18 June 2018

Review: Star Raiders by Elliot S! Maggin and José Luis García López

I think I've neglected to cross-post my reviews of audio dramas here for a while, so here are some recent ones: Doctor Who: Ghost Walk, Doctor Who: Serpent in the Silver Mask, Doctor Who: Short Trips: "Erasure", and ATA Girl. That last review I'm particularly proud of, so if you only read one, read it. It's a four-story set about female pilots during World War II.

Perfect-bound comic, n.pag.
Published 1983

Acquired and read August 2017
Star Raiders

Writer: Elliot S! Maggin
Artist: José Luis García López
Letterer: Orzecody

Strictly speaking this isn't a DC Comics space story-- it's a graphic novel published by DC, but it's not set in the DC universe, as it's a licensed story based on Atari videogames! As you might expect of a space adventure story from 1983, it's very Star Wars: it opens with a space battle over a desert planet, there's a hotshot pilot, a wise old man, an evil empire, a heroic resistance, and cute alien animals. The basic premise is that the insectoid Zylons control the galaxy; the pilot (Jed) and navigator (Tomorrow "Tommy" Hardtack) of a star cruiser come to a devastated planet where they find an immortal librarian (Zeke) and an old spaceship, the Star Raider. Jed and Tommy repair the Star Raider with Zeke's guidance, recruit more rebels, and have a couple run-ins with the Zylons. (There's also a bit of Battlestar Galactica in it, I guess.)

It's fun enough. Jed arguing with Zeke is a little overdone, and everyone goes off half-cocked and has to be rescued by someone else at some point. I liked Tommy (a riff in name if nothing else on the DC character Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers) the most; she's sublimely 1980s-- just look at those shoulderpads and that hair band-- and feels the least like a Star Wars character. The beautiful art by José Luis García López is probably the real selling point of this book; this story didn't deserve art this good, but it got it anyway! The only thing to not like about it is that Jed and Tommy's original ship has a confusingly similar design to the Star Raider. (But I would guess this has something to do with the original videogame on which the graphic novel is based.)

The set-up is good, but the ending feels rushed-- a significant connection between a minor character and the Zylon queen comes out of nowhere, allowing everything to be wrapped up easily. It felt like Maggin was setting up an ongoing series (there are a number of characters introduced who end up not doing much) and had to swerve to wrap everything up in twenty pages at the last minute. Still, if you want some 1980s spectacular space action, this is a quick, enjoyable read. Too bad there's no more adventures for these characters, because I'd read them.

15 June 2018

"But I like being sarcastic.": Liv Chenka, Companion from a Real World

I just got home from a car trip from Tampa to Cincinnati to Cleveland and back, and my wife and I spent much of the time listening to Big Finish's Doctor Who miniseries Doom Coalition. (Not as much as we should have, mind. Thirty-six hours in the car isn't enough to get through a sixteen-hour story if your wife keeps falling asleep.)

Anyway, this means I have spent thirteen hours in the company of and thinking about Liv Chenka. Liv is one of my favorite audio companions-- she's no Charley Pollard, but she's up there-- and I think she exemplifies a certain type of companion I like.

I reckon there are fundamentally two types of Doctor Who companions (you will shortly think of an exception to this, but let's go with it for now). The first is the companion whose life is empty and pointless until the Doctor comes along. The major archetype for this on screen is Rose; it's what "Rose" is all about. If she didn't meet the Doctor, literally nothing would ever happen to her. Other examples of this type include Donna, Bill, Jo Grant, Tegan, Ben and Polly, Izzy, and Helen. These companions need the Doctor, not just to give themselves something to do, but to define who they are as people. What kind of person would Rose even be without the Doctor? Not one who takes a stand. Would Jo have become a social crusader without his influence? Doubtful. They can live full lives after meeting the Doctor, but not before.

The other type is the companion who exists as a fully fledged person without him, having adventures on their own. For me, the archetype of this is Bernice Summerfield, from the novels and audios. I'm currently listening to the audiobook of Human Nature, and one thing that strikes me is how fully-formed Benny is. She had a life and purpose and voice before she met the Doctor; the Doctor just helps her access these things better. Other example of this include Sara Kingdom, Sarah Jane, Harry Sullivan, Romana, Klein, Captain Aristedes, and of course the original companions, Ian and Barbara. I say "adventures," but that should be broadly construed. Benny may have been doing space archaeology and Sara space policing, but Harry, Ian, and Barbara's "adventures" before the Doctor were much more mundane, doing medicine and marking. But the story doesn't position this pre-Doctor life as empty.

Ian and Barbara especially feel like real people who happened to meet the Doctor rather than people who only became real by meeting him.

Though many of my favorite companions come from the first list, I have a soft spot for solidly executed examples of the second type. They can add a level of deepness and complexity to their stories, in that they have more of an existence than to reflect and refract the ideas and desires of the Doctor.

Liv fits into this pattern quite well, partially thanks to the way she's introduced. When we first meet Liv in Robophobia, she's already an experienced medical technician on a long-haul space freighter. I don't think Liv's age is ever given, but Nicola Walker was about forty when the story was recorded. Liv doesn't join the Doctor in that story, and by the time we next hear from her in Dark Eyes: The Traitor, she's been trapped on a planet under Dalek occupation and ended up in the awkward position of being supported by the Daleks while doing medical relief work. She still doesn't join the Doctor at that point, but (as we learn in Dark Eyes: Time's Horizon), she evacuates from the planet in a cargo ship and her metabolism is fatally damaged by radiation. As a result, she enlists on a long-range deep-sleep exploration mission to the edge of the universe. And then she meets the Doctor again and finally begins traveling with him.

Of course, backstory isn't character, but all of this does inform Liv's characterization, most notably in Doom Coalition: Ship in a Bottle, where we see that Liv has been through so much shit and still come out okay that there's no way she'll ever give up hope ever again. The Doctor and Helen both lose hope in that adventure, but having lost hope once before and run away from the entire universe and still ended up okay, Liv's faith is now unshakeable.

Aside from all that backstory, though, Liv still feels real. She's a person trying to do her best in an uncaring universe that muddles through by using sarcasm to limit her engagement with earnest emotion. But deep beneath it all she really does care. That could be cliché, of course, but Nicola Walker elevates every bit of material she is given, with the amazing subtlety of her voice. You just don't feel Liv's desperation and sadness in (say) Doom Coalition: Absent Friends, you feel that Liv is desperately trying to stop you from feeling her desperation and sadness. Now that's acting. (On the CD extras to one of the Doom Coalition sets, I forget which, Walker says that Liv is like a duck: calm on the surface, but paddling furiously underneath.)

Liv also comes across as deeply competent in a way that few Doctor Who companions do, I think because she's often entrusted with her own life during her travels with the Doctor, even. Like I said, it's not until her third story that she really becomes a companion, but even then, she keeps getting dropped off on her own throughout the Dark Eyes saga. In the story after Time's Horizon, Eyes of the Master, the Doctor ends up leaving her on her own in the 1970s with Molly while he goes into space to pit the Daleks against the Eminence. She's there for a couple months, I think, during which she even has her own adventure without him (Short Trips: The Wood beyond the World).

Liv Chenka, trapped in nothingness.
art by Johannes VIII

When we next catch up to her in Dark Eyes: The Reviled, she's working on her own as a medic on a planet on the fringes of the Eminence War, laying the groundwork for the Doctor's ongoing efforts. She's clearly been there some time; then in the next story, Masterplan, her and the Doctor are separated, and then in Rule of the Eminence, the Master has been using her as a physician for months while he rules the Earth. So her early travel with the Doctor are in fact characterized by a lack of travelling, by the fact that she stays in the same place for long periods of time, and she gets things done. She keeps her head down and does her job. By the end of Dark Eyes, she's scarcely done the proper companion thing at all. (No wonder that Doom Coalition  established that she travelled with the Doctor for years between the two sagas, to give Liv time to actually become a "proper" companion.)

And that's the key to making a Doctor Who companion feel real. One of the keys, anyway, for companions of the second type. So many companions have reasons to travel with the Doctor, but Liv Chenka has a reason and purpose to not travel. She has a reality she comes from, and carries with her in all her stories.

14 June 2018

Review: New & Old Wars by Mary Kaldor

Trade paperback, 268 pages
Published 2012 (1st ed.: 1998)
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2017
New & Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era
by Mary Kaldor

Kaldor describes the phenomenon of what she calls "new wars," perhaps best explained via contrast to old wars. An old war is the war we imagine when we think of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, the Napoleonic Wars and World War II, "war involving states in which battle is the decisive encounter" (vi). Old war is fought by states, with a goal of conquest through military encounter.

By contrast, new war has different goals and different means. It is fought by a mix of state and non-state actors: regular armed forces, criminal groups, and paramilitary organizations. Its goals are population control and its ideologies are identity politics: a revolutionary wants to build a new society, but new wars are about labels, so the main goal is to purge undesirable labels. Mass relocation of civilians and ethnic cleansing becomes a goal, not a by-product. In some ways they're more rational than old wars-- many of their tactics are war crimes, but these new actors are unfettered by that: "These wars are rational in the sense that they apply rational thinking to the aims of war and refuse normative constraints" (106). New war is more like a social condition than old war, and thus new war breeds new war, like an infection, as areas collapse, they set up conditions that cause adjacent areas to collapse. New war is also globalized: modern communications technology means that a war in one country can be supported by a financial infrastructure stretching over the whole world.

Kaldor primarily explains the concept via the Bosnian War (1992-95), where she was an observer, and the contemporary wars in Afghanistan (2001-14) and Iraq (2003-11), but as you read, you can easily see how the wars of the Islamic State (which came to prominence two years after this edition was published) are an example of the phenomenon she describes in almost perfect detail. There are times the book gets into a level of detail that's more than is desired by the non-political scientist, I suspect, but I found it a compelling and useful thesis, making clear something I had not exactly seen before. I had hoped for some connections with my own (literary) interests in political violence, and I don't think there was much of that here, but it was still a worthwhile read for understanding the modern political landscape.

13 June 2018

Hugos 2018: Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Trade paperback, 164 pages
Published 2017

Borrowed from my wife
Read May 2018
Binti: Home
by Nnedi Okorafor

The sequel to Binti is really the first half of a larger story. The first half of Home itself is about Binti's return to her home after a year at space university, her friend who is also a warrior alien jellyfish in tow. It's kind of your normal thing in a story of this sort: she's changed both physically and emotionally, so has her family, and resentment simmers on every side. Then in the second half, she participates in a coming-of-age ritual of her people, and soon discovers she's even more special than the first book made her seem. Then things end on a cliffhanger, so I guess I'll need to pick up Binti: The Night Masquerade.

It's all right. Like with the first volume, it some times feels contrived. The family stuff is well done, if a bit clichéd. Clichés are often true, of course, but I rarely felt things rose to that level. To be honest, I wish we'd had a book of her actually at space university before we got a book of her coming back home. The second half has a lot of exposition about Binti's hidden heritage; I reserve judgment on this until I see how it plays out in Night Masquerade, but that leaves me without much to say about this volume in itself.

12 June 2018

Review: Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 9 by James Roberts, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2016 (contents: 2015-16)
Acquired October 2016
Read December 2017
Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Volume 9

Written by James Roberts
Art by Alex Milne, Brendan Cahill, and Hayato Sakamoto
Inks by Brian Shearer, Alex Milne, John Livesay, John Wycough, Brendan Cahill, and Hayato Sakamoto
Colors by Joana Lafuente
Letters by Tom B. Long and Chris Mowry

The post-Chaos era of IDW's Transformers comics used to be very easy to follow, alternating between collections of More than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise. Since Dark Cybertron, though, it's gotten much more complicated, with a proliferation of limited series and one-shots and crossovers and even a new ongoing in Windblade. The gap between volumes 8 and 9 of More than Meets the Eye was the longest yet, with a full six different collections stuffed into it, taking four months at my own personal Transformers pace.

It's almost like he knew I was away, because James Roberts brought me back with the More than Meets the Eyeest bit of More than Meets the Eye thus far on the very first page, a recap of what the group of Decepticons called the Scavengers have been up to since we last saw them way back in volume 2:
from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #47 (art by Alex Milne & Brian Shearer, photography by Maziar Shahsafdari)

This launches us into a story of the Scavengers meeting Fortress Maximus, who became the duly appointed enforcer of the Tyrest Accords in volume 5. I do really like the Scavengers in principle, and the story is a good one, but in practice I struggle with reading about this many unfamiliar robot characters. I just can't keep five guys I haven't seen in literally a year straight, and this undermines a lot of the story's effectiveness. Heck, I didn't recognize Fortress Maximus at first, and he used to be a main character in MtMtE!

Thankfully, we're back on more familiar ground with the volume's second story, a big development in the lives of Cyclonus and Tailgate, who have perhaps faded into the background in the Megatron-focused post-Dark Cybertron era of More than Meets the Eye. Well, this story more than makes up for it, as it's another heartrender from the pen of James Roberts, as you plead and plead with Tailgate not to do something that seems like a grand romantic gesture from the naïve Transformer's perspective, but will in fact lead to ruination, and plead with Cyclonus to not bottle himself up so much-- and to not finally let out his feelings to the exact wrong person. It's a perfect demonstration of how much Roberts has succeeded in making the reader emotionally connected to these robots.

Some really effective use of silent panels here.
from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #47 (art by Brendan Cahill)

The only complaint I have is in how its intense cliffhanger is resolved, almost off-handedly in the book's final story, one which delves into the past of Rung, everyone's favorite nondescript psychiatrist. It's a clever, well-plotted story, with a lot of cool twists and clever reveals, punctuated by a last-page revelation that promises a lot for the next... and final... volume of this still-excellent series. Would be that all ongoing comics could move me as often as this one does.

Also: would be that they had as many jokes.
from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye #49 (art by Hayato Sakamoto)
Next Week: Meanwhile, on Cybertron... the Dinobots head into the wilderness looking for Redemption!

11 June 2018

Review: The Serpentine Wall by Jim DeBrosse

Hardcover, 327 pages
Published 1988

Acquired December 2016
Read June 2017
The Serpentine Wall by Jim DeBrosse

My ongoing mission to read books set in my hometown of Cincinnati has not always yielded good literature or good local color. A lot of the books feel like they were written by someone who had never set foot in Cincinnati, even if the writer actually had! Delightfully, though, The Serpentine Wall is brimming over with local color, from the title on down. DeBrosse really captures my hometown with lots of details and jokes. The book begins with a fire on an Ohio River steamboat by the local landmark of the Serpentine Wall! The fact that Cincinnati has two major daily newspapers (though not anymore) is a key point, and there are characters seemingly derived from Larry Flynt and a combination of Simon Leis and Charles Keating (a major subplot is about pornography distribution, appropriate for Cincinnati's very moralistic climate). I don't know that it was a terribly good mystery (the villain is pretty obvious), but I loved reading it, getting that frisson of excitement every time a place or idea I knew appeared, something people who live in New York City or Los Angeles must be numb to, but which I rarely get to experience.

08 June 2018

The Breaking of the Fellowship: Stranger Things 2, Characters in Combination, and the Serialized Streaming Narrative

I recently finished Stranger Things 2 (I'm a very slow binger), and my main complaint is about the handling of characters. Which isn't to say that the characters were mishandled per se, but that the show features them in different combinations than I would wish.

The best part about Stranger Things is the cast chemistry, especially that between the core four boys, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will. Most of their time together in season one is actually sans Will, but the group works without him, and also works well with him. One of my favorite episodes of season two is the first one, and that's because I just like the wacky nerd hijinks this fouresome gets up to playing arcade games (or playing D&D, or going trick-or-treating as the Ghostbusters, or whatever). The supernatural plot is secondary to the character chemistry.

While the first season kept the core four together (aside from Will, but adding Eleven), the second season disperses them. Mike and Will end up with Hopper and Joyce, while Dustin and Lucas work with Steve and new character Max, and Eleven is off doing her own thing.* So the gang is barely together except in the first couple episodes and the last one, and that disappoints me. Why have a cast with this kind of chemistry-- I don't know if they are a real group of friends but they sure seem like one-- and not utilize it?

When I've expressed this to friends, they've pointed out that not mixing the characters up would miss us out on what was probably the season's best moments, the interactions between Steve and Dustin. Last season, Steve was in the Jonathan/Nancy plot, but this season they're off on their own, with Steve joining in with Dustin, Lucas, and Max. And indeed, the interaction between Steve and Dustin is amazing, as Steve ends up dispensing romantic and fashion advice to the younger kid. Steve turns out to have great camaraderie with the younger kids (as also seen in the finale), and I would have been sad to miss out on that.

I think this relates to a thing I've complained about with streaming shows before. The way they're (usually) built around single stories that span 8-13 episodes means they get locked into particular stories across whole seasons. If Stranger Things was more lightly serialized, you could have a couple episodes about the core four, and an episode where Steve and Dustin hang out as well. I like ensemble television a lot, and some of the best stuff in ensemble television happens when characters who don't normally interact spend some time interacting, and you discover new areas of possibility. For example, my wife and I are watching Parks and Recreation these days, and Ben is usually paired with Lesley Knope, and that's obviously his natural place, chemistry-wise and story-wise. But every now and then the show will do an episode that pairs him with, say, Andy and April, or Tom Haverford, and those moments yield gold as well.

Stranger Things can't do this. Its commitment to season-long stories mean that characters get put into groups that they're basically committed to for the entire season. Once Mike and Will are off with Joyce and Hopper, they have to stay that way until the climax. There are times this can work-- like I said, Steve and the kids turned out to be a great combination-- but there are times it doesn't work. Mike, for example, feels kind of useless when he's with adults the entire season. A more lightly serialized ensemble show can experiment with different combinations of characters on occasion, while still usually using them in the default combination.

I know Stranger Things 3 won't give me what I want, but I think a lot of season two's problems would actually be rectified with a more light touch to serialization. I could get to see the core cast of the boys, Eleven, and Max interact, while the show could still experiment with interesting and unusual combinations.

* I don't focus on it much in this post, but I was also bummed how little time Eleven spent with any of the characters. But this is because the Duffer Brothers have written themselves into a corner, I think. Eleven, at the end of season one, was revealed as so powerful that she can stop any threat. This means she had to be kept isolated from all the other characters until the season's climax.

07 June 2018

Review: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

Trade paperback, 654 pages
Published 2001 (originally 1794)
Acquired December 2017

Read May 2018
The Mysteries of Udolpho: A Romance
by Ann Radcliffe
Emily continued to urge her father the truth, which himself had impressed upon her mind.
     'Besides, my dear sire, poverty cannot deprive us of intellectual delights. It cannot deprive you of the comfort of affording me examples of fortitude and benevolence; nor me of the delight of consoling a beloved parent. It cannot deaden our taste for the grand, and the beautiful, or deny us the means of indulging it; for the scenes of nature – those sublime spectacles, so infinitely superior to all artificial luxuries! are open to enjoyment of the poor, as well as the rich. [...] We retain, then, the sublime luxuries of nature, and lose only the frivolous ones of art.' (59-60)
I read this book in search of pre-1882 fictional female scientists. Emily St Aubert approximates one in some ways-- she is trained in reason, and she is able to control her emotions better than many of the men she encounters, she looks at plants-- but as I believe the above quotation shows, she is not one. Emily enjoys grand vistas, and her father is a botanist, but neither of them study nature in the way that we would now call scientifically. They appreciate it aesthetically; they are not out there to objectively analyze it, or to catalogue it in that way a Victorian might. Similarly, Emily might have a handle on her emotions, but it's not because of any kind of scientific training, more a general kind of intellectual training. Now, I think all of this derives from the same Age of Enlightenment set of values that, at the time The Mysteries of Udolpho was written, was giving birth to what we now call science, but it is not quite the same thing as science, and so therefore Emily is no scientist or woman of science; perhaps her father is a naturalist at best.

Also, can I say that I have now read two of Ann Radcliffe's Gothic novels, and both were exceedingly dull? I know the past is another country and all, that's what I've devoted my life to explicating, but how anyone found this book suspenseful is beyond me. The occasional snatch of spooky music is not enough to carry one through hundreds of pages of tedium before someone finally gets probably murdered over three hundred pages in. By that point, the eternally virtuous Emily had caused me to completely check out. I did dutifully plow through to the end, but by the end, the skimming was highly aggressive.

06 June 2018

Hugos 2018 [Prelude]: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Trade paperback, 90 pages
Published 2015

Borrowed from my wife
Read May 2018
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is one of my wife's favorite writers, so I was glad that the Hugo Awards finally gave me the impetus to sit down with the Binti series (book two of three is a finalist for Best Novella this year). The first book is pretty simple: Binti leaves her people to go to space university. But on her way there, her ship is attacked by evil aliens, and only she is left alive. I liked the premise of the story, and the milieu is well-constructed-- the Himba and Khoush are two distinct human ethnic groups with their own distinct culture and politics, not all subsumed together as "humans" in the future. I love stories of people going to multiplanetary space universities, and Binti ending up on her own among hostile aliens is a great set-up.

But I did find the way the story wound down a bit lacking. Binti does some brave things, which I like, but also two highly convenient things save her, which I liked less. A great premise, but only an okay story. Further adventures in this world could have great promise, though. I've already started the sequel, Home, so I'll see what I think of them soon enough.

05 June 2018

Review: Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers by Nick Roche

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2016 (contents: 2015-16)
Acquired November 2016
Read November 2017
Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers

Written and Drawn by Nick Roche
Colors by Josh Burcham
Additional Colors by Joana Lafuente
Letters by Tom B. Long

I suspect of Sins of the Wreckers what I also suspect of the story to which it is a sequel, Last Stand of the Wreckers: it will improve on a reread. There's a lot going on, and though I've gotten a lot better at reading Transformers comics than I was a couple years ago, I still struggle when a book throws a ton of new characters at me. Sins of the Wreckers picks up from the events of The Transformers, Volume 8, where Prowl went missing: Arcee has found him, and he's on Earth for some reason. Plus, Verity Carlo is back!

A beautiful, distressing, cold, off-putting opening.
from Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers #1

The Wreckers are reassembled to track down Prowl. Like Last Stand, this is a messy story in a good way: a lot of secrets, a lot of screwed-up people in a screwed-up world. I've been getting pretty sick of Prowl over in the series formerly known as Robots in Disguise, but put him in the murky world of the Wreckers, and he works much better. (Nick Roche's more sophisticated writing probably doesn't hurt either.) Prowl is as messed up as Kup and the Wrekcers. Arcee is messed up too-- she's a good fit for the Wreckers, and I'm surprised it took IDW this long to put her in combination with them. And Verity's messed up too. Not that she was ever terribly well-adjusted, but this war has screwed her up as much as it has all the Cybetronians in this story, and she can't escape it any more than they can... even though it's over!

Well, that's one way to use mass-shifting, I guess.
from Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers #4

If there's a complaint that I have, it's that it's mistitled. Though everyone in this story has sinned, the focus is not on the sins of the Wreckers, but Prowl and Verity and a couple others whose appearances are spoilers. The Wreckers themselves are kind of background players in this drama. If Roche does another Wreckers story in another five years, I hope Impactor et al. can step into the foreground more.

On the other hand, I can forgive Prowl a lot when he has moments as awesome as this.
from Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers #4

Everyone in this story has some kind of desperate plan to try to free themselves from the sins of the past... none of them work. Every character from the key players to the bit-part antagonists has a goal and a meaning within the larger picture, that lines up thematically to create a greater whole. More than Meets the Eye might be the best-written Transformers ongoing story, but Sins of the Wreckers is probably the best self-contained Transformers comic. Last Stand tugs at your heartstrings more, but Sins is better crafted, showing the effects of five years' artistic development for Roche.

Josh Burcham kills it on colors throughout, but particularly in the Noisemaze.
from Transformers: Sins of the Wreckers #3

Roche is a good writer, but he's a great artist, and Sins of the Wreckers has got to be the peak of his work, especially when you combine it with Josh Burcham's colors. Horrific, dynamic, touching, he creates Arctic vistas and nightmarish hellscapes with equal ease. I wish it was getting the same deluxe hardcover treatment as its predecessor, because it deserves it.

Next Week: Meanwhile, in space... the long-lost Decepticon Scavengers return and find that, as always, there's More than Meets the Eye!