Thursday, August 30, 2018

Quick Family Sports Update

Griffin's football game was postponed from Saturday until Tuesday due to weather. The team lost, but did have some good plays. The highlight for Griffin was his first catch. He ran a Go route and got behind the CB for around an 8 yard gain (we aren't really a dynamic passing team). It was also the first downfield completion of the season. There is no game this weekend due to the Labor Day holiday, so we're back at it next week.

Cami had her 1st rec league volleyball match. Her team lost, but Cami played well. She really improved on her serving, getting most of her serves over by serving overhand, which was a struggle last season. She also had several nice hits and bumps. She has her next game(s) next week.

Lexi continues to be a cheerleading bystander due to stress fractures, but the latest update is that she could be seeing some improvement.

The varsity football team won last week and plays a ranked opponent this week.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: From the creative team that brought you Daredevil and Infamous Iron Man comes the latest explosive chapter in their creator-owned epic, which IGN called one of the best comics on the stands. SCARLET tells the story of a woman whose life has been ripped apart by police corruption. When she pushes back, she starts a chain reaction of events that will bring about the next American Revolution.

In this brand-new, new reader-friendly chapter, fully painted by Eisner Award-winning artist Alex Maleev, SCARLET tells the story of what happens when one young woman is pushed too far—and what one country will do to stop her.

Prior to reading Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis, I had heard of the original Scarlet series. I remember seeing the collected edition and may have picked it up, but I decided not to read it (I don’t remember why). With Bendis moving to DC and his back catalog of creator-owned series moving with him, the opportunity to revisit and restart some of these series providing readers like me another opportunity to see what they are all about. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m planning on trying out any of Bendis’s series that seem interesting to me, and that’s how I feel about Scarlet. The idea behind a modern revolution started by one woman fed up with the system is intriguing. Scarlet’s life was irrevocably changed (in the original series) because of police corruption, so she decided to fight back. As a result, she is now both a folk hero and a legitimate hero.

This issue starts with the city of Portland isolated from the rest of the country, with the power cut off and the bridges blown up. We are told the people living in the city are there for one of two reasons: either they support Scarlet or they didn’t get out in time. As Scarlet and her rebels engage the military, she continuously broadcasts what is going on to people around the country (I’m not real sure how she is able to do this). The issue ends with a surprise that sets the stage for a possible change in status quo.

Now that I’ve sampled Scarlet, I’m not sure whether I’ll continue or not. I really think that this is a series where knowing the story from the previous series is important. Bendis tries to catch the new readers up, but I still felt like there was a hole in my knowledge and understanding. It’s also hard to get a good sense of what kind of person Scarlet is when all I’ve got to go on is this first issue. The story is definitely relevant to our times, as many people believe that the government at many levels is corrupt. There is a lot of action packed into this issue, and as I mentioned, the ending could lead to some very interesting story choices.

Overall, I think Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis was okay. If you’ve read and enjoyed the original series, you’ll definitely want to pick it up. The same goes for fans of Bendis’s work in general. The last group that may enjoy Scarlet are readers that like comics that aren’t focused on powers and super heroics, but more grounded and gritty. Anyway, now is the time to check out all of the new/restarted titles from Bendis.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Batman: Kings of Fear #1 by Scott Peterson - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Legendary artist Kelley Jones makes his triumphant return to the Dark Knight in this explosive miniseries written by former BATMAN editor Scott Peterson! Batman’s been overseeing Gotham City for years now and isn’t sure how much of a difference he’s making. Doubt, fear and insecurity are starting to take over. And as all of those negative feelings set in the Scarecrow orchestrates a riot at Arkham Asylum to give the Dark Knight one of his greatest challenges yet! This six-issue miniseries will see the Scarecrow in a horrifying new way that you’ll have to read to believe. 

Having read Batman: Kings of Fear #1 by Scott Peterson, I have to say I was underwhelmed. There have been so many excellent, engaging Batman series available recently, that I was disappointed in reading this first issue.

First, a quick summary. Batman has a run-in with a psychotic and murderous Joker, resulting in his capture. Batman then takes Joker to Arkham, so Joker can be admitted/incarcerated. While there, Batman meets a new doctor, who opposes his treatment of the villains he encounters. Then, lots of villains attack Batman. And that's basically it.

I was looking forward to a new, scary take on Scarecrow; he was barely in the issue. I was looking to continue the current run of terrific Batman stories, or even a different view of the characters. I felt like I was reading something from the mid-80's, before comics began really telling engaging and creative stories again. This felt like more of the same ol', same ol', and not in a good way. At least in this first issue, Peterson didn't really break any new ground, he just retread over stories and character types that've been seen over and over. Angry doctor who disagrees with Batman's methods, check. Joker not doing anything creative, just pushing Batman's buttons, check. Villains break out of Arkham, check. The Batman bar has been set very high, particularly with the characterization of Batman and his rogue's gallery.

I don't really recommend Batman: Kings of Fear #1. Scott Peterson's story fell flat for me. There is still plenty of room for it to grow, and I may yet read the rest of the series, but I'll be waiting until the collected edition is out and I've seen some full series reviews. If you are a diehard Batman fan, I suppose you might like this, but this fan did not.

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Unshakable Hope Promise Book (Student Edition) By Max Lucado

From the publisher: Get to know the God who keeps His promises. Unshakable Hope Promise Book, by bestselling author Max Lucado, explores the promises God made to His people throughout the Bible and how they are relevant to your life today. Get ready to discover the amazing plans and promises God has just for you!

What would you do tomorrow if you had no fear? How would you live your life if you knew that the promises in the Bible are for you? What if God Himself put promises there meant for you and has an amazing plan for your life?

In Unshakable Hope Promise Book: Student Edition, Max Lucado shows you how God has kept His promises in the lives of His people for all of history. Using examples from biblical characters and current examples from teens like you, Max will help you explore and understand the ways God has kept His promises then and how He keeps them now.

Embrace an exciting faith-filled life as you work through stories, Scripture, and journaling questions in Unshakable Hope Promise Book.

Max Lucado has a talent. He is able to take stories, lessons, guidance, etc. from the Bible and turn it into easily understandable bites. His latest book, Unshakable Hope, is not different. In fact, the book I'm reviewing is the Student Edition of Unshakable Hope, so Lucado has taken his ideas and presented them in a format that is perfect for 8-12 year olds (teens would probably enjoy this as well).  Unshakable Hope is based around the promises of God as recorded in the Bible, and Lucado excels at explaining them.

Unshakable Hope has 30 chapters (this makes for a perfect month-long devotional book study). Each chapter follows a similar structure. The chapter begins with a verse containing a promise, which compliments the title. Titles include: God Keeps His Promises; You Can Know God; God Takes Care of You; Jesus Calms Your Storms; Hope is the Anchor of Your Soul; and more. Next in each chapter is a two-page devotional explaining the promise for that particular chapter. Then there are multiple Bible verses that support the promise. After those, there are a handful of discussion questions, perfect for self-reflection or group study. Finally, there is a "My Promise to God" section, where the reader can commit to believing the promise of the chapter.

This is a great book and it is perfect for pre-teens and teens. The topics are timely and applicable, and Lucado makes the ideas easy to digest and understand. With each chapter designed to stand alone, this is a great book for a book study, or as an individual devotional book.

I have read quite a few Max Lucado books, and have enjoyed and learned from them all. Unshakable Hope (Student Edition) is just the latest in a long line of wonderful books designed to help readers draw nearer to and deepen their relationship with God. I would highly recommend this book.

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

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We Add Another Sport This Week

Griffin's team lost again this week, but we scored our first touchdown and played our best half yet. Griffin wasn't in on any tackles, as they didn't really run to his side much, but he did make a nice contain play on a sweep that resulted in his man blocking him in the back and getting a penalty. Offensively, he played over half of the game at QB, leading the team to the touchdown and completing two passes to the running backs. He also ran the ball a couple of times for minimal gains (some on iffy snaps that threw off the timing of the play). Another game next week.

Cami starts her rec league volleyball this week. She'll have one practice day and one match day each week. She is really looking forward to it.

Lexi cheered at her first varsity football game (we won, by the way). Unfortunately for her, she is still in her walking boots, so she sat right in front of the cheerleaders but wasn't able to be up and moving with them. Next week is another game, as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pearl #1 by Brian Michael Bendis - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: From the Peabody Award-winning creators of Jessica Jones comes a brand-new creation. PEARL is the story of an exceptional tattoo artist and accidental assassin for one of the modern-day San Francisco Yakuza.

She was born into one life, but another is calling to her. When Pearl accidentally meets one of her peers, her doppelgänger from another clan, she starts to dream of a better life. But Pearl has a very special ability that keeps pulling her back into the violent world she is desperate to escape.

PEARL is a major series launch from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos that features their first brand-new original character since Jessica Jones. Fans of the Jessica Jones comic and TV show will be thrilled and delighted by this bold new direction the creative team has taken. 

I would consider myself a fan of writer Brian Michael Bendis. In general, I've found that I enjoy his style and his stories. In fact, if I remember correctly, Bendis started out writing comics/graphic novels that were crime stories, many of which I've read and liked. So when I saw that he was going to have a new imprint at DC, I thought I'd give some of the titles a chance. Pearl #1 is the first of these Jinxworld (Jinx was Bendis's first "hit" crime book).

So the premise of Pearl is this: Pearl is a tattoo artist who "accidentally" becomes an assassin for a Yakuza clan. How, why, and what happens makes up the story that Bendis will be telling.

The first issue introduces Pearl and her unusual tattoo. We get a glimpse of her talent of killing people, and meet Mr. Miike, a Yakuza boss, or at least high ranking official. And that's about it. Now, I didn't expect a lot more, as I thought Bendis might take his time, slowly letting Pearl's tale unfold, and that appears to be what's happening. She seems to be an interesting character with an as-yet-unexplained background, a piece of which focuses on her tattoo. Just how she becomes an assassin is briefly touched on, but not explained. How she got involved in the Yakuza is also not addressed. I would expect these types of questions to be answered in future issues.

The art by Michael Gaydos is very atmospheric. While some of it takes some getting used to, it suits the story Bendis is telling.

What it comes down to it this: I trust Bendis to tell this kind of story. While I haven't liked everything he's written, he has many more hits than misses for me. I would recommend Pearl #1 for Bendis fans, for anyone looking for something different from superhero stories, and for fans of mystery/conspiracy stories. I will be sticking with this for at least the first handful of issues, based on my interest in Pearl as a character and Bendis as a writer.

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

THE WILD STORM #16 by Warren Ellis - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: What was Project Thunderbook? What did John Lynch do to the Thunderbook experimental subjects? Why did he shut it down and scatter them across America? Why isn’t Thunderbook subject Gloria Spaulding aging? Why do people act like she’s an alien? Well...alien is exactly what they made her at Thunderbook.

Here we go again. The Wild Storm #16 by Warren Ellis keeps the reader heading down the rabbit hole into this crazy world of conspiracies, aliens, and other unquantifiable things.

In this issue, Ellis focuses on two groups. I'm glad, because it allows us more time with the characters and situations. Unfortunately, it also leaves all the other characters in limbo. Right, so, Angie Spica continues to explore her abilities and this time she inadvertently makes contact with Jenny Sparks. Their conversation proved to be revealing and there is definitely potential for future awesome there. The other focal point is on John Lynch, who is once again looking for the subjects of Project Thunderbook. In this case, he meets up with Gloria Spaulding, who gives him a little more insight into just what is going on with the Thunderbook experiments.

As an aside, I will say that the summary of the issue provided by DC does not really match up with the content of the issue. Take it for what it's worth.

I continue to enjoy reading The Wild Storm. Ellis is a master at creating big, strange ideas, and this book is full of them. As a result, there is a lot going on and its hard to get a sense of the big picture. The other side of this is that there is a lot going on, and its a blast watching all the craziness unfold. I'm generally a fan of Ellis's writing, and these characters are great. I'll be staying around for the ride, because I can't wait to see how it turns out.

I highly recommend The Wild Storm #16 by Warren Ellis. Read the first two compilations, then grab the newest issues and get lost in the big ideas and small character moments. You won't be disappointed.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

More of Griffin's football

Griffin's team had their second game of the season this week. Unfortunately it didn't go our way. It was a struggle for the first half, particularly on offense (we were missing our first two centers, so snaps were an adventure for a bit). However, the team turned it around and played with more heart and effort in the second half, playing to a stalemate. Griffin had a nice game. He played WR and QB on offense. He carried the ball a couple of times and had two passes thrown in his direction (one landed short and the second was just over his head). He really shined on defense, though. He had multiple tackles, including a beautiful solo tackle on a bubble screen that could have turned into a big play if he had missed. He also had his first ever interception. One of his teammates knocked a pass down, and Griffin happened to be laying there, where he caught the ball with his legs. It was pretty cool, definitely a play that would have been shown on highlights if he was playing on tv. He has another game this next week, where the team will look to turn it around.

The girls are in a holding pattern, waiting for their activities to start. Lexi will be "cheering" at the first varsity football game this week, but may not be able to do much due to her walking boots. Cami still has a couple weeks until rec league volleyball starts.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

MICHAEL CRAY #10 by Bryan Hill - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: With Diana Prince’s plan for Armageddon revealed, Michael Cray and Constantine forge an uneasy alliance to stop her, while Christine Trelane hunts them all. Michael has the power inside him to overcome, but will the price of that power make him a slave to the consciousness living inside of him?

Okay, first of all, the synopsis that DC provided for Michael Cray #10 by Bryan Hill doesn't really coincide with the story in the book. In my opinion, just ignore it. Here's what you need to know: Constantine and Dion Fortune are putting their plan for Cray into high gear. Trelane is trying to convince Cray to come in from the cold. Diana Prince is trying to bring about apocalypse. And Cray just wants answers and revenge, not necessarily in that order.

With only a few issues left, Hill is starting to bring the story to a conclusion. Some of the major players are revealing their hands, and Cray looks to be ready to finally take action both with his mortal opponents, and with the thing living in his brain. And that is what the readers have been waiting for. There has been some characterization, but Hill has told this story while being heavy on the action. Still, Cray has proven to be an interesting lead character, but their are many questions surrounding him, chief of which is how did the alien/parasite/demon/who-knows-what get in his brain, and why? More than the motivation of the bad guys, Cray's background is what kept me reading this series. Well, it looks like answers are on their way (fingers crossed).

It's really too late to start reading with this issue, but if you've been keeping up with the story, you must read Michael Cray #10. Bryan Hill continues to push his plot forward and the events keep picking up momentum. At this point, I'd be happy if the book came out weekly. I can hardly wait to read what happens next.

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

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 by Neil Gaiman, Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, and Simon Spurrier - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: From the mind of New York Times #1 bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a new world filled with dreams, nightmares and wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a new story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, a book from Lucien’s library is discovered by a group of children in the waking world where it should not exist. Lucien calls for Matthew the Raven to seek out their master, Daniel, Lord of Dreams.

As Matthew flies across the Waking World and others, he finds a young boy named Timothy Hunter who, in his dreams, has become the world’s most powerful magician—but in his nightmares he is the world’s greatest villain. A new House has appeared in the realm of the Dreaming: the House of Whispers, with its proprietor, a fortune-teller called Erzulie. And elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be trapped in a Hell of his own design.

Spiraling out of this special issue will be four all-new series set in the Sandman Universe. It all starts here!

The Sandman Universe #1 by Neil Gaiman and a host of writers is the first Vertigo title in some time. It seems to have two functions: first, it reintroduces the world of the Sandman, which Gaiman made famous and might be the most famous of Vertigo's many popular titles; and two, it's sort of a sampler of the some of the upcoming comics that will officially relaunch the Vertigo imprint.

As far as the story itself, Matthew the Raven goes on a quest for Daniel, aka Sandman, aka the King of Dreams. Strange things are happening in the Dreaming and Daniel is no where to be found. This framing device catches the reader up on many old friends from the Sandman books, while also providing a glimpse into the new stories. During his search, Matthew runs into Timothy Hunter, who has had his own series and is destined to become the greatest wizard in the world. Lucifer, who also had his own series, is on the lookout for the mother of his son. The House of Whispers and its proprietor has joined the Houses of Mystery and Secrets. And the last book focuses on the Dreaming itself, and the crisis its facing in the absence of its ruler.

In the past, I was a big fan of the Sandman and its related stories, and based off this issue, I think those (The Dreaming and maybe Timothy Hunter) might be the books I would gravitate towards, while the others don't really peak my interest. It's not that they might not be terrific; they're just not might cup of tea. In that sense, I appreciate The Sandman Universe #1 and the fact I can sample the various new tales without a big commitment.

Overall, I think The Sandman Universe #1 is a great entry (or re-entry) point into both the Sandman linked universe and Vertigo overall. I'm looking forward to seeing just what's going to happen, particularly to Daniel. I would recommend this book to anyone who was a fan of Sandman in the past, or who enjoys Vertigo's books.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Another Football Season is Under Way

With school starting, that means the kids are back in to sports. Griffin's last season of youth football got under way with a scrimmage/jamboree last Saturday and the first game today. The team looked alright in the scrimmage. Griffin played CB and WR, while also functioning as the back-up QB. His blocking is okay; we weren't able to get a pass to him, though. However, he had alot of action at QB. He did a good job running the plays, had a nice run on a QB Keeper, and actually threw a short pass that was turned into a touchdown. He also got creamed on his first pass attempt, but got right up and kept going. Defensively, he had nice coverage and made several good plays, either making tackles or turning the runner back into the rest of the defense.

As far as the first game (we played the other team from our school), we lost 18-0. We gave up a pick 6, a punt return, and a long pass (none were because of Griffin). He had a solid game at CB, and even had a great tackle against his nemesis, who then left the game because he was getting sick. Offensively, Griffin played at WR the whole game, and is still working on his blocks.

We have our next game next Saturday.

Cami starts youth league volleyball in the next week or two. Lexi (who is in two walking boots thanks to shin splints/stress fractures) is getting ready for the football cheer season to start, even though she can't do anything much but watch right now. And my varsity football season gets underway next Friday with a scrimmage. Trisha is definitely going to be busy.