Monthly Archives: May 2017

Spotlight: Zoids – The Liger Zero

First of all, I would like to extend a humble thank you to those who have dropped by to check out the Zoids posts I have written. I started writing them because I love zoids and could find very little about them on WordPress. They are a niche series and market, and this means they are not particularly popular. But every time one of you clicks on a post about a zoid, I feel that I have connected, however briefly, with another fan of this amazing Japanese series.

Today’s zoid is not from Chaotic Century, my favorite series, but from two of the series which followed it. This zoid is the Liger Zero, the main or “hero” zoid in Zoids: New Century Zero and Zoids: Fuzors.

The Liger Zero is a cat-type zoid. With a body more streamlined than the Shield Liger’s or the Blade Liger’s, it does not immediately strike us as lion-type. Since ligers are the offspring of male lions and female tigers, it makes sense that all Ligers in the Zoids’ franchise would resemble lions. Other cat-style zoids in the stories are too different from lions for me to believe that good ol’ Liger here is anything but lion-type.

The Liger Zero’s cockpit is in his head, behind those glowing orange eyes. Liger Zero – or Liger for short, according to his pilots – is a very rare type of zoid. He is one of the few Ultimate X zoids on Zi. What is an Ultimate X? Well, according to New Century Zero, Ultimate Xs are zoids with built-in black boxes known as organoid systems. The writers chose this gimmick for their pilots instead of using an actual organoid running around by the pilot’s side to make them and their zoids more special.

This organoid system allows each Ultimate X to learn and adapt to an opponent’s moves. Once defeated, the zoid’s organoid system analyzes the battle to learn which maneuver brought it down. When an Ultimate X engages a previous foe who defeated it in a prior battle, it strikes in the opponent’s documented weak spot or retaliates with a more powerful move of its own.

This makes the Liger a very cool zoid, but it also means that the bar for the pilot he chooses does not have to be particularly high. Yes, I said the Liger Zero chooses his pilots. He has an organoid system built into his zoid core, and as my post on the organoids of Chaotic Century pointed out, organoids can choose their “owners.” The Liger works on the same principle; he is not dumb – as in mute – as most other zoids are.

New Century Zero, as I stated in the post Ready, Fight!, revolved around battles between prizefighters that were largely mediocre. Only a few characters in the show actually had the potential to become champion fighters, and they were held back by their lack of real competition. In my opinion, the pilot for the Liger Zero in this series was not one of these potential champions. Bit Cloud was funny and perceptive, but he did not have the fiber necessary to become a star pilot in the true sense of the term. Most of his success, I would say, is due entirely to the Liger’s ability to learn and make up counterattacks on his own.

In the course of New Century Zero, the Liger Zero’s white armor could be removed and three other armors put on in its place. The picture below gives you an idea of what these armors look like:

All four of these armors had specific uses. The first armor was the white “basic unit” plating. This had no weapons except for a double barrel gun set between the Liger’s forelegs. Though Bit added a sniper rifle to the Liger’s back while he was “wearing” this armor in the second episode of the series, the weapon was later removed. The Liger’s greatest asset while wearing the “basic unit” armor was his Strike Laser Claw attack. When Bit gave the word as the Liger charged forward, the zoid’s forepaws would begin to glow with bright yellow energy.

Once within striking range of another zoid, the Liger would leap and pull back one of his paws – left or right, it did not matter which. Both paws were charged with energy, but the Liger could only strike with one paw at a time. In this way he – and all other Ligers – resembles a real lion. Lions can only raise and strike with one forepaw at a time. They cannot use both in a lion-to-lion battle, perhaps not even while hunting. They can only strike with one forepaw.

The Strike Laser Claw, as I said in the post about the Shadow Fox, can easily cut through the “skin” of lightly armored zoids. Zoids with moderately thick armor can be taken down by this attack as well and, though it will not finish larger zoids with thick armor, the Strike Laser Claw attack will still do noticeable damage that can lower their combat ability. Bit ended several of his initial battles by using the Strike Laser Claw maneuver to finish off an opponent. This was the beginning of the Blitz Team’s winning streak.

Related image

The next armor, also from New Century Zero, was the Jaeger armor. This armor was blue with white highlights and it was very aerodynamic. Light though it was, it could take a decent amount of damage in close quarters fighting, mostly because the zoids it was designed to fight were lightly armored as well.

The Jaeger armor’s primary purpose was to boost the Liger’s speed. This it achieved flawlessly, allowing the Liger to keep pace with Jack Cisco’s Lightning Saix. While Bit used the Jaeger armor on other opponents from time to time, its main purpose was to even the fight when the Blitz Team was scheduled to do battle with Cisco and his Lightning Team. The Jaeger armor did not come equipped with any weapons save the boosters on its back. When the Liger wore that armor, he was the weapon.

Image result for Liger Zero Schneider

The third armor for the Liger Zero was the Schneider armor. Orange with blue and white highlights, the Schneider armor came equipped with seven blue blades. Two were attached to the Liger’s sides and would fold up on his back, like a Blade Liger’s blades. Bit did not usually rely on these; his main attack when he put the Liger in the Schneider armor was the Buster Slash.

The Buster Slash was accomplished by the Liger extending five blue swords from his “mane.” These would flip forward to surround his head. One blade flipped down from the Liger’s forehead while four others would fold forward from his “cheeks.” These, like the blades on the Liger’s back, would charge with energy as the Liger ran toward his opponent. One hit with this maneuver was generally all Bit and the Liger needed to bring down a competitor.

The Schneider’s Buster Slash feature was a very powerful attack. Only a couple of zoids and their pilots were ever able to defeat it, and because of the Liger’s “black box,” their victories were short-lived. Bit and the Liger would eventually overcome a number of these defeats by using the “Seven Blade Attack.” Lowering the five forward blades, the Liger would then lower and extend the two swords on his back. These he would point forward from his sides, as a Blade Liger does when he is “shooting from the hip.”

This would allow the energy flowing through all seven blades to merge into a crackling, shield-like sphere of blue energy covering the front half of the Liger’s body. If the blades did not defeat an opponent, then the overwhelming energy produced by the seven charged swords would. Though Bit rarely used the Seven Blade Attack – and I doubt his true piloting ability – I have to admit this Attack was a beautiful thing to watch. It caused massive damage to opposing zoids and ended the battle with finality. The Schneider armor did not come equipped with any guns, just as the Jaeger did not. Aside from their built in weapons, the Liger could still use the Strike Laser Claw while “wearing” the Schneider or the Jaeger armor.

The fourth armor more than makes up for these armors’ lack of firepower, not to mention the “basic unit” armor’s small chest cannon. The fourth armor, known as the Panzer unit, was camouflage green and loaded down with guns. Lena must have envied Bit for this armor; he never had to reload it, so Dr. Torres was never pestered by anyone but his daughter for more ammunition and artillery. Bit was quite satisfied with what the Panzer already had.

Image result for Liger Zero Panzer

The Panzer armor came equipped with two Hybrid cannons, each of which had two muzzles. These were mounted along the Liger’s sides and reached from his shoulders almost to his hips. The recoil on these cannons was so great that the Liger would go skidding backward several hundred feet after firing them. Meanwhile, missiles of every stripe and size that could possibly be inserted within the armor lay in wait for Bit to fire off his “Mega Bomb” attack.

When Bit fired the “Mega Bomb,” these missiles streaked out of hidden compartments throughout the armor. Using this attack, the Liger could destroy multiple targets at once, or almost obliterate a single opponent in one fell swoop. For gun and ammunition enthusiasts, the Panzer was the cream of the Liger’s crop of alternate armors.

Despite the power of the Panzer armor, Bit rarely used it. Because it held such arsenal, the armor was very heavy. It severely limited the Liger’s mobility. Combine this with the immense power the armor had to draw from the Liger for it to function, and it meant that the Panzer armor would make the Liger’s systems overheat to a dangerous degree. If Bit did not jettison the armor a few minutes after using it, he could very well kill the Liger.

And so, after using the Panzer armor in combat, Bit would have to jettison the Liger’s fourth skin on the battlefield. Heat shimmers would rise from the Liger as he stretched and shook off the sense of confinement. This was no big deal if the Liger had just dealt the final blow to his challenger. But if he had not done this, then he and Bit would be left completely vulnerable to attack. Without his armors the Liger Zero is literally naked; stripped bare with no defenses except his Strike Laser Claw. And even that may not work without a set of armor on his chassis. So while the Panzer was a great asset, using it carried too many risks most of the time. This was Bit’s reason for holding the armor in reserve after refusing to use it for most of the series.

The next two alternate modes the Liger Zero possessed were used in the Zoids: Fuzors series. I did not particularly enjoy Fuzors for the simple reason that it involved more meaningless prize fights with characters that had little talent for actual combat. Plus, the series ended mid-way through here in the States, and so I never saw the show from beginning to end.

I was also somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of separate Zoids fusing together. It felt a little too much like they were taking a cue from Transformers, where two Autobots or Decepticons could combine into one fighter. The organoids fusing with a larger zoid never bothered me; maybe because they did not change the zoid’s outward appearance on most occasions. But actual zoids in Chaotic Century and New Century Zero had never combined into one “combat unit” previously. I cannot say precisely why, but the concept never did sit well with me.

This is why I do not remember much about the two alternate modes of the Liger Zero in Fuzors. The first alternate mode was the Liger Zero Phoenix. A zoid which had never been seen before and which was something of a legend, the Phoenix was a wild zoid who did not usually mingle with the tame or piloted zoids.

Image result for Liger Zero Phoenix

Liger Zero Phoenix

Despite this, she eventually decided to partner with the Liger Zero and his pilot RD. That is correct, I said she. Throughout the series the Phoenix was referred to time and again as “she”, the first combat zoid ever to be declared female. The Liger Zero was always spoken of in the male sense, as were several other zoids in Chaotic Century. While the organoid Specula was called “it” a number of times in that series, I personally considered her to be female. The Phoenix’s gender was therefore not terribly surprising or upsetting for me.

I do not remember too much of the Liger Zero Phoenix’s capabilities in battle. I think the combined power of the two zoids allowed the Liger some limited flight capabilities and I believe it super-charged his Strike Laser Claw attack. There was also a lot of fire in the arena when RD had Liger Zero and the Phoenix combine into one; she was the bird of fire, after all. I think she may have added some flames to the results of the Strike Laser Claw attack.

This partnership did not end well. In one battle, RD got in over his head and the Phoenix was destroyed. At least, her zoid form was. You know the old legend about how the phoenix is reborn from the ashes, right? Well, after Phoenix’s death, RD went into an emotional tailspin. On his journey to find meaning in his life after getting his partner killed, he met a young, dark-skinned, dark-haired girl named Venus. She was a bright, chirpy little thing who was wise beyond her years and had feathers in her hair.

She also had the ability to commune with zoids, something RD discovered when he woke up to find her conversing one-sidedly with the Liger. (Liger’s growls do not translate into English, readers.) With Venus’ help, RD found a new Fuzor partner for the Liger, the Jet Falcon. The two combined into the Liger Zero Falcon and were a pretty impressive team – by Fuzors’ standards. I am not up to speed on their capabilities, but they were not to be sneezed at, from what I recall. And the Jet Falcon was referred to in the male sense, in case you were curious.

RD and Venus parted ways after this, but when they did he noticed that one of the feather’s the girl wore had fallen on the ground near his feet. Picking it up, RD was surprised to find it looked like a phoenix feather.

Related image

Liger Zero Falcon

This is as much proof as we ever get that Venus was in fact a reborn Phoenix, but in human form. I cannot say the idea is terribly unappealing; it was one of the few things I liked about Fuzors. After all, the legends never say whether the phoenix is reborn as a phoenix, and the Japanese writers obviously decided to have some fun with this assumption on the part of viewers. It was a very innovative story device, in my opinion. Color me impressed.

Well, readers, this is all the info I have on the Liger Zero. If you want to know more, check out Zoids: New Century Zero and/or Zoids: Fuzors. If you would rather skip watching the series, try the Wikipedia files on them instead. Neither of these series were my favorite show, and I must admit that I rank Fuzors even lower than New Century. But this is not the fault of the zoids, and they are always worth watching, even when their pilots are not.

So, in the spirit of the Zoidian desert, readers, I will “see you on the battlefield!”

Advertisements

Book Review: The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

Image result for The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

In the Church of Our Lady Mary in Krakow, Poland, there is a special tradition. Every hour of every day, on the hour, one of the firemen of Krakow goes to the tower in the church and plays a special hymn on the trumpet. This hymn is called the Heynal, the Hymn to Our Lady. You can hear it in this video here:

If you listen carefully, you will notice that the hymn ends abruptly. It actually ends on a broken note. Why?

In thirteenth century Poland, the Tartars were invading. They were almost at the gates of the city of Krakow when they heard a song. It was a boy in the brick cathedral of the Church of Our Lady Mary, which at that time was outside the walls of the city. All the other buildings around the church had been burned by the invading Tartars. Only the church remained standing.

The boy was blowing the Heynal on his trumpet, as he had sworn to do in times of emergency. He knew doing this would get the Tartars attention and let them spot him. But it was his duty to play the Heynal on the hour, and the time had come for him to play. So he played.

And a Tartar took aim and fired at him, killing him with the arrow. This left the broken note of the Heynal, as the boy died before he could finish the tune. All who play the hymn today end the tune on the broken note, in memory of the boy who died fulfilling his duty to country, God, and church. Even during the years when the Communists had control of Poland, the Heynal would be played from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary.

In the twentieth century, a student and teacher named Eric P. Kelly heard the Heynal being played from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary in Krakow. The melody enchanted him almost as much as Poland did. And it inspired him to write The Trumpeter of Krakow.

In later centuries, after the Tartars were driven out of Poland, the Heynal was played not only on the hour, but to alert the city to the danger of fire. The watchman who would play the Heynal on the hour during the day or night (they rotated shifts, of course), would ring the bell and play the hymn to warn the city of invasion and other such dangers. But for the most part, during the fifteenth century, it was to warn against fires.

Krakow had a lot of wooden buildings at the time. One little set of sparks in the right place at the right time and – whoosh! There goes a third of the city up in smoke.

Pan (Mr.) Andrew Charnetski, his wife, and his son Joseph are headed into Krakow one day in July of 1461. Joseph is sitting on the back of the cart with the last possession of his family besides the cart itself, the horses, and the clothes on their backs – a pumpkin. The Charnetskis lived in the Ukraine until their house and property were burned to the ground by raiders.

Now they are headed to Krakow, on a market day. The road to the city is full of farmers headed to market with their goods, as well as with those coming to buy those goods. The Charnetskis are the only refugees of any import in this story.

As Joseph sits on the back of the cart, watching the world go by, he suddenly sees a man riding toward them. Getting his father’s attention, Joseph dives at once to catch hold of the animal’s reins when the stranger commands him to mind the horse. Young though he is – Joseph is fifteen – the youth senses something amiss with the stranger. There is something dangerous, something evil, in his expression.

The man introduces himself to Pan Andrew and talks to him rapidly in a low voice. Whatever he says, Pan Andrew does not like it. In fact, though no one can tell from his expression, the stranger’s words frighten him. He tells the man to be off, but the stranger is stubborn. He then asks how much Pan Andrew will take for the pumpkin.

Pan Andrew tells him it is not for sale, despite the fact that the man offers him far more than any pumpkin ought to be worth. When Pan Andrew continues to refuse to sell the pumpkin, the stranger draws his sword –

But Pan Andrew is better. He knocks the man off of the cart and to the ground. Thinking quickly, Joseph turns the man’s horse and slaps its rump, sending it running. He jumps aboard the cart and his father takes off, leaving the stranger cursing and shouting in the mud beside the road.

The family makes it to the city safely. On their way in Joseph hears the Heynal as it is played from the tower of the Church of Our Lady Mary. Pan Andrew promises to tell him the story of the broken hymn later on. What poor Pan Andrew does not yet know is that all is not well in Krakow. Pan Andrew goes to see his relatives but finds his cousin has been killed in a feud between the tradesmen and the nobles. This leaves the Charnetskis with no place to stay, no money and, worst of all, no protection.

If you want to know what else happens in the story, readers, you shall have to chase down a copy of The Trumpeter of Krakow yourselves. I have whet your appetite, I hope, for this charming story. Someone I know read and went into raptures over the book a long time ago. I waited a long time to read the novel, unfortunately. Perhaps, if I had read it earlier, I would have enjoyed it more than I did.

Poland is left in the dust these days. For twenty years it did not even exist; it was divided between Germany, Russia, and Austria. By far Austria treated the Poles better than the Germans or the Russians. Poland has suffered much throughout her long history.

However, as the Japanese say, “Fall seven times, stand up eight!” Poland has suffered, but she has always stood back up at some point. It is time she was recognized for this strength. This post and, perhaps, others will help to put her back in the world consciousness, where she belongs.

God go with you, readers!

The Fool’s Prayer by Edward Rowland Sill

Related image

The Fool’s Prayer

by Edward Rowland Sill

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: ‘Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!’

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch’s silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: ‘O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

‘No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin; but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!

‘ ‘Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
‘Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

‘These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

‘The ill-timed truth we might have kept-
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say-
Who knows how grandly it had rung?

‘Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders-oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

‘Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!’

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
‘Be merciful to me, a fool!’

Book Review – Star Trek: The Covenant of the Crown

Image result for Star Trek: The Covenant of the Crown

Any Star Trek fan worth his salt will be able to tell you about the episode The Trouble with Tribbles. Tribbles, overgrown living puff balls, are soft, furry, harmless creatures that breed faster than rabbits. One of the things which make this episode so interesting is that it was written by a fan of the original series. That fan’s name is David Gerrold. And he wrote and sold The Trouble with Tribbles to Gene Roddenberry and the rest when he was twenty-three years old.

But Howard Weinstein did one better. He wrote a short, fan fiction story for his high school science fiction magazine called “The Pirates of Orion.” Later, in 1973, when Star Trek was made into an animated television series, Weinstein rewrote the story and sold it to the series creators. It became the first episode for the second season of the animated Star Trek series, retaining its title. Why is this important?

Howard Weinstein sold the story to the studio when he was nineteen and in college. That’s why it is important; he was the youngest writer for Star Trek ever, a position he may still hold. I cannot say for sure that he does, but it seems reasonable to assume this. At least, of the original fan base, he is the youngest writer they ever had, fan or otherwise.

Anyway, his love of Star Trek gave him the desire to become a science fiction writer. “The Pirates of Orion” was his first major success. The Covenant of the Crown, a novel set in the Star Trek universe, was his second.

In this story, McCoy is hiding in his room, curled up on his bed. Why?

It’s his birthday. And he is feeling old.

Captain Kirk is trying to talk him out of the room, and he finally convinces McCoy to get up and move by saying he wants the doctor to bait Spock while the Captain plays chess with him. They head down to the rec room on deck seven, Kirk opens the door….

On a dark room.

Thrusting McCoy into the room, Kirk watches the lights turn on and the crewmen pop up from behind the tables and chairs, shouting, “Surprise! Happy Birthday, McCoy!”

With this mission successfully completed, Kirk stands off to the side with Scotty to watch the festivities. Then he and his Chief Engineer feel the Enterprise kick into a higher gear. They make for the comm. as Spock calls Kirk to the bridge.

Star Fleet Command has called the Enterprise to Starbase 22 for a secret mission. Eighteen years ago, the planet Shad was thrust into a civil war due to Klingon meddling. Why? Shad is home to an ore known as Tridenite, a clean, efficient source of energy. The planet supplies twenty other planets with this vital ore. Half those planets are Federation, the other half are neutral. And they are all right next door to the Klingon Empire.

If Shad falls to the Klingons, they can take the entire sector because they will have control of the Tridenite.

Eighteen years ago, Lieutenant Commander James T. Kirk convinced Shad’s King, Stevvin, to escape Shad to protect his wife and daughter. It was supposed to be an exile of a few months, but it turned into an exile of eighteen years, during which time the queen died.

But the king and his daughter are alive. And with the Loyalist forces on the brink of winning the war – and falling apart as they try to divide the spoils before they even win – it seems it is time for the king to go home.

And he wants to; he really wants to go home. And Kirk wants to take him and his daughter home, to make up at least a little for leaving them stranded on an exile planet for eighteen years.

There is just one problem. The king’s daughter has a diabetic-like condition. She needs shots of a special serum, or she will die in a matter of hours. She is not physically as strong as she could be as a result. And the king himself, Stevvin, is dying.

Bonus points, McCoy and the king’s daughter start doing the Romance Two-Step. And if that did not complicate matters, throw in a few Klingon agents and a traitor in the King’s entourage, and you have a story filled with intrigue, romance, and danger. A little humor is added as Chekov tries to lose ten pounds he gained invisibly.

The Covenant of the Crown is a very good Star Trek story. With forewords by Howard Weinstein and David Gerrold, it also offers a window into what Star Trek fandom used to look like.

If you can, readers, find yourselves a copy of The Covenant of the Crown. If you do not like it, I am sorry to hear that. But I think it is a fantastic, fun story. It is at least worth one reading.

Live long and prosper!

El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe

Image result for El Dorado poem

El Dorado

Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
   Had journeyed long,
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
   But he grew old—
   This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow—
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.
   And, as his strength
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—
   ‘Shadow,’ said he,
   ‘Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?’
   ‘Over the Mountains
   Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
   Ride, boldly ride,’
   The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

May Magnificat by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Image result for May Magnificat Poem

May Magnificat

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

Season 3 of Avengers Assemble Review

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution

Last year I did a post called “Avengers Assemble Season Three – How Is It So Far?” That post covered the first eight episodes of the third season. Reading it, you will find that I was most pleased with what I had seen at the time.

Now that the “Ultron Revolution” has run its course and “Secret Wars” – hopefully no relation to the lousy 2015 comic book event – are in our viewing future, you might be asking yourselves: what did I think of the rest of season three?

Let’s find out.

Since I wrote individual posts on the episodes “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” these stories will not be discussed at length herein. If you wish to know what this writer thought of those episodes, use the search engine to find the posts about “Inhumans Among Us” and “Captain Marvel,” readers.

“The Inhuman Condition” was much better than its predecessor, “Inhumans Among Us,” in my book. There was no angst, no fuss, no muss, just cooperation between the Avengers and Black Bolt. Lockjaw giving Cap a few licks was good, too, since it showed that even a dog can recognize how great Steve is. It was wonderful to watch Hawkeye being his usual confident self instead of a doofus. It was also nice to hear Tony actually ask for help for a change, and watching Thor smash Ultron is always fun. Ah, I love the sound of Mjolnir hitting maniacal robots in the morning, don’t you?

Now “The Kids Are Alright” I had some problems with, and there are friends of mine who have issues with it as well. One, for instance, hated that Khan interrupted Cap when he gave the kids a tour of the Tower. Another friend considers Khan to be nothing more than an annoyance during the episode’s run, since she has no purpose in the narrative of the show. She did not demonstrate any depth of character, either; she is just a fangirl who got lucky and ended up with superpowers.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution The Kids Are Alright

What is this author’s opinion? I am no fan of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. To me, she is no more entertaining than her namesake. Also, Khan was not allowed by the writers to make any mistakes in combat during this show. She and Inferno had been using their powers for all of, what, a week? And yet she is a better fighter than he is? I am sorry but no, no, no, and no. Rookies do not do that well on the job in their first weeks; it does not happen unless they are extremely talented and/or lucky. Luck I will admit Khan has, but as for talent, it does not take much to imitate Mr. Fantastic – who should at least be mentioned in this series, by the way!

I thought that Inferno got short shrift here, too, being portrayed as the cocky kid who runs into a situation without thinking. I can handle a callow youth or a hothead, but the fact is that these often unwelcome traits do not necessarily add up to stupidity, which is the direction the Marvel writers appeared to be heading with the character in “The Kids Are All Right.” Inferno can do much better, but it does not seem that the writers want him to do better. They ought to bring Dante into “Secret Wars” as part of the Earth-bound Avengers just to give him a better showing than the one he got in season three.

On the bright side, Cap and Hawkeye did well in this show. Cap was his usual charming and encouraging self while Hawkeye got to prove (again) that although he may not be a super genius, this does not mean he is stupid. The sad thing is that they are the only saving graces in an otherwise politically correct, namby-pamby, wishy-washy, feel-good episode. You can tell I was not “feeling the love” from this show, can’t you, readers?

In contrast, I thought that “The Conqueror” and “Into the Future” were much better installments in the series. Bringing Kang into the story sets up a primary villain for season four, and no one can say that Kang is a fifth rate villain. He is no Dr. Doom (despite his mysterious relation to him), nor is he Magneto, but he probably ranks third behind those two masterminds of evil. Having Tony tweak him and get him angry was a good trick for the first episode, and showing Cap best him in the Jurassic period was the highlight of “Into the Future.”

My one problem with “Into the Future” is that none of the male rebels, aside from Thor, got a speaking part. Layla was a good character, and the hint that the red-headed girl who had tried to improve Tony’s Omega suit could be his great-great-great-great-great granddaughter was nice. The nod to Kate Bishop also did not go unnoticed by yours truly. In fact, the whole idea of a rebellion against Kang’s rule was genius, in my opinion. I wish someone had thought of it years ago!   (For all I know they did, but if so, I never heard about it.)

But the fact remains that some of the guys in Thor’s rebellion should have been allowed to say at least one word. Having Thor as their leader and letting him give the speeches was good; along with the rebellion twist, it made a lot of sense. He is Asgardian and immortal – practically speaking, anyway. Of course he would live into the thirtieth century, where he would start a rebellion against Kang’s tyranny, and of course he would end up bald as Odin. But at least ONE of the male rebels in Thor’s band should have been allowed to talk instead of being used as scenery filler.

This is a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent episode, but it is an important one to make. Marvel is trying to feminize its franchise, from Iron Man to Thor to Hawkeye and beyond. I am tired of it. The company already has great female leads; they do not need a bunch of milksop fems strutting across the screen, attempting to be something they are not. If they want to add new characters to help tell new stories, that is fine. But trying to replace the originals with newbies like Khan does not work; to the best of my knowledge, it never has. And when they try to make all their heroes female, the writers make matters worse. Remember, I like Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Sam Wilson, Vision, Quicksilver, and many of the other male leads in Marvel because they are male. And I am not the only one. I wish that Marvel would get this fact through its thick, corporate head already and let me save my breath on this issue.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Seeing Double

Now we will go back to business. In “Seeing Double” we watch as Natasha faces off against Black Widow wannabe Yelena Belova. I have read about the character but never seen her, and this episode is a very impressive introduction for her. It fleshed out Natasha’s character in the bargain, and the hint that maybe she did not throw away the thumb drive said to contain her real memories was an unexpected twist. Making the Hulk into a large, green version of the Winter Soldier was something that I did not see coming. My only disappointment is that we never got to see Bucky here or during season three.

Then we have “A Friend in Need,” where Vision is introduced to the team. It was a nice installment, from Thor’s taking him to Asgard and teaching him about friendship to Vision’s nearly permanent sacrifice to save his friends. The three-way training session with Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye was a good bonus point, as was Vision playing video games with Hulk and Thor at the end. Very cute scene!

After this we had “Panther’s Rage,” an episode that presented T’Challa/Black Panther, Wakanda, and the Dora Milaje in an interesting way. Hawkeye’s flirting with Aneka was somewhat irritating, but their resultant friendship had a much better vibe to it. Cap and Thor’s ability to understand Panther and their subsequent friendships with him were believable and fun as well. And watching the pack of them kick Klaue’s fanny was great, as usual. But I am kind of getting tired of T’Challa always showing up on the Avengers’ doorstep angry. How about a little variety next time, Marvel writers?

“Ant-Man Makes It Big” was a fun episode in which Marvel proved that, despite many changes over the years, they still like to poke fun at themselves from time to time. Thor teaching a snobby actor the reality of life was a plus, as was Hawkeye’s easy acceptance of Scott and his new job. Having Widow angry at Scott for leaving the Avengers was an interesting and compelling development. It is nice to see that they have completely separated her from their original Amazonian stereotype and allowed her to be the character she always has been.

After this came “House of Zemo.” This show is one of my favorites and it had many good points, one of these being the redemption of Cap’s father after the debacle where Marvel tried to make the First Avenger a secret operative of HYDRA in the comics last year. In search of a photo he can use to draw a picture of his father, Cap leaves Avengers Tower on his birthday (July 4th), in order to clear his head and jog his memory. Hawkeye, who actually had a lousy father in the comics and apparently in Assemble as well, still palpably empathizes with Cap’s desire to remember and draw his father’s face. The rapport between the two is handled with an artist’s touch here and makes this episode an adventure worth remembering. 😉

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution House of Zemo

There was one thing about “House of Zemo,” however, that felt off to me: Helmut Zemo’s “redemption” at the end of the show. It felt forced and tacked on. I agree that he can reform; that is not what bothered me. It is that the writers brought about his change of heart too fast to be believable and satisfactory. They jammed it into an otherwise moving story, as though they thought no one would like an episode where Hawkeye, the fatherless, anchorless Avenger, helped the most grounded member of the team reconnect with his own father.

Maybe they were right, but I doubt it seriously. Of course, perhaps they thought Helmut Zemo could make the leap with ease, since in this series he is in fact a very old man, but he looks and acts young thanks to taking his father’s variant of the Super Soldier Serum. It still feels cheap to me, though, and that is why I make such a fuss about it.

The episodes “U-Foes,” “Building the Perfect Weapon,” and “World War Hulk” were great installments. The U-Foes, I think, would make viable fifth-rate villains in season four, but I do not like Widow’s taking offense when Red Hulk labeled everyone on the team “men” at the end of “World War Hulk.” No, she is not a man, but his use of the term is normal and hardly material for an affront, unless he is addressing a room full of women. This he definitely did not do within the show. I would think any female Avenger would ignore this unimportant phrase and deal with the bigger issue – the fact that Red Hulk thought he was the team’s leader. Who died and made him king?

Another thing which irritated me in these shows was how Cap acquiesced to Hulk wearing the inhibitor collar. His unabashed appreciation of Red Hulk’s military analysis of situations was equally bothersome. Just because Ross was once a U.S. general with a modicum of talent, it does not make him a great guy. I found it irksome that the writers thought Cap should appreciate Red’s ability to tactically assess a base –especially since he showed that this skill did not stretch nearly far enough. Cap is better than that, people. Stop treating him like a cookie-cutter tin soldier. He is no such thing!

One of the things I did enjoy here is that Hulk got to stay on Earth, instead of being tossed off-world and ending up in a gladiatorial arena. Another beautiful touch to the “World War Hulk” episode was the hint of romance between Big Green and Black Widow. Though they have done it before, in this Hulk-centered episode, it had more than its usual impact for viewers.

The romance the writers have developed between Natasha and Hulk in Avengers Assemble is something I have come to like quite a bit. It fits the narrative and it gives me hope that, should the writers bring Mockingbird and/or Sharon Carter on the scene, they will be able to handle a Romance Reel with them and their guys as well as they have managed Natasha and the Hulk’s duet. It also lets me hope that when Cap and Tony meet Peggy Carter in season four, the writers will be able to portray that romance with the same adroit touch they have used for Natasha and Hulk.

The “Civil War” story arc was truly impressive. For one thing, it was really, really, REALLY nice not to have Tony and Cap trying to kill each other here. The pluses continued to mount when the Mighty Avengers were formed as the antagonistic team, with Princess Sparkle Fists (a.k.a. Captain Marvel) at the head of the group. My only regret is that the writers did not hand her off to the Hulk during the battle. At least he would have actually hit her.

Image result for avengers assemble ultron revolution Civil War hawkeye and songbird

The moment when Hawkeye convinced Songbird to leave the Mighty Avengers for the Avengers was superb. I had hoped to see Songbird before season three’s conclusion as part of the Avengers or as the leader of the Thunderbolts. The writers surpassed my wildest dreams in this regard for her, and they outdid themselves on Hawkeye’s characterization in this moment. His general deportment throughout the “Civil War” conflict was perfect. I am really happy with the fact that they have stopped using him as the team pratfall in every episode. 😀

Ant-Man and Falcon fighting while flying was a great nod to the film franchise, as was Vision’s accidentally injuring Cap with Mjolnir. It was also highly satisfying to watch Little Miss Stretch pull one of Iron Man’s moves from Age of Ultron, hitting Hulk when he was not expecting it. Rookie though he is, even Inferno would have known better than to do that.

But the most surprising moment in the season finale came when Ultron hacked Tony’s suit and arc reactor, thereby taking control of both his mind and body. It was the biggest shock of the event. I did not see that coming, which was the entire point. The Marvel writers truly pulled a rabbit out of their hat when they did it. I only hope the team can purge Ultron from Tony’s system during season four’s “Secret Wars.” Otherwise, I am not going to be a happy camper.

To sum up, there are only a few things I have left to say, and they are about the next season of Avengers Assemble. Season three broke new ground for the team by bringing in new players such as Songbird and the Thunderbolts, along with Inferno, Vision, and Black Panther.

The additions of villains such as Yalena Belova, Kang the Conqueror, the U-Foes, Egghead, and others expanded Assemble’s villain cadre nicely. Not every season has to revolve around Ultron, Thanos, and Red Skull, after all. And the Avengers do not have to fight Dracula or MODOK every day, either. It is nice to see old enemies with new schemes fighting our heroes. They should get to fight some B, C, and D rated villains like Egghead every now and then. Save a city instead of the planet – piece of cake. Although I do miss watching the team as they tangle with Dr. Doom and Magneto. Doom has disappeared from Assemble and since Marvel is not interested in mixing mutants into its Avengers cartoons anymore, any chance to see how the team would slap down the Master of Magnetism has evaporated. Rats. I would have liked to view that.

The upgraded characterizations of our favorite heroes righted the problems I noted in posts about the first and second seasons of the show. They were overdue, but better late than never. These changes have made Assemble much stronger as a series than when it began. I hope that, when it comes time to replace Assemble, I will not have to lecture the writers again on the issues which I pointed out in those prior posts. I will not, however, be holding my breath on that hope.

With regard to the original seven Avengers on the team, I would like to ask the Marvel writers to keep up the good work. Leave the stereotypes in the trash, where they belong, and run the characters according to the tried and true formula which you know actually works.

Secondly, I would like to ask the writers to please, please drop Jane Foster/“Thorette” from the line-up for season four!! She will be a DISASTER, people! Do not shoot yourselves in the foot here!

Three, let Inferno grow and learn from the Avengers. And while I applaud the addition of Black Panther, Songbird, Vision, and soon the Wasp to the series, do not stop there. We want Mockingbird, Spectrum, War Machine, the Winter Soldier, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Power Man, and many of the other heroes from the comics to at least get a mention in season four. If we are going to have more than the four seasons, then by all means, add them to the cast list. Just because they are not part of the films and live action TV shows, this should not prevent the writers from adding them to the cartoon series. And Scarlet Witch is, in fact, part of the film franchise. So why have she and Quicksilver been left out of Assemble?!?!? It makes no sense to leave the twins out, Marvel writers!

Image result for avengers assemble secret wars

Last but most important, I wish to remind the writers that we watch the Avengers because we like good stories with great characters, not because we are looking for a lecture on social justice or the latest cause celeb. If we want any of that junk, we will turn on the news or go to a tabloid stand. Since we are coming to you, it means we want to get away from those things for a little while.

Just tell us some good stories, okay? That is all any of us want out of fiction writers. Good stories, well told, with enduring characters. All right?

Avengers – ASSEMBLE!!!