REVIEW: Space Pirate Captain Harlock #1 (2021)

A comic by Leiji Matsumoto and Jerome Alquié

Ablaze Comics has come out of nowhere as one of my new favorites when it comes to comic book companies that I follow. Having read The Cimmerian and The Breaker, and thoroughly loving them both, I was pumped to see one of my favorite franchises, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, under their wing. Written in collaboration between Belgian artist Jerome Alquié and the legendary Leiji Matsumoto himself, with art by Alquié, every page is a trip back in time to the Captain Harlock that everyone grew to love. Melding the sensibilities of both western comics and manga, this is an interesting hybrid project that excels in it’s goal – bringing this beloved franchise to a completely new audience.

Leiji Matsumoto’s original Space Pirate Captain Harlock series ran from 1977-1979 and became a worldwide hit. This was especially true in French speaking countries where “Capitaine Albator” became a immediate classic. Ablaze Comics is a French language comics publisher that thankfully has an English Publishing arm, so they were perfect to bring a project like this into the world.

From the legendary Leiji Matsumoto, along with Jerome Alquie, comes an epic new story! Set within the timeline of the original series, this brand-new Captain Harlock adventure marks the beginning of a new story arc. Planet Earth is threatened by an upcoming invasion by the Sylvidres and despite being banished as a pirate, Captain Harlock won’t give up trying to save the world. This time, the source of danger comes directly from Earth, not outer space. A team of scientists discovers a Sylvidres mausoleum where they find information about terrifying genetic manipulations and a destructive power capable of either providing the Sylvidres with immortality or putting an end to their civilization. The unprecedented cold spell hitting Earth might only be a taste of what this new enemy has in store…Will Captain Harlock and his crew manage to solve this mystery and save the Earth from yet another menace?

Book description

The first thing that you will notice is that Jerome Alquié has mastered the art style and tone of the original manga and TV series, albeit with his own flourish. For many years, there has been an effort by cynical media executives to change what Harlock is, whether it be art style, tone, or characterization. The 2013 film commits a lot of these sins, attempting to alter the story to a much darker affair. Ablaze’s Harlock, however, runs head-first into the source material, existing as a sequel of sorts to the original story. We are greeted with a prologue that brings the reader up to speed with the characters and some big events that took place prior to the events of this book. Harlock is seen brooding over the death of his best friend Tochiro, then BOOM new story-line and the introduction of what I assume is the new villain.

With this being issue #1 of an ongoing series, I can’t speak as if this is a completed story or anything, but what we get here is action-packed, vibrant, and gets you really ready for more. Here’s hoping we get a nice long run out of this, because I think we all need a bit more Harlock in our lives. If you are an old-school anime fan of this franchise, or a fan of science fiction, or space operas in general – do yourself a favor and pick this up. Stay tuned for fore reviews of this series as it progresses. I left this one fairly spoiler free, aside from the book synopsis, and will go more into detail in future reviews.

2021: History Boy Summer (Part 1) Fort Osage State Historic Site

I don’t normally put a lot of emphasis on New Year’s Resolutions, as most are unattainable and end up going by the wayside like 30 days after you start doing them. Honestly, going into 2021 my goal is hopefully “go outside a bit” which stands in stark contrast to last year when I, like many, lived as a cavemen holed up in my Covid-19 safety shelter watching the exploits of a mulleted redneck that dabbles in tigers and attempted murder. My two goals (I like that better) that have stuck for this year have been: “I have a bunch of unread books, I need to read more this year” and “I haven’t been to any local historical sites in a LONG time, maybe I should go to them.” Both are easy to do and both are relatively inexpensive. The latter gets me outside a bit – usually I go to conventions and live music shows throughout the year, without those I need something to clear the cobwebs. So, History Boy Summer begins!

FORT OSAGE: Sibley, MO

I laid out a plan that started in Fort Osage, a small rebuilt fortress built near the Missouri River in what is now Sibley, MO. When I was a child, one of my fondest memories was going there with my Mother and Grandparents. I clearly recall an episode wherein my grandfather was about to head downstairs into the basement of some building (in hindsight this must have been the storehouse under the trading post) he came back upstairs with a worried look on his face, and basically said “hey, we’re not going in there”, as I guess there was a black Cornsnake dangling from the ceiling. It’s one of those memories that really sticks with me for whatever reason. My grandfather died when I was very young, so I don’t recall a lot of his true personality, but one thing I can recall was his Indiana Jones level hatred of snakes. I also recall briefly thinking the living history staff were ghosts, because why else would old-timey soldiers be walking around. My Mother had to ease my worries by saying “those guys are just in costumes!” Four year old me was very relieved.

So, here I am 34 years out wondering why I haven’t returned. I lived in Warrensburg, MO for a long time, and did not have a car until my mid to late twenties. Due to this, arranging a trip to go to a living history museum hours away was going to be hard. I do have some friends into history as well, but not as much as myself. in 2014 I moved to Independence, MO – literally a few miles from Fort Osage and I still never went because time just never seemed to line up and I had it in my head that I absolutely had to go with somebody to things like this. I’ve changed a lot in the last 5 years, for good and bad reasons, but one of my new mantras is: if I want to do something I will do it, no matter if I’m alone or not. Life is too short for me to worry about unwanted shared experiences. If it’s cool, maybe I can take them there later. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, it’s time to live life. So, the plan was laid – I was off to Fort Osage.

Background:

Fort Osage was an early 19th-century trading post run by the United States Government. At that time, it sat on the literal edge of the united states overlooking native lands and untamed wilderness gained through the Louisiana Purchase. The Treaty of Fort Clark, signed with members of the Osage Nation in 1808, called for the United States to establish Fort Osage as a trading post and to protect the Osage from tribal enemies as well as provide money to said Natives. Of course, our very own Congress bumbled a lot of this treaty up as they historically always do, and the general mistreatment of the Indians was in full effect.
While the fort never succumbed to any fighting during the War of 1812, it was relatively close to some battles with British-led Natives on similar US forts, an example being Fort Madison in present day Iowa. had the tide of that battle gone differently, who knows. According to Wikipedia, Archaeologists rediscovered the foundations of Fort Osage in the 1940s. The station was reconstructed to portray Fort Osage as it was in 1812 by using the preserved surveys created by William Clark and others. This made restoration to exact specifications possible.

Reading:

During this project, I have decided to give myself homework of sorts. I plan to read something, a book preferably, on the subject at hand for each excursion. The reason for this being, I want to know what’s going on, just in case they are either closed, the guided tours don’t happen, or its slanted in one direction or another for political reasons. I was really worried about the latter in regards to my next topic (Battle of Lexington), but I will get to that next time.

To prepare for Fort Osage, I actually tracked down an old book from around the time I was born, seemingly one of the only ones on the actual Fort Itself called Fort Osage–opening of the American West by Rhoda Wooldridge. I know there are diaries published from George C. Sibley out there, but I’m sure these will be even harder to get, or be chained to a library. Its lack of Footnotes aside, the information seems to be a narrative of the aforementioned diaries of the various people involved, so it’s got to be pretty accurate, and its a quick read. If you’d like to read my full review of this book, please click HERE.

It’s a shame this book isn’t available in digital format nor left in print at all since 1983, as it seems to be pretty good. The local publisher seems to only print books related to Alcoholics Anonymous and other rehabilitation plans, and whilst being a noble cause, its sad to see local history go by the wayside.

The Trip:

For this trip, the Covid-19 global pandemic was still in full effect and vaccinations were just starting to get rolling on a large scale. As a result, a lot of the living history stuff that is normally going on here was absent, and a mask mandate was in place. That said, everything was very enjoyable nonetheless. Upon arrival at the grounds, one first goes into a large, modern, visitor’s center. As of this writing, it costs eight dollars to enter the fort itself, and four for children. Be sure to check their website for current prices and other promotions. There is the obligatory informational video available to park patrons that tells the history of the time period and the park itself.

After hitting the giftshop, yeah I did it first for some reason, I walked through their large museum collection within the visitors center. These exhibits consisted of artifacts of the time such as items sold at the trading post, military uniforms, native artifacts, a full sized canoe, and even cannons. This museum is decently sized and takes around ten to thirty minutes to get through depending on the speed that one can read, and I’d assume walk. I had a little one with me, and he especially enjoyed seeing the cannons, a theme that would carry-on into the heart of the Fort itself. My personal favorite was probably the uniforms as I will admit I am not the most well-versed on War of 1812 history, as I’m sure are most other Americans likewise. It’s a shame that I hope to rectify soon.

Now that the introduction is out of the way, it was time to move through a doorway and head up to the grounds of the actual fort itself. While the main part of the fort is missing a bit of the original structure, including the entire outer wall, the part that we do have in very impressive. The major locations include guard towers (think castle turrets), Commander’s quarters, barracks, the trading post, an area where people got whipped as punishment, and a huge flag pole. While the majority of the buildings are repetitive (a barrack is a barrack etc.), exploring some of the larger buildings such as the trading post was awesome. stocked with facsimile items for sale, and manned by a living history interpreter, this was probably my favorite part of the trip. Hearing some anecdotes about the fort and some information of the river was cool, and he took time to point out some interesting things I should do (like a path to the river through the woods) that I probably would not have done otherwise.

I was worried that bringing a five year old was a bad call at first, but he really enjoyed exploring the fort. running up stairs to see if there were cannons and looking out the windows to see the river was exiting for him. I’d like to go back the next time a big event is going on, as I think seeing more volunteers and getting the idea of how old this place was would benefit him. He’s still a bit young to understand exactly what was happening, but he had fun.

Conclusion:

All-in-all this was a great quick weekend trip if you live in or around the Kansas City area. It’s inexpensive, fun, and educational. Sitting a few months out from my trip, I kind of wish I would have waited a bit longer now that mask mandates are going away, but I had set aside this time in April, and the last thing I needed was yet another excuse as to why I needed to not go. If I go back for any sort of event, I will be sure to do some kind of an update.

Stay tuned next time, for part 2 of History Boy Summer, where I go to the site of one of the more interesting Civil War battles, local or not. For another museum exhibit I really enjoyed, check out my review of Stonehenge: Spirit and Science of Place from a few years ago. Also, keep up with this series by looking at the tag for History Boy Summer. And yes, the title is making fun of that cringe Chet Hanks song that I will undoubtedly forget about the existence of a few years down the road and wonder why I went with this as the header.

REVIEW: Fort Osage–opening of the American West (1983)

A book by Rhoda Wooldridge

To prepare for a trip to historic Fort Osage in Sibley, Missouri, I actually tracked down an old book from around the time I was born, seemingly one of the only ones on the actual Fort Itself called Fort Osage–opening of the American West. I did this because I wasn’t sure if the tour guides would be present at all during the tail-end of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic, and wanted to ensure that I would enjoy my trip. I’m sure there are other books out there, such as diaries published from George C. Sibley (The fort’s commander), but tracking these down are equally crazy and likely written in a manner that is not as palatable as this paperback.

It’s a quick read at 140 pages, and doesn’t spend all that much time going into gross details about the people involved. You can tell that the contents were constructed from diaries and logs related to the operations of the Fort itself, as the narrative seems to be mostly about Mr. Sibley and his business transactions.

When Lewis and Clark, on their expedition of 1804 marked the promontory at the bend of the Missouri River near the present-day town of Sibley in Jackson county for the first site west of the Mississippi, our national hold on the West was feeble. The boundaries of the Louisiana purchase were undefined. England, with its large fur trading companies, was encroaching from the north; Spain was moving in on the southwest; and the Pacific coast was up for grabs to any country who would take it. Even Congress and men in Washington considered it a matter of not so quiet desperation.

The war of 1812 and the subsequent treaty of Ghent that followed the building of Fort Osage settles the danger of English encroachment on the old Northwest Territory. A treaty with Spain in 1819 defined the boundaries of the Southwest. These boundaries, which the opening of the Santa Fe trade in 1821 more or less obscured, became recognized boundaries. American trappers and traders looked forward to the West – to the Pacific in the north, the west, and the south. All this was opened with the building of Fort Osage in 1808 and there it stood for 16 years as a citadel between the Mississippi and the Rocky mountains.

Back of the book that I painstakingly transcribed since this book is so rare lol

There are some VERY interesting tidbits inside including descriptions of customs performed by the handful of Indian tribes mentioned. For example, at one point Mr. Sibley was confused as to why Kansas Indians had painted their faces black and were wailing in unison with tears streaming down their faces. He had assumed it was some kind of funeral rite, but was alarmed when his Osage advisor Sans Oreilles (lit “No Ears” in French) told him that they do this as a dark ritual as penance for something bad they are about to do. In this case, that was try to rob the trading post by cover of nightfall, a situation that got their tribe banned for a time.

Another interesting aside, was a story of the discovery of an Indian burial mound wherein the grave of an esteemed British officer had been buried by a tribe that Great Britain had ties with. He was mummified sitting upright in a chair in full-uniform and buried with grave goods befitting royalty. This puzzled everyone, and they wondered who this man was that he got such a lavish burial. How I wish they actually kept this as a verifiable record, as it sounds very cool.

The book is full of these little chapters, you can tell the author went through the original documents looking for interesting items, as the pages are peppered with them. Rather than being a dull slog through the everyday bookkeeping of a trading post (as I’m sure she read), we get the “greatest hits”.

It’s a shame this book isn’t available in digital format nor left in print at all since 1983, as it seems to be pretty good. The local publisher seems to only print books related to Alcoholics Anonymous and other rehabilitation plans, and whilst being a noble cause, its sad to see local history go by the wayside. Thankfully, this book doesn’t appear to be impossible to find. This copy was around ten dollars on Ebay, and I’ve seen brand-new and still shrink-wrapped copies up for grabs for around 20 dollars.

If you have an interest in frontier history or The War of 1812, this might be something to track down, but I’m sure people that live locally or around this area would likely enjoy it a bit more. While a bit outdated in vernacular and lacking any sort of footnotes, the book is far from a scholarly text in any way, but its enjoyable and helped me learn a lot more about the area I live, and some of the history of a time that most American schooling seems to entirely bypass.

This review is part of my 2021 series History Boy Summer, which you can read more of following this LINK.

MOOC REVIEW: A Voice of Their Own. Women’s Spirituality in the Middle Ages (Coursera)

While I haven’t posted too much about it on Arcadia Pod, I do occasionally take free MOOC classes, I’ve done a few reviews on my other site Great Odin’s Raven! in the past. To quote that page “For those not “in the know” MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. Their value really comes from their ability to deliver high quality higher learning classes for free to places that have no access to such a service. When EDX started, for instance, I was taking classes constantly – ones about epidemics, and space science – just all sorts of random topics.” In the past most of the major MOOC providers were entirely free and came with certificates of completion, now some of them have paywalls to keep everything running. I enjoy Coursera a lot because it still can be enjoyed for free without any features being removed, you basically pay for the credentials now.

A Voice of Their Own. Women’s Spirituality in the Middle Ages is a “sequel” of sorts to another class offered by the University of Barcelona called Magic in the Middle Ages. That class was very well done, and had a lot of information I was unaware of. the only stumbling block for some is that the class is delivered by a group of instructors speaking in thick accents, as Spanish is their native tongue. Some are crystal clear, but others required me to use subtitles on certain things. That said, this is definitely not a deal breaker in any way.

This class is more Christian leaning, as it deals with early Christian mysticism, but it’s interesting because it talks mostly about how women were persecuted and even executed as heretics because of how the church ran things during the times of the Inquisitors. Having a background in Gnosticism, seeing topics covered such as The Cathars, was interesting to me. I know many that read my stuff are Pagan, so if you look at this from the perspective of “look how bad the church was” its an interesting class to take.

Have you ever heard about medieval mysticism or medieval heresies? Have you ever wondered about the particular role women played in medieval spirituality? Do Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Marguerite Porete, the Cathar ladies or Isabel de Villena ring a bell? Have you ever felt like you wanted to know more about them? If your answer to any of these questions was yes, then this MOOC, A voice of their own. Women’s spirituality in the Middle ages is what you were looking for.

A Voice of their own is much more than a course. It is an invitation to follow the paths traced by the spiritual experiences of medieval women. It is a challenge that, should you let it, will take you to places where you will see and hear things that will astonish you. Here you will find medieval women playing a major role in the spiritual transformations of the Middle Ages, founding monastic movements and orders, writing about their experiences, traveling the roads of Europe to spread their ideas, creating spiritual landscapes, as well as both material an intangible architectures. In this MOOC, these women will speak to you from the past, and you’ll see that their voices still hold great validity in the present.

I did have one issue with this course, and that is the assignments. As far as I could tell, two of the quizzes are incorrect, making it basically impossible to score 100%. The oversight is that much more annoying with a limit of 3 retakes per 8 hour period. I eventually had to keep taking the tests and guessing on what they said the correct answer was through trial and error. I eventually did it, but the experience was very frustrating, and the school seems to be fairly hands off on the forums for the class. This is the downside to the classes structured more as a “learn at your own pace” model, as many of these professors obviously can’t sit around and monitor the forums for years down the line. The whole thing becomes somewhat of an archived experience over time.

All-in-all this wasn’t my favorite MOOC I’ve ever taken. While the information was great, having the inability to have a blatant issue resolved was frustrating. Perhaps Coursera needs a “report this” feature that students can utilize. I would recommend taking the first class before this one, and if you enjoyed it, like me, the second is a no-brainer despite the issues. just be prepared for chapter 3, and be sure to use the forums the best you can. If you succeed, $50 will grant you a verified certificate for ultimate bragging rights. If there are any MOOCs out there anyone would recommend, drop me a line.

REVIEW: Famous Last Words – Confessions, Humour and Bravery of the Departing (2021)

A book by Chris Wood

Famous Last Words – Confessions, Humour and Bravery of the Departing was a bit different than what I expected it to be. I was expecting a true crime book looking at what people said as they stared down the gallows – perhaps entirely made of quotes or something. There is a bit of that here, but this book is a LOT more as it covers a large swath of noteworthy people and what they said before their (usually) untimely demise. The book looks at executed murderers, celebrities, esteemed royalty, and even would-be terrorists, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chris wood takes great care to explain every detail of what leads up to the infamous final breaths, and adds context to what they are saying. In this regard, this is a very interesting history book with a number of surprises.

“Nothing focuses the mind more starkly than impending death. Its inevitable spectre greets us all; from princes to paupers and nobility to the needy. Prepare to mount the scaffold and share in the final utterings of the condemned; join the stricken in their death beds and witness unburdened tongues wag their closing, and often remarkable confessions as deeply entrenched secrets are finally unshackled in the wake of imminent death.”

I think the most interesting one in here, for me at least, was that of Sir Henry Irving, a famous Victorian actor that literally delivered his last words in a play he was acting in wherein the character he was playing was killed. Playing the lead in Becket, he uttered “Into thy hand, O Lord, into thy hands!” as the curtain fell on both the play, and sadly his own life. Irving was taken back to his hotel after folks realized his health was failing, and he died soon after. Imagine being in the audience for something like that, and realizing that was his final minutes on Earth – the sheer morbidity of it all would be crazy.

This is an enjoyable book, and an easy “read a chapter before bed” sort of thing. Pend and Sword did a Similarly structured book a while back called First World War Trials and Executions that I also enjoyed a lot for the exact same reason. It’s full of interesting facts and had some things, being outside of the UK, that I was unaware of. Definitely recommended.

If you are interested in more information on this book, please click HERE

If you’d like to buy it, please look at Kindle or physical editions

REVIEW: The Flutist of Arnhem – A Story of Operation Market Garden (2021)

A graphic novel by Antonio Gil

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to read something that honored the many troops that delivered the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our way of life was not trampled over all those years ago. It wasn’t too long ago, that I had the opportunity to read both The Tankies and Teddy by Dead Reckoning. I was VERY pleased to see a comics imprint that does historical comics, seeing that I love comics and am very much into all things historical – it was a publisher that was right up my alley. When given the chance to read The Flutist of Arnhem, I jumped at it.

For me, comics like this are an amazing educational tool – I don’t have trouble reading, but sometimes I don’t want to dive headfirst into a dry history book. having these stories adapted and contextualized by some of the hottest comic writers and artists is nothing short of amazing. I can imagine those that aren’t strong readers can benefit a lot by stuff like this, as well as students. That said, for anyone reading my reviews as of late can attest to, I am somewhat bored of superhero comics, so other genres are things I am definitely digging right now.

Before reading this, I looked up some articles on the actual Operation Market Garden itself, I had heard of it prior to reading this, but was fuzzy on details. While classified as a failed operation in history books, since it didn’t create the desired invasion point through northern Germany, it did succeed in liberating a number of Dutch villages occupied by the Nazi forces. The push also stopped a number of V2 rocket launch pads, which likely saved countless lives. While this book is a fictionized account of this operation, you can tell a great deal of research went into making this as close to the real deal as possible.

“In October 1943, all the Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents in Holland are captured by the Germans . . . except one. John Hewson, a.k.a. “Boekman,” is the most dangerous agent to the German occupiers, with vital information about the German army, Boekman escapes the clutches of the S.S. and stays hidden until the start of the largest airborne operation in World War II: Operation Market Garden. When the SOE learn that Boekman is still alive, and that his estranged son, Harry, is on the ground fighting in Market Garden, Harry is tasked with organizing a small commando unit to rescue Boekman and try to escape through the German siege. The Battle of Arnhem unfolds day by day as father and son search for each other amidst the chaos of war and the dogged pursuits of a cruel Gestapo agent.”

First and foremost, Boekman is an awesome character. You can tell he’s a grizzled master spy that has seen and done all sorts of crazy things against the Nazis in order to become one of their top targets. One scene in particular, towards the beginning of the book shows him sneak attacking a German radio station – he takes guys down with a combat knife, then hides in a Nazi uniform to eventually contact his superiors. He is aided by a mysterious man named Frajle that seems to be everywhere at all times. scenes with them remind me of all sorts of spy movies you’ll see in theaters. Boekman is a bit courageous for his own good and gets wounded at one point, making a rescue mission necessary.

We find out his own son, Harry, who has no idea what or who he is trying to extract at first, ends up being one of the very men trying to get him out of the Netherlands and his secret documents into Allied hands. In a way, this ends up being a reverse finding Nemo of sorts where both Father and Son come to terms with their sadness and demons of the past to forge forward in the name of King and Country. Harry is aided by a great cast of squadmates with my personal favorite being Corporal Kolecki, a polish sabotage expert that goes deep undercover in an SS Uniform (since he speaks German) to mess with the German troops from the inside. The way he goes about his mission with a smirk and an almost suicidal abandon is both humorous and nerve-racking.

One of the many cool things about this book is that there are these little interludes within the story breaks that show background information, such as battle maps, information dumps for contest and even historical references. It reminds me a bit of how popular video games like Call of Duty (The historical ones) and Medal of Honor used to give background info in-between missions. This is a very valuable and interesting addition to the book, as a person unfamiliar with the overall history involved wouldn’t have to do additional research to understand what is happening, nor is this info piped into the characters mouths in an unnatural way like some other comics.

Perhaps my only quibble with this book is that some pages are VERY text heavy, this isn’t a bad thing, but results a bit in dialogue overload at certain points. Truthfully, I’m not sure how they author could have done this any better, so its a minor gripe. Otherwise, the art and lettering are all top notch, Gil lays everything out in a style that I haven’t seen a lot in modern comics, as a result this somewhat is structured like a classic comic. In a way its a cool idea whether the author intended it or not.

I normally end up reviewing eBooks, so it was quite the change to get a physical copy in my hands. As such, I’d like to get that in here. Without getting a tape measure out, I surmise that this is A4 size, full color and filled with thick, glossy pages. You can tell that care was made to produce a book that will stand the test of time.

Dead Reckoning hits it out of the park yet again with The Flutist of Arnhem – A Story of Operation Market Garden. I loved the story between the Hewson family, and the immense amount of information that Gil took care to place within the book. After going into this knowing only the vaguest amount of information on this operation, I feel like I learned a lot. I’d like to read more by this author, here’s hoping they publish more by him or I can figure out what publications he has worked in before. I see listings by a Spanish actor doing some internet searches, but I highly doubt that’s the same person!

Note: I received a paperback copy of this book from Dead Reckoning /Naval Institute Press in order to provide an honest review. That said, the copy I received may have not been a final copy. Thank you to all those involved.

If you would like to purchase your own copy of the book, please check HERE or HERE for Kindle