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Spotlight: Thundercats – Snarf

Old School Evil: Top 5 Worst Mascots

I hope no one thought I forgot my promise to revisit the Thundercats universe! Since the series was the subject of my final post in 2019, this blogger wanted to put some new material between that article and this one. Hopefully, you will find it was worth the wait, readers.

As JorgePR correctly guessed last year, the focus of today’s post is none other than Snarf. His full name is Snarf Osbert, but because he despises that name he usually goes by his species’ moniker. If the naming convention seems odd, that is because it is. Snarfs are known as such because of the sound/word they always say (which is, of course, “snarf”). Their species name precedes their given name.

The system is reminiscent to how the Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans address one another. In the Orient, a person’s last name always comes before the one they were given at birth. Only family members or close friends may use someone’s first name in a familiar manner. Strangers, or those who know each other only casually, must always speak to one another using their last names. To do otherwise is considered quite rude.

Going back to the series, Snarfs are a lizard/cat species somehow related to the humanoid Thunderians. We are never told how, and we do not really need to know. After all, if your protagonists are humanoid cats, then why wouldn’t most of the friendly animals and/or sapient species from their homeworld be cat-themed as well?

Snarfs typically act in the capacity of servants to Thunderians. The only known species to be inherently incapable of committing evil (they only perform wicked acts when under mind control), Snarfs are quite happy to serve. Even if they work for a bad master, once he is removed they will search for a new Thunderian whom they can happily wait on, cook for, or for whom they may babysit. Though they eventually become an independent race, this comes about as a matter of circumstance and is not due to a revolt against their Thunderian rulers.

Iron Lords are GO! | The H.A.M.B.

From this overview you might have an idea of how our Snarf fits into the series. Hired on as Lion-O’s nanny, the young prince’s growth spurt in the stasis pod does nothing to dampen Snarf’s affection for him. Acting as a sort of surrogate mother figure, he is hardly ever away from the new Lord’s side for most of the series’ run. Generally, if you see Lion-O, Snarf is somewhere nearby.

The first to awaken from his stasis pod, Snarf immediately goes in search of Lion-O. On finding him, he opens his stasis pod, and the two reunite – though the young man’s pride makes him a bit brusque with his former nurse. It is through his efforts that Lion-O is able to wake the other Thundercats and save them from an attack by the Mutants. Of course, this little fact seems to go unnoticed by the rest of the gang, leading Snarf to mutter some complaints about how he “did nothing at all. Just found the sword. *snarf, snarf*

As you may have guessed, this is a running theme in the narrative. Plus, due to his small size and lack of fighting ability, Snarf tends to retreat from violent situations. In fact, some would say that the yellow streak down his back is appropriate because it hints at his cowardly nature. Overlooked by the enemy and taken for granted by the Thundercats from time to time, Snarf didn’t seem to serve much of a function beyond comic relief.

These may be some of the reasons why fans came to hate him so much. (His repetitive “*snarf, snarf*!” didn’t help, either, I think.) In a series full of warrior cat people, Snarf seemed to be storytelling dead weight. He whined and complained, ran from most fights, and had a rather prissy way of talking to the heroes, as though he was older and more mature than the rest of them…..

….Which he may actually have been. If you study Snarf’s face, general design, and listen to him speak, Snarf does appear to be the oldest member of the cast. Only Jaga may have surpassed him in age. Add to this his skill at housekeeping and knowledge of people – specifically Lion-O, his charge – and this reading gives meaning to a lot of Snarf’s behavior. He is not a warrior or even a housekeeper. He is everyone’s mom, uncle, and aunt all rolled into one.

Mr. Ping and po, kung fu panda, wallpaper, poster

An equivalent character would be Po’s dad, Mr. Ping, the goose from the Kung Fu Panda series. Mr. Ping is not a warrior. He whines and complains about everything, guilt-tripping Po into doing whatever he wants him to do (e.g. spend the Winter Festival with him at the restaurant). Since the entire franchise is comedic, Mr. Ping’s attitude isn’t as annoying to most as it would be if the story were played straight. The reverse applies to Snarf, as his behavior is not meant for comedic effect (most of the time).

One has to look no further than his relationship with Lion-O to see the proof of this. Although he could misread him from time to time, the one member of the group who knew the young Lord best was Snarf. He could usually tell when something was bothering the Prince, why the latter was upset, or when he was worried about something/someone. This was an invaluable skill that came in handy on several occasions. Not being as close to the other Cats, Snarf had to rely on Lion-O to explain why they did certain things or why he was worried about them.

Though he tried his best to help take care of the Thunderkittens as he had Lion-O, the brother-sister act’s notorious nose for mischief usually thwarted him in this area. He never became as close to the twins as he could have, probably because he hadn’t known them long enough. It appears that Snarf knew the future Lord of the Thundercats from the time he could toddle, if not from the time he was born. He only met the twins after or around the time Thundera died, making it harder for him to develop a similarly respectful rapport with them.

Snarf Takes up the Challenge | ThunderCats wiki | FANDOM ...

While he was not a fighter, Snarf did prove to have mettle. In one episode, he had to face Mumm-Ra alone after the ancient monster had captured the other six Thundercats. Snarf, despite his terror, used his small size and wits to sneak into the Living Mummy’s temple. Once there, he freed his friends to do the fighting he couldn’t.

He also utilized an ability which he apparently developed while living on Third Earth. By whistling various notes, Snarf could communicate with almost any animal on the planet, ranging from unicorns and deer to giant bees and bats. Through these twittering notes he was able to ask these animals for help and secure their strengths to aid him or his friends. Although not a flashy power like Cheetara’s speed or Tygra’s invisibility, it was a skill that came in very handy on more than one occasion.

Additionally, he once used his skill at a game called “kick the bucket” to very good effect. How he and Lion-O developed the game is a mystery, but it proves Snarf’s courage. Though he was not and never would be a warrior, Snarf would stand up for his friends and his young charge when they needed him most. He had to be clever and quick, since his size and physical weakness made it easy for bigger opponents to overpower him. But this ability to distract or surprise the bad guys at the right moment often gave the Cats enough time to get back on their feet and finish the battle.

It also demonstrated that his tendency to be overlooked could be more of a blessing than a curse. Since Mumm-Ra and other antagonists wrote him off as insignificant, they barely paid attention to Snarf. This gave him opportunities to act that none of the other Cats would have gotten. In the end, I think Snarf was more valuable to the team than most fans would believe.

Snarf (Character) - Comic Vine

Snarf 2011

Of course, this brings us to the 2011 version of Snarf. As in the original series, Snarf began the story as Lion-O’s nursemaid. Unlike his ‘80s counterpart, however, this new Snarf did not talk. At least, he did not speak in a manner that the audience understood. Lion-O seemed to know what he was saying – or trying to say. Once again, we hardly ever saw the two of them apart. Wherever Lion-O went, Snarf was usually at his heels.

To the best of my hearing, Snarf only said one intelligible word in the entire 2011 reboot. In “The Duelist and the Drifter” he leaned on Lion-O’s leg, shook his head emphatically, and said, “No, no, no, no!” When his king agreed to the Duelist’s terms anyway, Snarf let his ears droop and murmured another, forlorn “No.” And he did so without moving his mouth.

Clearly, this blogger considered the 2011 Snarf to be a disappointment. I understand I am in the minority that actually likes the character, but reducing him to the cute animal sidekick just took something away from the franchise. That is my opinion, anyway.

This concludes the series of Spotlight! posts centering on the main cast of Thundercats. From now on, we will be discussing the secondary or side characters. Until then, readers, I leave you with a hearty “Thunder…Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!

The Mithril Guardian

Día internacional del Gato: Los gatos más recordados de la ...

Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Rosso and Viola

Rosso | Zoids Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

Once more this blogger brings you to the burning deserts of Zi, readers! Today’s subject is not a zoid, however. No, today we are looking at two of the best characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century. These would be none other than Rosso and Viola, the bandits who became guardians of peace and justice.

If you are scratching your head over that statement, I will do my best not to spoil too much of it for you. This is a transition that should really be viewed for its full impact to have any meaning. For this reason, the discussion today will focus on the characters’ introduction and the lead up to the moment where everything changed rather than on their relationships with other cast members in the story.

All right, down to business. Rosso and Viola appear in the second episode of Chaotic Century as the leaders of the Desert Alca Valino Gang. Viola is reading their subordinates – Bianco, Nero, and Boll – the riot act for being defeated in battle by a village boy in the opening installment. The three have limped back to base following their confrontation with Van and are trying to justify their loss to the novice pilot.

Viola isn’t having any of it, but Rosso takes the three men’s story as the truth. Intrigued by their description of Zeke, he realizes that the boy has an organoid in his “posession.” So he orders Viola to take the other members of the gang to steal Zeke so they can sell him to the Imperial Army in order to “regain [their] former position. Then [they] won’t be stuck playing games out here [in the desert].”

We never learn just why Rosso, Viola, and (presumably) the rest of the group were kicked out of the Imperial Army. Their skill as pilots certainly was not an issue. Given what is said in the show, it appears that Rosso and his most loyal officers were booted from the Army for offending a political bureaucrat or somehow disobeying the top brass.

Viola | Zoids Wiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

Again, this is never confirmed in the course of the series. It is all conjecture on this author’s part, based on the hints dropped the English translation of the show. Since the two bandits do not appear in the manga at all, there is no other source of information to confirm or deny this theory. (Recently, I discovered that the manga and the anime for Zoids: Chaotic Century tell two completely different stories. Though several characters are the same, others either do not appear in the anime or are unique to the manga, and vice versa. Fans thus consider the two story lines to be set in alternate universes.) The hints in the series are just mysterious enough for viewers to come up with several reasonable guesses as to why the Imperials kicked the Gang out of the army.

In order to return to the Army, Viola leads her men in an attack on the Wind Colony, Van’s home town. When the hero’s big sister, Maria, insists he and Zeke left earlier, the bandit does not believe her. She kidnaps the younger woman in order to force the villagers to hand the organoid over.

Van, understandably, is not willing to go along with this. Escaping the village, he rescues Zeke and frees his sister. In the process he defeats the bandits once again. Realizing the others were telling the truth and that Rosso was right to believe Zeke was an organoid, Viola sounds the retreat.

After this battle Van, Fiona, and Zeke leave the Wind Colony to protect the village from repeated attacks. For seven to ten episodes after this, the Desert Alca Valino Gang more or less follows the two and their new friends across the lawless countryside. Though they do not actively pursue them, they do run into each other rather frequently.

Rosso and Viola also play a role in the growing unrest between the Helic Republic and Guylos Empire. Hired to attack an Imperial battalion to trigger the Battle of Red River and renew the war between the two countries, the Gang is hung out to dry by the officer who requested their help when the skirmish fails to spark a war. Desperate to avoid prison, Rosso decides to go after Van in a last ditch effort to capture his organoid and sell Zeke to the Imperial Army. He essentially hopes to buy back his former rank and save his and his people’s skin.

Age: Unknown

The plan, of course, fails. Rosso is arrested and sent to military prison, leaving Viola bent on vengeance for her lover’s incarceration. Her own plans are derailed, however, when she finds that Van has stopped off in her old village and become friends with her baby sister. In order to prevent her younger sister, Rosa, from learning the truth about Viola, Van lies and makes himself out to be the villain. This leaves the woman who wanted to kill him deep in his debt and with a new outlook on life.

More befalls the bandits in the course of the show, but to reveal all of that would be telling. 😉 All I can say is that the two make an excellent couple. Rosso trusts Viola as his second-in-command not only because he loves her, but because she can mentally and physically keep up with him. Both bandits are also proficient at infiltration, shown when they steal into the Imperial palace to execute a kidnapping, and they are master tacticians.

The two compliment each other very well. Rosso is a good leader, able to direct his followers and Viola from behind or at the forefront of the battle. Using the nose horn on his Red Horn, he shattered the energy shield produced by Van’s Shield Liger, and his skill with the Iron Kong was amazing. While she lacks the physical and piloting power to attack an opponent directly, Viola was quite capable as the pilot of her Redler and showed her own strategic abilities in zoid combat on several occasions.

But it was when they were given command of the prototype Storm Sworders that the two really came into their own. This was more noticeable for Rosso, whose skill took an enormous leap forward. As I said in the post on the Pteranadon-type zoid, he controlled the Sworder in a manner similar to a samurai wielding his sword. Having been the pilot of an aerial zoid for far longer, it is possible that Viola was already at the height of her ability. The fact that she was easier to take down in a Storm Sworder makes this seem fairly likely, indicating that she may have had further to go to achieve complete harmony with her zoid.

Age: Unknown

To be perfectly honest, Rosso and Viola are two of the main reasons this blogger recommends Zoids: Chaotic Century so highly. Their story, which is not in the manga at all, is one of the best side arcs in the entire series. Although it got a bit sappy in a couple of places, their romance was handled well and their character growth is one of the things this author enjoys seeing every time she re-watches the show.

Normally, I would say more about their relationships with other characters in the story, but that would be going into spoiler territory for these two. Suffice it to say that Van has a greater effect on Rosso and Viola than the other way around. If they had not met and been bested by him, then neither would have become the guardians of peace and justice they were later in the show.

That’s not to say the two bandits had no effect on the hero. Without their initial, selfish desire to take Zeke, Van might have left the Wind Colony later than he did. The two were the catalyst which drove him to seek adventure beyond his home. If not for that, we never would have had a series in the first place. And later, when they become heroes in their own right, it is made clear that Van respects and counts the two as friends.

Rosso and Viola would be hard for Hollywood to cast based largely on their looks. I cannot think of any Hollywood actor who could conceivably fit the role of Rosso, though there are some actresses who could be done up to resemble Viola fairly easily. If – and that is a big if these days – a competent director, writer, cast, and crew could be found, then translating these two bandits and the rest of the characters to the silver screen would be possible. Unfortunately, though, that does not seem likely to happen.

On the bright side, if you are interested in “meeting” these two heroes, you can either buy the DVDs on Amazon or watch the show for free here. Though the first few episodes may not be impressive, if you give the series a chance it will more than reward you for your patience. But don’t take my word for it – check out Zoids: Chaotic Century see for yourself how good it actually is!

Catch you later!

The Mithril Guardian

Mentalities / Pantheon - TV Tropes

Spotlight: Thundercats – Lion-O

New THUNDERCATS Animated Series Coming to Cartoon Network ...

So far in this series of Spotlight! posts we have covered Panthro, Cheetara, Tygra, and the Thunderkittens. Discounting the one we will discuss today, that leaves one final character on the list. But who is the focus of this post?

That would be none other than Lion-O, Lord of the Thundercats. Based on the African lion, Lion-O is the hereditary Lord of the Thundercats. The position is equivalent to the title of king and is not indicative of a noble designation; “lord” sounds better when combined with “Thundercats” than king. Just try to say, “Lion-O, King of the Thundercats.” Go ahead, I’ll wait.

…Tried it? It’s a bit of tongue twister, isn’t it?

When we first see him Lion-O appears as a twelve-year-old cub. As the rest of the team guides their ship away from Thundera, the young prince is quite literally taking a nap. Scenes from later episodes would make one wonder about this, but for the introductory installment the picture fits. The prince is a child and the adults want to spare him the destruction of his homeworld for as long as humanly possible. (Yes, I know they are humanoid cats. It’s called artistic license. Get over it!) Eventually, though, they have to wake him. If he is going to be the ruler of his people, he has to “learn to take the good with the bad.”

Not long after watching Thundera go the way of Krypton, the Thundercats’ ship is attacked and boarded by Mutants. Left in the throne room with the Sword of Omens, Lion-O is most displeased to be denied a piece of the action. However, when the Mutant leaders Slythe and Jackalman arrive to steal the Sword, Lion-O finds that battle does not necessarily hold the kind of excitement that he believed it would. Threatened by the Mutants, he tries to lift the Sword, but it is too heavy. So the Sword itself activates and, with a flare of magical power, sends Slythe and Jackalman running.

Thundercats Sword of Omens 2.0 - YouTube

With the boarders repelled the adults take stock of the damage. Their engines have been hit hard, meaning they cannot reach their chosen new home, so their best option is the as-yet unnamed Third Earth. Since the journey will take so long the only way for the Cats to survive is to enter the suspension capsules, where they will be kept in suspended animation until they land.

If you read the first post on the original Thundercats series, then this should all be fairly familiar. The only reason I go over it again here is because it is a pretty good set-up for Lion-O’s character: he is proud, speaks before he thinks, and tends to get more than he bargained for when he makes any kind of childish wish. But we also see here that he does have redeeming qualities, such as nobility of spirit, courage, determination, and compassion. He is not a one-trick pony but a multi-dimensional protagonist who wants to be a good man.

So even though his behavior when he wakes to find himself an adult is annoying, it is not enough to make viewers like yours truly detest him. We have all been where he is at this point in his life and can relate to his attitude. Also, though we do not necessarily want him to get smacked upside the head with reality, we know it is coming. Because Lion-O remains agreeable despite his flaws, we can hope the blow is softened by the wisdom of his much older friends as well.

Lion-O’s character is more or less centered on nobility and courage, both virtues symbolized by his namesake cat. While he is second to Panthro in terms of physical strength, Lion-O is no slouch when it comes to corporal prowess. Those Conan-like muscles aren’t for show. When he gets going, the young Lord can go toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful villains on and off Third Earth strength for strength.

Lion-O - ThunderCats wiki

However, a good physique is not enough to fight Mumm-Ra. When he duels with the ever-living mummy Lion-O primarily relies on the hereditary weapon of his house, the Sword of Omens, to see him through the battle. More than a simple Sword, the mystical Eye of Thundera in the hilt of the Sword of Omens grants any pure and/or good-hearted wielder the basic ability of “Sight Beyond Sight.” This is the capacity to view people or events occuring simultaneously elsewhere and even in the past.

Whenever a Thundercat – up to and including Lion-O – is at risk or in danger, the Eye growls in warning. Lion-O could then snatch it from the scabbard/Claw Shield and say, “Sword of Omens, give me sight beyond sight,” enabling to see who was in trouble or what trap was in store for him. Given the context of this statement when spoken, his words always had the ring of a petition rather than a command. The Eye and the Sword were sacred relics to the Thunderian race, and given the power they had, his specific tone and phraseology when addressing the Sword makes a great deal of sense.

It also emphasized the fact that the Sword a personality of its own. Though willing enough to let Lion-O throw bolts of energy at an opponent or to use its magic in some other creative fashion, if he charged into a fight too quickly or let his pride get the better of him, the Sword would stay stubbornly silent, still, and small. This prevented Lion-O from becoming an intolerable protagonist as well. With the Sword and his friends checking his ego at every turn, it made learning lessons in humility and virtue easier for him to swallow, helping him grow up less harshly than he would have otherwise.

Along with the Sword, Lion-O regularly carried and wielded the Claw Shield. A scabbard that doubled as a gauntlet, it was molded to resemble a lion’s paw. The Shield was practically indestructible, just like the Sword. The index finger of the shield could send out a claw-tipped grappling line, allowing its wielder to swing down from a great height or swing up to one. The wearer could also use the lines to rappel up and/or down any vertical surface. The gems on its knuckles covered similar grappling lines, though they were used less frequently by Lion-O than the single claw line.

In addition, the gems on the back of the Claw Shield hid vents which would blow out clouds of a green smoke/gas which would temporarily blind and befuddle an opponent. The claws in the gauntlet’s “fingers” also allowed for a better grip when climbing, and a chain attached to the inside of the Shield gave the user the ability to wield the gauntlet like a lasso. It goes without saying that, when Lion-O punched someone while wearing the Shield, his strike hurt more than it would have if he had used his bare fist. If he hit someone with his Claw Shielded fist then the unlucky enemy would be feeling it for days.

It is unknown how the gauntlet attached to Lion-O’s leg. He wore no pants (as the pictures above clearly show), and there was no visible hook on the Shield. It adhered to his leg by some chemical or magical means, allowing the Lord of the Thundercats to grab and don it whenever the need arose.

Combined with the watchful instruction of his friends and the spiritual advice of the deceased royal adviser/magician, the influence of the Sword of Omens and Eye of Thundera helped to mold Lion-O into an heroic king. While not above a joke or friendly teasing, by the time he had to undergo the Anointment Trials to ascend the throne, the young Lord was almost a different person from the boy-child seen in the first episodes. Tempered by defeat and matured by time, he is an adult to be reckoned with, something his success in the Trials confirmed.

Reboot Review – ThunderCats 2011: Omens, Part 1 & 2 ...

Of course, now one has to stack this portrayal up against that seen in the 2011 Thundercats reboot. To be perfectly honest, the writers for the reboot did a pretty good job of capturing Lion-O’s journey to manhood. They did not do it as well as the ‘80s writers, but that is to be expected due to the changes they made in order to win over a new audience.

In the 2011 series, Lion-O is in his mid-to-late teens. Somwhere around seventeen or eighteen based on his appearance, I would guess, but he may actually have been around sixteen years old. The heir to the throne of Thundera, which is a kingdom on Third Earth rather than a planet, Lion-O has lived most of his life in his adopted older brother Tygra’s shadow. He is therefore less mature and more likely to rush headfirst into a fight.

Only this time, he doesn’t want to charge into battle just to avenge wounded pride. That aspect comes later. Lion-O runs straight into trouble in the 2011 series because he is dedicated to doing the right thing, even if the odds are against him – a fact which usually registers after he has promised to fix everything, only to find the situation is more difficult or complex than it appeared at first glance.

For the most part, Lion-O’s pride is not a source of trouble in the reboot. His inexperience, his temper, his relative naïveté, and his good heart lead to most of the difficulties he and his friends face as the show progresses. Thus his journey is less about overcoming pride and realizing his responsibilities than it is about him transitioning through trial and error from boy to man.

Lion-O, Cheetara, and the Cats travel Into the Astral ...

Looking back, I think that this is one of the reasons why I did not mind Lion-O’s new appearance or arc in the reboot. His romantic interest in Cheetara and some other quibbles aside, the writers did a very good job of presenting the Lord of the Thundercats and his character arc to a new generation of viewers. While it would have been nice if they had maintained some of the nuance from the 1980s’, there is no denying that they pulled out all the stops to make sure they did not violate the pattern set for Lion-O by the first series.

Add to this Will Friedle’s enthusiastic voice acting (he happens to be a huge fan of the original Thundercats series), and there is literally nothing bad for this blogger say about his portrayal. He was a great choice for Lion-O, and I hope he gets another shot at playing the young prince someday in the future. This is one character/actor pairing that deserves to be revisited!

Well, that wraps up this year’s set of Spotlight! posts, readers. I have time for two more before I take my Christmas season leave, but I have many plans for 2020’s posting schedule. Many plans indeed…. ;D

Until next time: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

Character Issues: Lion-O (1985) - longboxingwhileblack

Spotlight: Zoids – The Pteras Striker

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Once more we return to the desert sands of Zi, readers! In all the hustle and bustle this year, I almost forgot to fulfill a promise I made in 2018. That pledge was to discuss the merits of the Pteras Striker, a Republican airborne zoid that was mentioned in the post about Moonbay. Luckily, this blogger realized in time that she had neglected this duty, a turn of events she intends to change right…. Now!

The Pteras Striker – Pteras is pronounced like “terrace,” just so you know – is one of the most familiar air zoids in the Republican air corps. A blocky Pterasaur-ish type bio-machine, its color scheme is usually blue and grey. The only other colors seem to be blue and yellow or grey and silver. There do not appear to be many variations in the paints used for this mechanical combat unit’s armor.

It is worth noting that the silver Pterases (pronounced like “terraces”) are faster than the average model. Why this is, yours truly cannot say. It may be that silver Pterases are equipped with booster packs or have lighter armor, allowing them to go faster. No explanation is offered within the series, so either guess may be accurate. This is mere conjecture on this author’s part, as she attempts to fill in the blanks left by the English translation of the show.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

At first glance, it looks as though there is no way for Pteras Strikers to fly. Their wings are full of holes, after all. Doesn’t that negate the ability to soar? When this blogger asked that same question as a child, her father provided the explanation. Pterases fly by virtue of the electric current that flows through their wings. Although I no longer remember for certain, my father may have mentioned a type of real-life plane that operates on the same principle.

So if anyone knows about an aircraft that can do this, please mention it in the comments! This blogger would dearly love to know for certain if her memory has held up over the years. (Plus, if there is an existing plane that flies via this method, it just has to be cool! :D)

In terms of combat capabilities, the Pteras is…not this writer’s favorite zoid. The Pteras has light armor and is far slower than most of its competition, though it can be quick in close quarters or with the right pilot. While only the Raynos – a zoid from the sequel series Zoids: New Century Zero – could outclass the Storm Sworder directly in terms of speed, the Pteras seems unequal to the task of facing even an ordinary Redler in combat. The fact that we never saw these two air zoids clash during the series did not help the Pteras’ image.

Neither did the mechanical combat unit’s myriad crashes. The Pteras Strikers in both Zoids: Chaotic Century and New Century Zero were basically cannon fodder for heroes and enemies alike. There are many, many scenes in both series of one or more Pterases being shot down and tumbling out of the sky. Jamie Hermos, the pilot of a Pteras in New Century Zero, was the only character who ever seemed distressed by the loss of his zoid. Other pilots who, admittedly, used Pterases far less frequently and were less attached to them, often shrugged their loss off.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Besides their relatively thin armor, Pterases usually have two types of weaponry: light armaments and heavy artillery. One could argue silver Pterases maintained a nice middle-ground in the weaponry department, but the fact is that their weapons tended to be relatively light as well. Still, silver Pterases did have the better end of the armament stick, in this author’s opinion.

A basic Pteras model comes equipped with two missiles on its back and a mini-machine gun on the right side of its mouth. And when I say mini, I mean mini. The gun barrel is probably only a little wider than a man’s hand with all fingers spread.

The bullets fired from this gun are enough to seriously bother ground-based zoids and bring them up short, but they do not seem capable of causing major damage to their four-legged targets. New Century and Chaotic Century show the mini machine gun’s bullets as mere pinpricks that make a ground zoid’s armor bounce uncomfortably. So while annoying and potentially deadly (at least to the pilot), only prolonged exposure to the bullets would inflict definite harm on an opposing bio-machine.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

With regard to the missiles, while they could deliver a substantially higher payload, there were only two of them. That would significantly reduce the Pteras pilot’s ability to fight off numerous opponents if he has to escape a battle, or if he is facing a better-armored zoid. It was not an especially encouraging armament for a mechanical combat unit sent into an active (or even an inactive) war zone. Given the Republic’s lack of wealth to procure materials, however, it made quite a bit of sense in context of the series.

Of course, “sense” does not mean “helpful.” In order to make the Pteras useful on the battlefield, Republican technicians and scientists added higher powered cannons to the wings of the Pteras Striker. These weapons packed more punch than the missiles on the zoid’s back and enabled it to carry more ammunition. Smaller arms that were still bigger than the Pteras’ “mouth cannon” were set alongside these larger guns, giving the zoid enough firepower to act as legitimate air support.

Naturally, though, this added weaponry put quite a bit of extra drag on the Pteras Striker. While nimble enough, the zoid was already inferior to most of its competition in the speed department. So throwing more guns on it only made it slower, meaning it became a more appealing and an easier target for Imperial forces. Again, not something that is particularly helpful in a war.

Image result for zoids pteras striker

Silver Pterases, in contrast, came equipped with large machine guns on their wings. These were light enough not to interfere with the zoid’s mobility at the same time they provided it with significant firepower. Combined with their greater speed, these items made silver Pterases preferable to the basic models and their more heavily armed counterparts. Due to the lack of Republican resources, though, these zoids were not seen much during the war in the first season of Chaotic Century. For some reason, they never even had an appearance in New Century Zero. At least, this blogger does not recall seeing the silver Pteras in action during that show’s run.

Given these limitations, it makes sense that the Pteras would more regularly be used as a recon zoid. Replacing the missiles on their backs with a radar dish for greater range, the Pteras could provide the military with detailed reconnaissance. Even though this made the zoid even more vulnerable to attack, it was a pretty good idea – especially for the cash-strapped Republic.

Clearly, this blogger does not prefer the Pteras Striker as a combat zoid. It is a pretty mechanical combat unit, in its own way, but it would certainly be one of the last bio-machines I would choose to pilot in a fight. The only times this writer would take it out would be for a Sunday flight or if she was desperate. Or if the zoid was slated for dismemberment and cruel experimentation, but we will discuss that subject another time.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the Pteras Striker, readers. This will be my final Zoids post of 2019; there will be more next year, but since we are coming up on the Christmas season no more such posts shall be forthcoming this month. I have a couple of different articles planned, but you will have to wait and see what those will contain. 😉 Until next time –

See you on the battlefield, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

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Spotlight: Thundercats – Wilykit and Wilykat

Thundercats [Animales fuera de serie] – PixFans

Left to right: Wilykat and his older sister, Wilykit

Earlier this year an article about Tygra, a member of the Thundercats from the series of the same name, appeared here at Thoughts. When asked if more posts on the characters would be forthcoming, this blogger promised to write at least a two before the year was out. She is now endeavoring to follow through on that assurance with this Spotlight! post.

Having covered three of the adult members of the original cast from Thundercats, we now turn to their junior members, the Thunderkittens. Apparently, among the Thunderian race, children are known as cubs and teenagers are called kittens. Wilykit and her younger twin brother, Wilykat, are both in their early teens (they appear to be thirteen or fourteen years old). As such they are usually referred to as the Kittens, though the adults will sometimes call them kids.

The Thunderkittens are thought to be based on wildcats. They have no obvious markings which identify their species of cat, so this is primarily conjecture on the part of the audience. Since it is such a likely classification it has stuck throughout the years.

Born into nobility, Wilykit and Wilykat are technically older than Lion-O, who was around twelve when they left Thundera. When they left their dying homeworld the two were expected to treat him as a younger brother – albeit one who would someday be their king. Upon finding the younger cub had grown to adulthood in his sleeping capsule the Kittens were quick to jump on him for his pride in his newfound strength.

ThunderCats 2x23 Runaways - ShareTV

Although their statements were accurate, they also showed that the Kittens were rather jealous of him. They no longer had someone they could boss around and with whom they could just be kids. Lion-O was physically mature and therefore had to assume his responsibilities faster than anyone had anticipated. Although he never lorded his power over them and became an older brother figure to the two, all three felt the sudden gap between them keenly during their first days on Third Earth.

As their names imply, Kit and Kat were masters of the art of trickery. Each sibling carried a pouch full of colored, cats-eye style magic pellets that would do a variety of things when they struck the ground. The capsules could be the equivalent of flash-bang grenades or they could be bubble gum. Even the Kittens didn’t always know what was in a given tablet before they used it. Although the items inside were hardly ever improper for the situation at hand, on a few occasions they did prove to be a bust.

In addition Kit and Kat carried “trick lassos” that they could use to tie up an opponent or to enter/exit a battle. Since they were teens neither Kitten could match their opponents physically, despite their own naturally increased strength. The lassos were generally a method for swinging into or out of a battle. They were also a temporary measure that enabled them to hold an enemy in place for a brief period of time. During those few precious seconds the twins could pull off a ruse or keep someone pinned in place long enough for one of the adult Cats to arrive.

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Unless they had the opportunity to operate one of the weapons built into Cat’s Lair, the Thundertank, or another vehicle the twins’ fighting style was based entirely on speed, agility, acrobatics, and/or a mischievous ploy. Exceptional climbers even by Thundercat standards, the twins often raced through the trees both to fight and flee as well as to have fun.

Only one twin had a special move similar to the adults’ innate powers. Wilykit had the ability to curl up into a ball and zing around a battlefield, allowing her to knock over, hit, or stun much larger opponents. Her power was useful but could also be detrimental; while fighting animated stone gargoyles, hitting them at speed in her ball form “nearly threw [her] back out.” If she had struck the monsters at a higher velocity, she would have seriously injured herself.

Wilykit did not use this ability too often, preferring to rely on her native wit and skills to fight. She and her brother tended to combine both these traits with their piloting ability. Each Kitten had a special, surfer-style hoverboard specifically designed for them by Panthro. Regularly flying around the environs of Cat’s Lair, the Kittens could provide impromptu air support and reconnaissance. They could also act as advance scouts or even bait.

Conversely, they could also become the catalyst for a conflict by being captured while gallivanting about on the hoverboards. Kids will be kids, after all, and it wouldn’t be healthy for the Cats to keep the twins indoors or within sight of Cat’s Lair all the time. Besides, with no other resources to rely on as they became denizens and then protectors of their new homeworld, the Kittens often had adult responsibilities thrust upon them. They rarely abused the trust the mature members of the party placed in them, willingly accepting the discipline imposed on them when they realized how badly they had erred.

My earlier article on the two Thundercats TV series gives details about how the writers for the comics treated the Kittens. Not only was it illogical, it was downright evil. The 2011 reboot did not touch on that, thankfully, but it was not entirely generous in its depiction of the Kittens, either.

Image - Wileykat and Wileykit.JPG | ThunderCats wiki ...

For one thing, the reboot made the twins much younger than they had been in the original series. They were also given tails and turned into street urchins rather than young nobles. Wilykit’s ball form was replaced with a flute she could use to hypnotize a target, and the Kittens’ ears doubled as their hair. Wilykit became a spiritual adviser to Lion-O in the 2011 series as well. While that was not a bad alteration per se, the role would have had more weight if she were a noble trained to such a position or if she was assuming her hereditary duty. Since she was a former street urchin and a cub rather than a Kitten, it seemed a bit out of place.

The reboot also expanded on the Kittens’ origins, showing them with their parents and twin younger siblings. While this was a fine addition to the original story (we never did find out what became of Kit and Kat’s parents in the ‘80s), what followed was not. After their father was killed in a tornado, the Kittens’ mother apparently began selling herself to make ends meet so she could feed her four children.

Image - Wilies temple jamboree.jpg | ThunderCats wiki ...

Although realistic, this turn of events is both uncharacteristic of the original Thundercats material at the same time it was mishandled terribly. Nothing within the series overtly hints at the position of the Kittens’ mother following the loss of their father, thankfully, but the fact that this was put in a children’s show is more than a bit disturbing. There were other jobs they could have given to the Kittens’ mother which would have been better for viewers young and old to empathize with.

Likewise, the fact that they have the twins run away from home in the middle of the night to find a mythical city of gold strikes a false note. Didn’t their mother worry about them? Didn’t she try to find them? Why are they stealing for themselves just to keep body and soul together until they find El Dara, the city of gold? There were jobs they could have found, even at that young age, which would have helped take care of their mother and siblings rather than leave home in such a way as to add to their troubles.

All of this serves to make the previous point that the reboot, while it has entertaining and good aspects, is far inferior to its predecessor. While it has its enjoyable moments, the places where it falls down on the job make it difficult to completely enjoy. The ‘80s show was not perfect, but it did not need to be. It just had to be good.

Well, readers, that covers all the major characters in the series except one. Oops, actually, there are two left. Lion-O will be next on the list, but after his post will come an article on the hero who received the most hate in the ‘80s. He never bothered me the way that he did others, though, so the post about him will be very interesting indeed.

Until next time, readers: “Thunder…. Thunder….

Thundercats, HO!!!”

161 best images about Thundercats on Pinterest | Cats ...

Spotlight: Zoids – The Helcat

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Welcome back to the deserts of Zi, readers! Now you know that I have returned in truth, for only the Mithril Guardian could afflict her long-suffering followers with another post about an obscure mecha anime. Rejoice, for you are not following a hacked blog..!

Okay, enough with the hyperbolic preamble. I have seen a lot more Zoids posts here at WordPress, which tells me that the franchise has returned to public knowledge. So, although I am not a fan, it appears thanks are owed by this blogger to the writers who came up with the latest Zoids series. Kudos, Zoids: Wild. You brought interest back to our favorite planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way. The story is not what this author would consider entertaining, but at least it succeeded in renewing curiosity about the larger world of this mecha anime. I can be happy about that. 🙂

Today’s zoid is from the Guylos Empire. Known as the Helcat, this panther-style mechanical combat unit is “the ultimate stealth zoid.” The cockpit, naturally, is situated in the zoid’s head. The green band that wraps around its “face,” where its mouth should be, is the visible part of the canopy. Once inside, the electrical imaging device in the cockpit will activate, giving the pilot a green tinged one-hundred-eighty degree view of the field.

A typical Helcat’s armaments belie its deadly potential. Normally, the Helcat’s only weapons are a small, double-barreled cannon on its back and a mini gun of some kind between its forelegs. There are is another, lighter type of gun attached to each of its shoulders and hips occasionally, but too many more weapons would weigh the zoid down and increase its noise output. With light armor, weapons, and speed, the Helcat is a combat unit that can fire quickly before ducking back into the shadows to escape larger zoids.

The zoid has other assets, though, and they are like no other. Equipped with a cloaking device known as an optical stealth unit, the Helcat can easily blend in with its surroundings. The zoid can also erase most of its own footprints and reduce its heat signature significantly. It also has muffled joints which make it hard to track by sound.

Combined with its cloak of invisibility, these devices make the Helcat almost undetectable. The muzzle flashes from its cannon do not give away its position reliably, since the pilot can move across the battlefield with relative impunity due to being largely invisible to the naked eye. And since Hel Cats are always deployed in groups, there are often several muzzle flashes appearing across the combat zone. Choosing one and hitting it is nearly impossible for an opposing pilot, even when he chances to spot the Cat’s outline against the background scenery.

This is one zoid that can give the best of pilots a hard time. Unless the Helcat’s cloaking device shorts out, or the opposing pilot sees the zoid’s outline against the terrain and keeps it in sight long enough to attack, it is impossible to track and hit this mechanical panther. If the Empire or a particular pilot enjoys the elements of surprise and bewilderment, this is the zoid for them.

Of course, the Helcats do have their vulnerabilities. Aside from the potential malfunctions with the optical stealth unit, a pilot in Zoids: Chaotic Century developed a handy technique to deal with the Cat. By using a computer to track the acoustic signals – i.e. the sounds Helcats cannot help but make, even with their muffled joints – he was able to pinpoint the position of every Cat on the field.

Helcat | Zoids Wiki | Fandom powered by Wikia

Also, the Cat’s speed and agility do not protect it from larger, faster zoids’ head on charges or higher caliber weapons. The Helcat is designed to bewilder and surprise an enemy, not beat it in a competition of speed and skill. There is a reason they are often deployed in large numbers, after all; a battalion of cloaked Helcats stands a much better chance of taking down opponent(s) than a single or small group does. Unless their target is totally unprepared, has no military training, or a zoid with even lighter armor, the Helcat will not stand a chance against him in a direct confrontation.

Still, despite these restrictions, the Helcat is an extremely versatile zoid. For a pilot who fights by relying on deception by fooling his target’s eyes, this Imperial mechanical combat unit is his best choice, bar none. Though eclipsed by the Shadow Fox in New Century Zero and rendered unimpressive by the technology in Zoids: Fuzors, in Chaotic Century no other stealth unit on Zi can compete with the Helcat.

That’s not to say that the Helcat is indefatigable. While Chaotic Century gave the zoid one of its best showings, it didn’t provide viewers with a demonstration of what the Helcat could really do. Most Helcats arrived on the scene only to be dispatched relatively quickly, which is a shame. I would like to see what a Helcat was truly capable of in the right hands.

Zoids: Chaotic Century Episode 51 | Zoids Wiki | Fandom ...

Teevrol and his pilot, Niccolo

Usually, the Helcat is painted red and black, the preferred colors of the Imperial Army. There have been other color choices, however. One Helcat in Chaotic Century was a white/grey/powder blue named Teevrol, who could move about on his own, though he was too attached to his young pilot to leave him. In Zoids: Fuzors, a black Helcat appeared, but it was defeated quickly in both episodes where it showed up.

All in all, the Helcat is not a zoid to shun. With its optical stealth unit, muffled joints, and ease at avoiding detection, it really is the cream of the stealth zoid crop. And while it never got to show its true colors on screen, it is still a mechanical combat unit I would sincerely like to pilot.

Besides, who can say no to such a cool Cat? 😀

See you on the battlefield, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

ZOIDS 023 Hellcat (japan import): Amazon.co.uk: Toys & Games

Season Four Wrap-Up of Avengers Assemble

Okay, first things first. Life and lassitude hit at the same time, and I ended up leaving you in limbo for quite a while, readers. Thankfully, life has stabilized and the lethargy has been overcome, so this blogger now has time and energy to devote to you once again. Hopefully it will stay this way going forward. 🙂

Second, I would like to apologize for taking so long to write about the last five episodes of Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars season. I didn’t write this post earlier primarily because I wanted to see where season five of Assemble – titled Black Panther’s Quest – would go before I said anything about season four. So this writer waited until the fifth season had played out before speaking her peace.

Black Panther’s Quest was pretty much what I expected. The Avengers hardly showed up, and when they did, they had undergone a radical redesign to make them match their film depiction more closely. Plus, Wakanda was changed to appear more the movie version, which should not have happened. That Wakanda is nothing like the one in the comics, and outside of his appearances in the Avengers films, the T’Challa/Black Panther in the film bearing the same name is not the one Stan Lee and company created.

Because of these alterations, this blogger saw no more than one or two episodes of Assemble’s season five. Based on those viewings, there will be no more reviews of Avengers Assemble here at Thoughts. This is the final word the Mithril Guardian has for the most recent American series focusing on the Avengers. (The new travesty with an almost exclusively female team does not bear or deserve the title of Avengers.) I may write about Avengers: DISK Wars and Marvel’s Future Avengers at some point, but that is it. Marvel’s new Western offerings hold no more interest for me.

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The last five episodes of Assemble were problematic and therefore difficult to watch. “Weirdworld,” the installment following “The Vibranium Coast,” was for the most part entertaining. This was due almost entirely to the fact that Black Widow completely ignored Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. (Honestly, that woman does not know when to stop talking..!) Rather than try to force a friendship between the two based on the trite “we’re-two-women-in-a-man’s-world” trope, the writers made it clear that Natasha barely does more than tolerate the braggart Danvers. It was a refreshing change from the enforced norm in other series and this author appreciated that.

The rest of the show focused on the dichotomy between the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Separated by the Beyonder in “Underworld,” Bruce has been hunting his green, wild half ever since. He’s so desperate to end the Hulk that he has struck a deal with Morgan le Fay to destroy Big Green once and for all. Her patch of Battleworld – dubbed Weirdworld by Bruce – is uniquely adapted to this conflict. Using a variety of strange plant life, he tries again and again to capture the Hulk.

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Morgan le Fay

Due to his single-minded pursuit, he misses Morgan le Fay reveal to the heroines that she plans to use the Hulk’s power for herself. Her slip-up is actually believable, since she realizes that Natasha has feelings for both the Hulk and Bruce. Morgan’s miscalculation isn’t made simply to show how evil she is; she’s genuinely trying to hurt someone when she reveals her evil plan. So that part of the episode was well-executed and, added to Black Widow’s clearly non-existent rapport with Captain Marvel, makes “Weirdworld” fairly enjoyable.

As for the rest, I have to say that it is getting tiresome to watch Bruce always trying to kill the Hulk. I understand the history behind it, and done well, it is a good story line. In “Weirdworld,” however, it is not done well at all. I would have been more interested if they had introduced Bruce and the Hulk trying to reconnect with one another, only to be thwarted at every turn by Weirdworld so Morgan le Fay could capture and drain the Hulk of his power. Given the rapport developed between the two halves of the character in earlier seasons, I was actually expecting that turn of events. But the writers went for a cheap retread of an old story rather than an imaginative, new take on the familiar plot.

Unfortunately, this is a problem that repeats itself in the following episodes. “Westland” had some promising themes and moments, but on the whole it rated a “meh” on the scale of entertainment. In search of Doctor Strange, whose magic can help repair and control the Bifrost, Hawkeye, Vision, Wasp, and Loki arrive in an old West town. Only, in this town, they don’t ride horses. They ride dinosaurs.

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While an inventive take on the idea, I have to say that the dinosaurs threw me for a loop. It was too jarring a change from the norm that seemed to have little to do with both the characters and the setting. Plus, in Marvel’s original comics, the Avengers did travel to the Old West a couple of times. Hawkeye was particularly comfortable there, finding a great friend in the Wild West vigilante called Two-Gun.

Throughout its run, “Westland” carries overtones of being an homage to this past story arc, with the World’s Greatest Marksman showing enormous interest in and relative familiarity with the time period. The problem is that the installment is less of a pastiche and more of a joke. We get a token bar fight at the beginning following Hawkeye’s very poor attempt to “speak the lingo” to the bar tender. The denizens’ of Westland ignore him and attack the team, considering Vision a threat because he looks like a robot (technically, he’s a synthetic man). The disrespect or disinterest on the writers’ part to Hawkeye’s history with this story line only continues in several later scenes, though it is somewhat mitigated by Clint’s being temporarily blinded.

Blinding him was definitely a good choice on the writers’ part, as it is a fairly rare story line that nevertheless carries a punch whenever it is utilized. Depriving him of his capacity to continue fighting with his sight is a surefire way to bring drama and tension to an Avengers or Hawkeye installment. “Westland,” when it gives attention to this aspect of the tale, all but sings in this area.

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The rest of the story, however, is a bit of a mess. Vision ends up in the clutches of Rocket and Groot, who plan to use him as spare parts to fix their ship. Vision breaks out of the sack before they can do this and learns to converse with Groot. We are then treated to meaning several conversations that consist of “I am Vision” and “I am Groot,” which is actually a nice touch. Then Jane Foster arrives and reveals that she is the sheriff of the town, totally undermining the callback to Two-Gun and Hawkeye’s ties with the Old West. Add to this the chip on Wasp’s shoulder and Loki’s grandstanding, and the episode left me feeling unfulfilled and unhappy.

Admittedly, they did try to make Hope a little nicer in this episode. She does her best to support and comfort Hawkeye after his blinding, showing genuine sympathy and concern for him. Her pep talk to get him fighting again was almost good – except for the part where they took Clint’s speech to Wanda in Age of Ultron and had Hope repeat it back to him verbatim. That was unnecessary, out of step with her character, and it showed a complete lack of imagination on the part of the writers.

Jane Foster’s promise to “bring her wrath” down on Loki if he betrayed the Avengers also struck the wrong note with me. She’s a scientist, not a sheriff or a warrior. Instead of coming across as a tough, no nonsense, genuinely feminine character she acted like a woman trying to be a man. It didn’t work. (This will become more relevant the further in we go.)

Next is “The Citadel,” the show which leads up to the season’s two-part finale. The episode begins with a conversation between Cap and Tony about defeating the Beyonder, which is interrupted when Tower is attacked. Both heroes are captured by the Beyonder’s forces and taken to his citadel.

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Steve wakes to find himself in a prison cell. While he breaks out of this confinement, the Beyonder tries to tempt Tony into accepting his technology and leaving the path of the hero. Cap arrives in time to snap him out of it, only to be tempted himself. The two begin fighting one another, ostensibly over the Beyonder’s offer of immortality and power.

Eventually, though, it is revealed to be a ruse. Having distracted the alien mastermind long enough to learn his goals, Tony and Steve leave the villains in Beyonder’s service tussling over the forbidden fruit while they make their escape.

Polite words fail me when I even think about this episode, for one simple reason: the presentation of Captain America in this installment borders on the putrid. Rather than show him as the American Galahad, the writers make him appear morally weaker than Tony Stark. While Cap can be tempted, he cannot be enticed in the same manner as others are. He also has a much higher threshold of resistance to sinful offers than practically everyone else in the Marvel Universe(s) does. “The Citadel” not only failed to show this character trait, it reversed his character completely. Cap specifically asks Tony at the end of the episode if he was tempted by the Beyonder’s offer, implying that he wants to know if he was not the only one weak enough to succumb to the alien’s offer.

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Additionally, Beyonder’s proposition was geared specifically to appeal to Tony; it should not have even registered on Cap’s psyche as a lure for that reason. The Beyonder appealed to Tony as a fellow scientist and technician. Cap is neither, and for the offer to entice him as in the manner it does Iron Man is absolutely absurd.

Like a number of other items in the final season of “Assemble,” the ruse could have been easily achieved in a way that better respected both characters. Having Cap fight Tony after the latter was momentarily bedazzled by Beyonder’s offer not only makes more sense, it fits Steve’s MO. He will fight for his friends’ lives and souls no matter the cost to himself, and the writers could have turned this into one such instance.

But the writers for Assemble just had to be different. They had to drag Steve down to the “normal” level to prove he is human. They completely ignored all the work that the MCU and Chris Evans put into demonstrating this fact to millions of movie-goers around the world, a move that is not only foolish but downright malicious. On top of everything else they have done to Steve throughout Assemble, this was just too much. It pulled this blogger out of the story and kept her out for the final two episodes. Those would have turned her off of the series, anyway, but the open disregard and malice in “The Citadel” brought the whole house of cards down much, much faster.

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So when “The Wastelands” and “All Things Must End” played, I was pretty upset. Knowing some of what was coming next from the tidbits dropped by the writers, this author waited for the final shoe to drop. It did drop – with a mighty splash. In this episode we were presented with an animated version the female Thor. Jane Foster calls Mjolnir to her and becomes goddess of thunder after Thor tried to use the hammer to rescue her.

I wish I was joking, readers, but that is what happened at the end of this episode. Then the team finally makes their play to put all the pieces back together, saving the worlds that the Beyonder ripped apart for his experiment. In the process, the alien mastermind is sent packing – but not before Dr. Strange is knocked out of commission. Unable to finish what he started, he gives Loki the Eye of Agamotto to fix the Bifrost and bring everyone home. It works like a charm, too.

Except then Loki won’t give the Eye back. What a shocker; the Sorcerer Supreme gives the trickster god the most powerful magical item in the universe, and he then expects it to be returned to him. Yeah, right.

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Why did no one see Loki’s betrayal in “All Things Must End” coming? Giving him the benefit of the doubt for the millionth time is one thing. Hope over experience is also a plausible reaction to his apparent reform. Necessity requiring that the Eye be transferred to the god of mischief is understandable and inevitable. But why – why!? – didn’t Strange put some kind of spell on the Eye that would cause Loki’s attempts to use it backfire on him and make him give it back?

More to the point, why would the team actually trust someone they hoped would reform, but whom they knew was probably using them? None of this should have been a revelation to the heroes. In fact, most of the Avengers looked thoroughly unsurprised by Loki’s treachery. Poor Thor wasn’t allowed to see through his adopted brother’s ruse until this point, which is a shame but par for the course for Assemble. The only time they ever treated the characters with even a modicum of respect was in season three.

Combine this “big reveal” with their forcing Jane Foster to play the role of Thor/Thunderstrike, plus the strong women grandstanding done by Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Kamala Khan, and you have an unappealing mess of an ending. The method of stopping Loki doesn’t even matter (or make much sense) because the above factors reduce the episode to a propaganda piece masquerading as a story. For all its faults, Assemble deserved a better ending than this, as did the characters.

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This is why I will not be watching any more Marvel fare from Western media outlets. Endgame is the finale to the MCU; everything that comes after cannot hope to match the quality of the first ten years, and most of the original actors/directors have jumped ship while the jumping is good. The nonsense that destroyed the comics has finally spread to the small and big screen, as I knew it would.

If you want to see Marvel’s comic book alterations make it to film, then go ahead and have fun. But as of now, I am done with Marvel Comics, Marvel films, and Marvel TV shows. If I want good, entertaining fare from the company, I know where to find it. It will not be in the latest releases but in the older comics, cartoons, and the first ten years of the MCU. So long, Marvel. It was nice while it lasted.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. You and your friends earned it. Nothing the new owners of your franchise can do will change that – not for me, and not for the other True Believers out there. ‘Til next time, readers:

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Thundercats – Tygra

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Last year, two posts about a pair of Thundercats characters appeared here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. The first one focused on Panthro, the second on Cheetara. A commentor on the second Spotlight! post requested that his favorite Thundercat be discussed next, and this blogger promised to write about that character in the New Year.

Well, while it is a day late and a dollar short, I hope JorgePr finds this post to be a satisfying review of his favorite character. Today’s Spotlight! focuses on the intellectual member of the Thundercats, Tygra. The team’s architect, scientist, inventor, academic, and moral authority, Tygra often came off as bland or uninteresting to most viewers. While this is an understandable reaction early on, to maintain it is to miss the very important contributions this Cat made to the team and the series.

Although his role in combat was not often as spectacular as Cheetara, Panthro, or Lion-O’s were, Tygra was a capable fighter. Using his bolo whip, intelligence, and native strength, he could think circles around most of his opponents with ease. The fact that his whip granted him invisibility only added to his combat capabilities, as it allowed him to sneak up behind or otherwise catch enemies by surprise. From what we saw in the television series, the only problem with this power came when Tygra had to swim. Water – whether it had been specially treated or not – rendered him visible to the naked eye. So in that sense, water was his weakness, a fact we will come back to later.

Silverhawks: Copper Kid, Quicksilver - Page 7 - The Atomic ...

Cat’s Lair, as designed by Tygra in the original series.

Due to his architectual expertise, Tygra was the Cat the rest of the team turned to when they needed something built. The designer of Cat’s Lair, the Feliner, and the Tower of Omens, his skill with artistic construction extended to more mundane items and sciences as well. When the Cats were shrunken to the size of insects, Tygra was the one who formulated the antidote. He was also the designer of the recording devices the group later employed to video themselves and their world for posterity. So while he wasn’t as mechanically inclined as Panthro, no one could say he wasn’t a good machinist, either.

Tygra also acted as the arbiter, recorder, and voice of final authority among the adult Thundercats. This was a position he achieved based on the virtues built into his character from the beginning. Clearly designed to resemble the tiger, where Panthro and Cheetara’s personalities were influenced by their physical attributes (strength and speed) his qualities had a different inspiration: the virtue of integrity.

Out of all the Cats, Tygra was probably the one with the strongest attachment to the Code of Thundera. While the others kept it in mind and allowed it to influence their daily lives and decisions, Tygra practically exuded a balanced spirit infused with Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty. More than once, he cited or leaned on the Code to remind the rest of the group of their duties to the denizens of Third Earth or to emphasize the vital need for them to remember, honor, and adhere to their culture and beliefs.

Loyalty was probably his most obvious trait. Though he wasn’t afraid to call Lion-O or any of others to the carpet when they were drifting off course, he always did so in a way that was respectful and/or deferential. He was, after all, not rebelling against his Lord or his friends but trying to make sure they corrected their course before it was too late. Despite his vulnerability to mind-control, in the end Tygra’s devotion to the Code and his friends always won out over the evil influences.

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This brings us back to Tygra’s powers and limits. Besides his bolo whip, Tygra possessed a hereditary trait called “mind power.” This ability played a clear role in only one episode, where Lion-O had to undergo a series of challenges to earn the title of Lord of the Thundercats. However, small hints dropped throughout the series suggest that this psychic talent was one he used in minor ways on an almost daily basis.

From a noble House renowned for its talent with “mind power,” Tygra often had to rest and prepare for days before using his psychic abilities for anything major, such as the trial where he tested Lion-O by casting various mental illusions. Unlike Cheetara, Tygra was well trained in the use of his gift. He therefore could not receive psychic images, warnings, etc. the way that she could. This may have made him susceptible to subtle psychic manipulation since, on three separate occasions.

Each time Tygra was lured into betraying the Thundercats and/or himself. In two of these cases, though, he managed to overcome the perpetrator’s influence and return to normal. Due to his heritage and calm, controlled demeanor, it only makes sense that he was taught from a young age how to defend against telepathic intrusion at the same time he learned how to use his power to protect himself. This implies that he learned to specifically guard against or block explicit telepathic messages or attacks, making it harder for him to realize when he was being presented with a less forceful psychic lure.

I say this last because, in an entirely different event, he showed he could recognize and fight overt psychic attacks. When Mumm-Ra used special bracelets to put the Cats under his mental command, Tygra was the last Cat standing, having ordered Snarf away to find and warn Lion-O. Eventually overpowered, Tygra was able to resist the bracelet and Mumm-Ra’s influence for a short period of time, something neither the Thunderkittens nor Cheetara had been able to do when they were “captured.”

To this blogger, that implies that his psychic talent made spontaneous use or abuse of it difficult in the extreme. Where Cheetara’s sixth sense could not be trained or used regularly, Tygra’s ability could, allowing him to block explicit or open telepathic messages without really thinking about it. It is also possible that while he needed to rest up and conserve energy to use his “mind power” for big events, using it for minor tricks in combat took little to no effort. In the first episode of the series, Tygra appeared to vanish – without using his brand new bolo whip to do so. It appears, therefore, that he could and would occasionally use his power to make others believe he had disappeared without resorting to his main weapon during skirmishes.

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Clearly, although he is not my favorite Thundercat, I have an immense respect for Tygra. Or at least, I respect his original depiction in the 1980s cartoon. I am also happy that the comic book writers married him off to Cheetara in their book series. The 2011 reboot’s giving us a good picture of their relationship and his origin story were well done additions to his character as well. (Except for the implication that he was the last tiger on Third Earth. Come on, people!)

As for the rest of the reboot’s presentation of Tygra, there were some glaring problems – starting with the small fact that they made him seasick. The original series never made it perfectly obvious, but it didn’t take a genius to come up with the theory that water was Tygra’s Achilles’ heel because it made him visible. Reducing this vulnerability to a queasy stomach was one of the ways they chipped away at his character in the reboot.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. While his status as Lion-O’s adopted brother was good, along with his more confident air, the resulting rivalry between them – especially where it concerned Cheetara – was absolutely unnecessary. It only got worse from there, as the writers used Tygra to make silly jokes that did nothing to make the stories they told any better than they already were. In fact, the debased treatment of this great Cat was a demerit for the final half of the 2011 reboot, in this blogger’s opinion. They wasted both the story lines they had set in motion and, worse, the rich estate they had received from the original Thundercats series.

In an effort to make him more interesting, the writers tore his most powerful characteristic – integrity – from him. They didn’t respect his honesty or his loyalty, though they tried to show the latter on occasion. Most of this was due to the fact that the reboot never referenced the Code of Thundera at all. It reduced the fantastic, chivalrous society which held its nobles and itself to a high set of standards and made it like the writers’ conception of the modern world, only with fantasy trappings.

This isn’t to bad mouth the good things they did do in Thundercats 2011. While I have my issues with the series, it did have its moments. And since it gave Tygra some great/good scenes while adding to his story, the writers deserve credit for doing their best. I only wish they had done better – especially where Tygra was concerned.

Hopefully, a future series (and no, I am not counting “Soycats” as a new Thundercats series), will treat the franchise and Tygra better. Only time will tell. Until then, I highly recommend watching the original series. The first half of the 2011 reboot is also watchable – though if you do it with a fan of the original series, be ready to hear some complaining. While this blogger dislikes the latter series, it does have some good material in it. You just have to have the patience to find it.

Until next time, readers, I leave you with a hearty, “ThunderThunder

Thundercats – HO!

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Spotlight: Thundercats – Cheetara

Earlier this year, I posted this Spotlight! article about a character from one of my favorite TV shows. The series in question was Thundercats, and the protagonist we were discussing was Panthro, who was never this blogger’s favorite character. He was much more impressive than I realized at the time, but he’s never been my preferred hero in that universe.

Today’s topic, however, was and remains my favorite character in the original series. This would be Cheetara, the only adult female Thundercat present for the first season of the show. Another adult female Cat, Pumyra, was added later on, but we will talk about her another time.

At first, I admired Cheetara mostly for her ability to run fast. She once hit 120 mph on a morning jog and, I believe, could run much faster in combat. Based on the cheetah, some time ago yours truly learned that this heroine’s personality was also centered on speed. Unlike Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver and other characters who can run at fantastic velocities, though, Cheetara was a composed, calm humanoid cat woman. She lacked the fiery temper and/or juvenile attitude modern audiences often associate with people who run fast.

She had a sense of humor, though. It showed either in dry, witty comments or a smiling, “Right in front of you, [boys]!”, but this did not change the fact that she was the most ‘adult’ member of the Thundercats. The villains had to work really hard to rile her up, as did her teammates. Cheetara didn’t like being insulted any more than anyone else, but when she knew that someone was trying to bait her with derogatory comments, she shrugged the bad behavior or nasty remarks off. The male Thundercats tended to take such things more seriously, something that occasionally puzzled their female friend. She would become righteously angry if taunted by an enemy or when she saw an injustice committed, but otherwise she was very hard to ruffle.

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This naturally meant that Cheetara rarely slipped into hysterics or dramatics. So if she grunted or stumbled with pain or surprise, the rest of the adult Cats converged on her faster than ants on a picnic. Cheetara didn’t have time or patience for theatrics, so any sign of distress from her automatically signaled an imminent problem of some kind. Thus she was the team’s barometer for trouble; if she reacted badly to something – even if it was something they couldn’t see – then the male Thundercats instinctively began looking for whatever problem was headed their way.

In addition to her amazing speed, Cheetara’s main weapon in battle was her retractable golden bo staff. Stored in a wrist guard on her left arm, the staff could be pulled free at any time and extend it to its full length easily. Combined with her incredible momentum, the staff enabled her to cause serious havoc in enemy ranks. Like the other Thundercats’ weapons, Cheetara’s staff was both magical and technological, meaning she could pull off some very neat tricks with it. She could lengthen the staff into a pole useful for vaulting over obstacles or springing up to high places. Or she could thrust the weapon to the earth, causing it to fire off several dozen “copies” of the staff that would fly out to strike and batter her opponents. It really was a nifty weapon, readers. 😉

Another power she had that was equally interesting, though sometimes it could be deadly. This power was Cheetara’s “sixth sense,” a limited form of telepathy that occasionally allowed her to feel and “see” when another Thundercat was in trouble. It was never shown enough to satisfy this viewer, but the writers made good use of in nonetheless.

Cheetara’s limited telepathy wasn’t something she could truly control or use in spectacular fashion for most of the show’s run. Generally, her latent psychic power flared up without her conscious will or effort. The one time Cheetara was able to use it as a genuine superpower came when the Lunataks – bizarre, evil creatures native to Third Earth – were using a device to scramble her psychic power in order to cover up one of their evil schemes. Overcoming their manipulation, Cheetara was able to free the captured Thundercats with a burst of telepathic power straight from her heart, mind, and body. It was the most stunning display of psychic strength she ever demonstrated.

With all this going for her, readers, it’s not hard to see why this blogger considered Cheetara her favorite character. Over time, her speed became less impressive than her personality, and to this day she has remained my preferred Thundercat. Given my unvarnished opinion of the 2011 remake for this series, though, it seems natural to assume that I didn’t like her appearance in the reboot. In actuality, with regard to Cheetara, the 2011 series gave me very little to complain about. In terms of personality, the new version was pretty close to the original conception of the character. What changes were made to her behavior were so minor that they’re not even worth consideration.

Nevertheless, I did have a few gripes with the 2011 presentation of the character, primarily with her outfit. In the original series, Cheetara’s suit covered everything but her right shoulder and arm. Now, that’s not exactly a smart fashion choice for a woman who intends to enter combat on a semi-regular basis, but the fact is that her original suit protected most of her body. Thundercats apparently needed little to no protective outerwear on their homeworld, Thundera, so it makes sense that Cheetara and the others would retain some measure of enhanced durability on Third Earth. This is the only reason (aside from the animators’/writers’ taste in fashion) that I can supply for Cheetara’s original, one-sleeved costume.

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Her new suit in the 2011 reboot, however, has no such excuse. This costume was a ratty brown two piece with an exposed midriff and no boots. It was obviously meant to make the 2011 Cheetara look “cool” and “edgy,” a truly stupid move on the part of the new show’s writers. Even at her highest speed, wearing a get-up like that put her vital areas in serious jeopardy during a fight. More to the point, the original Cheetara would not have been caught dead in such a tattered uniform. She was never an “edgy” character in the original series and she didn’t need to be in the new one!

My other gripe was that the new writers for the show disposed of Cheetara’s latent “sixth sense.” That power had led to several interesting, thought-provoking episodes in the first Thundercats series, and it could have spiraled off in dozens of amazing directions during the new show. Some might argue that the affinity the new Cheetara showed for using Jaga’s magic was an homage to her dormant telepathy, but her “magic” powers were only demonstrated once in the reboot. To my mind, that’s hardly compensation for the loss of such an interesting trait, readers.

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Despite these complaints, the 2011 series did improve on Cheetara’s portrayal in one regard. In the original series it was hinted that she and Tygra, a male Thundercat based on the tiger whom we will discuss later, were a couple. Other episodes, however, blurred the line and implied there was a mutual romantic interest between her and Lion-O, the ruler of the Thundercats. This could get confusing from time to time, especially since the series’ creators and subsequent merchandise made it plain Tygra and Cheetara were an item. Although I genuinely despise the books, the one good thing that the comics based on the series did was to show the two had married and had a couple of Kittens. It’s about the only thing I give the comics’ creators credit for doing.

Though the reboot writers led Lion-O to believe that Cheetara was romantically interested in him, they later demonstrated that she had an unequivocal romantic devotion to Tygra. Aside from the attempted love triangle, this was a really good move on their part. While the 2011 series didn’t treat the two as well as it should have, it at least made their mutual attraction clear, allowing them to show their love for one another and to act on it. For that, the new show deserves some points.

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Well, readers, this has been fun. It’s nice to get back into the rhythm of these Spotlight! posts. I’ve been doing so many Zoids ones that, added to my month-long hiatus, I almost forgot how to set the stage for these articles! Stay tuned for a new, non-Zoids focused post soon. It should be a rolling-ly good one.

Yes, that was a veiled hint about the following Spotlight! topic. 😉 And it is the only one you are going to get for now, since I have to start planning that post. ‘Til then –

“Thundercats – HO!”

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Book Review: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah

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Guess who’s back…. (Cue the eerie music.)

Yep, your humble blogging host is once again at work providing you with entertainment, readers! August was a busy month, so forgive me if I seem a little out of practice here. It should clear up once I get rolling.…. 🙂

All right, today’s focus is The Vulcan Academy Murders, by Jean Lorrah. Before I describe this story, I have to tell you that one of the things readers of Star Trek fiction should keep in mind is that most of it is non-canon. Part of this is due to the fact that those who write novels for ST can never seem to get on board with each other to figure out where they can slip their stories into the official timeline. Some write stories set in the exact same time periods; others create stories set in wildly different decades or eras. It can be a little confusing to the uninitiated at first, and it can be irritating to the more experienced readers as time goes on. (I speak from experience. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing in these fictional quarters!)

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The other reason is that, unlike Star Wars, Star Trek’s timeline is rather skeletal. Chronologically, you have Star Trek: Enterprise, followed by the original series, followed by the original films I-VI, followed by The Next Generation. Then they’re all capped off with Star Trek: Voyager – or they were, last I checked. So while there’s a lot of room for stuff to happen in between these different stories, since no one has bothered to define the cut off limits or to explain how many years have elapsed, authors who are Star Trek fans just shoot darts at the timeline trying to hit it. L. A. Graf generally sticks the landing, as mentioned in this review here, but others tend to throw wide of the mark.

Jean Lorrah is one of these authors. While she is clearly a passionate Trek fan who greatly admires the Vulcans, her grasp of the timeline appears to be a bit… vague. At the very least, she didn’t give readers much of a hint as to when her story was set; all I can say for sure is that it takes place before we see Doctor M’Benga aboard the Enterprise. Her writing style also left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong – she doesn’t write badly. But she could definitely have been clearer in her descriptions.

Okay, now we can discuss the story. The Vulcan Academy Murders starts out with the Enterprise battling a Klingon warship, which does not survive the fight. But before it is destroyed, it does inflict some serious damage on Kirk’s vessel, specifically the Auxiliary Control for the photon torpedoes. The two officers on duty there – Pavel Chekov and Carl Remington – manage to fire the kill shots before succumbing to a gas leak caused by a lucky hit from the Klingons.

Chekov is fortunate in that he comes through the battle ill but intact. Remington, on the other hand, is in serious trouble. Though McCoy manages to save his life, the boy’s voluntary nervous system is completely paralyzed. He can’t move – not even to open his eyes. McCoy fears that, even if Remington pulls through this initial battle, he may remain paralyzed and in bed for the rest of his life.

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Spock’s mother, Amanda

With no other way to confirm his mental health, Spock performs a mindmeld to see if Remington is still self-aware. Confirming that the boy is indeed conscious and able to reason, he explains that there might be a viable treatment which will save Remington’s life and sanity. Spock’s own mother is undergoing the same experimental cure on Vulcan; as it turns out, she was suffering from a degenerative disease that occurs in humans when they have lived in alien environments for long periods of time.

Up until now, there has been no means of curing the disease. But a human doctor on Vulcan who had this illness developed a treatment for himself that saved his life. It’s working on Amanda now, and it should be able to cure Remington, too. Since Enterprise is in need of repair, Spock invites Kirk and McCoy to come to Vulcan with him and Remington for “shore leave.”

Once there, they learn that a Vulcan woman is undergoing the same treatment after an regrettable accident with some machinery. Leaving all three patients in their force-field encapsulated regenerative tanks, Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Sarek, and the two doctors in charge of the project go out to dinner. One of these doctors is the human who invented the cure, Dr. Daniel Corrigan. The other is his Vulcan partner and friend, Sorel.

Dinner is a fine affair, but just as they’re about to pay the bill and head home, Sorel stiffens and clutches his chest. He can sense that his wife, T’Zan, is in danger of death. Rushing back to the Vulcan Academy, despite their best efforts the guys are not able to save Sorel’s wife. She dies in the medical room.

Though Corrigan immediately blames himself for this, Kirk openly suspects foul play. Over the next few days, he begins investigating the matter, believing that someone wants to sabotage the cure. When Remington dies as well and a fire is set in the Academy, Kirk’s suspicion that a murderer is loose becomes the only logical explaination for the cascading disasters….

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…And that’s all the spoilers you’re going to get, folks! 😉 My lips are now sealed – though I will add that, when researching this book to see if it was something I would enjoy, one of the reviews I read was written by a woman who said she had figured out the villain by page fifty. This blogger was hoping to beat that record when she started reading, and she did. I fingered the killer on page 49 and, despite a period of doubt, was proved right by the end. Haha! 😉

While I liked The Vulcan Academy Murders, as I said above, I did have a few problems with it. The writing style isn’t my favorite, and though it became tolerable after awhile, it still grated on my nerves from time to time. I must say that the method by which the author described Vulcan telepathy and how they form romantic, psychic connections was done well. It was entirely plausible and believable.

But I really didn’t like the way she handled Kirk. In some scenes he was fine, but in others Lorrah seemed to be actively dumbing him down. That was annoying; I like Kirk. He’s the best of Star Trek’s captains, and anyone who disrespects him in a major way (such as by poor writing) gets on my bad side. So long as he is portrayed well by an actor or a writer, I’m happy. But if the writers make him less than he is, as Lorrah did on a couple of occasions here, that leads me to give the book an automatic demerit.

Despite these objections, The Vulcan Academy Murders is a good story. If ST fiction isn’t your thing, or if my minor problems with this tale have convinced you that you would not enjoy the story, then you will probably want to avoid the book. But if you like Star Trek, a good mystery, and want to see Kirk look somewhat stupid, then this book might appeal to you.

Until next time, readers: “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning!”