Monthly Archives: June 2013

Age of Despair

Assemble!

Hello, Marvel Writers!

As you know, in my last letters, I have asked continuously why certain things have been done. Why the heroes have made oddball decisions; why they’ve been torn apart and rebuilt; why they have lost all common sense. I am now leaving the so-called ‘Why Phase’ behind. Now I am going to supply my own answers to the why. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.

But I don’t believe I am wrong, fellow writers. Here are my answers:

The reason that you disassembled the Avengers in the story arc by the same name was the same reason that DC attempted to kill Superman. Heroes weren’t heroes, or clear cut good guys, in anyone’s opinion anymore. They couldn’t be trusted to stand for righteousness and the greater good. If no one in reality could, then why ‘spare’ the superheroes and heroines of your fiction?

Iron Man disbanded the Avengers because he had been in the worst, most heart wrenching battle of his life. No one could make him stay. Once he quit the others would follow, albeit reluctantly, since he was one of the pillars of the team. Oh, and those times he had quit the team previously, when he was having a seriously rough day? Those were the times when Cap (or someone else) led the Avengers until Tony felt up to coming back or he was desperately needed. No one would remember those incidents. Disassembled would make them forget.

You decided that having Mockingbird divorce Hawkeye and sending the archer on a dating spree afterward would be fine. After all, thousands of other people do it. So why should this be different in the fictional world?

And as for all the other romances and implied flings, it’s no secret that Hawkeye was an incurable flirt prior to marrying Bobbi. No one would care if he dated Echo and Spider-Woman. He’d already had a fling with Moonstone, after all. There’s not much farther one could fall after that.

At least Echo and Spider-Woman fight on the side of the Avengers. That was a small consolation. And I mean very small.

Some of you might say, “What about Cap? He hasn’t gone into the drain pipe along with a lot of other characters.” That’s an easy enough question to answer. Cap’s nearly incorruptible as a character; if anyone tried, there would be a massive outcry from the fans. You can kill almost everyone else in the Marvel Universe twenty times over and turn them insane as a result, and no one will complain too loudly.

But if you lay a finger on Cap’s character, or try to pervert him in any overt way, ninety percent of Marvelites will have a tantrum fit to rock the world. So since he’s as nearly untouchable spirit-wise as a character can be, the only things left to do to him are physical: death, shape change (with unnecessary disgusting results), and a rest period. And even that has to be temporary. Otherwise, Marvelites rise in a furor and you lose their business.

As for the X-Men, since Wolverine has become popular over the past few years, the best way to make the X-Men comics sell better was to give him a more prominent role on the team. The most important part of any team is the position of leader. Cyclops was everyone’s idea of the X-Men’s best field commander; especially when the Professor somehow divorced himself from his principles (he’s dead now, too, so it would be hard to change that). On top of this, Magneto had (finally) been reformed and saw things the way the X-Men did.

But that robbed the X-Men of their greatest nemesis. Well, since you wanted Wolverine in the spotlight and needed a new archenemy, why not kill two birds with one stone, and have Cyclops turn away from his responsibilities to take Magneto’s place as the most dangerous mutant alive?

Except, given her history, Jean wouldn’t stand for such a decision on Scott’s part. So she ended up dead – until she was needed at some point in a typical apocalyptic X-Men future. Still, this left Cyclops without a partner. The partner would have to be telepathic to continue the dynamic fans were familiar with when Jean and Cyke were still together. That left the cold-hearted, ever shifty Emma Frost to be Scott Summers’ next partner prior to his downward spiral. It’s beginning to look more and more like a perfect match the farther down the road Cyke goes, too.

Then there were the wars between heroes, starting first with Civil War and heading into Round Two with Avengers vs. X-Men. Fans have speculated for years about which heroes are more powerful than others. So far, I’d say the Hulk outdoes everybody; the next strongest would be Thor (though he has had a lot of punishment from the Hulk previously). Ben Grimm would come in a solid third (no pun intended).

So who would win in battle between each other, Cap or Iron Man? Hawkeye or the Wasp? The Thing or Namor (who does NOT qualify as a mutant)? Wolverine or Cyclops?

The Marvel Universe was torn up to answer these inane, inconsequential questions. If people wanted to see which heroes are stronger than which, it would have been better to do what Legolas and Gimli did in The Lord of the Rings; have a contest to see who could take down more bad guys faster, better, etc. There’s also the idea of ‘play fights,’ where camaraderie is at the heart of the duel. There wouldn’t be any real need for the Hulk or Thor to hold back in such a fight; it would just be pure fun for the two of them. That would be better than watching great allies and, more often than not, great friends, trying to knife each other or blast the other to atoms.

As for bringing back the Phoenix Force and writing up another Summers’ child (is she Jean’s and Cyke’s daughter, or is she Cyclops’ and someone else’s? I still don’t have that straight) as a so-called ‘Phoenix Messiah,’ that was just to get the ball rolling for another superhero war. This one was to answer the question of whether it was the X-Men or the Avengers who were the stronger team. Considering the X-Men were split nearly down the middle, it wouldn’t be hard to have the outcome be the Avengers. (On a side note, naming the ‘Phoenix Messiah’ Hope was a lame idea. Rachel and Nathaniel Summers are stronger names.)

You disbanded the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. because spy stories were ‘so last century.’ SHIELD may not be high in anyone’s esteem for its espionage work, but it was the eyes and ears for several of the heroes and several of the teams. Without the agency, the heroes are left flying as blind and deaf as a plane with no radar and a dead radio. Any information that SHIELD could give them about their enemies or potential threats is now gone. Any villain they capture is no longer taken care of by the moderately able organization (it is hard to imprison determined super villains, after all).

Of course, I’m sure you didn’t really mean to do that. Just the price of literary trends, after all; reason is always first under the bus.

Then there are the Marvel Zombies and Ultimate lines. The zombies were to capitalize on the undead mania that swept the world during the nineties and early twenty-first century. And while it is still going today, it has lost some momentum. I hope it runs completely out of steam; I’m fed up with it. Same plots, same endings, same hopeless situation for the protagonists in every story. And, oh yeah, everybody dies at the end. How BORING.

The Ultimate series was written to exploit the heroes hitherto non-existent ‘Dark Sides.’ You couldn’t use the ‘mainstream’ comics for this; there was too much history for the heroes there. If they all suddenly turned into psychotic flirts and murderers, fans would be furious (rightly so) and retaliate. So a spin-off series was devised for the ‘Ultimate’ stories, which are the equivalent of mad scientists cooking up monstrosities in the basement of a dark, dank castle. Every Ultimate version of a Marvel character is as gross and perverted as Igor and the monster of Frankenstein legend.

So, am I right about these answers to the ‘Why,’ fellow writers? I think I am.

This is a crime all the way through. The heroes do not deserve this; we, the fans and readers-in-passing, do not deserve this negative nonsense shoved down our throats in nearly every issue. Heroes are not meant to have ‘dark sides’ that can explode at the flip of some invisible switch at your fingertips, which makes you cackle with glee. We’re not laughing at the changes the switch shows off. Neither should you, and this is why.

When you drop a hammer, do you need to watch it to know it falls? When it rains, do you go out with a watering can and pour water on the flowers in your garden? When you write, do you use a spoon to put down the words?

When a hammer falls, it makes a noise on contact with the ground. When it rains, the flowers are being watered. When one writes, they use a pen, pencil, or a keyboard.

Heroes are like hammers, heroes are like the rain, and heroes do not change their attitudes or beliefs for anyone or anything. Sometimes their allegiance changes, yes; but only when the organization they gave it to is no longer worthy of their loyalty.

Heroes have doubts. Heroes have flaws. Heroes get into disagreements with each other. They have tempers. They make mistakes. But they do not become psychotic killers at the drop of a hat; they do not attempt to kill the friends and teammates who have saved their lives countless times in countless different scenarios.

Heroes do not have spontaneous flings that stop almost as fast as they start. If they fall for someone, something really drastic has to happen to change their mind about them. Caring is not an on/off switch or a toy to a hero.

Heroes are grounded in the principles of right and they have what the bad guys don’t have.

They have people in their lives that they care about: wives, husbands, children, siblings, friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, fiancés, colleagues, parents, etc. They see ordinary people struggling who care about their families and friends, too. And since they have the power to help them, they fight the villains who would make the struggle worse for these everyday people.

The villains don’t have that. When was the last time Dr. Doom, Apocalypse, Kang, Mr. Sinister, or any of the other villains, truly cared about anyone but themselves? If they did, even for a little while, they would have stopped trying to take over the world or stopped trying to destroy it. Even when they said they loved someone, they didn’t stop their plans. They went ahead with them. That’s what makes them evil.

It is this foundation in the principles of right that makes heroes good.

This is how and why fans, readers, and viewers connect with Marvel Heroes. This is what makes the characters great.

And this is what you have been ripping out of them for the past twenty years.

Sincerely,

Mithril (An Angry True Believer)

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Optimus Prime and Death

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

Hello, fellow writers!

I’m pretty sure you’ve guessed today’s topic from the title.  Why, in almost every television series, book series, and comic line, does Optimus Prime have to die at least once?  There is no real reason that I can see for making this a tradition in the genre; it is unnecessary in the extreme.

To make room for new toys, in the 1986 animated movie Transformers: The Movie, Hasbro killed Optimus Prime despite his great popularity.  They came to rue this when children stopped watching the series and, to save sales, finally brought him back at the end of the series.  Since that time Optimus has been killed and revived, phoenix fashion, for at least twenty years.  He cannot die permanently (unless the series is ending) because of the possibility of another unprecedented fan revolt.

So why yo-yo him back and forth between life and death?  The first few times, and for new viewers or fans, it has the desirable effect of drawing them into the story.  But the rest of us react with either an eye roll or a deep sigh of, “Here we go again.”

Please, does this have to go on?  There has to be a better way of selling more toy models of his ‘upgraded’ forms than killing Optimus Prime and bringing him back.  It’s gotten more than a little tiresome to watch, and his death speeches are so recycled that they’re hardly prose anymore.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with Optimus narrowly surviving a near miss or getting severely injured and having to fight his way back onto his feet.  Being ‘dead’ for five minutes (instead of for an entire episode, line of stories, or a whole film) also works just fine, as it did in Transformers: Prime.  All characters get hurt, and Optimus is no less vulnerable than his soldiers, mentally or physically (though he may outlast many of them).  My issue is with his constantly leaving for the great beyond and then getting yanked back via crazier and crazier methods.

Are you listening, fellow writers at Marvel Comics?  That goes for you guys playing tug o’ war with your characters, too!

We’ve seen Optimus die enough.  The first time in Transformers: the Movie, later in various television shows, and finally coming full circle in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  We get the point.  So does Optimus; he has more holes in him than a pincushion. 

I think we could do with a rest, fellow writers.  Don’t you?

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Very Tired Fan)

Villains

Trickshot (Barney Barton)

Trickshot (Barney Barton)

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Have you noticed how certain villains never seem to take a break in the Marvel Universe?  Dr. Doom is always a neat bad guy to have the heroes fight; there’s almost nothing scary he can’t dream up.

Others, well, not so much.

For instance, let’s take a look at Henry Pym’s self-adapting, berserk-o android Ultron.  I have to admit, it’s a pretty good bad guy.  Very like the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, it wants to wipe out humanity; especially the Avengers and specifically Henry Pym.

Not a bad back story.  But can’t it have a rest for a few years?  Right now, Ultron has sent his androids from the future (isn’t that Kang’s bailiwick?) to finish off humanity.  From what I’ve read, he’s done a pretty good job, though it won’t last.  Somehow or other the whole attack is going to get nipped in the bud, the world will go back to the way it was, and Wolverine and a few of the other heroes are going to be the only ones who recall what Ultron almost succeeded in doing.  And then, of course, some other universe-shattering disaster will occur to keep the heroes strained to the breaking point.

I’m sorry; but this is a tired plot.  Pardon my pandiculation.

The same goes for Kang, the Conqueror.  The guy rules the fortieth century and can’t keep his greedy mitts off of ours, whether it’s the twentieth century or the twenty-first.  He has tech beyond even Tony Stark’s most delicious dreams, yet he can’t defeat one little band of determined ‘primitives.’  Way to go, Avengers!!!

Still, it’s a little tiresome right now to have them dodging the futuristic emperor of a galaxy only their farthest descendants will know.  Does he have to keep coming back right now (literally)?

I for one am fed up with the Phoenix Force coming to harangue the X-Men, and now the Avengers, over and over again.  Give it a rest, please!!!  The Phoenix is almost as trite an enemy now as a simple bank robber.  We’ve seen enough.

There are better villains to throw at the X-Men.  I am really, really tired of the Phoenix Force.

Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister have also lost their edge.  Apocalypse has nearly the same m.o. as Kang and Ultron while Mr. Sinister is trying to outdo Dr. Frankenstein.  These guys, apparently, never think that they’re stretching themselves too thin.  But there’s literally nothing new in the plots that have the X-Men or members of the team facing off against either of them over some diabolical plan they haven’t already tried in past arcs.  Why not send them to the beach to catch a few rays and give the heroes a few years’ breather?

As for Norman Osborne – why isn’t he dead now?  Or at least in an insane asylum?  I know he makes a great Green Goblin, but he’s gotten awfully tedious.  Retiring him for a few years and giving the suit to some other villain (preferably not to Harry Osborne, poor kid!) would be a refreshing twist.

Can some other, less used villains, get a chance back in the limelight for a few years?  Ultron, Kang, the Phoenix, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, and Norman Osborne have been used so much lately that they’re downright boring.

What about Trickshot, Atlas, Moonstone, and the other evil members of the Thunderbolts?  They could make an entirely new cabal of villains who would at least give the heroes some exercise.  It would be interesting to see the Cain/Abel relationship between Trickshot and Hawkeye developed a little further; the World’s Greatest Marksman is definitely hurting from his brother’s change of heart.  Having him and Mockingbird go up against Barney Barton would be exciting; it could certainly re-launch their romance.

What about the Shadow King?  Isn’t he still floating around somewhere?  It’s been a while since Deathbird dropped by the X-Mansion, too (guess she’s still embarrassed about being defeated by a lone archer when the entire team of X-Men had trouble thwarting her).  Juggernaut’s been away for some time, as have Toad, Blob, Avalanche, and Pyro.  Now those guys knew how to wreck stuff!

Doc Ock is currently residing in Spider-Man’s head.  How soon can we have him back in tentacles trying to shish-kabob the Wallcrawler, and getting webbed up for his pains?  The Kingpin’s been laying low these days, too, as have Spidey regulars Hobgoblin, Electro, and the Lizard.

Did Venom and Carnage finally leave on a rocket into deep space?  Those two gave Spidey a run for his money, and it wouldn’t be hard for them to do it again.

Then there’s the Red Skull, the Mandarin, Baron Zemo, Zodiac, Red Hulk (who really, really shouldn’t be an Avenger), the Scorpion, the Grizzly, the Rhino, Sandman, Crossfire, the Ghost, Mystique – when can she, Rogue, and Nightcrawler have another hash-out fight?  It’s been some time since they did that.

Where have Loki, the Enchantress, and Skurge been?  And the Kree?  Then there’s The Leader, Crimson Dynamo, and the Abomination.  Are they all on vacation in the Bahamas?

The Serpent Society and the Wrecking Crew could do with some attention.  It would be interesting to see Natasha Romanoff facing off with her ex, Alexai Shostakov (a.k.a. the Red Guardian turned ‘new’ Ronin).  Mole Man is still alive, isn’t he?  Even if all he did was give the FF a case of the giggles, it would be nice to see him again.

The heroes don’t need ‘shaking up,’ fellow writers.  If anything, they need a breather.  Sending the less-than-Earth-shattering villains to harass them would be a nice change of pace.  Who knows, maybe it would be just as exciting as watching the big guys who’ve been hounding them.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Bored, Tired, and Troubled True Believer)

Book Review: A ‘Crystal’ Moment

CS 2

Hey, Murdock!

What did you do to make B.A. yell at you now?  I hope that a plane didn’t conk out on you guys again.

You were talking to your invisible dog again.  Murdock, sometimes I think you like making the big guy angry with you.  I know he kind of resembles Chewie, but you’re not Han Solo.  One of these days you might push him too far.

Well, yeah, you do have good flying skills, like Han’s.  But I still think you’re pushing it.

What did I want to talk about?  Well, I just gave you a hint, H.M.

Yeah, the subject is Star Wars, one of the books for it.  It’s called Star Wars: The Crystal Star, by Vonda N. McIntyre.  She doesn’t do bad work, at least not that I’ve read, and Crystal Star is no exception.

However, I must admit that I do have a few problems with it.  For starters, I kind of feel like – well, like she purposely made Luke, Leia, and Han a little too slow.  Not in physically keeping up with their enemies but in how they worked out their responses mentally; they just didn’t seem to move fast enough.  Essentially I feel like they were ‘dumbed’ down a few notches. 

For starters, we’ll look at Luke.  In The Crystal Star he falls under the spell of a strange alien being that seems to possess the ability to heal people.  I don’t buy Luke falling under its spell.  While the being does heal…there are strings attached.

Because when it’s hungry, it does just the opposite of healing.  Han is present for one of these ‘healing’ events and gets emotionally sick just from watching, and he has no Force abilities.  Han’s reaction upsets Luke and causes friction between them, friction that I don’t think was really necessary.  It’s not the only source of hostility between them, but it leads to other problems with their friendship that I really don’t think were needed. 

As for Leia:  she, Chewie, twins Jaina and Jacen Solo, and three (and a half) year old Anakin Solo are all planet-jumping on another diplomatic mission.  They’ve stopped off on a backwater planet and suddenly, during the frilly diplomatic chatter, all three Solo children vanish from their nearby playground and Leia doesn’t even realize this has happened. 

For two hours (I’m afraid McIntyre doesn’t make this part totally clear) Leia is unaware of anything.  Then, from the children’s native guardian, she learns that Chewie is hurt and the children are gone.  Although she wants to chase after them immediately, the locals say she shouldn’t ascoupkidnappings are part of the local culture and she’ll shame the culprits (whom they believe are local but whom Leia is sure have Dark Side powers and came from off world) into hurting the one native being that disappeared with her children.

McIntyre, I must say, handles Leia’s shock and fear over this matter rather well.  Still, I doubt that Leia would just ignore R2-D2 if he seemed to want her to follow him.  She ought to have known the droid long enough to know when he had something important to tell her.  As for her fear, this isn’t the first time her children have been targeted in the books.  Considering this, Leia should have been better able to deal and act on her fear than she does in Crystal Star

This also points out a weak spot in McIntyre’s story: Leia’s personal honor guard protect her and her children.  Yet the Noghri of earlier stories aren’t even mentioned in Crystal Star; the only real security for the children here is Chewbacca.  Leia’s lightsaber, twin to Luke’s in color, is also never mentioned.

I’m lost on why these were left out, to be honest.  This is mostly continuity nit-picking on my part, but it still kind of rubs me the wrong way.

The part of the story that really hits the mark, though, is the part that focuses on the captured Solo children.  The viewpoint McIntyre chooses to use is that of Jaina Solo, the older Solo twin and, as such, the oldest Solo heir.  As mechanically savvy as her father and as sensitive as her mother, with the determination and stubbornness of both her parents (plus some from her rather bull-headed uncle, and I say that as a compliment), Jaina works hard to get her twin and younger brother to safety.

I can’t get into too much detail here, H.M.  Sorry, but I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who does have access to it.  Suffice it to say that while Jaina does get her twin back as well as rally other Force-sensitive children being held with them to fight against their captor, Hethrir, it takes her longer to rescue Anakin.  When she does reach him, he has already been rescued by her mother and father.  The one who needs rescuing now, more so than her mother and father, is her uncle.

Interestingly, all three children call their parents to come back from – well, we’ll call it the edge of temptation.  No, Murdock, I can’t be any more specific than that!

Han needs no real saving from this.   Jacen and Anakin easily awaken their mother to her danger, returning her to her senses.  But even Leia seems unable to bring Luke back from the cliff face of darkness.

That’s when Jaina calls, “Uncle Luke!”

Somehow, the voice of his five year old niece snaps Luke awake.  He, Leia, and Han escape.  But Luke, as the only trained Jedi, is still more than a little depleted from his battle, and Jaina and Jacen are set to watch over him as their family escapes the dying crystal star. 

At the end, of course, Luke pulls through – there wouldn’t be any more books if he didn’t!  What intrigues me about this story, though, is how adult Jaina behaves.  You have to remember while reading the book that she’s not eight or even ten; she’s five but thinks as though she’s older (though she admittedly has a ‘young child’ mentality or untainted view of the galaxy).

And the most interesting thing about the story, Murdock, is how it is her frightened call that summons her lost uncle back to his senses.  A feat her father, mother, and her brothers somehow didn’t accomplish, despite the fact that the latter three are all strong in the Force without any formal lessons in using it.  It is responsible, stubborn, courageous Jaina who finally, finally, awakens her Uncle Luke to his danger.

“And the children shall lead?”  I think so, Murdock.  But what connection is there between her and her uncle?  That’s something I’d like to know more about, frankly; more than I want to study her relationships with the rest of her family.  Five called to Luke, one received an answer: Jaina Solo.  It certainly is something to think about.  Or chew on.

Of course I’m making a funny!  You’re not being crazy now, Murdock, just absurd.

Okay, that’s more like it – you and your invisible dog.

Uh, H.M.?  B.A. is calling you and he doesn’t sound happy.  I think I’ll split now, while the splitting is good. 

            Later,

Mithril

All Webbed Up

Spider-Man

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Amazing!  Spectacular!  Scarlet!  Iron!  Superior!  Ultimate!

How many other superlatives are going to fit in front of Spider-Man?  Personally, I was quite satisfied with ‘amazing.’ 

Adjectives aside, Peter Parker’s life has hit the ditch.  He and M.J. are no longer married (why?), Aunt May has gone and married J. Jonah Jamieson (!! 😛 !!!), and recently, Doc Ock took over Spidey’s body and appears to have killed him.

That’s not going to last, I’m sure.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really liked the thought of ol’ Webhead and Mary Jane getting married.  You say you guys split them up because she was more of a confidante for him.  What better confidante can he have other than a wife?  After all the pain he’s been through (and continues to endure), the unluckiest hero’s personal life was at least looking a little brighter than it had previously while he and M.J. were together.  He deserved it, I believe; especially when everyone else in his life was getting battered to pieces. 

I’m talking about Norman Osborne, who refuses to leave for the great beyond. Harry Osborne – I don’t even know what’s happened to him lately, other than he’s been killed and brought back to life.  Flash has suddenly become a double amputee. Aunt May has married J. Jonah Jamieson (fixing her up with Phil Coulson was less disgusting).  And Madame Web is dead, with former super-heroine Arachne taking her place (and what about Arachne’s daughter?  NCIS isn’t a nursery, after all).

With all this going on, it’s a wonder Pete’s not in hiding.  Not to mention his new responsibilities as an Avenger, and he’s not on the best of terms with several of his teammates right now.

It’s like Spidey’s whole world – not to mention the world of all the other super heroes – has spun out of orbit (oops, pardon the pun).  His life’s begun pinballing in a thousand different, crazy, illogical directions all at once. 

What happened, not just to Spidey, but to all the heroes?  Everything was going just fine, and then some sort of crazy bomb went off and the Marvel Universe was torn to tatters.  Friendships broke, characters were shattered, disasters erupted, and all the good guys suddenly developed nearly psychotic dark sides that they can’t seem to keep in check.

Real life doesn’t work like that.  People don’t just abruptly cut loose into insanity en masse.  If they did, we’d be in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse right now.  Why should the Marvel Universe suddenly develop this unreasonable tilt to its axis?

Yes, I know our Webslinger is traditionally thrown into the meat grinder.  He really ought to be inducted into the “Most Tortured Superhero” Hall of Fame.  That’s not the issue here.  The problem is that this isn’t the meat grinder; this is the shredder.  Spider-Man and many others are being shredded and then taped back together improperly.

They don’t deserve this.  More importantly, the fans and readers-in-passing don’t deserve this.  It has got to stop, and soon, or the Wallcrawler and several of his contemporaries are barely going to be salvageable.  Spidey’s too good to die off completely in the hearts of fans.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be remembered well once the shredder has been unplugged and he’s been put back together.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled and Frustrated True Believer)

Innocent Thirteenth

Ori

Hey, DiNozzo!

Klondike bar!  Thank you.

You will have to buy me a Klondike for as long as I deem it necessary, Tony.  Next crack about a book and I’ll have to think of a worse punishment.  There’s those cat’ o’ nine tails, and then there’s the rack.  Nasty, nasty torture device; I know plenty of characters stretched out on it right now, too.  Sad, I like most of them, and I’m not the one who put them there.

If you seriously find those torture devices of too little severity after watching Brave, then I suppose I could always sign you up for rock climbing lessons.  Then there’s parachute jumping – but you already did that one.

I got it!  Jogging!

Weeell, when you offer me a month of Klondike bars, I guess I could leave it at that.  All right, it’s a deal.

Right, to business then.  So, this note is about the most innocent dwarf in Thorin’s company.  He’s the youngest, and youth and innocence tend to go hand in hand (at least they do in stories).  His name is Ori.

Yes, he’s the one who asks Bilbo, “What should I do with my plate?”

Now notice – notice! – he is the only dwarf to ask that.  All of the dwarves have tramped into Bilbo’s hole, “pillaged the pantry” as he himself put it, and have set the rest of his house in absolute disorder.  And here comes the youngest dwarf to ask about his dirty plate, like any child at a dinner party that isn’t sure of his manners.

I guess it’s a good thing that Bilbo never got to answer him.  Heaven only knows what he’d have said!

Next, during the song “Blunt the Knives,” Ori is tasked with putting the clean plates on the table.  He has to carry them – stacked so that they’re over his head – to the table without dropping and breaking one.  No one helps him because they’re busy cleaning everything up (and having a little fun with him, too, I think).

As he goes, Ori keeps his eyes on the stack, obviously worried that he may drop a dish.  Luckily he doesn’t.

Another indication of his innocence is Ori’s weapon of choice.  Most of the dwarves carry axes or swords.  I believe Bifur has a halberd, and all Bombur seems to fight with is his ample stomach.  Kili appears to be the only dwarf with a bow and Thorin carries the Elf blade Orcrist, or Goblin Cleaver.  And what does little Ori wield? 

A sling shot. 

Ori’s only weapon is a small sling shot.  He may have a sword, but he doesn’t seem to use it much.  He fires at an orc chief on his Warg just before Gandalf leads the company to Rivendell’s back door.  The stone hits the Warg in the snout and the monster merely shakes its head, the way it would if a fly had just bitten it.

David (of Goliath fame) Ori is not.

On top of this, all the other dwarves seem to be protective of him.  After Bilbo, he is the one they make sure to keep a close eye on.  Thorin sends him into the cave that leads to Rivendell after he fires at the orc with his slingshot, and only when the Great Goblin under the Misty Mountains suggests that they start torturing Ori first does Thorin respond to the orc’s questions.  

Orc is the hobbit word for goblin, Tony.  Oh, brother.  You know you could at least look these guys up on the Internet if you’re that against reading the book.

Oh, very funny.

Anyway, back to Ori.  When the dwarves get cornered in the trees of the forest at the foot of the Misty Mountains, Ori is helpful in tossing burning pine cones against the Wargs.  When the tree that Ori and the rest of the company have been forced to share starts to fall, Ori is nearly their first casualty.  Only Dori’s quick grab saves him from being a greasy spot on the ground.  And later, only Gandalf’s staff is keeping the two of them from becoming dwarf blotches.  This is another sign of how protective the company is of their youthful member.

It’ll be interesting to watch where Ori goes from here.  He didn’t get a lot of screen time in the theater cut of An Unexpected Journey, and that doesn’t appear to be likely to change in The Desolation of Smaug.  But the only way to find out is to watch the next movie.

Of course I’m going to watch it.  You didn’t think that I only went to the theater to see this one movie, did you?

Ugh.  You know something, DiNozzo?  You are incorrigible. 

I have to go.  Next time we talk about Thorin and Bilbo.

What?  I wanted to make sure I had my opinions on their friendship (or lack thereof) thought out properly first!

Oh, get out of here or I will make you take up jogging for a month!

Later,

Mithril 

Time After Time

Time After Time

Hey, Giselle!

This is about the song Time After Time, written in part and performed (mostly) by Cyndi Lauper.  If you want to listen to it, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PqhOrgk11A.  It’s a great love song.  For some reason, it always makes me think of a wife waiting at home for her husband, who is overseas at war.  The image seems to come from the lines: “After my picture fades and darkness has turned to grey/ Watching through windows, you’re wondering if I’m okay/Secrets stolen from deep inside/ The drum beats out of time…”

Of course, military couples with a spouse overseas have worries and problems.  But these don’t always come up in phone or skype conversations.  And if they do, then they try to make the problems sound slightly less serious than they are.  After all, the wife/husband has enough worries.  Why saddle them with worries about what they can’t do anything about?

To me, these are the ‘secrets’ each spouse sees hidden in the shadows of dawn or dusk, the secrets they keep to themselves.  All the worries and fears which, somehow, are mere wraiths while the couple is together but which gain more substance the longer they’re apart.  They wonder if the other is okay, how they’re doing, will things be the same when they get back.  They don’t want to ask these questions sometimes; the answer may be too much to bear.

Which makes the song’s refrain all the more comforting: “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me/Time after time/If you fall I will catch you/I will be waiting!/Time after time.”

No matter how hard things get, the song reminds the listener that the spouse will always be there, ready to help his wife/her husband, even though they’re separated by thousands of miles of water and land.  Time after time, they’ll be ready to help each other.

Of course, this may not be what the song makes you think of.  I imagine it would make you think of that first dance you and Robert had at the costume ball.  It was a good routine by the way; but I’d have found different ‘mood music’ for it. 

Still, it was a dance to remember!

I gotta go.  See you next time!

Later,

Mithril