Tuesday, October 31, 2017

James Bond: Black Box by Benjamin Percy - Book Review

From the publisher: In the snowbound French Alps, James Bond finds himself in the cross-hairs of an assassin who targets other assassins. This is the first puzzle piece in a larger adrenaline-fueled mystery that will send Bond across the globe to infiltrate the underworld, risk everything in high-stakes casino gambling, evade deadly pursuers, and root out a digital breach threatening global security. 

The James Bond comics from Dynamite Entertainment have been fun. They are very much in the spirit of the latest movies and Ian Fleming's books (at least more so than many of the earlier movies were). It was in that spirit that I decided to read Benjamin Percy's James Bond: Black Box. And you know what? It was fun, too.

Black Box finds James Bond on the trail of a tech mastermind named Saga Genji. It seems Genji has hacked the information of MI-6, along with the spy agencies of nations around the world. It's Bond's mission to reclaim the missing data, stop Genji, and maybe bring home information that would give England a leg up on other countries. Along the way, he has to deal with a mysterious woman and an assassin who makes and wears a death mask of his victims.

Percy checks off all the Bond boxes with this story. Exciting pre-credits opening? Check. Beautiful, mysterious woman? Check. Outrageous villain? Check. Felix Leiter? Check. Foreign locales? Check. Gadgets? Check. Let me be clear, I don't think any of these are bad, just formulaic. And a major part of what Bond fans like is the formula, me included. Just don't expect any lasting characterization or permanent changes. Only Fleming did that, in the original books.

Overall, I enjoyed James Bond: Black Box by Benjamin Percy. It was a fun, exciting, and entertaining Bond story. As long as Dynamite keeps putting these out, I'll keep reading them. I recommend Black Box to any and all James Bond fans.

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Fall Ends; The Winter Begins

Here's a summary of our last couple of weeks: Lexi's cheer squad won the state championship in the Time Out Division. It was super cool and very exciting. They even had a police/fire truck escort when they go back to town and drove in a sort-of parade through several of the small towns in our school district. Lexi also made the 8th grade basketball team, and is very excited about that. She is practicing now, with games to come in the next month or two.

Griffin's football team lost in the semi-finals, but he had a successful season. He nearly had an interception in our last game. Griffin also made the school basketball team. He starts practice in a week, and then games start soon after.

Cami finished her fall travel basketball season by winning her last two games. She made a basket and two free throws, had multiple rebounds, and stole the ball and drove to the basket on a fast break, just missing the shot. She really improved during this season, and we're looking forward to seeing further development over the winter. She has her first rec league game next Saturday, and will have tryouts for the school team (she should make it) at the end of November. She also wrapped up volleyball with a win, and had a good time doing it.

We are now getting ready to eat, sleep, and breathe basketball for the next four months.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER #3 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: After an unthinkable tragedy strikes the Grayson family, Dick finds himself a prisoner of the very system he helped create—with his son’s life hanging in the balance. With nowhere else to turn, Grayson seeks out an old friend for help…but some mistakes are impossible to forgive. 

Nightwing: The New Order #3, by Kyle Higgins, continues to tell the story of a world without superheroes. This issue picks up where #2 left off, with Dick Grayson and his son, Jake, in custody, due to Jake's manifesting powers and Dick's failure to report them. As Kate Kane, Dick's partner and the former Batwoman, comes to interrogate him, Dick uses his old skills to escape and go on the run looking for help from an old friend. He eventually runs into several classic DC characters.

To me, part of the fun of these alternate history-type stories is seeing the Easter eggs and discovering how the writers will bring other well-known characters into the story. This issue doesn't lack for fun, bringing in Kate Kane and Tim Drake, as well as showing us what the Bat-cave currently looks like. Plus, Higgins has some surprises at the end.

I'm really enjoying this fascist take on the DC landscape, as it's a huge departure from the normal status quo. Higgins is doing a good job portraying all the characters and situations as believable, especially when the motivation of the various characters is brought in to it, particularly the rivalry between Dick Grayson and Kate Kane. Now that the series is halfway done, I'm curious how he's going to bring it all together. As a Nightwing fan, I'm hoping for a return to a more heroic Dick Grayson, but I'll trust Higgins to finish the story well.

I highly recommend Nightwing: The New Order #3 by Kyle Higgins. It's a fun look at a different DC universe. However, as this is a mini-series, this issue is not the best place to start reading. Track down the previous two issues, or wait for the collected edition.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Astro City #48 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: A tale of redemption and farewell, as G-Dog learns the secrets of his origin, faces personal tragedy and joins a very unlikely superhero team. Featuring the return of Kittyhawk and Rocket Dog, and the debut of Ghost Ferret. Part two of a special two-parter with art by guest artist Mike Norton (Revival, Battlepug). 

Astro City #48, by Kurt Busiek, finishes the story begun in issue #47. It's a story of a former criminal (Andy) turned hero (G-Dog) by teaming up, literally, with his pet corgi, Hank. Over the course of their hero career, Hank helped Andy find redemption and turn his life around. But when you have a symbiotic relationship with your dog, what happens when he comes to the end of his shorter life-span?

The magic of Astro City comes when Busiek takes a look at the ordinary, personal lives of heroes and villains. While there is always plenty of super heroics, it is the small intimate moments that add depth. The premise of G-Dog's story is a little silly, but when the action takes a back seat to Andy's relationship with Hank (man's best friend, you know), Busiek strikes a bittersweet but honest chord. This was a great story of redemption, and well worth a read.

I highly recommend Astro City #48, by Kurt Busiek; however, don't read it if you haven't read issue #47. This is for all Astro City fans, and anyone who is close with their pets.

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

The Wild Storm #8 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: Jacob Marlowe told Angie Spica that he isn’t from around here. He is, in fact, from a long way away. And the story of how he and his friends got here is probably the oldest secret on Earth. The Wild Storm cosmology begins here.

Okay, so Warren Ellis is at it again. Just when I thought I was beginning to understand what was going on in The Wild Storm, issue #8 comes out. And I'm feeling lost again, but not without out hope that it'll all make sense eventually. Three things of note happen in this issue: One, Jacob Marlowe explains (however simply) his alien origin to Angie Spica. Two, the people at IO identify Cole Cash aka Grifter, from Marlowe's wild CAT team, and decide to form a plan. Three, we are introduced to the Doctor and Jenny Sparks, two characters from the old Stormwatch/The Authority title that Ellis wrote some 15 years ago.

I really enjoy The Wild Storm, partly for the craziness, partly to revisit old favorite characters (still crossing my fingers for Jack Hawksmoor), and partly to see just how all of Ellis's pieces will eventually fit together. Ellis is a master at taking gigantic ideas with insane potential and turning them into excellent stories. So, once again, I'm going to trust Ellis as he leads his readers along the trail that is The Wild Storm.

I highly recommend The Wild Storm #8 by Warren Ellis. If you aren't already reading it and it sounds intriguing, go back to the first issue (or the collected edition). I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition by Tom King & Joshua Williamson - Book Review

From the publisher: The Watchmen begin their invasion of the DC Universe here in this deluxe graphic novel BATMAN/THE FLASH: THE BUTTON, complete with a lenticular cover!

The cataclysmic events of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1 continue here! The Dark Knight and the Fastest Man Alive, the two greatest detectives on any world, unite to explore the mystery behind a certain blood-stained smiley button embedded in the Batcave wall. What starts as a simple investigation turns deadly when the secrets of the button prove irresistible to an unwelcome third party--and it's not who anyone suspects! It's a mystery woven through time, and the ticking clock starts here!

Written by breakout stars Tom King and Joshua Willamson, with art by Jason Fabok (JUSTICE LEAGUE) and Howard Porter (SUPERMAN), this crossover is one of the most-talked about events in all of comics. This deluxe edition graphic novel features a lenticular cover and collects BATMAN #21-22 and THE FLASH #21-22.

DC's Rebirth event was a way to restore/correct their comics to a more traditional history. There have been so many different world-shattering events, that the continuity spun out of control. So, Rebirth was to fix all of that, while still making the books friendly to new readers. One of the great mysteries hinted at in the book was the return of the Watchmen to the DC Universe.

Jump ahead to Batman/The Flash: The Button by Tom King and Joshua Williamson. Batman and the Flash are investigating a mysterious smiley face button (with a blood stain on it) that showed up in the Batcave during the Rebirth special last summer. The button appears to be the same one the Comedian (of Watchmen fame) wore.  In the course of their investigation, Batman is confronted by Reverse-Flash, who grabs the button for the power it's emitting. Chaos ensues from there, with time travel, alternate universes/histories, and deaths all around them. And at the end, some questions are answered, but more are asked, as this story leads into the Doomsday Clock event (another Watchmen reference).

I enjoyed this book, and have liked seeing this mystery unfold. I'm one of those readers who didn't care for the New 52 or the results of Flashpoint, and I like the creativity that DC is using to restore some of the traditional history to it's line-up without erasing (again) even more continuity. Whether you are a fan or not, I also think using the Watchmen and bringing them into the mainstream DC Universe is a clever idea. King and Williamson have done a nice job with this story, revealing what they can, yet making it very personal to both Batman and Flash.

I really enjoyed Batman/The Flash: The Button, by Tom King and Joshua Williamson, and recommend it to fans of the Rebirth event. I look forward to seeing where this story continues to go in the future.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Wonder of Advent Devotional by Chris Tiegreen - Book Review

Image result for The Wonder of Advent Devotional
From the publisher: Rediscover the heart of the Advent season
As the year comes to a close and the stress and busyness of the consumer Christmas holiday grows, it can be easy to lose sight of what the season really calls us to: worship. In today’s world, is it even possible to slow down, to ponder, to wonder in the coming birth of Christ?

This Advent, recapture the mystery and beauty of the season with The Wonder of Advent Devotional. In this insightful and thought-provoking book, beloved devotional author Chris Tiegreen brings you into a deeper experience of this integral time in the church calendar. After completing a week of short readings to prepare your heart for the Advent season, you’ll journey through December with daily Scripture readings, prompts for reflection, and guided prayer to help you savor this remarkable divine story. With each day, The Wonder of Advent Devotional will reconnect you with what happened in Bethlehem long ago—and experience it anew in your life right now.

Chris Tiegreen's The Wonder of Advent Devotional is a nice little book designed for daily devotionals before and during the Advent season. There are short readings for the week preceding Advent, focusing on preparing for the season. Beginning with the 1st of December and running throughout the rest of the month, the devotions change a bit. Each reading gets a longer (approximately 4 pages compared to 2). Each day includes the following: A passage of scripture, with a specific verse or two highlighted; a devotional reading focusing on an aspect of Jesus, His birth, Mary, Joseph, etc.; a short prayer; some questions for reflection; suggestions for further reading; and a passage from various Christmas hymns.

Tiegreen does a nice job by taking a small part of the Advent and concentrating on it each day. The readings are short enough to be done in the morning before work, in the car on the way to school, during a break, or even before bed. They are straight to the point and help the reader to really zoom in on the Advent season.

I recommend The Wonder of Advent Devotional by Chris Tiegreen. This would make a good devotional to use alone or with your family during Advent time. If you're looking for a way to connect with God during the busy holiday season, The Wonder of Advent Devotional is a terrific way to do it.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women by Lindsay A. Franklin - Book Review

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women  -
From the publisher: In an ever-changing world, we can be certain of one thing: we are beloved by God. Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women tackles tough topics girls face, from bullying and social media to friendships and dating, all the while showing readers how infinitely precious they are in God’s sight.

Each day features an easy-to-read, relevant devotion paired with a scripture verse and journaling space to help readers reflect on the day’s message. With honest, poignant, and sometimes humorous text, every page will speak to the pressures and changes girls face, giving them real-world applications to find God in their hearts and in their lives. Perfect for everyday use, Adored will resonate with girls searching for truth and guidance. Gift givers will love this highly designed book featuring a beautiful, foiled cover, and two-color interior pages.

The new devotional Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women, by Lindsay A. Franklin, is pretty nice. It is in the tradition of the 5-Minute type devotional books, and is structured to last a year. However, rather than start with January 1, it just numbers its devotions by days, ie. Day 1, Day 2, etc. For someone who likes to read a year long devotional, but wants to start at the beginning, this is a nice feature.

Each separate devotion begins with a a passage of scripture, anywhere from 1 verse to several, but no passages are too long. The devotion then focuses on an aspect discussed in the day's scripture. For example, how much God adores you; a massively powerful God loves you; the defining characteristic of a Christian is love, etc. Each reading is no more than a page long. Finally, the daily devotional ends with several blank lines for the reader to respond to the message.

As a father of girls, I appreciate that Adored is directed towards young women. It's important for them to find their self-worth in God and this devotional focuses on making that clear. To be clear, anyone can read this book, but it is written in a conversational style and with references that pertain to girls.

Finally, the design of the book is terrific. It has a nice, sturdy hardback cover (with no removable cover). The pages are a little thicker than normal paper, which would appear to make them more durable. The art on the page margins matches the cover, resulting in an attractive, girly design.

I highly recommend Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women, by Lindsay A. Franklin. If you have a young woman in your life (daughter, girlfriend, niece, granddaughter, etc.), it would make a fantastic gift book.

P.S. If you're interested in a free sample or some other resources, please click here.

I received a review copy of this book from Zondervan and Handlebar in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY #1 by Bryan Hill - Book Review

From the publisher: Warren Ellis’ critically acclaimed relaunch of THE WILD STORM gets its first solo spinoff series! Michael Cray, professional assassin, has been betrayed by International Operations and has an alien life-form in his head that’s either killing him, transforming him, or both. The only thing that can bring sense to his life is for him to do what he does best: kill the wrong people for the right reasons. But Michael needs support and resources to hit back against I.O., and he gets them in exchange for working with Trelane, taking out her targets, his way. First up? A sociopathic Silicon Valley billionaire by the name of Oliver Queen! 

Bryan Hill's Wildstorm: Michael Cray #1 is the first spin-off title from Warren Ellis's take on the Wildstorm properties. Michael Cray is hired by International Operations to create a team to assassinate enemies for IO. His first target? Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow!

This first issue introduces the reader to Cray, a young man with a tendency towards using violence to resolve conflict. Thus, he was in the military, where IO recruited him. We meet his handler, Trelane, who encourages him to form a team. We also meet his father, who provides some background on Oliver Queen. Additionally, we are given a glimpse in to Queen's activities, which appear to be somewhat less than heroic.

Much like The Wild Storm (Ellis's title), Michael Cray starts off deliberately slow and a little vague. This is a series that looks to build as it moves along, where it's probably better to look at each story arc as a whole rather than individual chapters.

I'm significantly interested to find out what happens next, so Hill did a nice job with this initial issue. There was just enough characterization to hook me, and I'm looking forward to see how Cray and Queen resolve their coming conflict. I recommend Wildstorm: Michael Cray #1 by Bryan Hill to readers of The Wild Storm, fans of the former Wildstorm universe, and anyone interested in a more spy-type hero book.

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

DARK NIGHTS: METAL #3 by Scott Snyder - Book Review

From the publisher: Superman is pulled into the mystery of the Dark Multiverse while the Justice League follows the trail to a weapon that could keep the forces of the Dark Multiverse at bay!

At this point, I don't know what else I can say about Scott Snyder's Dark Nights: Metal. With issue #3, Snyder continues the crazy story he started several books ago. In this issue, Superman and his allies discover just what has been happening and form a plan to take on Barbatos, rescue Batman, and save the world. Anything more would be risking spoilers, and I'd hate to do that.

I like this series. It's big, fun, and very different from any event series I've read before. Snyder knows his stuff, especially Batman, and he is a terrific story-teller. The portrayals of the various heroes during this crisis are done well. I particularly like Nightwing, who is showing a different side to himself. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything plays out during this Dark Nights event. I'm also curious as to what the long range effects will be. There are many elements in play, and the potential ramifications are far-reaching.

I highly recommend Dark Nights: Metal #3 by Scott Snyder. However, if you aren't up to speed with the series, don't begin here.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows (Rebirth) by James Tynion IV- Book Review

From the publisher: Batman's team of vigilantes continues to protect Gotham City in the next volume of the best-selling series, BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS VOL. 3: LEAGUE OF SHADOWS!

The next big DETECTIVE arc explodes here as the League of Shadows goes from mysterious rumor to deadly fact! With two new members of the team, Azrael and Batwing, will the Dark Knight's squadron of crime-fighters be able to discover the League's plan? And what deadly personal seceret will be unleashed on the team? 

From writer James Tynion IV (BATMAN/TMNT) and the spectacular art team of Eddy Barrows (NIGHTWING) and Alvaro Martinez (BATMAN ETERNAL) comes the third volume of the return of DETECTIVE COMICS! Collects DETECTIVE COMICS #950-956.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows, by James Tynion IV, is another in the line of excellent Batman books. Tynion builds on the idea of Batman forming a team of Bat-heroes to help him protect Gotham. Trained by Batwoman, this group, consisting of Clayface, Orphan, Azrael and Batwing (replacing Red Robin and Spoiler), is growing in confidence and ability. But, the League of Shadows may be too much for them.

When Lady Shiva and the League of Shadows come to Gotham, they plan to destroy it. Along the way, they run in to the remains of the Colony (a group run by Batwoman's father), Batman's new crew, and Ra's al Ghul. Cassandra Cain, aka Orphan, is particularly spotlighted. The story speeds along and comes to a fantastic and heartwarming conclusion.

I really liked this collection. Tynion has done an excellent job with the group, and in this book he focuses on Orphan. I thought he did a terrific job portraying a young girl with limited speaking skills (but strong non-verbal communication), raised to be an assassin with no remorse for killing, who desperately wants to be someone and something different. There are several heartbreaking scenes with Cassandra, yet some of the most heartwarming as well. I also found the League of Shadows, whom I had little previous knowledge of, to be a worthy opponent for Batman, and a worthy challenger to the better known League of Assassins. Lady Shiva is formidable and I look forward to future stories about her and the League.

Additionally, there are some interesting developments with Kate Kane (Batwoman) and her father. Tynion has done a nice job with Batwing and Azrael, who form an interesting partnership (science vs. faith). I also like the depth Tynion is adding to Clayface, who is no longer a one-note villain.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: League of Shadows, by James Tynion IV, is a terrific book. I highly recommend it to Batman fans. It is also a fine self-contained story (minimal knowledge of previous storylines required) and a good beginning point for new readers.

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #1 by Sean Murphy - Book Review

From the publisher: In a world where Batman has gone too far, The Joker must save Gotham City.

He’s been called a maniac, a killer and the “Clown Prince of Crime” but “white knight”? Never. Until now…

Set in a world where the Joker is cured of his insanity and homicidal tendencies, The Joker, now known as “Jack,” sets about trying to right his wrongs. First he plans to reconcile with Harley Quinn, and then he’ll try to save the city from the one person who he thinks is truly Gotham City’s greatest villain: Batman!

Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS, THE WAKE) presents a seven-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and The Joker. But which is the hero—and which the villain?

Sean Murphy, the writer of Batman: White Knight #1, has come up with an interesting premise: What if the Joker was cured, began trying to make up for his wrongs, and Batman became Public Enemy #1? That's what the series White Knight tries to answer and its off to a good start.

The story opens with Jack Napier (the cured Joker) visiting Batman in prison, where Batman is being held. Then Murphy takes us back to how this happened. Batman is in hot pursuit of Joker, who has escaped Arkham Asylum once again. As Batman becomes increasingly more reckless, he endangers many people, finally cornering Joker in a factory with pills of unknown origin stored all around. Batman shoves a handful of them down Joker's mouth and is filmed doing so. From that, chaos erupts.

Murphy's opening chapter in this story provides mostly back-story for the cured Joker concept. There are some nice character moments, both involving Joker, and involving Batman and his "family". I'm curious how this story will progress, and while this part was a little heavy on exposition, I'll definitely be checking in when part 2 is released.

I recommend Batman: White Knight, by Sean Murphy, to Batman fans. It's a good beginning to a story with a new concept. It looks to be a fun read, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Murphy tells his story.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Our fall sports seasons near they're end

Lexi cheered again while the football team won again. There is one more game this season. She also continues to participate in open gyms, preparing for basketball season. This weekend, Lexi and the cheer squad participated in their second cheer competition. They won again and this time they had no deductions on their routine.

Cami's volleyball team split their games again this past week. They've shown a lot of improvement and will finish their season with a tournament this week. Cami has shown a consistent overhand serve and is doing a nice job with hitting the ball when it's coming to her. Cami's basketball team won one and lost one, again. She had 3 points in the first game and had 2 rebounds. She has next weekend off, then plays a couple more games, I believe.

Griffin's football team played their last regular season game this week. The team lost a hard fought game, 14-8. Griffin did a nice job, blocking from his wide receiver position. He also a fine game at DB. They completed a pass on him, but he had good coverage and helped make the tackle. He also knocked a pass down the next time they threw on him, so he learned from previous experience. In the first playoff game, the team won 34-0 and played our most complete game so far. Griffin played good "D" and was in a pile for a tackle. He also carried the ball twice. The first time, I think he lost a yard. The second run was spectacular, though. He started off left, made it harder by running outside the hole and to the sideline, where he dodged a guy and stiff-armed another, then reversed field and outran everyone (with some helpful blocks from his teammates) for a touchdown. It was the most fantastic 179 yard 20 yard touchdown run and nearly made me cry. Our next game is Tuesday in the semi-finals, and if we win, the championship is on Wednesday on the new varsity turf field at the host school.