Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kai Wai Cheah's and Thomas Plutarch's Hollow City

Join us on Facebook!

All is not well in Halo City. Gang bangers are on the loose. The Halo City Police Department is stretched thin and their ace in the hole, their superhero, their "Prime", Amp is having a rough time with Internal Affairs. Life is interesting, in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse. And Hollow City brings us along for the ride with the users, the losers, the accusers and the police cruisers.

So how do you make a bigger bad-ass than a Marine Raider? Well, first you start out with a Marine Raider, and then you give him super powers. I like this approach, because let's face it. Having superpowers and knowing how to use them are two very different things. Being able to throw lightning or fireballs is awesome. Being able to detect an enemy who thinks he is hidden is terrific. The fact remains that in order to take full advantage of those powers, a certain level of skill is required. Detective Adam Song has those skills in spades.

Seriously, I've been a fan of comics since the 80s and a fan of superhero novels for as long as I've known they existed. There are very few supers (whether hero or villain) that I'd fear more than Detective Adam Song. Not because he's a bad guy, but because he's flat out dangerous. He's not overpowered. He can Amp his senses up. He can move extremely quickly. Yes, Song is a powerful man, but that is not his only strength. Not only has he been to war, but that was before he developed his powers. He has a sense of what works and what doesn't for normal people. In a way, this makes him more dangerous than guys like Superman or Green Lantern, even though Song doesn't have anywhere near their power levels. Why? Because he can THINK. Every nerd thinks they have some hotshot, super slick method of defeating the hardest, toughest best trained, most experienced Special Forces operator with some goofy bullshit. They're wrong.

Song is a man who is bound by a different set of rules than the ones he is used to. Police work in Halo City is not combat in Iraq. The fact remains that a sense of what works and what doesn't and the experience gained by actual operations is invaluable to him. I like the fact that Cheah and Plutarch have made Song that way. He's not a hero that gained all of his gifts simply by chance. The man can think his way through an operation because he's been part of them before.

The action sequences in Hollow City are amazeballs. The fight scenes have a natural rhythm to them and they feel totally legitimate if you allow for the existence of superpowers. Things don't always go the way the heroes want them to, but that's life. There is a reason that Helmut von Moltke the Elder said that "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." The other side get its own input into the way things work out. Humans, including superheroes, are not perfect and there's plenty of that here as well. Song doesn't always select the perfect option. Often there IS no perfect option. Nonetheless, Song persisted.

And yet, although Song is superhuman, he's not all that far out of a normal human's experience. Dude has some serious pressures at work. He has a family that doesn't always believe in what he's doing. IT shows. He feels a duty to them anyway. His life is a mess of contradictions. It feels right. Cheah and Plutarch capture the essence of what it is to be human. Nothing in life happens exactly the way it should. Even less goes the way we want it to. Hollow City is a book that just makes sense.

There is a significant amount of intracity politics in this book. It adds a lot to the believability as well. Politicians will leave anyone out to dry if they think it will benefit their careers and Song is no exception. It's sad to see it happen, but it fits. I'm wondering where the Song character goes from here because things don't look good for him. The man has a strong sense of duty, but I'm not sure how well his sense of loyalty is going to survive the events of this novel. We could be looking at a rogue moving forward. I almost hope we are. If Song ends up fighting for the right things, but doing it from outside the establishment, the next installment is going to blow us all away.

But for now, I would urge you to sit down, strap in, and get ready for a wild ride. Hollow City starts off with a bang and it doesn't let up. I had a really slow day at work yesterday. I didn't make what I expected. I didn't care. I sat in parking lots reading this book all day and it made me happy. Of course, I eventually finished the book. My earnings didn't improve, but at least my mood was better than it could have been.  I hate to think about how cranky I would felt if I hadn't had this book to cheer me up.


Yes, I know that addicts use drugs the same way, but since when were books not safe, legal and easily obtainable methods of distraction? I mean, seriously, a good book is better than a narcotic. Think about it.

Or maybe I'm just goofy.

I'm excited about this work though, and I'll tell you why:

Hollow City is a book in the Heroes Unleashed universe and is the first book in the Song of Karma series. I'm looking forward to more in both the universe and this series. I'll be looking into Cheah's  and Plutarch's other work soon as well. If they can write one book this well, there's a good chance he's written more of the same caliber. I'll admit to not knowing much (as in well, anything) about them before I read Hollow City, but I'll be finding out more. If anyone has a suggestion about which Cheah or Plutarch novel I should try next, go ahead and drop it in the comments.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Crooked Politicians

Hollow City
Kai Wai Cheah and Thomas Plutarch
Silver Empire, 2019

Hollow City is available for purchase at the following link:


Monday, April 15, 2019

Marvel's X Men: Magneto: Testament Review and Some Commentary

(This review and commentary will contain spoilers.)

I have a history degree. I am not often fond of the teachers out there (and they know who they are) who use fiction to teach it. As someone who was once forced to read a thirty page scholarly paper on what was wrong with The Last Samurai, I can assure you I'm not one of the most rabid in that conviction however. And, as someone who learned to love history by watching John Wayne movies and other World War Two flicks, I can assure you that there is some value in encouraging youngsters to watch fictionalized account of history even if I believe they should be kept out of the classroom.

Enter X-Men: Magneto: Testament. I found my first copy of the work in the gift shop of my local Holocaust Museum. I had heard about it, so I picked up a copy. Given the fact that I was at that Holocaust Museum researching a paper that I wrote about the involvement of the Heer (that's the German Army. The Wehrmacht was the German military as a whole) and just happened to stop into the gift shop on my way out almost definitely means that I should be consigned to the academic version of Hell. Fortunately for me, the place would be filled with comic books and fictionalized accounts and I would enjoy myself thoroughly. I mean, I never said I was a GOOD academic..

But anyway..

For all of its faults, X-Men: Magneto: Testament is a superb comic. This is not your typical fare though. Testament is not a World War II Era Captain America comic. There is no superhero coming out of the woodwork to massacre these Nazis the way they deserve. Testament is not some triumphalist narrative about beating the Fuhrer and his goons into submission with the power of one man's fists. In some ways, I wish that it were. I wish that it could be.

No, Marvel made their story much closer to the truth. The truth is that it sucked to be a Jew in Nazi Germany. The truth is that millions were murdered. The truth is that millions of people were mistreated not because they had done anything, but simply for existing. They were accused of living lives of wealth and privilege and annihilated. All of societies problems were blamed on Jews and they were slaughtered like cattle as soon as a chance arose.

Testament portrays that very well. It also portrays the patriarch of the family urging his family to go along to get along. To not resist so as to not invite a beating. What must have seemed reasonable at the time soon turned sour. Things get ugly quickly. But that's what happens when you appease an abuser. They may come for you last, but it's going to happen eventually, even if you acted as an ally.

The story is about one Max Eisenhardt, later known as Magneto. In the beginning he is a young boy with a desire to be like all the men in his family. He is learning, at the age of nine, to make jewelry. Soon, he is in school and excelling; both academically and athletically. He is tormented because of this and held to a higher standard because of his ethnic background. Eventually, he gets put into a camp.

Both before and during his imprisonment he continues to make decisions based on his fear of punishment. He won't retaliate for the treatment of his people because he is afraid of what the Nazis might do to him and to his brethren. What had started out as matter of words, of people complaining about the wealth and privilege of others, ends in the massacre of millions.

The ironic part being that even in his captivity, while hating every minute of it, he aids his Nazi captors. Magneto serves as a member of the Sonderkommando, (Special Command in English). They were the people who burned the bodies of the Jews, and others, who had been murdered.

Listen, I love comics. I have since I used to save up my allowance and ride my bike two miles to the Antique Paper Shop to buy back issues. I've used a lot of adjectives to describe my favorite comics: Entertaining, gorgeous, engaging, interesting, the list goes on and on. With the possible exception of gorgeous (and that because the art reflects the horror surrounding the main character. It is actually very well done) they all apply here. The one adjective I'm going to use that I never have before is powerful.

Testament is exactly what it claims to be.  It is a testament to what happened to the Jews under the Nazis. Yes, there are some historical inaccuracies to be sure (no one EVER survived two years as a member of a Sonderkommando for instance.) but the gist of the story is correct. Testament doesn't have the importance that something like The Diary of Anne Frank would have because it's not a first person account, but it may still be the most important comic ever published. Maus (which I just bought a used copy of but haven't read yet) is  probably up there, and there was an issue of Spiderman (help me out if you know which one) was the first one to ever deal with drug abuse,  (and no, comparing drug abuse to the Holocaust is not belittling the importance of either. They've both killed millions) but Testament deals with the Shoah (as the Jewish people call the Holocaust) in a way that nothing else ever has. Entertainment is not a good way to study the hard facts of a subject, but it attracts attention that no scholarly work ever will. Both are important.

Which leads me to two problems I have with Marvel right now. I'll deal with the less controversial one first.

Physical copies of X-Men: Magneto: Testament are currently out of print. I get that this isn't the newest and latest comic. It came out a decade ago. There are newer comics to promote and Testament doesn't really fit into the way that Marvel is re-releasing a lot of its older works. I got an e-book version on Amazon lately, so it's still available that way but it's mainly going to sell to people that go looking for it that way. A copy of Testament should be available in any Holocaust Museum/Memorial that attracts enough English speaking individuals for it to sell. That goes the same for speakers/locations appropriate to any languages Testament may have been translated into. I mean that. That's how I found out it existed. If I were Marvel, I'd do a run and market it specifically along those lines, as well as to any Local Comic Shop that wanted copies to sell. Why? Because it's a way for Grandma and Grandpa to get their teenage grandchild(ren) who don't read history to learn about the Holocaust. We can't let this be forgotten because if we do we're asking for it to happen again.

As for my second point:

Uhh... Marvel?






This is a bad idea. I mean, I get your point. You need a white dude to turn into a Nazi. It didn't work with Captain America so you thought you'd switch things over to another white guy in the form of Magneto. I get it. Here's what you're missing:

Not every Straight White Male is a Nazi. Nope. Not even a significant percentage of them. I mean, I get what the Social Justice Bullies demand but that doesn't mean you have to give in to them. You're losing a lot of respect from me here. This is unnecessary. It is sick. It is twisted. It is wrong. YOU ARE BLAMING THE VICTIM.

Seriously Marvel. I'm begging you. Don't do this. Not to your fans. Not to the general public. And damn sure not to the victims of the Holocaust. You're implying that they did it to themselves here. This is a step too far.

Bottom Line for X-Men: Magneto: Testament: 5.0 out of 5 Stars

X-Men: Magneto: Testament
Greg Pak, Carmine Di Giandomencio, Marko Djurdjevic
Marvel, 2009

The comics for  X-Men: Magneto: Testament are available for purchase at the link below:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Episode 9 Teaser is Here!

Listen, I know some of you didn't like The Last Jedi. I disagree. I thought it was excellent. I'm guessing that a lot of what went into TLJ was to set up the last movie. This is it.

I'm geeked to say the least. Did you hear what came at the end of the trailer? DID YOU HEAR PALPATINE LAUGH?

Hell yes, it's time for that. It's time to bring this thing full circle. All of you out there whining about how Palpatine's reappearance lessens Vader's sacrifice at the end of Return of the Jedi can pucker up and blow.

So yes, it appears that they may finally be depicting Rey as the badass she was always meant to be. I want to see her chop that TIE fighter in half, or maybe go through the cockpit and put her lightsaber into the pilot. What could be better?

I hate the fact that I have to wait for Christmas to see this.

OH, and by the way...

Disney as announced that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the end of the Skywalker saga. In some ways, that makes me sad. In others it makes me happy.

Listen, I was late to the party. I didn't go see Episode IV in the theater because I was still in diapers when it came out. I couldn't even walk yet. I wasn't much older when The Empire Strike Back hit. So, as a result of an accident of birth, I didn't get to see a Star Wars flick until Return of the Jedi. As a result, I've ONLY been watching Skywalkers dance across my screen since 1983. I'm a virtual n00b.

The fact remains that I've known this family for thirty-six years. We've hung out together in movie theaters, living rooms and bookstores for that whole time. I love these guys and I always will. I am, in short, a fanboi. Knowing that the line is ending and I won't be able to follow them into the future makes me sad.

That much having been said, I'm also kind of excited. I loved The Force Awakens, but I'll be the first to admit that it didn't really need to end with the destruction of another F(*&()&()()&*()*()ING Death Star. I loved The Last Jedi but the attempts to remake the Battle of Hoth weren't my favorite thing either.

Look, it's like this: The classics are the classics. They came about in my childhood and they'll always be a part of who I am. I love them. I don't, however, see a need to redo them. A new story with new heroes and new villains requires a new plot. The benefit of ending the Skywalker saga is that we can stop redoing the same old things and start a different story in the same universe.

I mean, I agree with many of my friends who state that Star Wars is, and should remain, more than just a propaganda tool for the social justice left. I'm not proposing taking things down that route. I'm just saying that it's a big galaxy and there are more people in it.

So let's get HYPE!!!! It's time to do what has never been done. It's time to show us all what might come next in the official canon. It's time! It's time! It's Star Wars TIME!!

Some Star Wars related objects are available for sale at the links below: