Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Wild Storm #18 by Warren Ellis - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: You can never go home again, but John Lynch needs to go somewhere to begin the last act of his life. Jack Hawksmoor never really had a home, especially since he became something other than human.  As the war between IO and Skywatch gets hot, Marc Slayton has somewhere for Lynch to go, and Jenny Sparks may have a new home for Jack Hawksmoor...and Angela Spica.

I really don't know how to review The Wild Storm #18. In this current issue, Warren Ellis is basically moving pieces around. The series is 3/4 of the way done, and the climax and endgame are quickly approaching. So, Ellis drops in on all the various factions in play and we spend a couple of pages with each one: Jacob Marlowe's wild CAT team; Jenny Sparks and her crew (which expanded to include two new members - someone actually refers to them as the "authority" 'nudge nudge wink wink); Miles Craven and IO; Henry Bendix and Skywatch; John Lynch and Marc Slayton (and probably some of the other Thunderbook subjects soon); and even Michael Cray (fresh off of his own mini-series). Apparently, a war between them is coming.

Ellis continues with the big, crazy ideas, and while there isn't a bunch of character development, this isn't really an action issue, either. Ellis sets up his characters with dialogue and exposition, with the promise of action, and plenty of it, to come in the next couple of issues. Basically, if you've liked The Wild Storm so far, this is more of the same. I've really been enjoying it and can't wait to see what comes next, as the build-up over the last year and a half is about to pay off.

I highly recommend Warren Ellis's The Wild Storm #18. Big concepts, highly motivated characters, and the promise of a massive climax all make this one of the books to be reading.

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

Heroes in Crisis #2 by Tom King - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Suspected of murder, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] find themselves on the run from the super-hospital called Sanctuary —with each thinking the other one is the real killer! It’s up to Batman to solve this heinous crime, but suspicion falls on him when Superman and Wonder Woman ponder just how much Sanctuary’s A.I. is telling them. Meanwhile, [REDACTED] tries to make a shady deal to hide from the Trinity, while [REDACTED] searches out an old friend to help him out of this mess—and only gets deeper in trouble.

Heroes in Crisis #2, by Tom King, picks up where issue 1 leaves off. Several heroes and villains have been murdered at Sanctuary, a haven for heroes to help them deal with PTSD and other consequences of what they do. The two suspects are Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. However, neither of them are quite sure who did it, what happened, or why. All the while, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are investigating the tragedy.

This issue lets us look in on both Booster and Harley and see the guilt and concern they are dealing with. King once again shows his strength in writing characters in conflict, making both empathetic but also a little despicable. In addition, King gives us a very human trinity of heroes with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman struggling to process the murders while also showing concern with the fact that all the many Sanctuary confessional sessions may be exposed. In fact, King presents us with all three of them in confession mode, which only adds depth to the heroes. The story ends with the trouble far from resolved, and possibly getting deeper.

I like Heroes in Crisis. It's a fresh idea and King is a master at showing the mental and emotional struggles heroes can carry around with them. This series is proving to be a deep read, with (possibly) real DC universe consequences. In fact, I'm shocked that Wally West was a part of the Sanctuary murders. That poor character can't seem to catch a break lately. I'm also curious to know if this series will have an impact on the Doomsday Clock series and the eventual entrance of the Watchmen characters into the regular DC universe.

I highly recommend Heroes in Crisis #2. Tom King continues to write a series that is unlike any superhero comic currently (or formerly) available. Jump on now, because it's soon to be too far into the storyline for new readers to easily join in.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding by Tom King - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: It's the marriage of Batman and Catwoman! The wedding of the century is here in BATMAN VOL. 7, written by the critically acclaimed Tom King!

The day has finally arrived: the nuptials of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. But their road to wedded bliss won't be easy. With visitors from this time and beyond, the Bat and the Cat will have to undergo even more trials and tribulations before they walk down the aisle. 

Written by generational talent Tom King and featuring art by Mikel Janín, BATMAN VOL. 7 features one of the biggest milestones in DC history! Collects BATMAN #45-50.

I really enjoy Tom King's Batman, and have been fascinated by the storylines leading up to the wedding of Batman and Catwoman. It has been a terrific character study of what Batman/Bruce Wayne would be, and is, like when he is happy. This latest collection, Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding, is the culmination of a story that began 50 issues ago.

The first of two story arcs in this collection focuses on Booster Gold, a time-traveling superhero from the future who is often looked at as comic relief. With Batman getting married, Booster is thrilled to get him the perfect wedding gift - Booster saves Bruce Wayne's parents from being murdered. Unfortunately, Booster has a butterfly effect moment, and the present is no longer one he recognizes. Oh, all the major players are present, but they are very different from the regular timeline. This three part story looks at one consequence of Batman being happy, and it is definitely a bittersweet story. I also wonder if this storyline is connected to Booster Gold's role in the Heroes in Crisis series going on currently in the DC Universe.

The other story arc is a Joker story, because who is Batman without the Joker? The arc starts with a lot of action, but quickly turns into a very deep conversation between Catwoman/Selina Kyle and the Joker. Both characters are very philosophical about their past and engage in a fun give and take; however, the circumstances of this conversation are anything but normal. In the end, once again King brings the narrative back around to Batman's happiness.

The final chapter of this book isn't an arc; rather, its the wedding day itself. King employs a narrative that unique in comics, at least in my opinion; he tells the story through intercutting a letter from Bruce to Selina with a letter from Selina to Bruce. As the couple approaches the wedding, they talk to their own confidantes, but the driving forces are the letters. And the story builds to an unexpected, but not surprising, ending that again taps into the theme of Batman's happiness. I want to mention the artwork in this particular chapter as well. The main story art is interspersed with one page pin-ups of classic scenes or designs of Batman and Catwoman drawn by a who's who of artists. These pages contain the texts of the letters, and this contrast with the regular art is a nice piece of storytelling from King and the artists.

I love Tom King's Batman stories. They are getting better and better each time out. And Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding is no exception. What might have been a cheesy event story took on a depth that I wouldn't have imagined when the wedding idea was announced. At this point, I would highly recommend any Batman stories by Tom King, and would give The Wedding my highest recommendation. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.

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

Books of Magic #1 by Kat Howard - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: From the SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1, it’s the return of Neil Gaiman’s magical morality fable in an all-new series written by Kat Howard (Roses and Rot, An Unkindness of Magicians) and drawn by Tom Fowler (DOOM PATROL)!

Timothy Hunter may be destined tobecome the most powerful magician in the universe, but he’s still a London teenager, and having magical abilities complicates things more than it helps. It’s not like he can use magic to pass his exams, stop being bullied or convince his cute friend to date him. And while Tim’s trying to live his life, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his power will eventually corrupt him into becoming a merciless mage. Oh, and those are the good guys. Luckily, his new substitute teacher is more than she appears, and may be able to help Tim discover the mystery behind the Books of Magic…

First, a little background. In the 1990's, Neil Gaiman wrote a mini-series about Tim Hunter, a boy who was destined to become the most powerful magician in universe. Following the success of the mini-series, a full series (not written by Gaiman) about Tim and his adventures ran for awhile. I read the Gaiman series, but I'm not familiar with any of the storylines from the regular series. All that to say Kat Howard's new Books of Magic series seems to pick up where Gaiman's left off. Tim Hunter was taken on a journey by four magic/supernatural-type DC characters and shown who and what he was destined to become, with the decision left up to him.

We join Tim at school, where he is trying to impress a girl with his "magic". Unfortunately for him, he hasn't learned anything yet, and just ends up being picked on. When confronted in class by a teacher, Tim discovers there is more to her than he thought; she is aware of who he is and what he is destined to do. She even provides him with a book (hence, the books of magic) that will start him on his journey to become the greatest magician ever. But first, he has to figure out how to read the book, because it's pages will remain blank until he is "ready". And then, he'll have to track down the other books.

Books of Magic #1 was a quick read. There is a lot of set-up going on, and not much in the way of explanation. We see Tim at school and at home, and he doesn't really seem to fit in at either place. He is very preoccupied with learning magic, which is natural if you're a teenager predicted to become a powerful magician. He seems a bit mopey, but I'm hopeful that changes in future issues, as that can make for a very unsympathetic main character. Tim's teacher is a mysterious lady who seems to know something about magic, and there is some sort of group who appears to be concerned that Tim has the first Book of Magic in his possession. Howard uses all of this to lay a foundation for a fine opening chapter in Tim's story. There is even a mini-flashback to show what happened in Gaiman's original mini-series for those unfamiliar with the story.

Overall, I enjoyed Books of Magic #1 by Kat Howard. This book appears to be continuing a terrific story begun 20-ish years ago, which should please longtime fans, but it is a great jumping on point for new readers, as well. I was intrigued enough by this first issue to come back again next month and see what Howard has planned for Tim Hunter.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cover #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack - Comic Book Reveiw

From the publisher: Nazi-hunters? Escape artists? Some M.I.A. for decades? Exactly how long have comics creators been part of the intelligence community? Follow the latest recruit from the Comic-Con circuit as he falls in with this mysterious crowd. The secrets he uncovers about its legacy will shock and delight, well, just about everyone.

This whip-smart multimedia explosion by lifelong collaborators Brian Michael Bendis (writer of SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS) and David Mack bring the worlds of spies and comics together in a loving mash-up that celebrates both. Fans of David’s multimedia comics work are in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

Cover #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack picks up where the first issue left off. Max Field, comic book writer and artist, has been recruited to the CIA by the mysterious Julia. His cover? Comic book writer and artist. With comic book conventions popping up all over the world, and Max's status as a "star", his career makes a natural cover. Plus, who would suspect a comic book guy of being a spy? And that's what this issue is about.

Max is going to Turkey for his first international comic-con and along the way he is given his first mission: pass along a trinket related to his comic series to the president of Turkey, whom he has the opportunity to meet as a guest of honor at the con. Simple enough, right? Bendis has used a framing device for this story, though, so we see right away that things haven't worked out; Max is tied to a chair, being interrogated about why he is in Turkey. What happened, why, and how he was found out form the basis of this issue, and probably one or two more.

Bendis nails the character of Max. He is curious, yet often naive. He is patriotic, but not excessively committed. The whirlwind of emotions that we would all feel upon being recruited by the CIA are on display. In fact, Max stands in a kind of everyman, letting the reader experience the events along with Max. The plot is cool enough, and Bendis is letting the story breathe slowly, not rushing things and turning Cover into just another action book.

Mack's art is beautiful, as usual. His style lends itself to the mysterious air that surrounds the CIA and Max's mission(s).

I really enjoy Cover, and issue #2 was terrific. I love the concept and the execution, and it is perfect for readers looking for something different from the normal superhero comics. Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack definitely have a hit on their hands, and it's still not too late to jump on.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Batmobile by Jacob Lambert - Book Review

From the publisher: While Batman is busy fighting crime on the mean streets of Gotham, it's up to us to keep an eye on the Batmobile. The only problem? The Penguin really, REALLY wants to drive it! Should we let him?

In this all-new story from the Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine, the best-selling children's book Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus is parodied with the heroes and villains from the world of DC Comics' Batman!

When my kids were little, I must have read Mo Willems's Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus one hundred times, and that's not including the two sequels we owned, as well. However, I never minded because the story was so cute and on point (the pigeon behaved like a toddler), that it was entertaining. It was short, with only a few words per page and some very simple illustrations. I liked it, and my kids liked it.

Enter Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Batmobile by Jacob Lambert. First, I'm a huge Batman fan. Second, as I mentioned, I have fond memories of reading Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. So, when I had the opportunity to read and review this book, I jumped at the chance. The verdict? Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Batmobile is FANTASTIC!

Lambert perfectly captures the tone and style of Willems's classic. The Penguin acts just like the pigeon, hence he acts like a toddler. The way Penguin asks to drive and the emotions that go with it echo perfectly the original book. The pacing is similar and many of the story beats are the same. Additionally, Lambert manages to slip in many familiar Batman characters (Commissioner Gordon, Joker, etc.) to add to the fun.

The art is also picture perfect. Tom Richmond has emulated Willems's style. The simple, almost child-like drawing make the characters very kid friendly and charming.

Don't Let the Penguin Drive the Batmobile by Jacob Lambert is an absolute winner. More than just a spoof, it can be seen as a loving tribute to a children's classic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I'm a little sad that my kids are no longer young enough to ask me to read it to them nightly. I highly recommend this, particularly if you are a parent and Batman fan. This would also make a nice gift to young Batman fans.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A sparse update

A short update on the past two weeks.

First, Lexi is getting to cheer for longer periods of time each week. Unfortunately, the team has lost it's last two game. Playoffs start this week.

Cami had her last rec league volleyball games, and her team split them. She finished getting all but one serve in and had some bumps and hits. She also had a good time. Club volleyball starts in January, I think. Her travel basketball team split their games today. Cami had a basket in each game. She also had a handful of rebounds and steals, and played nicely overall. Her next games are in two weeks.

Griffin's basketball gets started in a couple of weeks.

Until next week(-ish).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Michael Cray #12 by Bryan Hill - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Michael Cray carries an alien intelligence in his mind. Diana Prince seeks an apocalypse. John Constantine wants to control them both. In Greece, death will find them all in the explosive conclusion to THE WILD STORM: MICHAEL CRAY. 

Michael Cray #12 brings us to the conclusion of Bryan Hill's series, and it is an actual conclusion, not just a set-up for another series. Over the second half of the series, Hill has been building to a confrontation between Cray and the duo of Constantine and Diana Prince. This issue delivers that confrontation, but not necessarily how the reader might have thought it would go. Cray has also had to deal with the alien that has developed a symbiotic relationship with him, constantly encouraging Cray to kill. We get to see a resolution to that conflict, as well.

I want to look at Michael Cray #12 as a single issue capping a series, and as a part of a full story (I'll try to distinguish, as that statement might seem redundant). As a single, concluding issue to a series, this issue was great. All of the characters had their story arcs resolved, the major crisis was confronted, and the story that spanned 12 issues was wrapped up satisfactorily. Hill stuck the landing (although to me, it was a bit anti-climactic).

As a part of whole story, it was okay, but that's more about the series as a whole. Overall, I wasn't really impressed with Michael Cray. It started with a lot of promise, with Cray confronting the thing in his head and a twisted DC hero in a sort of villain of the week format. Halfway through, the series took a right turn and became something else. Looking back on it, I don't really see how those early issues did anything for the overall story. The main arc (Cray vs. Constantine and Prince) could have been told without any knowledge of Cray's encounters with Flash, Green Arrow, or Aquaman. The early issues also played up Cray's association with I.O. and Trelane, but they quickly fell into the background, as did Cray's team. Even the alien in Cray's head didn't seem to be developed that much (I'm would expect backstory at some point). It just wasn't super engaging as a series, which is disappointing because I'm really enjoying The Wild Storm, the series Michael Cray was a spin-off from.

So overall, Michael Cray #12 by Bryan Hill was a fine conclusion to this series. However, as regards the series as a whole, I just give it an average rating. Michael Cray will have its fans, but I feel like there was more there that could have been done with the concept.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Dreaming #2 by Simon Spurrier - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: Merv Pumpkinhead ain’t happy.

Sure, Merv Pumpkinhead doesn’t exactly radiate happy at the best of times, but now? Right now a bunch of blank-faced strangers from between realities are taking local jobs; foreign criminals are profiteering at the realm’s expense; and the VIPs seem more interested in themselves than getting back to the “good old days.”

The Dreaming used to be somewhere a vegetable-headed guy could be proud to call home, y’know?

Fact is, Merv Pumpkinhead’s been pushed too far. It’s time for change. Right at the top.

The Dreaming #2 by Simon Spurrier dives deeper into the mystery of where Dream is and just who or what Dora is. In this issue, we follow everyone’s favorite grumpy maintenance man, Mervyn Pumpkinhead, or Merv as he is known. In the past, I’ve always liked Merv, because he acts as a sort of every-man for the reader, putting us on the ground floor of all the strange and wonderful happenings in the Dreaming, and that’s how he functions in this story, as well. When a particularly powerful (and stoned) lucid dreamer appears, Merv is forced to deal with all of the craziness, but things are getting harder with Dream missing. Full of his usual grumblings and complaints, Merv attempts to recruit some help from some of the other leader-types in the Dreaming: Lucien, Cain, Abel, and even Eve. However, they are all dealing with their own issues. When Merv notices Dora stealing food and distracting his workers, Merv has decided he has had enough. But, Dora isn’t quite what she seems. All of this chaos seems to push Mervyn Pumpkinhead into making a bad decision, the consequences of which will be felt for a while.

There was a lot going on in this issue. Lucien continues to cover for Dream, but he is also losing his ability to narrate. Cain and Abel are distracted by a giant void hole. The riverboat from the new House of Whispers shows up unexpectedly. Dora turns into a giant rage monster. Abel nearly reveals the “secret” of what Dora really is. And Merv is told to fix things, since that is his role.

I have to say that The Dreaming #2 has me thoroughly confused. I know there is a mystery going on, and that there is confusion on multiple levels for the residents of the Dreaming. I’m trusting that Spurrier is just laying out the groundwork for the story he is telling, and that eventually it’ll all make sense. But right now, it just seems like this issue only added to my lack of understanding. I’m not sure whether I should be focusing on why Dream left, where he is, and when he’ll return, or who and what Dora is. Hopefully Spurrier knows the answers and plans to reveal them in due time. I’m also hopeful that some mysteries are addressed sooner rather than later, as I don’t see myself following this series for the long haul if each mystery is answered by another mystery. I’m particularly thinking about Dream’s absence. This seems like something that needs to have resolution sometime during the first two years of this book, otherwise it becomes a distraction.

I would still recommend The Dreaming #2 by Simon Spurrier. The Sandman books are known for telling deep stories that last for multiple issues (in the case of The Sandman it was 75 issues). This is definitely a book for Sandman fans and Vertigo readers, but it may appeal to fans of fantasy stories or non-traditional comics.

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus By Les Parrott - Book Review

From the publisher: Loving Like Jesus Just Got Doable

In this inspiring, utterly practical new book, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dr. Les Parrott writes a viable prescription for becoming more loving with family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. In his trademark approachable style, Dr. Parrott takes the latest findings from psychology and sociology and blends them with biblical teaching to reveal five transformative ways of relating to people demonstrated by Jesus himself: being mindful, approachable, grace-filled, bold, and self-giving. With questions to ponder, self-assessments, and insightful quotations, Love Like That will revolutionize every relationship in your life—especially the ones that matter most.

Dr. Les Parrott’s Love Like That: 5 Relationship Secrets from Jesus is a short but deep, book about how to love others better. In it, Dr. Parrott looks at the life and words of Jesus to present five different ways (Mindful, Approachable, Grace-full, Bold, and Self-Giving) we can love like Jesus.

First, the structure of each of the five chapters follows a similar pattern. Each chapter begins with a paraphrase of a Bible verse and an anecdote from Dr. Parrott based on the characteristic to be discussed. This is followed by examining how Jesus lived each characteristic.  Next is a definition of the characteristic, and a look at what keeps us from living each characteristic. There is a short personal survey helping the reader to be more aware of how close they are to living the characteristic (there is an online version as well, with the website given). The survey is followed by a look at how Jesus lived out the characteristic, and ideas about how we can live more like that. Each chapter ends with a To Ponder section that provides thought-provoking questions for the reader to think about. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are quotes and verses that pertain to each characteristic being discussed.

As for the content, I liked Love Like That. Dr. Parrott has the ability to take tough or complicated subjects and ideas and turn them into something that is easy to understand and digest. And while the basic ideas behind Love Like That aren’t that hard to grasp, seeing how they work in Jesus’s life and how to practically apply them in our lives can be hard to work through. Dr. Parrott has also taken five fairly simple ideas and done a deep dive into what they really mean. For example, in the chapter about being Bold, Dr. Parrott talks about pluralistic ignorance, a social phenomenon wherein “a group of people go along with something because they incorrectly assume everyone else understands and accepts it”. Jesus, on the other hand, would speak the truth in love boldly, even when it meant making people uncomfortable. Dr. Parrott goes on to explain how fear of rejection can prevent us from being bold, and then uses Jesus as an example of how to act and speak boldly. This seems like a very simple idea, and it is. But the practical application of this is challenging if we are honest with ourselves. Dr. Parrott is very transparent and open about himself, as well, and he calls himself as well as the readers to love more like Jesus.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Love Like That is a very good book with some simple but challenging ideas. Dr. Les Parrott has done a superb job in creating a blueprint to help us demonstrate love like Jesus in a country, and world, that could desperately use it.

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