Monthly Archives: November 2016

Captain America: Civil War – King T’Challa/Black Panther

Fans everywhere were practically over the moon when they heard that Black Panther/King T’Challa would be in Captain America: Civil War.  They also did a double-take when they learned he would be siding with Tony Stark/Iron Man in the movie.  T’Challa and Cap are very good friends in the comics, and it is rare for them to disagree over anything.  I cannot remember ever hearing about them arguing over something.  Not in the way that Tony and Steve have been fighting lately.

We do not see T’Challa until at least half an hour into Civil War.  In Vienna with his father for the signing of the Accords, T’Challa decides to take a moment to talk to Black Widow.  Natasha does not seem to recognize him, though when his father shows up the pieces fall into place very quickly.

Another odd thing is that, when King T’Chaka is making his speech about the greatness of the Accords, T’Challa is not sitting down in the audience of dignitaries, U.N. personnel, and reporters.  He is instead standing near the window behind and to the left of his father.  His arms are crossed and his posture indicates catlike ease and unconcern.  One could infer that he is bored out of his mind with the diplomatic proceedings.  His father’s implication that T’Challa has a palpable distaste for politics only reinforces this idea.

But this may be too easy an answer.  You see, T’Challa’s position in the room not only gives him a good view of the visiting dignitaries, U.N. workers, and journalists, it allows him to watch the buildings and streets outside.  Thinking about it now, I suppose T’Challa was acting as his father’s bodyguard.  He was watching, surreptitiously and under the cover of boredom, for attackers in the audience, snipers in the other buildings, and trouble on the streets.  So his ability to be surreptitious is pretty darn impressive!

This is how he spots the bomb squad checking out a van near the building.  Seeing the officers pull away quickly from the vehicle, T’Challa is just a little slower in shouting a warning to everyone else.  Natasha reacts in time, helping the person seated next to her to get under the table.

But T’Challa is not fast enough to reach his father, who also does not spring for cover immediately.  It is likely that he was too surprised by his son’s shout to do more than turn to look at him.  The bomb kills him, sends T’Challa flying, and kills a lot of other people on the floors below.

T’Challa was always close to his father, in the comics and in the film.  Unlike Tony, seeing his father die absolutely tears him up.

Any number of groups would want to kill several dozen of the politicos at the U.N. T’Chaka almost certainly had enemies who wanted him dead, too.  T’Challa was probably cataloging all of these people in his mind before he found out who was suspected of the bombing.  Once he learns it is the Winter Soldier, all other possibilities are forgotten.

Most people are going to lean on the idea that T’Challa went after Bucky simply for the sake of vengeance.  That is part of it.  How many of us could see someone we loved dearly die for no reason and not flip our lids over it?  Very few people could avoid that reaction.

The thing is that T’Challa is too reasonable to let pain and anger control him completely.  They are driving factors in his quest for Bucky, of course, but they are leashed emotions.  Most of T’Challa’s motivation here is justice.

Justice is not an amorphous idea.  Nor is it the “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life” mantra we inherited from ages past.  Justice is about making recompense to another person for some act committed against them.  It does not have anything to do with killing the man/woman who killed someone you loved.  That is revenge, and we have been warned never to seek that.  Revenge destroys not one life but two, and perhaps many other lives as well.

In this case, the bombing of the U.N. building was a futile event in that it destroyed lives.  A number of people – including King T’Chaka – were killed for no reason except to help Zemo gain his revenge.  They were not killed to protect innocent people but to destroy the Avengers.  Discounting Black Widow, T’Challa, and the security personnel, most of those within the U.N. building at the time were civilians.  They were, therefore, completely unprepared and unready to defend themselves if the need arose.

The attack was in this regard senseless and a waste of life, the most precious thing on earth.  Such a crime cries out for recompense, for punishment of the perpetrator.  That is the motivating force behind T’Challa’s decision to go after Bucky.

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Now there are several other things to consider here.  We are all attached, to some degree, to the film versions of Cap, Bucky, and the Avengers.  We are also attached to the previous portrayal of the Black Panther in the comics and cartoons.  This means we end up with a slightly skewed view of T’Challa’s character arc in the film, because we are looking at it through the lenses of past experience and deep familiarity.

What we forget is that, prior to this movie, T’Challa has never met any of the Avengers before.   Oh, he has heard about them.  He knows them by reputation.  But he does not know them as people.  He has never crossed paths with them up until he decides to speak to Natasha in Vienna.

Also, we forget that Bucky has been AWOL for two years.  During this time he has overcome his “programming.”  He remains unsure of himself, however, and he is riddled with honest guilt.  This makes him dangerous.  Everyone in the film universe knows he was HYDRA’s brainwashed attack dog.  They know his rap sheet is long and blood-soaked, and though they may pity him, they also fear him.  This is normal.  Even Cap is wary of Bucky and does not automatically trust him the way he once did.  Bucky is not the exact same person he was in the 1940s (thank you, HYDRA – NOT!!).

So it is utterly plausible for most people to believe Bucky went out and bombed the U.N.  Only Cap – and consequently Sam and Sharon Carter – stop to ask the pertinent questions about this event:  Why, after two years of hiding, would Bucky suddenly bomb a U.N. building?  What could he possibly hope to gain or to accomplish by bombing the signing of the Sokovian Accords?

The answer to these questions is: nothing.  Bucky had nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Whatever his personal feelings about the justice of the Accords, he was not going to come out of his hidey-hole and say anything about them – with his voice or with a bomb.  Definitely not with a bomb.  He has absolutely no motive to destroy the U.N. building in Vienna.

This is where T’Challa’s pain, grief, and anger have clouded his judgment.  He does not stop to think about these things.  After seeing his father die, we can hardly blame him.  Even Steve does not hold this against him.  When they first meet he is silent on these matters while in T’Challa’s presence.  Touching on such subjects would only drive him to further anger.

And Cap does not want that.  He knows T’Challa is a reasonable man.  It is evident in the control he demonstrates when he speaks and when he is in combat.  You cannot be that precise, that calm, without rational effort.  So T’Challa, Cap figures, is a rational man.  This means that to reach him, you have to be sensible in your response to him.  Emotion will not sway him to act; only clear reason will do that.

And in this moving world of shifting shadows, reason is what we desperately need.  It is what the Avengers need.

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In the police car taking the three of them to the German base, Cap ends up making his first probe of the Black Panther.  He knows T’Chaka was killed in the bombing and he knows T’Challa holds Bucky responsible for his death.  He understands that T’Challa’s grief is clouding his thinking.  But he says nothing until Falcon pipes up with, “So.  You like cats?”

Not helping, Cap thinks as he reprimands, “Sam.”

“What?” the other counters.  “Dude shows up dressed like a cat and you don’t want to know more?”

The subtext of Sam’s question was, likely: Cap, this guy is reasonable.  Sitting quietly is not going to show him you’re reasonable, too.

Thereupon Cap shows interest in the Panther suit, asking for confirmation that it is made out of vibranium.  This has to impress T’Challa, at least a little.  Most people would not think of vibranium right off the bat.  Tony’s suit can deflect bullets, too, after all.  But someone who has worked with vibranium for a long time would be able to recognize the metal when he came into contact with it.  Someone such as Captain America.

T’Challa does not want to show that he is even this impressed, though.  His father is dead, and he almost had his suspected killer right where he wanted him.  Then Cap stepped in and ruined the whole thing, getting him arrested in the process.

Still, it is not like telling Steve Rogers the origin of the suit and his fighting skills is going to hurt anything.  He explains the history of the mantle of the Black Panther, simultaneously hinting at his own upbringing as he does so.  Then he asks, “How long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?”

Instead of taking the bait and showing emotional attachment, Cap stays quiet.  He looks away.  It is an admission that he cannot protect Bucky all the time, everywhere.  But the nuance of the movement also communicates that he is sure as hell going to try.

T’Challa’s attitude toward the Winter Soldier is not lightened by their next meeting, when he tangles with Bucky in the German base’s cafeteria to protect Natasha.  He has to notice the difference in Bucky’s fighting style in this battle, as it is hard to miss.  When they last fought, Bucky was making a determined effort to get the hell out of Dodge.  Now he is suddenly attacking and fighting with the cold, mechanical precision of a robot.

This is different, but apparently not different enough to shake T’Challa from his determination to capture and, if possible, kill Bucky.  Maybe the guy has a split personality, or maybe he was faking his desperation to escape.  Whatever the reason, it is not good enough to make T’Challa decide to let Bucky go, proved when he accepts Natasha’s offer of help in finding him.

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This leads us to the airport battle.  T’Challa joins Tony, Rhodey, Widow, Spider-Man, and Vision in squaring off against Team Cap.  The rest of the Avengers are there to enforce the Accords.  T’Challa is only there to get his claws into Bucky.

He has to have been apprised of the fact that Team Cap has grown by this time to include Hawkeye and Wanda Maximoff.  That does not initially concern him.  In contrast, the sudden arrival of Ant-Man is a shocker for him, as it is for the others.

But it is when the fighting really starts that T’Challa receives his most jarring surprises.  None of Team Cap’s members are fanatically claiming that Barnes did not kill his father or the other people in Vienna.  None of them are wild-eyed partisans, screaming platitudes at the top of their lungs.  No, they are all calm, rational, capable people.  And they are not there for Barnes.

They are there for Cap.

When he finally gets to attack Bucky, the Winter Soldier takes the time to mutter, “I didn’t kill your father.”  Again, this has to confuse T’Challa on a rational level.  First Bucky ran, then he fought like a robot, now he is talking?  How many emotional or unemotional faces does this guy have?!

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Thanks to his vibranium suit and Bucky’s reminder about his father’s murder, though, Panther gets the upper hand and throws him around.  But before he can strike a deadly blow, he is stopped by the Scarlet Witch.

This is surprise number two for the Black Panther.  Wanda has no stake in the fight between him and Bucky.  And, more than any of the others, she understands where T’Challa is coming from.  Yet she not only halts his attack, she throws him through the air, far away from the battle, to save Barnes.

Why would she do that?  Why would she waste time and energy protecting a murderer?

Then Ant-Man becomes Giant-Man, taking a stand between T’Challa and his prey.  He even splinters the crates the King of Wakanda is standing on in order to keep him away from Cap and Bucky.  Only Rhodey and Spider-Man’s attack saves T’Challa from getting picked up and tossed through the air like a doll – again.

Clint is the next member of the team to face T’Challa down as Bucky and Cap continue their mad dash for the Aveng-jet.  Again, T’Challa has to be at least mildly bewildered on a rational level.  Here is a man who has a family.  He has a calm, deadly focus that can only be maintained through cogent thinking.  And he is bold enough to face an unknown opponent in battle.  He is so audacious he can be flippant about his challenge to the new King of Wakanda: “We haven’t met yet.  I’m Clint.”

“I don’t care!” Panther retorts.  But is that true?  Clint has all the motivation in the world to stay out of this battle.  Yet here he is, fighting T’Challa, a man who eventually knocks him down and defeats him.  By rights, he should not be here.  But he is.

Why?  Why would he leave his safe, happy home to protect Barnes?

The last straw is when Black Widow uses her stingers to halt T’Challa, allowing his quarry and Captain America to escape.  By way of explanation, she tells him, “I said I’d help you find him.  I didn’t say I’d help you catch him.  There’s…. a difference.”

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It is very hard for Team Iron not to see Natasha’s actions as anything less than betrayal.  Panther is especially upset, since he felt he had an ally and a friend in her.  But the question is why she would turn around and help Steve.  The idea that Natasha helped him simply because she could not stop him does not hold water.   She could have fought and at least detained him and Bucky until T’Challa arrived.  He would have taken Bucky while she held off Steve.  And the fact is that Natasha Romanoff is capable of fighting Steve Rogers and keeping him very busy indeed.

Instead, she shot T’Challa with her 30,000 volt stinger, restraining him long enough for the two to get away.  Why?  Why throw away her security and position to help Steve?

These questions have to be rattling around in T’Challa’s mind as he follows Iron Man to Siberia.  Perhaps he also heard the news about the psychiatrist Zemo killed and impersonated before he took off.  Either way, he does not immediately attack the duo when Iron Man joins up with them.

It would have been the perfect opportunity.  The minute they all turned their backs, he could have pounced on Bucky and quite possibly have killed him before they could react.

But T’Challa does not do that.  Instead, he follows the three at a distance, keeping to the shadows, moving quietly.  He gets an up close and personal view of the hellish pit where Bucky was frozen, tortured, and made into a weapon.  He watches them meet Zemo, hears the former Sokovian commando admit to bombing the U.N., and probably hears at least part of the tape that shows Bucky killing the Starks.

As the fight between the three breaks out, Zemo makes a run for it.  And Panther is left with a decision:  Should he stop the fight, or should he prevent Zemo from escaping?

The fight in the base will resolve itself best without him.  If he butts in and tries to stop Iron Man, he will only make matters worse.  More importantly, if Zemo gets away, justice will not be served.

So T’Challa goes back upstairs and finds Zemo, who is looking out over the mountains.  Their discussion I no longer remember clearly, except for certain sentences, like the part where Zemo apologizes for killing King T’Chaka.  Hah; some apology.  The bombing was not necessary in the first place.  Zemo only did it to destroy something good and wonderful – the Avengers.  He did not care about the innocents he killed.  If he did, he would not have detonated the bomb in the first place.

This is the wages of revenge.  Instead of “only” ruining the Avengers’ lives, Zemo has ruined hundreds.  He killed Panther’s father, an innocent psychiatrist (I cannot believe I just said that, either), and a number of other people.  And for what? – To make himself feel better?  He is ready to murder himself now that his “task” is done.  I’m fairly certain that this is NOT a sign of “feeling better.”

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“Vengeance has consumed you,” T’Challa says, shaking his head a little.  His eyes, though, never leave Zemo.  The man has lived this long simply because he wanted to destroy the Avengers.  T’Challa does not need anyone to tell him that empty shell of a man, plus gun, equals suicide plan.  “It is consuming them,” he adds, meaning the fight in the base.

I would not go so far as to say that, although Tony’s actions are certainly driven more by feelings of guilt than by rational thinking.  T’Challa knows what that is like.  With his father’s real killer now seated in front of him, he has realized what Cap, and by extension his team, did for him.  Likewise, he realizes what Steve is doing his best for Tony in the base below right now.

Cap, Wanda, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Natasha saved T’Challa from making a horrible mistake.  By preventing him from killing Bucky, they kept T’Challa from turning into a murderer little better than Zemo.  Sure, T’Challa would have been remorseful once he found out that he had killed the wrong man.  But that would not have undone the deed.  By averting the action in the first place Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang, Clint Barton, and Natasha Romanoff preserved T’Challa from that fate.  They saved his soul.

Cap saved his soul.  Not once.  Not twice.  Several times Steve stood between T’Challa and Hell, and kept him from jumping in feet first.

And T’Challa, an honorable man, knows that he owes Cap for that.  He owes his entire team for that.

He also knows that Zemo’s soul, perhaps not in the best shape to start with, is now little better than a dark pit.  The man has the unmitigated gall to apologize for killing T’Challa’s father in a pointless search for revenge.   Zemo was not pursuing justice and he knows it.  He is holding a grudge against people who did their best to save lives but who were still unable to save everyone, including his family.  Zemo is not feeling remorse.  His words are an attempt to placate justice with an excuse.

But as Panther says, “Justice will come soon enough.”  Either in this life or the next, justice will be served.  So when Zemo tries to escape the justice of this world through suicide, Black Panther prevents him from killing himself.  It is not out of pity that T’Challa blocks the shot and captures Zemo.  As he says, “The living are not done with you yet.”

Zemo did not want justice for his family.  He wanted revenge.  Panther did not want revenge, though his judgment was clouded with it.  T’Challa wanted justice for his father.  He wanted his father’s murderer to pay for what he had done.

In combat, he was willing, almost eager, to kill Bucky.  But when they captured him the first time, T’Challa was also ready to accept Barnes’ imprisonment.  Bucky would not be able to kill anyone in prison, after all.  At least, he would not be able to kill anyone who did not deserve it.

Now that he knows it was Zemo and not Barnes; sees what Zemo has become since he gave into his grief and rage, T’Challa decides to let go of his own anger and anguish.  He will always miss his father, who was stolen from him in a terrible manner.  But he no longer wants to kill to satisfy his fury and sorrow.

And since Zemo is so eager to die, the best way to punish him is to keep him alive.  Until the natural end of his life, hopefully, he will have to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom like everybody else.  He has determined that he has no purpose in life except the destruction of the Avengers.  With that accomplished, for the moment, Zemo will have to remain living in a world he has concluded is not worth his time.

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The final time we see T’Challa in the movie is when Bucky is put into cryostasis in Wakanda.  It is obvious here that T’Challa is thanking Cap and his friends for saving him from making a monstrous mistake.

But there is more than mere appreciation in his giving asylum to Team Cap and medical aid to Bucky.  Bucky is a victim, as much as T’Chaka was.  While his father is beyond his reach, Bucky is a clear and present case he can help.  He once wanted the Winter Soldier dead for a crime he did not commit.  It is his duty now to see to it that Bucky has a chance to find some measure of peace in this life.

And Team Cap is not a gang of criminals, though the law says they are.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “The law is an ass, and it has never been married.”  It would seem that T’Challa recognizes now the injustice of the Accords.  He understands that the Avengers have done their best to save as many lives in every crisis where they have been present as they can.  However, this does not mean they are able to save everyone, and to blame them for the misfortunes of battle is unreasonable.

Panther is too logical to tolerate the irrational.

This is why, when Cap reminds him that the officials may eventually come for Bucky, T’Challa smiles.  “Let them try,” he replies confidently.  They may come, and if they do, they will find they have bitten off more than they can chew.  Wakanda is as advanced as any First World country, and it is inhabited by very strong warriors.  So if you want to tango with them, go right ahead.  The rest of us will start knitting your burial shroud as you march off to get cut to pieces.

We do not know, as of Civil War, if T’Challa has had to register under the Accords as a superhuman.  I imagine the legal ramifications of forcing the monarch of a sovereign nation to obey international registration laws are more than slightly complicated.  And T’Challa is smart enough to tie the U.N. into legal knots they would be centuries untying.  If they try to put pressure on him, they are going to regret it – big time.

Considering Cap’s statement of “if they find out he’s here,” it does not sound like Team Cap will be living as ex-pats in Wakanda between this film and Infinity War.  Cap said “he,” not “we.”  As I have stated before, they will probably drop in for a visit every now and then, or whenever Bucky is woken up for a new treatment.  T’Challa will most likely be there to meet them when they come, and I suspect that he will be supplying them with money, aid, and tech until Infinity War as well.  He may even call on them to help him out under the radar!

It would be nice if we got a glimpse of Team Cap in Wakanda during the Black Panther movie in 2018.  I have my fingers crossed that at least Cap will get to pop in and have a few lines.  Background appearances for the others would be the minimum appeasement for me.

But we will have to wait and see what happens in 2018.   Until then –

Secret Avengers – Assemble!

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review: Tales of the Witch World by Andre Norton

Here is that next Andre Norton book I promised to review some time ago.  This book is not entirely Miss Norton’s creation. It is an anthology book, which contains several short stories set in Miss Norton’s Witch World universe.

Miss Norton only wrote one story in the whole volume. The others were written by her protégés, authors she helped to get noticed and published by the companies who published her work. It is a long list of authors she helped to get started, readers.

If you are not familiar with the Witch World, you can check out a couple of my other posts about that universe here on the blog. But the Witch World is wide and varied, and those last two posts are just glimpses of a bigger world. Some of these stories will not make much sense if you have only read Witch World and Web of the Witch World.

So this is why I am going to list which stories in Tales of the Witch World are good, and which you may want to avoid. To start with the negatives first, it would be best to avoid Heir Apparent, Cat and the Other, To Rebuild the Eyrie, Milk from a Maiden’s Breast, and Green in High Hallack. None of these stories are particularly well written, in my opinion, and some of them do not fit properly with the rules Miss Norton’s established for her world.

Heir Apparent is told from the villain’s perspective, and so I found it very annoying. Cat and the Other played fast and loose with the rules of Estcarpian society, the niceties, as it were. The honorifics were sloppy and insincere sounding. This makes it grate on my nerves, and so I do not recommend it at all. To Rebuild the Eyrie, which focuses on a young Falconer trying to reestablish his people’s base in the twisted southern mountains, was so poorly written that I did not even finish reading it.

Milk from a Maiden’s Breast I managed to stagger through, though again, I found the author had almost ignored the rules of the Witch World. Green in High Hallack was almost unbearable for me to read for the same reasons. It was also poorly written, which increased my aggravation with both story and author. *Deep sigh.*

These are the stories in the book that I avoid and therefore do not recommend be read. What you wish to read or not read, however, is for you to decide. The only reason I have gone to the trouble of listing the stories which drive me crazy is because I cannot, in good conscience, recommend stories I hate. If you like them, that is your prerogative. My imperative is simply to be as honest as possible when I give my opinions.

On the positive side, I enjoyed most of the other stories. A few of these came dangerously close to breaking Miss Norton’s format, but they were well written and therefore managed to avoid irritating me too much.

The first story in the book is by Andre Norton herself. This one is called Of the Shaping of Ulm’s Heir, and it is an introduction to the story of Kerovan, a character who lives in High Hallack, the western continent of the Witch World. Kerovan’s stories usually involve gryphons; one of the books that feature him and his wife is called Gryphon’s Eyrie. I have only read that one story which was based on him and his wife, and so I do not know much about him. Of the Shaping of Ulm’s Heir fills in some of the blanks for me, but I have much more to find out about him yet.

Then we have Fenneca and Bloodspell. Both these stories also take place in High Hallack, I think. Fenneca may actually take place in Estcarp; the location is never exactly stated. Fenneca breaks a few rules, but it is written well. I am therefore willing to forgive Wilanne Schneider Belden and to recommend that Fenneca be read.

Bloodspell was written by A. C. Crispin. Crispin co-wrote several novels with Miss Norton, and then went on to write a few Star Wars novels. Bloodspell takes place in Arvon, a state in High Hallack which is beyond the Dales. In Year of the Unicorn, it was implied that no one in High Hallack could enter Arvon except through luck or the gates which connect the Witch World to Earth. Bloodspell does not break this rule, but another story later on in the book does.

Crispin’s short story focuses on the Were-riders. Men who were bespelled by an Adept so that they can shape shift into animals, the Were-riders call themselves a Pack. We learn about them first in Miss Norton’s Year of the Unicorn, a very good book I will someday review here. For now, it is enough to say that Crispin wondered why the Were-riders were kicked out of Arvon into the Dales of High Hallack. Miss Norton said she did not know why, and this allowed Crispin to give us the reason in Bloodspell.

Next is The White Road, by Charles de Lint. This story is set in High Hallack immediately after that country has been freed from the Hounds of Alizon. It is fairly well written and takes little liberty with the established rules of Miss Norton’s Witch World. I would give it four out of five stars, if pressed to rate it.

Then there is Oath-Bound, by Pauline Griffin. After Miss Norton, Miss Griffin is the one writer I would trust to successfully tell a story about a Falconer. This story seems to have preceded Seakeep and its sequel; Miss Griffin’s writing here is good, but by her later stories in Storms of Victory and Flight of Vengeance her writing had greatly improved. I rate Oath-Bound as a somewhat lesser story for this reason, and no other.

Of Ancient Swords and Evil Mist and Nine Words in Winter follow. These stories skate close to breaking Miss Norton’s established laws in the Witch World, as well as the history she had formed around the countries where they take place. However, their writers knew their craft, and so the stories do not truly grate on this reader’s nerves.

Were-Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey, is a very good story. Truth be told, I cannot stand Miss Lackey’s novels (she co-wrote novels with Miss Norton). The woman puts a great deal of detail in her novels – too much detail. She has to explain the whole universe, all the scenes, characters, customs, and clothing in great specificity. This means her novels suffer from a burden of too much description and not enough story. What is more, the resolutions of her novel conflicts are often anti-climatic and unfulfilling. As a novelist, she drives me crazy.

But as a short story writer, she is not so very bad. Were-Hunter is a good example of this. The story is set in Arvon, as a sequel to Year of the Unicorn. Miss Lackey’s handicaps are assets here, and Were-Hunter is one of the stories in Tales of the Witch World that I like best. I do not understand how I can enjoy her short stories and hate her novels, but I do.

Then we have Neither Rest Nor Refuge. This story is set in Karsten at the time when the Old Race was thrice horned, or outlawed, and killed by Duke Yvian in Witch World. It is written well enough that it garners my appreciation for that reason. It also introduces a male character native to Estcarp who can wield the Power. The ending is a cliffhanger, so do not expect too much from it. Still, it is a passable story.

Next are Night Hound’s Moon and Isle of Illusion. Night Hound’s Moon is set in the Dales of High Hallack. It takes place either some time after the end of the war with Alizon, or during a lull in the conflict. Other than that, it is an entertaining story. Isle of Illusion does not adhere very well to Miss Norton’s rules for magic, in my opinion, but it is otherwise well-crafted and the writer knows her business. I do not know just where in the Witch World that Isle of Illusion is set. Seemingly, it is off the coast of High Hallack, but I cannot say for sure.

And last we have The Road of Dreams and Death. Robert E. Vardeman writes well, but I think he should have read a few more of Miss Norton’s Witch World novels before diving into this tale. In The Road of Dreams and Death, the barrier between Arvon and the rest of High Hallack is non-existent, when by rights it should still be there. This is the one thing about the story I do not understand and which rankles when I read it. Otherwise, it is an acceptable yarn.

These are the stories you will find if you pick up Tales of the Witch World, readers. You may like the stories I hate and hate the stories I like. Or you may dislike the whole thing. That is your choice. The stories I have described in some detail are the ones I enjoyed the best and wanted to share with you. If any of you wish to drop me a line disagreeing or discussing the above book, I would certainly enjoy hearing from you! For now…

See ya later!

The Mithril Guardian

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!!

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“Every one of our greatest national treasures, our liberty, enterprise, vitality, wealth, military power, global authority, flow from a surprising source: our ability to give thanks.” – Tony Snow (1955 – 2008) White House press secretary and journalist.

Hymn Of The City by William Cullen Bryant

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Hymn Of The City

by William Cullen Bryant

Not in the solitude
Alone may man commune with heaven, or see
Only in savage wood
And sunny vale, the present Deity;
Or only hear his voice
Where the winds whisper and the waves rejoice.

Even here do I behold
Thy steps, Almighty!–here, amidst the crowd,
Through the great city rolled,
With everlasting murmur deep and loud–
Choking the ways that wind
‘Mongst the proud piles, the work of humankind.

Thy golden sunshine comes
From the round heaven, and on their dwellings lies,
And lights their inner homes;
For them thou fill’st with air the unbounded skies,
And givest them the stores
Of ocean, and the harvests of its shores.

Thy spirit is around,
Quickening the restless mass that sweeps along;
And this eternal sound–
Voices and footfalls of the numberless throng–
Like the resounding sea,
Or like the rainy tempest, speaks of thee.

And when the hours of rest
Come, like a calm upon the mid-sea brine,
Hushing its billowy breast–
The quiet of that moment too is thine;
It breathes of him who keeps
The vast and helpless city while it sleeps.

Even MORE Favorite Animated Intro Themes!

Here are some more animated intro themes for you to view, readers! If you are interested in these series, please take the time to look them up. If you would rather leave a comment, feel free to do so. But for now – go have some fun!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

Alvin and the Chipmunks Intro theme (original)

X-Men: Evolution

Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century

The Looney Tunes

Transformers: Robots In Disguise (Japanese series)

Transformers: Armada

Transformers: Energon

Transformers: Cybertron

Spectacular Spider-Man

Iron Man: Armored Adventures

(Unfortunately, the only way I could get this intro was to attach the whole first episode. So if you only want to see the intro, stop the video before the show begins!)

Zoids: Fuzors

Scooby-Doo (1960s)

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Jabberjaw

Josie and the Pussycats

The Flintstones

A Review of Avengers Assemble’s “Inhumans Among Us”

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I have said many times that I do not enjoy the X-Men movies currently being produced by Fox Studios.  The films are focused mostly on special effects, noir themes, and have too little hopefulness in them.  The characters – aside from Wolverine and a fortunate few others – receive very scattered, haphazard treatments which do not help them grow and which do not exercise their individuality to the full.  I am continually bewildered by reviewers who proclaim that the latest X-Man film is a hit.  The X-Men franchise is barely treading water compared to the Avengers’ franchise, from the numbers I remember having seen.

What does this have to do with the Avengers Assemble episode “Inhumans Among Us”?  In this show, Blackbolt and the Inhuman royal family of Attilan descend on a town which has been doused in contaminated Terrigen Mist.  This results in a human from the town, who has Inhuman heritage, undergoing Terrigenisis – the process by which Inhumans gain their superpowers.

For those who do not know about the X-Men or the Inhumans, the two have their similarities and their differences.  Marvel’s X-Men are a superhero team composed of mutants.  In the Marvel Universe(s), mutants are humans born with an advanced X-gene.  This gene usually activates in the mutant’s teen years, giving them access to superpowers built into their DNA.  This occasionally leads to their transforming in appearance physically to resemble an animal or to appear non-human in some other manner.  Some mutants can use their powers or look different from birth, but most discover their abilities when they become teenagers.

Inhumans are only slightly different.  Descended from humans who were experimented on by the alien Kree millennia in the past, Inhumans are also born with superpowers programmed into their DNA due to Kree meddling all those years ago.  Which type of superpowers they will have is unknown to Inhumans initially.  Also, it does not seem that a certain power, such as hydrokinesis or super strength, is passed down from Inhuman to Inhuman through direct inheritance.  For instance, an Inhuman man who is a telepath can marry an Inhuman woman who is an empath, but their child will somehow end up with superhuman strength instead of either of his parents’ powers.

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Inhumans can live normal lives without their powers.  They will have above average strength, immunity, and longevity, but they will not manifest superpowers.  Their powers will be activated only through exposure to the Terrigen Mists, a gaseous cloud released by Terrigen Crystals taken from the Kree.

Terrigen Mist will not hurt normal humans.  But if a normal human so much as brushes up against a Terrigen Crystal without some sort of protection, it has an immediate and deadly effect on them.  The Terrigen Mist permeating the town in “Inhumans Among Us” thus does not harm Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Falcon, or the Hulk.  Admittedly, only Falcon and Cap would have had to worry.  Hulk is protected by his Gamma radiation, Tony by his armor, and Thor is Asgardian. Thus the Prince of Thunder is immune to so much as the common Earth cold.  Terrigen Crystals would be among the least likely things to harm him.

This episode serves as the Avengers’ first meeting with the Inhumans in Assemble.  Prior to this, only the Hulk had had contact with the Inhumans in the episode “Inhuman Nature,” a show from his own two season series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.  Thor may have known of the Inhumans prior to this Avengers episode.  But if that is so he had not met them more than once or twice.  And in those cases he may have been on diplomatic missions to Attilan, or they might have been visiting Asgard for political reasons.

When the Avengers and the royal family discover a strange cocoon in the town library, the team fears the thing may be the result of a deadly virus capable of wiping out innumerable people.  But when the Inhumans recognize it and try to politely force the team out of the conversation – as well as the library – the Avengers realize that whatever the cocoon is, the royal family knows it is not dangerous.  And, what is more, they certainly do not want the Avengers finding out what it is.

But when Tony tells Blackbolt – rather politely, all things considered – that the Avengers are not going anywhere without answers, the alliance the two factions formed at the beginning of the episode disintegrates.  Gorgon responds to Tony’s statement by throwing him through the walls, across the street, and into the next building.  Then the rest of the royal family attacks the bewildered Avengers in order to “protect” the cocoon.

“Inhumans Among Us” was a very disheartening episode for me.  Why?  The Avengers went out of their way to be friendly and helpful to the Inhuman royal family.  They had no intention of hurting them, and once they knew that the cocoon was for a newly awakened Inhuman, they were ready to help Blackbolt and the others calm him down.  In contrast, the Inhumans looked xenophobic and intolerant, displaying violently the prejudices which they claimed the Avengers were demonstrating.

This is my key disappointment not only with the episode, but with the general trend in all things X-Men, Inhuman, and now most of Marvel.  The writers are devoting too much energy trying to make everyone in every demographic feel included.  The problem with this is that when you try to please everyone, you please no one.  Stressing differences between people instead of similarities fractures the very unity which you are trying to build.

The X-Men at the end of Marvel's X-Men: Evolution

The X-Men at the end of Marvel’s X-Men: Evolution

In the comics written from the turn of the century to 2015, all the X-Men did was whine about the fact that normal humans would never accept them.  They became so fixated on this that the team split in half; then one half went to war with the Avengers.  The royal family in “Inhumans Among Us” showed the same blasted tendency, leaping to the conclusion that since the Avengers had no idea what the cocoon was and feared it might be an infection, they would react with extreme intolerance against it.

Instead of doing the sensible thing, which was to explain what the cocoon was, the Inhumans went berserk and wrecked half a town attacking the Avengers – all without provocation.  It was suspicion and fear which motivated the Inhumans.  The Avengers were left trying to pierce that fog with clear reasoning; but reason makes no headway against deeply entrenched unreason.  Hence the destruction of half of a small town within the episode.

The Inhumans also assumed that since the person inside the cocoon was an Inhuman by inheritance, they alone would automatically be able to calm him down and get him to see sense.  They forgot that they had voluntarily cut themselves off from humans for so long that most people in the Marvel Universe(s) have no idea who or what they are.  What if the new Inhuman came out and, added to his confusion over his new powers, was confronted with people he had no idea he could trust?  What if, due to his confusion and fear of his unknown “rescuers,” he attacked them – his supposed “kind” – maybe even killing one or two of them in the process?

Even though they do not seek it, the Avengers are world famous.  They are easily recognized by anyone who has not been living without a television, radio, or the Internet.  Even the denizens of small towns know of and instantly recognize them.

In such a situation as exhibited in “Inhumans Among Us,” this would make the Avengers invaluable in helping to calm down a new Inhuman who had never known he was anything but human.  If the royal family had been thinking, not reacting, they might have realized the team would be an asset in this circumstance and not a threat or a hindrance.

But the writers ignored that possibility completely.  Why?  Why would they have the Inhumans jump to the conclusion of discrimination and fear?  Why would they write a story where the Avengers could be construed as aggressors instead of as calm, reasonable people?  (Interestingly, the episode portrayed them in this positive light instead of the intended negative view.)

The Avengers have accepted mutants, humans, Inhumans, aliens, androids, and at least one synthetic being as members throughout their history.  They do not care about a teammate’s skin color, gender, or what-have-you; they care about the person who wants to use their skills to help defend the world.  This is a proven track record that goes back to the time when Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Gypsies and former enemies of the X-Men, were given membership on the team.  It goes back to Black Panther’s acceptance by the team.  Falcon’s membership in the team was accepted with facility as well, despite the government’s interference in the matter.  The Avengers are not a passel of small-minded bigots.  They never have been.

Yet recently there is a documentable effort to push them into this position.  While the team has never been anything short of hospitable to every proven hero, reformed convict, or good android, the Avengers keep getting thrown into conflict with people who claim they are not what they have shown themselves to be time and time again.  And these people, often allies of the Avengers, should know better than to claim this insanity.

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In recent comics, the X-Men are the guiltiest party.  Accustomed to being discriminated against, they had previously battled the Avengers several times, until someone calmed down enough to listen to the Avengers explain why they showed up.  This once led to reconciliation after reconciliation between the teams, something which was tossed out after the Avengers vs. X-Men event.  In an attempt to heal that mess, Cap started the Unity Squad, a team which was composed of Avengers and X-Men.  He hoped to bring the two factions together through this new team.

But his plan was in many respects an unmitigated disaster, as the X-Men refused to see eye-to-eye with their new teammates, particularly the Scarlet Witch.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, she wiped out most mutants’ powers earlier in the decade after going nuts and getting mad at Magneto.  How many times have members of the X-Men – not to mention mutants in general – wanted to be rid of their powers?  Besides which, by the end of A vs. X, the mutant population had been restored.  There was no reason to keep picking on Wanda – no reason except to spite her, Cap, and their Unity Squad teammates from the Avengers.  Who wants to put up with all of that negativity?  Not me, thank you.

Once upon a time, the X-Men were allowed to make friends with non-mutants in a TV series.  The 1990s series saw the team become friends with Senator – later President – Kelly.  A mutant-hating politician who came to recognize the humanity of mutants through the aid of the X-Men, he became one of their best supporters and friends.  Beast made friends with a human scientist in X-Men: Evolution, the same series where Nightcrawler had a normal human as a girlfriend.  And the number of normal humans the X-Men befriended in the comics is so long I would have to look it up to make a comprehensive list!

But by the time Wolverine and the X-Men TV series aired, this arrangement had largely been flushed down the toilet.  The episodes that came closest to making the point that humans and mutants were different in terms of genetics only were the introductory shows and “Code of Conduct.”  In that episode, Wolverine had to fight the Silver Samurai, who was married to his old flame Mariko Yashida, a normal human woman from Japan.  The rest of the series focused on the war brewing between mutants and humans because of the latter’s’ hatred for the former.  And the X-Men were bent on avoiding a blasted apocalyptic future where all but a few humans and mutants had been killed by the Sentinels.

Did the writers ever consider that by befriending normal humans the X-Men could make greater headway in circumventing this future?  No, they did not.  It was all X-Men vs. Brotherhood, X-Men vs. the MRD, or X-Men vs. Magneto and his Acolytes.  Let’s just lie down and die already, huh?

This different approach had started out in the comics, which began tearing the X-Men away from Professor X’s original dream of peaceful mutant/human coexistence.  It is as though, having reached a post-mutant-hating era, the writers decided to tear down all their good work and reset the original status quo.

But how exactly is this a good thing?  If you are so determined to build a platform of peaceful coexistence, why suddenly turn around and destroy it once it is built?  What can you possibly gain by this?

I once suggested an answer:  if everyone in the Marvel Universe became a mutant overnight, then the X-Men’s use as a team fighting for equality for mutants would go up in smoke.  Likewise, if you wipe out all mutants (an impossible task even for the Scarlet Witch), their reason for existence also disappears.  It seems that the Marvel writers, whether they realize it or not, are carrying out the second possibility – with unprecedented vigor.

In so doing they have neglected the third potential avenue for the team: could the X-Men not change their mission from peaceful coexistence to protecting the Earth, just as the Avengers do?  They have powers, gifts above the norm.  The achievement of one dream does not mean that you get to sit on your laurels or break off to follow your own pursuits.  It certainly does not mean you get to destroy your hard work.  It means you go out and get a new, better dream.

The imprisonment, death, or changed hearts of the X-Men’s old enemies does not mean they will never have new ones.  If the bigots who hate mutants are reduced, as had been suggested in comics in the early 2000s, to a minority, then that frees the team to fight on a wider field and for an even higher cause:  the protection of the two races from unsavory characters on Earth or in the galaxy.

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The Inhumans have suffered in a similar way.  Having existed as a race for millennia, they retreated from humanity to avoid persecution.  Living in hidden cities, they created their own culture, form of writing, and technology.  However, having made contact with humanity again, they continue to react intolerantly against normal humans first in an attempt to protect themselves.

How is this sensible?  How is this a “more highly evolved” attitude than that of normal humans?  If anything this reaction proves that you can build superhuman powers into humanity, but you cannot change human nature, no matter how hard you try.

Both of these teams have fallen into the bigoted tendencies that they either once fought against or retreated from facing.  Once the receivers – or potential receivers – of these attitudes, they are not willing to give rational normal humans the benefit of the doubt.  They instead react prejudicially toward them.

This is what saddens me the most about “Inhumans Among Us.”  Marvel, just like most other media institutions and academia, cannot let go of these hatreds.  Once seeking to fight against them, they have now become their biggest propagators.  They claim they are still combating intolerance when in fact they have embraced it.

This is the main reason I lost interest in the X-Men and never had much interest in the Inhumans.  If they are not willing to let go of past hurts and fears, then they will eventually become the new aggressors, the new bigots, the new haters.  Their writers have already fallen prey to this mentality, all the while thinking that they are helping to eradicate it in others.  They are not.  They are further dividing their audience, having succumbed to their own preconceptions of what is tolerant and intolerant.

This is a hard truth to speak, readers.  It is an even harder truth to hear.  We all like to think we are good people.  Only the most vile are exempt from this.  Everyone else thinks that because they have good intentions they are in fact good people.

But good intentions accomplished through bad means end up being evil deeds.  A lot of the people who supported the Nazi Party had good intentions.  They wanted their country to be strong again, they wanted their currency to be worth something, and they wanted their national and cultural identity to be respected.  But how many people – Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, and others – paid the price for those good things to “come about”?  How many died because the Russians who supported the Soviet system envisioned by Lenin and implemented by Stalin “just” wanted to make the lives of their fellows better?  And how many good-intentioned people ended up losing their heads under Madame Guillotine’s “gentle” administrations during the French Revolution?

The answer to these questions is:  too many.  Are we to repeat these well-intentioned people’s mistakes?  Mistakes are to be learned from but, if you learn the wrong lesson, you end up with the same result.  You just get there by a different path.

We learned the wrong lesson.  And we are beginning to pay the price.  If we do not stop and ask ourselves, honestly and without fear, what we are actually doing wrong…. then we will end up in the same place and in the same hellish circumstances.  And it will have happened all for the sake of “good intentions.”

The truth is all we need seek when we ask these questions, for the truth and The Truth are all that will set us free.  Everything else are traps and darkness, for the soul if not the body.   One is more precious than the other and needs greater care because of that.

Look for the truth, readers, and do not stop until you find it.  It is the only thing worth finding, the only thing worth living for…

And the only thing worth dying for.

The Mithril Guardian

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Meditation Six by Edward Taylor

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Meditation Six

Am I thy gold? Or purse, Lord, for thy wealth;
   Whether in mine or mint refined for thee?
I'm counted so, but count me o'er thyself,
   Lest gold washt face, and brass in heart I be.
   I fear my touchstone touches when I try
   Me, and my counted gold too overly.

Am I new minted by thy stamp indeed?
   Mine eyes are dim, I cannot clearly see.
Be thou my spectacles that I may read
   Thine image and inscription stampt on me.
   If thy bright image do upon me stand,
   I am a golden angel in thy hand

Lord, make my soul thy plate: thine image bright
   Within the circle of the same enfoil.
And on its brims in golden letters write
   Thy superscription in an holy style.
   Then I shall be thy money, thou my hoard:
   Let me thy Angel be, be thou my Lord.

                       Edward Taylor (1646?-1729),
                             North American Colonies