Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quite a week

Lexi had three basketball games, and wrapped up her season. The first game was pretty special; prior to the game, she sang the National Anthem. She then started (along with the other girls who didn't normally get to play a lot). She played the entire 1st quarter and then started and played most of the 3rd. She took 6 or 7 shots (none went in), made several passes, had a rebound, and made a free throw to score her first point. And to top it off, her team won. They won the second game as well, and Lexi got to play the last 12 or 15 seconds. However, the other team was fouling, so Lexi got to shoot free throws, and made one of two. Finally, the team lost their first tournament game. Lexi got to play a little bit in that game. With the possible exception of a tournament in the next week (an unofficial event), Lexi's seventh grade basketball season is finished. It was a great learning experience for her, combined with a little disappointment and a lot of success.

Cami's volleyball team played their second tournament. Her team won their pool, and finished 3rd overall out of somewhere between 20-25 teams. She hit a few balls, served multiple times (still working on this), and had a fun time celebrating with her teammates. She will have one more tournament in March, and then some practices off and on as her coach works to continue to expose the girls to volleyball.

A slow week for Griffin, for which he was thankful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Astro City #41:The Sky's The Limit by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From  the publisher: It’s our 100th issue celebration! This 40-page extravaganza introduces Astro City’s most revered hero—the Astro-Naut! Learn his secrets! See him in action! And in the heat of World War II, see the stunning sacrifice that inspired a grateful populace to rename a city after its greatest hero. Also featuring the All-American, the Lamplighter, Zootsuit and the debut of the Gentleman, as our tour through Astro City’s history continues!

I love Kurt Busiek's Astro City series. With a somewhat sporadic publishing history, it's hard to keep up with it's many incarnations, but I try to read it whenever I discover a new arc. So, I was surprised, but not really, to discover it had reached it's 100th issue (from all publishers). To commemorate this feat, Busiek delivers an extra long issue.

Astro City #41: The Sky's the Limit details how Astro City got its name, and the hero it was named after, the Astro-naut, Roy Virgil. While he wasn't the first hero, he was arguably Astro City's first great hero, and he came along at a time when heroes were in desperate need: the end of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II. With his scientific and creative mind, he was able to defeat many villains, as well as travel throughout the galaxy. The Astro-naut also inspired a new bevy of heroes, leading to Romeyn Falls to be renamed Astro City.

Busiek has used Astro City to tell a different kind of story about heroes and villains, often from the viewpoint of the common man. This issue is no different, as the story of Roy Virgil is told by his friend, Joseph Greenwald, city councilman and eventual mayor. Greenwald's perspective is an excellent prism with which to view Roy Virgil. Virgil himself has some echoes of Tony Stark (Iron Man), but unlike Stark, Virgil refuses to give or sell his technology to the military. This causes some of the conflict in the story, but with Greenwald's observations, the reader is given a fair look at the Astro-naut.

Throughout his long run telling Astro City stories, Busiek has created a deep and well-rounded world, with plenty of history to explore. At its worst, Astro City is a fresh take on some familiar tropes. At its best, though, Busiek leaves his readers with not only a unique tale, but an emotional and thoughtful one as well. The Sky's the Limit is an example of the later, and is an excellent addition to the Astro City legend. I highly recommend Astro City #41; it is a fine one-shot and a terrific glimpse into what Astro City has to offer. I would also recommend any and all of the collected volumes. You won't be sorry.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Future Quest Vol. 1 by Jeff Parker - Book Review

From the publisher: When worlds collide, it's up to Hanna-Barbera's most well-known adventure-seeking heroes to save the galaxy! Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and more are re-imagined here in this new action-adventure thriller! 

When the adventurous and inquisitive Jonny Quest and his adoptive brother Hadji make a startling discovery in the swamplands of Florida, they are pulled into an epic struggle between the Space Rangers and a dangerous villain who threatens the galaxy. Now it's up to the combined forces of Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman, Frankenstein Jr., The Impossibles, The Galaxy Trio and Mightor to stop him and save their universe! Collects FUTURE QUEST #1-6.

Jeff Parker's Future Quest Vol. 1 sounded like it would be a fun book. It had a lot of Hanna-Barbera characters that I have fond memories of. Creating a world threatening crossover that would bring them all together seemed like a nice chance to revisit the characters and have a nostalgic read. However, what I discovered is that I'm not really the audience for this book.

When mysterious portals begin opening around the world, particularly in Florida, Johnny Quest, Hadji, Race Bannon, and Dr. Quest begin to investigate. Birdman is brought in to help, as well. Dr. Zin and the agents of F.E.A.R. are trying to get ahold of the power source that is behind the portals. A quick jump takes the reader to other planets and universes where we discover that pieces of a world destroying creature called Omnikron is causing the portals, which it plans to use to take over the Earth. Meanwhile, the Herculoids, Space Ghost, and others are battling the creature where they find it. As events progress, more and more characters are brought together and the story expands its scope. Finally, the reader is left with a cliffhanger, as I assume there will be at least another volume of this series.

The art is nice and is very reminiscent of the animation from the various cartoons where the characters originated. There are also several short background features that provide more insight into characters who aren't given enough time in the main storyline.

Overall, I thought Future Quest Vol. 1 was just okay. Steve Orlando is doing a nice job, but I think this book is for younger readers. I was hoping for more depth to the story and characters. Also, there were way too many people to keep track of for my tastes, and the story didn't draw me in. I would definitely recommend this for younger readers (late elementary or middle school age).

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We Have Another Champion!

Lexi had two basketball games this week; her team won one and lost one. Lexi played in both, quite a lot in the win. She didn't take any shots this week, but handled the ball well (no nervousness or indecisiveness) and played good defense. This upcoming week is the last week of the season, with two games and then a tournament.

In addition to playing basketball, Lexi also had Cheer Night, where the middle and high school cheerleaders did a series of routines during halftime of the varsity basketball game. This was the capstone to her cheer season. She had a great time and did really well. She's a natural encourager and loves to be in front of people. Tryouts for next year start in a couple of weeks.

The big news this week, though, is that Griffin's rec league team won the championship.They played two pretty good games, and saved the best performance of the weekend for the 4th quarter of the championship game, where they pulled away and sealed the game. Griffin played well in both games, taking several shots (none fell), including one off a rebound where he tried to get it over a 6 ft tall 6th grader. It wasn't blocked, but it didn't go in for him. Griffin made several hustle plays, where he saved a turnover for his team, or got the ball (steal or rebound) for his team. He played nice defense, as usual. My favorite play was when he made a little move and then drove to the basket. One of his travel coaches was sitting near me and was very complimentary of the play.

He's a champ (not sure why he's not smiling)

Cami had another volleyball practice. She has a tournament next Sunday. She is excited to get to compete again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

TRINITY #6 by Francis Manapul - Book Review

From the publisher: “Better Together” part six! The horror that kept our heroes trapped in nightmares of their own making is now loose in the world, and it’s taking possession of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman! When the spawn of Mongul holds the keys to the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe—no one is safe!

Trinity #6 is the final issue in the first arc by Francis Manapul. With Mongul in the real world, having taken over Clark Kent's body, our heroes are forced to find a way out of the dream world, where they are trapped with the child of Mongul and Poison Ivy.

This story wraps up the first arc nicely, if a little anti-climactically.  Manapul has done a fine job with this introductory story bringing together the "Big 3" of DC Comics. He has also begun establishing the connections between Batman and Wonder Woman of the New 52 and Superman from an Earth that was destroyed. Going forward, I think it will be interesting to see how Superman fits into the shoes left behind when the Superman of the New 52 era died. Of particular interest is how he will relate to Wonder Woman, with whom the other Superman had a relationship.

As far as a recommendation, I think this arc is better served being read as a whole (wait for the collected edition). The individual chapters were fine, but I never felt like they were "can't miss" stories. Hopefully this stakes will rise as the series continues. Therefore, I would recommend Trinity #6, by Francis Manapul, to current readers, but would suggest new readers wait until the next arc starts.

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

THE WILD STORM #1 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: A troubled woman, barred by her employer from continuing her research, walks miserably through New York City. It takes her a moment to notice that everybody else is looking up. A man has been thrown from the upper floor of the Halo skyscraper.

And that woman—Angela Spica, sick from the transhuman implants she’s buried in her own body—is the only person who can save him.

What she doesn’t know is that the act of saving that one man will tip over a vast and secret house of cards that encloses the entire world, if not the inner solar system. This is how the Wild Storm begins, and it may destroy covert power structures, secret space programs and even all of human history.

New York Times best-selling writer Warren Ellis (TRANSMETROPOLITAN, RED, THE AUTHORITY) returns to DC to curate Jim Lee’s WildStorm world, with this debut issue resetting the WildStorm universe with new iterations of Grifter, Voodoo, the Engineer, Jenny Sparks and others.

To start with, I've enjoyed many of Warren Ellis's comics. He seems to tell stories on a very personal level while incorporating huge, crazy ideas (see: Stormwatch, Transmetropolitan, Moon Knight, etc.). Additionally, I've enjoyed reading many of the old Wildstorm books, particularly stories starring Grifter, the Stormwatch team, and Joe Casey's take on Wildcats. All that said, many of the more recent offerings, particularly when DC began integrating these characters into their regular universe, were a mixed bag. So, it was with held breath that I read Warren Ellis's The Wild Storm #1. I was very pleased to find that I enjoyed it, and look forward to reading future issues.

I can't really summarize this issue, as it's better read than explained. To be sure, this is very much a first issue, and it functions that way. Resetting many of the characters following the New 52 is going to take time and work. But Ellis does a fine job with this opening chapter in a his first arc. He appears to be starting slowly, introducing a few characters in this book, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I didn't. That's not to say it was slow, however. There was a lot of action and lot going on; Ellis shifted point of view characters several times, to expand the scope of the story. I'm looking forward to discovering/reading about Jack Hawksmoor, Grifter, and the Wildcats team in particular (I'm hoping they will be included as the story broadens).

I really enjoyed The Wild Storm #1. Ellis has written a good opening, and I trust him enough to see how this is all going to develop. I highly recommend this book, particularly to fans of the old Wildstorm books.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A lot of basketball

Lexi had two games this week. Her team lost the first game, and because it was close, she didn't get to play. However, the second game was an 8th grade only game, and she and two other 7th graders were chosen to dress for the game so (hopefully) they could get some playing time. Lexi got in and played the final 3 minutes. She did a wonderful job, with a steal and an assist. She also took a good bank shot that just missed. This week she has one game (maybe two). She is also taking part in Cheer Night with the rest of her squad during the varsity basketball game this week.

Griffin's travel team played in a tournament this weekend. On the first day, they had two games in pool play (to seed the elimination portion). They won both games, and the team played as well as they have all season. Griffin played a bunch, hustling all over creating jump balls, getting rebounds, and a steal or two. He handled the ball several times and took several good shots that just refused to fall. My favorite part was when he played post and guarded the other teams' big guy (his team is doesn't have a lot of height) because he is so scrappy. They earned the top seed in this tournament, but unfortunately lost their first elimination game by 3 points. It was a disappointing ending. However, Griffin played hard, with good defense again. He was able to get a shot, but it didn't fall. His best play was when he grabbed the ball right out of the hands of the boy he was guarding. It was an aggressive and good move.

Griffin's rec league team finished their regular season undefeated. Griffin had his most complete game, with 4 pts, 3 rebounds (at least), and a steal. He nearly made several more shots, as well. It was fun to see him have a game like that. Next week is the tournament, where his team should be the top seed.

Cami once again had volleyball practice. She is still having fun and improving every week. I believe her next tournament is in two weeks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: REBIRTH #1 by Steve Orlando - Book Review

From the publisher: Batman, Black Canary, Killer Frost, the Ray, Vixen, the Atom, and…Lobo?! Spinning directly out of the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD, join the sensational team of writer Steve Orlando and artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado and discover how Batman assembled the roughest, toughest Justice League of all time!

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1, by Steve Orlando, spins out of the events of the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad mini-series. Batman is recruiting a new Justice League, a team of mortals, not gods (as he puts it). He believes this will give normal humans someone to trust and identify with. He starts his team with Killer Frost, who is trying to rehabilitate herself, and Lobo, who owes him a favor. Along the way, Batman invites Black Canary, the new Atom (Ryan Choi), The Ray, and Vixen. Using an old, abandoned facility in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, this new group promises to be a new kind of League.

Orlando does a great job with this first issue, as he tells the obligatory "gathering heroes" story. But he does it in a fun way, as each member is recruited in a unique way, by several different heroes. Orlando has also put together an intriguing team, with a mix of veteran and rookie heroes, as well as a former villain, and whatever it is that Lobo qualifies as. The developing interplay between the characters looks to be as interesting as any future stories, and may end up being the best part of what should be a good book.

Ivan Reis's artwork, with inks by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, fits the story well. It is big and majestic, and will suit this type of team book perfectly.

Steve Orlando's Justice League of America #1 is a great introduction to a new team, and a terrific starting point for readers (as there isn't any background necessary to understand what's happening). I highly recommend this book and look forward to seeing how it progresses.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Batman - Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen by James Tynion IV - Book Review

From the publisher: An elite fighting force modeled after the Dark Knight has invaded the streets of Gotham. Their armor, weaponry and surveillance equipment are based on Batman’s tech and tactics, but they’re far beyond anything he’s ever seen. And while these Batmen’s motives remain a mystery, their targets are all too clear… 

They’re gunning for Gotham’s vigilantes.

Batman knows he can’t face this foe alone, and neither can the crime-fighters caught in the crossfire. So with Batwoman—secretly Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane—as his general, he’s organizing the next generation of Gotham heroes into an army.

Tim Drake, a.k.a. Red Robin. Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. Spoiler. Cassandra Cain, a.k.a. the Orphan. And reformed criminal Basil Karlo, a.k.a. Clayface. These are the shock troops in Batman and Batwoman’s war. When they finally see the face of their true enemy, will they stand together…or fall apart?

Find out in BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 1: RISE OF THE BATMEN, a great jumping-on point for new readers! This masterful high-octane thriller from writer James Tynion IV (BATMAN AND ROBIN ETERNAL) and artists Eddy Barrows (NIGHTWING) and Alvaro Martinez (Ultimate Comics X-Men) explodes from the blockbuster DC Rebirth event! Collects DETECTIVE COMICS #934-940.

Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen, by James Tynion IV, is the first Rebirth collection of Detective Comics. Unlike a lot of books, Batman didn't change a whole lot due to the New 52, but Rebirth has given the writers, in this case Tynion, a chance to change the direction a bit. In this case, Batman discovers a fleet of small, high-tech drones that have been watching him and other heroes in Gotham. He decides its time to create a "team" and train them. He recruits Batwoman to train the kids; they include Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface (a nice non-traditional addition). They soon come face to face with a group known as the Colony, a group of paramilitary modeled on Batman himself. What follows should only be read, as there as several pretty large spoilers, and one heck of a thread that should lead to a very interesting future story.

Tynion has done a nice job with the characters of Batman and Batwoman. The interaction between these two (who are cousins) is well done, and it appears their working relationship is maturing. Clayface is becoming a fun character, as well. He brings fresh eyes to the hero game, and gets some great lines. Finally, the growth of Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, is terrific. Its hard to take a nearly perpetual teenager and demonstrate growth, both physically and emotionally, but Tynion has done so with flying colors. Tim's maturation as a hero is a highlight of this collection.

I really liked Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen. If this book is any indication, James Tynion IV is off and running with a story that could end up rivaling some of Scott Snyder's now classic tales. I can't wait to see where he goes from here. I highly recommend this book for Batman fans. It's also a decent starting point for new readers.

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Guess what? More sports

Lexi had three basketball games this week. Her team won their first game, and Lexi played most of the 4th quarter. She had 3 rebounds and even got a good shot off, but it rolled off the rim. Following that game, she changed quickly into her cheerleading uniform and hustled to a different gym at school to cheer for the boys' game. I'm really proud of her for the way she pulled off this "double", giving energy and enthusiasm as both a player and a cheerleader. They won their second game in a blowout. Lexi played a ton and showed a lot of skill. In addition to her normal defense and hustle (a couple of rebounds), she displayed improved offensive skills. She took 4 or 5 shots, and all but one were high quality shots that just went of the rim. My favorite was a dribble drive on the left side between a couple of defenders. I can't remember Lexi ever making a move like that. Her coach made several complementary comments to me about Lex after the game.

Griffin's rec league team won again, this time holding on for a 3 point win. Griffin made a nice shot early in the game, and then took the ball to the hoop, drawing a foul. He made one of his free throws (first time this season, I think). He played good "D" and passed the ball well. He also tied up a couple of crucial loose balls late in the game, when his team was trying to maintain possession to run out the clock. It was a good all around performance. Next week, he as a travel team tournament (2 days) and his last regular season rec league game. It should be a lot of basketball.

Cami was back at it this week with volleyball practice. She is still enjoying it and having a good time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

EVERAFTER: FROM THE PAGES OF FABLES #6 by Lilah Sturges and Dave Justus - Book Review

From the publisher: Experience the dawn of the Everaftering through the eyes of the legendary magician, The Amazing Szymon! At a crisis point in his tired career, the Amazing Szymon is on the verge of throwing it all away when his tricks of the trade are suddenly revitalized by real and inexplicable magic. After Feathertop intervenes with a promise to guide this new Fable in exchange for his service with the Shadow Players, Szymon’s mission to rescue a Mundy pop star from a distant goblin realm reveals sinister underpinnings.

Everafter #6, by Lilah Sturges and Dave Justus, is a standalone story following on the first Everafter arc. This issue traces the career of stage magician The Amazing Szymon from it's humble beginnings through his discovery that he had become a Fable with real magic. Feathertop recruits him for an early version of The Shadow Players, and things quickly escalate from there.

I have mixed feelings about this issue. I enjoyed the peak into the early missions of The Shadow Players, and the concept of a Mundy becoming a Fable bears further exploration. In fact, the concept of "everaftering" a world is fascinating, and I hope the authors will delve into that in future issues as well. Szymon is an interesting character, and his story was well told. On the other hand, there were a couple of scenes I could do without, particularly as they seemed to be done simply because Everafter is a mature readers comic. Additionally, the art style changed several times, and while it went with the story, it was a little distracting.

Overall, I like where Sturges and Justus are taking Everafter. Issue #6, The Amazing Szymon, was pretty good. Aside from the aspects I mentioned above, I liked this story. It is a good starting point for new readers, and gives a glimpse into the history of The Shadow Players.

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

DC Universe: Rebirth Volume 1s Sampler by Various - Book Review

From the publisher: DC Universe: Rebirth is the line-wide series relaunch of the World's Greatest Super Heroes. Starting from Volume 1, DC Universe Rebirth ties in threads from the past five decades of storytelling and sprinkles exciting new creators and a diverse mix of heroes and villains into the new DC Universe that began in 2012. 

This DC Universe Rebirth sampler includes the first chapters of the most critically and commercially successful series from this monumental launch, including:

by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke

by Tom King, David Finch and Mikel Janin

by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp

by Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomencio 

by Bryan Hitch and Tony S. Daniel

by Tim Seeley and Javier Fern√°ndez

by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra  

The DC Universe: Rebirth Vol. 1s Sampler is a great introduction to the first round of collected editions from DC's Rebirth event. This book contains seven different first issues. Included are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Justice League, Nightwing, and Green Arrow. Reading all these different series in one place showed the variety that is included in the DC universe. The artwork is very different from series to series, and the writing styles vary as well.

Standout stories include Superman #1, Nightwing #1, and Batman #1. The status quo in these books has changed in the transition from the New 52 to Rebirth, and the new directions of these stories are interesting. Nightwing has returned to being a hero in costume, Batman has regained his memory, and Superman is adjusting to a new world with his wife and son.

The Justice League should be interesting as there are new characters filling the standard heroes rolls (two new Green Lanterns, a Superman from another world, etc.) The Flash is dealing with the return of Wally West, which was the impetus for the Rebirth event, and Wonder Woman is going through yet another origin adjustment, or so it seems. Finally, Green Arrow seems to be returning to his roots, and it reflects the tv show a bit more, as well.

Overall, I enjoyed having a chance to get a glimpse of how Rebirth was going to look. I recommend DC Universe: Volume 1s Sampler for anyone who may want to try out the new direction of these heroes before committing to their individual books.

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