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Lawrance Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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Ultimate X-Men: Return to Weapon-X
Ultimate X-Men: Return to Weapon-X
von Mark Powers
  Taschenbuch

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4.0 von 5 Sternen The Weapon-X Program "recruits" the X-Men,, 10. November 2005
Despite the title and the cover art for this second trade paperback volume in the "Ultimate X-Men" series (collecting issues 7-12), "Return to Weapon X" does not focus on the character of Wolverine. True, he is a key part of the solution for the predicament our Merry Mutants have found themselves in this time around, but Weapon X is now a big time secret government program run under the auspices of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury that has a rather impressive little roster of mutants in its service: Juggernaut, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Sabertooth. Think of them as the government's answer to the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and that pretty much accounts for all of the mutants belonging to groups at this point in the series.
Despite being on a first name basis with the President of the United States, Xavier's School for Gifted Children is hit by Colonel Wraith and his shock troops, both human and mutant. Now Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and the others will serve the greater good and help the government fight fire with fire (the only good mutant is a mutant with a neural implant). Of course, since this is a comic book, the person in charge of this government program is psychotic and perfectly willing to do anything to do anything to get the job done (or did I mention already that Wraith was in charge?). The main part of the story arc has to do with the X-Men regaining their freedom, but this is also mixed up with Wolverine's search for his past and Nick Fury's search for an illegal genetic operation violating the Superhuman Test-Ban Treaty.
I think that one of the main strengths of the Ultimate comic books is that they emphasize story arcs that take multiple issues (six in this case) so that a dozen issues into the series we have only dealt with two major stories instead of a self-contained episode with a new villain every single month. This should help the well from running dry too quickly. Writer Mark Millar along with Penciller Adam Kubert (with Tom Raney & Tom Derenick) and Inker Art Thibert (with Scott Hanna, Joe Kubert, Danny Miki, & Lary Stucker) are having fun tweaking the "original" X-Men stories and creating some new dynamics (e.g., Storm is interested in Hank McCoy, Nightcrawler does not speak English) so I think that those who have been reading the X-Men since issue #1 of "The Uncanny X-Men" (or issue #1 of "The Giant-Size X-Men") will enjoy the differences more than neophytes and appreciate the way key stories resonant (e.g., Jean Grey is Marvel Girl and not Phoenix when she steps over the line this time around).
"Return to Weapon X" is not as good as the first volume in the series, but it is hard to compete with Magneto when you talking about the X-Men, whichever version of the group is involved. Millar's story is certainly complex enough and you can see all sorts of things being set up for down the road. As long as you are not offended by the very existence of the series, you should find "Ultimate X-Men" or any of the other titles in the Marvel series to be at least entertaining and quite possibility compelling. At the very least, you should be able to appreciate the tweaking.


Ultimate X-Men, English edition (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
Ultimate X-Men, English edition (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
von Mark Millar
  Gebundene Ausgabe

5.0 von 5 Sternen The X-Men versus Magneto and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mutants, 10. November 2005
I can appreciate the impulse to push the reset button on long time superhero comic books like "X-Men" and "Spider-Man." After all, we are talking about four decades worth of stories, repeated encounters with Magneto and the Green Goblin, each one diluting the potency of the characters. Plus, if you go back and read the first dozen episodes of either the original comic book "The Uncanny X-Men" of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby or the new and improved "X-Men" concocted by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum (and then John Byrne), it takes a while for both of those series to hit stride. Writer Mark Millar was given a free reign with this project, but clearly "Ultimate X-Men: The Tomorrow People" was constructed to work whether you came in with issue #1 of Volume 1, Giant-Size X-Men, or Volume 2.
I was here for all three, so part of my appreciation for this first six-issue story arc from Millar, pencillers Adam & Andy Kubert, and inker Art Thibert (w/Danny Miki) is how they have reconstituted elements from both of the origins. So I remember Quicksilver and the Silver Witch being part of the original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as well as Storm and Colossus being recruited for the international version of the X-Men. Anyhow, here is a list of things I liked about "The Tomorrow People" without spoiling the actual story:
I liked the idea that in the beginning the X-Men were just Professor Xavier, Cyclops and Marvel Girl. This reconstitutes the idea that there were always the core of the group. Actually, they would be the heart (Jean Grey), mind (Professor X), and soul (Scott Summers) of the X-Men. Having the Beast and Iceman be part of the second wave is fine with me, as is jettisoning Angel (and Banshee from wave two). You have to have limitations on how many merry mutants are running around in the group. On the other side of the equation Wolverine is now the world's best assassin and is working for Magneto. That is obviously a nice little twist on the tale. The mutant hysteria is in full swing, so that the necessity of all the world's mutants having to pick which side of the coming war they want to be on makes a whole lot of sense. This just underscores the idea that "X-Men" was never just a standard superhero battles supervillain type of comic book.
I really appreciate the way the ante has been upped both in terms of the Sentinnels and Magneto. This time around the big purple robots are going around and not just picking up mutants, they are executing them on the spot. But the chief attraction of this sotry arc is Magneto. The original X-Men was one of the few times in the history of Marvel Comics that the first issue of a comic book actually came up with the greatest villain in the history of the entire series. What I liked most about what Millar et al. came up with is the idea that given the powers Magneto has, there can only be one big battle between him and humanity. I mean, with his powers, taking over the world should be relatively easy. Even in the end, he can only be defeated because of an Achilles heel sort of situation. But what really matters here is that this fight is for all the marbles, win or lose, live or die. This is such a big story that I can understand why as long as we are talking rewriting history fans are wishing that this had been the script for the original "X-Men" movie.
The second story arc here, "Return to Weapon X" (issues #7-12) does not really focus on the character of Wolverine. True, he is a key part of the solution for the predicament our Merry Mutants have found themselves in this time around, but Weapon X is now a big time secret government program run under the auspices of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury that has a rather impressive little roster of mutants in its service: Juggernaut, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and Sabertooth. Think of them as the government's answer to the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and that pretty much accounts for all of the mutants belonging to groups at this point in the series.
Despite being on a first name basis with the President of the United States, Xavier's School for Gifted Children is hit by Colonel Wraith and his shock troops, both human and mutant. Now Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and the others will serve the greater good and help the government fight fire with fire (the only good mutant is a mutant with a neural implant). Of course, since this is a comic book, the person in charge of this government program is psychotic and perfectly willing to do anything to do anything to get the job done (or did I mention already that Wraith was in charge?). The main part of the story arc has to do with the X-Men regaining their freedom, but this is also mixed up with Wolverine's search for his past and Nick Fury's search for an illegal genetic operation violating the Superhuman Test-Ban Treaty.
"Return to Weapon X" is not as good as the first story in the series, but it is hard to compete with Magneto when you talking about the X-Men, whichever version of the group is involved. Millar's story is certainly complex enough and you can see all sorts of things being set up for down the road. As long as you are not offended by the very existence of the series, you should find "Ultimate X-Men" or any of the other titles in the Marvel series to be at least entertaining and quite possibility compelling. At the very least, you should be able to appreciate the tweaking.


Supreme Power Volume 1: Contact Tpb
Supreme Power Volume 1: Contact Tpb
von J. Michael Straczynski
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Straczynski and company reimagine the DC icons of the J.L.A., 10. November 2005
Once upon a time a spacepod landed on Earth carrying an infant with superpowers. The baby was found by a childless couple who thought they he might be the answer to their prayers. But when they took the baby home, soldiers from the government showed up and took the baby away. Thus begins Project Hyperion, a top secret government project to raise the infant in a confined environment with the goal of producing a super solider. In case you were wondering, yes, writer Michael J. Straczynski, penciller Gary Frank, and inker Jon Sibal are beginning the "Supreme Power" series with a twist on the story of Superman. By the time you read "Contact," the first trade paperback collection of issues from the comic book you see that the idea here is to play around with five other DC icons (I do not want to give them all away, so let me just say we are talking about the heart of the Justice League of America).
Marvel's Ultimate comic books represent their biggest attempt to start over since all those New Universe titles a couple of decades past, and certainly they have played around with the DC icons, most notably in the pages of "Fear" when it featured the Man-Thing where a strange baby from another planet lands in the swamp and the kindly couple that discover the capsule decide to just keep driving down the road. Consequently, when the alien inside emerges many years later he has the powers of Superman with the brain of a baby and becomes the "hero" Wundarr. But that was mere satire and the stakes are higher here with the programming of Hyperion.
"Contact" collects the first six issues of "Supreme Powers" and if there is one thing I have learned about Stracynski from "Babylon 5" it is he begins a project like this knowing what the end game is going to be and it perfectly willing to take several years to play out the whole thing. So these first six issues are setting up characters and premises that will continue to develop down the road (four of the icons are revealed by the end of this trade paperback, with two still in the shadows).
One of the most memorable moments from the final issue of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" is when Batman is stomping on Superman and pointing out that the lessons they learned from their parents made a big difference in how they view the world. Stracyznski is exploring that same idea with these characters. Hyperion is raised by "American" parents, except that they are really a pair of agents in deep cover. Young Titus Richmond watches his parents die when they are gunned down by a couple of rednecks, and the fact he is African-American comes into play in a significant way when he becomes Nighthawk, not to mention providing a whole new level of natural animosity between the two main icons. This just underscores that while the similarities are what we notice first, it is the differences where Straczynski is seeking to make his impacts.
Setting the story in the "real" world is always tricky business. Notice, for example, that this is a world without comic book superheroes, which means nobody has a frame of reference for at least discussing what happens when beings with super powers start popping up. Then there are the portrayals of the presidents, which seems to give away Stracyznski's political leanings, which may or may not be important to the developing narrative. But the key point here is that starting from scratch this time means during the administration of Jimmy Carter rather than during the Great Depression.
For me the strength of the "Supreme Power" storyline are the way Stracyznski and Frank make the most of small changes from the original icons. For example, every time Superman walks around as Clark Kent there are people who are dying because he is not flying around in his cape. Hyperion has been a secret weapon, so there is the idea that he is reserved for big things (e.g., Desert Storm, L.A. Riots), but when his existence is revealed so is his identity as Mark Milton. America's superhuman weapon does not get a private life, so, of course, that is what he wants. The "Contact" of the title is not just between Earth and the small visitor from another planet, but also Mark's first connections with others like himself.
This is a MAX Comic, which carries a parental advisory for explicit content. So far this warning is not for sex but for nudity and language (sometimes raw power makes wearing clothes difficult and street criminals are always going to have something to say about people in costumes interfering with their profession). The verdict on the series at this point is that it is very good, mainly because Stracyzynski puts a lot of thought into what he does (ergo, there is plenty to think about), but it is too soon to tell if it is great.


Predator (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries)
Predator (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries)
von Patricia Cornwell
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Going through the motions with Scarpetta and the gang, 10. November 2005
I picked up "Predator," the 14th of the Kay Scarpetta Mysteries written by Patricia Cornwell wondering what wringers the author was going to put her creation through this time. This is because I am convinced that Cornwell does not like her creation, which seems a reasonable explanation as to why Scarpetta wallows in such despair. Her chief medical examiner is now freelancing with the National Forensic Academy in Florida and working on a case regarding the disappearance of four people who appear to have been abducted from their home. Meanwhile, Benton Wesley is interviewing a psychopath as part of the PREDATOR research study in Boston, Pete Marino discovers that a woman who complained about being harassed by a citrus canker inspector has been murdered, and Lucy is cruising bars in Provincetown.
The good news is that there actually is movement on some of the three elements that have defined the recent Scarpetta novels. First, the requisite hack who is out to get Scarpetta actually gets a little of what is coming to them for once and I will tell you right now that is the reason I ended up rounding up on this book was because this finally happened. It was not the completely cathartic comeuppance I have been dreaming of (where my imagination with regards to how such an event should unfold would be more in keeping with that of the subjects of PREDATOR than Marino's day dreams).
Second, this time Lucy is aware that she is self-destructive and that she is getting involved with somebody with whom she should not be involved from the moment they meet up. Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to solving it, and while I never expect Lucy or anybody else in these books will ever tame their demons, a half step in the right direction still constitutes movement. Then again, lots of people are suffering in this one because of Lucy's mistake. I am also pleased to reporter that Scarpetta cooks up another meal relative late in the book (Risotto alla Sbriggalia).
However, the third and most important part of the formula is still firmly entrenched. This is the one that declares whatever cases Scarpetta, Lucy, Marino and Benton are working on they are all related and just one giant case. Of course they are all preoccupied with their own cases and their is a snow storm to contend with as well, but the main problem this time is that neither Lucy nor Marino are currently talking to Scarpetta, for different reasons, and we know full way that Scarpetta and Benton have a hard time having a meaningful conversation about anything other than dead bodies. This is such a small, small world that has been created here that you would think the characters would have noticed every serial killer (sorry, Benton, I meant compulsive murderer) in the nation is after one or more of them.
There is nothing in "Predator" to convince Cornwell's dwindling fan base that she is not simply going through the motions. Scarpetta's forensic knowledge, which was pivotal in the earlier books in the series, has now become tangential. It used to be that her exhaustive examination of a corpse and crime scene was crucial to catching the killer, but in this book the most rigorous forensic examination Scarpetta undertakes consists not of looking at a body but at photographs on a computer disc and the conclusion that she reaches has nothing to do with the resolution of the case at the heart of the novel although she does put the key piece of evidence in front of the right person at the conveniently prefect moment.
Beyond that, Cornwell teases us in the final chapter by hinting at a future autopsy that would be the basis for making a rather interesting argument in court as to how a suicide would be a murder. Actually, Scarpetta talks about making another case against long odds to stand up in court in that final chapter that would be interesting to see played out as well. Unfortunately, I have no reasonably hopes that Cornwell would write a novel that included those stories and get back to the strengths of her character and her mysteries. I will continue to read these books for the simple reason that I find doing this ongoing postmortem on this series to be painfully ironic, which is really not as much fun as it sounds.


Judgment of the Grave: A Sweeney St. George Mystery (Sweeney St. George Mysteries)
Judgment of the Grave: A Sweeney St. George Mystery (Sweeney St. George Mysteries)
von Sarah Stewart Taylor
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Attend the graveyard tales of Sweeney St. George, 9. November 2005
With "Judgment of the Grave," her third Sweeney St. George mystery novel, Sarah Stewart Taylor reaches an important crossroad with her amateur sleuth, who is an art historian with an interest in funereal art. If there is going to be a formula to Taylor's novels a third novel is the point where it becomes painfully obvious. However, while all three novels begin with a prologue in the past that give us some vague background on past events and while Sweeney's interest in gravestones, mourning jewelry and the like provide her link to one or more murders in the present, I am happy to report that Taylor is making a concerted interest to keep her character more grounded in reality and less in the fictional world where amateur sleuths stumble across murders on an almost monthly basis.
By the end of "Mansions of the Dead," her second novel, I suspected that Taylor was taking pains to avoid going in the wrong direction by telling us more about Detective Tim Quinn than we really needed to know. When Quinn's wife committed suicide at the end of the novel, apparently a victim of post partum depression, it seemed an almost gratuitous infliction of pain on a supporting character. But I suspected that Quinn was being groomed by Taylor to play a more active role in mysteries to come, giving Sweeney a legitimate liaison (if not more) with the police. Indeed, it is Quinn more than Sweeney who is at the nexus of the criminal investigations at the heart of "Judgment of the Grave," and that is all right with me because it allows Sweeney to focus on her strengths in terms of historical research. Sweeney might not solve the case, but once again she finds the key piece of evidence.
Once again Taylor tweaks my interest early on in her novel by touching on something I find fascinating, which in this case would be reenactors. I have been to some Civil War reenactments and while trudging up the Freedom Trail in Boston towards the Bunker Hill monument, walking past the Copp's Hill Burial Ground, we past a reenactor dressed up as a British Redcoat. Sweeney is in the South Burying Ground in Concord studying the work of a colonial stonecutter, Josiah Whiting, when she meets up with one of his descendants, 12-year-old Pres Whiting, who has been undergoing chemotherapy. Her concern for the young boy leads Sweeney to follow him home, but along the way Pres discovers the corpse of someone dressed up in a Revolutionary War uniform.
Meanwhile, back in Boston, Quinn has been assigned to a missing person case involving a history professor who up in Concord for a Minuteman reenactment. You might be inclined to think that Quinn's missing person and the corpse discovered by Pres would be one in the same. But that is far too obvious for a Sweeney St. George mystery. Besides, it turns out that there are other questions to be asked about Josiah Whiting than why the carvings on his gravestones changed before he disappeared and was presumed killed somewhere on Battle Road as the British regulars retreated from Concord back to Boston. After all, you should never presume anything in one of these novels but pay attention to everything because it could be a clue and then, when Quinn and Sweeney start eliminating clues and suspects, make you best guess as to who did it.
I am always in the ballpark with these mysteries, but I never quite put them together, which is like riding in the curl of the wave with these novels. You do not want the solutions to be so obvious that you do not enjoy the story, nor do you want to be so far behind that you lose the sense of participating in solving the crimes. So as far as I am concerned Taylor is doing it just right. Granted, it is easy for me to identify with Sweeney's vocation, but I also think she has a much broader appeal than to readers who share my admittedly eclectic tastes.
Finally, I can understand that some readers will be bothered by the fact that Sweeney is dealing more with her personal life than with the mysteries at hand, but I see the net effect being keeping the character real, especially after having read all three novels in a fortnight. Besides, in her second novel Taylor spent more time developing the supporting characters and I can appreciate the desire not to discard all of them when she gets to the final page. But I always find what Sweeney is researching to be interesting without any corpses being part of the equation. In fact, if Taylor wanted to do an entire mystery in which all of the dead and all of the evidence was in the past and not the present that would be fine with me.


Bat Out Of Hell Live
Bat Out Of Hell Live
Preis: EUR 7,79

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" live is worth a listen or two, 6. November 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Bat Out Of Hell Live (Audio CD)
Listening to Meat Loaf singing the complete "Bat Out of Hell" album live with the Melbourne Symphony under the baton of Keith Levenson might be one of the strangest live recordings you ever listen to for the simple fact that the original is so ingrained in your mind that when Meat Loaf sings pretty much every line from start to finish somewhat differently it just seems too odd. After all, the original 1977 album where Jim Steinman defined operatic rock for now and all-time has been thundering in our heads for over a quarter century. It was one of the best selling albums of that decade and when CDs start being produced "Bat Out of Hell" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" were two of the oldies that everybody was trying to get a hold of (they waited twenty years to to the day to release "Sgt. Pepper" on CD).
The album only made it to #343 on the "Rolling Stone" list of 500 greatest albums, but the reason is pretty obvious: only Steinman was writing this sort of megabombastic music. You want to hear more of the same? Listen to the first and last tracks from the soundtrack of "Streets on Fire" or pick up "Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell" if you want to hear anything like the original. The only other thing remotely in the ballpark would be Alice Cooper's "Billion Dollar Babies" album and that is only in terms of a few key tracks (e.g., "Elected") and those still fall short.
So the 2004 recording "Bat Out of Hell: Live With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra" is interesting, more to hear Meat Loaf adding live intensity to the vocals than the use of strings and such. You only get the seven songs from "Bat Out of Hell," along with the spoken prologue to "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" (notice how quickly the crowd quiets to listen) and the play-by-play for "I Can See Paradise By the Dashboard Life." The bottom line is that to no one's surprising, including the singer, the live version ends up suffering in comparison to the original. Fans will be interested in hearing it once or twice, and they can ruminate on whether they can hear anything different that Patti Russo is doing from Ellen Foley's original vocals or if the symphony is adding depth to Steinman's music, and then they will do just what I did.
Go back and listen to the original again and marvel at how gloriously over the top and powerful it still is after all these years.


Prey
Prey
von Michael Crichton
  Taschenbuch

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3.0 von 5 Sternen A techno-thriller overburdened by having way too much techno, 3. November 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Prey (Taschenbuch)
"Prey" is Michael Crichton's latest techno-thriller with the emphasis on the technology at the expense of the thrills. Granted, I am somebody who never took Biology let along Chemistry or Physics in high school so my ability to assimilate scientific information gets maxed out at the level of "Jurassic Park." I understand the "what ifs" of finding dinosaur DNA and filling the gaps with sequences from frogs. But Crichton quickly leaves me in the dust in this novel.
After an introduction entitled "Artifical Evolution in the Twenty-first Century," which made me nervous that there might be some sort of quiz at the back of the book, we are given a glimpse at the end of the story before going back to the beginning: "Day 1, 10:04 A.M." Our hero is Jack Forman, currently an unintentional househusband but once the overseer of computer programmers attempting to solve problems by mimicking the behavior of predatory animals. Jack is staying home taking care of the three kids while his wife, Julia, is working lots of long hours at the top secret research labs of Xymos Technology. Jack is getting suspicious about her behavior (the first thing she does when she gets home is take a shower), but that seems the least of his problems when the baby starts screaming. Amanda's entire body has turned a bright, angry red despite no sign of fever or infection. The doctors are totally confounded and Amanda does not stop screaming until she is given an MRI, at which point she returns to normal.
This is a book where pretty much everything is connected, but knowing that you are seeing clue after clue paraded before your eyes is not going to do you much help in figuring out the mystery that confronts Jack. Crichton is telling the story in a first person voice and Jack constantly has to interrupt the narrative to explain the science involved in a particular plot point. Julia's company is doing something with self-replicating nano-technology, but whatever they are doing is getting way out of hand. Jack is called in as a consultant at factory in the Nevada desert to do some trouble-shooting, but quickly learns that nobody is telling him the complete truth or giving him the big picture on what is happening.
The more you know about science in general and nano-technology in particular (aside from the relevant episdoes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") the more you are going to enjoy "Prey" for the simple reason that you will be able to understand what is going on a whole lot better than the rest of us. My gut instinct is that there is a point where the evolutionary growth of the little monsters becomes far-fetched, but I have little chance of knowing that for sure, let along of convincing anybody else. "Prey" was a book that I did not want to put down simply because I was going to have a hard time remembering all the technological aspects about what was going on when I picked the novel back up. I pity the writer who has to turn "Prey" into a film script because unless they figure out how to provide footnotes during the film audiences are going to have trouble understanding what is happening on a scientific level.


Essential Uncanny X-men (Tpb Vol 1)
Essential Uncanny X-men (Tpb Vol 1)
von Stan Lee
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen Back to the beginning for Marvel's merry mutants,, 3. November 2005
"The Uncanny X-Men" were always my favorite Marvel Superhero group and it was not just because they were younger than the Fantastic Four and the Avengers the way Spider-Man was younger than Captain America and Daredevil. I mean, the FF were driven by the walking tragedy of Ben Grimm as the Thing and the great villains, why the Avengers started out as the Marvel version of the Justice League of America with the best of the best and then deteriorated into those superheroes who did not have their own comics. But the X-Men were victims of persecution and prejudice because they were mutants. The metaphor for teenage angst and the joys of puberty was just too obvious not to work. Plus they had a bald headed guy in charge.
"The Essential Uncanny X-Men" presents the first twenty-four issues of the comic book, which starts with the creative team of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby but ends with Roy Thomas and Werner Roth. Issue #1 provides one of the better foundations for a Marvel comic. We begin with Professor Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Children in Westchester County, where Jean Grey breaks the boy's only barrier as Marvel Girl (the all time worst name for a superhero Stan Lee ever came up with). The original roster of the group, for those who cannot remember back any farther than the rebirth under Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, consisted of not only Professor X's power to read minds and project thoughts and Marvel Girl's telekinesis, but the agility and strength of the brilliant Hank McCoy, the Beast; the fully functional wings of rich boy Warren Worthington III, Angel; the walking snow cone Bobby Drake, the Iceman (who originally looked like a snowman); and the power means that shot out of the eyes of the group's field leader Scott Summer, Cyclops. All gained their mutant powers when they became adolescents (although we would not learn their backstories for several years), and were rescued from fearful humans by Professor X and given a power of sanctuary. Having trained them in the use of their powers, Xavier has their working as a team. Thus we have alienation and the need to belong all wrapped up with a mixed bag of superpowers.
The other key part of the foundation is that Lee and Kirby came up with THE ultimate villain for the Uncanny X-Men in the first issue. The FF had the Mole Man, which smacked of all the monster comics Lee and Kirby did during the Fifties, but the X-Men had Magneto, the Master of Mutant Magnetism. Now, granted if his power works the way they say it does this is an invincible super villain (he can easily kill everybody in sight by either taking making a metal object a weapon or manipulate the iron in your blood if he wants to be overly creative), but the important thing here is that in the face of human prejudice over mutants ("homo superior"), Magneto agrees he is part of a superior race and is out to confirm humanity's worse fears. In Issue #4 Magneto leads the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in a sort of mutant Civil War. Ultimately, the strongest similarity between the X-Men and Spider-Man are not that they are teenagers, but that they are heroes who are treated by the world at large mostly as villains.
The main complaint against these first two-dozen episodes is that despite this great foundation the comics are mostly standard superhero stories. The bit where Charles Xavier and Scott Summers both love Jean Grey but will not tell her their feelings is awkward at best, so the interpersonal relationships are nothing special at this point. Beyond Magneto really good villains are hard to come by; the Juggernaut is above average, but many of the others are laughable (e.g., the Locust), and even the Mimic is just an X-Men version of the Super Skrull. Even the mutant paranoia element is relatively low given where it would be in the future.
They are up to Volume 4 of "The Essential X-Men," but are still stuck on just this first collection of the original comics. This is too bad because in the next collection we would see Roy Thomas hitting his stride as the book's writer and then we get to the books drawn by Jim Steranko and then Neal Adams. Those were the early glory days of the X-Men and those volumes need to be published by Marvel as well. 'Nuff said. Final Note: Check out the great cover Kirby drew for "X-Men" #17: "...And None Shall Survive!" Nothing actually in the issue is that good, until the final pattern (which was nicely homaged by John Bryne at the end of "X-Men" #111), but I think it is one of Kirby's top 10 covers ever (not that I have really gone back and counted mind you).


Hannibal
Hannibal
von Thomas Harris
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,61

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4.0 von 5 Sternen The novel "Hannibal," reconsidered, 2. November 2005
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Hannibal (Taschenbuch)
I had heard the Thomas Harris would never write anything until he could believe it, which is a useful bit of authorial insight to have while reading the novel. Hannibal Lecter first appeared before "Silence of the Lambs" as a minor but pivotal character in "Red Dragon," which suggests that while the good doctor would be around that did not necessarily hold true for Clarice Starling or Jack Crawford. But the conclusion of "Silence" made it clear that there was a significant bond between Clarice and Lecter, such that neither would be able to let the other go. Wisely, Harris does not force the premise. Lecter is keeping in touch and Clarice is trying to track him down, but it has been seven years and nothing is really happening. However, what neither knows is that there is a third party who wants to take advantage of this tenuous connection in the form of the living corpse, Mason Verger. It is these behind the scenes machinations that threaten Clarice's place in the world, even though they are someone dubious actions taken by rather melodramatic characters. Certainly no one in their wildest dreams could have predicted the ride on which Harris takes his characters. Lecter is the title character, but once again the key transformation in the novel belongs to Clarice Starling.
"Hannibal the Cannibal" was an exotic figure in "Silence" because he was incarcerated, and with Buffalo Bill out skinning his humps and Dr. Chilton being an insufferable ass, there were better people to fear and hate in the book. The various effronteries that caused Lecter to kill and fillet his victims are not always quite clear in "Silence," but Harris provides ample justification for Mason Verger's drug-induced self-mutilation way back when. Lecter leaves Mason alive, not just because his punishment is to live with what he has become, but also because otherwise there is no story. As Lecter's only living victim, Mason has a claim on revenge and as one of the filthy rich he has the means to create his own revenge fantasy fit for inclusion in Dante's "Inferno" by having Lecter eaten alive by giant pigs. But for the reader the true villain of the piece is Deputy Assistant Inspector General Paul Krendler, who might be helping Mason track down Lecter but who also take too much pleasure in ruining Starling's career. Krendler is more than Chilton's evil twin because his actions threaten Starling and everything she hold dear, so it is not surprising that he becomes the most particular target of Lecter's final act of insanely inspired appropriate action in the novel.
Although it is not as clear in the film version as in the novel, there is a love triangle dynamic at work in "Silence" between Clarice, Lecter and Crawford. But this is more than the heroine caught between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, because for each man the conflicting loves of a father for a daughter and a man for a woman are both at play. The emotions between all three are strong even if they are not precisely quantifiable. However, while Lecter is free to roam it is Crawford who is effectively removed from the picture by a heart attack. The problem is that one of the key ironies is that Lecter is more fascinating in captivity. In "Silence" it was his whispering to Meggs all night long and the photo of what he did to the nurse that provide the undercurrent of horror to his conversations with Clarice. In "Hannibal" he does the same thing to some degree only with Mason's sister Margot. The sense of restrained power is gone and in its place we have a Lecter who simply sends his mind elsewhere as he bids his time. Meanwhile, Starling is left in even worst shape as one she is slowly but surely stripped of all support. Her vulnerability is part of a complex ploy to lure Lecter to her side, but it also echoes the climax of "Silence," where it is Clarice alone who has to deal with Jame Gumb. However, this time she is painfully aware going in that she is all alone on this one, with no clear idea of what to do if and when she rescues Lecter. However, that choice is forever taken from her.
At the end of "Hannibal" what we have is not an ultimate meeting of the minds between Clarice and Lecter but rather a perverse role reversal. Through the circumstances of her attempted rescue of Lecter from Mason's plot, Clarice essentially becomes his captive and then his ultimate act of creation. From this vantage point we look back on Clarice's life and see that her psychological struggle has indeed been a search for a father figure and not for a lover. Being freed from the psychological trauma of her anger over his death--as a trained F.B.I. agent she knows that he got himself killed by being stupid--might not make her a suitable lover, but Lecter is clearly more interested in a consort. The objections by those who see the pair of them living out the rest of their lives as a happy couple misses the mark, and projecting a worst case scenario onto the novel's ending is just plain wrong. Under girding this all seems to me to be a desire by Harris to put the characters to rest. There is certainly not as much promise of another story to be told as there was at the end of "Silence."
Starling always proved herself capable of playing by Lecter's rules, but the idea that she could surprise him seems insufficient to suggest while she becomes so important to him. After all, on one level is she is simply the first woman he has seen in eight years. Ironically, in trying to explain Lecter, the author seriously undercuts the character. We find out the "why" behind Hannibal the Cannibal, but in justifying this grand creation Harris takes away a large measure of the mystery and the fear. Explaining Lecter takes away from our fascination. Naming his childhood trauma might create some sort of equity between Lecter and Starling, but in the final analysis the idea that they should or even could be equals is what many readers have been rejecting. By the end of "Hannibal," Starling has become an empty vessel into which Lecter pours his essence. If this is a perverse love story it is "Pygmalion" with a touch of "The Bride of Frankenstein." Starling does not live happily ever after with Lecter. By the end of this novel she no longer exists.


Blood and Fog (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Pocket Paperback Unnumbered))
Blood and Fog (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Pocket Paperback Unnumbered))
von Nancy Holder
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 5,65

3.0 von 5 Sternen This book would have been better without Jack the Ripper, 1. November 2005
Getting the go ahead to write "Blood and Fog" had to be a piece of cake simply because of the hook, which appears on the cover: "Buffy and Spike are on the trail of Jack the Ripper!" For Spike this will be the second go around with the original Ripper (not to be confused with Giles). The story is set in the sixth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which means Buffy and Spike are dealing with what constitutes dating on their part while Willow is going through Wicca withdrawal and still separated from Tara. However, all of this matters only in terms of an attempt to presage the appearance of Darth Rosenberg at the end of the season, and while I think the nod towards that confrontation provides one of the best moments in "Blood and Fog," it is not the main game this time around.
Ironically, while Jack the Ripper is the hook for Nancy Holder's novel, it is ultimately as unnecessary as the vermiform appendix. I am by no means an expert Ripperologist, but I have worked my way through the superb website of evidence regarding the murders and I know enough to be well aware that what the Hughes brothers provided in their adaptation of Alan Moore's "From Hell" is, by Ripper standards, a PG version of what really happened (they left the audience off easy). Consequently, I know that besides invoking the name of Jack Ripper there is nothing substantial about the Whitechapel murders worked into this novel beyond the setting. This is of some importance since it gives Spike and Dru, along with Angelus and Darla, ample reason to cross paths with Jack. If anything, given the purpose for Jack's killing spree, the historical escalating of eviscerations makes no sense in terms of Holder's narrative.
At this point I should admit that I have something of a prejudice against science fiction and fantasy stories that turn Jack the Ripper into an inhuman monster. When Robert Bloch came up with "Wolf in the Fold" for the original "Star Trek," that was fine. After all, Bloch wrote a "real" Ripper story with "A Toy for Juliette." But Jack was human, which is what makes him such a horrible figure. If there is a more gruesome murder than what he did to his "final" victim Mary Kelly (Holder provides a massive example of understatement by referring to her as having been "gutted like a fish"), then I do not want to know about it and I especially do not want to see any photographs. Jack the Ripper was a human being and the idea that the Slayer of that time, Elizabeth, would be restrained by her Watcher from going after the Ripper because he was (presumed) to be human, has plenty of story potential.
That aside, the important thing here is that in telling the story of an eternal conflict between two sets of Irish faery, the Fromhoire and the Tuatha, Holder makes playing the Jack the Ripper card unnecessary. All it really means is that the name itself inspires some notion of fear in Buffy, but they the faery induced fog does that all by itself, so that pretty much makes the Jack the Ripper point moot. Clearly the creature that Buffy faces is not the Jack the Ripper of legend, which, again begs the question why bother to waste him in this novel? If Holder had written a novel about Spike and the rest of the vampire quartet in Whitechapel in 1888, dealing with a human evil whose viciousness was beyond even that of Angelus, that could have been a pretty good "BtVS" novel, even if Buffy never made an appearance in the main narrative (I assume she would be in the prologue/epilogue). I have no doubt that Spike could carry a book pretty much on his own.
The other problem with having Jack the Ripper in this story is that the Celtic mythology regarding the Fromhoire and the Tuatha gets muddled. "Blood and Fog" even has a lecherous little leprechaun who has taken an interest in Willow, which has nothing to do with Jack. As it is, the most chilling point in this novel is when we learn what Willow does to protect Dawn. Several others have comments on the canonical violations of this novel, which is surprising given Holder is the principal author on both volumes of "The Watcher's Guide" published to date, so I will not add to that debate. I will just say that Simon & Schuster should have a better spell check to run books through before they publish them.
"Blood and Fog" will be one of the most disappointing "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" novels ever, mainly because when you take into account the hook and the author you would have such high expectations. The cover art is very striking and the title is perfect for the hook, but ultimately the story is flawed in its conception. The great irony is that is the hook was removed and the name Jack the Ripper had never been mentioned, I would have rated "Blood and Fog" higher.


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