ATLoK Turf War volume 2 — I love to see Zhu Li running for president. Apart from the fact that Raiko is a dipshit, it’s great to see a woman stepping up in a political way. She’s not a warrior or a spiritual leader; she’s a different kind of badass woman.

I’m not happy to see Asami get damseled here. Not necessarily because she’s a female character (that’s not really an issue in this context), but because she’s a non-bender. Any damseling of a non-bender threatens to shift the delicate balance of the presentation of this world that the writers are usually so careful to maintain. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. If Asami pulls my absolute favorite trope and rescues herself, I will cease to be concerned.

The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian — I wasn’t surprised at Diana’s desertion, just very sorry for Stephen. It was such an interesting character moment for Diana to discover that she doesn’t really care on a personal (and certainly not on a moral) level that Stephen supposedly had an affair. I wonder if Wray actually delivered Stephen’s letter or if he just lied and said he did (though I can’t think of a reason why he would lie; what could he gain from doing so?)

As to the actual Reverse, what a story. The moment that guy in the coach started in on his classified stock information, I, knowing how Jack is on land and what the title of the next book is, literally predicted the outcome of the whole affair. I would have liked to be proven wrong, but no such luck. This takes the “forever broke” running joke to a sad new level. It also continues this series’ glorious tradition of “oh no he di’n’t” drama more prominent even than naval action.

The pillory scene was extremely moving. That kind of “I’m Spartacus” solidarity gets me every time. And for Stephen to buy the Surprise was a mark of true friendship such as I would fully expect from him.

The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum — So auto-body shopping? Really? After that intro about having received a thousand letters begging for another Oz book? Don’t you kinda think that if you’re writing a book for at least a thousand people that loved the first book, they’re maybe already familiar with what happened in that first book?

Also, I’m shocked and astonished that he wanted to establish continuity when continuity obviously meant ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to him. This was my biggest complaint about the series as a kid, and it’s still its most annoying feature — Baum just retconned, sometimes on a massive scale, whenever he felt like it.

Anyway. Baum’s feminism. In this book we have two groups of women deliberately contrasted: Jinjur’s army is made up of frivolous teenagers with no rational goals, while Glinda’s army is made up of trained professional women following Glinda’s supposedly rational and kind orders with complete efficiency. Yet even Jinjur and her girls are shown to have a reasonable point to their rebellion in the following exchange:

“Doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City.”

“Hm!” said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. “If it is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?”

“I really do not know” replied the man, with a deep sigh. “Perhaps the women are made of castiron.”

So I like that. Nothing hugely groundbreaking (though perhaps it was in 1904), but somewhat refreshing, especially in a kids’ book.

Besides the free-for-all of retconning that passes for continuity, the other thing that’s always bothered me about this series is the blatant, casual unkindness of a lot of the characters — especially when some claim of particular kindness is made about the specific characters or the Land of Oz in general. In this book my favorite two examples are the moment when the Tin Woodman literally threatens the woggle-bug with death if he continues to make annoying puns and, “I must beg you to restrain an imagination which, having no brains, you have no right to exercise,” suggested the Scarecrow, warningly. Like, what is wrong with you people??

Many scenes, in this book and throughout the series, that are supposed to be funny or at least interesting because the characters are simply being stupid — for example, the “interpreter” scene between the Scarecrow and Jack — are instead frustrating and extremely tedious. And I wonder whether the “counting to 17 by twos” scene was supposed to be another such? You’re supposed to find it funny because the characters are acting like idiots? Or else what was the point? It frustrated me half to death as a kid because the “solution” to the “problem” they found was so nonsensical, and as an adult I find it frustrating in a different way. What is its storytelling purpose? What was Baum trying to accomplish with this scene??

Ozma’s gender is an interesting prospect in a kids’ story from 1904. Others have discussed her transgender status, so I won’t go into that. But it’s something else I like having presented so well in such an early story aimed at young people.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones — Of course this is a fun and charming book and I love it. But the ending still bugs me, even after all these years, and probably always will. It’s like the inverse of the story falling apart: things come together, and pull so ridiculously tight into a constricted little ball, that it’s just as bad as if it did fall apart.

Also, with so many details coming together at the end the way they do, any unexplained detail stands out more than it otherwise would. What the crap is the deal with the Witch’s fire demon/Miss Angorian? Why was she in Wales? Presumably as a trap for Howl, but… did she really actually spend her time teaching school? What did she intend to accomplish? That is so unspeakably weird.

Anyway Sophie is a wonderful character and I love her from beginning to end.

Steven Universe episodes — I meant to make notes on individual episodes, but I forgot/didn’t get around to it. All I seem to have to say is this:

It’s interesting to have the long-held “Rose is Pink Diamond” theory confirmed, but it almost hurts more than anything. Not that it should really be a surprise, given that we already knew Rose was a manipulative leader with motives and desires other than those she professed to her followers and used to win their loyalty. I think what this all boils down to is who and what Steven is and where we go from here. I think that’s what the entire series has been leading toward. What can Steven make for the future of his troubled past?

Justice League Unlimited episodes — Here I did actually make notes on a lot of individual episodes. There follow my scattered thoughts:

Shadow of the Hawk — OK, in case I haven’t made it clear yet, though I love just about everything in this series, John and Shayera are the lifeblood of my interest.

John sees Shayera’s date with the unknown Carter as something personal he has no right to interfere with — even when the guy’s stalker status has been revealed, and even while thinking he’s supposed to be together with her — but Batman sees absolutely no distinction between the personal and professional in this situation, and naturally tags along. P.S. Batman thinks it’s pretty straightforward that if John believes he should be with Shayera, he obviously shouldn’t be with Vixen. Oh, Bats.

Shayera’s line about life on other planets was so perfect, because it points out that weirdness is entirely possible in this world, leaving room for doubt in the viewer. What if they really are this reincarnation nonsense?

Chaos at the Earth’s Core — This is the first entirely stupid episode of the series. Sometimes I get the feeling the show writers were just really excited to drag in various bits of the DC universe, regardless of how well they actually fit. Dinosaurs and magic at the center of the earth? Really? And the meaningless little snit fit from Stars and Stripes? This was such a stupid episode, I’ll skip it when brother and I get to it. The only contribution to the overall plot was the brain-fry of Metallo.

To Another Shore — OK, I loved all this nonsense about the immortal-against-his-will Viking prince. And setting it parallel to J’onn??? AWESOME. And I loved Wonder Woman conducting his funeral service — into the fucking sun you guys that is so badass like next-level flaming boat shit!!!! — and seeing J’onn head out into the world as she spoke. Aaaahhhh I love this show. Grodd’s plan was great too! Just an excellent episode all ’round. The one thing I don’t believe for an instant is that Diana, as an ambassador on a controversial subject, wouldn’t have the fact that she’s officially banished from the place she’s representing thrown constantly into her face. Because politicians.

Flash and Substance — My opinion on the Flash still stands: I like the character he’s supposed to be even while groaning much of the time over what he (and presumably the writers) think is funny. He’s cute and endearing if you can just get past the more-than-occasional poor dialogue. And the moment in this episode when he talked kindly to the Trickster was so sweet, I gushed tears. Not sure why they keep bringing back this low-key inter-Justice-League rivalry/jealousy, though. But Batman is awesome.

Dead Reckoning — It was kinda weird at first to meet this ghost guy, but they did a good job providing backstory without it feeling like autobody-shopping, and I was soon satisfied on that point. Didn’t make this episode any less strange in general, though, and I laughed out loud when Grodd revealed his evil plan. He never got around to explaining why he was trying to turn the world into gorillas, but there must have been more to it than just that. Also, Superman’s not human? Did we forget that? I’m not sure Diana qualifies as fully human either, so I don’t know that either one of them should have been affected.

I was glad the monks didn’t die, but I though we left the ghost with a moral/existential problem that we’ll probably never see solved. See above re: random crap from the DC universe.

The Great Brain Robbery — Body/power-swap plots are only any good if they happen at a very precise point in the course of a story: after the characters have been very thoroughly established so their acting like each other has maximum impact, but not so far along that what is essentially a filler event most of the time gets in the way of the real story or seems incongruously lighthearted in the midst of more serious developments. Usually the second movie in a series is too early for the body-swapper, but the second season of a TV show may not be. And when it’s placed correctly, I FREAKING LOVE this trope.

My favorite thing about it is watching actors (or in this case listening to voice actors) playing other characters, imitating each other’s usual mannerisms. And as such, Luthor and the Flash were the absolute best characters

Grudge Match — Holy CRAP the fighting animation in this series. I loved this episode so much; it was such a great examination of the rivalries among some of these characters. Vixen and Shayera in particular had such good moments, and I loved how not even four of them could take Wonder Woman on. Also? That Canary and Huntress ended up amicably fighting each other was just amazing. We complain about female characters not being able to be friends and always having to be rivals and fight over some shit… this show transcended that and allowed them to be fully realized people that are rivals and fight over some shit. Because women can be that too! What a great episode.

Far From Home — This was mostly an episode where I didn’t care what happened. Supergirl has done nothing to catch my interest this entire series, being like Hawkgirl boring-point-oh, and she and Braniac 5 or whatever had way too deep a level of interest in each other way too quickly. I love Green Arrow’s snark, and it was funny at the end when they had to admit to Superman whom his cousin was dating, but I could have taken or left this episode.

Ancient History — OK, so I watched these last four episodes on the day I made my decision about RK fanfiction, and basically cried all day, so my assessment of them may not be entirely fair. And I really didn’t give a shit about the “ancient Egyptian memories” part of this episode. The drama with John and Shayera and Mari was good stuff, but there wasn’t all that much of it. I still appreciate how Shayera and Mari get along relatively well. But what was with that creeper Hawkman just all of a sudden admitting that he and Shayera aren’t destined for each other after all? That wraps that up all of a sudden, I guess. But I don’t know that I’m entirely satisfied with what turned out to be the end of the John and Shayera story I’ve been so invested in all along. It felt inconclusive.

Alive — Geez, he blasted Grodd into space and then fucking destroyed Tala?? This was an OH SHIT SON episode if ever there was one. You could feel the impending end of the series, and it wasn’t bad at all. I mean, I was really unhappy the series ended (especially right at the moment I was watching it and could have done with a couple more episodes to get me through to bedtime), but it ended well. I do kinda wonder why anyone wants that stupid Apokolips planet at all ever, though.

Destroyer — Batman is such a badass. Just… I love him so much. And J’onn’s reappearance was so amazing! Especially since we discover that he’s found love and companionship among humanity after all! Superman cutting loose was pretty great. Batman is awesome. The ending was weird and kinda deus ex machina, but I guess I was pretty satisfied. So bittersweet to discover this was the last chronological moment of the DCAU. I have to go back now and watch the other couple of TV shows from this continuity that I haven’t yet. At least that means more Batman. Batman is such a badass.