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Review: He-Man: The Eternity War Vol. 1

He-Man: The Eternity War Vol. 1
He-Man: The Eternity War Vol. 1 by Dan Abnett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What is it about nostalgia that makes folks pick up old pieces of work that should really be left alone? Not everything that we’ve enjoyed in the past, when our minds is not as grizzled or matured or tempered with experience the way it is now, is really as good as it was the first time we encountered it. This should be a universally known fact. However what is also universally true is people cannot resist the call at another go for that lost feeling of wonder. Corporate marketing is one of the first to know this, and is ruthless at exploiting this trait.

Almost every child my generation knows about He-Man, given the lack of choices we have in choosing which cartoons we had to watch. Good thing too, because He-Man wasn’t horrible, but then now that I write this, I’d find it hard to admit which of the cartoons I did watch sucked. He-Man was entertaining, had a mythology that was easy to follow, has colourful characters that had plenty of adventures, and boy was it exciting. So it goes.

Literally 30 years later (minus several years, let’s not worry about precision here), I find that DC has taken the He-Man property and, as it quite the trend nowadays, ‘given it new lease in life’. Dan Abnett, a writer of some reputation (although I can’t really place him in my mind just this second), has been tasked to revamp the story, and give it the grit and veneer of complexity that characterizes a modern take of anything old school. And it worked.

This volume is actually a continuation from a series of stories started by Abnett earlier, where He-Man and all his allies lost their memories in an unexplained universal reboot apparently engineered by Skeletor. Apparently the harmless sidekick Orko, the floaty handkerchief with eyes, was the traitor that allowed this state to happen. The bad guys remembered the old days when the Masters of the Universe routinely kicked their butts, and during Adam’s quest for recollection, they never fail to point out how low Adam has supposedly fallen from his earlier lofty positions. Also changed was She-Ra, who is now a general of evil fighting alongside the bad guys.

The Eternity War is the final cycle for this rebooted universe, and things have moved further along from Abnett’s earlier stories. So in this arc, She-Ra now fights for good, the old Sorceress is dead and has been succeeded by Teela, who leads the army of Snake-Men, which was traditionally He-Man’s foes (I don’t know how this happened – I read the reboot arc, and now this one. I don’t know how they got from that to this state). Hordak, the guy who supposedly pulled the strings in the back and the real bad guy behind Skeletor, dies and has been taken over by Skeletor. Through some mumbo-jumbo about the magic juice from Castle Grayskull, Skeletor is now embued with the power of Grayskull the same way as He-Man is, and meets his arch-enemy for a final showdown. No prizes for guessing who wins.

Which brings me to what I really want to say. After all the excitement of seeing my old friends again, the fond memories of characters that used to occupy my childhood fantasy adventures (and a character whose action figure I used to own! Actually I owned several He-Man action figures), after all the dust has settled, what have we got on our hands? That’s the most powerful thought I had when I finished the entire Eternity War story arc. If you strip everything away, what do you have?

After the final analysis, the answer, for me, was really nothing at all. It wasn’t even a competent story, because it was so convoluted especially the part about the magic of Grayskull somehow having the blood of the Adam’s lineage somewhere in its bowels that can be transfused into anyone willing to receive it. The part about how Adam was actually devoured by Hsss and how that turned into a fight in Adam’s consciousness to regain control of his body. It was an exercise to shoehorn what was already there into a story that made sense, and in my opinion didn’t quite succeed.

It was good to see He-Man and the gang again. But I’m forty years old next year, and this work, more than anything else, made me realize just how silly it has been reading this work. There’s a bit of magic, then, when people read Batman stories for 30 years and not be reminded how old they are, despite Batman being around since before they were born.

So then. What is it about nostalgia that makes folks pick up old pieces of work that should really be left alone?

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Review: Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Finished this earlier than recorded date)

Lots of knights. A damsel in distress. Robin Hood. English King and the French invaders! A titular character who gets injured and was out of action for what I felt was a significant part of the book, but returns to kick bad guy’s ass.

It’s an adventure book, but not a particularly memorable one for me. The one scene that I liked was the one where (and watch closely how I do this) the bad knight (French!) was locked in his room by the old haggly woman who was a slave in the castle for decades. She turned out to be a nobleman’s daughter (noble English!), tortured and used all this while in this castle as a captive from a siege long ago that also killed her family. She encounters an English knight in an escape attempt from the castle, revealed herself to him and was shocked to hear him denounce her as not living up to her noble lineage by sacrificing herself to kill those who dare destroy the English. She apparently wakes up from her desolate existence and decides to kill the main bad guy. Having locked him in his room, she proceeds to burn the tower, killing him and herself in the process.

I wonder what a wonderfully horrible job I did there, and if I deserve an applause.

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Review: The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas

The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas
The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas by The Secret Footballer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Finished earlier than recorded here)

Ok, a little something about their propensity for sex. Nothing too saucy though. Young chaps with testosterone on overdrive. And willing participants. Oh well.
I like that Mr Footballer here is very self-aware about what’s happening, and his observation of the environment in which these footballers spent most of their time changes their view of the world. Not everyone matures at the same rate, and some of these boys cannot recover from the praise that was heaped on them since young.

Anyway, a thoroughly entertaining book. I’ve read three of his books now. One more to go. It’s not a competition or a checklist I have to go through. I like the insider bits he shows us as he paints the picture of a world I won’t have access to otherwise.

Compared to his other books, this is average. I liked his Guide to the Modern Game a little more I think, because I learned a little more about the game from the perspective of how it’s played, rather than learning about the dirty bits that go behind the scenes of the game.

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Review: North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State

North Korea Undercover: Inside the World's Most Secret State
North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State by John Sweeney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m fascinated by North Korea, which is really an alternate reality on Earth. The Kims have a lot to answer for to the millions of North Koreans spanning generations lost since its founding.

The book adopts an incredulous tone throughout the narrative that I thought detracted from the book a little. Sweeney’s feelings are understandable, and rightly so, but the way it seeps into the text makes the book more emotional than factual. I realize, of course, no text on any subject is free from emotional bias, but the constant name calling (Fat Boy Kim, Elvis impersonator Kim, etc) I feel weakens the text.

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Review: To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I have this on Audible, and I have literally stopped and restarted this book no less than 5 times, over a period of 3 years. I’ve gotten the furthest with this latest run, but I have to stop. Enough is enough.

I have no idea what this book is about. Maybe I have to actually read it, but usually Juliet Stevenson does an amazing narration. I hear her, but nothing’s coming through at all. At least for Ulysses, which was also similarly difficult to listen to, had spells where I could actually understand what’s happening.

I couldn’t do that here. At all.

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