Saturday, November 30, 2013

367. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 13 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 13 by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 13

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Nov. 6, 2012,  VIZ Media, 181 pgs

Age: (16+)

"The world hangs in the balance as Asuka fights to survive an onslaught of Evas determined to destroy her. Shinji rushes to help, but he may be too late. Deep inside the NERV command center, Dr. Ikari is about to set in motion the last act of the Instrumentality Project. Everything has gone according to Ikari's plans so far, but even he cannot foresee the role Shinji will play in determining the future!"

Received a review copy from the publisher.

This is the penultimate volume of this series and what a fast, page-turning whirlwind of a read.  Entirely dramatic and unpredictable events and no one comes out of this unharmed!  Frankly, we lose some major characters, but that comes as no shock as it's been happening all along in this series.  No one is safe!  I haven't watched the anime so I have no comparisons to make.  But I'm utterly fascinated with where this story is going to end.  Rei is probably my most favourite manga character ever and I can't wait for the final volume to come out.  This volume though is all action right from the beginning.  It's not heavy on text and actually has many wordless (except FX) scenes as battle is at an optimum here.  Great cliff-hanger ending.  Vol. 14 was published in Japan this year, Jun. 2013, but so far there is no release date for the English edition.  I'm hoping we don't have to wait too long!

Friday, November 29, 2013

362. Voice Over! Seiyu Academy, Vol. 1 by Maki Minami

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy, Vol. 1 by Maki Minami.

Rating: (3.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 1, 2013, VIZ Media, 200 pgs

Age: (13+)

"To make matters worse, Sakura’s grouchy son, Senri, is in Hime’s class, and he seems determined to stomp on her dreams. He even has the nerve to call Lovely ♥ Blazers stupid! But Hime won’t be deterred by naysayers, her new nickname (“Gorilla Princess”), or even getting demoted to the Stragglers group. She’s ready to shine, and nothing is going to stand in her way!"

Received a review copy from the publisher.

I am not a shojo reader though I am open to finding some that I could read.  At the moment I only read one Shojo series, Library Wars.  The topic of voice acting appealed to me in this and decided me to give this book a try.  I ended up quite liking it.  It was very cute and had a fun storyline.  The romance angle was light and humorous and not the main focus.  The book actually has a plot which i found enjoyable and I read through the book quickly.  All the main characters introduced in this book are likable and I especially like Hime Kino, the main character.  Her gravelly voice is well portrayed both in the text and images.  A light-hearted volume that gives a good set up for a first volume in a manga series and leaves me interested in the characters and feeling good about continuing up with the next volume.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

361. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV. Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion & Jock.
Batman:  (The New 52), Vol. 3
The New 52: Batman, Vol. 3

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Nov. 5, 2013, DC Comics, 176 pgs

Age: (16+)

"After having his face sliced off, The Joker makes his horrifying return to Gotham City in this epic from issues #13-17 that shook Batman to his core! But even for a man who’s committed a lifetime of murder, he’s more dangerous than ever before. How can Batman protect his city and those he’s closest to?

This new hardcover features an acetate dust jacket showcasing the face of The Joker as it appeared on the die-cut covers of the “Death of the Family” comics — and under that dust jacket lies the horror that is The Joker’s skinless skull!"

Pre-ordered from an online retailer.

As soon as this book arrived in my mailbox, I started reading it; I was that excited!  The book didn't quite live up to my expectations as I thought all my questions would finally be answered and they are still not!  However, this still a fantastic continuation of the "Death of the Family" story arc.  For those just reading Batman and coming here from Volume 2 this will be a spectacular page-turning read (worthy of 5 stars) and you encounter the Joker at his ultimate insanest.  I adore this new Joker; he is our psychopath of evil!  If like me you've read other "Death of the Family" volumes then this book fills in some very important sequences and makes sense of where those other storylines were headed.  Batman Issue #17 is repeated in different various cuts in several of these "Death of the Family" trade collections, but here, finally, we have the entire issue from start to end and it is one doozy of a way to end the collection.  Now only three more books for me to read in this crossover, plus can't wait for Vol. 4!  I love The New 52!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

351. Graphic Classics: Jack London edited by Tom Pomplun

Graphic Classics: Jack London edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics, Volume 5

Rating: (2/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2006, 2nd edition, Eureka Publications, 144 pgs

Age: (12+)

"Graphic Classics: Jack London returns to print in a completely revised second edition, with over 50 pages of new material. New to this edition are adaptations of "The Red One" illustrated by Mark A. Nelson and "The Wit of Porportuk" by Arnold Arre. Plus a new comics adaptation of "To Kill a Man" by Kostas Aronis and a completely redrawn "That Spot" by Nick Miller. Returning from the previous edition are "A Thousand Deaths" by J.B. Bonivert, "Jan, the Unrepentant" by Hunt Emerson and six more thrilling stories. With a dramatic new cover by Jim Nelson."

Borrowed a copy through inter-library loan.

I am reading my way through this entire series and now have only three books left!  I was quite looking forward to this volume as I've read London's entire work of fiction.  Reading his major novels and famous short stories more than once each.  So I am sad to say this graphic adaption was quite a disappointment both for as a Jack London fan and a fan of the Graphic Classics series.  The collection doesn't contain adaptations of any of London's novels and I had been expecting a collection of tales of the gold rush, the Arctic North and the sailing seas.  There is a sample of each of these but all the other stories go on to show the wide range of genres he actually did write, though personally I'd say his fame and best came from the ones I mentioned.  I was especially dismayed not to see "To Build a Fire" in the collection.  I found most of the stories present to be just ok or even lacklustre, with some simply weird.  Not an enjoyable reading experience for me.  As to the art, I have no complaints; we find the usual artists present from Eureka's corral during the early volumes.  This book is an odd duck imho, as to my opinions on this series, as I've found the others to be much more superior in reading quality.  You may enjoy the content of the book, but don't judge the entire series by this one book alone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

372-373: Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

"Boxers & Saints is a groundbreaking graphic novel in two volumes. This innovative format presents two parallel tales about young people caught up on opposite sides of a violent rift. Saints tells Vibiana's story, and the companion volume, Boxers, tells the story of Little Bao, a young man who joins the Boxer Rebellion. American Born Chinese author Gene Luen Yang brings his trademark magical realism to the complexities of the Boxer Rebellion, and lays bare the universal foundations of extremism, rebellion, and faith."

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sept. 10, 2013, First Second Books, 336 pgs

Age: (14+)

"China,1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.
Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers - commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from "foreign devils."

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of "secondary devils" - Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity."

Received a review copy from the publisher.

I'm very interested in Chinese history and have read about the Boxer Rebellion before.  When I saw this set of books were about to be published I wondered what the Catholic-Chinese author would have to say and how he would say it.  As a Catholic myself this was my main interest as I knew the history already.  It is a beautifully told story of a peasant boy's miserable life as he is lead through the ranks of this raggle-taggle army representing themselves and any other peasants wanting to join in.  They believe their gods have magic and that the magic is transformed through them as they fight making them unbeatable.  Truth, inevitably brings them down.  However, there were people on both sides who were cruel and there is no "good side" to cheer for.  Yang makes sure we understand that the Boxers wanted the slaughter of all foreign devils and secondary devils (this means white men and Christian converted Chinese).  No one was safe, boy, woman, or child.  Bao is a character we can sympathize with right away when we see events only from his perspective, not seeing through language and custom differences nor already established prejudices on both sides.  The book is big but reads very fast as there are many wordless action scenes and text does become sparse through many other scenes.  The words and the pictures together tell this raw, heartbreaking tale of needless death at a time when China's government was very weak and flip-flopping to side with whomever seemed the safest bet at any appropriate time.  You will care for these characters, though you may not care for what they ultimately choose to do.

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sept. 10, 2013, First Second Books, 170 pgs

Age: (14+)

"China, 1898. An unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn't even given a proper name by her family. She finds friendship—and a name, Vibiana—in the most unlikely of places: Christianity. But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie . . . and whether she is willing to die for her faith."

Received a review copy from the publisher.

Being Catholic myself, I expected just a wee bit more from this book than it delivered however I came away from it quite satisfied.  Boxers and Saints are stand alone books that can be read separately but the books need to be read together to experience the true impact of the novels, especially this one.  I would recommend reading Boxers first, then Saints.  I can see some people saying to read them the other way around because some things happen in Saints that are explained in Boxers but by reading Boxers first, one is hit with emotional revelations from that story as told in Saints.  I didn't quite take to the use of St. Joan, hence my 4 star rating, as it felt clear to me Vibiana is not have visions of her, and I can't find any historical references of anyone having had visions of her; while if one knows the history, the Boxers actually believed they had magical powers from the gods and the Empress was led to believe so before she would agree to support them.  Christ came across as a true vision to Vibiana, though.  CRYPTIC SPOILER ALERT.  It is extremely poignant that one person gives their life for their religion while giving the gift of life to another through that same belief.

Friday, November 22, 2013

350. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff 

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug 27 2013, First Second Books, 167 pgs

Age: (12+)

"Lovable ne'er-do-well Delilah Dirk is an Indiana Jones for the 19th century. She has traveled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she's picked up on the way, Delilah's adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan's guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life.

A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine...and globetrotting adventures."

Received a review copy from the publisher.

This is a wonderful high adventure journey in the style of Indiana Jones but with many differences.  Set in historical Turkey, the main character is a "globetrotting troublemaker" of a female who while not magic does have a certain quality of magical realism about her abilities and escapades.  Her, at first unwilling, partner is a more serious minded down-to-earth man in the Turkish army who sets out with Delilah and really only wants to come out of the journey alive and in one piece.  They make a great pairing and the dynamics between the two are fun.  The exotic and historical locale also make for a fine adventure which is full of derring-do from the get go.  Though full of excitement the story does also take the time to develop a relationship between these two opposites who start off adversarial and grow a friendship, a partnership, between them.  Those who like adventurous stories will like this.  The art is good but not particularly my type; I found it a bit cartoon-y and somewhat dark in colour at times making it hard to see all that is going on.  But overall an eye-catching style that will appeal to many.  While this Canadian has worked in the industry for a while and been a regular contributor to the Flight anthologies this is his first solo graphic novel.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

349. Science: A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer

Science: A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep 1 2013, NBM Publishing, 192 pgs

Age: (15+)

"Science: dull or hard to understand? Not if you read this book! The creators of 'Philosophy - a Discovery in Comics' take on a new challenge, and explain the different scientific disciplines in clear, colorful chapters.
Who exclaimed "Eureka" and why?
Why did Galileo get into a fight with the Church?
What happens when you have your DNA tested?
All these questions and more are answered in a chronological journey from ancient times to modern Quantum Theory, with creators Margreet and Yiri as your witty guides.
A great comic book for anyone who wants to learn in a fun way the bigger framework of science, or brush up on what they learned in school."

Received a pdf for review from the publisher.

Science is not exactly one of my interests however I am interested in history and non-fiction graphic books/comics, so I read this book out of curiosity.  I found it incredibly well-done and both informative and humorous with a comic-style of art.  This would make an excellent highschool book.  I wouldn't recommend it for younger as the narrators are adults and there is some adult language present.  A grand-sweeping cover of both the history and purpose of science it briefly touches on about every aspect of science you could image; which is pretty impressive.  I wholly enjoyed the first half of the book as it was what you would call historical in nature, but as the book got into the 19th and 20th centuries the topics became too involved and scientific for my tastes that I did become bored with the material, but I'll be the first to say that is my fault and not the books.  There is very good discussion between religion vs. science showing how they conflicted in history but ultimately giving the proper understanding they can and do go together very well.  The only bias I saw was that they were heavy-handed where the Catholic church was concerned but since the authors are Dutch I wasn't surprised considering the Protestant history of the Netherlands.  There are two other books in this series which follow my interests much more that I would read given the chance.  The one on Philosophy is available but the one on Religion has not been translated into English at this time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

346. Betty Blues by Renaud Dillies

Betty Blues by Renaud Dillies. Translated by Joe Johnson

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2003, Nov 1 2013, NBM, 80 pgs 

Age: (18+)

"Little Rice Duck has built himself quite the reputation around the West Wood, playing his trumpet in bars with their smoky, sweaty ambiance, tequila sunrises, and jazz. But between his trumpet and his flame Betty, things are going astray. Betty is drowning her need of him in expensive champagne, something someone else is more than happy to provide... something he'd much prefer, like her, would just stay chilled."

Received a pdf for review from the publisher.

This has such a cute cover and at first glance may appear to be a children's book but it is NOT.  It has a mature adult story and swearing.  Set in perhaps the '30s somewhere in France, it is the age of Jazz, and this is the tragic affair of Little Rice Duck, the trumpet playing Jazz musician, and his love Betty Blues who dumps him one night in the bar for a rich sweet-talking man who promises her champagne and the good life.  A very charming story as each goes their separate way.  Rice gives up the life as he blames it for Betty's leaving him and he takes to the road meeting people, having adventures, and perhaps making a difference in this world while always pining for Betty.  Betty, on the other hand, quickly finds out that being the trophy on a rich man's arm is not all it was cracked up to be and each day she pines more and more for her lost Rice until she regrets her decision.  I found the story very touching and felt sympathetic to the characters.  The ending is very shocking and tragic.  The art is somewhat raw but I like the style and found it a delight.  I thought this would be a much more simple book than it turned out to be and am quite impressed with the emotions it invoked in me.  I'd be quite interested in checking out Dillies other work that has been translated into English.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bleach Marathon: Volumes 7, 8 & 9 by Tite Kubo

343. Bleach (3-in-1 edition), Vol. 7-8-9 by Tite Kubo
Bleach, Vol. 7,8,9

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 4 2011, VIZ Media, 576 pgs

Age: (13+)

"Rukia Kuchiki, the ex-Soul Reaper responsible for Ichigo's transformation, is on the lam. Her brethren at the Soul Society are quite displeased with the fact that she transferred the powers of a Soul Reaper to a human and have dispatched two of their strongest agents to neutralize the situation. Their mission is twofold: to return Rukia to the Soul Society so that she may pay for her crime and to deal with Ichigo--permanently. But an unlikely third party is standing in their way: Uryû Ishida, the Quincy!"

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

My review doesn't contain any spoilers for this volume but I can no longer refrain from occasional spoilers from previous volumes.

Vol.7: The Broken Coda - The two new Soul Reapers battle on with Ichigo and he is left for dead but Hat and Clogs comes to get him and sets about teaching him to become a Soul Reaper in his own right without the aid of Rukia's powers.  This is mainly what this volume is about and is quite exciting and interesting with the beginning battles and the unique teaching tests that follow.  Ichigo is left in a precarious position and the Quincy has a secret we haven't been made aware of yet.  Another good volume. (4/5)

Vol. 8: The Blade and Me - Lots on intense battling and testing as the training continues while a group gets ready to gather together and enter the Soul Society to rescue Rukia.  The focus is on Ichigo's training sessions with Hat & Clogs to become a Soul Reaper in his own right but also being followed briefly is the training of Chad and Orihime as they learn to summon then control their new-found powers.  Uryu is not seen much but has a couple of brief cameos showing that he has obtained a new power via a mysterious master.  I felt like there was a lot of character development in this volume as each character involved had to mature from how we first met them long ago in volume one.  The book is left on a high note with the gathered team entering the Soul Society and possibility of danger.  The story is pretty easy to follow in Bleach, not so complicated as can be found in other manga series, and while containing plenty of action and creatures in the form of Hollows and spirits, the author finds plenty of time to lighten up the tone with numerous lighthearted, funny scenes.  (5/5)

Vol. 9: Fourteen Days for Conspiracy - Intense action-centred volume with humorous bantering to add some light moments.  Our team now consisting of Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, Uryu and Mr. Yoruichi have entered the Soul Society on their mission to rescue Rokia.  They meet lots of opposition there, fighting some awesome battles.  We learn the political set-up of the Soul Society and it's not as wonderful a place as one would have imagined.  There appear to be rebel factions here and though Ichigo is a Soul Eater himself he is not welcomed by the other Soul Eaters nor easily accepted by the souls of the dead.  Now that Ichigo is a Soul Reaper in his own right his character has changed and he is more rough and tough, confident but also fool-hardy and rushing in too quick.  Orhime and Chad have also matured and I love them both as characters.  A couple of new characters are added to the plot with the most promising in my eyes to be the powerful, yet somewhat outcast warrior woman Yoruichi; whose appearance takes on a piratical look complete with one missing arm.  The story arc is staying mostly on a single topic which is increasingly becoming more intricate.  A very satisfying series; loving both the amount of battles equalled with fine plotting.  There is a title spread on chapter 71 that I would love to have as a poster.  It collects the main characters subtly showing their powers and they all look posed for battle-mode.  Brilliant art!(5/5)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bleach Marathon: Volumes 13, 14 & 15 by Tite Kubo

357. Bleach (3-in-1) Vol. 13-14-15 by Tite Kubo.
Bleach, Vol. 13, 14, 15

Rating: (4.5/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

May 7, 2013,VIZ Media, 576 pgs

Age: (13+)

"Ichigo may have thought getting into the Soul Society was hard, but it did nothing to prepare him and his friends for the reality of the Seireitei! Now the rescuers are all split up, forced to take on battle-hardened Soul Reapers without backup. Can Ichigo train hard enough and fast enough to take down Rukia’s jailer before it’s too late?! "

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

My review contains no spoilers for this volume, however I can no longer refrain from including occasional spoilers for previous volumes.

Vol. 13: The Undead - This whole volume continues on with the epic battle between Ichigo and Kenpachi.  The plot moves further ahead and a few startling revelations are made.  Easily summed up but incredibly intense and leaves one panting for the next volume.  (5/5)

Vol. 14: White Tower Rocks - Oh wow! Major action in this volume though not much forward movement in plot.  Still the same battles between our heroes and the captains.  Orihime and Uryu are back.  I love Uryu!!  I think he's my favourite character at the moment.  Major reveal about one of the regulars and some fantastic battle action with a breathtaking ending.  I'm soooo glad I'm reading these 3-in-1's!! (5/5)

Vol. 15: Beginning of the Death of Tomorrow - Intense tension continues as do the battles with the captains of the soul reapers.  A good portion of the beginning involves Uryu in his epic battle, with a really nasty dude.  So far I'm pretty sure they will all eventually end up being on the same side, But not this guy; he is evil!!  A few more brief appearances by new characters.  Ichigo has been taken away to receive special training within three days which usually takes about 10 years so that he can defeat the strongest captain they have.   Book ends on a tense moment then we have a bonus chapter which goes back to the early days of the current sub-commander's days at Soul Reaper Academy.  The whole soul reaper intrigue and politics is interesting though I am wanting to get back to the soul reaper's main purpose, that of fighting Hollows(I mentioned this a few volumes ago too); so I was pleased to see a huge Hollow battle in the bonus story.  (4/5)

Bleach Marathon: Volumes 10, 11 & 12 by Tite Kubo

347. Bleach (3-in-1 edition) Vol. 10-11-12 by Tite Kubo
Bleach, Vol. 10,11,12

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Feb 5 2013, VIZ Media, 576 pgs

Age: (13+)

"Ichigo and crew are determined to rescue Rukia from the Soul Society, and with the help of explosives expert Kûkaku, they actually have a chance of making it inside the walls. But the plan hinges on Ichigo getting control of his torrential spiritual energy, and with Rukia awaiting execution, there’s no time to waste! And even if they can breach the Soul Society’s defences, there are twelve companies of angry Soul Reapers standing between them and their friend!"

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

While this review contains no spoilers for this volume it is impossible at this point not to reveal spoilers about previous events.

Vol. 10: Tattoo on the Sky - Oh! Wow! What an absolutely amazing volume.  Pure action and plot the entire way through; getting deeper and deeper into the Soul Society workings as the "team" goes forward to rescue Rukia.  Two new additions to the team are fabulous characters, one male and one female.  They also have a mysterious back story that is just starting to be explored that is hidden within the Soul Society as well.  There is only one battle in this volume and it is saved for the end but holy moly is it ever worth the climax.  Ichigo meets an awesome opponent within the walls of the Soul Society and he is also an awesome dude who I'm hoping may turn out to work with Ichigo in the end.  But for now this is a bloody battle like we haven't seen to date yet.  So now that I've gushed, let me mention two minor things in this series that annoy me.  Whenever something dangerous is about to happen or a fight is about to begin the background of the frame is covered in huge capital letters with the word "DOOM" and the artist, Kubo, has an irritating habit of drawing glasses on people so that one lens shows an eye and the other is empty.  It is a strange look.  So there, proof I'm not all gushes and am able to be critical about Bleach ;-) but this is probably the best volume to date! (5/5)

Vol. 11: A Star and a Stray Dog - This new story arc is fantastic.  This volume continues with more of the same.  The team is still trying to rescue Rukia.  They have infiltrated the Soul Society and sensors have found that they have been breached so the team is being chased down and confronted in battle.  Ichigo is front and centre for this volume with both Ganju and Uryu having prominent story lines as well.  Everybody else at least makes a cameo so for all purposes a satisfying volume.  Lots of fighting and battling with new characters, mostly Soul Reapers, being introduced.  While they are all Ichigo's enemy at this point in time, I can't help but think that many of them will become "good guys" and long lasting characters.  I hope so anyway as I really like most every Soul Reaper we've met so far.  Plot isn't really forwarded much here but we do get some backstory on Rukia and finally discover Uryu's new special power he secretly learned in training several volumes back.  (4/5)

Vol. 12: Flower on the Precipice - The search for Rukia continues.  This volume concentrates on Ichigo and Ganju together and Chad as they all follow the trail to Rukia's prison and are confronted by higher and higher powered Soul Reapers trying to kill them as the intruders they are.  This pretty much covers the whole volume.  The last dudes both Ichigo and Chad are left battling are really ruthless opponents and we're left wondering how on earth they'll manage to defeat them.  I am left wondering to myself though, why can't everybody just take a minute to talk to each other because I think that once the Soul Reapers hear Ichigo's story they will realize he is one of them and they should all eventually be on the same side.  Though I'm loving the new arc, I am missing the actual soul reaping and battles with the Hollows.  (4/5)

Bleach Marathon: Volumes 4, 5 & 6 by Tite Kubo

340. Bleach (3-in-1 edition) 4-5-6 by Tite Kubo.
Bleach, Vol. 3, 4, 5

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Aug. 18, 2011, VIZ media, 569 pgs

Age: (13+)

"A new reality-show craze is sweeping the nation, garnering legions of screaming fans (the majority of them being teenaged girls). But this program comes with a supernatural twist--the host, a media-savvy spiritualist, travels to local hotspots and performs exorcisms, live on national TV! Surly Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki has his doubts about this primetime prima donna, and his assumptions are about to be put to the test--the show is heading straight for his neighborhood! What effect will this unprovoked media presence have on the fragile balance between Earth and the spirit world?"

Purchased new from an online retailer.

Vol. 4: Quincy Archer Hates You - A lot of little stories going on here with plenty of humour and action. A cute little one shot story about Kon starts off with a laugh then we get into plot with the introduction of a new character, Don Kanonji, who fights spirits on a reality show.  Ichigo meets up with him and it seems as if he'll be a recurring character from now on.  He's very irritating.  Then we move on to another character who has been slinking around for a while and finally found out what she? (maybe he) is up to.  This is where the title for this volume comes from and I like the implications of where this will lead.  The spirit world has been explained much more in detail now and we've learned various ways ghosts become Hollows and other various forms of ghosts as well now.  A great manga!  (4/5)

Vol. 5: Right Arm of the Giant - Whoa!  Getting intense.  So Quincy Archer's real name is Uryu Ishida and he's definitely a he, there's no mistaking it now.  The first half of the book concerns a battle between him and Ichigo which I loved and even though Ishida is a bad guy, I like him.  Then it turns out that there are more people than we knew who can see ghosts, Hollows or Soul Reapers and they find out they have special powers too.  Chad is featured in the second half and I really enjoyed him being in the spotlight with a little look into his past as he's been a favourite character of mine from the beginning.  The title of this volume refers to him.  We leave this volume with the battle still in progress and several of our main characters injured to an unknown degree.  I haven't mentioned this yet but I'm loving the art.  With such a huge cast the artist is able to make everyone very distinct and I'm not having any problems sorting out who is who, though I only have a few names down as of yet.  I'll also mention at this point that this manga is very age appropriate.  There is one very busty girl but no other sexual allusions at all.  Much tamer than say... Dragonball.  (5/5)

Vol. 6: The Death Trilogy Overture - Almost the entire book concentrates on the battle started in the last volume and the consequences of it resulting in Ichigo and the Quincy battling together a humongous Hollow.  So this is a great volume for battles.  Usually the battles are not my favourite parts of shounen but I'm really enjoying these scenes in Bleach!  Once things settle down the volume ends on a curious note with the introduction of two new Soul Reapers and their intentions are not good concerning either Rukia or Ichigo.  They make an impressive entrance though and look pretty cool!  (4/5)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

338. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte by Rick Geary

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte by Rick Geary. Afterword by Jim Salicrup.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2011, Papercutz, 56 pgs

Age: (8+)

"Rick Geary adapts Emily Bronte’s masterpiece! Bronte’s romantic classic established the quintessentially dark, brooding antihero in the form of the character Heathcliff. Heavily influenced by the poet Lord Byron, the beautiful flow of her words is matched by Rick Geary’s art in this comics adaptation. Eisner Award-winner Geary’s comics work in historical fiction is unparalleled – earlier adaptations by Geary include CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED #1 “Great Expectations” and #2 ‘The Invisible Man.”"

Borrowed a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

This is the last book Geary contributed to this series.  I read Wuthering Heights once when I was an impressionable young teenager and remember loving it; I'm not sure if I would feel the same today should I reread it now that this has brought back to the story to me.  I love the Gothic brooding story set upon the Yorkshire Moors (from whence I originate), but the overdramatic, possessive love story irritates me somewhat like a Jane Austin romance.  However Geary has done a wonderful job of adapting such a complicated plot and paring it down to this brief book in hand.  He has managed to capture the true essence of all the main characters of the meat of the story, Heathcliff, Cathy, Earnshaw, the Linleys and Nelley.  The final part of the story featuring the children and heirs of these characters is somewhat less fully captured and progresses rapidly to the end but overall the book serves two purposes: for one who has read the story it brings back a tale you may have forgotten and in my case I certainly know I do want to re-read this and the other two famous Bronte sister books in the near future.  Secondly, for one who hasn't read the original, it genuinely gives a summary of the story and could provoke reading of the classic.  Geary's usual art style is very present here but I found the addition of colour not quite as pleasing to the eye as in his two previous books in this series.  Geary will always be much loved in b/w by me.  His unique character faces and facial expressions are great additions to the characters of the main participants.  I only had a problem with Heathcliff who was presented as not being English by making him a strange sooty colour which made him appear dirty as if he was a chimney sweep.  His ethnicity is never fully identified in the original novel.  He is mainly described as a dark-skinned gypsy.  Others remark he may be a "Lascar" mostly meaning of East Indian descent or an "American castaway" which perhaps could allude to being of African descent.  However Geary's portrayal shows none of these ethnic traits but rather just someone sooty and at times rather greenish-looking.  Overall I enjoyed the refresher on the story and am impressed with the Classics Illustrated series.  I ventured into these as part of my Rick Geary reading but will continue on now to read the series for its own merit.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

337. Batgirl (The New 52) Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Gail Simone. Art by Daniel Sampere

Batgirl (The New 52) Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Gail Simone. Art by Daniel Sampere
The New 52: Batgirl

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 29, 2013, DC Comics, 224 pgs

Age: (16+)

"Batgirl stars in these epics from #14-19 of her monthly series, plus BATMAN #17, BATGIRL ANNUAL #1 and a story from YOUNG ROMANCE #1, all spinning out of “Death of the Family.” The Joker is back, and Barbara Gordon must confront her past as she deals with the crazed criminal responsible for crippling her. Plus, once the dust settles, Barbara must deal with her family demons as her psychotic brother James Jr. comes after her."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

Absolutely freaking awesome!!!  I got a tiny glimpse of Batgirl in Night of the Owls and I was interested, but after this book, I want more and have placed an order to read this series!!  Wow! What an excellent, exciting, very creepy story.  This story has the dark, eerie atmosphere that I love from the serial killer mysteries I love to read.  Batgirl is awesome!  The book starts off with Batgirl investigating some arsons being committed by homeless people but that is cut off and left hanging when she finds out from a source that the Court of Owls are still active.  Then Catwoman and Batgirl team up together against the Owls to save a halfway decent female Talon.  As I've said before I'm not into Catwoman, but I actually enjoyed this team-up with Batgirl.  This was an action-packed thrilling story, very intense, and I loved knowing the Owls are still out there working behind the scenes.  Then comes the best part of the whole book as both Barbara Gordon and her Batgirl persona deal with The Joker, Barbara's psychopath brother and the kidnapping of their mother.  This was freaking creepy to the extreme.  Heart-pounding reading and intense to the max.  Very, very disturbing storyline.  I never liked the old Joker, but this new one is a deranged psycho and demented beyond belief.  He gives me the shivers.  We also get a lot of backstory on Barbara's shooting that paralyzed her and her recovery throughout the book.  Then comes a story which I believe must be a cross-over from Batman where the Joker has all the family kidnapped and tortures them.  Again Intense.  Finally, the ending is emotional.  the death in the family secret is revealed and closure comes to part of the storyarc but it leaves us and Batgirl drained feeling that the next volume will possibly take a new direction for her family.  The art throughout is gruesomely creepy.  I'm majorly impressed with this book.  Just loved the intensity of it and the outstanding quality of the story.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

332-336: Level 3 TOON BOOKS

Ahhh!  I am so upset!  I had a whole page detailed review of these five books and I lost it into the great beyond, never to be found again!  I read these a while ago and wouldn't be able to do the reviews justice from the top of  my head now.  So I am going to feature them here today instead.

These are the last five TOON BOOKS I had left to read.  All are Level 2 readers and now I am up-to-date and eagerly awaiting the next releases.  After each book's feature is my rating and my one sentence opinion.

332. Benny and Penny in Lights Out! by Geoffrey Hayes (4/5)

"It’s nearly time for lights out but Benny and Penny just can’t settle down. The moon has gone missing, there’s a flashlight to play with, Benny can’t sleep without his favorite pirate hat—and he left it inside the spooky backyard playhouse!

Geoffrey Hayes’ loveable mice are about to find out just how many adventures can be packed in before bedtime."

I love Benny and Penny and this lives up to expectations.  Not the best one but still great.

333. Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes (5/5)

"Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winner Geoffrey Hayes delights young readers with these easy-to-read short stories about Patrick Brown, in a collection perfect for emerging readers. Patrick is a puddle-jumping teddy whose biggest challenge is avoiding nap time...until Big Bear shows up!'

Patrick is one of my favourite sub-series in the Toon Book franchise and here we have a wonderful story of a family picnic, family time and the problems of a bully.  But Patrick learns how to outsmart a bully in the end.

334. Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray (3/5)

"Benjamin Bear does everything in his own funny way, whether it's drying dishes on a rabbit’s back or sharing his sweater without taking it off. In this series of gags starring a very loopy bear, Philippe Coudray creates a zany world that makes kids think and solve puzzles, drawing all readers into the game."

I'm not totally thrilled with the Benjamin Bear books.  The one page gags get old on me quite quickly but I found this much more funny than it's follow up "Bright Ideas" where I didn't even get some of the gags.  The art is very cute though and typically French in style.

335. Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan (3.5/5)

"In the midst of a family dinner with her scolding parents, Maya receives an unexpected invitation to dine with the Queen. Suddenly, her messy manners are put to the ultimate test and she begins to improvise her very own set of rules, with uproarious results."

Filled with humor and exquisitely imagined detail, this book by Eisner Award-winner Rutu Modan is bound to turn every child into a voracious reader.

Not exactly the book to teach a kid manners but a fun story for messy eaters nonetheless   Maya introduces a little fun into the prim and proper royal court with her particular style of eating and the illustrations are crazily detailed.  should keep the reader lingering on each page studying the pictures.

336. Nina in That Makes Me Mad by Hilary Knight (4/5)

"What makes Nina mad? Lots of things—lots of little, everyday things, frustrations that all children will recognize. But Nina knows how to speak her mind and that makes her feel much better. In a series of humorous vignettes, Hilary Knight, the artist who brought the enormously successful Eloise to life, applies his magic to a text by veteran children's book writer Steven Kroll, and brings to life a spunky character who will show young readers how to articulate their feelings."

Based on a Steven Kroll book written in 2002, each two page spread shows Nina getting mad and telling the things that make her mad.  Some are trivial and others she has just cause but by the book's end Mother has helped her to understand that it is ok to feel anger but there are better ways to deal with it.  A lovely book illustrated by the esteemed Hilary Knight.  Signing such a well-known illustrator certainly is a feather in Toon Book's hat!

Monday, November 11, 2013

331. Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach by Brian Azzarello

Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach by Brian Azzarello. Art by J.G. Jones & Lee Bermejo

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Jul. 16, 2013, DC Comics, 256 pgs

Age: (16+)

"Writer Brian Azzarello brings his gritty, nuanced storytelling to these two unforgettable characters. COMEDIAN, featuring art by J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS, Wanted), plants the famed war hero within the context of modern American history, as we discover the role he played in the Vietnam War and the Kennedy assassination.

In RORSCHACH, Azzarello teams with artist Lee Bermejo (JOKER, LUTHOR) to show how one of most dangerous vigilantes the comics world has ever seen became even darker.


Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Comedian:  Wow!  Intense, loved it!  Really fabulous backstory on what shaped this man.  Starting with the Kennedy years of playing football with Jack, Bobbie and Ted; Eddie (the Comedian) had friends in high places who used his superhero status to further their political ambitions.  Moving from the world of Jack and Jackie, Comedian goes to Vietnam as a figurehead but can't not play the part of leader.  Men respect him and follow him, he has a plan and wants to end the war, contrary to the government's wishes.  He's a patriot with a bad ass attitude and we learn the early story of what shaped this man, what 'friends' he had to kill along the way for what he believed was the best for his country.  Dark, stark and violent.  Loved it.

Rorschach:  Rorschach's background story is covered in the Nite Owl book, so with this one we jump right into superhero mode with R. as he works his cases.  He is being set up and left for dead by a big ugly dude named Rawhead then goes out to work his revenge upon him while at the same time working on the Bard serial killings.  While simply a superb story we get a clear picture of who R. is, with and without the mask,  and how he works.  The art is simply stunning, very modern and life-like.

This was my favourite of all four Before Watchmen books.  I loved the Nite Owl story but I loved both stories presented in this volume and it wins hands down as my favourite.  I enjoyed them all though to one degree or another.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

330. Catwoman: Death of the Family by Ann Nocenti & Rafa Sandoval

Catwoman: Death of the Family by Ann Nocenti. Art by Rafa Sandoval
The New 52: Catwoman

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 22, 2013, DC Comics, 176 pgs

Age: (16+)

"Catwoman must stay one step of The Joker ahead as he terrorizes Batman and his allies during “Death of the Family.” Then, Catwoman is hired to steal the Black Diamond—the source of Eclipso’s power! Collecting CATWOMAN #0, 13-18 and a story from YOUNG ROMANCE #1."

Received an egalley from Edelweiss.

I read the Batman series but decided to branch out and read all the "Death in the Family" volumes to actually see how DC combines these story arcs throughout the universe.  I'm no big fan of Catwoman and this volume did not change my mind but it was a decent story and I loved the art.  The book is broken up basically into two main stories featuring a lot of flashbacks into Selina's past and background.  I enjoyed the flashbacks the most  as it gave a better insight for me into this ambiguous character.  There is even a romantic flashback to her and Batman at the end!  The first half of the book contains the "Death of a Family' tie-in as Catwoman is harassed by The Joker in a pretty creepy/stalker mode.  I love the artist's rendition of Joker since he had his face cut off, he's not so comical looking and yet he is more appealing to me this way as I've never been a fan of the Joker either.  The second story has Catwoman being hired to go into A.R.G.U.S. and steal a black diamond from the top secret black room.  This starts out as a good caper but ends up involving the paranormal which I hadn't expected but it does introduce us to a new supervillain.  Finally Gwen and Selina, put on their own heist to steal some paintings which brings back elements of the first two stories and a brief cameo from Batman. Decent enough story but not anything to make me want to start reading Catwoman.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

329. Batman (The New 52!): Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Tony S. Daniel, Scott Lobdell, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Gail Simone, Duane, Swierczynski, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV & Judd Winick. Art by Moritat, Marcus To, Adrian Syaf, Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque, Lee Garbett, Eddy Barrows, kenneth Rocafort, Tony S. Daniel, Travel Foreman, Andres Guinaldo, David Finch, Jason Fabok, Guillem March

Batman (The New 52!), Vol. 2.5
The New 52: Batman

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Feb. 19, 2013, DC Comics, 368 pgs

Age: (16+)

"In this new hardcover, evil spreads across Gotham City as Batman's allies, including Red Robin, Batwing, Robin, Batgirl, the Birds of Prey, Nightwing and even Catwoman find themselves in a battle coming from all sides.

The Court of Owls makes its move against justice in this sprawling tale of corruption and violence.


Purchased new from an online retailer.

Fantastic!  I absolutely love the new Batman!  This volume does not actually have a number sequence.  I've personally called it Vol. 2.5 in my collection, thinking that is where it best belongs for reading order, though it *could* be read as 1.5 between vol. 1 & 2.  What happens here is most of Vol. 2 The City of Owls is collected in this large volume (not *all* mind you, but a large portion).  Therefore, I think it is to be most appreciated read by fans after volume 2, jmho.  While The City of Owls concentrates on the Court story and the identity of the mysterious turn-coat assassin and the secret deep in Bruce's family.  This volume, only touches upon that secret identity and instead focuses upon everything that happened that one specific night when Alfred put out the call to the Bat family for their help in protecting the targeted "shapers & movers" of Gotham.  So in between the issues (chapters) from Batman: City of Owls there are collected issues from the comics All-Star Western, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman: Detective Comics, Batgirl, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Nightwing, Batman and Robin, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  We see what each of these heroes/villains did that night to help stop the Court of Owls in Batman's hours of darkest need.  I just loooved the huge collection of various characters.  Some I'd never read or heard of before, others had me intrigued and it was great seeing some of my old-time favourites again.  One thing I liked that had confused me in Vol. 2 was that a second story about Mr. Freeze which occurs prior to it but in an issue of "Red Hood" makes more sense of that story arc and why he just appeared the way he did in "Batman".  Loved that part.  Also like how the Harper Row episode was omitted in this volume as it has nothing to do with the Court of Owls arc.  

How I'm left feeling after reading this?  The book ends the same as Vol. 2 (minus Harper) leaving the Owls story in the same place and I'm anxious to continue on with the story.  I have the next volume on pre-order.  As to the other comics that were gathered here: All-Star Westerns was a short, brief piece which gave me no insight into the characters I wasn't familiar with though I enjoyed it; I loved all the various Batman issues but none so far have tempted me to start reading them (I'm going to stick with plain old "Batman" for the time being), though I had always been a fan of Detective Comics in the past and loved the Arkham Asylum story here; I'd like to meet up with Batgirl again she interested me and I could possibly be interested in reading her, Batwing I'd never heard of and he didn't impress me in this little glimpse of him; Nightwing again totally thrilled me and I am putting in an order to read him; I've never liked Catwoman (except Eartha Kitt on the old TV Show LOL) and haven't changed my mind; but Red Hood, who is new to me, has me very intrigued and would like to meet up with him again also to see if I'd like to read his series.  The artwork is all over the place with so many artists at work here, but it all flushes together well and Capullo has a major presence that unifies it, however it is a beauty of a book to browse through.  One thing I'm also enjoying with this series is all the new background information we are getting on the characters.  I'm not a diehard and don't know/remember all this stuff but I can tell that some of it is retelling what has been accepted from previous histories but that we are getting deeper, darker new versions added into it as well,  I love the flashback episodes!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

328. Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Rating: (2.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct. 8, 2013, First Second Books, 208 pgs

Age: (10+)

"Monsters roam through Arcopolis, swallowing children into the horrors of their shadowy underworld. Only one man is a match for them - the genius vigilante Haggard West.

Unfortunately, Haggard West is dead.

Arcopolis is desperate, but when its salvation comes in the form of a twelve-year-old demigod, nobody is more surprised than Battling Boy himself.


Received a review copy from the publisher.

I don't have much to say about this one.  Having noticed the other high star ratings this book has received I realize I am in the minority in my opinion but I just didn't like it.  I really wanted to though!.  It sounded so like my type of book but it just didn't do anything for me.  Even though it was full of monster-battling action from beginning to end I found myself bored and wanting the book to hurry up and be over.  The Hero's son being sent to battle monsters to prove his coming-of-age and hero-worthiness felt cliched and I found the font got awfully small at times.  Sorry, but I got nothing from this one.  The book ends abruptly too, obviously making this part one of a possibly long series which should have been labeled Vol. 1 to let us know.