Never Give Up the Fight (Ralph Peters)
Ironman: Armor Wars
Transformers: Escalatioin #3
Star Wars: Dark Times #2
Ralph Peters' "Never Give Up the Fight":
Peters used to be one of my favorite commentators. The man is articulate, and can make a logical point without sounding like he thinks in "Power-Point." However, this latest offering (compiling a number of older writings) is lacking. Some of my complaints may seem shallow enough. For example, the fact that many of the articles reprinted here are from the NYPost is factor in the low grade this book gets. But, Peters himself has notedin past writings that he tailors his writing for he anticipated audience. And, while he has never admitted this next point explicitly, he clearly is "writing-down" when he writes in the Post. To read the NYPost essays offered in this volume, one might mistake Peters for a shallow jingoist writing for an insular local audience, rather than the NeoCon advocate he in fact is. Many of Peter's optimistic articles about the troubles in Iraq are especially jarring given the daily stream of news clearly showing how much the country has been deteriorating. (It is especially funny that shortly after the book's release, even George Bush has admitted things are going badly.) In places, Peter's seem writing seems to fly in the face of his hard-nosed realism on terrorism. This is especially true when he praises democracy in Lebanon (and our hand in fostering it), when that same democracy brought Hizballah, (an organization that George Bush correctly notes has killed more Americans than any other before UBL came on the scene), to power. People with an interest in the region will also note that democracy has also been helpful for terrorists in Egypt, also after elections that the US forced the government to open. The flaws in many of Peters' recent writings are made all the more glaring when one reads a flash of his old brilliance, especially in an article reprinted from the 80s. Grade: C/D Deeply flawed, and only be worth picking up if you are a fan of Peters, or have a specific interest in the subject matter.

Armor Wars:
In comicbook terms, this is one of those "always meant to read it" stories. Frankly, it should be one of those "already read it" stories. ( Myself read some of it in the early 90s...) Put simply, arcs like this could legitimately justify adults reading comics. Comparing this volume to a modern comic, one of the most amazing things is that Marvel reprinted it at all. Put simply, at both a contextual and qualitative level, it flies in the face of pretty much everything Marvel has been publishing the last few years. In contrast to the Tony Stark modern readerssee in Marvel's shallow polemic "Civil War", the Tony "Ironman" Stark of "Armor Wars" is a balanced portrayal of the "public v/s private" question, withour a Marvel editor going on NPR to tell us that it is balanced. (Did anyone else hear Joe Q about a year back? Lordy that man is probably the worst thing to happen to the industry since "creator's rights"....) Stark is not perfect. David Michelinie clearly shows that Stark is a bit capricious, and can be a bully at times. But, for every triumphant, "aha, the public sector is bad", moment, there is a "well, the private sector did a pretty shabby job here" moment as well.
GradeL A/B Buy this thing. Read it. Now.

Transformers: Escalation
The series has decisively moved beyond the set-up stage. The problem is that Furman seems to be going for the "ripped from the headlines" pretense that so many other comics are going for. To his credit, Furman is not blatantly editorializing. (One might reasonably speculate about his sympathies, but the comic does not give enough to really work from.) All the same, the inclusion of a shallow proxy for Chechnya (with a touch of Ukraine mixed in) seems rather crass (at best) given the state of world affairs. This is not a plea to keep comic mindless idiot-fodder, but it is possible to write an intellectually engaging story without trivializing the real-world.
Grade: C While not as bad as some recent GI Joe arcs, the psuedo realism is annoying.

Star Wars: Dark Times
Wow, only a bit more than a month late. In any case, the first arc of the post "Episode III" series continues here. The heroes are still on their back-foot, and the tone of the series is suitably bleak. None of the characters, including Vader, have any real prospects to speak of. The biggest danger for this arc, and the series as a whole, is that the writers may try to foist too happy an ending on the readers. Of course, some readers may demand it.
Grade: B So far, so good. But, it could all go very wrong very quickly.