Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE MAN OF STEEL #5 by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: Beaten by Rogol Zaar, his city burning at the hands of an unknown arsonist and the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon drawing closer to revelation—even Superman feels powerless against all that stands before him.

Brian Michael Bendis gives us the penultimate issue of The Man of Steel with issue #5. This issue pushes events to the edge of the climax as Bendis begins to bring the various threads of this story together.

In this issue, we see Superman joined by a few of his "super" friends as Metropolis is reeling in the aftermath of the battle between Superman, Supergirl, and Rogol Zaar. The mysterious fires that have been plaguing Metropolis resurface, as Chief Moore and her fellow firefighters may have discovered a pattern to the blazes. Finally, we get a little more of a glimpse into the whereabouts of Lois and Jon, and just what might have caused a rift between Lois and Clark. Suffice it to say that family issues arise.

Bendis is doing a fine job with this series, and I'm curious to discover just how he will wrap it up. There is a lot of action, but I don't really feel like the characterization has been a focus. For instance, Chief Moore is a new character and we haven't found out anything about her, other than there was an awkward "flirty" interaction between Superman and her. I'd also like to see a little more about Rogol Zaar. He's kind of a stock villain right now, but there must be more to his motivation to "cleanse" all Kryptonians.

I would recommend The Man of Steel #5 by Brian Michael Bendis, but it's not the place to start. Go back and pick up the previous issues, or wait for the collected edition. While Superman isn't my favorite hero, I'm sure The Man of Steel is resonating with fans, and it may be bringing in new readers as well.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


From the publisher: Harley Quinn knows a thing or two about dysfunctional relationships. When she hears that her old flame is trying to get in the way of a happy new life for one of her best friends, the Maid of Mischief tracks The Joker down to give him a piece of her mind—and maybe a few blows from her hammer, too.

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Harley Quinn vs. The Joker #1 by Tim Seeley (that is a long title) is the last of the Prelude stories. Seeley once again takes two Batman characters and has them face off with the upcoming wedding between Batman and Catwoman as the background. However, this time, instead of a hero and villain, he chooses two villains (well, Harley is sometimes a villain). This makes for an entertaining story.

Harley Quinn's backstory is that she was a psychologist who fell in love with Joker, and then later had a falling out. So a wedding is a perfect setting for them. In this case, Harley has created some death-traps and wants to help Joker realize how much Harley knows and loves him. Joker is just miffed that he didn't get invited to the wedding. A dialogue about relationships ensues.

Seeley wrote another fun book, putting some attention on two more characters that would definitely have something to say about Batman and Catwoman getting married, but would distract from the lead-up to the wedding in the main storyline. However, with the Joker being a part of the epilogue in the Prelude books, he has become a focal character. In fact, this book leads directly into the main Batman title and the wedding issue(s).

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Harley Quinn vs. The Joker #1 by Tim Seeley is a good read. I would recommend it to Batman fans, those who've read the other Prelude books, and Harley and Joker fans. Seeley has done a great job with these one-shots, and I feel like he's added to the story of the Batman/Catwoman wedding, which I believe was the purpose of these books. Mission accomplished.

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

ASTRO CITY #52 by Kurt Busiek - Book Review

From the publisher: It’s the final issue of ASTRO CITY...for now. Michael Tenicek lost his world years ago. Now he may lose another, as ordinary life among the extraordinary takes a shattering turn. A character-focused finale to the ongoing Vertigo ASTRO CITY series, and a launch point for its new form. Guest-starring the Hanged Man, Honor Guard and more.

Astro City #52 brings to a close Kurt Busiek's masterpiece of a series, at least in the monthly/bi-monthly format. It's a nice, almost quiet, ending to the series. Busiek has been telling a sequel of sorts to the (most famous?) story from Astro City's run, and this issue ends the three issue arc and the series as a whole.

Michael Tenicek lost his wife in an earth-and-reality shattering event. She was erased from existence but for some reason, he had memories of his life with her along with memories of his life when she never existed. Jump forward, and we pick up with Tenicek, who has started therapy groups for those who had trauma and/or tragedy as a result of an encounter with a superhero/villain. Unfortunately for Mike, his story comes to light, and the group has a falling out with him. Issue #52 picks up from here, and Busiek relates how Mike moves on. The Hanged Man makes a guest appearance (he was an important character in the original story) and Mike is faced with a choice: Choose to forget his wife, Miranda, and move on; or continue to deal with his two sets of memories.

In typical Astro City fashion, Busiek gets to the heart of the personal stories within the fantastic characters and events that inhabit Astro City. This series has always been about more than just powers; its about heart and soul and emotion, something Busiek is able to capture extremely well. And while Astro City #52 didn't end how I might have hoped or thought, I suppose it ended the right way and longtime readers should be happy with the conclusion.

I highly recommend Astro City #52, as well as all the previous stories. Kurt Busiek has written something different and special with the various incarnations of this series. If you can't grab the individual issues, it's well worth your time to pick up a collected edition or two (or three or four). If you like literate, character-focused comics full of heart, with some superheroics to go along with them, then Astro City is for you. I'm looking forward to the next iteration of stories that Busiek comes up with.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE MAN OF STEEL #4 by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: Rogol Zaar has committed a string of atrocities across the cosmos that have led him to the Fortress of Solitude—and now Superman and Supergirl plan to crush his schemes! But are even two Kryptonians enough to stop his sinister machinations?

The Man of Steel #4 by Brian Michael Bendis finally brings readers what they've been waiting for: a battle between Rogol Zaar, the person who destroyed Krypton, and Superman, with a little help from Supergirl. Most of the issue is taken up with this battle, but there are some strange juxtapositions with Lois and Jon in the midst of the battle.

I liked this issue better than the previous couple, but that's probably because the waiting ended. This story has been building toward a fight, and this is where it happens. Rogol Zaar is an interesting villain, but at this point, he isn't joining the pantheon of great Superman villains. However, he is a powerful foe, and I'm sure there will be several more battles before this arc ends.

To me, the most interesting storyline in The Man of Steel is why Lois and Jon aren't with Superman. There have just been hints about something being "off", with Lois and Jon out of Superman's life for some reason. In this current issue, there are a couple of strange scenes where dialogue between the three is taking place during the fight with Zaar. I'm now wondering is some part of this is happening in Superman's head, or if there is a flashback of some sort going on. Also, there is no mention of the fires in Metropolis at all in this issue, after having them play a somewhat large role in previous issues. I'm counting on Bendis to bring all these things together in an ending that is satisfying and makes sense. He's got two more issues to go.

I would recommend The Man of Steel #4 by Brian Michael Bendis. This is the best of the story so far, but is definitely not a good starting point. Superman fans should be looking to read this series.

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


From the publisher: Red Hood has always been the one standing slightly apart from the rest of the Bat crew. Some see him as the Robin gone bad—which is exactly the kind of thing someone like Anarky can exploit. Now Red Hood is running security at Catwoman’s bachelorette party—and if Anarky can crash it, that could be the final straw for Jason Todd!

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Red Hood vs. Anarky #1 is Tim Seeley's latest effort in this series of one-shots leading up to the wedding of Batman and Catwoman. They have all been varying levels of entertaining, but this once has been the one I least enjoyed. More on that in a bit.

Red Hood vs Anarky #1 takes place at the same time as the previous book. While that one focused on Batman's bachelor party, this one follows Catwoman during the events of her bachelorette party. To make sure nothing happens to Catwoman, Batman "hires" Jason Todd/Red Hood, a former Robin, to watch over her. He is tasked with keeping her safe and not being seen. Anarky, a sometime villain and former Batman trainee, decides now is the time to take some revenge. Fighting ensues, as it often does. In between these confrontations, Seeley shows us a little more about Catwoman and her past, which is interesting and adds even more depth to her character. Finally, Seeley gives a peek at Joker and sets up the next issue.

As I've mentioned in other reviews of this series, I like the idea behind it: focus on supporting characters and what they are thinking about the upcoming wedding, but without the commitment of a full series. I also like the short epilogues that give a glimpse at Joker and his thoughts of the wedding (no Batman wedding can be complete without him). As far as this particular story, it wasn't my favorite, but I think that's more a function of the characters than the writing. I'm not a huge Red Hood fan; he has his moments, but at times the anger and resentment of the character just isn't engaging to me. And Anarky is not a great villain the majority of the time, particularly when there are so many fantastic bad guys in Batman's rogues gallery.

Overall, I liked Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Red Hood vs. Anarky #1 by Tim Seeley. Its a quick and easy read that moves the wedding a little closer and continues to set the stage for Joker's impact on Batman and Catwoman.

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Our Newlywed Kitchen by Laura Schupp - Book Review

Image result for Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering, and Creating Traditions 
From the publisher: Imagine giving the special bride you know a gorgeous keepsake book. One that includes timeless wisdom for the heart of your home—the kitchen—with space for you and others to insert recipes, prayers, Scripture, and memories. Our Newlywed Kitchen offers Christians a unique wedding gift for brides. It includes practical how-to information for wedding registry, kitchen organization, meal preparations, party planning, grocery shopping, and more. This gift will be immediately treasured by a new bride, who will refer to it for years.

Our Newlywed Kitchen by Laura Schupp is very much a gift book. I think this would be a great wedding shower gift idea, or even something to give a couple (particularly the bride) upon their engagement. And while it might work as a wedding present, it does have several sections that are designed to be used prior to the wedding.

As far as content goes, Our Newlywed Kitchen is divided into two sections, "Before You Say I Do" and After Your Nuptials. Each of these sections is broken down into chapters (for a total of 13) that highlight specific aspects of creating and keeping a newlywed kitchen to last a lifetime. Chapters such as Registry Pre-shop and Kitchen Essentials Checklist include helpful guides and tips on what to include in the wedding registry. Recipe Collection, Cooking Simple, and Gathering highlight the creation of your own style and family traditions while incorporating ideas from people important to the married couple. In addition to the very practical ideas, each chapter includes quotes, advice, Bible verses, and anecdotes from Laura and her family. These add a nice touch what could just be a somewhat boring and generic book otherwise.

Our Newlywed Kitchen is a rather thick coffee-table book size. It appears very durable, and the pages or thick enough to not be easily damaged. It is a beautiful looking book, with many pictures. A variety of font styles and sizes add to the design.

Overall, I liked the idea of Our Newlywed Kitchen by Laura Schupp. I would absolutely consider this as a gift to newly engaged couples. It is helpful in a practical way, while also adding spiritual and loving advice.

I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale and Focus on the Family in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Titans Special #1 by Dan Abnett - Book Review

From the publisher: It’s the dawn of a new age of TITANS! The events of METAL and NO JUSTICE have left the team in tatters, but a strange new threat has emerged to lead Nightwing to reassemble the Titans with a mix of old blood and new. A rash of metahuman power fluctuations are threatening people around the globe, and only the friends who grew up as superheroes can help those whose powers have grown out of control! It all starts here in this special issue kicking off a bold new direction!

Titans Special #1 by Dan Abnett is a new direction for the Titans (the adult team, not the teen version). Due to the Source Wall falling as a result of the events of Dark Nights: Metal, many "normal" people are having the meta gene activated. People unprepared for powers can have and cause all sorts of problems, which is where Nightwing and his team come in.

As a result of a run-in with one of these newly powered people, Nightwing realizes that there is a need for a team of heroes to help the newly powered, or to stop them. Being sanctioned by the Justice League gives his idea legitimacy (although there is a hesitancy due to the events of Justice League: No Justice). This issue focuses on Nightwing putting his team together. As he gathers heroes with varying power sets, Nightwing readies the Titans to accomplish their mission.

This book was okay. I generally enjoy the Titans, and Nightwing is one of my favorites. Visiting and recruiting heroes is a tried and true formula for new/special issues, so the story didn't break any ground here. Also, the basis for this team and how they are to operate refer back to previous series, and while the story itself didn't require any previous knowledge, I feel like I'm missing a little not having read one of those series. Hopefully, this won't be an ongoing issue as the main Titans book transitions to this new team.

Titans Special #1 by Dan Abnett fulfills its function admirably. Abnett is tasked with introducing a new team of Titans and setting them on their path. Titans Special #1 does both of those things, but its hard to really evaluate how the team and the new direction are going to look going forward. Abnett does have a pretty good track record writing interesting comics, so Titans bears watching in the future.

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

Michael Cray #8 by Bryan Hill - Book Review

From the publisher: Constantine and Diana Prince promise Michael they can help free him from the alien consciousness growing inside him, but in order for them to help, Cray must keep them both alive...protecting them from his former team as Trelane aims war at them all. How far is Cray willing to go to rid himself of the thing festering inside his mind? And how far will that alien inside Cray go to protect itself?

Finally, Michael Cray begins to pick up steam. Bryan Hill uses issue #8 to ramp things up, and rather than the villain of the month, we get a piece of the bigger story. Cray and Constantine face off, with Constantine telling Cray that he can help him to get rid of the "alien" voice/presence in his mind. Meanwhile, that voice wants Cray to turn over total control to it. Diana Prince begins to reveal her plan, and Trelane fears she may have lost Cray for good.

This was a terrific issue of Michael Cray. I felt like Hill began to pull back the curtain on what is really going on, and give readers a glimpse of the bigger story. The conflict between Cray and his inner voice points towards interesting future developments. Diana and Constantine, rather than being killed right away like the other familiar faces in past issues, promise to play major roles in the story to come. And for once, Trelane and company might actually be the sympathetic group.

Much like in past issues, I still don't know just what is going on overall, but Hill is starting to pull threads together. With only a handful of issues left (according to what I've read), the action should continue to run at a breakneck pace. I recommend Michael Cray #8 by Bryan Hill, but if you haven't been reading it so far, this is definitely not the place to start.

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

The Man of Steel #3 by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: The merciless killer and zealot calling himself Rogol Zaar has searched the cosmos for Superman—and when he reaches the Fortress of Solitude, his actions will cut Superman to the core.

Brian Michael Bendis uses The Man of Steel #3 to ramp up the threat to Superman. As Superman continues to investigate the mysterious fires plaguing Metropolis with the help of a friend, he receives an alarm only someone with his senses could hear. The Fortress of Solitude has been attacked, and Kandor (the last remaining Kryptonian city) is in danger. Supergirl joins him, as Rogol Zaar makes his presence known on Earth.

This issue of The Man of Steel moves the main story forward, and Bendis ups the stakes for Superman. The threat to Kandor, and indirectly to Lois and Jon, makes things very real for him. While he hasn't yet been made aware of Rogol Zaar's past encounter with Krypton, I have to imagine Bendis has that planned for the near future.

As far as the secondary stories that have been moving through the previous issues, Bendis deals with one a bit, but doesn't really touch on the other. The rash of fires and Fire Chief Moore both show up, but there isn't a lot to be revealed here. As far as the relationship between Lois and Clark, and the whereabouts of Lois and Jon, there are a couple of panels with them, but I didn't understand the context. Unfortunately for me, because this is the most interesting story to me so far.

The Man of Steel #3 by Brian Michael Bendis is a decent read. I still keep waiting for that "aha" moment that really captures my attention, but at this point, halfway through the series, I'm thinking I'm going to have to look at The Man of Steel as a whole story, which hopefully is a better read altogether than it is chapter by chapter. This is still a series that needs to be read by Superman and Bendis fans.

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

Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Batgirl vs. Riddler #1 by Tim Seeley - Book Review

From the publisher: On the eve of Batman’s wedding to Catwoman, two of Gotham City’s finest minds clash. In her role as Oracle, Barbara Gordon wired all of her allies together. But when The Riddler takes on Batgirl, will he tear everything asunder?

Another wedding prelude, another winner from Tim Seeley. This time, its Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Batgirl vs. Riddler, and its a fun story. Riddler has kidnapped four people, hidden them around Burnside, and challenged Batgirl to find them before they die. But what do they have in common? There is a wedding theme running through his riddles, including Riddler rethinking his life through the lens of Batman's upcoming marriage to Catwoman. Oh, and there is another epilogue, but it's not the Joker this time.

This was an entertaining story, and another chance to look at what some of the side characters think about the upcoming wedding. The Riddler can be a fun villain and Seeley does an excellent job writing him that way. Riddler challenges Batgirl and her perfect memory, all the while monologuing about his new outlook on life. Batgirl, for her part, is also thinking about her romantic future, wondering if there is still anything between Nightwing and herself. While not a deep story, there were some fun parts. I also enjoyed the battle of intelligence between Riddler and Batgirl. I can't remember those two going up against each other before, but it seems like a natural pairing. I would definitely look forward to round two, if it were to happen.

Overall, I recommend Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Batgirl vs. Riddler #1 by Tim Seeley. It's a good, self-contained story that adds to the wedding preparations without being required reading.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


From the publisher: Dick Grayson has a lot of responsibility. Being the original partner to Batman, he’s the natural choice to be Bruce Wayne’s best man. So if anyone has to get to the wedding, it’s going to be him. Too bad Hush has other plans—and maybe Bruce Wayne does, too!

Nightwing vs. Hush #1 is the second book in the Batman: Prelude to the Wedding series by Tim Seeley. Each issue looks at a confrontation between part of Batman's "family" and one of his villains, as Batman and Catwoman move closer to their big day.

In this issue, Nightwing and Superman have taken Batman out for his bachelor party. Unfortunately, Hush interferes, and he and Nightwing find themselves in a weird sort of pocket dimension where faceless beings are after them. While light on story/plot, this issue does look at the relationship between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Nightwing and contrasts it with the relationship between Batman and Hush, his childhood friend. This forms the emotional backbone of the story and is an interesting examination of complicated friendship between Bruce and Dick. Meanwhile, the issue ends with more Joker undercurrents and sets up the next Prelude book: Batgirl vs. Riddler.

Seeley is doing a nice job with these books so far. I've enjoyed looking at the peripheral characters that are involved in Batman's life and how his pending marriage might affect them. These are people who are important in Batman's history, but would just receive a cameo if left to the "wedding" issue. I also like how Seeley is adding a touch of creepiness and fear by touching on Joker's actions during this time. The suspense for the actual wedding continues to rise.

I highly recommend Batman: Prelude to the Wedding - Nightwing vs. Hush by Tim Seeley. This is a tie-in book that is adding to the main storyline without being required reading. It's also a great read for fans of the greater Bat-family, rather than just the man himself.

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

THE MAN OF STEEL #2 by Brian Michael Bendis - Book Review

From the publisher: With an arsonist loose in Metropolis, Superman’s powers are almost useless in finding the culprit. And back at the Daily Planet, everyone wants to know what’s going on with Lois Lane. How can Clark hold on to the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon much longer?

Brian Michael Bendis continues his first Superman arc with The Man of Steel #2. There are several things going on in this issue. There is another suspicious fire. Everyone wants to know just what exactly happened between Clark and Lois (me too; are they having marital strife I missed somewhere?). Rogol Zaar is shown in the present day, for the first time. And the Guardians and others once again mention a decision they made regarding Krypton.

This issue was okay. Bendis is still laying groundwork and teasing out mysteries. It wasn't a great story, but it was also only one part of a larger whole. As such, it's tough for me to evaluate it. I'm curious about what is going on in the lives of Clark, Lois, and Jon, but I don't really care (at this point) about the fires in Metropolis. I'm not really sure why I should care, though. I'm also not that interested or invested in the actions of Rogol Zaar. As of right now, it seems like this is just another version of who or what destroyed Krypton. For me, the hope lies in Bendis's track record. He has written so many excellent stories, that I'm trusting in his storytelling skills. Other than that, there currently isn't a lot making me want to continue with The Man of Steel.

I would recommend The Man of Steel #2 only on the basis of Brian Michael Bendis's past writing. As far as hooking the reader, I'm not there yet.

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