Sunday, January 14, 2018

Basketball Update

All the kids were scheduled to have games this week, and two of the three did. Unfortunately, Cami's game was canceled because the team they were to play kicked some girls off the team and no longer had enough to play. However, she has a game or two next week. Cami also has volleyball practice, and her first tournament next weekend.

Griffin had one school game, and what we are discovering is that his team is playing 6th grade "B" teams a lot. That just makes winning, which they did, sweeter. Griffin did a terrific job, playing awesome defense, getting a steal or two, grabbing some rebounds, and creating several jump balls. He also had a nice drive to the basket and got fouled, but one ref (who did a poor job throughout the game) called him on the floor rather than in the act of shooting. His team lost both of their travel league games. Griffin had several shots and took two free throws, but nothing fell for him. He played good "D", getting several rebounds, a steal or two, creating jump balls, and forcing some turnovers. He has two school league games and a travel league tournament next week.

Lexi had one game (she played with both 7th and 8th grade teams, which is how the rest of the season will go). Both teams won in huge blowouts. Lexi did a nice job, scoring 6 points altogether, including stealing the ball and driving the length of the court for a jump shot. She had 3-4 rebounds, made a really nice assist, and played with confidence. She also was able to cheer at a game, but missed another because she was playing. She has 2 more games next week.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

MICHAEL CRAY #4 by Bryan Hill and Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: With a plan in place, Michael Cray and his team have made an attempt to befriend the psychotic Barry Allen in order to bring him down and bring his murders to an end. But with a paranoid conspiracy theorist like Barry Allen, does Cray have the upper hand, or is he walking into a trap?

Michael Cray #4 continues the craziness that Bryan Hill keeps writing. Cray is tasked with taking out Barry Allen (aka The Flash) before he kills more scientists creating AI (artificial intelligence). Along the way, Cray is forced to continue dealing with the alien-ish creature that is in him/a part of him.

I really don't know how to evaluate this series, other than as a big, loud, sci-fi, action story. Hill keeps peeling back layers of Michael Cray, who's alien condition seems to be the biggest mystery. There is also Cray, with his interesting set of morals and integrity, working as an assassin for IO, a fairly domineering and corrupt worldwide security force. Throw in a bad guy of the month (so far a warped version of traditional DC heroes), and this book is very episodic with an underlying mystery. This is not meant as a critique, just an observation; I can totally imagine Michael Cray as series on cable or a streaming video service.

Cray is an interesting and engaging protagonist. While he works with a team, maybe in name only, his interactions with them aren't really that exciting. It's his approach to tracking the "bad" guys and his self-reflection that are worth the read.

I'm not sure what Hill's endgame for Michael Cray is; that is, I'm not exactly sure what the story is building towards. That said, Michael Cray #4 was a fun read, with lots of action. I recommend this series to fans of The Wild Storm and Warren Ellis's vision for these characters.

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

Resume Play Now

With all three kids getting back to practicing last week, Griffin actually got us started with two games on Sunday. His team split a pair of games, winning big and losing a close one. He played well overall, scoring a basket, shooting two free throws, getting several rebounds, and making a nice steal and drive up court. Griffin did a nice job taking the ball to the basket when necessary. He has a school league game this week. Cami has her first game this week as well, plus she's started club volleyball. Lexi has both cheer and a basketball game.

Yep, Christmas break was quiet, but now we get to cheer on the kids.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Batman: White Knight #4 by Sean Murphy - Book Review

From the publisher: NOW AN EIGHT-ISSUE MINISERIES! Jim Gordon and the GCPD are thrown into disarray when Jack Napier leads a show stopping campaign to become councilman of the politically abandoned neighborhood of Backport. Civic backlash brews as Mayor Hill struggles to find creative ways of criminalizing Napier’s democratic aspirations, and Batman’s interference blooms into a liability for the GCPD’s public image. Through it all, the new Joker plots to derail everything—and new secrets about Harley’s past are revealed.

With Batman: White Knight #4 by Sean Murphy, we finally see some of Jack Napier's (aka Joker) plans. He intends to run as City Councilman for the borough of Backport, and wants to create the GTO: the Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit. The GTO will combine the Gotham Police with various vigilantes (like Batman and friends) with an incredible budget and access to Batman's technology. What could go wrong? Additionally, the fake Harley Quinn makes her move, and we learn her backstory.

I've got to say that White Knight is becoming more and more interesting as Murphy moves the plot along. Its nice to see what Napier intends, and his good ideas to help Gotham and Backport make him an even more interesting character. Do we trust that he's reformed, or is he still the Joker deep down, with an endgame no one can see yet? Batman is thrust into a similar position and it's one he's very uncomfortable with. Murphy also creates conflict by putting Commissioner Gordon, Nightwing, and Batgirl in agreement with Napier's plans.

The best part of issue #4, though, is the insight into the fake Harley Quinn. When Murphy revealed that there were two Harleys (which explains her varying looks and personality changes), he just moved on without really going into detail. Here, however, he rectifies that. And he has created a realistic and believable (maybe bordering on tragic) origin for the fake Harley. I don't want to give anything away, but I definitely wouldn't be disappointed if this character didn't make a transition into the mainstream Bat-books.

I really liked Batman: White Knight #4 by Sean Murphy. It's my favorite issue of the series to this point. I'm also enjoying the story Murphy is telling and I'm very curious to see how it will play out. I recommend this book (and series) to Batman fans looking for a self-contained story outside of the main continuity of DC.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nightwing: The New Order #5 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: After a stunning revelation about the nature of Jake’s powers, the former Titans head to Metropolis to join forces with the one person who they believe they can restore the world’s superpowers—the depowered Superman! Caught between his old friends and the new order he created, Dick Grayson refuses to let his son become a weapon for either side…but is it even his choice anymore? How far will Dick go to protect his son?

Nightwing: The New Order #5 is the penultimate issue in Kyle Higgins's mini-series. At this point, Higgins has (seemingly) put everything on the table. Nightwing attempts to rescue his son, Jake, with the help of the former Teen Titans and Lois Lane. When the time comes to get Jake to Metropolis so a cure to help the depowered can be created, Dick balks. He is caught between what can and might happen to his son in the world he brought about, and he still firm belief that he made the right choice to eliminate people's powers. Plus, Superman at last!

Higgins is doing a great job with this alternate reality story. It deals with some very timely issues about the power of government and the rights of individuals. It also puts Dick Grayson/Nightwing, often the moral compass of the DC Universe, in a bind. Watching him deal with the internal conflict of helping his son or helping society (according to him) is very interesting. Higgins is doing a fine job of portraying Nightwing as a man who is villainized without being a villain. His relationship with his estranged wife Kory/Starfire and his son, Jake, is also getting deeper and more complicated. This is a high point of the story for me, and I'm looking forward to reading how Higgins wraps it up.

One of the things I've enjoyed about The New Order is seeing familiar heroes and villains, and discovering where they fall on the issue of powered individuals. It's made for some clever team-ups. We're also finally told why Dick made the decision to use the device to depower everyone in the first place. It is both simple and heartbreaking; no one can fault him for the reasoning behind his choice. In addition, what Superman has been up to, and who he's working with is another cool piece to the story.

With Nightwing: The New Order #5, Kyle Higgins brings his series to a peak. All that's left is to see if he can stick the landing, and how that will happen. I highly recommend this series to Batman/Nightwing fans, as well as those looking to read something a little different from the traditional line of superhero comics. Higgins's The New Order series is definitely worth reading.

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

Doomsday Clock #2 by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: DC and Watchmen characters collide at last! The story that began in DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 comes to a thrilling and unexpected crescendo in the pages of this titanic twelve-issue series by the all-star team that brought you BATMAN: EARTH ONE and SHAZAM!

In this second chapter: The Dark Knight discovers another relic from the Watchmen world. Lex Luthor pays a devil’s bargain. And killer clowns trek through Gotham seeking a madman.

Doomsday Clock #2, by Geoff Johns, continues the story of Adrian Veidt's search for Dr. Manhattan. With the assistance of the new Rorschach, Marionette, and Mime, Veidt takes a retooled Owl Ship to try and trace Dr. Manhattan's whereabouts before their world is turned into a nuclear war. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is trying to fend off a hostile takeover of Wayne Enterprises by Luthor Corp., run by Lex Luthor. Worlds are crossed (as well as dimensions) to bring our characters into contact with each other. And Veidt's plan to trust Mime and Marionette looks like it could go very wrong.

I liked this issue of Doomsday Clock. Johns does another fine job of letting the story unfold at it's own pace, dropping little nuggets of information here and there. I found myself looking for clues or trying to connect dots that may or may not exist, in the hopes of getting some idea of where the story is headed. However, at this point all I know is that the Watchmen characters will be interacting with mainstream DC heroes and villains, and I have no idea just what role Dr. Manhattan will be playing. Some of the clues left in previous issues of DC Comics point readers to certain characters (or a character) being responsible for all that's been going on in the DC Universe (i.e.: The New 52, Rebirth, etc.). However, with Doomsday Clock #2, Johns lays the groundwork for something involving Dr. Manhattan that I wasn't really expecting. I'm also not really sure who the "bad guy" is, if there even is one.

I have a feeling that the individual issues of Doomsday Clock are going to be hard to review without spoilers, and hard to evaluate because they are just pieces of a story that will need to be seen as a whole to be really understood. And I'm okay with that. I'm enjoying the story Johns is telling, and I like reading the twists and turns. Really, I'm looking forward to finding out just who is responsible for everything, and how and why it was done. I'm also curious as to just how much of current DC events spin out of Doomsday Clock; for instance, is Dark Nights: Metal a result of whomever's meddling in DC history? I guess it remains to be seen.

Overall, Doomsday Clock #2 by Geoff Johns is another solid entry in this possibly "world-changing" mini-series. I recommend it to anyone interested in the DC Comics universe. I also recommend it because of Geoff Johns's writing, and his efforts to echo the style of the Watchmen series.

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina (Rebirth) by James Tynion IV - Book Review

From the publisher: The Dark Knight teams with his fellow Gotham City vigilantes to protect their hometown in the newest volume of this hit graphic novel series in BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 4: Deus Ex Machina!

The next big DETECTIVE arc is here! Stephanie Brown wants nothing more than to save Gotham City from the epidemic of costumed vigilantes and madmen who regularly tear the city apart. But before she can try to stop them, she must face the challenge of one in particular: the insane the Wrath is back, and Stephanie knows what he has planned--but she refuses to let Batman risk more lives to stop him. That means it's all on her...and a very unlikely ally! 

From writer James Tynion IV (BATMAN/TMNT) and the spectacular art team of Eddy Barrows (NIGHTWING) and Alvaro Martinez (BATMAN ETERNAL) comes the fourth volume of the return of DETECTIVE COMICS! Collects DETECTIVE COMICS #957-961.

Detective Comics Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina, by James Tynion IV, continues the excellent storytelling  going on in the Batman comics. This latest volume from Tynion IV focuses a little more on the heroes making up Batwoman's team, in particular Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael. When the new version of Azrael, known as Ascalon, comes to "convert" or "evangelize" Jean-Paul, Luke Fox (Batwing) jumps in to help save his friend. With some help from Batwoman, Orphan, Clayface, and Batman, Azrael confronts his past and paves the way for his future.

This was another terrific story. I really enjoyed Tynion IV's focus on Jean-Paul, as he is a very interesting character but not a lot has been revealed about his background. We knew he was created by the Order of St. Dumas as an avenging angel and has a strange symbiotic relationship with his costume, knows as the Suit of Sorrows, but not much more than that. Deus Ex Machina takes a deeper look into his life and sets the stage for future mysteries. I particularly enjoyed the further development of the friendship between Jean-Paul and Luke, which was strengthened as a result of this encounter. It was also nice to have Batman play a supporting, secondary role, as it let the other heroes shine more. One other thing I liked was the new Azrael suit Luke created; it had the look of Jean-Paul's Batman suit (from way back in Batman's past, when his back was broken and Jean-Paul stepped in for him). It was a nice nod to longtime fans.

The last chapter in this book focused on Stephanie Brown (Spoiler). She left the team because of the collateral damage to innocent people and is currently fighting the good fight and trying to remain off the radar. This story sets up the next major arc in Detective Comics, which should provide another interesting challenge for the Bat-team.

One note, though: The back cover copy provided by the publisher is not accurate as to the story inside. It both identifies the name of the volume incorrectly and leaves out the major story involving Azrael.

I highly recommend Detective Comics Vol. 4: Deus Ex Machina, by James Tynion IV. It should be read by all Batman fans, and would also be enjoyed by fans of Azrael from previous Batman stories (going back to the 1990's).

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