Monday, May 22, 2017

Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return by Brian Lynch - Book Review

From the publisher: Bill and Ted must now fulfill their destiny to become the inspiration for galactic harmony, but at what cost! In an adventure of epic proportions, one change to the future will set the Wyld Stallyns on a time-travelling odyssey of music, villainy, history, and excellence! 

From Brian Lynch (Angel: After the Fall; screenwriter of Minions) and Jerry Gaylord (Fanboys vs. Zombies), experience Bill and Ted's most triumphant return! Also featuring short stories from Ryan North (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), Kurtis Wiebe (Rat Queens), Christopher Hastings (The Adventures of Dr. McNinja), Ian McGinty (Bravest Warriors), and many more!

I just finished reading Brian Lynch's Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return. It was an entertaining book that captured the spirit of the original movie, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. The story picked right up from the sequel film, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, with our heroes Bill and Ted having won the San Dimas, California Battle of the Bands. Now, however, they have to write a second song. What to do...if only they had access to a time machine in the form of a telephone booth (remember those?) Wait, they do. Bill and Ted head into the future to find out what their second song is. Along the way, they run in to the teenage version of their arch-nemesis Chuck de Nomolos. They decide they want to help him out so he won't grow up evil and decide to kill them. What happens next could only have happened to Bill and Ted. Time-travelling shenanigans ensue, and everyone learns more excellent lessons from Bill and Ted.

I loved the original movie when I was a kid, the second less so. But regardless, when I realized that the story of Bill and Ted was continued, I leaped at the opportunity to read and review it. And my verdict is that Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return is good. It's a fun adventure, and Lynch perfectly captures the spirit of the movies. Many of our favorite characters return, and there is more development of the world that the music of Wyld Stallyns (Bill and Ted's band) inspires. My only caution is that it's different to read Bill and Ted's adventures rather than just watching them.

In addition to the main storyline, the collected edition of Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return also contains multiple short stories starring some of the side characters from the movies.

Overall, I can recommend Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return by Brian Lynch. I particularly recommend it to fans of the movie, but I think new readers may enjoy it as well. And remember, Be excellent to each other! And party on, dudes!

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Track and Basketball End

Track season came to an end this week at the County Meet. Lexi competed in the 400m and the long jump. She finished 8th in both events. In the 400m, Lexi was challenging for 5th, but just ran out of gas at the end. She was also having trouble breathing, as she was fighting being sick. However, she still finished the race with her personal best, so that was cool. As far as long jump, because of how the meet developed, Lexi had to take all three jumps immediately after finishing the 400m. Due to this, she wasn't able to get her best jumps in, but she did get close to her average for the season. While the season didn't end the way she hoped, it can't be looked at as anything other than a success. We are all very proud of her, and look forward to how she improves next season.

Cami and Griffin attended what will probably be their last basketball practice for this session. They both have shown improvement, particularly in making a dribble move before shooting (behind the back, between the legs, etc.).

Other than summer camps, this ends our sports seasons for a few months.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ASTRO CITY #44 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: A tale of murder, mystery…and a cat. Starring Nightingale, Sunhawk…and their cat. Did we mention the cat? The cat’s the lead character. Featuring guest art by Rick Leonardi (SUPERMAN, Spider-Man 2099). Mreow.

Astro City #44, by Kurt Busiek, is a perfect example of what the Astro City comics do. They take ordinary superhero cliches or stories and give them a twist. Sometimes that means humanizing the heroes and villains, sometimes its focusing on the ordinary people and the effect the super people have on them. With this new issue, Busiek focuses on a cat, the hero Kittyhawk.

This particular story is all animal themed. The heroes Nightingale and Sunhawk need to find and rescue a young girl from the villainous Poppinjay. But, Nightingale's new pet cat, whom she affectionately calls Kittyhawk, keeps getting in the way. What the two heroes don't realize, however, is that the stray cat was given powers as a result of a previous Nightingale/Sunhawk adventure. As Kittyhawk uses her new-found powers, she receives help from Rocket Dog (the animal theme continues).

A nice standalone issue, Astro City #44 is simple but fun. Busiek is a master at telling superhero stories in unique ways. This origin story for Kittyhawk is another great example of his ability to constantly look at the history of superhero comics and find some unexplored corner to write about. I recommend this book to fans of Astro City and to new readers as well. It may not have the gravitas that some of Busiek's longer arcs have, but it's a terrific story, and something different from the norm.

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

THE WILD STORM #4 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: There’s a covert action team out in the wild, and I.O. has proof of it for the first time. This changes everything. The woman who tipped the first domino in this cascade of secrets and lies is on the run. And the other great power of the hidden world is on the scene. Henry Bendix is noticing things from on high, and that doesn’t bode well for I.O., Angela Spica or the planet. The storm is building.

Cole Cash (Grifter) and his wild CAT (Covert Action Team) escape from IO's Razor CAT team. Miles Craven (of IO) has discovered Angela Spica has technology she shouldn't, which helped her turn into some form of robot. Henry Bendix, the Weatherman, is ticked off at everything, but especially everything about Earth.

There. That about sums it up. I have NO idea how to review The Wild Storm #4, by Warren Ellis, because I still have no idea what exactly is going on. In fact, I feel like I know less with each new issue. However, I'm committed to seeing where Ellis takes this. I have enjoyed many of his books in the past (including Stormwatch and The Authority, the spiritual predecessors of The Wild Storm), and trust that he will eventually pull everything together and I'll understand what's going on. I also like the characters, particularly Cole Cash.

I highly recommend The Wild Storm #4, but I do not recommend reading it if you haven't read the previous issues (or go ahead and do it, you might have a better grasp on events than I do).

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Best Track Week Evah!

This week was the best track week ever for our family. To begin with, Lexi won four ribbons combined for her two meets. In the long jump, her distances started going back up, and she finished second and tied for second. During the first meet, she ran the 400m competitively for the first time. She had told me multiple times that she thought it was easier than the 200m, but I didn't really believe her. However, she blew us all away. She finished first, and kept a consistent pace throughout. Her coach told her she was 4 or 5 seconds off our middle school record. The crowd was really excited for her, and so was Lexi. She had set a goal to earn a first place ribbon and did so. During the second meet, she pushed through and finished in third, only a couple of seconds off her first time. As a result, she is going to run the 400m in the County meet (our version of a conference championship). She will also be competing in the long jump.

To add to our track meet, Cami and Griffin competed in the Youth Track Night, a sort of introductory event for elementary school kids. They both had a great time running the 100m and 200m, throwing the shot put (with a softball), and doing the long jump. They think they may compete on the middle school team next spring (our 5th graders are allowed to do that). In addition, they also had another basketball session, and did a great job.

This week, the County meet and basketball.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

James Bond: Hammerhead by Andy Diggle - Book Review

From the publisher: Bond is assigned to hunt down and eliminate Kraken, a radical anti-capitalist who has targeted Britain's newly-upgraded nuclear arsenal. But all is not as it seems. Hidden forces are plotting to rebuild the faded glory of the once-mighty British Empire, and retake by force what was consigned to history. 007 is a cog in their deadly machine - but is he an agent of change, or an agent of the status quo? Loyalties will be broken, allegiances challenged. But in an ever-changing world, there's one man you can rely on: Bond. James Bond.

James Bond: Hammerhead, by Andy Diggle, is the latest in a line of James Bond comics/graphic novels. To this point, I've been very entertained by all that I've read. And Hammerhead is no different. It is very much a typical Bond story, and I mean that in the best possible way.

In Hammerhead, Bond is tasked with a British weapons manufacturer who also happens to be responsible for disposing of Britain's decommissioned nuclear warheads. Meanwhile, a mysterious anti-capitalist terrorist named Kraken (got to love those Bond villain names) is trying to obtain those warheads. Mix, shake, and stir and you've got a fast-paced, action-packed James Bond adventure.

Andy Diggle has a fine grasp on what makes a good Bond story. There is the traditional explosive beginning (the art, by Luca Casalanguida, even takes the reader through the title pages much like the movies do). Bond meets a beautiful woman (in this case, the daughter of the weapons manufacturer he is tasked to protect). There is a crazy new weapon (Hammerhead), gadgets from Q division, witty banter and one-liners, In addition, Bond globe hops as usual; locations include Venezuela, London, Dubai, and the North Atlantic.

While Diggle doesn't really develop the character of James Bond with any new depth (this is hard to accomplish with this type of long running character), he does stay true to who Bond is. His Bond leans more towards the Ian Fleming novels and more recent Daniel Craig movies. Bond is more serious, rather than cartoony. Personally, I like this portrayal a lot, and Diggle does a great job with it.

Andy Diggle's James Bond: Hammerhead is a great addition to the James Bond cannon. It is fun and non-stop, bringing out what is best (in my opinion) about Bond. I highly recommend this book to new and old readers alike.

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Another ribbon

During this past (rainy) week, Lexi ended up only having one track meet (in the rain). She ran the 4 x 100 relay, and her team had their best time. She also long jumped, and while her distances aren't hitting her best, she still placed. This time she earned 3rd place. She was very excited, and has now tripled her stated goal for the year.

Cami and Griffin had another session of basketball camp. Because their group is small in size, they are getting some personal attention. Plus, the coach really encourages Cami (he used her as an example twice, she told me), I think because she is one of very few girls who participate. Both Cami and Griffin showed some improvement and weren't complaining about how hard they worked when the time was over, so that's nice, too.

This week, Lexi is scheduled for two track meets, Cami and Griffin have another session, and the twins are also supposed to be participating in the school's youth track night (weather permitting).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

We Stood Upon Stars: Finding God in Lost Places by Roger W. Thompson - Book Review

From the publisher: Get Lost. . . and Find What Really Matters

We are made for freedom and adventure, friendship and romance. Yet too much of life is spent unfulfilled at work, restless at home, and bored at church.  All the while knowing there is something more. You’ll find some of life’s best moments waiting for you over a campfire, on a river—even in that coffee shop or brewery you didn’t know you’d discover along the way. It’s time to begin the search. 

In the literary spirit of well-worn tales about America’s open road, this poetic, honest, often hilarious collection of essays shows how to embark on adventures that kindle spiritual reflection, personal growth, and deeper family connections.

From surfing California’s coastlines, stargazing southwestern deserts, and fly-fishing in remote mountains of Montana, you’ll be inspired to follow the author’s footsteps and use the hand-drawn maps from each chapter to plan your own trips.  There you will hear God’s voice – and it may help you find what you’re searching for.

“We search mountaintops and valleys, deserts and oceans, hoping sunrises and long views through the canyons will help us discover who we are, or who we still want to be.  The language of our hearts reflects that of creation because in both are fingerprints of God.”
—Roger W. Thompson

We Stood Upon Stars is a series of short essays by Roger W. Thompson. Each essay makes up a chapter, for a total of 31 chapters. In short, Thompson loves to explore the outdoors, particularly in the American West. His adventures take him all over California, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota, among a couple of others. Throughout his travels, he reflects on what it means to be a man and how God's beauty and plan are reflected and found in nature, or as the subtitle says, Finding God in Lost Places.

I enjoyed this book. Each chapter was its own little story, a slice of Thompson's life. He does a masterful job of describing the various scenes in nature he sees, and is very open about how he feels. Several of the chapters deal with very specific "wounds" and personal sadnesses (I know it's not a word, but tragedy didn't feel right). He also writes with a subtle sense of humor, most often at his own expense.

We Stood Upon Stars can be enjoyed on two levels. The first is in Thompson's travels around the U.S. I found myself imaging the landscapes he visited, and was able to picture many of them in my mind's eye. There is a beauty to the West that many people never experience, and Thompson brings a bit of that to his readers. He also fills his essays with adventures: fly fishing, looking for surf, camping in National Parks, river rafting, etc. These give a cool view to those who've never experienced them. This book can also be enjoyed as a meditation on God's plan for our lives. While he never gets overly religious, Thompson doesn't shy away from discussing God's majesty. He is also very open about where he turns in times of need and sorrow. In some aspects, this book reminded me of some of John Eldredge's early books. Its very much about using the outdoors to connect with God and pass on traditions of being a man (Thompson has two sons).

Overall, We Stood Upon Stars by Roger W. Thompson was a good read. I liked the clear writing style and the fact that I could read a couple of chapters at a time and then put it down. I also liked the nuggets of wisdom I found sprinkled throughout. It was exactly what I was looking for when I decided to give it a shot. I recommend this book to fathers, outdoorsy types, and readers looking to find God in places other than their "usual spots".

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