Sunday, August 24, 2014

Football for the Knight Family

After a bye week, Griffin's team was back at it on Saturday.  It wasn't his team's best game, as lost they without scoring a touchdown. However, he had some individual highlights: 3 carries for somewhere between 15-20 yards, a series at quarterback, and one great tackle where he totally squared up the runner to pull his flags, then wrapped him up when the kid moved.  It was a nice move.  Additionally, commenting on the heat and humidity, Griffin said, "This humanity is terrible!"

Cami and Lexi both cheered ably and enthusiastically for the weather conditions. 

This week, the twins have a Tuesday night game, due to the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato - Book Review

From the publisher: The fourth volume of Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul's New 52 breakout hit - The Flash!

A mysterious and powerful Speed-Force killer has left a trail of bodies in his wake and only Barry has the power to stop him. But when the killer stays one step ahead of him, Barry finds himself face to face with the Teen Titans and Kid Flash for the first time. All this will lead to a confrontation with the Flash's most deadly foe, The Reverse Flash!

Collects THE FLASH #20-25, and #23.3: REVERSE FLASH.

I've enjoyed the New 52 take on the Flash, and Vol. 4: Reverse is no exception.  It's a fun and enjoyable story.  Barry Allen, aka the Flash, is moving on from his trip into the Speed Force to rescue Iris West and several others, all who were gifted with some sort of power from their time there.  His girlfriend, Patty Spivot, has moved in and things seem to be getting back to normal.  Then Barry discovers the new heroes are being killed by someone stealing the Speed Force and sporting a symbol that is the reverse of the Flash's.  Yes, that's right, it's the first appearance of Reverse-Flash in the New 52. Throw in an appearance by Kid Flash and it's a return to the Flash Family-type story of old.

Buccellato and Manapul do a nice job telling this story.  There are several nice reveals, and they add in the first meeting between Flash and Kid Flash.  The romance between Patty Spivot and Barry Allen is interesting, as long-time readers remember the marriage between Barry and Iris West, who is also a major character in this story.  The writers also do a good job of allowing Barry Allen's positivity show through.  Flash has always been an upbeat hero, a sort of counter-point to the brooding and darkness of Batman, and this characteristic is constantly on display in Reverse.

The New 52 affected many characters a lot, and Barry Allen/Flash is one of those.  I really liked the idea of the Flash Family, including Barry and Iris.  I also enjoyed the Reverse-Flash/Professor Zoom character; however, that is not the version of Reverse-Flash in this story.  If I had a gripe about this book, it is this: The New 52 removed much of the deep history surrounding the Flash, not necessarily for the better in my opinion.  This is not the fault of the writers, who have been doing a fine job with the editorial decision.

Reverse is a fun and entertaining story.  It's worth reading for fans of the Flash.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: One of the most popular writers in modern comics, Brian Michael Bendis reveals the tools and techniques he and other top creators use to create some of the most popular comic book and graphic novel stories of all time. Words for Pictures shows readers the creative methods of a writer at the very top of his field. Bendis guides aspiring creators through each step of the comics-making process—from idea to script to finished sequential art—for fan favorite comics like The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and more. Along the way, tips and insights from other working writers, artists, and editors provide a rare, extensive look behind the creative curtain of the comics industry. With script samples, a glossary of must-know business terms for writers, and interactive comics-writing exercises, Words for Pictures provides the complete toolbox needed to jump start the next comics-writing success story.

Brian Michael Bendis writes some of the best, and most popular, comics currently going and in the recent past.  When I discovered he had written a book on writing comics, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I looked forward to seeing his process and ideas on story in general, and comic books in particular.  The book, Words for Pictures, was not disappointing at all.

Bendis teaches a course in graphic novel writing at the University of Oregon, and this book reads like a syllabus or highlights from his class.  It is divided into seven chapters: 1) Why?; 2) The Modern Comic Book Script; 3) Writing for Artists; 4) The Editor's Roundtable; 5) The Writers' FAQs; 6) The Business of Comics Writing; and 7) Writing Exercises.  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of the writing part of comic creation, with a brief look at how to run your career as a successful business (an interview with his wife, who runs his business).  Most chapters contain multiple examples of what Bendis is discussing, including art, book pitches, script pages, etc. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 also have special sections at the end that highlight Bendis's writer, artist, and editor friends views on the same subject.

One of the great parts of Words for Pictures is how Bendis recruits his colleagues to give their perspective on multiple aspects of the writer's job, including multiple artists addressing how they interact with writers and their scripts, and multiple editors talking about what they look for in a writer.

The art is gorgeous, as it is from actual comic books, and the script pages are helpful guides.

I thought Words for Pictures was a fantastic book and a great help for aspiring comic book writers, and writers in general.  Bendis is very helpful and provides many ideas and examples, but he never crosses the line into an ego trip.  He is always careful to point out what works for him, and how there are other successful writers who do things differently.  However, Bendis always focuses on what the common traits of the successful writer are.

This book is highly recommended, particularly for writers.  I can see it becoming a well-used guidebook or reference text, as it is full of useful information.

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Opening Week of Football

Saturday was the opening day for youth league football (and cheerleading).  Griffin's team played the other team from school.  It was a good game, and Griffin won.  The boys (who only won once last year) are now the "big" kids and showed it.  The highlight of the game for me was when Griffin took the ball 40 yards for a touchdown, his first one ever!   He accomplished that goal 13 years faster than me.  After scoring, he came running back to me with a big grin on his face.  It was a pretty special moment.  He also pulled multiple flags, and had an all-around good game.

The girls had fun cheering, and Trisha is helping coach both of their squads.  It's shaping up to be a fun season.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown - Book Review

From the publisher: Author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown returns in the highly anticipated sequel to the NY Times Bestseller Star Wars: Jedi Academy!

It's time to return to middle school in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

After surviving his first year at Jedi Academy, Roan Novachez thought his second year would be a breeze. He couldn't have been more wrong. Roan feels like he's drifting apart from his friends, and it's only made worse when Roan discovers he's not the amazing pilot he thought he'd be. When the school bullies take him under their wing, he decides they aren't so bad after all--or are they?

This year, Roan will have to face alien poetry tests, menacing robots, food fights, flight simulation class, online bullies, more lightsaber duels, and worst of all . . . a girl who is mad at him.

This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, sketches, e-mails, and more.

Jeffrey Brown's newest Jedi Academy book, Return of the Padawan, picks up where the previous one left off.  Roan Novachez is about to begin his second year at the academy and is excited about seeing his friends and training to be a starfighter pilot.  But things don't go exactly as planned, as Roan runs into girl trouble, friend trouble, bully trouble, and teacher trouble.

Roan continues to learn about the Force, trains as a pilot, goes on field trips to other planets, and keeps drawing his comic strip, Ewok Pilot.  Along the way, he learns what happens when you begin to venture down the path of the Dark Side and what it means to truly be a friend.

Brown perfectly captures the essence of his characters, both with words and with pictures.
With all the laughs, smiles, and awkwardness of the first book, Return of the Padawan shows the trials and tribulations of a middle school boy, although one who has the power of the Force.  This book is a must read for young boys, or anyone who loves Star Wars and remembers what middle school was like.

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

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Vacation 2014

So, school started this week, so our summer break is officially over.  It was a fun and exciting summer, with lots of cool things, highlighted by our trip to California with Grandma and Pa.  We visited San Francisco, Monterey, Los Angeles, San Diego, along with Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure, SeaWorld, and Legoland.  We also saw Hearst Castle, the Oregon Vortex, Crater Lake, and Huntington Beach.  The trip started with a visit with family in Boise.

Elsewhere in the summer, we went swimming, watched family fireworks (courtesy of uncles Dan and David), had a trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton with Nana, Poppy and extended family, and a mini-family reunion at Old Spaghetti Factory.  There were also special events at Barnes and Noble (Batman Day, Frozen Day, etc.), and Trisha and I saw Switchfoot in concert.  We packed a ton into 8ish weeks.

Enjoy some pictures of the Knight family vacation.

Knight cousins (minus one)
Pirates in San Francisco
Our Disney Welcome

The Girls' Disney Welcome

Captain America

Starting California Screamin' roller coaster

Radiator Springs

Matterhorn Mountain selfie
Meeting Thor

The Family with Kenny Gray
Crater Lake (yes, that's snow)

Lighthouse in Crescent City, CA
Trees of Mystery in the Redwoods

Redwood so big you can drive through it
San Francisco Cable Car

Olvera St. in Los Angeles (where the city began)

Huntington Beach (the water was cold)
Miss Jan's House (our LA base of operations)
4th of July sparklers
Dufek family cousins
Me and Jon Foreman from Switchfoot

SR-71 (my favorite plane)
Frozen Day (building Olaf)

Marvel Superhero Day