Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Podcast Guest Appearances

Over the last month or so, I've been privileged to appear as a guest on a number of my friends terrific podcasts. There are a few more to be recorded and released in the near future, but here are two that have been recently released.

Any time my buddy The Irredeemable Shagg comes through town, a few of us geeks get together for dinner and comic-book shopping. And this time, Shagg recorded our conversation and released it as part of episode 180 of the Fire & Water Podcast. Russell Burbage and Aaron Bias joined us to talk about our favorite "loser" comic book characters, or Morts.

Nathaniel Wayne invited me on to his excellent 90s Comics Retrial podcast. On episode 32, we discussed Alan Moore's story in Spawn #8. It was a great conversation that touched on Todd McFarlane's business acumen, Alan Moore's vision of Hell, and how Spawn has survived to this day.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Week in Reading

Scandalous Behavior, by Stuart Woods, pages 1 – 94
Kingdom Come, by Elliot S! Maggin, COMPLETED. Review here.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 49 – 82.  
Shadow Account, by Stephen Frey, COMPLETED. Review here.

B&V Friends Double Digest 246
Catalyst: Agents of Change 5
Green Arrow 11
Necromancer 4 & 6
Richie Rich Cash 24
Richie Rich Jackpots 24
Richie Rich Money World 31
The Walking Dead 139 – 150
Xenozoic!, pages 154 –  175 (*)

(*) covering the stories that were discussed by Ruth & Darrin Sutherland episode 6 of their excellent Xenozoic Xenophiles podcast.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review of Kingdom Come

Book 42. Kingdom Come, by Elliot S Maggin. Paperback. Based on the story by Alex Ross & Mark Waid.
When it comes to reading novelizations, the choice one has to make is the right order in which to consume the various versions of the story. In the case of Kingdom Come, I think I made the right choice, by starting with the original comic books, before moving on to the audio drama, and then finally this novelization. Each successive version that I experienced added more depth and more details.
 The second and third generations of superheroes fail to abide by the guidance offered by Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. After a self-imposed exile, Superman returns to active duty, in an attempt to rally the superhero community to stop an oncoming apocalypse. An apocalypse of their own making.
The story is told through the viewpoint of Pastor Norman McKay, and his spiritual guide, The Spectre. Pastor McKay has seen terrible visions of the coming war, fearing that prophecies from the book of Revelation are coming to pass. He has been tasked by the Spectre with the unenviable job of judging the world for its sins.
In this novelization, Maggin digs into the main characters, giving us insights into the psyches of many. The relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman is one of the strengths of the book, as Maggin explores how their different worldviews lead them to draw conclusions about the best course of action to follow. The fleshing-out of Pastor McKay’s biography and the working out of his theology is extremely well-done. Batman, Lex Luthor, and Green Arrow are also among the characters we get an insight into.
The comic book version of this story is rightly considered an all-time classic. I recommend this novelization (and the audio production) to anyone who appreciates the original, but wants to spend more time with this story. Maggin's novel adds more details about the characters, more details about the backstory, and more details about the action.
To hear a more detailed discussions of the plot and characters of the story, listen to this episode of Views from the Longbox, in which Emily & I joined host Michael Bailey. For a more detailed discussion of the religious imagery and content, the three of us discussed that on this episode of Dorkness to Light.

Source: My friend Michael Bailey sent it to us, in preparation for the above-referenced podcasts.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of Shadow Account

Book 41. Shadow Account, by Stephen Frey. Unabridged audio.
Lots of thriller writers include occasional financial subplots or aspects in their novels. John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Robert Ludlum all write novels that fit into this subgenre. But Stephen Frey specializes in novels that take place in the worlds of high finance and investment banking. My favorites of his prior novels include “The Vulture Fund,” “The Day Trader,” and “Silent Partner.” Some of his novels feature recurring characters, but this one is a stand-alone.
Conner Ashby is an investment banker on the way up in his career. But when he receives an email meant for someone else, detailing corporate fraud on a massive scale at a huge public company, he finds himself in the middle of a plot that may cost investors billions of dollars.
The plot eventually includes powerful political figures. Between the high-rollers of finance and political power, Ashby finds himself in danger, and on his own. There are betrayals, surprises, twists, turns, and shootouts. It is a solid high-stakes thriller.
Frey does a nice job dealing with the financial aspects of the novel with accuracy, while not turning those sections into lectures. The novel touches on accounting fraud, the role of external auditors, and how little frauds can quickly turn into large frauds. There are some shortcuts taken in this aspect of the storytelling, but the basic facts are correct, and Frey manages to deliver them nicely within the context of an adventurous fictional story.

Source: Hoopla

Saturday, November 19, 2016

This Week in Reading

Kingdom Come, by Elliot S! Maggin, pages 260 – 322.
Project Management for Dummies, by Stanley E. Portny, pages 1 - 49
Shadow Account, by Stephen Frey, pages 137 – 281

Binky 81
Captain America 306
Empire of the Wolf 1 – 4
Future Quest 3
Jonny Quest 4, 8, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21 & 28
Steel 5
Wonder Woman 10

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This Week in Reading

Kingdom Come, by Elliot S! Maggin, pages 201 – 260.
Wounds That Heal, by Stephen Seamands, COMPLETED. Review here.
The Last Quarry, by Max Allan Collins, COMPLETED. Review here.
Shadow Account, by Stephen Frey, pages 1 – 137.

DC Bombshells 19
Echoes 1 –  5
Eclipso 18
Ka-Zar the Savage 5
Mother Russia 1 – 3
New Mutants 58
Sad Sack & the Sarge 119, 127
Scamp 18
Superman/Gen 13 #3 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review of The Last Quarry

Book 40. The Last Quarry, by Max Allan Collins. Unabridged audio.
This is the first book I’ve read featuring Collins’ trained killer character, Quarry. Quarry was a professional killer, but has now disappeared into his well-deserved retirement. But he finds himself unable to remain aloof when he sees an injustice occur. This character trait brings him into the orbit of a media magnate.
The magnate eventually lures Quarry out of retirement. The killer acknowledges that “one last job” stories never end well, but nonetheless takes the gig. But when he stakes out his target, he wonders what trouble could be caused by this seemingly-harmless woman. His target is a cute small-town librarian with whom he begins an ill-advised relationship.
About two-thirds of the way through the story, I thought I knew where it was going, and that we’d spend the rest of the story seeing Quarry turn the tables on his employer. But a great plot twist occurs at this point, totally changing the direction of the rest of the novel.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable detective story, a quick hard-boiled read that delivered exactly what it promised.
Source: Hoopla

Monday, November 7, 2016

Review of Wounds that Heal

Book 39. Wounds That Heal, by Stephen Seamands. Paperback.
Stephen Seamands, a professor of Christian doctrine at Asbury College, has produced a very readable and insightful study of the healing work of the Cross. His point is that in a world of wounded people, we have hope. Through the ministry of Jesus, God enters our painful situations to bring healing and redemption.
The book does a good job balancing biblical analysis and pastoral care. The book is filled with real-life stories of people finding healing and redemption amidst their painful experiences. Seamands also includes a range of quotes and examples from people from a range of Christian experiences.
The book is valuable for personal or group use. Each of the 10 chapters ends with a half-dozen or so questions for reflection. Along with the wealth of personal stories included in the text, these questions make sure that the book is as practical as it is theological.
The book starts with a discussion of hurt, rejection and shame. He then moves to a discussion of freedom, liberation, and healing. The overarching theme is that at the Cross, Jesus felt all of the emotions of humanity, including shame, abandonment, and rejection. And through His work, all people have the opportunity to receive the benefits of His love and acceptance.

Source: My wife purchased this book, most likely from the bookstore at this church. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

This Week in Reading

The Racketeer, by John Grisham, COMPLETED. Review here.
Kingdom Come, by Elliot S! Maggin, pages 162 –201.
Wounds That Heal, by Stephen Seamands, pages 118 – 165.        
The Last Quarry, by Max Allan Collins, pages 1 – 87 

Adventures of Supergirl 4
Dredd: Dust 1 & 2
Green Arrow 10
Joe Frankenstein 1 – 4
New Gods 7 & 8
Star Trek (IDW) 59 & 60
Wonder Woman 9
Underworld Unleashed: Batman 525, Detective 691, Steel 21, Superboy 22

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review of The Racketeer

 Book #38. The Racketeer, by John Grisham. Unabridged audio.
It has been a few years since I read any Grisham, and they are starting to pile up in my to-be-read list. So I figured I’d start with this one.
The plot starts with federal convict Malcolm Bannister half way through his 10-year prison term, having been caught up in a racketeering case that he was only barely involved with. In that time, the man has been disbarred, divorced, and lost contact with his son. And he is nursing a bitter grudge against the Federal Government. 
He gets his chance at freedom and revenge when a federal judge is murdered. The FBI has no idea who killed the judge, but Bannister does. He also knows that the judge has millions of dollars of gold bars hidden somewhere, and he has a plan to get his hands on them.
This is a fast-paced, exciting novel. Similar to many of Grisham’s protagonists, Bannister is a smart, self-assured fellow. He is always the smartest man in the room, but he is facing tough odds in this one. Major institutions are aligned against him. One way that Bannister is unique in Grisham’s novels in that he is African-American. Grisham has written about race before, but this book only tangentially touches on the topic. It’s an interesting story into which to insert an African-American lead.
This was a solid novel, start to finish. There are hints along the way, but the details of Bannister’s plot did surprise me. I enjoyed this read very much.