Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields by Cameron Stewart - Book Review

From the publisher: THE BATTLE FOR BURNSIDE IS ON!

She rides a cool motorcycle, swings a mean right hook, and has backup from the best crime-fighters in the biz, but Batgirl's greatest weapon has always been her mind. As the brilliant Barbara Gordon, she's on the verge of a tech breakthrough that could transform her beloved Burnside neighborhood, and all of Gotham City to boot—though if it falls into the wrong hands, it could just as easily devastate them.

But how can Batgirl stop a hacker who can break into her brain itself?

A sinister figure has been haunting Batgirl's nightmares and stealing all her secrets, from her high-tech innovations to her hidden identity. And he'll use that knowledge to destroy her forever.

Now Batgirl must assemble a band of her best friends and closest allies—including Spoiler, Black Canary, Batwing and more—to stop the most dangerous enemy she's ever known, or Burnside and the entire Bat-family will burn…

It all comes down to this! The revolutionary creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr bring the saga of the Batgirl of Burnside to a close in BATGIRL VOL. 3: MINDFIELDS. Be there for the shocking climax to one of the greatest Batgirl stories ever told! 

Collects BATGIRL #46-52.

Cameron Stewart's Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields wraps up the New 52 Batgirl story and her time in Burnside, a neighborhood of Gotham. This last volume relates Barbara Gordon's confrontation with The Fugue and a final run-in with the terrorist group Gladius and their commander.

The Fugue is a pretty creative villain concept. He is able to hack people's memories and plant or remove anything he wishes. What makes him a good villain for Batgirl is the fact that Barbara Gordon has an eidetic memory. She literally remembers everything, and uses that as one of her chief weapons in her war on crime. With a computerized implant in her spine enabling her to walk (she had been paralyzed), she is particularly at risk to memory manipulation. After all, when you've always been able to rely absolutely on your memory, what can you believe when you find it's been messed with?

The arc with Gladius was okay, but more than anything, it seemed to serve as a wrap-up to this Burnside storyline. Gladius, and the commander, as suitable villains, but the real star(s) of this story are all Batgirl's friends: Operator, Black Canary, Spoiler, and Bluebird. These heroes form Batgirl's own little version of Batman's extended Bat-Family. The developing relationships among these characters offer some nice potential storylines in the future. At the conclusion of Vol. 3, Barbara Gordon makes a decision that ends this run appropriately while also setting the stage for whatever direction the character is taken after the DC Rebirth event.

Additionally, Batgirl Vol. 3 includes the Batgirl story from the Joker: Endgame story arc, for the Batgirl fans who may not have read the collected version of the Joker story.

Overall, Cameron Stewart has done a fine job. Batgirl showcased a different type of comic storytelling that was unique from most books. Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields is recommended to fans of this fun book, as both a natural conclusion to this particular story, and as a jumping off point for the future.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weather Interference

It has been a heck of a week, weather-wise. Lexi was able to get one tennis match in, which she and her partner won, 8-2. It was a tighter match than the previous two, but the competition was good for the girls. Wednesday's match was postponed/canceled due to tornadoes in the area. She did get to cheer for the middle school games, though, and even saw some church friends who attend the opponent.

Griffin's football game was canceled due to flooded fields. Like the others, Cami's first fall softball game was canceled due to flooded fields. It rained a ton here this week, and continued today.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate this week, as all of the kids' activities take place during the week with Labor Day weekend coming up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong Volume 1: In the Bag by Rafer Roberts - Book Review

From the publisher: GET SMASHED... OR BE SMASHED! Meet Armstrong: Since the ancient city of Ur, this immortal adventurer has spent the last 7,000 years drinking and carousing his way through history alongside some of the greatest merrymakers the world has ever known. Meet Archer: A sheltered teenage martial arts master and expert marksman that was raised for a single purpose - to kill the devil incarnate. Little did he know that this undying evil was actually Armstrong (he's actually a pretty good guy... once you get to know him) and, since hitting the road together, the two have become great friends and even better partners. Now: Archer is about to set off on his most dangerous mission yet - a quest into the mystic reaches of Armstrong's bottomless satchel to liberate his friend and comrade from the clutches of the mad god Bacchus! (Okay, so, Armstrong went into the satchel himself to get a bottle of whiskey that he kinda misplaced and got stuck. It's like the Amazon warehouse of arcane treasures in there... and he doesn't exactly have a maid service.) Imprisoned in Armstrong's satchel for centuries, Bacchus now commands a legion of monsters, goblins and golems bent on escaping back into the world of man and enacting revenge on their captor... Can Archer single-handedly combat the godly embodiment of intoxication himself - and rescue his best buddy - without becoming lost amongst Armstrong's endless repository of bizarre artifacts and historical oddities in the process? From red-hot rising star Rafer Roberts (Plastic Farm) and superstar artist David Lafuente (Ultimate Spider-Man), Valiant's next blockbuster series starts here! Collecting A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #1-4.

Archer and Armstrong Vol. 1: In The Bag, by Rafer Roberts, is a big, loud, buddy comedy adventure. Armstrong is a near immortal from ancient times. He is all about good times, and occasionally fighting evil. Archer was raised by a parents who were members of a cult. They raised him to assassinate the ultimate evil, aka Armstrong. Through a number of circumstances, they became friends and companions.

In this current book, Armstrong finds out that an old friend (whom he had wronged) has died. Armstrong decides to make things right with the widow, which sends him on a search for an important item that he stored in his bottomless satchel. When he doesn't return, Archer calls on his adopted sister, Mary-Maria, for help. However, she doesn't like Archer, and she runs a group of assassin nuns. Meanwhile, the god Bacchus, who was captured and put in the satchel by Armstrong, begins to exact his revenge. Yes, it's just as crazy and wild as the summary sounds.

So, the story was decent. It had humorous moments, particularly between the hedonistic Armstrong and the naive Archer. There are quips, fights, character moments, and a giant Greek god of parties. Roberts does a fine job of telling the story, and it is entertaining in its way.

While this isn't really my type of book, I would recommend Archer & Armstrong Vol. 1: In The Bag to fans of the previous series and to those who enjoy buddy/comedy/action tales with a bit of raunchiness.

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekly Family Update

This week brought more activities to the Knight household. Lexi had two tennis matches (with a third rained out). She is playing 1st doubles, and she and her partner won both of their matches 8-0. It is clear that Lexi has improved from last year, and it's cool that she is playing in matches that count now, rather than exhibition matches. Also, her team won both meets. To add to her schedule, she cheered at a football game after one of the matches.

Griffin's team lost 12-0. It was a tough game, and a bit of a step back. Griffin didn't carry the ball this week (a couple times his play was called, but stuff happened), but his blocking was pretty good. Also, no defense, as very few boys play both ways, unless there are problems or a big lead. He did recover a bad kick while playing kick-off return, though. We're looking forward to a good week of practice and a better overall game next Saturday.

Cami starts fall softball tomorrow. She has games on Saturdays, with a clinic from a former varsity coach thrown in one weekend as well (Trisha helped set that one up!). Cami is excited because she has a bunch of friends on her team, and her coach is a good guy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nightwing #3 by Tim Seeley - Book Review

From the publisher: “Better than Batman” part three! Nightwing and Raptor have become the pride of the Parliament of Owls, successfully completing missions for them across the globe—but Batgirl is not happy. Can she convince Nightwing he’s gone too far, or has he fallen too far under Raptor’s influence?

In Nightwing #3, Tim Seeley drops Nightwing and Raptor in the middle of a mission to secure blueprints for the Parliament of Owls. To find them, they must successfully navigate the Maze House of Knute Ruud, the man who designed the base of the Parliament. As they prepare to enter, Batgirl shows up, angry and suspicious of Raptor.  As they make their way through the maze, loyalty is questioned and plans are revealed.

I've got to say, its nice to see Dick Grayson back in his Nightwing guise. As cool as his spying for Spyral was, he is at heart a hero, and being Nightwing lets that happen. In addition, Raptor's constant suggestions that Dick is just another Batman are causing Dick to reevaluate who he is and what he is. Batgirl also acts as a moral compass of sorts, and adds a bit of humor as well. It's nice to see the Parliament of Owls returning to play a major role again. They are a wonderful group to act as villains, and their machinations are truly deep and devious.

While Nightwing #3 is its own adventure, it is also part of a larger arc, "Better than Batman". It can be read and enjoyed on its own, and I give it a high recommendation, but it will be best understood in the context of the larger story.

Tim Seeley is continuing to write fun, adventurous stories with Dick Grayson/Nightwing and is constantly evolving the character. This is a series that should be read by any Bat-family fans and those who like a little humor to their heroes.

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

JUSTICE LEAGUE #3 by Bryan Hitch - Book Review

From the publisher: “The Extinction Machine” part three! The hive-mind entities known as the Awakened take their vendetta against the Justice League to the next level by changing ordinary people into grotesque monsters bent on hunting down super-humans all over the world. Meanwhile, Superman journeys to the center of the earth to stop the catastrophic quakes that are taking lives all over the world.

-Minor Spoilers-

Justice League #3 is Bryan Hitch ramping up the crazy. The various members of the Justice League are dealing with a world-sized threat known as "The Kindred". Exactly what they are and what they are doing is unclear. However, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and the rest are doing their best to stop The Kindred before they can enact whatever plan they have. As the team splits up, the circumstances look grim.

This issue of Justice League does not stand on its own. Having missed the first two issues, I found myself at a loss as to the larger picture of what was going on. I think the concept of The Kindred is fascinating, and I'm curious as to how "The Extinction Machine" story line is going to be resolved. I'll definitely be looking to read the issues I missed.

Additionally, this story, both at the issue level and the arc level, looks to be a huge threat (it reminded me of another book Hitch worked on, Stormwatch). The Justice League was formed to deal with situations that put the world at risk, and The Kindred appear to be just such a threat. They are challenging the heroes on every level.

In the midst of overwhelming challenge, there is a small personal interaction with Superman and Lois, their son Jon, and Batman. My favorite scene was Jon offering Batman cookies. Just a little piece of perfection.

I would definitely recommend Justice League #3, but it is not a good place to jump in to the story. Bryan Hitch has got big things going, and it looks well worth reading.

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

BATMAN #5 by Tom King - Book Review

From the publisher: “I Am Gotham” part five. In the final chapter of this epic, is Batman truly the hero Gotham City deserves—or does it deserve better? In this ultimate showdown, where the line between allies and enemies blurs, the question will finally be answered…and the fate of Gotham will be decided.

Batman #5 ends Tom King's first story arc with Batman after Rebirth. He does a nice job of concluding the "I Am Gotham" story, wrapping up the introduction of Gotham and Gotham Girl, while giving hints as to their origins. With help from some friends, Bruce engages in a final battle with Gotham.

I enjoyed Alfred's role in Batman #5, as he was given a part I don't remember seeing him in before, and King perfectly captures the butler's dry humor. In addition, King also lays the foundation for the next arc, which springs from some rather intriguing narration at the conclusion of this issue.

The art is dark and gritty, as fits this particular storyline.

Overall, I enjoyed Tom King's Batman #5 and look forward to seeing where he takes the character in the future. Highly recommended.

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - Book Review

From the publisher: “Are you happy with your life?” 

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. 

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. 

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”  

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Blake Crouch's Dark Matter is a captivating book. I couldn't put it down, and hated having to stop at any point.  It is the story of a man, Jason Dessen, who has his life assumed by another version of himself. Meanwhile, Jason is sent to an alternate version of his life, one where he made some very different life decisions, which resulted in a very different life. Dark Matter is the story of Jason's journey and efforts to return "home", to his wife and son, and the life he loves.

In Jason Dessen, Crouch has created an everyman-type protagonist. Dessen is easy to relate to for several reasons: he loves his family, he has a relatively "ordinary life" that he loves, and he sometimes wonders "what if" in regards to some past choices he made. The difference is that he is a brilliant physicist and has discovered how to jump timelines that have branched off based on the decisions he made. If this sounds confusing, it really isn't. In Crouch's hands, this concept makes sense and is clear to follow. Additionally, the fact that Dessen is also the antagonist adds another level to the tension, because really, how do you out think yourself?

As for the story, I've seen someone else refer to this as a love story, and I would agree to a point. Jason's love for his wife is the motivating factor for him to get his old life back. In fact, this story reminded me a lot of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The science fiction concepts layer on top of the love story element and are all surrounded and wrapped up in something that feels very deep and meaningful.

I highly recommend Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It is a page turning story that should appeal to a wide variety of readers.

I received a preview copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Highlight Play

Today, Griffin's football team won their first game this season. That was cool. However, what he did was even cooler. Griffin scored on a 40+ yd counter. Along the way, he broke a tackle, kept his balance, and stiff-armed a kid before he scored. It was his first touchdown in the tackle league, and its quite possible I was more excited about it than he was. In addition, his blocking improved, and he was involved in a tackle or two while playing linebacker. All in  all, a pretty cool day.

We are still waiting for Cami's fall softball season to start, but that should be any time now.

Lexi had her first action as a cheerleader this past week, and every time I looked at her, she had a big smile on her face. She also found out that she would be playing #1 doubles this tennis season.

This week, we have two tennis matches scheduled (weather permitting), one cheer game, and one youth football game.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ALL-STAR BATMAN #1 by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr., Danny Miki, Dean White - Book Review

From the publisher: “My Own Worst Enemy” part one! Superstar writer Scott Snyder explodes into an all-new Batman series alongside legendary artist John Romita Jr., reimagining some of the Dark Knight’s greatest villains. First up: Two-Face! Batman must take Two-Face to a destination out of Gotham City, but the duplicitous villain has a two of spades up his sleeve. Every assassin, bounty hunter and ordinary citizen with something to hide is on their tails with one goal: kill Batman! Handcuffed together on the road to hell, this is Batman and Two-Face as you’ve never seen them before! 

In what promises to be a cool series, Scott Snyder starts All-Star Batman #1 off with a bang! This opening chapter to the "My Own Worst Enemy" storyline continues DC's new Rebirth process. Snyder drops the reader into the middle of a crisis, with Batman transporting Two-Face to a mysterious location. Two-Face tells Batman that he has offered a reward to anyone who helps him escape, and promises to reveal damaging information about everyone if he isn't freed. As expected, chaos ensues.

I really liked this opening chapter, and look forward to seeing where Snyder takes the story. He has done such a great job writing Batman over the past few years, and I can't wait to find out how he handles Two-Face.

In addition to the main storyline, there is a back-up feature about the new "Robin", Duke from the Robin Wars story. It looks interesting as well.

Overall, Snyder has done it again with All-Star Batman. He has a proven track record with this character, and this book should be in the must read pile of any Batman fans, as well as fans looking to give the new DC Rebirth books a shot.

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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Here we go!

This past week, the Knight family jumped back into our routine. After a fun summer break filled with camps, swimming, and a long Orlando vacation with the beach, theme parks, and Idaho family, our school lives began to gear up. The kids and I started school on Thursday. Lexi began tennis practice, and has continued cheerleading practice. Cami is starting fall softball soon. And Griffin had his first football game yesterday. He carried the ball a couple of times, had a few blocks, and was involved in making two tackles at the cornerback position. The team lost, but Griffin showed improvement from last year.

More to come as we get deeper into the seasons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Past Aways: Facedown in the Timestream by Matt Kindt - Book Review

From the publisher: When five deep-time explorers find themselves stranded in the distant past of 2015, they're forced to adapt to a primitive world of iPhone 6s's and cars that can't even drive themselves. But when a rift in space-time starts spitting out dinosaurs, giant robots, and other strange phenomena, only the marooned "PastAways" can defend the twenty-first century from the terrors of the timestream!

Collects issues #1-#6 of the Dark Horse original series, plus a short story from Dark Horse Presents all in full-color!

Matt Kindt's Past Aways: Facedown in the Timestream is full of big ideas. It is the story of a group of people from the extreme future sent to observe our present. However, they become stranded. While looking for a way back and coming to terms with their new reality, they deal with other time disruptions like themselves.

This book has an interesting, big science fiction concept. It is full of action and weird, wonderful future-type things. However, I didn't really find the various characters that interesting. They were barely more than archetypes, with very little characterization. While this isn't a necessity for an action book, for me it resulted in not caring that much about what happened to them. There was very little character development, either.

As far as the story, Past Aways started as one type of story (castaways in time dealing with their situation and hoping to return home) and by the end had turned into something else altogether (no spoilers). This initially threw me off, but I found that it was actually more interesting than the characters, so I liked that part of it.

Overall, Past Aways was average. I feel like Kindt aimed high, but the execution didn't quite reach the heights he aimed for. I would recommend this book to fans of weird science fiction and big action movies.

I received a preview copy of this book from Dark Horse Comics and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.