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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 9:11 pm 
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China's World War II 1937-1945 Forgotten Ally
By Rana Mitter


Rana Mitter Ph.D. was born Shantashil Rajyeswar Mitter in 1969 inside the UK to Bengali parents. Incidentally, his father was a respected historian of Indian art. He attended King's College in Cambridge and when he was 18 made the at the time somewhat whimsical decision to study Chinese. This would expand to studying China over time and today he is Professor of History and Politics of Modern China at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University (Nice!). He's also a regular presenter on BBC radio and has written a number of books, the latest being the subject of our review, published in 2013 by Mariner Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a textbook printing company (I speak on behalf of all those who have had to buy textbooks… The guillotine they deserve is of the sort used to cut paper.). Before we dive in, I do want to touch on where this review comes from. Last year around November I did a review of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. As per usual I did some digging on the author after finishing the book so I could present you, my readers, with as full a picture as possible. This book we're reviewing was one of the books that Ms. Kuang kept bringing up. That stayed with me, so I had to take a look and here we are.

In Forgotten Ally (titled Struggle for Survival in the United Kingdom and elsewhere) Dr. Mitter sets out to give us the broad outlines of China's war of national survival against the Empire of Japan. I term it a war of national survival because the vision that the Japanese outlined for China was one of a China divided into roughly half a dozen client states and the sheer loathing dismissal the Japanese government of the time had for Chinese nationalism. Part of this was that it conflicted with the Japanese pushed version of Pan-Asianism (where Japan sat at the top of course), another part was the view that China wasn't a nation, but a geographic location (Which is ridiculous. Like the rest of Japanese State Ideology at the time and largely continuing to this day.). However, the book makes us clear to us that the dismissal of Chinese nationalism wasn't just a Japanese stance and was fairly common from Tokyo to London (But of course! You can’t systematically dick around and erode the sovereignty of one of the oldest civilizations on the planet without some sort of ethnic and cultural dismissal.). It's easy to see why as Dr. Mitter clearly sets the stage for the brutal 8-year war that occurred between the Chinese and the Imperial Japanese state. The Qing Empire had fallen apart into feuding warlord states with imperial western powers picking choice bits off the corpse. Westerners and the Japanese enjoyed extraterritorial status, where any crimes they committed could not be tried by Chinese courts but special ones set up by the imperial powers (Justice® was done in these courts.). Even parts of China's great cities had been sectioned off and placed outside the rule of any Chinese government in those years. That said, a nationalist movement was occurring as the Chinese were fully aware of what they had suffered and the need to modernize and unify if they were ever to secure a place for themselves in the modern world and face of the predators around them. Dr. Mitter gives us a brief overview of that process of the Chinese trying to pull themselves by hook or crook into the 20th century but the meat of the book takes place, as it should, in World War II.

For the Chinese (and Japanese) World War II started in 1937 in a confrontation near what the west calls Marco Polo bridge. Tensions in the north of China had been high since Japan overran Manchuria in 1931 and set up the puppet set of Manchukuo. The Nationalist Government under Chiang Kai-Shek was playing for time before another confrontation occurred, believing that they would only get one shot at this, so they best not miss. When things finally broke out into a firefight, things kind of skidded out of control with local Japanese commanders not listening to Tokyo (a reoccurring problem) and Chiang being backed into a corner because if he backed down again, the people of China could lose all faith in his government and turn to rival factions (Like communism. Sarcastic Spoiler alert: this whole thing worked so well for him! {Soo… Should he have not resisted the Japanese then?} No no. He should have. I’m just saying that ultimately he still failed to keep the population from turning to rival factions.), causing more disunity in China when they could least afford it. The picture painted here is a war that no one really wanted, no one really planned to have just yet but a war that they were going to have because it was too late for the pebbles to vote on this avalanche Dr. Mitter takes care to take a look at the effect of the early war on China both on the Nationalist and Communist party. This led to the creation of the common front, as the Nationalist and the Communist agreed to shelve their problems with each other until such date as there weren't Japanese armies running around trying to conquer their nation out from under them. Dr. Mitter also shows us the strange bedfellows that such wars produce. While Chiang and the Nationalist government were deeply anti-communist, at this point the Soviet Union would step forward to become the Nationalist’s only real foreign ally. To enhance the strangeness, the USSR was replacing Nazi Germany as Nationalist China's greatest ally. This is explained as a result of the times. You see Germany lost all its possessions in China after WWI and as such, it was seen as a safe power to ally within the inter-war years because they had nothing to lose in seeing a modern, industrialized, unified China rising up. Unlike the other Western powers like the French, British, or the United States (the US occupied an odd position here but we'll get to that). The USSR in turn needed to prevent a two-front war where they would be battling Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany at the same time and creating a China that could if not defeat Japan at least pull Japan into a long, grinding war was a step towards avoiding that. So Stalin backed the Nationalist despite them being the foes of the Communist party of China. The latter position of the Western Allies is also covered in depth. Chiang and the Nationalist (Shockingly) never really trusted the British Empire (the communist simply didn't deal with them) but the relationship with the US was vastly more variable. For various reasons the US didn't attract as much bile as the European powers, but that would change over time. Part of this is the constant demands for Chinese troops when there simply weren’t any to spare, another is the fact that the US sent exactly the wrong person to represent their interests to the Chinese. That being General Joseph Stilwell, aka Vinegar Joe. While to his credit General Stilwell preached that the Chinese man could be just as good a soldier as a white man with the proper training and equipment, he also believed he was the only one who could win the war for China and constantly led China's best troops into offensive campaigns that had no chance of victory. On top of this, he would constantly antagonize the leadership of Nationalist China. Which led many of the Nationalist leaders to believe that the US held them in contempt, which wasn't entirely false (Of course it wasn’t entirely false! The Chinese Exclusion Act was still in place at the time and would remain so until 1943. Even then, the quota was 105 immigrants a year. It was the official position of the US that Chinese people were not even welcome in the country. General Stillwell, despite evidently being a cantankerous madman, was remarkably less racist than his contemporaries.{And yet he completely undermined Chinese-American relationships and destroyed many of the best Chinese units in a mad quest to conquer Burmanese jungle, insisting he was the only one who could lead China to victory} As I said, cantankerous madman! Just… a less racist one.).

That said, Dr. Mitter also spends time looking at the domestic issues that were plaguing China even as it was engulfed in a war that would kill millions. As many fled Japanese domination, the Nationalist and Communist governments were obliged to expand social services even as they were having to massively increase the resources that went to their militaries. Both governments would use this as an opportunity to attempt to reshape China into a more modern mold even as they fought to create a China that wasn't dominated by foreign interests. The Nationalist programs were less successful and Dr. Mitter carefully shows why they failed. Part of it is because the Communist committed to a program of guerrilla warfare and avoided large scale confrontation with the Japanese forces, this meant that they could get away with spending less of their resources on military commitments. They were also able to push initiatives to make their population more self-sufficient since they weren't under direct attack by the Japanese. The Nationalist who had to field conventional armies and fight the Japanese in large set-piece battles had no such choices. This was also a problem as their areas of China were afflicted with famine and bad harvests, partly due to the Nationalist breaching the dikes of the Yellow River to hold back the Japanese Armies (while killing hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers). That said, the Nationalist government was often riddled with corruption but much of it was the corruption of men who have to turn to such methods or starve to death. For example, soldiers would be issued rifles, ammo and, grain or rice; but any vegetables, meat, medical supplies, and most clothes the soldiers would have to get for themselves while being paid wages that wouldn't even get them the rice they were issued on the open market (And so the predictable happens…). That's when they got their full wages, which were given to commanding officers in lump sums (Oh Dear God!). Most officers weren't well paid either with even Colonels having to take second jobs to make ends meet. So many officers skimmed from their men’s wages to avoid that and being punished for having a second job. Now I will admit that the Communists did engage in military operations against the Japanese but never as often as the Nationalist and never on the same scale. So the Communist strategy seemed to be to let the Japanese punch themselves out on the Nationalist and then dart out to land a quick blow or two and then use the Nationalist as a shield (This is a highly effective strategy…{Sure, but then constantly criticizing the Nationalist and trying to undermine them while using them as a shield… Well that gives the impression this is all about expanding your power base} Hey, I’m not making moral judgments. It was effective at achieving both of Mao’s strategic aims.). The Japanese, in turn, would launch campaigns against the communists but these campaigns tended to be limited in scope and duration compared to the offensives they launched against the Nationalists. Both the Communist and Nationalists, however, did use the war as an opportunity to remove political opponents in their own ranks. The Nationalist secret police under Dai Li created a system of terror to root out opponents to the Nationalist system. Mao would use his security chief Kang Sheng to purge anyone who could rival him in the party and turn the Chinese Communist Party into a personality cult, where the study of Mao's own written works made up the majority of mandated course work and refusal to bend to his will led to punishment, torture, and death. Much like just about every other communist state out there (<Weeps in Communist>).

The Postwar period is covered as well, as the crippled, hollowed out Nationalist party found itself unable to defeat a Communist Party whose strength was only increased by the war. Much as been made of the west forgetting such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking but interestingly they were all but forgotten in China as the Communist government didn't discuss or teach these events from 1950 to 1981, focusing instead on the actions of the Nationalist Government and accusing them of collaborating with the Japanese. It wasn't until the late 1980s and 1990s that the actions of the Japanese themselves were seriously considered, and that Chiang was admitted to the pantheon of men who fought to keep China from becoming a colony. Part of this is the fact that Mao and Chiang were both dead and while throughout the cold war it was more convenient to focus attention on Nationalist misdeeds (apparently there were also Chinese efforts to woo Japan away from alliance from the US to create a 3rd power block in the cold war but the book gives no details there). Now that the Cold War is over and the PRC is more interested in promoting the idea of reconciliation the sacrifices of the Nationalists and the actions of Imperial Japanese forces are recognized. Dr. Mitter takes this part of the book to link all of this to the present day and show how the events from 1937 to 1945 have had a profound effect on how the Chinese see themselves, the world and what to expect from their governments. Which makes it a useful book on many levels.

Forgotten Ally provides a good overview of China's situation throughout World War II. Capturing the desperation that the competing governments of China felt as they fought against common enemies and dealt with the fact that their common allies considered them a lesser priority. Dr. Mitter works to present us work as free of bias as possible while admitting to the flaws and bad actions of everyone involved and to be fair, there are plenty of bad actions and decisions to go around. Personally, while I'm no fan of the government of the People's Republic of China, I've never been sympathetic to the Nationalist government either, seeing them as hopelessly corrupt and wondering at times when I looked into it just how close they were to being a fascist state themselves. I complete this book with a great deal more sympathy for the Nationalist government while at the same time having to point out that their behavior wasn't all that different from the Communist party when it came to governing China. If you're wondering about this front in World War II, this is a great book to start with and get a good idea of the issues involved, the personalities and general events. If you're looking for details about specific battles or campaigns, you will be frustrated as there simply isn't space in the book for such things. That said I would encourage anyone who hasn't made a study of China in World War II to take a look at this book. There is also a good notes section in the back and even more exciting a section where Dr. Mitter suggests books for further reading (And Frigid has to get a bigger apartment with more shelf space.{nonsense, I just need to build more shelves!}) All of this adds up to me giving China's World War II 1937-1945 Forgotten Ally By Rana Mitter an A. Dr. Mitter has done good work with this book.

Red text is your editor Dr. Ben Allen
Black text your reviewer Garvin Anders

Thank you for joining us! If you enjoyed this consider joining us at Frigid Reads is creating book reviews, book discussion | Patreon where for a 1$ a month you can vote on what gets reviewed in the next month. 3$ a month lets you see all the glories of your editor and reviewer 'discussing' the book (this month we have a special sneak peek at what that looks like). Next week we start America Month, opening up with the Patron selected GI Joe Vol 2. We'll follow that up with Ratification the People Debate the Constitution 1787 -1788 by Pauline Maier, so stay with us, stay cool and above all keep reading!

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2019 8:35 pm 
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GI Joe Classic Vol II
By Larry Hama

“I've made my peace with the weasel. Kwinn will not harm you while he lives that—I—Promise.”
Kwinn page 210.


So when my patrons voted for GI Joe as part of America month (this is going to be an interesting month in my red text…), I admit I had to ask myself if that was a great idea. Then I realized that a pro-soldier comic book, that constantly sought to avoid jingoism and is critical of government behavior written by an Asian American veteran was likely the most American thing on the block and if it isn't then maybe it should be. I feel like my first review provided a rather exhaustive look into the origin of the series (I mean really what else could I say?) as well as a good summary of everything we really need to know about Larry Hama, as I'm sure any further details are none of our business. All I'm going to say - and demand - is that someone let him write Scrooge McDuck! Volume II covers issues 11-20 and runs the first major story arc that takes place over multiple issues and sees changes that bring the Joes closer to the classic structure that we all think of today. It's also where Mr. Hama really draws the line that would separate the comics from a lot of other Joe Media and even a lot of other comics. Characters were going to get hurt, they would suffer consequences and some of those consequences would be lethal (Go on….).

A number of major characters are introduced in this Volume: on the Joe side we get characters like Airborne, Snow Job, Wild Bill, Torpedo, Doc, Gung Ho and Cover Girl (Really? Please tell me this is because she’s a woman who provides covering fire with a SAW and not because she has tits…{Actually because she’s a former model who quit fashion shows to join the army and drive a tank, she became so good at it they made her a special forces tank driver.} Good enough! And the coaxial machine guns count as cover.) as the second Lady Joe. These new joes are more colorful than the original Joes (baring Scarlet and Snake Eyes honestly, although Stalker holds his own) having more individual uniforms and weapons. They're also even more specialized than the original Joes which was a trend that would increase over the years. Mr. Hama does a good job introducing them, having friction show up between teammates; such as between Gung Ho and Rock and Roll, as well as between Cover Girl and Scarlet; before everyone settles down and starts focusing on wiping out Cobra. It's fairly realistic as not everyone is going to get along in a military unit. When you have people from all sorts of viewpoints and places thrown together some personality conflicts are unavoidable. However, in this business, you need to learn to focus on the job at hand and leave your baggage at home (The prank wars are for later). So you have to learn to at least work together without to much trouble and the Joes do that since if they don't the results might be the fall of the free world. Which really looks bad on a resume Mr. Hama takes his time to give every new Joe time to shine while still keeping the old guard in the picture and not ignoring them. That said the standouts in this volume for me are Doc and Gung Ho. Doc for saving the Joes and preventing Cobra from becoming a Nuclear Power despite not carrying a weapon (nice). Gung Ho… honestly just for the amount of silliness that Mr. Hama lets him get away with.

We get a bevy of new characters on the Cobra side as well, but unlike the Joes who do not let their head butting get in the way of the mission, our villains are more than happy to put personal position ahead of grand dreams of world domination (Dear God that is so cliche. In real life too. It isn’t just fiction. The Third Reich had so much ridiculous infighting…{Japanese commanders were plotting against each other while being shelled on Guadalcanal, to the point of sabotaging each other’s counter attacks} Oh god! Yes! The Navy vs Army fights! Plus… the Army on Army fights! YAAAASSS!). It's hard to overstate the number of times Cobra runs up to the finish line… Only to pull out an Uzi and blow off their own kneecaps. I'll just note that the leaders of Cobra would fit right into more recent entertainments like Game of Thrones. The biggest arrival on the Cobra side is the metal masked man, the arms selling legend and larger than life myth, Destro himself! Cobra Commander brings in Destro to serve as his battlefield commander, a right hand to carry out the tactics and see to the on-the-ground details of fulfilling the vision of Cobra Commander. Destro does provide very solid battlefield leadership, inflicting a good amount of pain and suffering on the Joes, even if they are able to pull out the win in the end. However, Destro has his own ideas of what the Cobra Organizational Chart should look like, mainly he wants to make changes at the top (Because of course, he does!). By his second appearance, Destro is plotting to take out the Commander and replace him while trying to rekindle a relationship with the Baroness. How Destro was recruited, where he met the Baroness, and the circumstances of their old relationship and its end aren't answered in this Volume but it's made very clear that Cobra Commander, Baroness, and Destro all have long histories with each other and none of them are fully aware of the other characters relationships with the other (Oh Dear God. Someone call Maury Povich.). Which creates a mess of conflicting desires and loyalties that turn Cobra command into a snake pit if you pardon the pun (Get out {It’s my review!}). Cobra Commander, of course, has a lot of flaws but he's not an idiot and quickly realizes what's going on and so he brings in another new character, Major Bludd. Major Bludd's job is pretty simple to describe but hard to do: kill Destro and make it look like an accident. Major Bludd here is a mercenary and published poet but frankly given the examples of poetry Bludd preforms you might be asking if the bar for a published poet might be lower than reasonable (Given my old high school literature magazine, which I edited… no. No, I am not. At some point you’ve already got all the good stuff in there, including the best few out of a pile of terrible Jesus poems you have to include some of to avoid accusations of discrimination. You still have fifteen pages left so you start going through the piles of shitty secular poems because you also want to avoid accusations of proselytization. They’re not bad! You insist. They’re unique.). Still, Major Bludd is effective but honestly comes across as a bit outmatched and the sheer mess of conflicting loyalties in Cobra undermine him pretty fast and hard. This volume gives us a massive step forward into the modern Cobra, where if they could ever just stop plotting against each other, they might actually pull off their goals (Someone needs to read from Palpatine’s playbook.). It’s a Cobra that you won’t recognize if you’re only familiar with the cartoons but it’s honestly one I prefer. It's a good commentary on how ambition and ruthlessness are incredibly self-defeating if they aren't wedded to some form of restraint and morality (Or even just a planning threshold based in rational self-interest?).

For me, though the main focus of Volume II is the return of Kwinn the Inuit Mercenary and the developing feud that is born between him and Snake Eyes on one side and Dr. Venom on the other. Let me talk a bit about Dr. Venom. He is the original Cobra Mad Scientist, inventing such wonders as the mind scanner, robot suits that brainwash their wearers and make them super-powered soldiers for Cobra, and a plague that could bring civilization to its knees (YAAAASSS!!!). That's just the plot-relevant stuff we know about. His motto might as well be that ethics committees exist to test his latest virus (We’ve all felt that way at some point or another. Usually when a protocol is rejected.). He also wields a Luger just in case you were gonna miss the Nazi Doctor subtext there. Although I'm not entirely sure the text is sub, if you catch my meaning. When a mission goes bad and the three of them are abandoned for dead in the middle of a collapsing Latin American country, they have to work together; pool their skills and strength in order to escape and survive. Despite having tried to kill each other before Snake Eyes and Kwinn work really well together but Dr. Venom cannot let go of his grudges and has to attempt to murder both of them any chance he gets. This of course really gets Kwinn upset (Snake Eyes already hated the Doctor) and leads to Kwinn deciding to seek vengeance. This whole story arc is sustained b-plot through several issues and ends up having a lot to say about the nature of evil, how self-defeating it is, and the dangers of putting revenge above everything else. The focus comes more here on whether or not Kwinn can overcome his anger and desire to murder Dr. Venom slowly with his bare hands. This storyline alone makes this Volume worth reading if you ask me and really shows us the level of storytelling we can expect.

Volume II takes major strides in the plot and development of the Joe and Cobra organizations as well as the characters within it. We're not at the Joe gold age just yet but all the pieces are emerging for one of the greatest series of the 1980s. With the emergence of iconic figures like Destro and a great storyline, as well as a number of great supporting characters and single scene characters that almost steal the show (my favorite being a retired couple on the beach just knocking back and discussing the nature of fear, while a Lancaster bomber is skipping the waves heading towards them to crash land on the beach!). Mr. Hama carefully creates an amazing world full of colorful characters for us to enjoy as he tells stories that might just have things to say that are worth listening to. GI Joe Classics Volume II by Larry Hama gets an A, the storyline of Kwinn and Dr. Venom really bring it up another notch.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to ensure there are more, consider joining us at https://www.patreon.com/frigidreads where for a 1$ a month you can vote on upcoming reviews, with more input at higher tiers. Next week we are reviewing Ratification The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1788 by Pauline Maier. Thank you for your support and Keep Reading!

Red text is your editor Dr. Ben Allen.
Black text is your reviewer Garvin Anders

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:53 pm 
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Ratification The People Debate the Constitution 1787-1788
By Dr. Pauline Maier


Pauline Alice Maier was born Pauline Rubbelke in St. Paul Minnesota in the year 1938. Her father was a firefighter and her mother was a homemaker, and Pauline was one of five siblings. She attended Radcliffe College (at the time it was the Woman's institution in coordination with Harvard University, which only allowed general woman enrollment in 1950 [Because clearly, until then women were incapable of handling the rigors of higher education or whatever sexist bullshit they used to justify holding off until 1950, which was late even by contemporary standards]) with the goal of becoming part of the newspaper business (But the anglerfish lure of academia clearly caught her. I’m not bitter, it was a different time.). Because of that connection, she was able to work on the Harvard Crimson, which is a daily student newspaper run by Harvard undergraduates. It was working on the newspaper that she met her future husband Charles Maier. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1960 with a degree in history and literature. She and Charles both attended Oxford on fellowship, she was there as a Fulbright Scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Afterward, they toured Europe and got married. They then returned to Harvard to complete their studies, both achieving PhDs. Dr. Maier then taught at the University of Massachusetts for nine years, the University of Wisconsin for one and then became a professor of history at MIT. She and her husband (who is a professor of History in Harvard) lived at Cambridge MA and raised 3 children and she published five books and co-authored eight more. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 75. She has been widely praised as an insightful writer who did not let ideology distract her from the truth. Ratification was her last book published in 2010 by Simon and Schuster. Today it's our review, let's turn to it, shall we?

Ratification mostly covers the period after the Constitution was written by the Constitutional convention but before it was ratified by the original thirteen united states. As such it covers a tense but somewhat forgotten part of American history (although it's receiving more attention these days) where the people of the United States made the decision of what kind of government they were going to have and whether they were going to have a country or not. Dr. Maier takes pains to cover how the convention was set up in the prologue focusing mainly on George Washington and his decision on whether or not to attend. It wasn't as clear cut a decision as some of my readers might think, the George Washington of 1780s was a tired man, having given his all in the struggle to win independence and really, really just wanted to focus on his farm and maybe some work on expanding the navigation of the Potomac River to encourage westward settlement (By which you mean ethnically cleansing the Native American population {No, I mean settlement, most of the natives were already dead or fled due to a combination of disease and prior warfare… Ironically half of them were fleeing other natives}). However when the governor of your state and all your old war buddies call you up and tell you if you don't drag your butt up to Philadelphia everything you fought for is going to come crashing down... Then you drag your butt up to Philadelphia (The Articles of Confederation were such a clusterfuck…). It is not an understatement to point out that the convention in no small part only happened because Washington let people declare he was attending and likely only succeeded because he was there. That said Dr. Maier doesn't linger on the convention itself, it's the aftermath that she's mainly concerned with and frankly it's a massive drama unfolding on a continental sized stage with implications that will continue to be felt long after everyone reading this is nothing more than dust in a half-forgotten grave (Remember the Electoral College? Yeah. I do too.).

Dr. Maier doesn't grant every state it's own chapter (the book is already pretty thick standing at 475 pages not counting the notes and appendices) but she does devote time and space to each state. She just chooses to cover them by stages. The first group is focused on Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Georgia, all five states ratified the Constitution fairly quickly. However, Pennsylvania shows us that often it's not whether or not you win but also how you won that's important. As the Federalists (the supporters of the Constitution grabbed the rhetorical high ground by naming themselves and their opponents but I'll get back to that) won by running utterly roughshod over their opponents and giving no considerations to their reservations and thoughts on the matter. There was also a local fault line that broke open during the debates, as two factions that had formed over whether or not to rewrite the Pennsylvania Constitution decided this another issue to fight over. The Pennsylvania Republicans who favored rewriting the state Constitution joined the federalist side (as a taste of how confusing this could get, the anti-federalist in New York would adopt the name of Federal Republicans as they tried to block the Constitution) while the state party that favored keeping the state constitution but opposed the federal Constitution were called Constitutionalist (Oh Dear God). The ramming through of ratification while screaming down the anti-federals led to an explosion of resistance across the US as it confirmed to many doubters that the Constitution was a plan to strip them of their rights and had to be opposed. Additionally labeling them anti-federals which was a name coined by the Federalists in a piece of masterful propaganda (as one lovely communication major once explained me, being anti is negative and most people view that poorly, but being pro something is positive. So it's always better to label yourself pro something than anti-something. You can see that in modern politics pretty clearly if you look) didn't help calm anyone down. Now the anti-federalists would have their revenge in Rhode Island (a fun fact is just how loathed this state was back then! They didn't pay anything to the Confederate Congress, rarely sent delegates to Congress but demanded they be considered super patriots. [And as we all know, not paying people who work for you and screaming like a man-child is super-patriotic.]) and North Carolina (where the anti-federals basically refused to debate for the majority of the convention and just voted no [I feel like this will be important in oh… the 1860s.]) but let's look at other examples.

In contrast, Dr. Maier shows us the Massachusetts and Virginia conventions where there was intense debate and horse trading. Massachusetts would pioneer a compromise where the state conventions would vote to ratify the Constitution in exchange for the delegates to the first Congress being instructed to pursue amendments to the Constitution. This went so well that the anti-federalist delegates, even the ones who didn't switch sides, declared that they were perfectly happy to live under the new government and would cause no trouble. This is something we should celebrate as an amazing feat of diplomacy and politics because it wasn't that long ago that some of the delegates were shooting at each other! (Because this is America, which is madness, akin to Sparta. Thankfully with flintlocks it really is hard to hit the broadside of a barn without massed volleys.) In 1780 Massachusetts was the scene of Shay's Rebellion as poor farmers from central and western Massachusetts took up arms against a government that refused to hear their complaints. Many federalists were those who had opposed the rebellion, while anti-federalists were often pro-Shay Rebellion or men who had been fighting under Captain Shay. Dr. Maier shows us how despite missteps the Federalists found a way to address complaints in order to achieve their objectives. This would be adopted across the country as a new tactic by federalist who were willing to openly admit that the Constitution wasn't perfect, that's why they made it amenable in the first place. While insisting that no state could add amendments as part of the ratification process. The idea of every state adding their own demands and amendments as part of their ratification was rather unworkable and the only way that would have ever been hammered out is by a second federal convention. Which the federalist and a good number of anti-federalists were desperate to avoid for much the same reason that the idea makes most modern political junkies and partisans break out in a cold sweat today. There are no rules to federal conventions, so anything and I mean anything could come out of one. If you're okay with that I ask you look across the political divide and think what the worst extremists on the other side would push for and imagine people like that running loose in a convention meant to redesign the government from the ground up (Yeah, how about I nope the fuck right out of that and run screaming the other way!).

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Dr. Maier does a pretty good job describing just how bruising these debates were: with men like James Madison, James Monroe, and Patrick Henry dueling it out as well as lesser-known men like George Mason, an anti-federalist who became a national voice against ratification. During this period Dr. Maier also shows us George Washington wisely staying on the sidelines, even if he used private letters to coordinate and encourage the federalists in their battles. I say wisely because these debates provoked long term consequences, breaking apart friendships and creating lifelong rivals and enemies. Madison, for example, was brought to near violent hatred of Patrick Henry (I'll note Jefferson loathed Patrick Henry as well). By staying out of the front lines, Washington - who already had a unique position as practically the only universally respected and admired man in America - could play peacemaker later and as President help keep everyone reconciled to the new government. I had to admit that Dr. Maier takes great pains to show Washington was thinking ahead and wanting a unified country that was happy with its government. Virginia would vote yes when it became clear that 9 states had already ratified the Constitution making it the government of the United States. The decision in Virginia and the promise of pushing for amendments also led to New York state deciding to ratifying as well. It was North Carolina and Rhode Island that held out, with Rhode island holding out the longest. Rhode Island only joined when the US launched a trade embargo and demanded that since Rhode Island was an independent state it owed the US it's share of the Revolutionary War Debt (The US had assumed all payments of the debts) which lead to the coast towns of Rhode Island to discuss leaving Rhode Island. Facing poverty and dismemberment the Rhode Islanders finally yielded (Good because they were dicks).

Dr. Maier also talks about how the Bill of Rights (while pointing out that no one called the first 10 amendments the Bill of Rights until pretty much the 20th century) was adopted with most of the credit going to James Madison who relentlessly cajoled the first Congress into putting some actual work into them. Interestingly enough they authored more than 10, including one amendment that was only ratified and added to the Constitution in 1992 (which I suppose is a message about never giving up). One amendment that anti-federalists desperately wanted but never made it in, an amendment forbidding Congress from directly taxing citizens, demanding they tax the states instead (HAHAHAHAHAHA!). A limitation that had left the Confederation constantly broke in the first place. Dr. Maier ends the book with a brief discussion of the amendments and the other acts of the first Congress.

Ratification is a massive tome as you would expect it to be considering the subject matter. Dr. Maier clearly put in a lot of research as the notes section in the back is staggering and there is a handy index on top of that. Just in case you didn't have one handy there is also a copy of the Constitution in the back of the book as well as an Appendix. I found the book well organized and incredibly detailed, but I do have to mention if you don't have a passing grasp on what was going on in early America you will be completely lost. You will likely need to rush over to Wikipedia more then once. Dr. Maier does try to make this accessible but this clearly isn't for beginning students of history. On the flip side if you have the Federalists and Anti-Federalists Papers on your bookshelf then you'll be right at home (Pretty sure Frigid does). That said, with works like Hamilton out, we do have an increasing amount of work that can bridge the gap for you! So you know, read Hamilton first, then read this! For those who are somewhat familiar with the early history of the United States, this book is invaluable, even if all you know is the basics. Ratification The People Debate the Constitution 1787 to 1788 by Dr. Pauline Maier gets an A. This may have been her last work on Earth, but it was a worthy one and I applaud it.

Next week, we have a double feature as I review two separate Captain America Graphic Novels. Join us for Captain America: Theater of War, and Captain America: Living Legend. Both of these were voted for by our Patrons so I decided to get them both this month. If you would also like to vote on what gets reviewed here, make suggestions for new books, or even see my editors raw, unfiltered comments join us at https://www.patreon.com/frigidreads where for a dollar a month you can vote on upcoming reviews.

Until then, keep reading!

red text is your editor Dr. Ben Allen.
black text is your reviewer Garvin Anders.

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:09 am 
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Captain America Theater of War and Captain America Living Legend

“We all have duties Emilia, sacrifices we have to make for the things we love... But I guess that's how we know we love them.” ~Captain Steve Rogers, Prisoners of Duty
Welcome to our first double feature, readers. So rather than come up with some elaborate story, I'm just gonna cop to the true origins here. When I posted the poll for what books should be reviewed in July on our patreon, I forgot to limit the votes per person. So both of these comics got votes, and because this is my fault, I decided, why not review both? (That isn’t the real reason. It’s because if he didn’t worship the God of Abraham, he’d sacrifice fascists on the altar of Steve Rogers. This is not a criticism. {It’s also ridiculous Captain Rogers would never accept human sacrifice, even Nazis}) Especially considering that Theater of War is more a collection of short stories than a graphic novel per se. Living Legend is a full graphic novel with a single story so let me confront that first.

Living Legend was written by both Andy Diggle and Adi Granov; the script work was done by Mr. Diggle, Mr. Granov illustrated the comic. It's interesting for me to note that neither of these men were born in the United States (It’s almost as if immigrants contribute to our society or something.). Mr. Diggle was born and raised in South London and currently lives in Lancaster with his wife and children. He started as an editor for 2000AD but branched off into other works and is mainly known for his work on books like Hellblazer, The Losers, and Swamp Thing. Adi Granov was born in 1977 in Sarajevo. In 1994, his mother took him and his sisters and fled to the United States to escape the civil war that was raging there at the time (For those of you too young to remember, during the post-Soviet breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbs throughout the republic tried to dominate over Croats and Boznians within the territory of the soon-to-be-former Yugoslavia. Independence was declared by said Bosnians and Croats into separate states - Bosnia and Croatia respectively - and a civil war kicked off. This civil war included the ethnic cleansing by Serbian troops of aforementioned Bosnians and Croats. By the way, never mention the fact that Serbs and Croats speak the same language in their presence.). He would study art and concept design in the US and find himself influenced by American and European poster artists and some manga artists as well. His first work in comics was for Dreamwave Productions (which is infamous for its bankruptcy saga but that's for another day) for which he wasn't entirely... paid (Read: his labor was outright stolen rather than alienated). Thankfully this didn't put him off working for comic book companies so when he received an email out of the blue from a Marvel editor to come on board, he was happy to do so. Not only would Mr. Granov end up on the team that wrote Iron Man: Extremis (which provided the base for Ironman 3), he also helped design the Iron Man and Iron Monger suits for the movie series. He even designed one of the suits for the Playstation 4 game Spider-Man (the Velocity suit). I suppose it's a good thing he was able to flee war and find asylum in the United States. I can certainly understand why he fled here, it's been almost 130 years since warfare last touched the continental United States. He met his wife Tamsin Isles on an online forum where they became best friends before heading into romance and marriage.

Living Legend was originally meant to be Astonishing Captain America 1, a new series that would launch in July of 2011 but was canceled before hitting the presses. However, Mr. Diggle and Mr. Granov were able to convince the powers that be to release the story as a 4 issue mini-series. I picked up a collected copy on ComiXology but a physical graphic novel collection was published in 2014. The story starts in World War II but mostly takes place in the modern-day and revolves around the encounter between Soviet true believer Sgt Volkov and Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. They were both sent on a mission to retrieve German Rocket Scientists in the last days of World War II. Now the use of armed forces and spies to kidnap or recruit Nazi scientists happened in real life, the American Operation Paperclip and the Soviet Operation Osoaviakhim both of which scooped up thousands of engineers, scientists, specialists, and their family members, mostly focusing on rocketry experts but also grabbing others along the way (Now there is a difference in the two programs. It would be fair to say that the Nazis picked up by the US defected, and the ones picked up by the USSR were prisoners. I will leave the audience to decide which of those two is better.). Both powers did so because bluntly they realized with the creation of the V2 rocket and later with the unveiling of the American atomic bomb that a nation that was unable to build an arsenal of weaponized rockets would be at the mercy of nations that could. Neither nation was all that inclined to depend on the mercy of others at the moment. While we never find out who got the scientist we do see that Volkov gets shot and is only saved by the intervention of Captain America. We also find out that Volkov would later become one of the men chosen for a Soviet mission to the moon in 1968. A mission that goes very, very wrong.

How wrong it goes is hidden until the 21st century when a western science station in Low Earth Orbit is pulled into Siberia when an experiment using Dark Energy goes wrong. As a side note, dark energy is an actual theorized thing in physics, suggested to be what's powering the expansion of the universe if I understand it correctly? (You do understand it correctly.). Well, the Russian Army surrounds the site and tells S.H.I.E.L.D to take a hike, which leads to S.H.I.E.L.D turning to Captain America to sneak into Russia, get past the Russian Army, find out what's going on and keep it from damaging life on Earth. Well, keep it from damaging life on Earth less than the average Kree invasion would. However, Cap is walking into a lot of hidden demons from the past, most of them someone else's but it turns out they don't have to be your demons to chew off your face. Which the help of a Russian Colonel willing to put his country ahead of his government, Dr. Lauren Fox - the sole survivor of the science station and creator of the experiment - and the protection of his mighty shield, Steve Rogers faces off against something that doesn't belong on this level of existence but wants to make itself at home... But what does Volkov have to do with all of this? Steve will have to find out quickly because as always the clock is ticking.

Living Legend was a fun read but it wasn't what I would consider groundbreaking or a classical Captain America story. However, it was well-done and I did enjoy reading it. The science-fiction elements were good but I feel like there was a missed opportunity to look at the American and Soviet use of German scientists after World War II and what they wrought both good and bad. Even the problems of modern Russia or the United States are kinda pushed to the side and the relationship between Volkov and Cap is rather distant, so it's not as memorable as it could be. So I'm giving Living Legend by Andy Diggle and Adi Granov a C+. It's a good example of a self-contained mini-series that you can read without knowing too much about Captain America, but not a great one.

Theater of War is a bit more complicated as it is a collection of one-shots. However, writer Paul Jenkins is the most featured writer in the book, so I'll focus mainly on him. Paul Jenkins was born in the Western United Kingdom in a single-parent home, he immigrated to the United States in 1987. He's been an editor and writer on a wide variety of books ranging from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (in fact he started in Mirage Studios) to Wolverine Origins, Spectacular Spider-Man, and a variety of other titles. He's also known for being a supporter of creator rights in part due to his start in Mirage and working at Tundra studios. He writes three of the six stories in this book and the ending poem ‘Ghost of my Country’ and so sets the tone of the work. Theater of War becomes less about Captain America the superhero and more about Captain America the soldier in and out of war under his influence and that pulls the book together.

I'll explain through examples. The first story “America the Beautiful” is about Captain America retrieving and bringing back the body of an American soldier who died in a German bunker during D-Day. The soldier in question is someone Steve Rogers knew, a man named Bobby Shaw who was honestly a horrible soldier and a bit of a coward. To be honest, reading the story, I can't help but think that in the modern military such a man would have washed out (Yes, but our current army is a volunteer army. Back in the 40s, it was largely a conscript army. The standards were different, and training wasn’t anywhere near as good. They didn’t actually have a good way to… teach kids how to deal with the fear and bluntly, the resistance to killing.) and it's interesting to me that Steve sees himself as having a lot in common with Bobby. Say what you will about Steve Rogers, he was never a coward. However, even the most scared man can rise above himself and become a hero and that's what Bobby Shaw did, giving his life to save his platoon mates and get them off that damn beach. Captain America can only fulfill a promise decades later to bring him home and he does. The next Paul Jenkins story “Brothers in Arms” takes place entirely in World War II, where Steve leads a detachment of rangers behind enemy lines to secure a vital objective ahead of the main advance. When the Rangers find themselves surrounded by SS troopers and themselves with a single Wehrmacht soldier as a POW (Wait, what? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but don’t Rangers behind enemy lines not typically take prisoners for this very reason? Note: this is not a criticism. Military necessity given mission parameters.{Their orders were to hold, so Cap being in command decided to take a prisoner} Ah okay. That’s a bit more reasonable.). Several rangers would rather just shoot the damn Nazi and be done with it. Cap of course insist that the laws of war be followed, even in the face of mockery from the SS. However the German soldier volunteers to be a medic and actually does manage to save the lives of several Rangers, only to be killed by the SS when Captain America tries to return him to his own side. To Soldier On, the third and last full story by Paul Jenkins is set in Iraq, first during the invasion and then during the early occupation. Given my own experience, which I won't bog the review with, this story stayed with me. Captain America isn't the main character here, that’s Sgt Anderson, an Army Sgt who witnesses Cap's abilities during the invasion and then is tasked to escort Cap as he attempts to win hearts and minds during the occupation. Mr. Jenkins does a fairly decent job of capturing the frustration of the early occupation before the emergence of new doctrine created by men like Army General Petraeus and Marine General Mattis as troops operated with no real sense of overall planning or mission and just tried to keep some sense of order and the explosions down to a minimum. Unfortunately when caught by Cap sitting on his hands while Iraqi Police beat a failed suicide bomber (to be fair the suicide bomber was trying to blow up the Iraqi Police, so they're gonna be a bit excited [Doesn’t excuse him sitting on his hands while they commit a war crime. I know you know, but I want to make it clear to our dear readers.{While I don’t disagree, the snob in me feels I should point out it’s not a war crime when native police units do it… Its police brutality} Country was occupied at the time, and if it wasn’t a war to have war crimes in, we shouldn’t have been holding people as enemy combatants without meaningful trials. One cannot have the cake and eat it.]), Sgt Anderson and his boys are sent out on a patrol and get caught in an ambush where Sgt Anderson loses his legs and one of his hands. However, thanks to advances in prosthetics (I kinda find it a grim joke that one of the few positive effects of the Iraq War was a rapid advancement in the science and art of prosthetic creation [Oh this is basically the history of trauma medicine and reconstructive surgery in a nutshell. War has always been the catalyst for medical innovation in these fields.]) mean that Sgt Anderson can stand on his own two legs. Captain America is more of a recurring character in this story interjecting an element of the fantastic into what would otherwise be a story that could have taken place any time between 2005 and 2010. These stories set a common theme of how war - even when you win and have to fight for good reason - is a tragic event, where good people die, lives are ruined and the worst parts of us are often given license to run wild. The only thing keeping it in check is the willingness of good people to make sacrifices for what they believe in and to refuse to condone or sanction or aid evil behavior and to give up much to stop it. War might be a terrible thing, but sometimes, it's not the worse thing.

Of the three remaining stories, Prisoners of Duty by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel fits best into the themes and overall tone set by Mr. Jenkins. Set in World War II, Steve Rogers is a POW and has to figure out to break out a company of his fellow Americans from an honest to God castle after the failure of Market Garden while being watched by a Nazi Colonel. There he meets Emilia, a German woman who had come to America but returned to care for her family and was impressed into service as a nurse. Prisoners of Duty fits in well with Mr. Jenkins stories because it's a story about how every victory in war is also a tragedy and every side will have good people working for it, even the damn Nazis (Especially given conscription and penal battalions. There were people who were forced to fight for the Reich who definitely didn’t want to fight for the Reich. They pressed POWs from other countries into penal battalions. There was one poor schmuck who was captured and pressed into the armed forces of three different armies and wound up as a Korean fighting in a German penal battalion in France. {That poor bastard, it must have been a shock when the US Army didn’t impress him into service} Honestly, I’m just shocked he survived.). Operation Zero-Point by Charles and Daniel Knauf is more action-packed, as Captain America is sent behind enemy lines to extract a scientist who has warned the allies that a powerful new weapon system is on the verge of becoming functional. Once there, Cap will have his hands full trying to stop the weapon and trying to keep everyone else alive. It does manage to not stand out too much but it does wander a bit away from the tone that Mr. Jenkins sets but does give us a new variation on the themes.

The last story sticks out like a sore thumb, entitled America First by Howard Chaykin. It doesn't feature Steve Rogers, but instead Commie Smasher Cap (Fuck that guy). I'll explain. In the original run, before Marvel bought the character, Captain America continued into the 1950s, retooled as operating on American soil against communist infiltrators and subversives (Oh Good God. Captain HUAC!). It didn't go over well, Marvel at first decided to quietly deep-six that part and bring back Captain America from 1945 by having the Avengers find him in the ice (in the original comic runs, Captain America wasn't a founding member of the Avengers). That worked a lot better and for decades everyone was content to simply pretend that the post-WWII run didn't happen. However, later it was decided to retcon it that there had been a Captain America active in the 1950s, but it was a guy who was surgically altered to look like Steve Rogers and was obsessed with finding Communists. In this version, a character who is clearly playing the part of Senator McCarthy is a deep-cover Soviet agent who has worked his way deep into America government and uses the preaching of paranoia to divide Americans against one another and amass power for himself, while inserting more Soviet agents (Now that is some maskirovka I can see the USSR considering, and then passing on because it’s too crazy. They were really good at inserting deep cover agents - to the point of having hand-drawn google street view of several cities - but not that good, and not every communist in the country was a soviet agent or even a fan of the USSR. Hell, I’m certainly not, weeping in communist over their not landing anyone on the moon aside. I will give credit where credit is due. The USSR beat us at every step of the space race except the moon {No, they didn’t, we had the first communication and weather satellite, the first pilot controlled space flight, first satellite recovered intact from orbit, first picture of Earth from orbit, we also were continually setting records having the first 8 and 13 day space missions, all before landing on the moon [I’ll grant that.]}, - including our two nearest planets - and they did it on a budget of practically nothing. Now we use their rockets to get to the ISS and all astronauts are russian-bilingual, because we forgot how to build the Saturn V <Weeps in American> {Stop your weeping, the BFR says we don’t need Saturn anymore.} Yeah, anymore). The writers clearly want us to side against the historic red scare but... very brutally undermine themselves by having the McCarthy proxy be right. There are deep-cover Soviet agents at every level of American society and he knows that because he's one of them! In such a situation we would have no choice but to assume he couldn't be the only one and adopt stricter security to weed them out or risk having the leaders of the Soviet Union know our plans and secrets before our own leaders do! Now I'm not saying the real red scare was right, in real history, Senator McCarthy was fear-mongering mostly to raise his political profile and was in the end resisted and thrown down. An example we should follow whenever fear-mongering politicians or demagogues rear their heads. You should always beware someone who tells you everything is on fire and he alone can fix it. Especially if he blames some other group or them, but I'll stop preaching here (That way lies fascism, and whether you are a leftist like me or a centrist, fascism must be opposed!).

I guess it's supposed to be a home front story but honestly, it's so out of place with the other stories that it just brings the whole collection down. So I'm giving Theater of War a B-, although I think it jumps nearly a letter grade if you dump the America First story, easily a B+.

Well, next week we are heading into the realms of nonfiction again, with what would be called a primary source (that is something written first hand by a first-hand observer) join me for A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States, Slavery in the Years Before the American Civil War. Also if you enjoyed this review consider joining us at https://www.patreon.com/frigidreads where for a 1$ you can vote on what books get reviewed next month.

Red text is your editor ComradeTortoise
Black text is your reviewer Frigidmagi

_________________
"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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