Sunday, January 22, 2017

Between Books - The Customer Rules

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell presents the former Disney executive's thoughts on providing excellent customer service.  Cockerell provides 39 separate short chapters that are easy to read and digest for those wanting to know more about superior customer service.  Cockerell's chapters generally focus on relationship building, preparation, and going beyond expectations.  In many ways his guidance aligns with his granddaughter's most basic advice, "Be Nice!"  The book's advice ranges from being prompt, understanding new technology, copying the best services of others and relationship relationship relationship.

Honestly, for listeners of Cockrell's podcast, the tone and even some of the advice is far from shocking.  Cockerell's thoughts really match the guidance he gives on a weekly basis with a focus on relationship and thoughtful service.  But the Customer Rules has an advantage that the podcast lacks, you can easily share the book to someone who may not enjoy podcasts or not be open to Cockerell as a "Mickey Mouse" executive.  Cockerell's advice here is not overly focused on Disney, again allowing the non-fan to buy into the book.  And the chapters are short enough one could easily read them on the commute or in the cough cough bathroom.

I do not think of myself as someone who provides customer service.  But as Cockerell points out it is everyone's job.  And in the midst of reading the book I was challenged with a situation that made me ask what would Lee Cockerell do?  How can I give this person something allowing them to move forward when I need to say no?  Because The Customer Rules is a great reminder that we all provide service to others and the foundation of supporting their needs is relationships.  In the end, we probably should just be nice!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cap's Comics - Enchanted Tiki Room #1

But I want a Jungle Cruise comic!  And an Enchanted Tiki Room comic is most definitely not a Jungle Cruise comic.  So I open these pages not even knowing if this is a tropical vacation I want to take!

Jason Grandt Connecting Cover Variant

Enchanted Tiki Room #1 brings us to the home of the Tiki gods and the famous Tiki Room!  Readers meet a number of visitors to this far off land.  Agnes is a barely known older actress who has a unhealthy love for her dog.  The dog may not be returning that adoration!  The Randy family can solve all problems with money.  Poor Wally just wants to get over his bad breakup on this island vacation.  And Chip the volunteer at the world famous Tiki Room, where the birds sing, just wants to be a star.  It seems that the visitors to this island have a lot of problems, but then so do the citizens.  Could there be relationship trouble among the famous singing macaws?  What lessons will our visitors and readers learn on this vacation?

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant Cover

Writer Jon Adams gives a plot that will seem familiar to many middle aged readers.  Enchanted Tiki Room feels like a spiritual predecessor to Fantasy Island with temporary guests who all seem to need to learn lessons.  So it is easy to understand for the older reader.  And really if I had to complain it would be I am not sure how the younger reader will react.  The plot is a formula I know.  And there are plenty of "adult" world situations and even jokes.  Honestly, I laughed a ton.  I just worry that this is a story that is too adult.  Though the Between Kid jumped to have me read it and seemed to stay with it.  Artist Horacio Domingues' artwork fits well with the somewhat corny story presented.

Jody Daily Variant Cover

For the hardcore Disney fan there are Easter Eggs to keep you going.  The boys of the Enchanted Tiki Room, a 50 year hit, are not the only Disney birds seen in the tale.  And along with the birds, a key narrative role is given to a Tiki god.  I am a big believer that many of the early Imagineers like Marc Davis would enjoy the current Pacific themed Disney properties, including Moana, and I feel like this story falls into their traditions.

Jason Grandt Orange Bird Variant Cover

Enchanted Tiki Room #1 is not a Jungle Cruise story.  Though it is really funny!  I could easily see a Skipper point out the back side of water to any of the visitors to this far away island.  I just wonder who the last mystery visitor is!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Between Books - Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron

My impression of comics writer Charles Soule is he is solid.  He writes good stories, but not really what I would call outstanding ones.  Though I have really enjoyed some of his runs, like She-Hulk.  But up until a few weeks ago I would have found him an odd mix for something in the Star Wars galaxy.  Soule's a superhero guy I would have proclaimed.  Then a few weeks ago I introduced myself to his Letter 44 independent title, which is a deep character story based within a science fiction world with a great twist.  So maybe his inclusion in the Marvel Star Wars properties was a better match than I imagined.

Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron by Charles Soule with art by Phil Noto appears to take pilot Poe Dameron up to the opening of Star Wars The Force Awakens.  General Leia Organa tasks Dameron with keeping vital information away from the First Order, by finding it first.  He is assigned finding Lor San Tekka who has information about the location of the General's missing brother Luke Skywalker.  To complete his task, Dameron recruits his own squadron made up of pilots that are more family than friends including Snap Wexley.  Dameron's search for Lor San Tekka takes his Black Squadron to isolated settlements and intergalactic prisons.  To make his task even more difficult, Dameron is challenged along the way by First Order intelligence officer Agent Terex and a mole within the Resistance relaying information about Black Squadron's objectives!

I really enjoyed Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron.  I found Soule's story to be solid and often riveting, especially on the prison planet!  And Noto's art is solid with me believing that Dameron, Wexley, L'ulo and others were the Resistance fighters we saw on the big screen.  In many ways this story is great because it gives Dameron and his team more screen time then they got in the movie.  So while readers may feel like they know Wexley from other books, this really gives us an insight to these personalities as we get to watch Dameron for example lead, including pilots much older than him, and scheme in order to achieve his mission.

If I was going to make one complaint I would ask this title be renamed Star Wars Poe Dameron and BB-8. I do love how in literary offerings that Dameron always calls out to BB-8 as Beebee-Ate!  It really feels like a great extension to the films with Dameron drawing out his name.  But again, fan favorite BB-8 is as much of a partner than any member of the squadron.  And while he may give too many thumbs up, he is fun, interesting and always engaging on the screen even if his panels are often only filled with beeps and clicks instead of narrative.  In many ways that is a tribute to Soule and Noto that wordless pages still feel weighty to the story!

I was nervous about Star Wars Poe Dameron: Black Squadron but now I am thrilled to know that more volumes of Poe Dameron's comic adventures are on their way, I had the impression this was a limited series.  I loved getting to see Dameron do more than sit in a cockpit but be a Resistance leader in action.  And Marvel gives Dameron the screen time fans hoped he could have.  For those who read across the entire Marvel library of titles, there are even connections to other titles that help show you the story at another moment!  Honestly, this is another fine contribution to the Marvel Star Wars library.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cap's Comics - Haunted Mansion #5

Haunted Mansion #5 concludes Danny’s tale. Danny gets out of the Mansion. But he jumps right from the Mansion and into the graveyard. But Danny is not the only one who escapes as the Captain is closely following his heels. Danny and his spooky friends have to face off against the Captain in one last boss battle. And we can be glad that Danny is outside as he can now count on those beyond the Mansion to help defend him.

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Cover

Joshua Williamson and Jorge Coelho do wrap up their story. And as a treat Coehlo gets to draw one last classic Mansion scene, the graveyard. The story is ended and gives satisfying conclusions to the story including what happens after the boss battle, where was Grandpa, and what do the survivors do next. Though, I would have liked to see our hero have a slightly more engaged role in the conclusion. And I would have enjoyed a major return of the Hatbox Ghost. But overall, as an adult Mansion fan I was pretty satisfied though the tale may have lacked the story complexity I would have desired. But for the Between Kid the story was a huge success where the Kid was excited to dive into each issue with me.

Tom Morris Variant Cover

Interesting! Of the first four issues, the sales for three issues were well over 20,000 copies. And the one that dipped was issue #3 with the next issue rebounding. That is pretty impressive and largely steady sales. I can believe that based on sales and popularity of the franchise we could see a Haunted Mansion return. And I would be all for it, because the Between Kid loves this story while feeling safe about something that can be scary. And I hope the Kid will be more excited about future tours through the real life attractions. And in the end, that is what really makes me hopeful and happy with these comics!

Katie Cook Variant Cover

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Between Books - Star Wars Ahsoka

Over that last three years I have criticized, poked, mocked and been frustrated by Star Wars books!  But just let me start with this simple piece of advice, go out right now and buy or borrow E.K. Johnston's Star Wars Ahsoka.  It is a choice that you will not regret.  

Star Wars Ahsoka picks up a few years after Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Former Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano finds herself in a galaxy where the Jedi are hunted by the Empire.  And despite her break from the Jedi Order she is forced to hide her abilities from both friends and foes.  Ahsoka after a run in with the Empire flees to the farming moon of Raada.  There she hopes to live quietly and alone.  But she makes the mistake of becoming friends with some of the farmers in the days before Imperial forces come to the moon to exploit the agrarian population.  Ashoka finds herself in a place she did not want to be, fighting to protect others!  But sometimes protecting those you care about is going on the run yet again!  Because the Empire has added a sinister and unknown weapon to hunt Force wielders. 

I loved this book.  It does a great job of describing Ahsoka's journey from Star Wars: The Clone Wars to Star Wars: Rebels.  The story does a good job of weaving her past while also pointing us into the future.  In many ways, I do feel like her story and Kanan's are similar with both going into hiding, connecting with others and then finding they must make a stand despite great personal risk to defend the liberty of others.  An additional subplot that readers get involved with during this story is how Ahsoka built her new white lightsabers and the significance of the color.  And like the main story the payoff is highly satisfying and fits within Ahsoka's character. 

I found the book very easy to read.  In fact, I broke my reading pattern and snapped it out of my travel backpack because I just really needed to see what would happen to Ahsoka next. I personally hope that Johnston writes more Star Wars books, and if she wrote again on Ahsoka I would anxiously await that book!

Star Wars Ahsoka is a book many Star Wars fan friends raved about.  Now I know why!  The book is a great fast-paced adventure with a character that many Star Wars fans love!  The volume also helps connect Ahsoka two separate, to date, television appearances.  It was a truly enjoyable romp!  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cap's Comics - Haunted Mansion #4

Haunted Mansion #4 focuses on Constance. Joshua Williamson helps us to better understand the famed ghostly bride and perhaps some of her motivation. The Captain wishes for Danny to enter her domain, the attic, to find his treasure. But the attic could also serve as a potential escape from the Mansion’s grip. The reader follows Danny as he struggles to be brave, perhaps with some help from his spectral friends.

John Tyler Christopher Action Figure Variant

Williamson and Coelho continue their successful wandering through the mansion. And it definitely kept the interest of the Between Kid who instantly wanted to jump to the next chapter. The focus here really is on Constance, who is a serial killer in both her mortal and ghostly life. She is a terror to all who get near her ax, creating fear even with the Captain. And her appearance is a threat to both Danny’s mortal and spiritual existence!

Kelley Jones Variant Cover

We are at the edge of our seats as this issue ends. Can Danny leap into the next issue and provide us a resolution? Will Danny and the ghosts be free of the Haunted Mansion…or be trapped forever. Well that’s as long as they miss Constance’s ax!

Second Printing Cover

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Between Books - Aftermath: Life Debt

Among the things I was not looking forward to among all of Disney's new Star Wars offerings was another Aftermath book.  So it was with great hesitation I borrowed, not bought, Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig.  Because honestly, I could not have any lower expectations!

Wendig throws his readers early into the action. We join Norra Wexley and her band of Rebels (or New Republic commandos), comprised of surviving characters from the last book, as they serve as an extraction team.  They find, kidnap and extract Imperial war criminals so they can be tried for their atrocities by the New Republic.  However, the actions of others pull her into a different story. Princess Leia calls upon Wexley and her crew to find and return another type of scoundrel. Her husband Han Solo has gone missing. His partner Chewbacca was captured in an attempt by the pair to organize an attack to free the  Wookie's home world Kashyyyk from Imperial control.  Solo refuses to come home until he can recover his partner despite his wife's pregnancy.  But do Wexley's actions fill the needs of the New Republic or the Imperial remnant and its leader Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and her secret advisor?  And can you team survive the strain of the twists and turns of this adventure?

Let me just jump to the big reveal, and that's not the home world of the Imperial secret advisor!  I loved Aftermath: Life Debt.  It started hard for me, as I could not remember who all these new heroes from the first book was.  So watching a group I did not really know extract an unknown to me villian in a new to me setting, I was a little lost. But within the first 30 pages it turned quickly for me. I began to identify and feel for Norra's band.  I found I cared for this group, their emotions and what was going to happen to them.  The group is largely a team of dubious personalities, so just the question if how do former bounty hunters and imperials move forward within the New Republic was fascinating.  And unlike Bloodlines, it had just enough politics. I t is close enough to the Rebellion we see how Leia struggles with the new politically correct structure the New Republic is becoming. That is even more interesting and helps advance Leia closer to the Resistance intellectually more then the actions of Bloodline.  And Wendig makes me care about the politics outlined in this book as the New Republic debates what can they do for Kashyyyk, a work full of Wookies that I do care about. 

In the first book of the trilogy Wendig touched briefly on classic Star Wars heroes.   In this volume he goes all in. And so we get Han Solo...and a lot of him.  And it is the Solo we want and hope from, a lovable scoundrel. Wendig does a nice job highlighting the Solo/Chewbacca relationship, even when the Wookie is not there.  He makes it clear the Chewbacca is not a sidekick or pet. Chewbacca is an equal partner!  And the descriptions of this relationship really further cement how I feel about this dynamic pair.

But that's not to say I do not care about the new heroes.  Norra is a good examples.  She's a former Rebel, a soldiers, a mother to the future Snap Wexley, a wife to a missing husband and more.  I care about her future and her relationships with not just her team but also her family and potential love interests.  And honestly I could not say that after the first book!

I really enjoyed Aftermath: Life Debt. I do not always recommend many Star Wars books bases on plot and writing. This however is one I fully recommend!