Monthly Archives: July 2016

Book Review: The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

The Cherokee Trail

Those of you who have attended to this blog for any length of time will recognize the title of this post. If you were to type The Cherokee Trail into the search engine on the right hand side of your screen, you would probably get more results than I care to calculate.

At the dawn of this blog’s existence, I wrote a post about a book which contained many quotes from Louis L’Amour’s stories. This book had been compiled by the famous author’s actress daughter, Angelique L’Amour. And yet, despite the fact that he is one of my favorite authors, I have not reviewed a novel written by the man who brought the West to life for so many people.

That ends today, readers. This post is about The Cherokee Trail, written by Louis L’Amour, published in 1982.

The Cherokee Trail focuses on one M. O. Breydon, the widow of Major M. O. Breydon. Mrs. Mary O. Breydon is on her way west with her daughter, Peg. She is riding the stagecoach to Cherokee Station, a stage station along the Cherokee Trail. This station is where her husband planned to get a job. Since he is dead, murdered by guerrillas, the job has fallen to her. She needs the money, and she intends to hold this job no matter what.

Mrs. Breydon and Peg are not the only passengers on this stage. There is an Irish girl just a few years younger than Mrs. Breydon herself and a well dressed, heavy set man. There is also a younger man, seated at the opposite end of the bench across from her and her daughter, whose insinuating glances discomfit Mrs. Breydon.

And there is a young, grey eyed man with three pistols in his belt and a black hat pulled low over his face who is seated right next to Peg.

The Irish girl, Matty Maginnis, initiates a conversation with Mrs. Breydon, which the men enter in on. During this conversation it is revealed that Cherokee Station is run by an uncouth drunk named Scant Luther. The man has a bad reputation and no respect for women. Nevertheless, Mary Breydon plans to dismiss him as her husband would have. And she plans to take his job, which her husband accepted before he was murdered: the management of Cherokee Station.

Well, the stage pulls into the station, a soused Luther comes out, and a scene ensues. Mary Breydon has the letter giving him notice of his discharge and replacement read out loud in front of him and the other stage passengers. Luther does not take kindly to being replaced – especially by a woman from back East. He sits down in the doorway of the station and challenges Mrs. Breydon to fire him.

And fire him she does – with a horsewhip! Right in the middle of his statement of the rules for the challenge, she takes the stage driver’s whip from his hand and it is obvious she knows how to use it. Four lashes later, plus one hard look from the grey eyed man on the stage, and Luther decides to hustle on out of the way. For now.

Mrs. Breydon cleans up some of the mess he left behind in the station building and gets a suitable lunch set out for the passengers. Two of the men ride on in the stage while Matty remains at the station, taking Mrs. Breydon’s offer of a job as maid and cook. The grey eyed man, Temple Boone, decides to stay the night as well, since he has a horse waiting for him in the station’s stables.

In addition, Mrs. Breydon finds a young boy named Wat Tanner standing outside the station building. She invites him to work for her as well, and he agrees, so long as its “man’s work” and not “women’s work” – such as washing the dishes!

The Cherokee Trail was, I believe, the first novel of Louis L’Amour’s which I ever read. It not only impressed me, it made me hungry for more. Mr. L’Amour led a colorful life, and he wrote something on the order of over two hundred books. He used a variety of pen names before signing his books with his real name. Apparently, the publishers did not believe a name like “Louis L’Amour” would catch people’s attention. John Wayne – real name Marion Morrison – had to use a pseudonym in his work for similar reasons.

Louis L’Amour researched all his novels carefully, and the Author’s Note which precedes The Cherokee Trail proves it. Someday soon I will review another novel of his. For the time being, readers, you have an assignment: search out and read The Cherokee Trail. It is worth the hunt, and if you do not love it for any reason, I am truly sorry to hear that. If you do like it – welcome to the range, partner! We’ve been expectin’ ya!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

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Captain America: Civil War – Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier

Well, masterleiaofasgard, here I go again! Let’s see if I understand Bucky any better now than I did previously.

In a prior post, I said that I found Bucky Barnes more relatable during Civil War than I did in Winter Soldier. That is not hard, since Bucky got the programmed automaton treatment in Soldier, as Clint had it in The Avengers – just with more ice. And, as Bucky said in The First Avenger, he became a bit invisible to a certain section of the population after Steve received the Super Soldier Serum. To be honest, my whole attention in The First Avenger was on the American Galahad because…. he is Galahad. So I did not pay his best friend the attention he deserved – shame on me!

But Bucky was neither the invisible man nor a pitiable human robot in Civil War. He was a man who had become an urban hermit. With HYDRA’s programming still locked up in his brain, going off the radar meant the bad guys could not find and “retrain” him. To stay away from them, though, meant staying away from his best friend – the one person on the planet who believed in him.

Perhaps Bucky thought – or hoped – his old friend would not miss him. He had new friends now, a good job, everything he needed. He was taken care of and… safe. Bucky could live with that. If he came out of the shadows, it would not be long before Steve lost his friends, his position with the Avengers, and everything else he had gained and earned after awakening from his nap in the Greenland ice trying to protect Bucky.

It was rather surprising and sweet to see Bucky shopping for fresh fruit in a Bucharest market. He even smiled. That is new. He was not much of a smiler in Winter Soldier, of course, and his grins in The First Avenger carried more swagger and bravado.

In this scene, his smile is not nearly as big. Instead it is a small sign of some comfort and happiness, showing that Bucky has adjusted to his new mode of living. It is not what he wants, necessarily, but it is better than being HYDRA’s attack dog.

Then, as he leaves the market, he realizes someone is watching him. Looking around carefully, he spots the person. It is a newsstand owner, who disappears after Bucky turns toward him. With a horrible sinking feeling, Bucky goes to the newsstand –

And finds he is the prime suspect in a U.N. bombing in Vienna.

Uh-oh. There goes his newfound peace and quiet. It is time to run, before he is killed. Or, worse, before a HYDRA operative or someone else uses the programming they burned into his brain to make him do their dirty work.

But he cannot run with just the clothes on his back. Going on the run, it is a good idea to have some supplies with you. And Bucky left his supplies at his apartment. He goes to grab them and get out…

And finds his old friend has done exactly what he knew he would do. The minute he was in trouble, Steve came running to help him.

Bucky does not want his help. It is not because he is angry at Steve that he wishes to avoid his old friend. Nothing which happened to him after the fall from the HYDRA train in the mountains was Steve’s fault. That was HYDRA’s doing, just like the experimentation which allowed him to survive the fall in the first place.

No, Bucky wanted Steve to stay away from him lest he get dragged down into the morass which is the result of the other’s long, forced servitude to HYDRA. He was not avoiding Steve out of anger. He was hiding in order to protect him.

But Steve does not want protection. He wants his brother back, even if it means fighting with the police, the government, and the Avengers. Nevertheless, Bucky still tries to escape. He has to stay away from Steve.

But the world has changed more than even Bucky realizes. He learns this when a guy with serious hand-to-hand combat skills, a vibranium suit, and a lot of strength tries to kill him. Only the timely intervention of a German Special Forces helicopter gives him the opening he wants to get away.

(I am curious. If the U.N. was so darn concerned about civilian casualties resulting from the Avengers’ battles, THEN WHY DID THEY SEND IN A CHOPPER TO SHOOT UP A CITY BLOCK IN BUCHAREST?!?! Methinks they do not actually care about civilian casualties at all – nein, readers?)

Unfortunately, from his perspective, Bucky does not escape. He gets caught, and he knows the only person who thinks he is worth saving is going to fight to protect him. His main concerns from this point on are that Steve will lose everything he has acquired by fighting for him, and that he himself will lose what little freedom he has had since The Winter Soldier.

That last fear is proved justified when a man posing as a psychiatrist uses HYDRA’s programming to force Bucky to kill again.

But, as he always has, Barnes’ best friend comes through in the clutch to rescue him. Bucky probably thinks it would be better if he was dead. Then Steve would be safe, along with sooo many other people.

When Steve asks what the fake psychiatrist wanted, Bucky tries to stave the question off. He does not remember it exactly. He does not even remember how he got from a prison cell to an old warehouse. But he knows whatever the guy wanted will lead to trouble for his friend.

Then he remembers what the infiltrator asked, and suddenly he realizes there is a threat too great for any of them to ignore, for any reason. “I’m not the only Winter Soldier,” he says, shocking and horrifying Steve and Sam. He explains about the others, a group of HYDRA’s best killers transformed into super soldiers. With the serum used on Steve in their bodies, everything inside is magnified. In Steve’s case, “good becomes great.” In the case of these guys, bad became much, much worse.

This guy – Zemo – has to be stopped, no matter the cost, before he releases these other Soldiers. So Bucky joins his old friend and the new guy (Sam) to bring down Zemo.

This is, as they say, somewhat awkward. Sam has his own rapport with Steve, and he is none too trusting of Bucky. Though he cannot remember everything he did to Sam, Bucky must figure that the distrust is well warranted. Most of their problem, though, revolves around the fact that they are both close to the same friend and do not want him hurt.

Hence his request: “Can you move your seat up?” and Sam’s flat, “No.” That wreck of a VW bug was not the only cramped space the two inhabited!

Bucky’s fear only mounts when he sees Steve kiss Sharon Carter. Great – now not only is he invisible, he is a wanted assassin with the blood of hundreds on his hands, dragging his best friend into a battle where he could lose everything – plus a new girlfriend. And, as icing on the cake, what girl is ever going to be interested in him now?

I think the phrase going through Bucky’s head at the time would have been something like, pardon my crudeness, readers: My life really SUCKS right now.

Then Steve drives out to meet the rest of his team, and Bucky gets an up-close look at them: Clint Barton, a man Steve did not want to haul out of somewhere private, personal, and apparently happy; as well as Wanda Maximoff, a girl who is barely out of her teens and a current media darling for all the wrong reasons. He knows their names and abilities – he has to have seen those in the newspapers at least, if not on television or on the Internet. The guy in the van is new, and he is definitely enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic, but he is in the fight now all the same.

These are Steve’s new friends. Three of them have been through battle and fire with him, and they trust him with their lives and the lives of others. Bucky does not think he is worth the effort to keep himself alive, and these people have no stake in his fate. But they are loyal to Steve, and since Steve believes Bucky is worth saving, they will follow him where he leads. Even if it means they have to fight the other Avengers.

Now being the center of this mess truly sucks. (Sorry again for the language, guys. Sorry, Cap! 😉 )

It only gets worse as the team falls to fighting. At least Bucky’s determined opponent is not, technically, Steve’s friend. But Bucky does not want to kill anymore. Nor does he want T’Challa to believe a lie. So he tries to explain that he did not bomb Vienna and kill King T’Chaka.

But the new Black Panther will not hear it, so determined for vengeance as he is. And all the while, the false psychiatrist is headed to Siberia, closer and closer to five human nuclear weapons who could wipe out the world….

Steve’s new friends know it, too. And they know this fight is a complete waste of precious time. They therefore throw themselves to the wolves (or the Panther) to buy Bucky and Steve time to get away. Once the two old friends are on their way, Bucky asks, “Am I really worth all this?”

Cap’s answer is a resounding yes, though it is an answer Bucky is not certain he can accept. But he has to admit that it feels good to be back with his old friend again.

Until they find the other five Winter Soldiers dead, and Zemo reveals his plot. Then Bucky realizes he has been the bait used to ruin Steve’s life, just as he was afraid he would be. And on top of that, he seems to have ruined another man’s life in the bargain: the son of his old friend, Howard Stark.

Battle ensues, and during the fight Tony has the temerity to ask him whether or not he remembers killing his parents. How can Bucky forget? How can he forget any of the faces of those he killed? He watched his hands put their lights out, and remained unable to stop himself from doing it. How can he distance himself from what he did – unwilling though he was to do it? “I remember all of them,” he tells Tony.

He remembers because there is no possible way for him to forget. Despite the constant memory wipes, HYDRA could not make Bucky forget who he was or where he came from. They could control his mind, not his soul. He fought for that, so hard that he never lost it. The price of that battle is that he remembers everything he did for the evil, secret societywhen he is clear-headed or not under the influence of HYDRA’s programming.

He remembers every kill, everyone HYDRA told him to destroy. He remembers the ones who deserved to die – HYDRA would not have wanted competition, after all. But the ones who did not deserve to die, like Tony’s parents, he will always remember more clearly. They were victims, as much as he was. But, from his perspective, they suffered more. Bucky will wake up, every night, for the rest of his earthly life, recalling those he killed and wondering, Why didn’t I fight back?

He could not fight back. Not physically. Not in a way that would have saved anyone. The only fight Bucky could keep up was the battle for his soul. And he won it – but at a high price.

If it was just the two of them, then perhaps Bucky would not have put up a fight. Maybe he would have let Tony kill him. But Tony is so determined to injure as he has been injured that he goes after Steve and Bucky. Bucky cannot – he will not – stand for that anymore than Steve will stand for an attack on him. Steve had nothing to do with the Starks’ murders; those are on Bucky’s conscience, not his. Tony’s attack on Steve is uncalled-for. He does it just to make himself feel better.

Bucky does not want to kill Tony. He killed his father and his mother, the last thing he wants to do is kill their heir, even in self-defense. But neither will he let Tony beat up on Steve. They are brothers in all but blood. Growing up, they stuck together through thick and thin. Neither of them liked bullies; that was why they joined the army in the first place to fight against the Nazis and, later, HYDRA. Bucky always protected Steve – even when Steve got big enough to handle himself.

Those old instincts are stronger than any kind of programming. They make Bucky go for Tony’s arc reactor. He cannot kill Tony, but he can shut him down. Only, in trying to do that, his metal arm is blasted off. Stunned by the loss, Bucky knows that he has now lost the same arm twice.

Despite lying dazed on the floor after this, Bucky still sees the fight which rages on without his participation. He sees it, and he sees the senselessness of it. Even more clearly, he sees what Steve is doing for Tony. He is fighting to save the younger man’s soul from his own anger and pain. Steve fought a similar battle for Bucky’s soul on Project Insight’s Helicarrier two years prior. He won that fight…

And against all the odds, Steve pulls it off a second time. Again, he wins the battle, for the simple reason that his cause is just. If Steve is willing to go to such great lengths for the two of them, then he sees something in both which they cannot yet see in themselves. Leaving Tony on the floor, unharmed but unable to fight, Steve steps over to Bucky and holds out his hand. You’re not done yet, Buck, the gesture says. You’re still you, underneath all the scars. You ARE still worth it. Will you let me prove it to you?

Steve never forces his ideas or choices on anyone. He lets other people make their own decisions. It is Bucky’s choice to stay on the floor, or accept Steve’s proffered hand. He can stay and die, or he can get up and rediscover that spark in his soul which resisted HYDRA the only way it could – by staying lit.

Bucky grabs Steve’s hand and allows his old friend to get him on his feet. I don’t see the way out, he admits with this gesture, while also acknowledging his physical weakness, But you do. I’ll follow the fellow kid from Brooklyn who was too dumb to run from a fight. Because you knew all those fights were winnable, and I didn’t. I don’t see how to win this one, but you do. So lead the way.

Then Tony acts like an absolute baby. That stings Bucky as much as it hurts Cap. They both know that Tony has regressed to a little kid in his anger. He is safe, but only because his armor has no power to follow his commands. Once it is back online, how long will he stay away? Neither Steve nor Bucky can continue the fight. They cannot continue to protect him. They are both too tired by the previous battle.

Yet again, Steve has the answer. If Tony wants the shield that badly, he can have it – minus Steve. Without Captain America, the shield is just a big metal “Frisbee.” Tony has not got the skill to use it. He never will. The shield is not a symbol, it is a tool. And Steve can use any tool he chooses in a battle.

Although he is unsure if it will solve anything, when Steve leaves the shield behind, Bucky is assured that at least Stark will not immediately chase after them. That they have time to get away, and the younger Stark has time to sit down, cool his heels, and allow his overheated reason and logic “circuits” to start working again. Tony has time to realize what Steve did for him, as Bucky found time to relearn just what a great friend Steve is.

However, there is the matter of the code words which HYDRA programmed into his brain. As long as he has those in his head, Bucky is a danger to Steve and everyone else on the planet. Zemo knows the trigger words, and others can find them – or get them from Zemo. Until they are purged from his mind, he has to stay out of the way of other people in order not to harm them.

So he goes under again. Doubtless, the Wakandan cryogenic freeze is less uncomfortable than the HYDRA process. It certainly does not seem to be as painful. Maybe, unlike during his naps in Siberia, Bucky will actually be able to get some real sleep this time.

Let’s just hope he does not outlive Steve while he is doing that!

Since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, and he has only used up three of those nine films, I think we might get to see him again soon. Maybe it will be in the Black Panther film that will come out in 2018. (If so, I want to see that movie!)

It would also make sense (to me) to bring the Winter Soldier into Infinity War, at least during Part 2. Going up against Thanos is going to require all hands on deck, and that means the Avengers will have to reassemble and call in every ally they can find. If the Wakandans are smart – and they are – they will give Bucky a vibranium arm to replace the one Tony blasted off. Then he can punch Thanos with it!

Until then, we will have to be satisfied with Civil War. That will not be hard. Although it is much more serious than the previous Marvel films, with more language, family fights are never fun. And the Russos were right; this was a big family row. Bucky will never quite fit in with the Avengers, but that does not mean he could not become their ally.

And no matter what, he will always be Cap’s best friend. If HYDRA could not undo that, then Thanos has no prayer of accomplishing the feat!

Catch ya later, True Believers!

The Mithril Guardian

Captain America: Civil War – Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man

I once said that Tony Stark/Iron Man was one of the most beaten and maltreated comic book characters of the current era. It does not appear to be a wrong assessment. Captain America: Civil War showed just how far the mighty had fallen, though the comics blazed the trail long ago.

Once, Tony Stark was a self-contained, reasonable, calm character. Even when he was angry, he did not fly off the handle for more than five minutes – at most. Debonair, dashing, and as chivalrous as any knight of the Round Table, you could not catch Tony Stark or Iron Man being rude just for the sake of doing it. In fact, even when someone deserved an impolite comment, he did not deliver it. He possessed a sense of humor, certainly; the difference is that it was not nasty and/or derogatory.

But that was another era, a period when the people of United States were at least trying to maintain a just society. Once, it was understood here that using foul language in public was serious business. Now, it is the current parlance. Once, it was understood that all women were to be treated as though they were worth a million dollars. Now, they are sized up like mares at a stock fair.

Tell me again how much we have improved.

All these gadgets, computers, cures, and medical techniques are mostly useful. But does that mean we have to treat each other like trash and call it affection?

It is no such thing. But the new Tony, the modern Tony, the oh-so-up-to-date Stark, would not believe that if you showed him a thousand statistics to prove the truth of it. He would go right on as he has always done.

The thing is… he was getting there. He was improving. Then, after the Battle of New York and the Battle of Sokovia, he got scared out of years of growth. He was reduced once again to a narcissistic, petulant child. How do I know this?

He kicked Bucky Barnes when the other was already down.

You do not do that. Not even to your worst enemies, not even to the people who are the slime of the Earth, or the trash in the gutter. You never, EVER kick a man when he is down, unless he is on his way up to kill you. Bucky was not doing that.

But Tony kicked him anyway.

How the mighty have fallen. How the invincible have become so weak. Bucky had just lost his robotic arm and was down for the count. There was no reason – none whatsoever – for what Tony did. Other than that he wanted to do it. Other than the fact that he wanted to treat an abused man living with a guilt greater than he could ever bear like slime. The only reason to beat a fallen man is to feel superior to him – when, in fact, it is the other way around.

From Iron Man to Marvel’s The Avengers, Tony Stark was a changed man. His sense of humor was still nasty and derogatory, he still had issues with authority, and he still had no filter between that “big brain” and his mouth. But he was not the selfish playboy we saw at the beginning of Iron Man.

Then, in Iron Man 3, he slid back again. Oh, he did not go back to his philandering ways. Pepper had no need to “[take] out the trash” anymore. He was hardly drunk, and he did a bang up job rescuing his girlfriend. Literally, there were, like, a lot of bangs when he fought to get her back. (Yes, I am using Tony’s phraseology to make a point.)

And then he threw it all out the window in Age of Ultron. He abandoned his responsibilities because he was afraid he could not handle them anymore. And instead of being sensible about it, instead of telling his friends and seeking their collective guidance, he tried to put a Band-Aid over his fears.

The result was a digital revolutionary bent on “global extinction.” People died because of Ultron, who was Tony’s mistake. The PR war on him, which for the most part had changed to adulation over the last few years, returned in full force. Grieving people blamed him for the deaths of their loved ones, and he was seen as a monster again. Maybe, if Pepper had not gotten mad at him, he would have kept his footing better.

But he did not stop jetting off in the Iron Man armor to save the world, and so she did get mad at him. (*Author pinches the bridge of nose and sighs deeply.*) You know, Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman both lack the sense God gave to dead plants. They landed parts in a veritable gravy train, and then they decided they only wanted to ride it halfway. The others are all either signed up for several movies or are extending their contracts so they will have billions by the time they absolutely have to hang up their superhero costumes. But these ladies do not want to stick around because the films are based on comic books, and they are for kids, so how can they be art?

Did no one ever tell these women you do not, under ANY circumstances, look a gift horse in the mouth? They had the easiest gigs on the planet, which paid some of the biggest bucks in the world – and they threw it away. Not even Robert Downey Jr., who says he is getting on in years and may soon hang up his armor, has done that.

The fact is, by the time we see Tony in Civil War, he is on tenterhooks. He is carrying guilt over the fact that Ultron was his bright idea, which got 177 civilians killed, plus one Avenger. Every time he gets into a fight innocent people die, and their relations or activists of one stripe or another all want to hang him for it. They wait for him in hallways, throw pictures and stories at him, and how can he protest that he did not want their relatives to die? What he wants and what he has are two very different things.

There is a true life parallel to this. If there is a battle which involves U.S. troops and there are civilian casualties, the U.S. soldiers are almost always the ones who receive the blame. It does not matter that the guys who were shooting at them held women or children in front of their bodies as human shields; it does not matter that the enemy holed up in a hospital run by international doctors who voluntarily went into a war zone. The only thing that matters is the U.S. soldiers were there, and civilians died.

Wars are hell. People die in wars – soldiers, civilians, men, women, and children. If bullets, bombs, close combat, shells, or knives do not get them, then disease or starvation will; or bad water, or accidents. But will those within and without America who hate the U.S. ever face the fact that wars have always been like this? That it is “well war is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it”?

No. It does not matter to the academic/journalistic crowd in the slightest because it is not part of their agenda. They hate the U.S. military, all branches of it, and they want it utterly destroyed. The truth and The Truth have no hold on them whatsoever because they have forsaken both for their insular and personal agendas. (Now you know why Cap would not sign the Accords.)

Throughout history, people living or working in war zones have risked death. In the West, nations have done their utmost, in recent years, to limit civilian casualties. Then America clashed with the Soviet Union’s proxies in Vietnam, and found that their new enemies had no such scruples. Viet Cong soldiers routinely used nearby civilians as human shields, suicide bombers, or they threw them into other monstrous war services which Americans found horrific and barbaric. But the Viet Cong, the real culprits, were never to be held liable for what they did. Instead it was the American soldiers trying to fight them, forced to shoot through innocent people by an immoral enemy, who were held responsible.

That is going on again in Iraq and Afghanistan, as merciless enemies with no regard for life use women and children to do their killing work. Or they abuse them in other ways. But once again it is the big, bad Americans who are the enemy. It is their fault all this is happening; they should never have gotten involved. Not even to save the lives of those the enemy is using as expendable tools.

In Civil War, this is what Tony is dealing with. He is dealing with the hatred of people who have either been taught to accuse him and the Avengers for their losses, or who simply want to blame someone other than the real culprits for the death of their loved ones.

Neither attitude is right. Both are lies fabricated for various reasons. The one that will be trotted out is that grieving people always want someone to blame for the death of a loved one. That is true, but only up to a point. Once rational thinking takes over, grieving people realize they are holding grudges against a person or persons who were not responsible for their loss. Wanda and Pietro learned this in Age of Ultron when they fought alongside the Avengers; Tony did not kill their parents. The person who stole and fired his missiles into their apartment did.

It is a lesson Tony forgot. Or, perhaps, he never really learned.

Yes, Tony built Ultron. But Ultron chose to do what he did. Last time I checked, Tony was two for three; JARVIS and FRIDAY both turned out to be competent and sane AIs. This means that Tony’s responsibility for Ultron’s actions only goes as far as his creation. After that, the lives lost are on Ultron’s head.

And Tony certainly had nothing to do with Loki’s invasion of New York. But do you want to bet he has been held responsible for those killed in that battle, too?

As Cap said, saving as many people as one can does not mean that everybody gets saved. This is what the talking heads will not accept. They will not accept that sometimes you do all that you can, all that is humanly possible to do, and still innocents die. Some give their all to the fight, as Quicksilver did, but that does not mean no one else dies. It does not mean there are no more injuries, that there is no more pain. “Life is pain, Highness,” Westly said in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.”

Yes, they are. They are selling a recipe for control, for power.

Few people these days are willing to recognize that. Some simply do not know enough to recognize it.   The heroes do the best they can, and sometimes, their best is not enough to protect everyone. Yet these people still have to blame someone else for what the real bad guy(s) did. It has to be the rescuer’s fault; it has to be the soldier’s fault. It can never be the actual culprit who is responsible.

Yikes!!

The thing is that Tony is just as infected by this philosophy as most other people are today. He blames Bucky and Bucky alone for the deaths of his parents. Under the grip of strong emotion, anyone could succumb to that temptation. If that was the only reason for Tony flying off the handle at the end of Civil War, it would be more forgivable.

But it was not. Tony never stopped thinking during that fight. I believe it is literally impossible for him to stop thinking, and in most circumstances, that is not a bad thing.

In this case, however, it was.

Bucky was a man abused until he could be programmed and controlled. The kernel of his soul which he could still call his own was banked and hidden; else the cold wind of the Russian arm of HYDRA would blow it out. He fought a war for the survival of his soul for seventy-five years. It was a war which consumed all his time; he could not fight to stop HYDRA’s programming or commands. He was one against an underground army. Those are lousy odds, physically speaking. Spiritually speaking, Bucky fought and managed to remain in control of at least part of his soul.

But it was a war which took all his time – allowing HYDRA to kill hundreds by using his hands.

As a side note, in the comics, it was hinted that Bucky did not like killing women. Just before Cap found out he was alive in the books, Bucky took Sharon Carter captive and agreed – hesitantly – when his handler told him to kill her if he had to. He did not kill her, thankfully, but he would have if she had been a danger to his mission.

This is HYDRA’s legacy. They forced Bucky to do their killing for them. A man who robs a bank commits a crime. A man who robs a bank because some coward is holding a gun to his wife’s head a mile away commits a crime on behalf of someone else. And that is worse than if the man with the gun had gone in and robbed the bank himself; he has forced another man to do what he is too afraid to do. There is no audacity in stealing from a bank, but there is even less valor when a man threatens someone else’s life unless a different man commits the crime.

Bucky was not threatened with death. He was mentally and emotionally torn apart, turned into a cold, calculating hunting dog which would obey orders – whether he liked them or not.

Tony would not admit that. I do not know why. It is understandable for him to lose himself to fury for at least half of the fight. But by a certain point he could have ended it. He could have shut down the suit and agreed to the fact that the real killer of his parents was HYDRA. He did not.

Why?

Because someone had to pay? Because Bucky did the deed? So did Natasha. The one Avenger who knows precisely what Bucky is going through, Natasha was subjected to the same programming that Bucky was. And she had it beaten into her from childhood. She had even less defense against it than Bucky did.

And what about Clint? Loki invaded his mind, turned him into an automaton, and had him kill several dozen people over the course of three days. Some of those people were fellow SHIELD agents. It is conceivable a few of them were his friends. Loki did to Hawkeye in minutes what it took HYDRA and the Red Room years to do to Bucky and Natasha.

Yes, in Tony’s case, the deaths were far more personal. And that explains his leaping anger and initial assaults. But that was no reason to continue the fight.

It was no reason to kick Barnes when he was down.

Just like Clint, the faces of those he killed while on HYDRA’s chain will always haunt him. Like Natasha, he will be doing penance for committing other people’s crimes for the rest of his life.

Yet somehow this is not good enough for Tony?

It was personal and understandable – until Tony kicked a downed man. That was not the action of a man infuriated beyond reason. That was the act of a man determined to kill.

This is why Cap attacked and would not let up on Tony. This is why he tells his friend, “I can do this all day.” He does not want to do it all day. But he will if that is the only way he can save Bucky’s life and Tony’s soul. Because of all the things Tony has flushed down the toilet, the most valuable thing he almost threw away was his soul at the end of Civil War.

Cap stopped him. He stood between Tony and the abyss, then he carried his friend back from it. He jumped into the breach, not for thanks or for a reward. He did it because Tony is his friend, a friend so determined to blame the man HYDRA made into a weapon that he was unwilling to show him the same mercy and understanding he had previously shown two others with similar histories.

Tony repaid Cap’s selfless act with bitterness and bile, babyishly claiming he did not deserve the shield which Howard Stark had made for him. So Cap left it behind, because it was not worth his friend’s soul to keep it. Tony stopped growing up in Iron Man 3, but it was in Civil War where he made his greatest regression. He humiliated himself by acting like a spoiled, angry child, averse to admit that he was wrong, and Cap was right.

He played right into Zemo’s hands, all the way around. Tony played right into Ross’ hands as well. Ross knew Tony was unprepared for the ire of brainwashed, self-absorbed, grieving people bent on blaming a hero for a criminal’s work. He banked on the belief that Tony would be willing to roll over to registration to make the pain “go away.” Zemo bet Tony would take out his vengeance on Bucky, infuriating Cap and making the super soldier determined to get revenge for his childhood friend’s injury or death.

What Zemo never could understand, however, was Captain America himself. “How nice to find a flaw,” he said when he noticed that there was green in Steve’s blue eyes. (*Author scoffs.*) As if Steve thought of himself as an angel! Cap has never thought of himself as anything but a simple kid from Brooklyn. He never said he was perfect. Others say it about him, but he knows he is not. He is a man. And men in this world are not perfect – though some of them may come awfully close.

Cap battered and fought Tony not out of anger but in an attempt to knock some sense into his friend. He had no intention whatsoever of killing the son of Howard Stark. He had every intention of protecting him from himself. So when the beatings on Tony’s helmet did not work, Cap pulled the plug on his suit. His goal was to make sure his friend did not become a murderer. He had already lost Bucky to HYDRA. He was not going to lose Tony to them, or to that demon others named Helmut Zemo.

By the end of the film, when Stan Lee arrives with a package for ‘Tony Stank,’ he seems to be working that out. Tony may lack the vocabulary to express what he is thinking about, but he is thinking. Otherwise, he would not have put Ross on hold. He would also have torn up the letter after reading it and trashed the phone.

Where Cap’s shield is, we do not know as of Civil War’s end. But without Steve Rogers to wield it, the shield is just a shiny discus hanging on a wall or lying in a box. One of these days, Tony will look at it and realize that. If he thinks deeply enough (a rare feat for him in the films), he may just figure out how close he came to throwing away his immortal soul.

And when he remembers that, when he discovers what exactly he did wrong, he will realize that there was someone “standing in the gap” for him. Not to hurt him, and certainly not to kill him. To save him, Steve fought the hardest, most grueling, worst battle of his life. He threw his soul into the rift to protect Tony’s. And he held, even when his friend churlishly berated and belittled him for it.

Everyone misreads the kid from Brooklyn. Even the stupendously brilliant Tony Stark does not ‘get’ him. Not yet, at any rate. Maybe, just maybe, he will learn what type of friend he has in Steve Rogers.

Only time – and more movies – will tell us that, though.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Trailer Is OUT!!!!

YEAH-HOOO!!!

The Star Wars Rebels season three trailer is out, people!!!  The Rebels will be going up against Mandalorians who work for the Empire, helping TIE fighter pilots defect, and facing Darth Maul yet again!  It is going to be more The Empire Strikes Back than season two was!!!

And it looks like Kanan may just regain his sight – but will he lose Ezra in the process?!

Check out the trailer here:

Oh, and the blue faced guy?  Yeah, that is Grand Admiral Thrawn.  His voice actor has a higher tenor than I would have chosen for the character, but hey.  If we get Thrawn, then maybe the writers will give us Mara Jade Skywalker, too!!!!!  Ooooh, cross your fingers and hope!

The Force will be with you, readers, always! 😉

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Star Guard by Andre Norton

Andre Norton had many titles conferred on her in life. The one that is best known and oft repeated is “the Grand Dame of Science Fiction.” You regular readers of this blog have perhaps seen posts I have done about some of her other books – three Witch World novels and Star Gate (no relation to the TV series). I have not found many Andre Norton books which I dislike. This novel, Star Guard, is no exception.

The year is 3956 A.D. Man pushed into the stars only to meet with a galactic government – Central Control – which saw something dangerous in them. Deeming the Terrans too bloodthirsty and primitive to be allowed offworld of their own accord, Central Control told them they would only be permitted to leave their planet in a capacity the government assigned to them. Since Central Control had far more power than the Terrans, humanity had no choice but to accept these terms.

Labeling humans “barbarians,” Central Control put all of Terra on a leash. Now the only way offworld is to become a mercenary. Humans can only travel the stars as contract soldiers divided into units called hordes or Mechs. The hordes fight the old-fashioned way, with swords, spears, knives, bows, and other weapons. The Mechs get to use the latest technology in their fighting work.

Kana Karr, Arch Swordsman, Third Class, is a rookie who has just arrived at Prime, the capital city of Terra. An eighteen year old Australian-Malay-Hawaiian “greenie,” Kana overhears startling news on his first day in the city. The modern, up-to-date Mechs have recently lost two Legions – two more to add to the twenty Legions they have already lost over five years!!!! For these units – dispatched to “civilized” worlds – to lose so many contingents signals danger of some kind. And if they have been so badly decimated, then what of the hordes – those corps of human mercenaries sent to “barbarian” worlds? How bad have their losses been?

He finds out just how bad things are for the hordes when his is dispatched to serve on the planet Fronn. Kana soon discovers that someone in Central Control has it in for humanity. Perhaps more than one – the whole government is determined to wipe out the upstart Terrans. The C.C. has been denying Terrans equal citizenship with its other political members since it accepted the humans’ presence in the universe. This is well known.

Central Control claimed that, if humanity were allowed full citizenship in the government at once, their primitive will to fight would drag world after world into an age long war – or series of wars. The only way for humanity to enter the galaxy, they insisted, was as mercenaries. Then, when they had become more civilized, they could become full citizens.

On Fronn, though, Kana and his horde face enemies who have tech that is superior even to that of the Mech units. Fronn, a medieval world, should not have this kind of tech. The only reason this machinery would be on this planet, facing Kana and his unit, is if someone wanted the horde dead.

Through his adventure Kana learns this is just what Central Control is after. They either believe humans will always be barbarians, or they fear them for their growing sophistication. Whatever the specific dread, the alien government has absolutely no intention of allowing humans to enter the galaxy as full citizens. Ever.

Now, trapped on an alien world with the remnants of his horde, Kana Karr must do more than survive this treachery. He has to return to Earth and tell his superiors what is going on. This betrayal cannot be swept under the rug. Humanity has to know what is happening, and soon, before they are once again denied their desire for the stars. Kana is determined that neither he nor the rest of his species will be forced to stay on Terra as slaves. This time, he intends to see that the stars are ours!

Star Guard is a great story. Though Miss Norton is vague on the tech and how it works, the thing is that she never really took a shine to computers and machinery. However, her characterization of Kana, his friends, and his enemies is spectacular. And as always, her description of the aliens and their world is fantastic! I definitely recommend Star Guard to you, readers. This post is skimpy on detail, but that is to whet your appetite. If you want to know what else happened in the book, you will have to read it to find out! 😉

To the stars!

The Mithril Guardian

Give Me a Land of Boughs in Leaf

Give Me a Land of Boughs in Leaf by A. E. Housman

 

Give me a land of boughs in leaf,

A land of trees that stand;

Where trees are fallen, there is grief;

I love no leafless land.

Alas, the country whence I fare,

It is where I would stay;

And where I would not, it is there

That I shall be for aye.

And one remembers and forgets,

But ’tis not found again,

Not though they hale in crimsoned nets

The sunset from the main.

Quotable Quotes #14

Political correctness is just tyranny with manners. I wish for you the courage to be unpopular. Popularity is history’s pocket change. Courage is history’s true currency. – Charlton Heston

Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid. – John Wayne

Who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him? – Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. – John Wayne

Human beings can always be relied upon to exert, with vigor, their God-given right to be stupid. – Dean Koontz

Sometimes, to be silent is to be most eloquent. – Charlton Heston

Nothing gives us courage more readily than the desire to avoid looking like a damn fool. –  Dean Koontz

“The best diplomat that I know is a fully-loaded phaser bank.” — Lt. Cdr. Montgomery Scott in “A Taste of Armageddon”

Maybe it’s good if God gives you something to think about every so often. – Charlton Heston

I really believe that everyone has a talent, ability, or skill that he can mine to support himself and to succeed in life. – Dean Koontz

Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. – John Wayne