Fifteen-year-old Ben Tennyson just wants to be a normal kid. Five years ago, he was given a device called an Omnitrix that granted him the power to transmute into different alien forms, each with its own special power. His grandfather Max belonged to an alien police organization known as The Plumbers, but now is semiretired and living happily in his trailer home. One day, Ben visits Max only to find that his grandfather has gone missing, leaving behind a mysterious message. Max claims to have hidden the Omnitrix, but Ben knows that it's been in his own bedroom this whole time.
Ben puts on the Omnitrix once again and seeks out his cousin Gwen. Gwen has grown out of her awkward phase and into a confident teenage girl. She also has the power to manipulate energy into force fields and blasts. Gwen reminds Ben that it's his choice alone if he wants to use the Omnitrix again, but the pair get interrupted by an alien hunter. Gwen manages to neutralize him. Upon questioning, the hunter reveals himself as a Plumber who happens to know Max. Concerned over his old pal's disappearance, the Plumber offers to help the kids out.
Thanks to one of Max's tips, the Plumber believes that going on a stakeout to monitor an illegal weapons trade will help give them some answers. The group discovers that Ben's superpowered rival Kevin has escaped from his prison and is back to sell powerful technology to an alien crime ring known as the Forever Knights.
Pause for laughter...3...2...1...
The Plumber attempts to arrest everyone, but the Forever Knights fight back, disabling Gwen and the Plumber. Ben realizes that in order to save him, he'll have to use the Omnitrix once again. This time around, he has new alien forms to choose from, but no time to really discover what kind of powers each one has. He chooses one and transforms himself into Swampfire, a regenerating, plant-based creature with superstrength. Ben and Kevin end up duking it out while the Forever Knights escape with the weapons. Kevin reluctantly agrees to help the others recover the weapons, but only because he hadn't been paid for them. He drives them to the Forever Knights' hideout, where they come face to face with a dragon guardian to battle in the next book.
Ben 10 Alien Force: Ben 10 Returns has a solid story and a simplistic but fun cast. Clearly, this is a successor to Cartoon Network's original Ben 10, but it's not necessary to know the original series. Everything is clearly and concisely explained. Instead of being an original graphic novel, Del Rey takes screen shots and the script from the TV series and assembles them into this new medium. Fortunately, the TV series has solid artwork and writing, making this new incarnation fairly enjoyable. The only downside is that action can be rather difficult to follow since each scene has a select number of screen shots to use. To make up for this, the action is narrated; but for the most part, it's unnecessary and overly simplified.
Overall, this is a pretty decent adaptation for young kids. The story is compelling and easy to follow, plus the writing isn't overly cheesy or condescending. It doesn't assume that a child reader is dumb, but the book probably won't appeal to teens or older. This would make a good addition to any children's library and would probably even make for a good series of novels should someone choose to take it in that direction.
-- Courtney Kraft