.

 The concept of the arranged marriage is much older than the concept of marrying the person that you want to, particularly for women. In this story, the small and vulnerable young girl manages to avoid her assumed fate until the right “man” comes along. The animation is excellent, the vocalization clear and well-stated and the facial expressions of all the creatures are cute and charming. Children will love the humanized creatures and the concluding romance.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Review of "The Mystery of the Deadly Double," by William Arden

 Review of

The Mystery of the Deadly Double, by William Arden

Five out of five stars

 Bob Andrews, Jupiter Jones and Pete Crenshaw make up what they call The Three Investigators. Even though they are still boys, they are very clever and wise in the ways of the world of the nefarious. Even the local police chief understands how good they are at their craft and is willing to seek their aid and counsel as well as act on their recommendations.

 In this story, Jupiter is a nearly identical twin of Ian Carew, the son of the leader of the country of Nandia. Self-declared patriots of that country are determined to kidnap Ian so that they can get leverage over his father and alter the political course of Nandia. The kidnappers are confused when they encounter two boys that look so much alike, which gives the investigators the chance to confound their schemes.

 Jupiter demonstrates that he is an extremely clever boy, when he is lost he always manages to find a way to leave clues for his partners in the investigation business. The kidnappers in this case are more determined and ruthless than the criminals that appear in similar stories. As befits a book in adolescent fiction, the clues are fairly obvious, generally within the capabilities of adolescent readers.

 While some of the approaches are a bit dated, this story has worn very well over time. It is fun to read about these boys that have built themselves a sophisticated headquarters in the middle of a junkyard. Many adolescent boys have dreamed of constructing a fort much like what these boys have built.

Review of "Star Trek Mirror Image Issue 2," comic by IDW Publishing

 Review of

Star Trek Mirror Image Issue 2, comic by IDW Publishing

Five out of five stars

An extension of the most interesting STOS episode

 Since I watched it for the first time, it has been my hope that there would be a sequel to the Star Trek Original Series episode, “Mirror, Mirror.” That statement by the Spock of the Empire universe to Captain Kirk, “I shall consider it,” is one of the best pseudo cliffhangers in all of entertainment. Unfortunately, such events have been restricted to print media.

 This comic is a prequel to the events of “Mirror, Mirror.” Captain Pike is alive and commands the Enterprise. James T. Kirk is but an ambitious officer making plans to take command. Dr. McCoy has not been on the ship for long and this installment opens with Pike putting pressure on McCoy to find information on Kirk.

 Intrigue and deception is carried out by all the officers, McCoy is playing a bit of a double game, Spock appears loyal to Pike and Scotty is clearly allied with Kirk. There is an elaborate swap with the Orions, they have dilithium crystals while the Enterprise has phasers. The swap is made, but Kirk’s real interest is in what the three slave women are wearing.

 This story is a look into the sheer ruthlessness of the officers of the Empire of the other universe. Friends and allies are transitory, existing only as long as the relationship is deemed profitable. Loyalty to a superior officer is non-existent and we see the hints of how Kirk will be able to take command by assassination of Captain Pike. It is a great story that should have been told decades before it appeared.

Review of "Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: The Emperor’s New Clothes," DVD

 Review of

Hans Christian Andersen Animated Classics: The Emperor’s New Clothes, DVD

Five out of five stars

The price of pomposity and vanity can be high

 This is one of the best fairy tales of all time, for it depicts a vain man in power that is easily manipulated as well as those that are unwilling to state truth to power. The Emperor is a powerful and wealthy man, yet he is colossally vain and insecure. Rather than being concerned with the state of his kingdom and the people in it, his focus is on having the best suit of clothes in his known world.

 Two men hear of this and decide to make their fortune by pretending to create an outfit for the Emperor that will be talked about by everyone for all time. They arrive and through sheer bravado, convince the Emperor to have them weave the garments. As part of their presentation, they claim that the cloth will be so exquisite that if a person is a fool, it will be invisible to them.

 Hard at work making their nonexistent garments, the two men pretend to weave the cloth. When people come to investigate the progress and then the supposed finished product, none have the courage to state the obvious, that the garments don’t exist.

 This situation continues right up to the point where the Emperor “wears” them in a parade through the heart of the city.  Everyone cheers and says nothing until a child blurts out, “But he doesn’t have anything on.” This breaks the spell of silence and the crowd then begins to utter similar phrases. Knowing the truth, the Emperor continues his march through the city.

 This animated story sticks very closely to the original story, the depictions of the two false weavers is wonderful. Their names, Flim and Flam were well chosen, the term flimflam man is likely of Scandinavian origin. Andersen is Danish, so this is fitting. The story is a demonstration of the power of fairy tales to accurately parody some of the faults in human behavior.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Review of "Mage: The Hero Defined, #2" by Image comics

 Review of

Mage: The Hero Defined, #2 by Image comics

Four out of five stars

Lightbat as a weapon, obnoxious hero

 This issue has three people with powers in an unlikely and unusual alliance. It opens with two of them casing an abandoned building where a captive is being held. At this point a loud, obnoxious man comes up to them and says he is “Kirby Hero, rhymes with zero.” Instead of doing the, “What are we going to do?” opening statement, Kirby punches a hole in a barrel, fills it with large rocks and tosses it through a window.

 Once the barrel is through the window, Kirby follows it, forcing the other two to follow him. Three very large birds with razor sharp talons are in the building and they must be defeated before they can do any major damage to flesh. One of the original two has a weapon that can only be described as a light sabre, with sabre replaced by a baseball bat. The other is a mender, a person that can heal wounds by a simple touch.

 It turns out that Kirby is a modern equivalent of Hercules. For bad behavior, his father has given him a set of twelve major tasks that he must accomplish. There is also some kind of magician that is an enemy of the three with powers. He employs a gang of surfer types that ride on hoverboards and talk in chopped monosyllables. For example, when the magician summons the head of the surfer gang he walks up and says, “Yo, da, you rang?”

 While a recent phenomena in the comic world, the loud, obnoxious hero character is one that is good if not overplayed. In this case, the Kirby Hero character is not, although he comes close to the edge on more than one occasion. When this story ends with a mild cliffhanger with a pointer to future action, the reader is left with the desire to read the next installment.

Review of "Superman 75: The Death of Superman," DC comics

 Review of

Superman 75: The Death of Superman, DC comics

Five out of five stars

 This comic is the last in a series depicting a major event in the comic world, the actual death of Superman. No imaginary tale, no alternate universe, the mainstream Superman dies in defending the world against the incredibly powerful Doomsday. This is a storyline that took a great deal of courage to implement, for there is no greater icon of power and invulnerability than Superman.

 The story itself is carried out very well. There is the usual punch/counterpunch when super beings battle, but there is also the emotional anguish of Superman with his fear of failure and of the normal humans that fear for his safety. In one last powerful blow delivered by both sides, both Superman and Doomsday take each other down. In the true tradition of the human tragedy, Superman dies in the arms of his beloved.

 This is truly a classic of the comic world, it depicts an event that was revolutionary in the stories depicted in the comics. While the basic plot of the death of a hero goes back thousands of years, to kill off one such as Superman is an act of literary courage.

Review of "Germans in Wisconsin," state historical society of Wisconsin

 Review of

Germans in Wisconsin, state historical society of Wisconsin

Five out of five stars

Excellent synopsis of one aspect of immigration

 There are two important points made in this small pamphlet. The first is that the immigration into the United States from Germany took place in three relatively distinct waves, and the point of origin was also largely distinct. The first took place in 1850-1855, the second from 1865 to 1875 and the third from roughly 1880 to 1890. In the first, the primary point of origin was the southwestern section of the German states, for the second, it was the northwest section and the third, the point of departure was the northeast section.

 The second point is that for the first two waves, the modern state of Germany did not as yet exist. It was a very complicated collection of states ruled by a hierarchy of royalty and other privileged classes. The various sections of what was to become the united state of Germany also had quite different backgrounds, customs and dialects of language.

 Much of the rest of the material will be very familiar to people knowledgeable about immigration into the United States from Europe. Some groups left their homeland as a religious community while others came as a result of original emissaries arriving, getting established and then sending for the balance of their group.

 While there is not enough space to go into great detail, this is an excellent primer on the people that left Germany and settled in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Review of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Little Green Men," season four, episode 8 of the series

 Review of

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Little Green Men, season four, episode 8 of the series

Five out of five stars

Area 51 revisited in a humorous way

 This episode starts simple enough, Quark has received payment for an old debt in the form of a shuttle. His nephew Nog has been accepted into Starfleet Academy, so Quark agrees to the use of his new ship to transport his brother Rom and Nog to Earth. While it may appear that Quark is demonstrating familial loyalty, he is in fact planning on smuggling a load of illegal kemocite to Earth.

 There is a failure of the shuttle and when the kemocite reacts with the warp exhaust, a temporal rift is created, and the ship is sent back in time to 1947 on Earth. To make things even better, the ship crash lands near Roswell, New Mexico.

 The three Ferengi are taken to a facility for interrogation and at first their universal translators are not working. In an attempt to get them active again, they clap their open hands to the sides of their heads, generating an amusing moment. Rom is able to repair their translators and in true Ferengi fashion, Quark immediately tries to make lucrative business deals with the humans.

However, he underestimates the military mentality, and it appears that the three Ferengi are stuck in 1947 and will essentially be prisoners in a military base. Fortunately, the ever suspicious Odo has used his shape-shifting powers to stow away aboard the ship and he manages to help free the Ferengi and allow them to board their ship and return home with the help of a nuclear explosion.

 This is a fun episode for it combines the science fiction of the series with one of the most persistent rumors/myths/secrets of the federal government. Area 51 is the reference constantly used to claim that Earth has been visited by aliens, specifically a crash by an alien ship. Combining this rumor with the science fiction series was a stroke of genius.

Review of "Bullets and Bracelets #1: Final Thrust," DC comics

 Review of

Bullets and Bracelets #1: Final Thrust, DC comics

Five out of five stars

Two heroes join together in more than one way

 Rogue Amazon Diana Prince and Trevor Castle, also known as the Punisher, have joined forces in more than one way. The story opens with them battling with members of a gang known as the Hand. They are ruthless, the only way to defeat them is to kill some of them. Diana and Trevor also have a personal history that is even more significant. They are the parents of an infant that has been kidnapped and now resides in the Granny Harkness orphanage, the place where the ruling elite of Apokolips are raised. It is a place where the children are “pounded into shape.”

 During downtime in the fight and sometimes even when the bullets are flying, Diana and Trevor bicker. They seem unable to put aside their differences for a moment, uniting only when they face Thanoseid, their primary foe. This confrontation is only after they deal with those that fight in the name of Thanoseid. In the end, Diana and Trevor are sent to an alley of significance in their lives, where they reach a possible conclusion.

  The story is gritty, a bit gory in terms of what happens to members of the Hand and the bickering between Diana and Trevor does grow a bit stale. Yet, in the end they do what parents do, which is what the reader knew all along would happen. This is a great team-up in more ways than one. The idea of offspring of superheroes in the normal biological manner always makes for interesting storylines.

Review of "Superman Action Comics 958: Path of Doom," DC comics

 Review of

Superman Action Comics 958: Path of Doom, DC comics

Five out of five stars

Alternative universe action and reaction

 The context is that Doomsday is back, Superman goes to meet him, Clark and Superman co-exist and Luthor has a super suit exoskeleton and claims to be the heir to Superman. The reason that he can do this is that it is known by all that Superman was killed by Doomsday. It is also common knowledge that Clark Kent is Superman.

 When Doomsday arrives, Superman goes to meet him and discovers that he is apparently more powerful and more tactically sound that he was before. Luthor arrives in the super suit and aids Superman in the fight. As much as he hates to admit it, in this battle Superman needs Luthor in order to stand up to Doomsday, if nothing else as a distraction.

 The battle is joined, people get in the way and Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen act as reporters, putting themselves in danger in order to get the story. There is also a young boy that has some form of Superman-like powers that flies to the assistance of Superman and a mysterious mastermind that appears to be behind the reappearance of Doomsday.

 This is a great story in all respects, the context for the battle between Superman and his greatest foe is established and the longtime enemies of Superman and Lex Luthor are now allies in fighting a foe that neither one can handle alone.

Review of "Dark Horse Presents Issue 2, Neal Adam’s Blood," produced by Dark Horse Comics

 Review of

Dark Horse Presents Issue 2, Neal Adam’s Blood, produced by Dark Horse Comics

Four out of five stars

10 cracked and demented stores

 The ten short stories in this comic cover a wide variety of situations, nearly all of which are bizarre and some of which are apocalyptic. The most “normal” story is about a female detective that is searching for a criminal she calls “Perpetrator Zero.” In the time-honored tradition of the genre, she has been pulled off cases and is being ridiculed by her co-workers for her beliefs.

 There is a parody of the superhero genre called, “Tales of Mr. Monster” that looks like it was right out of the heavily regulated late fifties. At first I thought it had the comics code authority symbol, but once I read it closely, I saw that the text is, “Ignored by the comics code authority.” No collection of demented short comic stories is complete without one featuring zombies. In this case, there are rival gangs that hire bizarre mercenaries to do their murderous dirty work.

 Unpredictable with odd and unusual twists on many of the primary plots of books and stories, this collection will keep you uncertain as you follow the storyline paths. I whiffed when it came to guessing how the stories would end.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Review of "The Last Man: Unmanned," by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Mazan Jr.

 Review of

The Last Man: Unmanned, by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Mazan Jr. ISBN 1563899809

Five out of five stars

Much more reality based situation where a gender nearly dies

 The premise of this apocalyptic tale is that nearly all the men suddenly die. They are struck by a fit of coughing up blood and are dead within seconds. The deaths are not confined to humans, most mammalian males also die, including most of the livestock.

  When all of the mass dying is over, Yorick is the only male known to have lived. The stage is set for the dramatic change of events by introducing a female super-agent known as 355, a woman about to give birth to her own clone, Yorick’s sister named Hero that works as a medical professional and Yorick having a phone conversation with what he believes is his girlfriend that is in Australia. Yorick’s mother is in politics, a member of the House of Representatives and Yorick lives in Brooklyn, New York.

 The mass dying takes place and the presidency of the United States falls to the female Secretary of Agriculture. Agent 355 is dispatched to escort the new President back to Washington. With most everything failing due to the rapid deaths and not enough competent people left to run the technological infrastructure, society is struggling.

 What I like about this story is that there is no grand process where the women band together in order to restart society. Factions emerge, one of which is made up of Republican women, wives of Congressmen that are armed and ready to take over the White House. A more fearsome group are known as the Amazons, their premise is that the world is better with the men dead. They are so radical that they engage in the self-mutilation ritual that the mythical Amazons were known for and they have no love for the women that do not follow their lead.

 This splitting of the women into factions with various levels of intensity and propensity for violence is what makes this story work. It is ridiculous to believe that with the men gone women would all come together in a wondrous moment. While there would be significant leftovers, it would only be a short time before things would run out and there would be a battle for what remains.

 Yorick is also a bit of an outlier. When he realizes that he may be the only male left and somehow immune to the deadly disease, it is clear that he may be the only hope for the survival of the human species. Rather than being eager to fill the role of the father of the human race, all he can think of is somehow reuniting with his girlfriend. Given that she was in Australia and nothing is flying, and little is floating, this comes across as incredibly foolish. Which actually works to enhance the story. He is an unusual combination of wise and foolish.

Review of "All-New Ultimates 004," comic by Marvel

 Review of

All-New Ultimates 004, comic by Marvel

Four out of five stars

Story targeted at teen girls

 Even though they have a variety of superpowers and are capable of defeating some of the worst super villains, the four females featured in this story are very much human women. They go to the beach and once down to their skimpy bathing suits, they enjoy the sun and water and talk about their lives and relationships with boys and the world.

 While there, they are hit on by young men doing what young men generally do when they encounter attractive females. Proving that they are just like normal girls, one responds to the male advance with, “. . . there are creeps everywhere. They’re not even that cute.”

 There are only a few demonstrations of superpowers, mostly by the male Spider-Man in the guise of Miles Morales. He is transporting his friend Ganke across town as only he can. The story ends in a sad cliffhanger where the friend of one of the superpowered girls runs afoul of some ruthless villains. The stage is set for some dramatic actions by the females with powers as they work to defeat the villains.

 This is a demonstration of the ways in which the audience for comics can be expanded. They talk and act like girls and dress their beautiful bodies so that the males in the vicinity will notice them.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Review of "Adam-12 10," by Western Publishing

 Review of

Adam-12 10, by Western Publishing

Four out of five stars

Comic adaptation of a classic television series

The  Adam-12 television show featured two police officers on patrol and the situations they encountered. It was rather low-key in the area of violence and it introduced the public to police jargon. The stories were true with a bit of poetic license thrown in and the goal was to depict the job of a police officer as realistically as possible. Therefore, there was a lot of relative dead time in the sense that there was a lot of routine and mundane police work.

 This comic is an adaptation of the series and it adheres to the basic format of the show. One bullet is fired by a villain and the officers are depicted as showing great restraint in returning fire for fear of hitting the innocent.

There are two stories in this comic, one is about an art fence that accepts stolen property for resale. The other features a villain that steals a cab and uses it to rob wealthy passengers. Both are very much in the seventies comic universe in terms of the language and in all cases they are depicted as good cops where no moral ambiguity can be inferred.

 A simple comic about a classic television show, this is a look back to a time when comics and television was nowhere near the cutting edge.

Review of "Color Your Own Cerebus in Hell?," by Aardvark-Vanaheim

 Review of

Color Your Own Cerebus in Hell?, by Aardvark-Vanaheim

Five out of five stars

An adult coloring book and a parody of Christian purgatory

 While all people in adolescence and beyond can color in this book, it is clear that it is designed for people that aspire to create comic books and cartoons. It will take a fine and steady hand to color most components of these images, excellent training for the artist.

 The story itself features Cerebus the Aardvark in purgatory along with many classic philosophers engaged in debates over issues trivial and occasionally important. Socrates and Plato are identified by name. For example, there are two captions where Cerebus asks the philosophers “’sup, guys?” The response from a philosopher is, “We were just discussing the right to privacy versus the public’s right to be well-informed.” Cerebus then says, “For instance?”, and the philosopher’s response is, “High-resolution color photos of botched celebrity book jobs.”

Most of the images are from the depiction of purgatory throughout Christian history, so to understand the context of the comic as a parody, it is necessary to know something about the history of how the Christian purgatory has been depicted in ancient times. For all others, they can simply enjoy the challenge of difficult coloring tasks.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Review of "Red Randall on Active Duty," by R. Sidney Bowen

 Review of

Red Randall on Active Duty, by R. Sidney Bowen

Four out of five stars

A story of WWII era super soldiers

 This book was published in 1944, when World War II was raging. The setting is the Pacific Theater, and it features pilots Red Randall and Jimmy Joyce. The timeframe is shortly after the Japanese launched their surprise attack against the United States, Bataan has not yet fallen, in fact General MacArthur is still in the Philippines.

 The two pilots are stationed in Darwin, Australia and are anxious to get into the action. When a small unit of Japanese planes attack Darwin, they rise to meet them and are successful in their attack. They are suddenly withdrawn and assigned to a secret mission that is to take them to the Philippines. They fly off a carrier and while they are able to fight off a Japanese fighter, they crash land near a Japanese held island.

 Their adventure then takes an incredulous path, where they manage to evade the Japanese, get back in the air and single-handedly deal the Japanese a major blow. It is the super soldier genre form of war propaganda, where the heroes are able to do the seemingly impossible and emerge alive from the other side. Modern readers will also be amused by the language used by the pilots as they face and overcome their dangers.

 It is a good story, but only if you read it through the filter of the war fury and language restrictions of the time.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review of "The Prime Mover," season 2 episode 21 of the Twilight Zone

 Review of

The Prime Mover, season 2 episode 21 of the Twilight Zone

Three out of five stars

Very predictable and uninteresting outcome

 Ace Larson and his partner Jimbo Cobb are co-owners of a small café in Nevada. There is a single slot machine near the door and Ace plays it often in an attempt to make a quick score. Ace’s girlfriend works as a waitress and has not been paid for some time. The two men share a simple room, so it is clear that they have very little money.

 One night a car overturns and lands next to an electrical power transmitter. With the hot wires on the car and sparking, there is nothing that Ace can do. However, Jimbo demonstrates the ability to move objects using only his mind. When Ace is convinced that the power is genuine, he immediately contacts his girlfriend and the three of them go to Las Vegas.

 Jimbo’s power is indeed genuine and Ace wins massive amounts of money at the gaming table. Ace completely ignores his girlfriend, and she rebels at the change in Ace over his ability to win at the games. Ace is completely caught up in his success and he contacts the most well known high roller that is in town and finds another girl. Even though Jimbo objects and tells Ace that he is getting tired, Ace simply ignores him.

 The obvious happens at the big game and then there is the predictable ending where all are back at the café. To many, this is a happy ending, to others, not so much. This is a story that has appeared many times with many different paths to the temporary success. In this case it is not well played with nothing in the way of tension.

Review of "Star Trek The Tabukan Syndrome," episode 40 of the comic book series

 Review of

Star Trek The Tabukan Syndrome, episode 40 of the comic book series

Five out of five stars

The trap is closed on Federation enemies

 In this story, James Kirk is in command of the Enteprise and Zulu is in command of the Excelsior. There have been massive explosions at the Tabukan arsenal and Zulu sends a message to the Enterprise requesting assistance. Zulu informs Kirk that all casualties have been evacuated and the Excelsior is moving a safe distance away from the arsenal in case the remaining munitions explode.

 The Maroans are a race with starships that have made an alliance of convenience with the Romulans. Brekara is the leader of the Maroans and is aboard a Romulan ship. The plan is to have a Maroan assault force attack the arsenal and take control of all the remaining Federation weapons with the Romulans standing by.

 However, Kirk and Zulu have in fact set a trap for the Maroans, the assault is quickly thwarted and the Romulans reach the immediate conclusion that they must withdraw. The Romulan commander also reaches the conclusion that an alliance with the Maroans is unrealistic.

 This is the conclusion of a six-part story. The trap is well played, Kirk and Zulu demonstrate that there are no star ship commanders that are better than they are. It is a good story, a worthy addition to the continuing original series saga.

Review of "Nick of Time," season 2, episode 7 of the Twilight Zone

 Review of

Nick of Time, season 2, episode 7 of the Twilight Zone

Three out of five stars

Shatner is unable to pull this one out

 This episode stars William Shatner of Star Trek the original series and Patricia Breslin as a newlywed couple driving through the country. When the fuel pump goes out in their car in a small town in Ohio, they are told it will take 3 to 4 hours before it is fixed. To pass the time, they go into a small café for lunch.

 When they sit down in a booth they see a napkin dispenser with a slot for pennies. If you deposit a penny, ask a yes or no question and press a lever, you will get a slip of paper with a fortune written on it. The Shatner character quickly becomes enamored of the machine, asking it questions about his career and future life, including where the couple will live. Nearly all the answers are the vague, indeterminate type that are subject to personal interpretation.

 Nevertheless, the Shatner character grows to believe in the machine, even though every outcome could have simply been coincidental. Finally, his wife grows so frustrated with him that she begins to protest and insist that they leave the town when they learn that their car is repaired. There is no real suspense or tension here, although there is a hint at the end that there is perhaps more to the town than was indicated earlier.

 I paid very close attention to Shatner in this role. Those experienced in watching the Star Trek original series will note several mannerisms where Shatner does more than is necessary. It is easy to see the future Captain Kirk, yet that is not enough to save what is a rather dull episode.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Review of "The Mind and the Matter," season 2, episode 27 of the Twilight Zone

 Review of

The Mind and the Matter, season 2, episode 27 of the Twilight Zone

Four out of five stars

The old myth of King Midas retold

 Most of the stories that appear in recent entertainment media are simply modern restatements of myths. Specifically, those we are most familiar with, those of the ancient Greeks. This episode is a retelling of the ancient myth of King Midas, who wanted everything he touched turned into gold. It is a story of being careful what you wish for, you just might get it and not like it.

 Archibald Beechcroft is a man that lives in a small apartment, rides a crowded subway to work, steps into a packed elevator to go to the proper floor and shares a noisy office space where he does paperwork for an insurance company. Fed up with human clutter and the noise it makes, his wish is that he not have to interact with people.

 The one co-worker that he seems to get along with gives him a copy of a book about the power of the mind and he devours it. Archibald suddenly discovers that he has acquired incredible mental powers and he wishes that all people are gone. He is astonished when that happens and he has the subway, elevators and his office all to himself.

 Of course, with no other humans to interact with, he quickly finds himself bored and unstimulated. An exterior version of himself serves as an active critic, letting him know that things are nothing like what he wanted. Fortunately, when Archibald reaches the conclusion that his old life was about as good as it was going to get, he still has the power to turn back the context. He is not content, just resigned to his fate in what is the best life he could have.

 This episode is a demonstration of the reality that if you want to be successful in creating interesting and entertaining stories, the best place to start is with the most ancient of myths. With the exception of technological advancement, nothing in them has changed all that much.