Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams - Book Review

From the publisher: The year is 1940. As the Blitz destroys London and kills thousands, the Royal Family looks on. But in this world, the only people with special abilities are Royalty, and the purer the bloodline, the greater their abilities. So why don't they stop the carnage with their powers? A truce between the Earth's nobles has kept them out of our wars--until now. When England's Prince Henry can take no more and intervenes, will it stop the planet's suffering or take it to another level?

Writer Rob Williams (Judge Dredd: Trifecta, Low Life, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN and Daken) and artist Simon Coleby (The Authority, Judge Dredd: Year One and Trifecta) team up to bring you this epic of World War proportions. History will be transformed in a way you've never seen before.


The Royals: Masters of War, by Rob Williams, has an astounding concept: The royal families around the world are all gifted with powers or abilities, the strength and type of which vary depending on nationality and purity of blood.  Throw in the setting, mainly England during the early part of World War II (although the time and theater of war does change some) and you've got the ingredients for a very cool new mini-series from DC's Vertigo imprint.

When England's Prince Henry decides to stop the Blitz over Britain, he breaks an old pact between the varying Royal families of the world: Let the commoners fight their wars, while we stay out of it.  Henry's actions have the result of drawing other Royals into the war, especially Japan, which leads to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Pity the U.S.A.  We have no Royal family, therefore we are left to create our own heroes from our best athletes, to little or no effect.  As the WWII spins on, Henry's actions continue to play a large role.  Meanwhile, his family is falling apart, as their dirty secrets continue to cause friction between them.  As the Hitler's victory nears, the prince is left with a critical decision, one which will have far reaching consequences.

I really liked this story.  Williams does a great job fleshing out Prince Henry, and creates several other intriguing characters in Prince Arthur and Princess Rose.  Even the foreign Royals take on rather unique traits, as evidenced by Emperor Jimmu of Japan and the former Tsar of Russia.  Henry's heroic character arc is worth reading, and the examination of some of the royal family stereotypes played out in those with powers grounds the story in a measure of reality.

Royals: Masters of War is a good read.  I recommend it, especially to those who like a little "alternate" with their history.

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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Basketball Games, Christmas, and a Birthday

Its been a busy few weeks.  Lexi finished her season with a win and a loss (in the tournament).  She scored her first basket on a nice drive to the hoop off a screen.  She also was able to grab several rebounds and play good defense.  All in all, she had a good year, getting better each and every week.

Cami played three more games (losing all three).  She took a couple of shots (they didn't fall), brought the ball up the floor, played Cami-style defense, and had a good time.  Games resume in two weeks.

Griffin played two more games and the team is still undefeated (one game was 24-2).  He scored once, took some shots, and hustled all over the place.  He is a beast on defense, very aggressive.

We had a good Christmas, going to church Christmas Eve, and hanging with Nana and Poppy all day on Christmas.  Lots of gifts were given and received.  We also did the traditional after-Christmas shopping, and all found some good deals.  It's interesting watching the kids debate over what to spend their money on.  Many agonizing decisions.

Finally, we celebrated Trisha's birthday by hanging out, shopping, and eating at the Mellow Mushroom.  With the end of the year in sight, 2014 appears to have been a good one for the Knights, while 2015 looms with lots of exciting events ahead.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Superman Unchained: The Deluxe Edition by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee - Book Review

From the publisher: Comics' biggest writer! Comics' biggest artist! Comics' greatest hero! Unchained at last!

From the skies above Metropolis to the four corners of the globe to the star-streaked spaceways beyond, one man is synonymous with the word "hero." Since his arrival marked the dawn of the superhero age, Superman has waged a never-ending battle for truth and justice, no matter when or where.

But before the dawn came the darkness. When another with incredible power, far more than that of mortal man, fell to the Earth. One who could spell the end for the Man of Steel.

From the mind of superstar writer Scott Snyder (BATMAN: ZERO YEAR) and legendary artist Jim Lee (JUSTICE LEAGUE) comes SUPERMAN UNCHAINED—a widescreen, cutting-edge take on the hero who started it all! Collects SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1-9 and material from SUPERMAN UNCHAINED DIRECTORS CUT #1.

I haven't been the biggest fan of the individual Superman books in DC's New 52 continuity.  However, I really enjoy Scott Snyder's writing (particularly on the Batman titles) and Jim Lee's art, so I decided to give Superman Unchained a chance.  I wasn't disappointed.  Synder and Lee told a story worthy of the mini-series format, free from entanglements with ongoing storylines.

Superman discovers that he is not the first alien to fall to Earth.  The new character Wraith, with a similar arrival on Earth as Superman's, has been hiding in the shadows, saving the U.S. as a "soldier" for the U.S. military, in a secret organization being run by General Lane.  Upon meeting Superman face to face, the two beings do the typical fight-then-become-allies dance.  Meanwhile, a group of cyber-terrorists known as Ascension are attempting to send humanity back to the dark ages, like some extreme group of Luddites.  Lois Lane gets a hot tip and finds herself in the middle of Ascension's plans.  And in and amongst all this, Lex Luthor begins to unveil his master plan, with Jimmy Olson caught in the middle.  As the various plot lines converge, Superman once again shows how his flaws and heroic nature demonstrate the best of what makes us human.

This was a fun book, with a lot going on at all times.  I often found myself wondering how the various storylines would relate to each other, but Snyder once again drew everything together seamlessly.  Wraith proved an interesting character, and Ascension was a nice new threat.  Luthor is portrayed as a genius who wants to both save mankind and end Superman, with a bit of an edge (he reminded me of a Batman-type villain).  The climatic events were big enough to truly fit the story, without seeming too over-the-top.

The art by Jim Lee was terrific.  He is one of my favorites, particularly when he is drawing Superman and Batman.  The full page layouts were great and very cinematic.

I highly recommend this book to Superman fans, and to those who want a good story without all the backstory necessary in so many of the ongoing series.

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: Even though Nightwing has relocated to Chicago, the ghosts of Gotham City won't let him be. An old friend, the Mad Hatter visits his new found home, forcing Nightwing into an uneasy alliance with the mysterious Marionette. With Nightwing trying to establish a new life in Chicago, his sins from his past will come back to haunt him unless he can make peace with his old life.

Collects NIGHTWING #25-29 and NIGHTWING Annual #1.

Kyle Higgins's Nightwing Vol. 5: Setting Son is the last volume of the Nightwing series in its current form.  It collects several stories detailing Dick Grayson's life in Chicago and some of the adventures he has there involving Mad Hatter and the killer Zsasz.  In addition, there is a story from the Zero Year event, before Dick became Robin/Nightwing.  This is an interesting look at a young man who was very full of himself and ego driven, a far cry from the man he would become.  There is also a nice story involving Dick's last days in Gotham, and a wrap-up of his relationship will they/won't they with Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl.  The heart of all these tales is in the daily life and relationships that Dick Grayson has.  The Nightwing series has always been about more than just crime fighting, and Higgins does a fantastic job in capturing that spirit.

Nightwing has also been about change and growing up, and the final story in this collection reflects that perfectly.  During the Forever Evil story, Nightwing was captured by the Crime Syndicate and unmasked as Dick Grayson for everyone to see.  He was then killed and brought back, but as far as the world at large (and everyone but Batman and a select few others) is concerned, Dick Grayson is dead.  In his touching, but vicious, way, Batman pushes Dick and gives him a new challenge: Let the world keep thinking you are dead, and fight the fights no one else can.  This story acts as a springboard into the next iteration of Dick Grayson/Nightwing's life, and transitions into the new series Grayson.

I have always enjoyed Nightwing and highly recommend this collection, particularly to fans who have read the previous four volumes.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: Welcome to the “Chicago Organized Workers League”- the world's first Super-Hero Labor Union!

While C.O.W.L. once stood as a beacon of hope against an epidemic of organized crime and an unbeatable “brotherhood” of Super-Villains, the union now faces its fiercest foe yet-a disillusioned public.

In targeting the last of the great villains, C.O.W.L. attempts to prove its value to the world and to each other, while staving off villainy from both outside and inside its offices.

I really enjoyed C.O.W.L. Vol. 1: Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins.  It was interesting and different from the norm.  C.O.W.L. is the story of the Chicago Organized Workers League, a labor union for superheroes.  It is set during 1962 and concerns C.O.W.L.'s attempt to negotiate a new contract with Mayor Daley and the city of Chicago, now that the Chicago Six are all out of action.  Along the way, a cover-up or conspiracy is discovered by one member of C.O.W.L.  Additionally, the history of the union is briefly shown, as well as the lives of a core group of heroes, warts included.  There are a number of characters, a few whom are hard to tell apart.  Not much time is spent with any one character, but the seeds are laid for future character growth.

Much like Watchmen is a story that uses superheroes to comment on society, C.O.W.L. appears to be doing something similar.  Looking at labor unrest, the changing society, racial inequality, and sexism are all touched on in this opening chapter to the C.O.W.L. story.  I'm very interested to see how the story progresses in future volumes, and highly recommend it to readers looking for a different type of superhero story.  One word of caution: the language can be a bit salty and there are several situations that are very much intended for adults.  This is not a book for children or young teens.

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I can't believe we did it all

Today, Cami had her first basketball game.  She was all smiles, prancing her way around the court.  She even had the ball a couple of times. I'm not even sure she realized she lost the game.

We immediately went to Lexi's game, where she continued to display her growing skills.  She played beautiful defense, made a terrific entry pass into the post, ran point (quite a bit in the 2nd half), was more aggressive to the ball, and even made her "man" go in to the back court once. The team won by a wide margin.

That was followed by Lexi's first piano recital.  She played Joy to the World and Away in a Manger.  She also received a trophy for earning the 2nd most extra points for practicing.  It was cool to watch and listen to her play. She looked beautiful, too.

We wrapped up the kids' activities by watching Griffin's first game of the season.  He was all over the place, playing good defense, stealing the ball, grabbing rebounds, hitting the floor, and driving to the hoop (his shots didn't drop, unfortunately). My favorite play was Griffin's block on a kid 4-5 inches taller than him. I don't think Griffin knew what he had done, but I started laughing out loud.  His team won a tight game, to start the season off on a good note.

The family time ended at Mozzi's for pizza with Nana and Poppy.  It was a good, full, fun day.  I'm truly blessed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys by Jesse Florea and Karen Whiting - Book Review

From the publisher: This fun devotional includes 365 upbeat devotions, each with a special twist or dose of humor to keep active boys engaged. The devotions combine Scripture and a spiritual message with jokes, riddles, puzzles, and hands-on activities to engage tween boys. The devotions help boys find how real people interacted with God and help them discover solutions to contemporary issues. Each devotion will help guide a young man in developing a lifetime habit of learning from the Bible. Themes include how to navigate the Bible, make good choices, discern God’s will, use good and uplifiting language, avoid temptation, choose good friends, trust God, etc.

The One Year Devotions for Active Boys is another in the One Year series, several of which I have already read and used.  It is directed at boys from late elementary school age to early high school.  While it can be read by older boys, the language and style really suits someone younger than their late teens.

Each devotion is a page long, and contains several parts.  There is the anecdote/story part, focusing on a particular attitude or lesson from the Bible.  There is a "fun" part that engages the mind in a different way; there are several different approaches in this part, including Plexer (word puzzle), Weird Facts, Puzzle It Out, Wacky Laughs, Lift-off List, Quiz, etc.  These are designed to hit the topic in an engaging way.  The final part of each devotion has a prayer suggestion and a passage of scripture that highlights the topic.

I highly recommend this for active (or inactive) boys.  The devotions are written in an easy to understand way, and are short enough that they shouldn't be intimidating by length or time.  It is a great devotional book to encourage a daily time with God.

I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.