Tag Archives: book reviews


friday-the-thirteenth-novelFRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH (1907) – Written by Thomas William Lawson, a writer and stock manipulator who made a fortune from shady stock deals … in between advocating for cleaning up Wall Street to shut down those fleece jobs. The reforms Lawson campaigned for were taken up decades later when Franklin Roosevelt appointed future Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas to head the Securities Exchange Commission.

Coincidentally enough the overall feel of Friday the Thirteenth put me in mind of FDR’s cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. The novel did that with its New York setting, with the way the story takes place late in T.R.’s presidency and most especially with the way it dealt with ethics in the marketplace.  

lawson-cartoon-betterJim Randolph, one of the novel’s main characters, is in the T.R. mold: he may be a bloated rich pig but at least he’s a bloated rich pig with a sense of noblesse oblige. Jim shares Teddy Roosevelt’s disdain for the Trusts and for con men who use the stock market to rip off their clients.

It’s not as if Jim Randolph is as fiery as Teddy Forstmann was in his opposition to Leveraged Buy Outs during the 1980s, but like Forstmann he has a sense of what makes for a healthy economy and frowns upon the fly-by-night operators who thrive on irresponsible “frenzied finance” as Randolph calls it.   Continue reading


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End of the worldWITHIN AN ACE OF THE END OF THE WORLD (1900) – Written by Robert Barr. No doubt about it, Barr was obsessed with the notion of humanity possibly bringing on its own demise through ill-considered scientific tampering. Recently Balladeer’s Blog reviewed another of his stories, The Doom of London, which mined the same creative territory.

This time around the tale is set in the “present” and the near future of 1903. In 1900 a scientist named Bonsel treats a crowd of VIPs to a lavish banquet, after which he announces that all of the food consumed was created artificially. This was done through his new process of drawing nitrogen from the atmosphere and combining it with other chemicals.

Thus the Great Food Corporation is launched, with many of the banquet’s attendees being its initial investors. The company thrives until 1903, when the Guildhall Banquet degenerates into a chaotic bacchanal and partial riot. Soon this “Guildhall Syndrome” spreads, with the most beastly aspects of human nature on display everywhere it manifests.  

John Rule, a British gentleman put off by the poor taste of it all, probes deeper and determines that the scandalous orgies and accompanying violence have been caused by an atmospheric imbalance. That imbalance was caused by the Great Food Corporation’s siphoning off of too much nitrogen from Earth’s atmosphere. Continue reading

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Black PantherRecently Balladeer’s Blog completed its examination of Don McGregor’s 1973-1975 Black Panther story Panther’s Rage. I’m no comic book expert but in my opinion Panther’s Rage surpasses much of the work done by the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore.

As always, since I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative I was surprised by some of the intense political reactions to my reviewing this Black Panther story. Many people who call themselves conservatives seem to think this Marvel Comics character has some connection to the hate group called the Black Panthers.

Actually this figure came BEFORE the Black Panthers. In fact Marvel flirted with changing the character’s name a few times – once to just simply “the Panther” and once to “the Black Leopard” – to keep their character separated from the racist hate group.

Erik Killmonger

“Memes … memes, everywhere.”

On the other side many people who call themselves liberals huffed and puffed indignantly that I was covering a 13-part story written by (GASP) a white guy about a black character! Hey, a white guy even CREATED the character. I wonder if that invalidates the Black Panther entirely in their narrow minds.   

Anyway, here are chapter by chapter links to my review –

ONE: PANTHER’S RAGE – Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther, returns to his isolated African kingdom of Wakanda to try to put down a violent rebellion led by a Wakandan calling himself Erik Killmonger. CLICK HERE  Continue reading

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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 18 (November 1975)

It’s the Epilogue chapter to Panther’s Rage! After Killmonger’s defeat and the foiling of his uprising against the Black Panther last time around, Wakanda City is being rebuilt. Various loose ends are wrapped up as T’Challa must get to the bottom of a series of revenge killings by an obvious Killmonger sympathizer. 


Synopsis:  We are told two months have gone by since Killmonger’s death at Warrior Falls and the defeat of his army in Wakanda City ended the war. Much of the capital city is still being reconstructed after all the damage done by Killmonger’s forces, especially his trained dinosaurs from Serpent Valley.

The Black Panther has been sagely overseeing his people during this period of rebuilding and struggling to make food supplies, etc last until stability can be fully restored. He also oversaw the return to Serpent Valley of those dinosaurs still alive at the end of the last issue’s battle royal. 

One newly arrived piece of furniture is a piano from America and T’Challa’s Royal Consort Monica Lynne plays that piano while she and T’Challa chit-chat amid the ruins of the partially rebuilt Royal Palace.

Madame SlayHidden in the jungle Madame Slay plots revenge killings on behalf of the late Killmonger and plans to slay the Black Panther himself. 

Venomm (Horatio Walters) is being released on time served because of consideration over his defection to Wakanda City’s side during Killmonger’s army’s inhumane assault on the capital’s hospitals. Not to mention Venomm’s saving of Taku’s life when King Cadaver was killing him.

Taku – the Chief of Communications Technology – is on hand with T’Challa and a Quin-Jet crew as Venomm is released from his chains. Horatio says his farewells with Taku and then the Quin-Jet crew flies off with him to return him to his homeland in America.

Tayette and Kazibe are on hand for another comic relief bit at Venomm’s departure. They too have been pardoned (or something – it isn’t made clear) by the Black Panther, presumably for leading him to Resurrection Altar back in part seven. Continue reading


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Of Shadows and RagesFOR PART ONE CLICK HERE   

JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 17 (September 1975)


NOTE: This is the climactic chapter (Or T’Chapter if you prefer) of Panther’s Rage. The next, thirteenth part is the epilogue. The showdown between the Black Panther and Killmonger takes place this time around.

Synopsis: As this installment opens up, Erik Killmonger’s rebel army has begun its final, lightning campaign to overthrow T’Challa as the Chieftain of the Wakandas. Killmonger (N’Jadaka), his supervillain operatives Venomm and King Cadaver plus his comic relief lieutenants Tayette and Kazibe are all on hand.

Killmonger bigErik has committed all of his remaining troops to this assault, with many of his soldiers serving as Mounted Regiments riding into battle atop the dozens of dinosaurs that Killmonger and his men rounded up in prehistoric Serpent Valley recently.

Through training and electronic bits placed in the dinosaurs’ mouths these captive monstrosities are proving very effective at destroying and crushing all the beautiful monuments and government buildings of Wakanda City. The high-tech weapons and vibranium shields and spears wielded by Killmonger’s troops are taking a deadly toll as well.

The Black Panther’s own forces are trying to counter this brutal, devastating attack but are without their usual leader, W’Kabi the Security Chief. W’Kabi is still hospitalized after he was seriously wounded in Venomm’s escape from prison days earlier.

As a contingent of brontosauruses and their human passengers/ soldiers begin reducing the Royal Palace to rubble, our hero the Black Panther officially joins the fray, hurling himself from the crumbling rooftop to take out several of Killmonger’s mounted troops in his agile descent.

T’Challa’s Royal Consort, African-American singing star Monica Lynne, soon shows up at her man’s side, commenting on how she had no idea how terrifying these beasts would look in person. (And remember, this story came out long years before Jurassic Park and Dino-Riders.) For his part the Black Panther is horrified to see so many products of Wakandan culture and history being wiped out so swiftly and mercilessly by Killmonger and his army. Continue reading

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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 16 (July 1975)


Synopsis: The Black Panther has been back from his pursuit of Killmonger through Wakanda’s Hidden Realms for several days now. Thanks to the super-powers he has from the Panther Herbs AND to Wakanda’s advanced medical technology T’Challa has fully recovered from his wounds.

Salamander K’Ruel, the minion of Killmonger defeated by the Black Panther last time around, has been imprisoned in the Royal Palace just like Venomm, Malice, Baron Macabre and Lord Karnaj. T’Challa has brought all his advisors and his Royal Consort Monica Lynne up to date on everything that happened the previous four installments.

And allOur main character and Monica are frolicking on a beach at Twisted Visions Lake. They are swimming, riding giant trained turtles and having fun like consenting adults will have. Author Don McGregor has the two lovers exchange the kind of reasonably romantic dialogue that he would later have Sabre and Melissa Siren regularly spout to each other in his post-apocalyptic series titled Sabre

Meanwhile, back at the Royal Palace, Taku, T’Challa’s Chief of Communications Technology, is in the middle of one of his daily visits with Venomm/ Horatio Walters, one of Killmonger’s supervillain operatives. W’Kabi, the Security Chief, eventually sits in with them.

Wakanda's locationVenomm at last reveals how he – a white (but horribly disfigured) man from America – was brought to Wakanda by Killmonger. He talks about how N’Jadaka/ Killmonger had already recruited him as a follower years ago, even before he (Killmonger) gained an audience with the Black Panther at Avengers Mansion in New York City.   Continue reading

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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 15 (May 1975)


Synopsis: As this chapter of Panther’s Rage begins, we are in the Forest of Thorns, where the Black Panther has followed Killmonger, his army and his long train of caged dinosaurs which they captured in Serpent Valley. T’Challa’s need for rest after his exhausting and trying battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex that Erik sicced on him added to the head-start which his enemy already had on him.

It is now a day or two later and our hero is deep into the Forest of Thorns. That forest is crowded to claustrophobic levels with nothing but thorned vegetation like trees, bushes, brambles, shrubs and even thorned leaves and fruits on the trees.

For literally millions of years the Forest of Thorns served as an impenetrable natural barrier which prevented Wakandans from penetrating into Serpent Valley along the gradual incline on which that forest lay.

The precipitous, Grand Canyonesque stone walls of the Chasm of Chilling Mist had always prevented foot traffic into Serpent Valley from that direction. Therefore even though the Forest of Thorns spread all the way up to the plateau on which rested Killmonger’s rebel capital of N’Jadaka, no one had ever used it as a downward route into Serpent Valley.  

Killmonger being Killmonger, he and his army were simply ramrodding their way through the Forest of Thorns with their machinery, sacrificing much of its natural beauty and leaving gaping pathways in their wake as they made the days-long ascent through this natural wonder.  

We join T’Challa as he has paused for a drink and to change the dressing on some of his wounds in the water of a stream which winds its way through the Forest of Thorns. Surreptitiously making their way toward the Black Panther with the intention of attacking him are a few of Killmonger’s soldiers plus their leader, Salamander K’Ruel.

Out of Erik’s most recent visit to Resurrection Altar back in the Land of the Chilling Mist, Salamander K’Ruel was the only one of Killmonger’s men to survive and gain superhuman powers from his exposure to the extraterrestrial rays of that Altar. The others, as usual, died agonizing deaths as their bodies were horribly mutated.

Salamander Kruel aims(Remember, as part of Killmonger’s callousness toward even his own followers he is content with those odds: gaining one super-powered minion per group of human guinea pigs, while the others in the group die painfully. Malice, King Cadaver and Sombre were the others who gained paranormal powers from Resurrection Altar while their fellow “offerings” died horribly.)

Salamander K’Ruel, as Erik christened him upon his survival of the ritual, grew raised, pimply sores all over his body and out of each of those sores his body hair continued to grow. Due to his mutation from the rays of Resurrection Altar, K’Ruel’s body hairs (except for those on his head) grew out of the sores as long, thin, needles.

Those long needles covered most of his body and not only served as a natural protection in close-quarters physical combat but could be shot from his body at will like porcupine quills. Salamander K’Ruel’s natural skin oils had mutated into toxic fluid which coated his needle-hairs/ quills and could either knock-out or kill anyone hit by his needle-hairs/ quills.

In addition, Salamander K’Ruel (easily the most whimsical Revolutionary Name that Killmonger bestowed on one of his followers) used a bow from which he fired Napalm-tipped arrows – years before Stallone in Rambo III and O’Keefe in Lone Runner.    

At any rate, K’Ruel and his handful of soldiers were left behind by Erik/ N’Jadaka to kill T’Challa just in case he survived his battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They now launch their attack on the Black Panther. Continue reading


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