Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie by Anthony Del Col - Book Review

From the publisher: A Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery unlike any other you’ve ever read! When the teenage brothers Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father – a detective in the small resort town of Bayport – they must team up with Nancy Drew to prove their innocence (and find the real guilty party in the process) in a twisting noir tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit, and dames. Writer Anthony Del Col (Assassin’s Creed, Kill Shakespeare) and artist Werther Dell’Edera (Batman: Detective Comics, House of Mystery) bring the iconic teen detectives into the modern age, and redefine noir for a new generation of readers!

As a kid, I read every Hardy Boys book I could get my hands on. I also read a couple of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew team ups. I even occasionally read a Tom Swift story (no Bobsey Twins, though). I say all that in order to explain why I took a chance on Anthony Del Col's re-imagining of  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys for the 2010's. The book he created, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, follows some other recent updates of classic and beloved characters. So, as a former fan, I was interested to see what Del Col came up with. It turns out it was pretty good.

So, The Big Lie is the story of how the Hardy brothers were accused of the murder of their father, Det. Fenton Hardy, and how Nancy Drew helped them solve the mystery. However, it's much deeper than that, involving drug smuggling brothers (the Rovers), a broken relationship between Nancy and her father, Federal Prosecuter Carson Drew, the seedy underbelly of Bayport, and the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic towns. It's also about families, and quite possibly about the dreams and innocence of childhood turning into the reality of being an adult.

The mystery behind The Big Lie was interesting, and not to easy to figure out. It was an enjoyable story which sets the stage for bigger mysteries to come in future Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mini-series. I think what I enjoyed the most, though, was the updating of the characters and their lives. The shine is definitely off Frank and Joe Hardy, and, really, Nancy Drew as well. The brothers bicker and fight, and see the world in grayer tones than they used to. They are sure not the simple, unchanging characters of my youth. Nancy is still very confident, but has lost her innocence too, through a broken relationship with her father (who used to be her best friend). It was neat seeing this more adult version of the characters, and while it's different seeing them as imperfect, it makes for a much more engaging story and allows the characters the potential to grow and change.

The other fun thing about The Big Lie is all the nods to the books these characters have been in, together and by themselves. There are allusions to solving mysteries on the beach as children, and how nothing ever seemed to change (over 100 books and the characters are still the same age). Del Col also throws in Tom Swift and the Bobsey Twins to add another nod to childhood reading.

Overall, I would highly recommend Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, by Anthony Del Col, especially to readers who grew up with the original characters. Enjoy the Veronica Mars-ish vibe.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NIGHTWING: THE NEW ORDER #4 by Kyle Higgins - Book Review

From the publisher: When the pursuit of his missing son brings Dick Grayson face to face with his ex, old wounds are reexamined and a tentative new alliance is formed between former enemies. But when a stunning discovery is made about his son’s unique superpowers, the stakes become much higher and Grayson must take the fight straight to the Crusaders!

Nightwing: The New Order #4, by Kyle Higgins, begins to seriously push the story forward. The issue begins with Dick Grayson, who was rescued by the Flash in the previous issue, waking up surrounded by his old teammates, the Titans. However, its not a happy reunion because they all view him as a traitor due to his work with the Crusaders. Elsewhere, Kate Kane and the Crusaders investigate and interrogate Jake Grayson, as they try to find out more about his powers. What they, and the Titans, discover could be a gamechanger for the world. The Titans decide to attempt a rescue with the hopes that Jake could change the world, while they run afoul of another classic Batman character.

I liked this issue. Seeing Dick have to explain himself and interact with his former best friends was very interesting. Of particular interest was the discussion between Dick and Kory, aka Starfire, Dick's ex-wife and Jake's mother. I'm curious to see how Higgins resolves the tension between Dick and the Titans while both sides still have a philosophical difference regarding "super" heroes. Jake's role continues to grow in importance, and his voice as the narrator is reflective and well done.

Overall, I would recommend Nightwing: The New Order #4, by Kyle Higgins. Batman readers will enjoy it. Additionally, Higgins has managed to tell a superhero story that is a reflection of its times; The New Order is very much a take on some of the fears of totalitarianism and intolerance that are prevalent around the world today. I'm looking forward to the final two issues to discover just how Higgins attempts to stick the landing.

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

ASTRO CITY #43 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: The story of Resistor, who’s making headlines all across the nation. And one reporter is determined to find out the truth—not simply to report it, but to find her missing father. A story of protest and power, love and loss, and an enigmatic, ever-changing hero.

Kurt Busiek always manages to tell unique stories with his Astro City series, and issue #49 is no different. Louisa Garneau is a reporter who is always chasing a story. While covering a protest that was attacked by a terrorist group and defended by the new hero Resistor, she caught a hint of her father, a brilliant scientist who was always leaving Louisa and her mom to join one protest or another. She decides to chase protests in the hopes of learning more about Resistor for a story, with the underlying mission of finding her long lost father. What she discovers is both hopeful and bittersweet.

I enjoy Astro City's hero-focused stories a lot. But Busiek excels at the smaller character moments that happen around the supers. Astro City #49 is a perfect example of this. Louisa is involved in a superhero story, but the true focus is on the broken relationship she has with her father. Busiek also has taken a moment to reflect on the current political climate, with our nation's focus on protests for various rights and the violence that surrounds some of these protests. As far as Resistor goes, he is a hero who fits the climate of the story, but there is very little time spent on what he is and how he does it. As I said, this is a father/daughter relationship story that just happens to take place in a superpowered world.

I enjoyed Astro City #49. It wasn't my favorite Kurt Busiek story, but it did show his skill at getting down to the personal level. This is a good one off story for fans looking to sample Busiek's Astro City. As an aside, it appears that Astro City #50 will be a sequel to probably the best Astro City story, "The Nearness of You". This is the perfect example of Busiek's skill at writing ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events and the consequences that often follow. Be on the lookout for it.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

James Bond: Felix Leiter by James Robinson - Book Review

From the publisher: Felix Leiter finds himself in Japan, tracking down a beautiful, Russian spy from his past. But when the mission takes a turn for the worse, he will discover that there are more deadly schemes afoot in Tokyo and beyond! From superstar creative team James Robinson (Starman, Red Sonja) and Aaron Campbell (The Shadow, Uncanny) comes the Bond spin-off highlighting 007’s American counterpart, blending spy thrills with the dark alleys and darker deeds of crime fiction!

James Bond: Felix Leiter is awesome! James Robinson has written a winner and I highly recommend it to Bond fans and to others who enjoy a well-written ex-spy-down-on-his-luck protagonist taking on a femme fatale. It's got a very noir-ish feel to it while retaining a real sense of the bigger James Bond world. Pick it up and read it now!

Okay, I've got that out of the way. Felix Leiter was a supporting character in several of the James Bond books and movies. He's even made a couple of appearances in the new comic series. Leiter is currently ex-CIA (he has some medical issues, i.e. - he's missing some limbs and has prosthetics). He now "works" as a private investigator, which is how this book begins. Leiter has been hired by an old acquaintance, Tiger Tanaka (from You Only Live Twice), to find and identify another old acquaintance, Alena Davoff. First, Tanaka is sort of the Japanese James Bond. Second, Leiter and Davoff go back to a joint Russian/American mission involving a war on Afghanistan's heroin trade. There relationship is complicated, to say the least. While he's in Japan, Leiter and Tanaka investigate a biological terror event stemming from a cult. The plot thickens from there.

I've read nearly every Fleming James Bond story and seen nearly every movie, and enjoyed them all on one level or another. However, I found I knew little about Felix Leiter. And I've got to say, I find him an interesting and fun character. The voice Robinson has given him is very much in the old noir detectives style, minus the slang. Leiter is very self-effacing but ready to take on anything. He knows what his strengths are, yet finds he often overestimates his abilities. He is a complicated man, living with the knowledge of the spy he used to be, and the physically broken P.I. he is now. Altogether, this makes him a terrific lead character and narrator.There is also room for character growth, which sets him apart from James Bond.

Robinson also does a nice job fleshing out the supporting characters, like Tanaka and Davoff. They are believable in their abilities and play vital roles in the story. Robinson has also provided a couple of nods to the traditional Bond tale, and has set this story very much in the Bond world of Warren Ellis's comic stories.

Further, because this is a collected edition, there are several bonuses. Various covers are collected in the book, as well as the script to issue #1, and an interview with James Robinson.

To echo my earlier statements, I really enjoyed James Bond: Felix Leiter by James Robinson. It was fun, exciting, and entertaining. I look forward to seeing where this character goes in the future.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

DOOMSDAY CLOCK #1 by Geoff Johns - Book Review

From the publisher: DC Comics presents to you a 12-issue maxiseries from the critically acclaimed team of writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson. You are not prepared for what lies ahead within these pages, good readers.

Ever since I finished reading DC Rebirth #1 and the hints at Dr. Manhattan's involvement in Rebirth, I've been looking forward to Geoff Johns's Doomsday Clock series. In what is clearly an homage to the Watchmen mini-series, Doomsday Clock #1's cover sets the stage for what promises to be an epic tale from Johns that promises to explain (and clean up) all the DC Continuity from the New DC through Rebirth. It is also a good opening chapter in the story.

I'm going to try to summarize spoiler-free: Doomsday Clock opens in the aftermath of Ozymandias's last gasp attempt to prevent nuclear war in the 1980's. It is the early 1990's and the political situation on Earth has pretty much pushed us to the brink of nuclear war again. Totalitarianism is running rampant, and everyone is pretty much resigned to a nuclear holocaust. However, a classic Watchmen hero is on a mission to free a dangerous prisoner, one who can help he and his partner "find god" and stop the end of the world. Because Doomsday Clock is supposed to connect the New DC and Rebirth, there is also a small scene with a prominent DC hero. I believe Johns was reminding us that these are separate universes and the story involves them both.

Doomsday Clock #1 answered no questions, and posed several others. It was, however, a great opening chapter in what should be a complex story that has a lot to accomplish. In my opinion, Geoff Johns is the perfect man to take on this task. He has proven himself over the years on numerous DC books and projects, rarely having a misstep and usually knocking it out of the park. I have absolutely no idea where he is going with this story (there are some obvious guesses that can be made based on the last year or so of stories, but I hope it's not that simple), but I trust Johns. He has proved himself a deft hand at handling all of DC's convoluted history and is great with characters, both famous and less well-known. I'm looking forward to reading Doomsday Clock very much, and I'm happy with the first issue.

I highly recommend Doomsday Clock #1 by Geoff Johns. If you are a Watchmen fan, this is for you. If you're curious about how the New DC resulted in Rebirth, read this. If you just like big events, they don't come bigger than Doomsday Clock. Issue 1 is out now, and you should start here.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Basketball keeps rolling

Cami's rec league team lost a tight game this week. Cami played really well, making a basket and both of her free throws. She took several other shots, including a shot with a couple of seconds left that would have tied it, but it just rimmed out. She played great defense, getting several steals and deflections. She also rebounded well. She has next Saturday off, but returns the following week. She also has tryouts for the school team this week.

Griffin's team lost both travel games by close scores. Griffin continued playing well, getting another basket and harassing the other teams on defense. He had several steals (including just picking the kid's pocket a couple of times), a few rebounds, and some good passes. In fact, one of his coaches was extremely complimentary of his passing today. It's fun to see his growth, and after taking Thanksgiving week off, I look forward to watching Griffin continue to improve.

Lexi has a cheer game this week, and continues to practice for basketball. Her first game is in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

THE WILD STORM #9 by Warren Ellis - Book Review

From the publisher: Angie Spica is given access to Jacob Marlowe’s secret lab, and discovers a treasure trove of technologies and sciences strange, ancient and alien. In this underground hold, she begins the process of fixing herself—and, perhaps, even evolving herself. In another hidden room, Jackie King and her team at IO begin planning a covert cyberwar attack against Skywatch—something even her own boss doesn’t know she’s doing.

The Wild Storm #9, by Warren Ellis. Yes. I read it. I tried to keep up with everything going on. But Ellis has such gigantic ideas and concepts that the more issue of The Wild Storm I read, the more I'm convinced this book is going to have to be read as a whole once all the issues are out. Which is not to say I'm not enjoying it; I am. It's just a lot to take in when you are only given small portions on a monthly basis.

In this issue, we see Jacob Marlowe take Angie Spica to his secret lab. She finds lots of cool alien stuff, and begins to use it to fix herself. We get a glimpse into IO, where Jackie King is confronted over a secret spy project she is running. We also see John Colt go all crazy ninja kill destroy on a group of people guarding a wagon containing something valuable. Yeah, I'm not going to even pretend I can understand it all right now, but it was big and fun and loud and insane. Or, a Warren Ellis book.

I really look forward to The Wild Storm each month, and issue #9 is no different. Warren Ellis is writing a crazy interesting book and I highly recommend it.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Basketball Go!

Cami's rec league team lost this week, but played a fine game. Cami did a nice job, playing really tough defense, anticipating passes well, which resulted in multiple deflections and steals. The ball didn't drop as well for her this week, but she did make a free throw. She also grabbed several rebounds and created jump balls. She has another game next week.

Griffin's team split their first two games on the travel circuit. I thought Griffin played as well as I've ever seen him play. He made his first shot, which was huge for him. He made confident moves with the ball, and made smart passes. He hustled on defense, got a steal, and I think a rebound or two. It was a lot of fun to watch, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the season plays out. Next games are next Sunday.

Lexi continues with practice, getting ready for the upcoming season. Basketball things appear to be progressing well for her. In cheerleading, the squad is going to perform their state championship routine for the school board at the next meeting, so that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WILDSTORM: MICHAEL CRAY #2 by Bryan Hill - Book Review

From the publisher: Michael Cray hunts Oliver Queen…by making himself the prey. Stripped of his weapons and his newly formed team, Cray becomes the most dangerous game in Queen’s manufactured island, where the only law is survival. Queen has mastered his domain and the art of hunting men—Michael hasn’t mastered the tumor in his brain, and neither man is prepared for the extremity of the other…but only one will survive.

The first spinoff series of Warren Ellis’ hit reimagining of THE WILD STORM continues in MICHAEL CRAY #2. 

Bryan Hill continues his The Wild Storm spinoff with Michael Cray #2. This issue begins where #1 left off, with Cray, an assassin for IO, being assigned a hit on Oliver Queen, better known as the Green Arrow. In the meantime, Cray assembles a team and deals with a change he's undergoing on a cellular level, one which allows him to disintegrate objects with his hand. Eventually he confronts Queen, and a classic battle ensues.

I like this series, but it's not quite as insane as The Wild Storm. I am enjoying finding out more about Michael Cray, who appears like he may be a main player in The Wild Storm series, but with a lot of mystery about him. I believe that Bryan Hill is trying to peel back the layers on Cray a bit, and its working. Hill's Cray is grumpy and borderline unlikable, but he has a code about who he is willing to kill and who he's not. The Cray in The Wild Storm is very conflicted; Hill is providing some insight into how and why Cray is like that. As for Cray's team, to this point there isn't much we know about them. Cray's boss, Trelane, has less to do in this issue than the first.

One of the really interesting aspects to this series, at least to this part, is the appearance of some mainstream DC characters, in this case Oliver Queen, and another one hinted at for next issue. I'm curious as to how this will dovetail with the main DC universe, and whether this is an alternate Earth, if there are imposters running around, or some other explanation. This is something that has not been touched on in The Wild Storm, so I'm looking to Hill to expand on the concept. I feel like there is the potential for a lot of cool stories if the DC characters can be used. That would mean a bunch of high profile targets for Michael Cray.

I recommend Michael Cray #2 by Bryan Hill. It's a good read, and can be read without having read the first issue, but I try to pick it up anyway. This has the makings of a fun series.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Paradox Bound by PETER CLINES - Book Review

From the publisher: Nothing ever changes in Sanders. The town’s still got a video store, for god’s sake. 

So why doesn’t Eli Teague want to leave? 

Not that he’d ever admit it, but maybe he’s been waiting—waiting for the traveler to come back. The one who’s roared into his life twice before, pausing just long enough to drop tantalizing clues before disappearing in a cloud of gunfire and a squeal of tires. The one who’s a walking anachronism, with her tricorne hat, flintlock rifle, and steampunked Model-A Ford. 

The one who’s being pursued by…something. 

So when the mysterious traveler finally reappears, Eli’s determined that this time, he’s going to get some answers. But his hunt soon yields far more than he bargained for, plunging him headlong into a dizzying world full of competing factions and figures straight out of legend. 

To make sense of the mystery at its heart, he must embark on a breakneck chase across the country and through two centuries of history­—with nothing less than America’s past, present, and future at stake.

I want to open by saying that I'm a fan of Peter Clines. I enjoyed the Ex- series and both 14 and The Fold. So, when I heard about Paradox Bound, I was eager to have a chance to read it. I'm glad I did, because I really enjoyed the book. There is something to Clines's writing that propels the story forward, always leaving the reader eager to discover just what happens next. Paradox Bound was much the same; the pacing of the story was great and never seemed to lag. In addition, the characters were engaging and the plot was fun and interesting.

A quick summary: Eli Teague lives in a small town in Maine, where nothing much seems to happen and nothing seems to change. He works an IT job at a bank in a neighboring city and hangs out with his friends. But Eli is waiting for something, searching, even. You see, twice in his life (when he was 8 1/2 & 13 years old) Eli encountered Harry, a mysterious stranger dressed straight out of the 1800's and driving a Model-A Ford. The mystery of who Harry was and where she was from haunted Eli. And then one night, he encounters her again and it changes his life. He joins Harry as she "history travels" in search of the American Dream. But they're not the only ones looking for it; beware the "faceless men".

Time travel stories can be tricky, so Clines stays away from that trope. Rather, Eli and Harry "history" travel, Clines's own unique take on the genre. I found his version of time travel, and the mechanics of it, very interesting. The limits, restrictions, and rules for history traveling are also logical. Part of the fun of moving through history is encountering famous or recognizable figures, and Clines doesn't forget that. Our protagonists run in to several fairly famous, or infamous, characters from American history.

Character-wise, I found Eli to be a likable main character. He is well developed and has a nice sense of humor, in addition to the wide-eyed wonder most of us would display upon discovering we can time travel. There is both nerd and hero wrapped up in Eli, and his arc finishes nicely. Harry is also a good character. She is a bit abrasive at times and there is a sense of mystery about her, but she is definitely a strong heroine. Like Eli, she too finds a nice resolution to her arc. The faceless men are fine antagonists, and the blankness of their features adds a level of horror to them. Clines also provides a clear connection between them, the search for the American Dream, and Eli and Harry. This is not just a random group of bad guys.

Clines typically writes with a bit of humor and Paradox Bound is no exception. As this is a sort of time travel story, there are no shortages of pop culture nuggets strewn throughout the narrative. I found them to be a natural fit and not forced, as can sometimes happen.

I highly recommend Paradox Bound by Peter Clines. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a fan, and this book did nothing to change my mind. If you're looking for something by Clines to try in order to see if you like his style, this book is not part of a series or connected to any other stories by him (at least as of this writing). It would make a great starting spot.

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

We're Off And Running - Basketball

Today was the first game of the winter basketball season, with many more to come. Cami gets our family started, with her first game in the school rec league. She did a terrific job. It may have been the most complete game I've ever seen Cam play. She had six points, several rebounds, a steal (I think), and multiple inbound passes. She got out on the fast break a bunch and converted her last attempted very nicely. I'm really proud of her and can't wait to see how she continues to improve.

Lexi continues to practice and Griffin has his first practice this week, followed by his first game (his team is playing a travel team schedule and will also play a regular school schedule).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT #2 by Sean Murphy - Book Review

From the publisher: Public support for Batman dwindles and Gotham City’s 99 percent rally around ex-Joker Jack Napier’s crusade to expose decades of corruption within the GCPD. A proposition inspires new revelations about Harley and The Joker’s past; and as Jack transforms into a hero of the middle class and takes extreme measures to mobilize a revolutionary army of super-villains, Bruce struggles to stay focused on engineering a technological breakthrough to save Alfred.

Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight #2 continues the unique story he began with issue #1. In the world of his White Knight, Jack Napier aka Joker has been cured and the city has turned against Batman. It is an unusual situation to say the least.

Issue #2 focuses on Jack and provides some background on how the new status quo came about. Highlights include an impassioned speech delivered by Jack Napier expounding on how Gotham fostered his development as Joker; TWO Harley Quinns; Batman working with Victor Fries; and Jack's meeting with his former supervillain competitors.

I really enjoyed this story. Murphy did a nice job with the first issue, setting up the idea of Jack as victim, but there wasn't a lot of depth. However, this changed with this current issue. Murphy adds depth to Jack Napier, making him a sympathetic figure that you want to believe, but Murphy leaves just enough room for doubt. His handling of multiple versions of Harley Quinn was borderline genius; I don't want to spoil it, but Murphy just came up with a fantastic explanation for why there seems to be such a disparity in looks and actions between the different iterations of Harley.

I highly recommend Batman: White Knight #2 by Sean Murphy. While you should start with the first issue, this book functions as a fine introduction to the series as well. I can't wait to see where Murphy and Jack Napier go from here and look forward to reading the next installment in White Knight.

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