Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 End Of The Month Report!

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This was a very exciting month for the blog! With a new review leaping to become the second most hit review yet (though I'm always sad to see my Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday review fall!) and one from last month very steadily working its way into the Top Ten Reviews of all time, September was a hugely exciting month for the blog. We continue to grow, but this month will be a tough one to top! This became our best month by over six thousand hits!

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In September, we were able to keep the Index Pages up and updated the entire month, despite a day or two of connection problems, making for a very dynamic website. The primary Index Page, which is now updated daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Thank you so much for that support! BIG “Thank you!” to all of the people who continue to support the blog and my writing in that fashion!

At the end of September, I have reviewed the following:
387 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
634 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
1869 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
162 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
563 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
551 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
134 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
106 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
112 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
120 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
80 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
22 - Other Product Reviews

My featured review for September comes from my desire to see one of my music reviews actually do well and be read! The Featured Review Of The Month is: In The Time Of Gods - Dar Williams! Check it out!

For September, the Top Ten Reviews were my reviews of:
10. Star Trek: Voyager - Season 4
9. Nescafe Memento Mocha Instant Coffee Drink
8. The Dark Knight Rises Catwoman Movie Masters Action Figure
7. The Words
6. Glee - Season 3
5. True Blood - Season 5
4. Why The Trailer To Rise Of The Guardians Is Offensive
3. Here Comes The Boom
2. Cadbury Screme Eggs
1. Won't Back Down

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 252 reviews
9s - 350 reviews
8s - 610 reviews
7s - 659 reviews
6s - 585 reviews
5s - 790 reviews
4s - 546 reviews
3s - 460 reviews
2s - 196 reviews
1s - 128 reviews
0s - 69 reviews
No rating - 25 articles/postings

And, if you haven't checked out the top reviews of all time, at the end of August, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Cadbury Screme Eggs
9. Total Recall (2012)
8. Breaking Dawn, Part 1
7. Snow White And The Huntsman
6. The Amazing Spider-Man!
5. The Avengers
4. The Hunger Games
3. Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday
2. Won't Back Down
1. Prometheus

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Indistinct Dar: In The Time Of Gods Is Annoyingly Forgettable Dar Williams.

The Good: Decent lyrics, Clear vocals
The Bad: Short, Songs blend together, Musically derivative.
The Basics: In The Time Of Gods is Dar Williams’ latest album and a surprisingly unmemorable outing from the smart, political, writer-musician.

There are few artists I truly get excited about. When I discovered that Dar Williams had a new album out that I had not heard of in advance, I got excited and picked it right up. I’ve been listening to it for the past month and it has taken me that long to muster up the effort to write about it. In The Time Of Gods is the least distinct, least interesting – thematically and aurally – Dar Williams album to date.

At this point in my reviewing, it behooves me to mention that many of the albums that I have labeled “indistinct” are not bad, per se. Instead, they are just utterly unmemorable. When, for example, I listen to In The Time Of Gods, it is not an unpleasant experience. There are even songs I enjoy and have lyrics that I think are smart as they play. But, when the album is not on, it is virtually impossible for me to recall anything that is on In The Time Of Gods. It is derivative, auditory mush, but it is good in the abstract. Ultimately, the lack anything that is truly interesting, audacious, or lyrically memorable, makes In The Time Of Gods a tough c.d. to recommend, though it is not unpleasant to have on.

With only ten tracks, clocking out at 33:20, In The Time Of Gods is very the work of Dar Williams. Williams wrote all of the songs on the album and she provides all of the lead vocals. In addition, she plays acoustic guitar on nine of the ten tracks. While she is not credited as a producer in any way on In The Time Of Gods, she is at a place in her career, on a label that supports her, that it is ridiculous to think she would release something that was not what she intended for it to be.

Vocally, Dar Williams is as good as ever. She performs with decent range, from alto to soprano and what makes her vocal performances distinctive is how clearly she sings each and every line. Williams is an artist who has something to say and she makes certain the listener may hear her. That works out nicely. In the whole realm of being indistinct, though, she presents her songs the same way. There are no long notes held, there are no extreme scales. Instead, Dar Williams sings at a sensible pace on every song, clearly enunciating every note and every word, song after song, without real variation.

Instrumentally, In The Time Of Gods is similarly monotonous or derivative. One of the more creative – for Dar Williams – tracks is “The Light And The Sea,” but that song opens sounding remarkably like “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees. Similarly, late in the album, Williams’s guitar openings sound virtually identical to the openings to many of her other, prior songs. The result is that In The Time Of Gods sounds familiar and lacking in real originality throughout.

In a similar vein, In The Time Of Gods is an unfortunately repetitive album lyrically. Opening with “I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything,” it seems initially like Dar Williams is off to a good start as a musical storyteller. When she sings “Oh, what have we here, he must be three or four / Checking out of the booth on his way back to war / And he’s not looking for a father or a mother / Just a seven year old brother / On this match line border camp of refugees . . . So where are we now, he must be five or six / Just running around, hungry kids, sharpen sticks / And he will grow with pain, and fear, and jealousy / Taking in by school of zealotry / Who trained orphans to make orphans evermore” (“I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything”), she seems to be providing a poignant, politically-relevant song about the fate of youth in Africa or other places where child soldiers are utilized. But, she dilutes the smart, well-written narrative lines with painfully monotonous repetitions of the title. “I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything” comes up ten times, with several near uses of that line.

Conversely, she writes magic on “Crystal Creek.” That story, of civil rights and rebellion, is well-presented with lines like “The one who spied me out as God still plunder / Had to show the world that he was not a true hunter / And it was me when he saw me naked / He was interrupting something sacred / I was guarding Crystal Creek” (“Crystal Creek”). It is a rare thing that one can write a decent historical song, but Dar Williams does it.

But, largely, In The Time Of Gods is poetic without distinction. “Storm King,” which closes the album, is simplistic, but not horrible. Even though “The storm king has seen us from above / Rising up on the starboard bow / He knows the turning of the years / I am the storm king now” (“Storm King”) is better than most writing compared to songs on the radio today, it is less wonderful relative to other Dar Williams songs.

Ultimately, In The Time Of Gods leaves me without the ability to pick a best or worst track. The short album is the least distinctive of Dar Williams’s works and quite possibly the only one not worth picking up.

For other works by Dar Williams, please check out my reviews of:
The Honesty Room
Mortal City
Cry Cry Cry (as a member of Cry Cry Cry)
The Green World
The Beauty Of The Rain
Out There Live
My Better Self
Live At Bearsville Theater
Promised Land
Many Great Companions


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The One Character With No Impetus To, Manages To Get Home Via A “Message In A Bottle!”

The Good: Decent character work, Good acting, Moments of humor, Special effects
The Bad: Continuity issues, Conceptual problem for Star Trek: Voyager
The Basics: When the Doctor is teleported across an alien network to a StarFleet prototype, the viewer gets the first realistic glimpses of hope for Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant!

Somewhere early in the series, Star Trek: Voyager lost its sense of purpose. The show, which was essentially plotted out to be Star Trek: Voyager’s version of Lost In Space, quickly became a rehash of Star Trek: The Next Generation and became forgetful of its own purpose, namely that the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager was attempting to get home. One of the few legitimate statements Seven Of Nine made in her first season on the show was to point this fact out. “Message In A Bottle” presents an episode that refocuses the show on the idea that Voyager is trying to get home.

“Message In A Bottle” presents an episode that gives the Doctor a mission and reframes the rest of the episodes that deal with Voyager’s attempts to get home. It also, unwittingly, reworks the Star Trek universe in a way that potentially weakens it. But on its own, “Message In A Bottle” is an entertaining and solid episode of Star Trek: Voyager and well worth watching.

Taking on more responsibilities, Seven Of Nine boosts the sensors in the Astrometrics Lab. There, she discovers an alien communications network that reaches back to the Alpha Quadrant. Utilizing the network, Seven Of Nine discovers a StarFleet vessel on the edge of the Alpha Quadrant where the network ends. Unfortunately, trying to send a signal through the network leads to a feedback signal because it degrades too quickly. Reasoning that a more complex signal will not degrade as quickly, Torres reasons that a holographic signal might not degrade and could move through the entire network, she and Seven Of Nine send The Doctor through the network.

On the other side, the Doctor discovers the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus. Unfortunately, the Doctor arrives after the crew has been killed and replaced by Romulans. Dealing with the Prometheus’s EMH, mark 2, the Doctor has to thwart the Romulans and try to let StarFleet know the Voyager is alive.

“Message In A Bottle” introduces the Hirogen, an alien race of hunters who will become a major villain for the rest of the season. The network that Voyager is tapping into creates a problem for the series, though. Either it is an ancient network that the Hirogen have simply taken over or the Hirogen are a race that has more territory in the Delta Quadrant than the Borg. Fortunately, the implication is far more the former than the latter.

Aboard Voyager, the crew rightly begins getting their hopes up about the possibility of getting messages to the Alpha Quadrant. To the credit of writer Rick Williams, he seems to get that not all of the characters would be as excited about getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. While the episode focuses on the Doctor, the focus on Paris’s contentment to stay on Voyager, happy to be lost is a nice character detail.

Unfortunately, Williams is somewhat weaker on the continuity for the franchise. Firstly, he has the Romulan Commander Rekar mention that he intends to turn the Prometheus over to the Tal’shiar. In addition to him and his people wearing outfits that look more like the Tal’shiar than Romulan military, it neglects the idea that this episode follows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “The Die Is Cast” (reviewed here!), which essentially destroyed the Tal’shiar.

Conversely, Commander Rekar is a decent villain. The Romulan Commander is a sensible adversary and he is one of the smarter villains in the Star Trek franchise. Played by Judson Scott, Rekar may be dispatched simply, but he is well-rendered.

Andy Dick plays the EMH-2 and this is one of his best-acted roles. He is funny, but he is not the ridiculously crazy performer he usually plays as EMH-2. A decent progression from “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” (reviewed here!), the idea of the EMH-2 is a good one and Andy Dick plays him well-enough to make one almost wish it were a recurring character. Dick and Robert Picardo play off one another exceptionally well. The episode, which could be overly serious is nowhere near as dreary as it might have been because the comedic elements work.

“Message In A Bottle” has the experimental U.S.S. Prometheus and the effects surrounding the ship and its multi-vector attack mode are very cool. In fact, with the way Star Trek: Deep Space Nine frequently reused special effects, it is surprising that the vessel, which could split into three parts for battle, never appeared in that show!

“Message In A Bottle” is a little low on character development, but it is a pretty necessary plot and it is well-executed. Fans are likely to enjoy it, though those just getting into the series are likely to be confused or not appreciate where this falls in the larger series. Even those who are not into Star Trek: Voyager but who love the franchise will likely enjoy “Message In A Bottle.”

For other works with Judson Scott, check out my reviews of:
The X-Files - Season Eight
“And The Sky Full Of Stars” - Babylon 5
“Symbiosis” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
V The Television Series
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the gamechanging middle season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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When Your Hoth Gets Attacked, K-3PO Might Be The Protocol Droid To Save Your Rebels!

The Good: Decent detailing, Generally decent articulation, Cool accessory
The Bad: Lack of eye detailing, Slight balance issue.
The Basics: The K-3PO is a decent staple figure to bulk up your Rebel toys.

The protocol droids in the Star Wars franchise make for real easy toys, given how the actual droids were all cut from the same mold. The thing is, most of them are just recolored C-3PO figures and because there were only minor improvements in articulation through the different generations of the figures, there is actually little reason for Hasbro to keep upgrading them. As a result, for all its faults, the K-3PO figure from the Power Of The Force line is fine for those who want to bulk up their droid collection.

For those unfamiliar with K-3PO, it was the white protocol droid seen momentarily on the ice planet of Hoth at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!). It was the same model as C-3PO, save white, and only appeared in the background, with no lines.

The 4" K-3PO figure is a very basic supplemental Star Wars action figure.


The K-3PO is a good support figure for anyone's Star Wars action figure collection as it is a generic droid character. While there have been a slew of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and even Chewbacca figures, it is hard to play with more than one at a time without some serious suspension of disbelief. The figure stands 3 3/4" tall and is a very basic protocol droid. The figure is made almost entirely of hard plastic, which was a rarity for this line.

This toy is a decent sculpt, looking precisely like the protocol droid. For this iteration of the protocol droid, Hasbro enhanced the detailing to the elbows, basically creating bars on the inside of the elbows and the outside as well. Both the mouth hole, eyes and torso wiring details have been enhanced for this sculpt. Otherwise, it is a pretty basic protocol droid sculpt.

K-3PO does not have a costume and it is cast in monotonal white plastic that is then enhanced with gray and red detailing in the torso. Hasbro provided enhancements to the elbows and torso detailing as well. I was not wowed by the color of the eyes or how bright they did not appear to be under usual lighting situations (i.e. when the figure is standing up, as opposed to tilted up facing lights). In general, though, this is an impressively-colored action figure. K-3PO is also enhanced by a black splotch on the chest that makes it look like it was shot there.


The K-3PO comes only with a scanning device. The 2 1/4" long device has two antennae and a brown strap. It is accented with silver-gray highlights for all of the knobs and buttons. This generally fits the color scheme of the droid. Its left hand is not actually open enough to hold the scanning device, but its right hand easily holds the strap.

As a Power Of The Jedi figure, K-3PO also features a Jedi Force File. The little magazine has pictures and describes K-3PO habits, abilities, enemies and provides ideas for play with the figure. The Jedi Force File appeals to trading card collectors as well as toy enthusiasts.


The four inch toy line was designed for play and K-3PO is good in that regard. The figure is mildly articulated and it has only average balance when on its own. K-3PO has fair articulation, articulation is not a problem for the stiff-style protocol droid, but its balance is problematic. If the figure’s feet are moved out of a flatfooted position, this figure tips over. Still, when the figure is posed flatfooted, it is fairly stable! The K-3PO figure comes with only five points of articulation, all of which are simple swivel joints! He has joints at the groin socket, shoulders, and neck.

The elbows do not extend, but the figure's shoulder rotate up and down and given how this is a support character, this is not a serious liability for the figure. Otherwise, the joints are fine and any limitations on the articulation front actually service the idea of the protocol droid well.


K-3PO is part of the 2000 Power Of The Jedi Collection four-inch series, a series of Star Wars action figures that was not very common at all, but largely recast figures that had been previously released by Kenner. Hasbro sought to improve the old figures by having a greater attention to detail, coloring and accessory detail and proportion. As such, this K-3PO is a distinct improvement as far as balance, detailing and accessories from other, earlier protocol droidsThis figure is a good idea for those creating a whole army of Star Wars figures, but is in no way essential, which is probably why it has not increased at all in value over the last decade. It is hard to imagine how this figure might be improved upon, save with more articulation.


The K-3PO Echo Base Protocol Droid is good, but in no way extraordinary, but cool for enhancing a larger Hoth Rebel scene.

For other Power Of The Jedi figures from The Empire Strikes Back, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Bespin Escape Princess Leia
Dagobah Darth Vader
Bespin Escape Lando Calrissian
Bespin Capture Han Solo
Bespin Guard


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Biograph: Another Bob Dylan Collection That Mixes The Studio And Unreleased Experiences: My Next Artist Of The Month!

The Good: Some great lyrics, Some interesting performances, Valuable for history, Some decent music
The Bad: Some lousy songs, Some disappointing omissions, Some moments of voice and music.
The Basics: When Bob Dylan repackages some of his classic songs alongside newly unearthed classic tracks, he fails to find the right market that will get real value from Biograph.

As I have been working my way through my father's Bob Dylan c.d. collection, I've been interested to discover he has so many collections of Bob Dylan's works as opposed to actual albums. As I understand it, albums like Blonde On Blonde are considered classics; the only songs I've heard from the album are from the soundtrack to No Direction Home and Biograph, a massive three disc boxed set collection that has quite a bit of writing to accompany it. Unlike No Direction Home, which proved its worth ultimately by having two discs of entirely unique recordings, Biograph is a mix of studio album tracks and unreleased, live or hard-to-find (i.e. b-sides on singles) tracks.

With fifty-three tracks spread over the three discs, clocking in at well over three hours, this is an essential collection for the real Bob Dylan aficionado. But it's not at all indispensable for those who do not consider themselves diehard fans. Here's why; this set is a catalogue of obscure and unknown works or interpretations of well-known works, but it neglects a great number of well-known Bob Dylan classics that someone simply looking for a "Best Of" from Dylan's folk rock collection is likely to miss. Moreover, some of the rarities are not incredible works that will completely light the world on fire. Instead, this is a set geared toward the fans, the completists, the people who simply cannot get enough of Bob Dylan.

This is how I finally discovered I'm not one of them.

People like me, casual listeners, lovers of music, people who might just like the works of Bob Dylan we've heard before and one or two songs that didn't make the charts, are likely to do better with a straightforward "Best Of" or "Greatest Hits" album. Given that there is so much more in this set . . . it's overkill and it's a selection that is not quite what I'm looking for when I want to hear Dylan. Yes, I spent all three discs waiting to hear "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," but it's not on here!

But more than that, some of the interpretations of songs are just terrible. Rod Stewart did a better version of "Forever Young" (and I LOATHE that one now because it is SO overplayed!); Dylan's version in this collection lacks and passion, any sense of development that illustrates any sense of youth. This unreleased version - which caps off the final disc - is an uninspired interpretation that puts Dylan, his guitar and his lyrics to shame. In short, what one expects from the song is absent and while sometimes different versions can be wonderful, this is not one of them.

That said, let's look at what this pretty massive collection does right! First, it's Bob Dylan and even the most jaded people will often admit that he's a tremendous poet. Dylan is an artist who has a remarkable range of themes, but is most often able to easily sing about relationships (usually their disintegration) and politics. Whichever he is singing about, he manages to usually express his themes with a wonderful sense of imagery and a sense of diction that it well above the average singer/songwriter. As a result, though, one tends to expect a lot from Bob Dylan and his lines (if not his music or voice).

And for the most part, that is well illustrated. Take, for example, "Every Grain Of Sand," on the second disc of Biograph. (This is the release from the album "Shot Of Love.") On this song, Dylan sings about the aging and the unity of the world with lines that are beautifully poetic and packed with meaning and imagery, like "I had gone from rags to riches / In the sorrow of the night / In the violence of a summer's dream / In the chill of a wintry night . . . In the broken mirror of innocence / On each forgotten face . . ." ("Every Grain Of Sand"). If those writing the lyrics sung by Britney Spears had even a fraction of that level of creativity and thematic brilliance, she'd be huge . . . still. Her works would endure.

And this collection has a wonderful number of classic Dylan tracks (mostly the original studio versions) that illustrate his great writing. Virtually anyone who likes folk rock will enjoy "Blowin' In The Wind," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "It Ain't Me, Babe," "Tangled Up In Blue," "Like A Rollin' Stone," and "The Times They Are A-Changin'." And those of us not too familiar with the music of the '60s and '70s will be amazed to learn that the classic Jimi Hendrix song "All Along The Watchtower" was actually one of Dylan's songs! A good number of Dylan's best songs are in this collection . . . just not all of them. The ones that are represented tend to be in recognizable forms that most people will enjoy.

That said, there are some of Dylan's more mediocre songs are represented as well. "Visions Of Johanna" did not wow me and the version of "Quinn The Eskimo" did not as well. Indeed, I doubt there is a version of this song, with its lines "Everybody building the big ships and boats / . . . Everybody's in despair / Every girl and boy / But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here / Everybody'll jump for joy" ("Quinn The Eskimo") that I'm likely to truly be impressed by. These are not Dylan's best lines and it's odd that they appear in this massive collection. In short, there are a number of songs that were previously unreleased and with some of them, there seems to be a good reason for that choice!

Musically, this collection is an intriguing combination of methodically produced studio tracks and underproduced live takes and alternate versions of songs that have minimal production elements to them. For the most part, Dylan's music is Bob Dylan singing, his guitar, and/or his harmonica. On some very well known tracks like "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Mr. Tambourine Man," he adds more instruments - notably percussion and/or pianos. What this collection does better than some (and better than some of his studio albums!) is mix together the sounds of Dylan's music.

On the vocal front, this is something of a mixed bag. Biograph illustrates what Bob Dylan fans are constantly saying; Bob Dylan can sing. He has the ability, he articulates his poems extraordinarily well to his music and he can sing with a clear, crisp voice that can impress listeners who have only heard the stereotypes of Bob Dylan. Songs like "Tangled Up In Blue" illustrate in a very convincing way that Dylan can sing and he has a strong, articulate voice.

But that voice does not come through on tracks like "You Angel You." There his vocals are drown out by the background organs and percussion and obscured by his mumbling. On that track, Dylan's voice is the mumbling stereotype that is like the parodies of Dylan seen on every major sketch comedy series since Dylan started performing with the drawl and whine. And for all my love of "It Ain't Me, Babe," the song helps make the argument that Dylan does perform in that fashion. The problem on Biograph is there's a long stretch of songs with the drawly Dylan; "Million Dollar Bash," for example, follows "You Angel You" and it's even more like the parodies!

There are innumerable examples on both sides of the vocal divide on Biograph with the presentations being split about evenly between the clear and articulate singing voice of Bob Dylan and the mumbling performer. This dichotomy is not (apparently) related to the time period the tracks are from, which makes one believe it is a stylistic decision. This, of course, makes one wonder what those advising Dylan were thinking. Perhaps he was just surrounded by yesmen. My point in all of this is that Dylan CAN sing and on Biograph, there is ample evidence to support that. The problem is, Dylan doesn't always live up to his vocal potential and Biograph illustrates that well as well.

The liner notes are extensive to this album; each track has a detailed explanation of its origins and the thoughts behind it. The liner notes are written by Cameron Crowe, who wrote Almost Famous (reviewed here!). His style in the extensive booklet chronicling Dylan's rise and concepts is straightforward, informative and easy to read. Indeed, it was the quality of the writing that almost made this a "recommend" for me. As it was, it came down to a toss of a coin.

The thing about Biograph is this; there's too much obscure stuff for a casual fan and there are too many tracks for a devoted fan that would repeat what they already have in their collection. The value for the avid collector is compromised by the fact that thirty-one tracks in this set are from the studio albums in the identical forms. The fans who will get the most out of the obscure tracks will be saddled with a majority of familiar works they already have. That pretty much negates the value of Cameron Crowe's writing.

The Bootleg series is a better value for fans, the straight out "Greatest Hits" albums are a better value for the casual listeners. Indeed, this collection may only be ideal for the Dylan fan who doesn't own any of his albums. That's my best guess. It's an entertaining collection (much the way The Beatles Anthology's - volume 1 reviewed here were years ago) but not worth the buy.

"Abandoned Love" stands out as a previously unreleased track that is superlatively good, the fifty-one second "Jet Pilot" is emblematic of the tracks that we'd never miss if it hadn't seen the light of day.

For other Artist Of The Month reviews, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Any Day Now - Joan Baez
God And The F.B.I. - Janis Ian
American Favorite Ballads (Boxed Set) - Pete Seeger


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Utterly Disgusting: Maine Root Ginger Brew May Be Ethically Made, But It Is Inedible!

The Good: Fair ingredients, Ethically created
The Bad: Exceptionally expensive, Horrible taste
The Basics: Maine Root Ginger Brew is not even worth trying, it is so foul!

On my way out of New York State, I picked up a few celebratory sodas for myself. The whole point was to commemorate my trip to my new life in Michigan with my wife. To that end, I picked up Maine Root sodas, both the Blueberry Soda (reviewed here!) and the Ginger Brew. When the truck was unpacked and my wife and I were together, we had a toast. She had a Blueberry Soda and I tried the Ginger Brew. From the expression on my face, she made me put it down and not subject myself to too much more. But, alas, as a reviewer, I had to have one of the full bottles and nothing makes me truly regret being a reviewer like tasting and retasting something as foul as this.

Maine Root Ginger Brew is a premium, handcrafted, fair trade certified soda that is sold in glass bottles from Maine Root. Back in New York, it was over seven dollars for a four-pack of bottles and that was not only overpriced, it was practically throwing money away.


Maine Root Ginger Brew is a bottled soda that is sold at grocery stores and specialty stores and does not seem to be well-known in the marketplace yet. Each 12 oz. clear glass bottle houses the pale green liquid. The bottles look good and while Maine Root is a smaller company, they are big enough that their operation is completely professional, as far as labeling and recycling/redemptions go.

The 12 fl. oz. bottle represents a single serving of Maine Root Ginger Brew, or (as I call it) a year’s supply!

Ease Of Preparation

Maine Root Ginger Brew is a liquid in a clear 12 oz. bottle. Preparation is as easy as opening the bottle by popping the bottle cap off and drinking the liquid inside. I recommend not buying the bottles to begin with or, barring that, burying them somewhere entirely forgetful to best prepare you for drinking these. In other words, the best preparation is doing whatever one might to avoid ever drinking them!


The smell of ginger root is potent when one opens the bottle. This smells like my father’s kitchen when he is making a Chinese stir-fry. The ginger scent is strong and distinct.

Maine Root Ginger Brew is excessively carbonated, so one’s tongue is first scraped clean by abrasive bubbles that rip off anything that might prevent the flavor of the Ginger Brew from being fully realized. The taste that follows is dry and exceptionally bitter. Maine Root managed to make a drink that tastes just like slicing open a ginger root and sticking it on one’s tongue. With the carbonation, this drink tastes like having one’s tongue raked over with a root grater that has been grating fresh ginger root. It is bitter, the antithesis of thirst quenching and, in every way, utterly horrible.


As a soda, one might expect this to have many unpronounceable ingredients. However, Maine Root Ginger Brew is made of carbonated pure water, Fair Trade Certified organic cane juice, ginger extract, and spices. There are no unpronounceable ingredients in this and Maine Root seems committed to creating a uniquely-flavored beverage that is ethical in how it is produced.

Nutritionally, Maine Root Ginger Brew is not enough to live off of, but it could be worse. Maine Root Ginger Brew has 40 grams of sugar. With 165 calories per serving, there are only 35 milligrams of sodium in this. Maine Root Ginger Brew has no fat, nor any other nutrients.


Maine Root Ginger Brew comes in a glass bottle and there is no clear expiration date on the bottle. There is a batch code printed on the bottom.

This drink is a pale green color, so if it gets on light fabrics it will certainly stain them. Consult a care guide for your clothes, though I suspect even light clothes will be able to wash the soda right out. As well, the drink wipes off surfaces easily with a cloth, assuming they are impermeable.


Maine Root Ginger Brew is not worth even a curiosity bottle. It is a beverage that leads to pain and disappointment and is not at all worth trying, no matter how ethically it is produced!

For other soda pop reviews, please check out my thoughts on:
Stewart's Orange 'n Cream Soda
Virgil's Black Cherry Cream Soda
Virgil’s All Natural Cream Soda


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for a complete listing of all the foods I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, September 29, 2012

To Celebrate Anne Hathaway’s Wedding, I Take In Havoc!

The Good: Generally decent acting, Explores interethnic relations in a straightforward manner.
The Bad: Utterly unlikable characters, Almost absent plot
The Basics: Havoc meanders through one white poseur girl’s interactions with Latino gangmembers in Los Angeles.

Synchronicity is a wonderful and weird thing. After years of trying to find Havoc on DVD, as I am a fan of Anne Hathaway’s works, I managed to get the disc in from my new library system just yesterday. As fortune would have it, I complete the Anne Hathaway film library on the day of her (first*) marriage! I knew nothing about Havoc before picking it up, save that it is an especially hard video for the library to find and Anne Hathaway appears topless in it (which disproved the notion that she only takes her clothes off for films Jake Gyllenhaal is in!).

As it stood, I watched Havoc, which also features Joseph Gordon-Levitt the morning after being impressed by his work in Looper (reviewed here!), so I was prepared to enjoy the film on several levels.

Opening with Allison Lang defining children from Los Angeles’s The Palisades as exceptionally sheltered on video, she and her friends discuss why they have adopted gangster culture over identifying with anything classically “white.” After getting into a fight with Latino gangsters, proving her claims that they are young and acting stupid, as Eric video tapes them and the party that follows. While Allison’s parents struggle with their marriage, she continues to hang out with Toby, Sam, and Emily. They take a trip into East Los Angeles where Toby tries to pick up drugs from the hustlers there. Despite Toby getting humiliated over the deal gone bad, Allison continued to hang out with him.

Following that, Allison and her girlfriends hang out with rich white businessmen, get high and head downtown. Allison returns without her friends to hang out with Hector that leads her to get thrown – very temporarily - in juvenile detention. Hanging out with Emily the next day, Emily reveals her true feelings to her and they go together to a family event together. Emily and Allison make moves to join Hector’s gang, which quickly turns dark for all involved.

Havoc is a tough film to get excited about. It’s all about poseur characters who fake being tougher than they are. They are universally unlikable because none of them seem very genuine, except in the moments their facades come down. This can be problematic in that it is hard to evaluate the characters for being “real” when they spend so much time working to be anything other than that.

So, for example, when Allison begs Hector for Toby’s life, she cracks and seems realistically desperate. Emotional fragility in that sort of moment is entirely realistic. Similarly, when one of the gang members sees how terrified Allison’s friends are when they infiltrate downtown while high, his “boo!” rxposes them as simple, real people in a way that Allison’s friends do not really see them. Regardless, given how much “nigger” (the word) is thrown around and how infrequently the characters seem like interesting people having a universal experience. Allison pimping out her friend and Amanda actually continuing to go along with her friends when she is clearly uncomfortable “reads” as real wrong.

On the acting front, Havoc holds up, largely because the performers made me loathe the disingenuous qualities of the characters. Hathaway’s Allison is skanky and plays a character who is acting. As she breaks out into “street” voice for the camera, it is as laughable as when any teenager does that. She plays a druggie almost convincingly. Unfortunately, she is too good for her character. When Allison begins to rant on camera, she comes at Eric with multiple characters and while Hathaway sells the different characters, she fails to sell that Allison is smart, clever, and a good enough actor to sell those different characters. In simpler terms, Hathaway is a smart actress playing a ridiculous character who suddenly seems smart for a scene and that does not work.

Far more impressive than Hathaway in Havoc is Freddy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is in a completely different role than the one that made his career in Six Feet Under (reviewed here!). Rodriguez has an entirely different posture and attitude than his character from Six Feet Under and he sells it. Channing Tatum’s brief role has the actor almost unrecognizable and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s lackey character is absolutely laughable, but Gordon-Levitt effectively sells himself as that type of idiotic character.

Also good is Bijou Phillips. Long before her character reveals her romantic interest in Allison, Phillips plays those elements up in her performance with her body language, looks, and the way she delivers her lines.

Havoc seems like it wants to be, alternatively Crash (reviewed here!) and Requiem For A Dream (reviewed here!). The film is far too jumbled for that and the essential character conflicts are nowhere near as compelling. Allison realistically sells the film in the opening when she says that she and her friends are young, dumn, and bored. As a result, the film never achieves the personal, wrenching pathos of Requiem For A Dream. Similarly, because the main protagonists are just young, dumb, and bored, none of them reach the honest emotional complexity of the characters in Crash. The result is that Havoc is, more frequently, young people behaving badly. Given how Emily and Allison go searching for thugs, it is tough to be sympathetic to them when their characters get into violent situations as a result of their ridiculously bad decisions.

The film tries, by adding elements like Allison’s parents having marital difficulties that make them neglectful (which makes most of the film possible), but it never commits to the full premise. Halfway through the movie, Havoc drops the filmmaking conceit and Eric’s character.  By the time it comes back into play, right before the film's inevitable clash of gangs, the viewer is unlikely to actually care about it or be honestly sympathetic to the characters involved.

Havoc appears on DVD with only previews for other films. Loaded with offensive language, nudity, and excessive drug use, Havoc rises to mediocre, but fails to be anything enduringly worthwhile.

For works featuring Anne Hathaway, please check out my reviews of:
Anne Hathaway For Wonder Woman!
The Dark Knight Rises
One Day
Love And Other Drugs
Family Guy Presents: It's A Trap!
Alice In Wonderland
Valentine's Day
Twelfth Night Soundtrack
Bride Wars
Rachel Getting Married
Get Smart
Becoming Jane
The Devil Wears Prada
Brokeback Mountain
The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Ella Enchanted
Nicholas Nickleby
The Other Side Of Heaven
The Princess Diaries


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

* We wish Ms. Hathaway all the luck in the world**, but 1. Hollywood marriages seldom last and 2. If my wife can hold out hope for David Bowie leaving Iman so she’ll have a chance with him, I ought to be able to keep the torch burning for Hathaway!

** In all seriousness, happy Anne Hathaway wedding day! We wish you all the best for a long, happy, and emotionally satisfying marriage!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Gollum Refuses To Bother With NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula Catfood.

The Good: Very nutritious
The Bad: Super expensive, Does nothing for urinary tract health/dental benefits, Gollum completely ignores it
The Basics: Gollum refuses to eat NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula catfood, which is what sinks it for me!

Because variety is the spice of life and I’ve noticed that Gollum will usually try anything I put in his bowl once, it says a lot to me when he absolutely refuses to eat something I try to feed him. Yet, I can think of no greater death knell for a product than his unwillingness to consume it. That is where NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula catfood falls. I have tried for a week to get Gollum, who is nine years old (my gosh, how the years get away from me!) now, to eat this food.

Gollum, traditionally, only cries for me to feed him in the mornings when his bowl is empty. And yet, when his bowl only had the NutriSource Senior/Weight Management catfood in it, he cried, too. He was that adamant about not consuming this.


Chicken & Rice Formula NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management is a cat food formulated for cats who are older and the five ounce package we snagged represented one serving for a cat 10 – 14 lbs. Gollum has not been below 10 lbs. in years, so his serving size is 1 – 1 1/3 cups per meal. The NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula catfood regularly comes in a sixteen pound reinforced paper bag that is priced online at $32 and in many premium cat stores for more. As a cheapskate and poor person, I do not have the resources to continually spoil Gollum at such a level, but given that he refuses to eat even the sample, shelling out for a full bag is utterly pointless to me.

The Chicken & Rice Formula NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management food comes with uniform, triangular wedge pieces with each side being approximately 3/8” long and a thickness of around 1/8”. The little brown wedges are hard and look like what one might expect out of catfood.

Ease Of Preparation

NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula catfood is a hard catfood that comes in a large bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. A sixteen pound bag would – by the numbers – last Gollum two months . . . or indefinitely as Gollum might well starve himself to death before actually eating this catfood.

Gollum’s Reaction

This cat food does not smell bad at all. The Chicken & Rice Formula NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management catfood has a slightly meaty, mostly mealy bouquet to it.

The smell did not entice Gollum. The first time I opened a sample for Gollum, he came running. However, then he refused to eat the sample I poured in his bowl. He has studiously avoided eating this catfood.


If Gollum would actually eat it, he would find this is a rather nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 27% crude protein and 6% crude fat. With no more than 7.5% crude fiber and 10% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area!

As well, those who are concerned about what goes into their pets will be pleased by how this is an all natural this cat food, which I do not understand because the bottom ingredients are all chemicals. The main ingredients, however, are chicken meal, brown rice and barley. While the last half of the ingredient list is a chemistry equation I can barely read, the primary ingredients are all recognizable and several are even human friendly! My point is that Chicken & Rice Formula NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management cat food is one of the healthier alternatives for cats and usually Gollum goes for that type thing. It does not, however, have any specific dental benefits, nor urinary tract protection built into the formula.


Ultimately, Chicken & Rice Formula NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management is a waste of money as far as I am concerned as Gollum refuses to eat it!

For other cat foods, please visit my reviews (with Gollum's help!) of:
Meow Mix Market Select Real Salmon & Ocean Fish In Gravy cat food
NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula
Whiskas Grilled Cuts Turkey with gravy


For other cat products, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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Catch And Release: Not Quite A Kevin Smith Movie, With Kevin Smith!

The Good: Excellent writing, Decent acting, Interesting characters
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot, Never truly launches
The Basics: After the death of her fiance, Gray Wheeler begins to learn about the man she was engaged to and discovers his various secrets and those of his friends.

No matter what one thinks of the quality of the films of Kevin Smith, it is hard to argue that they are not memorable. After offending scads of people with Dogma (reviewed here!) and having possibly the only bestiality scene on record in an "R" movie with Clerks 2 (reviewed here!), Kevin Smith basically became indelibly rooted in the collective unconscious of American moviegoers. So when Susannah Grant's Catch And Release premiered and the person whose works it seemed most like was Kevin Smith, it seemed funny that Smith himself appears prominently as an actor in the film. Sadly, for as good as Catch And Release is, it never quite gets off the ground, it never becomes quite as memorable as one of Kevin Smith's films.

Gray Wheeler, a woman in her late twenties/early thirties, is preparing for her wedding when she suddenly finds herself hosting a funeral instead. Her fiance dies and Gray's life is caught in something of a freefall. Friends of her fiance, Fritz, Dennis and Sam, help Gray begin to restart her life as they bond over memories of their absent friend. However, the unreliable Fritz soon begins to appear to know quite a bit more than Gray ever did and Fritz refuses to lie to her about such things as her dead fiance's finances and the son he had with another woman. Gray soon finds her life and emotions complicated by Fritz, the boy, and the ex-fling all coming into her life in very real ways.

Catch And Release is charming, entertaining, but little more than that. The film is well written with decent dialogue, though the diction and pacing does seem derivative of a Kevin Smith film. Susannah Grant, who wrote this film, had more of a distinct voice on 28 Days (reviewed here!) a film she wrote the screenplay for, but did not direct. It's strange because the film feels like it's trying to be more hip and clever than it actually is, like it is trying to appeal to the same market as a Kevin Smith film with the phrases and mannerisms it employs, but it just falls flat on that end.

On the writing front, the story works well in the way it unfolds and presents a more complicated narrative than is typical. The film most assuredly focuses on Gray Wheeler, but the peripheral characters like Sam and Dennis seem fully realized as well. Fritz has a story that seems to do more than simply intersect with Gray and that's decent, but it is Maureen (the mother of the boy) who seems to have so much more of her own narrative in the story told and the insinuation of that works to benefit the movie.

And at worst, the characters are fun and interesting. Sam's mental health issues are well placed in the film and are not something that is often highlighted by films or television these days. Similarly, Dennis's romantic obsession with Gray is well-executed as is his inability to bond with anyone else as a result. Fritz is a fun character and it is easy to see why he dominates things like the film's trailer. It is assumed that he is irresponsible and jock-like, but as the film goes on that perception is steadily worn away.

As for Gray, who dominates most of the screentime, she is an interesting enough character and perhaps one of the best moments is when she begins to blurt out characterization at a dinner party (it's in the trailer). It's funny and her character struggle is a worthwhile one as she tries pretty desperately to form a new life now that all of her plans have been overturned. And honestly, the struggles of someone surviving a death, especially the financial ones, are seldom tackled in films, which might be why this movie tops out just a little bit over the average. Gray's struggles and her attempts to bond with those who may have known her fiance better than she did are entertaining and interesting to watch.

And the humor is well balanced in Catch And Release.

What is a little more shaky is the acting. The acting is fine, for the most part, but it's not anything new. Fans of Kevin Smith who have listened to even one of his commentary tracks will find his performance in Catch And Release to be pretty much in tune with the public persona he presents in his commentary tracks, etc. Sure, as Sam, he delivers sage one-liners, but his delivery is very Kevin Smith and it's almost impossible to see through it to divorce his performance from himself in this one. Can Kevin Smith act? Probably, but this isn't the film to prove it.

Similarly, Jennifer Garner provides a performance that is difficult for fans to write home about. Jennifer Garner made her first lasting mark on viewers through her portrayal of Sydney Bristow on Alias, a character whose fiance is killed in the pilot episode. As a result, much of Alias - The Complete First Season (reviewed here!) is obsessed with how Sydney moves on after the murder of her lover. On the acting front, then, what one might want to see from Garner in Catch And Release is something different. We, alas, do not. This is not to say Garner isn't good, but her performance is nothing we have not seen from her before and that's unfortunate.

On DVD, there is a commentary track which is all right and previews for the film. The DVD extras will not light the world on fire, but given the shoestring budget feel of the film (it looks good, but it feels like a small movie), it's to be expected.

Ultimately, Catch And Release is entertaining, it's a romantic comedy with a slightly different bent to it and it works well. But it's not one I'm adding to my permanent collection and while I recommend it, it's mostly for the viewing, not the buy.

For other works with Timothy Olyphant, be sure to check out my reviews of:
I Am Number Four
Meet Bill


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Horrible Idea With A Passably Good Execution: Wonder Woman: Blood Flops For Fans!

The Good: Engaging enough story out of context, Fine character motivations
The Bad: Terrible reworking of the character based on her history, Mostly mediocre artwork
The Basics: For DC’s “The New 52” rework of Wonder Woman comes a story that pretty much guts the character we know and love completely with Wonder Woman: Blood.

I am a good enough reviewer to be able to be honest when I am biased going into an experience and when I am a fan of something. I am a fan of Wonder Woman and I was incredibly biased against Wonder Woman: Blood before I read it. All I knew about the “New 52” reboot of the Wonder Woman comic book (and the Wonder Woman mythos) was that Wonder Woman was being given a father for the first time in her history and her father would be Zeus (this is not a spoiler, as this is revealed in the first chapter of Wonder Woman: Blood).

As a fan of Wonder Woman, this immediately struck me as one of the worst ideas that the executives and creative forces at DC Comics could come up with. I can only suspect that such executives looked at the general demographics and discovered that while people had a pretty firm idea of the origins of Superman or Batman, they had no idea of how Wonder Woman came to be (or knew that there were some contradictory origin stories) and they decided to make a juicy reboot to get new readers. But as a fan of Wonder Woman, the idea that Zeus is Wonder Woman’s father is about as boneheaded as the idea of rebooting Kal-El’s story to have him crash land in midtown Detroit or have a new origin for Aquaman where he actually comes from the planet Tunaton Tiberius XII (an all-crystal planet). But, apparently eager for neophytes and more than willing to piss off the fans of the established Wonder Woman to sell books, Wonder Woman: Blood witlessly reinvents the wheel.

This is an exceptionally problematic thing for devoted Wonder Woman readers as Wonder Woman spent the year prior to this volume struggling to find herself through an altered reality that was Odyssey (volume 1 is reviewed here!). That divergence in the main story of Wonder Woman worked because reality was fundamentally altered and the quest for Diana was to work her way back to the world she knew. Plagued by visions of her home and her old superheroine self, she struggled to rediscover her true nature and restore reality. So, it feels like a pretty low mindfuck to loyal readers to have our hero restored only to have her completely changed as the post-Flashpoint reboot did.

Hera, the Greek goddess, is bringing her vengeance to Earth by transforming a horse into two mythical creatures that are beset upon a woman, Zola. Zola is rescued by Hermes, who gives her a key that teleports her to London and the home of Diana (who is already Wonder Woman). Suiting up, Wonder Woman dispatches Hera’s minions and begins to take care of Zola, who is pregnant with Zeus’s child. When Strife intervenes, as Hermes (who is wounded), Wonder Woman, and Zola teleport to Themyscira, Diana learns from Hippolyta her true origins. Not made of clay at all, Hippolyta was impregnated by Zeus and Diana is the result of that union.

Treated as an outcast by her sisters on the island, upon learning her true origins, Diana returns to London where she barhops and protects Zola from harm (ultimately in the form of Strife). When Hera brings her wrath to Themyscira, Diana and a Lennox lure Poseidon and Hades out into the open to attempt to negotiate with them to put Hera back in her place.

First, as much as I loathed the fundamental idea of the reboot of the character in Wonder Woman: Blood, Brian Azzarello does a decent job with the story. Azzarello, who impressed me before with Luthor (reviewed here!), gives Diana a distinctive and interesting voice. Despite my serious problems with the plot, Wonder Woman: Blood moves at a decent clip and creates a character who is interesting for her reaction to having her world turned upside down. Diana stands up for herself in a way that is compelling and empowering, which is exactly what Diana’s story is supposed to be about.

Hera is characterized with surprisingly little characterization. She is the jealous bitch goddess in Wonder Woman: Blood. There is nothing to her motivation but the desire to get revenge upon those who have been with her husband. Zeus, absent for the entirety of Wonder Woman: Blood, is only defined by how others refer to him and as a result, Hera comes across as a strange emotional simpleton. In fact, Hera might be the least compelling villain for Wonder Woman as she exhibits no emotional intelligence and somehow expects Zeus’s ingrained behaviors of thousands of years will abruptly change. Hardly an example for the modern woman, Hera is petty, jealous, irrational, and stupid.

Sadly, this reflects poorly on both Azzarello and Wonder Woman. The hero is best defined by the strength and intensity of the villain. In this case, Diana manages to avoid the crazed wife of her biological father while her people are essentially laid to waste. Keeping Zola safe is hardly presented in an interesting way because avoiding someone who is not exactly hunting you down is hardly a compelling conflict.

Strife, on the other hand, makes for an interesting morally-ambiguous antagonist in Wonder Woman: Blood. However, despite her being a distinct addition to the Wonder Woman mythos, Strife actually highlights how poor the artwork is in this first volume. As someone who has been studying more and more DC Comics, I have noticed a past trend that seems to be true for the books compiled into Wonder Woman: Blood; DC illustrates which books it is betting on for reboots by giving them fantastic artists. DC was not betting on Wonder Woman in the New 52. Cliff Chiang and Tony Atkins present Wonder Woman in very blockish terms. Strife looks like a bobble head or Mr. Burns from the episode of The Simpsons where they did an homage to The X-Files (“The Springfield Files”).

While the colors in Wonder Woman: Blood are vibrant enough, the artwork is largely simplistic and uninspired. The new outfit is not nearly as distinctive or interesting as the Odyssey reimagining of it and despite the final act of this book, Wonder Woman: Blood just feels like the talents involved did not care enough to give it their best.

For other Wonder Woman volumes, please check out my reviews of:
Gods And Mortals by George Perez
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods by George Perez
Beauty And The Beasts By George Perez
Destiny Calling By George Perez
The Contest By William Messner-Loebs
Wonder Woman: Lifelines By John Byrne
Paradise Lost By Phil Jimenez
Down To Earth By Greg Rucka
Eyes Of The Gorgon By Greg Rucka
Land Of The Dead By Greg Rucka
Mission's End By Greg Rucka
The Hiketeia


For other book reviews, please be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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