Mark Millar’s The Ultimates is an alternate retelling of the origin of Marvel Comics’ Avengers team. The main concept behind it and other “Ultimate” Marvel titles, was that newbie comic readers could get into Marvel, and not have to worry about not knowing all of the details of a certain title’s mythos. It was similar to   a previous series, Heroes Reborn, but was actually successful, and not an epic failure like that earlier venture. This series, like I said before, was supposed to retell the origin of the Avengers, and update it for a modern audience. It was pretty good, but was annoyingly snarky and meanspirited at points, and much of the hip, 2000′s-y stuff that was added seemed cheesy and forced.

The characters of Giant Man, The Wasp, Nick Fury, Captain America, and the Hulk were fleshed out and realistic, but a lot of the bits with Hawkeye, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Thor skirted the edges of self parody.The dialogue was often too hip for its own good, but had its moments. Millar’s very good at handling action packed events, and this was no exception, with the plot moving along at a brisk clip. It was refreshing, after reading a lot of talky DC comics events, where the fights scenes and action sequences weren’t as emphasized as the plot exposition, to read the well written battles that fill this book. Bryan Hitch’s art for this series reminded me vaguely of J.G. Jones, which is a good thing, and carried the weaker sections of the book.

Overall, I thought it was great fun, and a good jumping on point for the Avengers mythos in general, and if you liked the Avengers movie, chances are you’ll like The Ultimates.

Grade: B

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Year of the Beasts

I read this book during the summer and I peeked through it. I even read the flap. It seemed interesting. So I checked it out. I read the book and I was utterly confused. The book is manga styled drawings. However, the drawings didn’t match with the story. And the plot didn’t seem well together. I mean, it’s about a girl who looses out to the guy she loves by her little sister and wants to find love. That’s it. But the drawing doesn’t match with the story. Overall, I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Abducted as a young boy, Ethan finally is reunited with his family. He returns to his small town with a warm welcome from his family and friends.  Ethan tries to go back to the life that he cannot remember. Cami, his old best friend that was heartbroken when he left. Gracie, the “replacement” child, that his parents has when he left.  Blake, the four-year old brother that he left behind, now thirteen, is angry because when Ethan left he left behind a broken family. Can Ethan remember and sew everything together without making everything fall apart in the process?
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Well, it looks like I’ve reached the end of my wild, weird, and wonderful journey through Grant Morrison’s gonzo take on Batman, but I can’t start celebrating yet! Is still have one more book to review. Batman Inc. is the final in print volume of the Bat-Quest, and boy was it crazy. In this one, Batman sets up an organization of global Bat-Agents who are sworn to fight crime in their respective areas. Unfortunately, a mysterious villain had the same idea, and had set up its own organization of mind controlled assassins called Leviathan. This book was more of a traditional adventure than its predecessor, but turned from a story of global Bat-Antics, to a wacky international spy mystery.

While Leviathan’s plots didn’t make sense half the time, I realized that they weren’t supposed to, because their main master planner, a sort of elderly Blofeld called Dr. Dedalus was suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. This had potential to be an interesting concept, but wasn’t explained enough to be interesting, but the crazy global villains including the Japanese mass murderer Lord Death Man were morbidly wacky, and made up for how incomprehensible Dedalus’ plots were. I liked how Morrison brought back Batwoman as a supporting character, though, and the 1980′s British superteam Morrison creates is cool, but unexplored. Although, the stuff with Leviathan’s agents were gory and frightening, and I still don’t understand what SPYRAL was.

There were so many zany concepts introduced in this volume that it provided for entertaining reading throughout, though, but the cliffhanger ending was cheap. Yanick Paquette’s art was the best of the collection, and the worst was the art in the arc that takes place in the internet. Look out for Bat-Quest Conclusion to the Conclusion, though, that will review Batman Inc: Volume 2 and finally end this epic saga. Overall,  an incomplete, but rousing conclusion to a great run.

Grade: A

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In this penultimate volume of the Bat-Quest, Dr. Hurt (dunh-dunh-DUNH!) from Batman R.I.P. returns and does his usual “I am the Devil you will die” schtick, and the Joker and Batman team up and kick his behind into next week. In this volume, it was basically a re-run of  R.I.P., but isn’t done as well. Dr. Hurt cackles and plots like usual, but he wears out his welcome because the demonic air of mystery around him that was created in R.I.P. has all but dissipated. The horrifying Professor Pyg from Reborn returns, and is even scarier than before. He’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of psychotropic drugs.

The scenes with a half-insane Commissioner Gordon (don’t ask) are genuinely unsettling, but none of the scenes with the Joker are, ironically. The way Dr. Hurt gets his tush handed to him is spectacularly campy, but isn’t as cathartic as how he was defeated the first time. The Joker comes back, but isn’t really funny enough to be fun to read, but not crazy enough to be scary. The last issue in the volume is a prelude to the Batman Inc. plot, so it’s really just setup. Remember how I said I liked Frazer Irving in my last Batman review? 
Well I still do, but only in small amounts. A large chunk of the first arc is drawn by him, so his art loses its appeal. Overall, a spooky, but fun rollercoaster ride.  
Grade: B
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Taking a small break from my Batman odyssey, I read Ian McDonald’s Planesrunner. It’s about a nerdy Londoner named Everett Singh who comes into possession of a computer program that allows him to travel between parallel earths. He ends up getting stranded on one of these earths, and comedic hi-jinks and action scenes involving  large airships ensue.  I was genuinely impressed by the cosmic creativity of this work, but was also astounded by how down to earth the author kept it. Everett keeps it grounded the entire time, providing his own what-the-heck-is-going-on, fish out of water perspective on the event.

Everett’s experiences in the story and his perspective on them is a little like if Marcus, from Little Brother was dropped into a Phillip Reeve novel, which is quite entertaining to read. The beginning is slow, though and the dialogue is clunky at times. Some things, like his possession of Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle-esque “god sight” that allows him to weave together a map of the parallel earths seems a little contrived, and the editor could have done a better job localizing the exclusively British references.The flashes of brilliance in this book  are stunning, though, and they occur more often than not. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes Doctor Who, or well characterized science fiction.

Grade: B+

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The Return of Bruce Wayne is about exactly what its title says it’s about: Bruce Wayne coming back from the distant past to defeat an ancient evil. I suppose I enjoyed this well enough. The parts where Bruce was in the past were actually genuinely entertaining, and finally showed what really happened to the Wayne Family over all those years. My favorite segments were the parts set in prehistory and on the frontier, because they seemed to make more sense than the others. The others were good, but each had their own flaws.

The puritan times one was filled with too much Lovecraftian blather, the pirate one was okay, but its art wasn’t the best, and the modern day Gotham city one was too filled with Black Glove-style freak-outs. The plot really got away from Morrison when he tried to throw in  a swing-for-the-fences cosmic adventure in at the end. It got way too caught up in Seven Soldiers of Victory-esque discourses on the Omega Effect. By the way, Morrison should stick to writing Batman and Superman, because he can’t write convincing Wonder Woman dialogue to save his life. She acted too aloof, too realpolitik, and too holier-than-thou to be true to the character, and her various mis-characterizations were my least favorite parts of the book.

The art kept changing every time Bruce hopped to  a different time, but my favorite artwork was probably the weird, almost 3-D art of Frazer Irving in the Puritan section (he must have a knack for drawing Puritans because he also did the art for the Puritan-heavy Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch-Boy).  Overall, though, if you want to scratch your head in confusion more often, but still want a rewarding reading experience, pick up Return of Bruce Wayne.

Grade: B-

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This volume of the Bat-Quest is decidedly lighter in tone than its predecessor. The first story in it involves British super-mobsters, Lazarus Pits, a zombie Bruce Wayne replica, and Batwoman, and the other is a mystery involving Dr. Hurt from R.I.P., Wayne family history, and a mind controlled Damian. Both are entertaining romps,  and you can  see that Morrison is having a blast writing these stories. I did think that it was amusing that the main McGuffin the plot revolved around was the domino game “Mexican Train”, which I’ve actually played. Some standout parts in  this are seeing mind-controlled Damian desperately trying to shake off his mind control, which is funny and tense at the same time, and the British gangsters, including the absurdly named “Old King Coal”.


The art is dark, but not gruesome, and the covers are still wonderfully weird, courtesy of Frank Quitely. The plot started to lose its coherency nearing the end, and some of the parts with Talia weren’t believable, but other than that, Batman vs. Robin was a rip-roaring adventure.


Grade: A

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Jeez louise Grant Morrison. I knew your Batman and Robin series was supposed to be darker than usual, but did it have to be this downright scary? This installment chronicles the first adventures of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as Batman and Robin,  but also shows the devastating effect modern drug cartels have on cities. This book is not for reading at night. From gruesome scenes of peoples’ faces getting eaten, to frightening monologues given by insane villains, there are a lot of scenes in this book that will give more scare-prone readers the willies.

Not that that’s always a bad thing, but when I started reading this book, I expected a rousing adventure, not a story about face eating, cartels, and hard drugs. It was entertaining, though, and the Damian/Dick dynamic was funny, the two of them trading one liners (Damian: ”It’s Robin and Batman from now on”. Dick: “That’ll catch on”.), but besides its scariness, my only real issue with the the book is the return of that human diatribe machine, Jason Todd. He continues shouting long winded tirades, and Batman actually calls him on it, but since he has a sidekick in this story, there is two times the Manichean invective. Other than that, Frank Quitely’s weird, puffy, creepy art is used for the first plot, while Phillip Tan’s is used for the rest of it, and both are good. This isn’t for the faint of heart, though.

Grade: A-

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In this installment of the Bat-Quest series, I’ll be reviewing Tony Daniel’s Battle  for the Cowl  miniseries that chronicles (SPOILER ALERT) Dick Grayson taking over as Batman. It also chronicles the return of organized crime, and crime in general to Gotham City after Batman’s “death” in Final Crisis. I suppose I enjoyed this series. The art was once again good, by Tony Daniel, and the story was as well. It developed Damian’s character, and the more I read stuff he’s featured in, the less I hate him.

The action packed plot is filled with blink and you’ll miss it cameos of various Bat-heroes and villains, and makes for a fun game of “Spot the Side Character”. Commissioner Gordon is stoically heroic as usual, and keeps the plot grounded, while the psychotic turn from Jason Todd is predictable. He speaks in catchphrases, and spends too much time soliloquizing on crime-fighting techniques to be more than just a sanctimonious windbag. He’s a little like Polonius, in that he refuses to even abbreviate his pompous jeremiads.

There’s a second story in here too, called “Gotham Gazette” that looks at Gotham sans-Batman from the perspective of several tertiary Bat-allies. Each character’s story has a different penciller, so the artwork ranges from good to bad, Dustin Nguyen being a standout. Overall, a good appetizer that had me pumped for Morrison’s Batman and Robin.

Grade: B

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