Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY #3 by Bryan Hill and Warren Ellis - Book Review


From the publisher: Crime forensics expert Barry Allen has a dark secret—and a prototype suit that makes him the fastest man alive. Michael Cray wants to make him pay for his sins, but is he able to catch a man faster than justice? And what will happen when Barry Allen turns his psychosis on Cray at hyper-speed?

Once again, Bryan Hill has written an engaging story with Michael Cray #3. He is slowly doling out bits and pieces of Cray's life, tied in with his missions for IO. And once again, Hill has taken a familiar face from the DCU and created a warped version of the character for The Wild Storm universe. Last time it was Oliver Queen, better known as the Green Arrow; this time its Barry Allen, aka The Flash. Oh, and what a warped and twisted version of Barry it is.

Hill continues to take Cray on a dark tour of a twisted DC universe. While he is still trying to figure out just what/how he has alien DNA (or something) in him, Cray is taking on and taking out a number of "bad" guys. The Wild Storm Barry Allen is similar enough to the mainstream version, but this guy has a bit of the Unabomber about him. After writing a manifesto about the dangers of developing AI, Barry now using his genius, a supersuit, a cocktail of drugs, and his position as a CSI to murder scientists working on AI's. Cray is tasked by IO to assassinate Allen. It all just kind of goes from there.

I like this series. Hill is writing an interesting character, one who is hard to root for at times, but seems to have a moral code of his own. As each issue passes, Hill is peeling away more layers to give us more insight into who Michael Cray is and why he does what he does. I'm curious how long this process will take until Hill catches up with the time frame in which Warren Ellis's The Wild Storm series is taking place (Cray also shows up there). The supporting characters in this series are okay, but I'm not terribly interested in them, at least right now. It's Cray who's the star and takes the focus.

Michael Cray #3 by Bryan Hill (with Warren Ellis) is another fine story. Hill continues to write an action-packed series with a multi-dimensional character. This is an okay starting point if you missed the first two issues. I would recommend Michael Cray to fans of The Wild Storm or anyone looking for a different take on familiar DC heroes.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Games, Games, Games

Griffin had his first official "school" game this week. They lost (they played a 6th grade B team), but Griffin did a nice job. He hustled on defense, made some good passes, took a shot, and made the most of his playing time. He has another school game this week. In the travel league, the team won both games. He didn't play a bunch, but did make an impact. His defense was good in the first game, but excellent in the second; he played at the top of the press and forced a 10 second violation. He made a nice drive in the first game and was fouled; he made one free throw but landed over the line so it didn't count. In the second game, he made a great drive from the left wing (off a nice pass) and made a layup. Two more travel games next week.

Cami's rec team lost a close one. She didn't score, but did draw a foul and two free throws on a nice fast break (the first shot rolled off). She had 4 or 5 rebounds, several steals, at least one deflection, and a deflected shot on a girl much taller than her, all while having a sprained thumb. Next week is her tournament and the end of rec season, with the school team starting soon after. Cami is also getting ready to start club volleyball in a few weeks, after participating in an evaluation last week.

Lexi continues to juggle basketball and cheer. She had one cheer game this past week (two this upcoming week), and multiple basketball practices. She was also chosen (along with a few other girls) to participate in a controlled practice/scrimmage with another school. She did a nice job. Her first games are in a little more than a week, and we're all looking forward to seeing how she does.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #3 by Sean Murphy - Book Review


From the publisher: Tragedy strikes, and the Bat-family face the fight of their lives against an army of super-villains and waning public support. A new discovery reinforces Jack’s plot to jeopardize the Dark Knight’s standing in Gotham City, and Harley’s obsession with The Joker reaches a new height—and threatens to change the game for good!

Sean Murphy continues to spin an unusual Batman story with Batman: White Knight #3. In the latest installment of the mini-series, Jack Napier's plan gets a little clearer, Batman gets a little closer to the edge, yet more familiar faces show up, and tragedy strikes.

I struggle to review White Knight for fear of spoiling anything, but I'll give it a try. Batman, Nightwing, and Batgirl attempt to stop a large group of supervillains, who are working together. In the course of the conflict, Backport (a lower income neighborhood) again feels the effects of Batman's vigilantism. This plays right into Napier's hands. Napier is again accompanied by Harleen Quinzel. Meanwhile, there is a conflict brewing between Batman and the pair of Nightwing and Batgirl. Duke Thomas makes an appearance, and so does Joker's Daughter (I think).

I'm enjoying Murphy's take on the Batman mythos. He pulls in enough familiar characters and situations to ground it in what's come before, but has tweaked things just enough to make the world of White Knight unique (Dick Grayson's relationship with Bruce Wayne?). As the series nears the halfway point, Murphy has me fully engaged and looking forward to seeing how he plays this story out.

I highly recommend Batman: White Knight #3 by Sean Murphy. It's a fun, creative take on Batman that is sure to please fans both new and old. Grab a copy (and the first two issues, as well) and get caught up.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

It Resumes

Cami's rec team won their game this week. She had 6 points, several rebounds, some good passes, and at least one steal. It took a little for her to get going, but once she did, she turned up the intensity. She has another game next Saturday.

Griffin's team played a couple of travel games. They lost both, but one was by one point, with several chances to win right at the end. Griffin had a decent day. He played some good defense, forcing a couple of turnovers. He also had at least one rebound. My favorite play, though, was his basket. He caught the ball on the left wing, made a strong dribble move and drive to the basket, then shot the ball off the glass for a perfectly executed layup. He has his first school league game Monday, and two more travel games next Sunday.

Lexi had two cheer games, and continues basketball practice. She is encouraged by how practice is going for her. The first game is in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Nyxia By SCOTT REINTGEN - Book Review


From the publisher: Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller—the first in a trilogy—that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. 

What would you be willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune?

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Scott Reintgen's Nyxia is a fun and entertaining book. It engages the reader from the first page and flies them through to the end, with barely time to breathe in-between. This is definitely a book I'll try to put in the hands of my middle school students.

First, a brief summary. Emmett is our point of view character. He is an African-American teen from Detroit. Along with 9 other teens from around the world, he has been chosen to compete for a spot to visit Eden, a new planet discovered by the Babel Corporation, and to basically be paid like millionaires. Babel needs the teens to mine for nxyia, a wondrous substance that can be manipulated by the mind into becoming whatever one can imagine. The Eden natives, known as Adamites, will not allow adults on the surface of the planet, resulting in the need for the teenagers, as well (this back story is necessary to explain why kids are going to Eden, but otherwise not really that important). Over the course of the journey to Eden, Emmett and the others will be pitted against each other, individually and as teams, to determine which 8 will actually be chosen. Friendships grow, rivalries form, and the very real prospect of injury or death hangs over the competitions, not to mention the chance to be financially set for life and pull their families out of poverty.

In his author's bio, Reintgen mentions that as a teacher, he discovered that "inspiration isn't equally accessible for everyone, so he set out to write a novel for the front -ow sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms. He hopes his students will see themselves...in characters like Emmett." As a fellow teacher, I think he has succeeded. Emmett is a fully realized character that should appeal to all students, but especially boys. He has self-doubt mixed with a high level of self-confidence; he experiences disappointments, anger, and successes just like any kid. He is guarded and open at the same time, trying to protect himself but be known, as well. His arc is well done, with plenty of room for more growth in the coming sequel(s). The other characters are a collection of different races and genders, and are written well. They don't have the depth that Emmett has, but that may be more a function of the first person narrative than anything else. There are a few adults in the story. Defoe is the Babel Corp. supervisor, who is sketchy and untrustworthy. Vandemeer is the caretaker/doctor for Emmett and his suitemate, Kaya. They are kind of stereotypes, but fill their roles well.

The plot flew along, constantly propelling the reader forward. As the competition progresses, Emmett becomes more suspicious that all is not what it seems with the Babel Corp. There are plenty of twists and turns, and several plot twists that I did not see coming. The substance of nyxia itself is very mysterious, with more of it's capabilities being revealed as Emmett and the others move through their journey. The book ends, not exactly on a cliffhanger, but definitely with a great transition point for the next book, which I'm planning on reading as soon as Reintgen publishes it.

The publisher compares Nxyia to The Maze Runner and Illuminae; I disagree. I didn't particularly find the mystery behind The Maze Runner as interesting as Nxyia, and the only thing Illuminae has in common with Nxyia is the space setting. While reading, I found myself thinking about Ender's Game, Hunger Games, and Divergent. Ender's Game has a similar tension between teens/kids training both as allies and competitors, and the space setting is a little closer in tone than Illuminae's. The writing style and level, and the character depths, reminded me of Divergent; it was written well, but to me it didn't reach the level of a Hunger Games or Harry Potter (this is not a dig, but where the bar is set for me). The tension in Hunger Games, along with the violence, was a notch above Nxyia, but there is a clear danger and risk involved in all of the games Emmett and his comrades compete in. Reintgen did a great job for his first published novel, and now it remains to see if he can raise the bar with Nxyia's sequel(s).

I really enjoyed Nxyia by Scott Reintgen. It was well-written, engaging, and full of interesting plot points and characters. This should appeal to middle- and high school readers, especially boys who were looking for a Hunger Games or Divergent type book with a male protagonist. I'm looking forward to Reintgen's future books in the Nxyia universe.

I received a review copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col - Book Review


From the publisher: A Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery unlike any other you’ve ever read! When the teenage brothers Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father – a detective in the small resort town of Bayport – they must team up with Nancy Drew to prove their innocence (and find the real guilty party in the process) in a twisting noir tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit, and dames. Writer Anthony Del Col (Assassin’s Creed, Kill Shakespeare) and artist Werther Dell’Edera (Batman: Detective Comics, House of Mystery) bring the iconic teen detectives into the modern age, and redefine noir for a new generation of readers!

As a kid, I read every Hardy Boys book I could get my hands on. I also read a couple of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew team ups. I even occasionally read a Tom Swift story (no Bobsey Twins, though). I say all that in order to explain why I took a chance on Anthony Del Col's re-imagining of  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys for the 2010's. The book he created, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, follows some other recent updates of classic and beloved characters. So, as a former fan, I was interested to see what Del Col came up with. It turns out it was pretty good.

So, The Big Lie is the story of how the Hardy brothers were accused of the murder of their father, Det. Fenton Hardy, and how Nancy Drew helped them solve the mystery. However, it's much deeper than that, involving drug smuggling brothers (the Rovers), a broken relationship between Nancy and her father, Federal Prosecuter Carson Drew, the seedy underbelly of Bayport, and the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic towns. It's also about families, and quite possibly about the dreams and innocence of childhood turning into the reality of being an adult.

The mystery behind The Big Lie was interesting, and not to easy to figure out. It was an enjoyable story which sets the stage for bigger mysteries to come in future Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mini-series. I think what I enjoyed the most, though, was the updating of the characters and their lives. The shine is definitely off Frank and Joe Hardy, and, really, Nancy Drew as well. The brothers bicker and fight, and see the world in grayer tones than they used to. They are sure not the simple, unchanging characters of my youth. Nancy is still very confident, but has lost her innocence too, through a broken relationship with her father (who used to be her best friend). It was neat seeing this more adult version of the characters, and while it's different seeing them as imperfect, it makes for a much more engaging story and allows the characters the potential to grow and change.

The other fun thing about The Big Lie is all the nods to the books these characters have been in, together and by themselves. There are allusions to solving mysteries on the beach as children, and how nothing ever seemed to change (over 100 books and the characters are still the same age). Del Col also throws in Tom Swift and the Bobsey Twins to add another nod to childhood reading.

Overall, I would highly recommend Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, by Anthony Del Col, especially to readers who grew up with the original characters. Enjoy the Veronica Mars-ish vibe.

I received a preview copy of this book from Dynamite Entertainment and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER #4 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review


From the publisher: When the pursuit of his missing son brings Dick Grayson face to face with his ex, old wounds are reexamined and a tentative new alliance is formed between former enemies. But when a stunning discovery is made about his son’s unique superpowers, the stakes become much higher and Grayson must take the fight straight to the Crusaders!

Nightwing: The New Order #4, by Kyle Higgins, begins to seriously push the story forward. The issue begins with Dick Grayson, who was rescued by the Flash in the previous issue, waking up surrounded by his old teammates, the Titans. However, its not a happy reunion because they all view him as a traitor due to his work with the Crusaders. Elsewhere, Kate Kane and the Crusaders investigate and interrogate Jake Grayson, as they try to find out more about his powers. What they, and the Titans, discover could be a gamechanger for the world. The Titans decide to attempt a rescue with the hopes that Jake could change the world, while they run afoul of another classic Batman character.

I liked this issue. Seeing Dick have to explain himself and interact with his former best friends was very interesting. Of particular interest was the discussion between Dick and Kory, aka Starfire, Dick's ex-wife and Jake's mother. I'm curious to see how Higgins resolves the tension between Dick and the Titans while both sides still have a philosophical difference regarding "super" heroes. Jake's role continues to grow in importance, and his voice as the narrator is reflective and well done.

Overall, I would recommend Nightwing: The New Order #4, by Kyle Higgins. Batman readers will enjoy it. Additionally, Higgins has managed to tell a superhero story that is a reflection of its times; The New Order is very much a take on some of the fears of totalitarianism and intolerance that are prevalent around the world today. I'm looking forward to the final two issues to discover just how Higgins attempts to stick the landing.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.