Sunday, February 18, 2018

One Season Ends with a Championship

Griffin's basketball season ended this week with a game/scrimmage and a tournament. Because of circumstances out of our control, the last regular season game was turned in to a glorified scrimmage against a travel team. Griffin did okay, hustling on both ends, forcing turnovers, and tying up loose balls. The team did not win the scrimmage, however. As far as the tournament, Griffin's team were the champions. He played great in both games, and what became pretty standard for him, he created some havoc, grabbed loose balls, forced jump balls, grabbed a couple of rebounds, and made some nice passes, particularly inbounds passes. He also had several shots, but they did not fall. His best move was a steal into a fastbreak that just missed. He was pretty excited to win a trophy. I'm really proud of how much Griffin improved over the course of the season. I'm excited to see how much better he is going forward into next year.

Lexi had a couple of sets of games. The first set wasn't great, with both teams losing. Lexi played okay, getting some rebounds and getting off a couple of shots. The second set went much better, with both teams betting our rival pretty badly. Lexi had a couple of steals that turned into shots, but they didn't fall. In the 8th grade game, she turned a loose ball into a basket and then scored another one. She hustles and keeps improving, with her confidence being the key. Her season ends this week with two games and a tournament.

Cami's team played and won three games this week. She scored in two of them (I think a total of 6 points). She handles the ball, gets steals, fights for loose balls, and grabs rebounds. I think she scored on a fast break once, and with short jump shots the other two times. She is getting better each time out, and its fun to watch. Her season ends this week with two games. Additionally, she had volleyball practice (her next tournament is still a couple of weeks away).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY #5 by Bryan Hill - Book Review

From the publisher: As Michael Cray continues to learn about the powers given to him by his tumor, he uses them to go after Trelane’s next target: a genetic scientist that’s splicing himself with the DNA of aquatic predators: Arthur Curry. But when Cray dives into the depths to defeat this sea monster, will his powers give him the advantage or grow out of his control?

Michael Cray #5 by Bryan Hill continues the story of Cray's missions to execute warped versions of DC heroes. Previously, Cray and his team have been tasked with eliminating Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Barry Allen/The Flash. This time, he is tracking down Arthur Curry, better known as Aquaman.

The issue synopsis isn't really accurate, as this issue focuses mostly on Arthur Curry's background (how he became Aquaman), and the little New Zealand fishing village that he lives in. The rest of the story involves Cray going to the island to investigate Curry. There isn't really anything about Cray's mysterious powers or the alien DNA/tumor he has.

At first, I was a little put off by the twisted DC heroes, thinking this must be more of a different point of view thing. The heroes couldn't really be that bad, it was all IO and Cray's view of them. But Arthur Curry puts this theory to rest. Curry is a psychopath and a deranged individual, and Cray's mission to kill him seems legit. In fact, I'm starting to like Cray more and more as a hero; however, I'm still not sold on IO as the "good guys" and I wonder what their endgame is. Warren Ellis's The Wild Storm series casts them in a different light. What the Michael Cray series is doing well, though, it providing a different perspective on this group.

Michael Cray #5 is an interesting issue, and Bryan Hill is taking his time revealing any larger mysteries as the series progresses. I would recommend it to fans of The Wild Storm imprint and anyone looking for a twisted take on DC's traditional heroes.

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

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nearing the Finish Line for Basketball

Lexi's team had two sets of games, but due to being sick, Lexi only played in one set. During the 7th grade game, which they won by 30, Lexi scored 4 points (2 free throws and a fast break lay-up). She played with confidence and hustled on both O and D. She also tried another left-handed lay-up that just rolled off the rim. She has a couple games this week. In addition, she is practicing hard for the annual cheer night at the high school varsity game.

Griffin's team played 3 games; one regular game and two as part of a tournament. They actually played (and beat pretty badly) the same team in the regular game and the first game of the tournament. They ended up second, losing a game where the team just couldn't get many shots to fall. In the two wins, Griffin was a defensive maniac. He is playing more confidently with the ball, and in the first win, I saw pure joy on his face as he played. It was just one of those nights, even though none of his shots fell. In the tournament, he made a nice steal, fast break, crossover from right to left, lay-up move; and attempted another fast break lay-up from the right hand side (his coach was extremely complimentary about his effort to go with his weak hand, rather than force it to his strong hand). In the loss, he didn't play a bunch, but gave it his all, scrambling for every loose ball, trying a shot from the free throw line, and harassing his man on D. He has one more regular season game, and then another tournament this week before his season ends.

Cami had two games, both of which they lost. In the first, her team lost in OT to a 6th grade B team from a much larger school. Several of her opponents were at least 6 inches and 40 lbs bigger than Cami, but she held her own. She did a nice job on offense, controlling the ball, while playing good D. She also made one of her two free throw attempts. The team struggled in the second game. Cami did an okay job on both ends, but did not score. She has three games coming up this week. She also had a volleyball tournament. Her team finished pool play and then the facility lost power (along with several others in the area). We didn't win either pool game, but the team did a nice job against good competition, playing 3 of the 4 games really close. Cami had some nice serves and passes. She now has a few weeks off from tournaments, with just practice. The next tournament is in March.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #5 by Sean Murphy - Book Review

From the publisher: Jack’s mind and body begin to betray him as he prepares for an inevitable showdown with Batman, and Bruce himself struggles to keep his team united. As the game gets tougher, Batman seeks counsel from a shocking source—and after Wayne Manor is infiltrated, a car chase for the ages aims to curb Napier’s supercriminal crew once and for all.

Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight #5 continues the story of a reformed Joker/Jack Napier and a Batman who is getting closer and closer to going over the edge. This issue doesn't really see Napier doing much, but instead focuses on Harley Quinn, Batman, and Neo Joker (the fake Harley). Rather than discover more of Napier's (possible) scheme, we see more in the way of relationships, and find out a secret from the Wayne family's past.

I really enjoyed the quieter moments in White Knight #5. There is a really cool scene between Batman and Harley (the real one) in which Batman appeals to Harley's saner side. There is a shared history between them that hints at some past events, which I'm curious to read about. Batgirl and Nightwing find themselves moving even farther away from Batman's philosophy and Joker obsession. Finally, Neo Joker has some sort of plan to discover Wayne family secrets, along the lines of "information is power". She also gives a little more info about her motivations regarding trying to bring Joker back from where Napier has repressed him. These storylines fleshed out the central story more, but its still not clear what Napier's endgame is. With three issues left, Murphy still has plenty of time to reveal his plan, but I'm getting anxious to find out if Napier is truly "cured" of being Joker.

Murphy has done a wonderful job with the characterization, especially in developing the roll reversal between Batman and the Napier/Harley duo, who are now the sympathetic characters. This alternate Bat-universe he has created is very interesting, with the potential for a lot of really good stories. There have been so many throwaway lines about previous events that I'd love to see turned into another series or graphic novel.

I highly recommend Batman: White Knight #5 by Sean Murphy, particularly if you've been keeping up with the series. We are now on the downhill slope and the story is picking up steam. Count me as a reader who is extremely curious to find out how this all turns out.

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

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Another week, more games

This week saw all three kids play basketball games. Lexi was supposed to have 3 sets of games, but due to some sort of gym issue at another school, she only had two. In the first, the 7th grade lost and the 8th grade won. As has been the norm most of the year, Lexi played a bunch in the 7th grade game, shooting a couple of times and working hard on "D". In the 8th grade game, she did the best she could in her limited playing time. The second set of games had the oppositie result: the 7th grade won, the 8th grade lost. It was a typical night for Lexi. She played tough "D" and forced a couple of turnovers on the press. She took a couple of really good jump shots that just rimmed out. She even had some good ball-handling moments, dribbling behind her back to escape a defender once. She had just a bit of playing time in the 8th grade game, but played hard and did a good job. She has two more games this week.

Griffin's team played two games. The team won the first game by a good margin. Griffin played a bunch, and excelled on defense. He keeps causing havoc on the top of the press, and his man-to-man on the other team's quick point guard was really good. He had a couple of steals, including a nice one that led to him getting a fast break, then showing great ball control when the defender cut him off. He slowed down, brought the ball back out, and reset the offense. His coach was very complementary of that play, and his ball-handling in particular. The second game was more of the same. Another win, terrific defense, some rebounding. More games to come this week.

Cami had one game, which her team won in a blowout. She didn't score, but had a few good shots that just didn't fall. She handled the ball a little, and played good defense. At one point, she ran after a girl on a fast break and dribbled the ball our from under the opponent's hand. It was a nifty move. She has a couple of games this week, as well as another volleyball tournament.

Lexi's choir also had their competition this week. She sang one solo and earned a gold medal. She also was a part of two ensembles, winning one gold and one silver medal.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #5 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: The Justice League faces the final extinguishing of our world, invaded on all sides by unimaginable nightmares, fueled on to the edge of oblivion only by the belief that there must be a light in the endless darkness—somewhere. But…what if there’s not?

Dark Nights: Metal, by Scott Snyder, continues with issue #5. It's pretty much more of the same: the various groups of heroes struggling against the forces of evil, trying to stop the earth from sinking into evil. Nth metal continues to be the focal point, as does Batman (with an assist from Superman). It also looks like Barbatos has revealed his endgame and the way he is going to achieve it.

Look, I like Dark Nights: Metal. I'm generally all-in on these big company-wide events. However, lately each time I read an issue of Metal, I feel like I'm missing part of the story; it feels like there are some supporting or spin-off issues that I should have read before reading the issue of Metal. My time and budget are limited, and I'm not willing to chase every tie-in comic to try and follow what should be the main storyline. The best event series keep the main story contained in the main series; any tie-ins should support the main storyline, not contain major plot points. In the case of Dark Nights: Metal #5, I was at a loss when I realized Batman and Superman were fighting some sort of deranged, evil, super version of Carter Hall/Hawkman. When did that happen? When was the Plastic Man egg found? Additionally, it feels like the other heroes are just spinning their wheels, waiting for the climax to occur.

I'll keep reading Dark Nights: Metal. I'm curious where Scott Snyder is going with all of this. However, I'm not nearly as high on it now as I was a couple of issues ago. As far as issue #5 goes, it's average. Don't start with it, but if you're reading the entire series you should pick it up. On it's own, I can't really recommend it; as far as the series as a whole is concerned, I'm going to withhold judgment until I can read the collected edition(s).

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

ASTRO CITY #50 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: Our 50th issue begins a special new story: Michael Tenicek lost his wife, years ago, to a chronal cataclysm. But he’s not the only one in Astro City whose life has been upended by life among the superheroes. Today, we’ll meet others, learn their stories and see how Michael—and friends—cope with their trauma. A sequel to the Eisner-nominated “The Nearness of You,” considered by many to be ASTRO CITY’s best story ever. 

From the beginning, Astro City was a different type of superhero comic. While Kurt Busiek riffed on many of the typical superhero tropes, he generally focused on the personal lives of the people behind the masks and those ordinary citizens affected by their exploits. Astro City #1/2, "The Nearness of You", was possibly the best issue of Astro City that Busiek wrote, as it was nominated for an Eisner Award. It told the story of a universe altering conflict, but looked at it from the perspective of Michael Tenicek, a man who lost his wife when the universe changed. In fact, not only did he lose her, she had never existed. However, he was granted the ability to remember her. My summary can't do the story justice, but it was fantastic.

Astro City #50 is a sequel of sorts to "The Nearness of You". It's also the start of the final arc of Astro City, which will be ending with #52. In this issue, we get to look in on Michael Tenicek again, and find out what he has been up to. We discover that Michael has been running support groups for people affected by heroes and villains. Some of these folks lost loved ones; some were actually collateral damage from attacks (human shields, only survivors, etc.). All of them are looking for a place to go for comradeship and encouragement as they go on with their lives. When a new woman shows up at a group, things begin to get interesting.

I really like reading the various stories in Astro City. I love Busiek's approach to heroes and villains, and he does a great job telling stories with heart and emotion. I remember reading "The Nearness of You" when it first came out, and that, along with the first Confessor story arc, is what I think of when I read any Astro City story. Busiek captured something real with that story, something that resonated with readers, and I was thrilled to find out that he would be revisiting Michael Tenicek. Astro City #50 does not disappoint, and it serves to start this last story arc off on the right foot. Michael Tenicek is a sympathetic character who is easy to root for, and Busiek quickly establishes him again as a genuinely good person. Busiek also sets up the story for the next two issues, and it looks to be a fantastic ending for Astro City as a regularly produced comic book (it looks like there may be some original graphic novel stories in Astro City's future).

I highly recommend Astro City #50 by Kurt Busiek. Even if you've never read this book before, this issue (and the next two) promise to tell a wonderful story. Grab it now, and take a look at the wonder that is Kurt Busiek's Astro City series.

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