the flashI’ve been on a superhero kick lately, as evidenced by all of my recent blog posts featuring superhero graphic novels. I decided to branch out on my last library check-out and snagged the first season of The Flash.

The Flash is a television series that began in 2014 and is currently running its second season on the CW. This show is based on the DC Comics run of the Flash and is actually of spinoff of Arrow, another show that is running its 4th season on the CW right now (the library has the first three seasons!). Don’t worry! It’s not necessary to watch all of Arrow in order to understand the story of The Flash. When the characters cross over, they do a good job of explaining their back stories.

In The Flash, Barry Allen is a crime scene investigator for the Central City police department. He’s an incredibly smart young man, one who is endearingly awkward and geekishly handsome. Barry moved in with his best friend, Iris, and her father, Joe, after his mother was murdered and his father was sent to jail for having killed her. Despite having to grow up with only Joe has a parental figure, Barry chose a career path that would help him learn all he can about the science behind his mother’s murder, something that would help him free his father from prison, and find the mysterious “man in yellow,” the man Barry believes to have killed his mother. After an explosion at Star Labs, Barry wakes up and realizes that he has become the fastest man alive. Every superhero has to have partners in crime and Barry found his in a group of scientists operating out of Star Labs since it was shut down. Realizing that he has an opportunity to help people, Barry and friends help to fine tune his abilities and he uses his new power to race through the streets of Central City to fight crime. Check out this first season to watch Barry test the limits of his speed, figure out ways to fight the other metahumans(what they call the people who were also affected by the explosion at Star Labs), and cheer for Barry as he struggles to find a way to free his father from prison.

graysonI’ve been reading tons of graphic novels lately. The main reason? I can usually get through a whole graphic novel in one sitting, usually even multiple ones in a day! It’s fabulous. Throw in a flashy cover and a high-paced story and I’m hooked. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral fits all of my necessary graphic novel markers and BONUS: It’s about Robin/Nightwing, a thoroughly over-looked DC character if you ask me.

You need to understand some basic Robin/Nightwing backstory in order to not get confused, though Seeley and King do a very good job explaining his past life. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral covers the story of Dick Grayson, a former circus acrobat, who after his parents were tragically killed in a trapeze accident(YES, I know this sounds ridiculous, but come on, as a superhero/spy, being an acrobat comes in SUPER handy), eventually comes to live with Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Once Grayson figures out that Wayne is actually Batman, Grayson becomes his partner, Robin. They exist in peace, fighting crime in Gotham City, but once Grayson gets older, he decides to become Nightwing and continues to fight crime. Nightwing eventually is captured and killed by the Criminal Syndicate. Or is he?

Not a spoiler: He isn’t killed or this graphic novel would be over before it even began. Instead he goes on his merry way dispensing out justice across the globe and is eventually recruited into Spyral, a top-secret spy ring that is hunting for pieces of the Paragon, a God who was killed and who had his body parts distributed all over the world. Oh yeah, those body parts all just happen to be individual weapons of mass destruction. No biggie. So to recap, Grayson is now a spy for Spyral and is hunting down weapons disguised as body parts. Oh also, he’s actually a secret agent spying on Spyral and reporting to Batman because Spyral is actually looking to discover the secret identity of every superhero on the globe. (Turns out each superhero bestowed something special on each body part, hence how they became weapons of mass destruction). This plotline is fantastic! So many twists and turns that left me eagerly flipping the pages to find out what happened next. I also really enjoyed the bright pops of color and the way the artist decided to give such a lifelike feel to each character. Be on the lookout for the next Grayson volume!

batgirlIn 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)

Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.

In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.

What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.

At the start of A Quiet Death, Hannah Ives is riding the Washington D.C. metro when her train crashes. Though injured herself, she tries to help a fellow passenger who is very badly hurt. In the confusion, she ends up with a shopping bag he was carrying. Eventually she reads the letters it contains in order to return the bag to him.

I picked up the book because I was interested in the Washington D.C. setting and that promise was fulfilled. Marcia Talley does well in portraying a city that revolves around the government – for example, the subtleties of how prestigious a restaurant is  – based on the level of the bureaucrats who frequent it.

The mystery itself, however, seemed a bit contrived. Instead of checking with transit or police officials who may be able to locate the mystery passenger, Hannah decides to find him herself, relying on simple google searches. Nothing very intriguing there. Security is also lax at Fox, I mean Lynx, News where Hannah drops in to interview their news anchor, whom she’s never met.

A pleasant read, but not a real page turner.

uscapitol2With the worlds’ eyes on our nation’s capitol, let’s get the point of view of cops, bureaucrats, lawyers, killers, diplomats and street people that populate the city year-round.

James Patterson’s Detective Alex Cross frequents the “gritty underbelly” of Washington. Alex Cross is a “homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. he looks like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Cross works and lives in the ghettos of D.C. He’s a tough guy from a tough part of town who wears Harris Tweed jackets and likes to relax by banging out Gershwin tunes on his baby grand piano,” according to his creator.

Margaret Truman moved to D.C. at age 10 when her dad, Harry, was elected to the Senate. Compared to Robert Ludlum, she has an insider view of the Capitol’s neighborhoods, restaurants and institutions. For 28 years, she’s written a mystery almost annually, from Murder in the White House to Embassy Row, the FBI, Foggy Bottom and, most recently, Murder Inside the Beltway.

John Grisham’s The Street Lawyer starts out as a corporate lawyer and becomes an advocate for the homeless after a hostage situation radically changes his view of the legal profession. In true Grisham fashion, there are stolen files and conspiracy and a young, idealistic hero.