Thursday, December 24, 2015

Batman/Superman Vol. 4: Siege by Greg Pak - Book Review

From the publisher: WHO IS SUPERMAN’S JOKER?
Someone is targeting the people closest to Superman—those who wear his sigil, those he cares most about, even innocents whose lives he’s saved. The attacks seem random, but Batman recognizes the pattern. A madman who hates you so much he strikes at the people around you…this is Superman’s Joker. 

Worse, the method of the attacks is even more bizarre: the bullets leave no residue, no clues, then seem to disappear into nothingness. Even the World’s Greatest Detective is at a loss.
But when Batman hatches a plan to draw the killer out of hiding, a crucial clue is uncovered—one that reveals that the killer is more closely tied to Superman than they could have imagined! Can Superman, Batman and Supergirl defeat this threat from Superman’s past…or will Superman’s Joker prove to be his final undoing?

Writer Greg Pak (ACTION COMICS) and artist Ardian Syaf (BATGIRL) add a deadly new name to Superman’s rogues gallery…one that will test Superman’s strength and Batman’s mind equally! Collects BATMAN/SUPERMAN #16-20, BATMAN/SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1 and BATMAN/SUPERMAN: FUTURES END #1! 

Greg Pak's Batman/Superman has been a pretty good read in the past. In fact, I thought the first volume was spectacular. The latest collection, Siege, is another good story. It revolves around the idea that there is a "Joker"-type villain for Superman, and what would happen if he began targeting all of Superman's closest friends and allies.

While I enjoyed this story, it wasn't quite up to the lofty standards that earlier collections set. It was still entertaining, and I will continue to look forward to Pak's future storyline. The art was also well done, but again, not to the level of earlier collections, particularly Jae Lee's artwork.

I would recommend Batman/Superman Vol. 4: Siege to fans of Batman and Superman, and those who have read the earlier collections.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What a Weekend!

Saturday started with Cami's game. Her team lost a thriller, but Cami played well. She got several rebounds and played good defense, but her highlight came when she grabbed a rebound and took it coast to coast for a beautiful lay-up. It was her best play of the year, so far.

Lexi had her rec ball tournament. They lost a heartbreaker on a shot with 6 seconds left. Lexi played her best game of the year. She did a great job on defense, blocked out well, and grabbed a few rebounds. She also scored her first basket of the season on a nice put-back shot. It gave her team the lead in the fourth quarter, as well.

Griffin wrapped up Saturday with another nail-biter. This week his team was on the winning side. He played lock-down defense on one of his good buddies, brought the ball up the floor several times, and threw his body all over the court chasing loose balls. He also scored six points, including a short jumper with great shooting form that swished in.

Sunday saw Griffin's travel team play two more games. They lost the first by a point, but blew out their opponents in the second game. Griffin had a few rebounds and played nice defense. He took several shots; however, none dropped for him. He did make another free throw, though.

Next weekend we have off, before hitting the stretch run for travel in January.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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 Ten Speed Press in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Basketball Time

This weekend we had a few exciting games. Lexi's team won their last regular season game. She played pretty well, particularly in the second half. She played tough defense, but really excelled in rebounding. I was very proud of her. Next week is her tournament, and they have a decent chance of winning.

Cami's team won again, though it was much closer. She did a great job, but didn't have as many opportunities for steals, as the girls she guarded weren't primary ball-handlers. She scored another basket, and brought the ball up quite a few times.

Griffin's school team lost a thriller on a basket that went through at the buzzer. While he didn't make any baskets, he did have a bunch of good shots. He did a good job as the point guard, and is beginning to see the court even better; several times he tried to hit the open man ahead of him on a fast break. However, he excelled at playing defense. He stole the ball off the opening tip, harassed his man into multiple turnovers, and his hustle getting back on defense on the fast break was awesome.

Griffin's travel team won both of their games. He made a basket and swished a free throw, and had multiple short jump shots just miss. He continued playing good defense. I can see Griffin becoming a lockdown defender if he continues to keep his intensity.

Next week is more of the same. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

All Games, All the Time

This weekend marked the first time this year all 3 kids had basketball games, and its how things will be going for the next couple of months.

Cami got things going with a steal and layup attempt on the opening tip of her game. She said her coach had been calling the steal-master, and she was. Several times she stole the ball off the dribble from the girl she was guarding. She even scored her first basket of the year. In addition, she passed the ball well and got a rebound or two. Her team won by 20, so it was a successful first game.

Lexi, limping from a bruised knee, powered through her game. She played good D, got some rebounds, and took a few shots, though none fell for her. Unfortunately, her team lost.

Griffin had his first rec league game, and he played great! He was a whirlwind on defense, and was very involved on offense. He did a really good job bringing the ball up court, and scored 4 points, just missing on a couple of other shots. It was clear how much playing travel ball is helping him. Unfortunately, there wasn't as much success during travel ball. The team lost both games, but was competitive in both. Griffin had several shots that just wouldn't fall (that was the story for the team, as well). He played well on defense again, getting several steals, causing a few, tying up some loose balls, and snagging a couple of rebounds. He is quite the annoyance on defense, always getting in his man's face when he has the ball.

So this was the first of many basketball weekends for the Knights. It was fun for us, and successful for the kids.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

I just recently finished Golden Son, the second book in Pierce Brown's Red Rising Trilogy. Both books are terrific, fast-paced reads in the vein of Hunger Games, with less of a Young Adult focus, and more character development. I highly recommend both books (Red Rising is the title of the first one) and I'm looking forward to reading Morning Star, the final book, which comes out in February.

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and lush wilds spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.