Sunday, June 30, 2019

Harley Quinn Vol 1 and 2 + comics

I've really enjoyed reading about Harley Quinn's adventures. So when the local library stopped subscribing to Hoopla (which is how I was reading the graphic novels), I bought the next two graphic novels then asked my local comic shop to start putting them away monthly for me. I didn't get to them right away (Harley Quinn Vol 2: Harley Destroys the Universe, wasn't due out for a fee months); in the meantime I actually stopped getting comics. When I had trouble sleeping last night, I finally sat down to read my stash of Harley Quinn, starting with Harley Quinn Vol 1: Harley Vs. Apokolips. The numbering has restarted on the graphic novels because a new creative team took over the run (but the individual comics retain their current numbering).

In Harley Vs. Apokolips, Harley is on a much needed vacation, when Granny Goodness sends two of her Female Furies to bring Harley to her. Granny Goodness thinks Harley will be perfect for her plans. Harley is wowed by Apokolips (and the chance to be Hammer Harley rather than regular old Harley Quinn). Harley has fun on the world of chaos at first, but once she understands exactly what Granny Goodness is doing, Harley can't sit idly by while innocent people are sent to die.

I have to admit, I didn't enjoy Harley Vs. Apokolips as much as I have enjoyed previous volumes. For one thing, I often found the action (and even parts of the story like when the Female Furies succeed in kidnapping Harley from her vacation) hard to follow. There also seemed to be gaps in the story, where it seemed to jump ahead a bit. This was most clearly driven home when I discovered that issues 43 and 44, while included in the graphic novel, were put after the Harley Vs. Apokolips storyline (so I didn't get to see Harley going crazy and seeing things, and hence her need of a vacation, until afterwards).

Harley also didn't quite seem like herself. She seemed just crazy throughout this graphic novel; she was missing that bit of lovableness she normally has (this was driven home when she said to her beaver, Bernie "This is the price I pay for bein' the life of the party all the time. Ya want the good crazy? Well this is the ugly crazy that comes with it." This just didn't seem like her because she's pretty much always the good crazy - and that's what I want to read). You also don't get to see much of her friends in this volume, which was a shame since they're all super fun, too.

So I soldiered on with Harley Destroys the Universe....

And what a weird graphic novel that was! It started with issue 50, where Harley and Jonni DC, Continuity Cop chase after a comic book that is breaking DC continuity. That is followed by issues 51 and 52, where Harley is dealing with Captain Triumph, a golden age superhero who got caught in her continuity. Issues 53 and 54 then have Harley making online videos so she can pay for all the damage she and Captain Triumph caused (but a new super villain names Minor Disaster keeps ruining her videos in an attempt to impress her father, Major Disaster). And then the graphic novel skips issue 55 for some reason (a friend later told me it was most likely collected in a DC Christmas graphic novel because it was a Christmas story), going straight to issue 56, a weird story where Harley tries to give away cats (because she's suddenly allergic to them? I could have sworn she had cats and dogs in the past!) but a chain of men pet stores take exception to this because she's a woman. I don't even know where this story came was totally random and didn't really fit with the world of Harley Quinn while also being one of the most Harley Quinn stories out of the whole graphic novel.

Harley Destroys the Universe did briefly bring Eggy back, but otherwise once again mainly avoided Harley's friends from earlier in the series. I'm also not sure why her mom keeps showing up to hang out; earlier in the series it was a big deal that her parents were coming to visit.

While Harley Destroys the Universe was missing issue #55, I happened to have it (I remember reading that the graphic novel was only going to collect issues 50-54). So after finishing it, I read the remaining issues I had (so up to issue 61).
Issue 57 starts a big story line where Harley is given the chance to become the Galactic Angel of Retribution if she can make it through 6 soul-searching trials.  So 57 and 58 are her first trial (she was framed for murder and teams up with Batman to find the real culprit - the trial ends with her proving to herself that she is worthy of a second chance).  The second trial is in issue 59, where Harley wakes up to discover she is turning into a bug (she was cursed by witches, who magnified an ugliness inside of her).  Issue 60 is the third trial, where a vicious alien swarm has taken over a science lab that Harley just happens to be breaking into to find an experimental cure for her mother's cancer.  After passing her third trial, issue 61 sees her off on a girl's night out with Catwoman and Tina.  Harley and Tina are playing a board game some old lady gave to Harley for free; Harley didn't realize the lady was the Enchantress, who has ensorcelled Gotham City.  Only Harley remembers the way things used to be!
I'll admit that I enjoyed issue 61.  But overall, I really haven't been a fan of Sam Humphries' take on Harley Quinn.  :( 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Heaven's Devils

I've been playing a lot of the Starcraft 2 co-op missions with a friend lately.  I was specifically levelling up co-op commander Tychus Findlay.  Along the way I remembered that I had Heaven's Devils by William C. Dietz, which tells the story of how Jim Raynor met Tychus.  I decided to read it because I wanted to learn more about all the other people in the squad.

So imagine my surprise when not a single one of them showed up in the book!   >:(

Heaven's Devils is the story of how farm-boy Jim Raynor, along with a couple of his friends, decided to join the Confederate marines.  Raynor's family, along with many other folks, had fallen on hard times thanks to rising taxes and dealing with supply rationing because of the Confederacy's war against the Kel-Morian Combine.  Giving his sign-up bonus to help his parents out, Raynor finds himself at bootcamp and later on the front lines where he meets Tychus Findlay.  For his part, Findlay is a thief who is working on "Operation: Early Retirement;" he tries to make a quick buck by liberating whatever he can from the Confederacy army and selling it on the side.  While the two are opposites in a lot of ways, they become great friends while working together along with their other squad mates.

Instead of the Heaven's Devils from the game, this squad also includes Tom Omer (Raynor's friend from home who is killed in action during his first mission), Hank Harnack (another "friend" from home - Raynor and he start off as enemies but somehow become friends), Ryk Kidd (aka Ark Bennet, who was kidnapped and forcibly recruited into the Confederacy army, only to discover he is a better sniper than he was an heir to one of the Confederacy's Old Families), Connor Ward (he lost his family in a Kel-Morian raid, and so lives only to kill as many of them as he can), Max Zander (a kind-hearted man who grew up in the slums), Lisa "Doc" Cassidy (a drug addict who was recruited by a superior officer to spy on the rest of the squad), and Hiram Feek (a technician who builds marine armor). 

Heaven's Devils is a really odd read.  The story continually jumps forwards in time, glossing over events to move the plot forward.  For example, after Raynor and Harnack become friends, the book skips ahead a few weeks and suddenly they're friends with Kydd, too.  I would have loved to see some of that because Kydd probably didn't fit in with the other recruits at all at that point in the story.  Or later, the book will give snapshots of conflicts, then skip ahead to a few hours or days later when everything is over.  It really wasn't satisfying as a result.  Thankfully the end conflict played out without these time skips; I was getting more into the story at that point and would have been quite annoyed if it did.

All in all, Heaven's Devils was an okay read.  Even though they weren't who I expected to read about, I did enjoy the characters, and it was an interesting look at just how corrupt the Confederacy was before the events of the original Starcraft (and before Arcturus Mengsk took over).  But I would have preferred it if the book actually showed a lot more of what happened rather than skipping ahead the way it did.

Harnack, Zander, Ward, Raynor, Feek, Tychus, Kydd, and Cassidy

Friday, June 14, 2019

Starcraft: Evolution

When I saw that Timothy Zahn had written a Starcraft book, I was intrigued.  I've read a few of his Star Wars books sometime before I started this blog and they were quite good.  So I was curious to see what he would do within the Starcraft universe.

In Starcraft: Evolution, Emperor Valerian receives a distress call from the zerg's Overqueen, Zagara, who requests terran aid against the protoss. The three races have had a cease-fire since their war against the xel-naga Amon, but this peace is tenuous. Along with his Admiral, Matt Horner, he brings the Hyperion to the world of Gystt where the protoss Hierarch, Artanis, is already in orbit.  Gystt was glassed by the protoss a decade ago; everyone is stunned to see the world teeming with life.

While Artanis and Valerian agree to speak with Zagara in person so that she may explain how the zerg has brought new life to the world (and how they may help rebuild some of the devastated worlds of the terran and protoss), Valerian sends a research team to investigate.  Made up of four terran (a marine, a reaper, a ghost, and a scientist) and a protoss (who has been with the ghost academy for a few years because his people did not want him back), Zagara assures everyone that the team can go wherever they like and will not be harmed.  But the team is attacked by a new breed of zerg, one that has distinctive red markings and psionic power that can cripple the protoss and psionic terrans in battle.  And Zagara claims no knowledge of this breed...

I really liked Starcraft: Evolution.  As I have played the games (especially Starcraft II), I kind of knew exactly who was behind what was going on.  But that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book.  While the political stuff between Valerian, Artanis, and Zagara was interesting enough, Starcraft: Evolution really shines when it comes to the adventures of the research team.  I loved their dynamics and would be totally up for reading more of their adventures in the future!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die

A friend of mine lent this to me. It starts out with Frank Castle unhappy in Valhalla. Odin let's him return to the world of the living to whatever time he wishes since he feels he still has vengeance to deliver. He chooses to go back to when Thanos was a three year old. But he finds he cannot kill the innocent child. Instead he decides to raise Thanos in the hopes that he will make a better role model for the boy. However, the once-Punisher, now crazy Cosmic Ghost Rider may not be exactly the best father figure for the young boy....

This story is so ridiculous and fun! I laughed out loud when the Thanos Frank raised comes from the future to find him. Full of hilarious characters (like the Juggerduck), I loved this from start to finish! :D

Friday, June 7, 2019

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

I saw The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results and wanted to know what the one thing was.  Gary Keller's advice turns out to simply be that you focus on your one important thing, whatever that is.  Make time for it, practice it daily, and think outside the box to master it, and you will be on your way to living your own version of an extraordinary life.

I honestly don't have a whole lot to say about this book.  His advice is simple, yet much like JL Collins' The Simple Path to Wealth, The One Thing's advice is difficult to implement.  Keller recommends you make a daily commitment (or time block) to work on your one thing; that time block should be 4 hours at a minimum.  Over the course of a year, the four hours a day works out to the approximate hours you need to dedicate to a skill to master it; presumably if you blocked less time (like say two hours), it would take you more time to master said skill. 

Then you have to guard against losing this time block to various time thieves.  This isn't impossible, but it will be difficult to begin with (especially during the average of 66 days it takes to create a new habit according to the research Keller has done for this book). 

Keller provides some good motivation (and some excellent quotes from other people).  I think this is a good book to read if you're struggling with dedicating your time towards what matters most for you.  He also provides some excellent information on setting boundaries (ie saying no to other things).  Overall, I think this is a fine book on the topic, although I did have a hard time finishing reading it once I figured out exactly what his message was (I know part of the problem was that I wanted to stop to go work on my one thing!) ;)

Monday, June 3, 2019

House Detox

A friend of mine at work knew I liked reading house books, so she gave me House Detox by Sara Burford.  House Detox is a really fast read (it's under 100 pages).  It's divided into 8 sections (Make a Start, Entrance Hall, Lounge, Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom, Garage, and Index); it's got a ring binding, and each of those sections is a tab, so they're very easy to locate within the book.

I do wish the book went into more detail on a lot of the tips.  For example, it said that house plants should not be kept in the bedroom, but offered no reason why. 

Overall, I thought this book was a great read for anyone new to the idea of decluttering.  It has a lot of great info on how to get started, and about how to plan your declutter so you don't get overwhelmed.  Unfortunately it didn't go into enough detail for anyone who needs a little more out of their decluttering journey.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling

The library had the second Delilah Dirk title, Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling, so I decided to give it a read as well.  The King's Shilling takes place a few years after Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant.  After rescuing a little boy from his father (the boy's grandparents and mother wanted the boy back), Dirk and Mister Selim encounter an English Major.  The Major frames Dirk as a spy for the French army.  So to clear her name (and get revenge against the Major), Dirk and Selim journey to England.  There, against Dirk's initial wishes, she brings Selim to her family's estate, where Selim discovers Delilah Dirk is not Dirk's real name; she is in fact an English Lady, and her mother has no idea about her adventures across the continent!  How will Dirk manage to find the Major while keeping up the pretense that she is a regular English Lady?

I enjoyed reading The King's Shilling, but not quite as much as The Turkish Lieutenant.  In The King's Shilling, I found the action a bit harder to follow; there were a few instances where I had to reread the page a few times before I could figure out what exactly was going on.  I enjoyed Dirk's double life though (even though it's a bit hard to imagine how all the Ladies around her weren't onto something being up - Dirk isn't exactly subtle!)  All in all, this was another fun read by Cliff; I hope I'll be able to read Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules one day soon! :)