For the first “real” installment in the “Bat-Quest” series, I’ll be reviewing Grant Morrison’s  ”Batman and Son”. This collection is odd, because it contains three main stories each around two issues long. The first one, “Batman and Son” is about an illegitimate son Batman sired after sleeping with his archenemy’s daughter, and his sometimes flame Talia al Ghul. This kid, Damian Wayne, is an annoying little bugger, whose whining and entitled rants about how he “should” be Robin instead of the current Robin, Tim Drake grated on my nerves, but this story was actually one of the freshest and fastest moving Batman stories I’ve read in quite some time. The goofy, but sinister “Ninja Man-Bats”, the irritating, but fascinating Damian Wayne, and Batman’s unusually glib interior monologue make this first plot a fun, action packed, detail-oriented adventure story worth rereading.

I can say less for the next two plots. The second one, “The Clown at Midnight” is about the resurrection of the Joker, who was shot in the face by a Bat-impostor. It is genuinely unsettling. Morrison depicts the Joker as a demon, a personification of immortal darkness. For a Gen-Y kid like me, who was raised on Mark Hamill’s  zany voice-acting portrayal of the Crown Prince of Crime in TV shows like Batman: The Animated Series, this new, diabolic joker is frightening in a way that cannot be truly described, to say nothing of Morrison’s cheesily gruesome similes (“like a caterpillar liquefying to filth in its own nightmares” reads one of the tamest of these). It seems at times that Morrison is trying too hard, and half the sentences feel like they’re screaming “Look! I’m a serious writer, I’m DEEP”. 


This plot does set up  a metaphor that carries over into the more confusing installments of Morrison’s Batman saga, so I had to force myself to read it. But the most bizarre of these plots is the third one, “The Three Ghosts of Batman.” The basic premise is that three Bat-impostors are roaming Gotham City, and Batman has to figure out why they’re there. This plot is gruesome at points, and wacky at others, making it disorienting. One part of this plot, an issue depicting a possible future in which Damian inherits the role of Batman, is weird and depressing, and Damian as Batman isn’t developed enough to differentiate him from Bruce Wayne as Batman, and the other part, involving Bruce Wayne in the present, is just a whole lot of set-up. 


The art in the main stories, by Andy Kubert, is stellar, and is pleasing to the eye, but the art in “The Clown at Midnight” is this weird, creepy, computer animated art, which I suppose suits its horrifying story. Other than that, I’d consider Batman and Son an entertaining romp, and a thrilling opening salvo to a very long saga.

Grade:
“Batman and Son”: A-
“The Clown at Midnight”: C+
“The Three Ghosts of Batman”: B+
 Overall: B+

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Now, Batman has never been one of my favorite superheroes. I always thought he was too dark, too lonely, and too paranoid about other heroes. On the other hand, I have always liked the work of comic book writer    Grant Morrison. I much enjoyed his work on X-Men, I loved his work relaunching the Justice League in JLA, and was awed by the ambition of his poetic interpretation of Superman, in All Star Superman. I also knew that he had written a run on Batman that was considered one of the best of all time. 

I thought that maybe Grant Morrison could get me to like Batman a little more, so I read some of his Batman run, and was confused out of my wits. Every story was impenetrably dense with esoteric concepts, and non-linear story telling. Some parts were sheer genius, while others were turgid and incomprehensible. It was then I realized I was reading them OUT OF ORDER. So, I have committed myself now to reading his entire run on Batman, plus supplementary material IN ORDER so I can finally “get it”, and will document it in a review series called “Bat-Quest”.

The first story I started with was a collaboration series Morrison did with three other writers: Greg Rucka, a writer known for more down to Earth storylines, Mark Waid, an elder statesman in the comics world, and Geoff Johns, a hot shot writer with a knack for handling out of control plots. It chronicles several different story lines in the universe of the  DC comics company’s superheroes, but here’s the trick: not only does every issue span just one week in  a year, but after the events of another DC mega-event called Infinite Crisis, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are out of commission temporarily. While it didn’t have enough Batman to be a real entry in the series, it did have a lot of elements that would tie in to Morrison’s Batman stories later, so I made it a prologue. I loved how each writer balanced each other out. Each of their conflicting styles fused perfectly into a moving, action packed, entertaining, and uplifting story. 


Morrison’s “big idea” fueled writing wasn’t as frustratingly confusing, and even added a sense of cosmic unpredictability. The most compelling plot was probably the Intergang-Renee Montoya-Question plot, which tied all the other threads together, but a close second was probably the gleefully camp Science Squad plot which redefined the old  “revenge of the nerds” cliche, but doesn’t get the top spot because of Veronica Cale, a sad-sack who weighs down the otherwise joyously bombastic plot. The change of artwork in the middle of every issue was disorienting, and the Lex Luthor-Steel plot dragged, at times  but overall, it was amazingly well done. The multiverse-changing conclusion had me clapping and cheering, and even crying. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys the adventures of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but wants to try something new, and as a sort of Morrison apertif.

Grade: A+

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Simon Schama’s Citizens is an in-depth analysis of the causes and effects of the French Revolution. Before reading this book, I knew cursory information about the French Revolution, mainly through free-associated terms: Louis XVI, Bastille, Robespierre, Reign of Terror, guillotine, Napoleon. Afterward, I learned that there was a lot more causes to the Revolution than just “the poor were dissatisfied in France and revolted”. Although it may sound tedious, Citizens is actually quite entertaining. Schama works his usual historiography magic by making even the dullest of events interesting, and his irreverent, chatty prose makes the book zip along. Just when the book seems to have started to become dusty and boring, there is a cool little anecdote that spices up the story. Although Schama is regarded in “serious” history circles as a mainstream sellout, I can’t front: I really enjoyed this book.

Grade: A-

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John Green’s Paper Towns is about the exact same thing all his other books are about. A whiny middle class      boy meets a mysterious woman and his life is changed forever when she turns out to not be as much of a goddess in human form as he thinks she is. My main issue with the works of John Green is exactly that: the main character often treats the girl he lusts after like a kind of obscure object of desire (shout-out to Luis Bunuel) who is outside of everything. The way the protagonist, a disaffected teen named Quentin “Q” Jacobsen makes the main girl character, Margo out to be more than human irritated me both times I read it. Margo’s own lofty hipster-ish observations on life also are borderline annoying, but the plethora of witty side characters makes up for Q and Margo’s shortcomings. There’s Ben, Q’s Rabelaisian friend who’s a  bon vivant with  a heart of gold, Lacey, the surprisingly 3 dimensional “popular” girl, and Radar, the pragmatic intellectual who round out the cast, and all at one point bring Q back down to earth. The writing sparkles with erudite wit, the dialogue is as sharp as a tack, and the formulaic plot moves quick, so one can overlook the several quibbles I have with this novel.

Grade: B+

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 The book I’m reviewing today is Alan Moore’s seminal 1986 comic book miniseries Watchmen. This book, about a conspiracy to assassinate superheroes is full of dark twists and turns, and gives a convincing portrait of what a meta-human filled world would really be like. Although some parts of it are corny (Ozymandias’ plan was to SPOILER ALERT destroy New York City with  an alien squid?), the references to the Afghan-Soviet War are dated, the plot got a little confusing near the end (wait, so what really happened with The Comedian and Silk Specter I?), and the characters are all annoying, self absorbed idiots, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, because of the deep questions it raises about power, gender, war, and the human psyche, but don’t let that scare you away: Watchmen is at turns dark, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and action packed, and is a solid mystery story on top of that. If you’re a fan of American comic books, you’ll think deeper about the ramifications of the actions of your favorite heroes, but if you’re new to comic books, Watchmen will provide a jumping in point.

Grade: A
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READING IS SO DELICIOUS!

When you think of summer, you think of BBQ, 4th of july, and so many other things. How about participating in the Teen Summer Reading Club: READING IS SO DELICIOUS! How cool does that sound? Let me explain. Teens, that are between the ages 12-18, can sign up for this. And it’s so simple! I will explain in the next paragraph!

 

All you have to do is come to the library, go down the stairs in the Teen section, talk to a Liberian down there, and sign up! So simple! You will get a log that you will have to fill in. And the log is so easy! It’s only 4 slots, you only have to read or listen to 3 books! Only 3! No matter the length. The 4th slot, is a special slot. It’s a Wild Card! That means you can put down a magazine you read, volunteer at the library, and so on! The list is endless! Another great thing about this program is the prizes.

 

 

Once you sign up, you will get a fortune cookie that will have a cool message on the inside. Your cookie might have a fortune saying “you won a special prize!” If so, head to the library and they will give you a gift card to a hot dog place for a free hot dog! But that’s not all! After you turn in your first log, you will get a insulated cold cup. You can fill it with pop, water, or your favorite instant tea. But that’s not all.


For every log you turn in, you will be entered in a weekly giveaway for cool gift-cards. Such as Culvers, Starbucks, and Dunkin Doughnuts. Along with so many others. The more logs you complete, the better chance of winning. At the end of the summer, there will be a drawing for a very nice prize. A brand new I pod touch! How cool is that?!


However, the thing ends August 31st. So you better come to the library and sign up. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 

 

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This book is a non-fiction, travelogue about acclaimed travel writer Paul Theroux retracing the steps of his first successful travelogue “The Great Railway Bazaar”. While that book was light, eccentric, and filled with joie de vivre, this book is an entirely different animal. He views the places he visits with a kind of venom, and cynicism that comes with 40 years of travel experience. While he has often caught flak for the sardonic, self-deprecating tone of is later works, I actually prefer these. His prose boils and bubbles with sarcasm throughout, and he is the most entertaining when he’s petulantly complaining about something. The book lags when he visits places like India, which he seems more cynically bemused by, and Turkey, a place he doesn’t seem to cast his usual jaundiced eye on. But these are minor quibbles. As a whole, this book is highly entertaining, and I was enthralled by the state of modern Europe and Asia told through the uniquely cantankerous eyes of Paul Theroux.
Grade: A-
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This book is about a girl named Valerie Leftman whose boyfriend commits a gruesome school shooting. What followed was the terrible fallout from that event. While it’s a well written book, it is painful even to read the opening chapters. You see the disintegration of Valerie’s personal life, her discrediting, and deep depression. To read of Valerie’s plight can be often very jarring, and quite disheartening. This doesn’t make this book a bad one. In fact, these gut-wrenching scenes are filled with compassion for Valerie’s troubles, but never sentimentality. I suppose it was to depict the harsh reality of school shootings. This book, for all its dark, depressing episodes, is lightened by the gallows humor of Valerie’s first person narration, but the eventual heartbreaking conclusion will leave readers feeling empty.
Grade: B
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The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1) by Julie Kagawa

Hardcover, 485 pages
Expected publication: April 24th 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Netgalley
In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity. Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.
Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.
Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for. – Goodreads
My opinion: Julie Kagawa was amazing at faeries and now I am proud to say she is amazing at vampires. I could not put the book down. Allison was a great character and Zeke was awesome too. Allie was my favorite character not just because she was the main character but her personality and how she feels responsible for others in a world where caring about others could mean your death. Just like when she took care of Stick and the betrayal in the end, she still had enough courage and trust to open herself up a little. My second favorite was Kanin. Although, he is a vampire, he isn’t like the others and basically told her to make her choice of who she wanted to be.
 
The plot was easy to follow and kept you consuming the book wondering what was going to happen next. Allie kept surprising me what she could do and what she was willing to do for her “food.” The rabids were kinda cool too. They sort of reminded me of the zombies in I Am Legend, without them actually being like the zombies. They both had that mindlessness where all they were concerned about was the food. I loved how they pop out of the ground. That was very different and cool actually. It makes the reader experience the adrenaline that the characters are going through so that they are also wondering if Allie or Zeke or someone else is stepping on a Rabid sleeping and they are just going to pop out and eat them.
 
I liked that story. I liked the action. I liked the characters. I liked the plot. There was absolutely nothing that I didn’t like. I can’t wait for the next in the series and that is going to be next year probably.
Over all: 5+ out of 5
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