Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comic Reviews 8/27/10

We have an eclectic mix of comics to review this week, including one D.C. comic, one Marvel title and two science fiction-themed issues, so let's see how they all stack-up against each other:

Brightest Day #8
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi: Writers
Patrick Gleason, Ivan Reis & Ardian Syaf: Art
Multiple Inkers and Colorists

On the heels of last week's reviews of two spin-off titles in DC 's ongoing "Brightest Day" event, let's tackle the current issue #8 of the main Brightest Day title. The issue is co-written by veteran Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi, with art by a very large teams of artists. In follow-up to last year's Darkest Night series, Brightest Day focuses on the mystery of 12 DC heroes and villains who have been brought back to life by the power of the White Lantern, to be given a second chance. Issue #8 is entitled "Defiance," but begins with a wonderful oil painting-like cover of Hawkgirl with the title "Hawkgirl Unleashed!"

The issue #8 installment opens with a two-page focus on Hawk, Dove and Deadman, in which Boston Brand/Deadman explains to his two colleagues how the White Lantern ring that he wears gives him clues to the mystery. The remainder of the issue alternates back-and-forth between two sub-plots. In the first storyline, the Martian Manhunter accesses the memories of a female Martian, M'Gann, and learns of her deadly battle with a violent Green Martian, thereby proving that there is at least one additional Martian on Earth. The second plotline is more detailed and focuses on Hawkman and Hawkgirl following a mystery on Hawkworld. Hawkman allies with a group of humanoid lion people and learns the history of human and multi-species interactions on the planet, while Hawkgirl accesses a floating city, where she is captured and comes face-to-face with a very unexpected ruler of the city.

The purpose of this issue is to move forward a few storythreads of the scattered heroes as they follow their respective paths toward solving the mysteries posed by the Brightest Day series. As the acclaimed writer of the landmark Justice Society of America (JSA) series, writer Geoff Johns is the consumatte veteran in weaving a tale of multiple heroes functioning in multiple storylines. Johns and writing partner Peter J. Tomasi do an admirable job in providing an entertaining issue of the ongoing story arc while moving several pieces of the overall puzzle forward. Including the short introductory segment, we basically have three segments of the tale advance forward in this issue with some interesting and satisfying progress.

While the art for the first two story segments is of decent quality, the particular art team assigned to the Hawkman-Hawkgirl story section excels in producing an extremely high quality artistic style and panel lay-out. The segments focusing on Hawkman and his lion-people allies in the Hawkworld forest are lush and beautiful, and include a stunning full-page panel of the group approaching two ancient and huge statues that reminded me of certain similar grand scenes from the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy. So a well-deserved thumbs-up for this issue, which works well as both an installment of the Brightest Day series and as an entertaining stand-alone read. And if you're a fan (as I am) of the not-too-often-featured Hawkman and Hawkgirl, then you have three good reasons to read this high quality and interesting new comic book.

Avengers & The Infinity Gauntlet #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Clevinger and Lee Black: Writers
Brian Churilla: Art
Michelle Madsen: Colors

On the scale of DC's Brightest Day mega-event, as many readers know, Marvel's latest large-scale effort is a major multi-title focus exploring many elements of The Avengers comic book universe. As part of this effort, Marvel has just released issue #1 of a planned four-issue mini-series entitled "Avengers And The Infinity Gauntlet." The series is written by Brian Clevinger and Lee Black, with art by Brian Churilla and colors by Michelle Madsen.

Issue #1 is entitled "For Thanos," and begins by portraying the instellar villain Thanos possessing the infinity gems and thus completing his control over the mega-powerful infinity gauntlet. Very quickly the plot shifts to Earth, where Thanos's newfound ability to affect time and space results in approximately half of all humanity, normal humans, heroes and villains alike, to vanish. So its up to the remaining heroes to make an attempt to set reality straight. Under the leadership of Sue Storm, a small but effective team is assembled to travel to the center of the galaxy and give it a try. A good portion of the plot focuses on both choosing the special team and deliberating the issue of allying with Doctor Doom in this effort. By issues end, both issues are dealt with and the team is readying to travel via a vehicle called "The Star Rig" to undertake the mission.

This is a well-constructed light entertainment series. The art is of a Saturday morning cartoon style, as are some of the plot details, such as the introduction of a good ol' boy truck driver named Ulysses Solomon Ace to drive the interstellar truck Star Rig for the team. Both the plot and visual presentation are an interesting mix of comic book elements that work for both kids and adults. Usually this type of comic book effort over-skews in one direction, either too childish for adults or too adult for kids. But in this case, the creative team strikes a very equal balance between these two elements, giving us the rare comic that works, at least in my opinion, for readers of varied ages. Hats-off also to the creative team for giving us a lot of details regarding who among the superhero world vanished versus who remains to try and sort-out the problem. It's a very interesting mix of partial teams and individual survivors, which should provide a lot of entertainment as the details of this mini-series unfold.

Doctor Who #14
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Tony Lee: Writer
Matthew Dow Smith: Art
Charlie Kirchoff: Colors

IDW Publishing is up to issue #14 in its Doctor Who comic book title. The series is based on the well-known BBC-produced Doctor Who television series, which has been an historic science fiction syndicated t.v. franchise for decades. The comic book is scripted by Tony Lee with art by Matthew Dow Smith and colors by Charlie Kirchoff. Issue #14 is part two of a four-issue story arc entitled "Final Sacrifice," and is the final story arc starring the Tenth Doctor. Apparently, the comic book duplicates the television series practice of recasting actors who portray The Good Doctor from time-to-time.

Issue #14 begins with a brief but useful narrative summary of the story arc so far. Without going into heavy detail, the story is a bit of a complicated plot in which the Doctor and his friends/allies have traveled to an alien world in the far future, where they get involved in political intrigue and conflict between two groups of human settlers on the planet. Major characters in this conflict include a brutal alien queen of the planet and a human enemy of the Doctor, a time-traveling British professor who allies himself with the alien Queen. By the end of this second story arc installment, the historical Earth origins of the two warring groups of settlers have been detailed and a bridge to next month's issue is established with the arrival of powerful aliens who appear to be allying themselves with the evil queen.

If you're a Doctor Who fan, you won't be disappointed with this issue. The creative team is very adept at recreating the atmosphere, dialogue and style of the beloved cult television series. There's an interesting science fiction plot here that reminded me of those Star Trek episodes in which the show's stars get involved in political intrigue among factions in an alien society. It is a much more detailed plot in this story than your standard comic book, requiring the reader to really focus on all of the intrigue and maneuvering amongst the players in the story. But the heavier narrative stuff is also nicely balanced with traditional Doctor Who gadgets, such as Tardis, the Doctor's time portal disguised as a British phone booth. So a positive recommendation for this interesting and entertaining comic book, well worth the read whether you're already a Doctor Who fan or just looking for a good non-superhero comic book to enjoy.

On a final review note, the main story in this issue is followed by a four-page preview of Dungeons And Dragons #0, a new IDW Publishing title obviously based on the role-playing game. I've never played D & D nor read anything related to it before and thoroughly enjoyed this brief but very interesting preview of the upcoming comic book. So we'll plan to write a review of the upcoming new comic book title as soon as possible in a future edition of this column.

Harlan Ellison's Phoenix Without Ashes #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Harlan Ellison: Writer
Alan Robinson: Art
Kote Carvajal: Colors

A second IDW Publishing science fiction-themed comic book for review this week is Harlan Ellison's Phoenix Without Ashes #1. The title is scripted by the well-known science fiction author Harlan Ellison, with art by Alan Robinson and colors by Kote Carvajal. Unlike many previous efforts that adapt well-known science fiction stories to comic book format, the back cover blurb seems to indicate that this is an original, new story written by Ellison as a four-part mini-series.

The setting is the year 2785, and the plot centers on Devon, a young, Amish-like farmer living in the "world-village" of Cypress Corners. Although not stated outright, its clear that the Town is situated within an interstellar starship, with the simple-living villagers clueless about their more advanced origins. An authoritative council of village elders forbids Devon from marrying his true love, Rachel. Devon discovers that the elders have been manipulating computer equipment to support their iron-fisted rule. When he goes public, the scared villagers side with the elders and pursue Devon out of Town. This first issue ends with Devon discovering a mysterious metal portal in the ground to further his escape from his pursuers.

It's a common science fiction theme to plot a story about simple-living humans who don't realize they're heirs to a more advanced human civilization. Coincidentally, the Doctor Who story reviewed above also included this theme. Since its not a fresh concept, the key to any new story is to present the story details in a way that avoids staleness and provides some worthwhile entertainment. Its a no-brainer that a science fiction giant such as Harlan Ellison has the ability to avoid the potential pitfalls in revisiting this theme. And Ellison doesn't disappoint, giving us as well-constructed, interesting and entertaining a spin on this well-known science fiction story idea as you'll ever read. This first issue gets the general villagers-in-space concept firmly established, hooking the reader into looking forward to the next three issues, in which Devon will most likely learn the truth about the giant spaceship and somehow try to rescue his true love.

If you're a certified science fiction fanatic like me, you won't feel bored at all with this latest take on a well-known sci-fi theme as presented by one of the grand masters of the genre. And if you're brand new to this type of story, get on-board and enjoy the telling as presented by Harlan Ellison and the artistic team. As with the Doctor Who issue reviewed above, its a nice change of pace from reading the standard superhero-themed comic book.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest posed the trivia question of challenging you to tell us how many baseballs are used annually in Major League Baseball (MBL) games. We didn't receive a correct answer, but our rules were to declare as winner the entry closest to the correct number. The correct answer is 22,000 baseballs used annually. Most folks guessed way above that number, with the closest answer coming from Kevin Browne, who guessed that the number was 72,900. Congratulations to Kevin for winning the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's try to rally our Red Sox in their quest to land a wild card spot in the playoffs with one more baseball trivia contest. E-mail us at with the answer to this question: which player has the longest last name among all of the players in Major league Baseball? As always, in the event that we receive multiple correct answers, our contest winner will be selected from among those correct answers by a roll of the dice. The winner of the contest will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, so enter right now!

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Comic Reviews 8/20/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that this week we review three new D.C. comics along with a new Marvel comic that has an eye-catching cover. So let's see how the foursome stack-up against each other:

Superman #702
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J. Michael Straczynski: Writer
Eddy Barrows: Pencils
J.P. Mayer: Inks
Rod Reis: Colors

On the heels of the #700 special anniversary issue of the main Superman title, popular writer J. Michael Straczynski has added Superman to his growing inventory of monthly DC titles. Straczynski is joined in this title effort by penciler Eddy Barrows, inker J.P. Mayer and colorist Rod Reis. Issue #700 sought to re-boot and re-define the Superman title, by sending Superman literally off on a cross-country walk, both to meet ordinary Americans and to sort-out what his true role should be in our society. Last month's issue #701 gave us part-one of the multi-issue story arc entitled "Grounded," in which Superman's trek took him to Philadelphia, where he interacted with regular folks, learning how today's social issues effect ordinary lives while at the same time learning something about himself.

In this month's part two of "Grounded," Superman's trek takes him to Detroit. He meets young and old folk and quickly learns their stories about coping with inner-city Detroit life in an environment dominated by blight, drugs and hopelessness. Two interweaving sub-plots advance the tale. In one, the Man Of Steel discovers that an ordinary-looking familiy are actually alien refugees, with this sub-plot becoming a philosophical tale on the desire to help people versus the fear of being persecuted. A second sub-plot begins with Superman meeting an elderly African-American man who gives him a guided tour of the abandoned Flint, Michigan former automobile industry. Without providing spoiler details, a medical emergency leads the two sub-plots to connect, with a hopeful indication that the problems examined in both storylines could be combined to lead to some social advancement for the problems of both of these communities.

The creative powers at DC seem to have made the conscious choice of re-booting the main Superman franchise by starring Superman in a 2010 version of the iconic 1970's Neal Adams recreation of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow title. In both series, the respective heroes are accused by an ordinary American of not understanding the problems of everyday life and challenged to cross the country to learn for themselves. The 1970's GL/GA series then examined issue-by-issue via this storyline such 1970's current events as environmentalism, poverty and race relations. In the current Superman issue #702 as well as the previous two issues, the series is following the exact same formula, substituting the main hero and updating the relevant ordinary person issues and wider social issues to the realism of today's world of 2010. The question thus becomes whether the creative team trips-up and serves the reader with a well-intentioned gimmick, or hopefully instead gives us a fresh and worthwhile modern read with some literary relevance.

I'm happy and relieved as a DC fan to say that with this creative team at the helm, the strategy works extremely well. There's no one better among current crop of comic book writers than Straczynski in mixing elements of story plot and human nature into polished stories that both entertain and serve-up life lessons. This is the rare comic book series that like its 1970's predecessor, will have staying power for decades beyond its print date, for its examination of the ordinary human life, relevancy to issues of our wider society and just as important to the dedicated comic book reader, the new perspective and major directional shift that it sends The Man Of Steel on his journey through America.

On a final review note, I know that all of the above analysis sounds kind of heavy and analytical. But don't let my review musings about the potential long-term importance of this DC creative project turn you off from reading this issue or the rest of the series. The creative team gives us the rare treat of a serious comic storytelling effort that also works on the level of just plain good comic book storytelling and entertainment. So whether you're looking for some important reading or just entertainment, here's the rare effort that successfully combines both comic book reading categories. In both regards, this series deserves permanent storage space on your comic book reading shelf next to that 1970's Neal Adams classic GL/GA series run, whether you're lucky enough to own original 1970's copies or the series in reprint.

Green Arrow #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J.T. Krul: Writer
Diogenes Neves: Pencils
Vicente Cifuentes: Inks
Ulises Arreola: Colors

Speaking of Green Arrow, his latest title is one of the many new titles being published by DC Comics under the umbrella of the Brightest Day mega-event. Brightest Day is the follow-up to the Blackest Night mega-event. As DC states in its marketing material, Brightest Day is about giving some DC heroes second chances in follow-up to the Darkest Night events. While the new Green Arrow title is up to issue #2, I decided to review last month's issue #1 to check-out the beginning of this effort. Both issues are available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves. The series is written by J.T. Krul with art by Diogenes Neves, inks by Vicente Cifuentes and colors by Ulises Arreola.

Issue #1 is entitled "Man Of The People," and introduces Green Arrow in his new post-Darkest Night setting. Star City lies in ruins and Green Arrow now lives in a large and very mysterious enchanted forest that has sprung-up at a location within the city. The kick-off storyline has three elements. First, it establishes Green Arrow's setting of living in the forest and starting to operate back in the ruined city. Secondly, it introduces local governmnet corruption in the form of a corrupt police commissioner and mayor who are out to get The Arrow. And third, we're introduced to a mysterious masked woman who has taken control of Queen Industries, Oliver North/Green Arrow's former corporation. Its clear that this new character is a villain who will ally herself with the Mayor against our hero. The issue ends in a bridge to issue #2 with the arrival of Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, whose power ring mysteriously won't function in the enchanted forest.

This is an interesting new take on the world of Star City, Green Arrow and Green lantern. While not as meaningful and serious as the new Superman series reviewed above, it is strong storytelling in its own right, establishing a new beginning for our emerald heroes in the Brightest Day series. I liked very much the many elements of mystery in this tale, ranging from the strangeness and unexplained behavior of the new enchanted forest to the unknown identity of the new mystery villain who's come to town and taken over Ollie's corporation. Its clear at the end of the issue that other DC heroes, including the Batman, will be arriving on the scene in upcoming issues. The creative team will also introduce a set of DC heroes who will be banding together as Green Arrow's "Merry Men," operating with him out of the forest as the storyline unfolds.

This is the first comic book that I've read in the Brightest Day series, and if its any indication of the general quality of the effort, Brightest Day is off to a good and entertaining start. So jump into Brightest Day with this new Green Arrow title along with any of the other Brightest Day titles that catch your eye along the new issues boardwalk at That's Entertainment.

Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jeff Lemire: Writer
Mahmud Asrar: Pencils
John Dell: Inks
Pete Pantazis: Colors

Another title in the ongoing Brightest Day event is a one-shot comic book entitled "Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1". The comic is written by Jeff Lemire with pencils by Mahmud Asrar, inks by John Dell and colors by Pete Pantazis. As mentioned in the review above, the central theme of the Brightest Day series is giving different DC superheros a second chance in follow-up to the events of last year's Darkest Night series.

This issue is entitled "Nucleus Prologue," and most likely serves as a set-up for The Atom's future role in Brightest Day comic issues. As the story begins, someone has broken into Ray Palmer/The Atom's college research lab and stolen dangerous technology along with copies of The Atom's shrinking equipment. After discovering that the break-in was a very detailed planned effort, the bulk of the storyline shifts into a flashback in which Ray recounts to his elderly college mentor the details of his very difficult childhood. By issue's end, Ray discovers a clue indicating that the one good person in his youth, his beloved uncle, is somehow involved in the elaborate and mysterious break-in and theft.

This is a pretty decent Atom comic book, in two respects. As a stand-alone issue, the story gives fans of The Atom an interesting backstory beyond just the superhero origin facts of The Atom. We learn quite a bit about Ray Palmer's life that I personally haven't come across over the years in the various Atom comic books that I've read. Secondly, the story details provide a well-constructed entry for this character into the overall theme of Brightest Day. Its clear that the direction of The Atom's Brightest Day second chance will include another opportunity to address the past family issues detailed in this story's flashback. So a positive thumbs-up to this one-shot issue of The Atom, as one of many ongoing new comics establishing the start of the Brightest Day mega-event.

The Amazing Spider-Man #639
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Joe Quesada: Writer
Paolo Rivera, Joe Quesada, Danny Miki & Richard Isanove: Art

The main Spider-Man title, The Amazing Spider-Man, is up to issue #639 this week. The issue is written by Joe Quesada with art by the team of Paolo Rivera, Joe Quesda, Danny Miki and Richard Isanove. Entitled "One Moment In Time," the story focuses on the relationship between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his longtime love interest, Mary Jane Watson.

The plot opens with the pair having an introspective conversation in which they are trying to move-on with their emotional lives by examining painful past problems in their relationship. The storyline thus shifts for most of the issue into a detailed flashback, presenting Parker standing-up Mary Jane at the wedding alter due to his Spider-Man responsibilities. After much pain and angst, Mary Jane decides that while she can never marry Parker and have kids with him, she is willing to spend the rest of her life with him as his girlfriend. In the final pages of the issue, just after this decision, the pair face another medical crisis for Parker's elderly Aunt May.

I'm giving this one a mixed review, although the bad in this issue does somewhat outweigh the good. I have a soft spot in my reviewer's heart for most Spidey issues that have an emotional theme, given that Marvel pioneered this character as one of the first major comic characters that struggles daily with real-life personal issues in balance with his superhero responsibilities. But its getting really tiring over the years to read again and again plots focusing on the continual relationship "dance of death" between Peter and Mary Jane. They just seem to be covering the same emotional ground again and again whenever the Parker-Watson relationship takes center stage.

There are two elements of the relationship drama in this issue that particularly add-up in the negative column, for me. First, the story begins with the pair supposedly meeting to bare their hearts by revealing to each other unknown aspects of their past relationship. yet the entire flashback that follows reveals nothing new to either person, as they both jointly star in the flashback and already know everything about each other in the tale. Secondly, the narrative of the story feels very disjointed and confusing. It's difficult in the later pages of the issue to figure-out what part of the story is flashback and what relates to the present-day in these people's lives.

The art quality is enjoyable and if you're a casual Spider-Man reader, much of this tale would be fresh and enjoyable. But if you're an experienced reader of Spider-Man, you just might feel, as I did, that the tale is a re-hash of so many of the relationship-themed episodes that have been published over the many, many years regarding this pair of star-crossed comic book lovers. So again, a mixed review and recommendation that you're not missing much in the world of Spider-Man by skipping this issue, but its not an o.k. issue if you haven't read much Spider-Man before and thus won't react to this storyline as a retread of plot issues.

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

We don't have a correct entry yet to our latest contest challenge, in which your challenge is to e-mail us at with the answer to the question of how many baseballs are used each season in all of Major League Baseball, both American League and National League combined. So we'll keep the contest open until Wednesday, August 25 at noontime. If we receive multiple correct answers we'll choose a winner of the $10.00 That's Entertainment gift certificate by a roll of the dice. If we don't have a correct answer by then, we'll choose a winner from the entry that comes closest to the correct answer.

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo

Friday, August 13, 2010

Comic Reviews: 8/13/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo found four very interesting new comics to review this week on the That's Entertainment new issues boardwalk (love that new carpet along the boardwalk!), one from D.C. Comics and three from Marvel Comics, so let's see what they're all about:

Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Cary Bates: Writer
Renato Arlem: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

DC Comics has just kicked-off a new three-issue mini-series entitled "Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton." The title is written by veteran Cary Bates with art by Renato Arlem and colors by Allen Passalaqua. This is one of those occasional "What If?" storylines giving us an alternate version of a superhero's established comic book universe. In this case, the creative team explores the story possibilities in answer to the question of what if Superman's parents Jor-El and Lara had rocketed to Earth along with him back when he was a baby and their homeworld of Krypton exploded.

Issue #1 in the three-issue series takes us from the family's escape from the exploding planet Krypton through Superman's pre-teen boyhood years. After arriving in Metropolis, the family quickly puts their superpowers to good use and are accepted by mankind. The bulk of the plot focuses on the personal side of the super-family. Over these early years there are strains in the marriage, as Jor-El fixates on helping advance Earth science and Lara promotes her belief in the Raoism philosophy of Krypton. In an interesting plot twist, both parents agree to find a normal American family to surrogate the raising of Kal-El in a secret identity, so that he can better understand and fit into American life. Surprise, they pick Jonathan and Martha Kent of Kansas! Under the alias of "Clark Kent," Kal-El meets Lana Lang and Lex Luthor, of course. In an interesting double bridge to next month's issue, Jor-El takes a fatherly warming to the brilliant Lex Luthor and the Super Family expands with the birth of twin little brothers for Clark.

This is one of those interesting and creative "what if" ideas that makes you immediately wonder why something didn't think of this fun story concept years earlier in the decades-long Superman franchise. It is possible that a similar story was presented in one of those many (and often campy) Silver Age "what if" Superman stories. But whether this is an idea original to writer Cary Bates or just his re-interpretation of an earlier storyline, either way this is an extremely entertaining mini-series. Bates focuses on trying to theorize how these aliens would really fit into our media-obsessed, high tech world of 2010. There are so many small but very effective touches within this story theme, such as Lara taking the Oprah Winfrey talk show route to promote her Raoism writings, and the paparazzi stalking of the family to get pictures into the tabloids of every public move of toddler Kal-El. It was a stroke of genuis to still lead Clark into a Smallville upbringing as a way to avoid the paparazzi and put a new spin on the traditional Superboy story.

My only constructive criticism is that I wasn't thrilled with colorist Allen Passalaqua's use on some pages of very dark and often dreary color tones. But that very minor item aside, this is a very worthy addition to any Superman Family fanboy or fangirl's collection of various interpretations on the well-known standard history of the Superman universe. So a definite positive recommendation for you to get on-board with issue #1 and enjoy what's likely to be a too-short but very fun reading experience in this three-issue mini-series.

Thor The Mighty Avenger #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Roger Landgridge: Writer
Chris Samnee: Art
Matthew Wilson: Colors

Marvel Comics has just introduced a new Thor monthly series entitled "Thor The Mighty Avenger." The series is written by Roger Landgridge with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matthew Wilson. The sub-title for issue #1 is "A new beginning for Thor, The Mighty Avenger!" This issue title accurately describes this new series, which provides a reinterpretation of Thor in the Oklahoma setting where Marvel relocated him to a few years back, along with the fabled City of Asgard.

The plot of issue #1 begins with a focus on young and pretty Jane Foster, a museum curator in the small town of Bergen, Oklahoma. As Jane breaks-up with her boyfriend, she also keeps crossing paths with a street vagrant who refers to himself as Thor. Without giving away any spoiler details, the plot builds as Thor eventually rescues Jane from an otherworldly episode of nightime street violence. Jane grants Thor's wish to examine a Norse artifact in the museum, thereby reuniting our hero with his fabled hammer and transforming him from streetperson to mythic superhero.

While this description doesn't sound very action-oriented, the script is strong enough to make-up for the lack of action with a lot of very good characterization. The plot steadily introduces the reader to the character personalities and story details of this alternative-style Thor universe, of a very small town in which by issue's end, a local vagrant is transformed into a mythic being who must find a way in upcoming issues to fit into the society of this setting. The creative team's narrative and visual style echos that of Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb's iconic "Superman: For All Seasons" mini-series of several years ago. I think its both fair and a well-deserved complement to place this small-town fictional Thor universe in the same interpretive category as the Sale-Loeb interpretation of Superman. It's kind of nice and also just plain interesting to have a Thor title that reduces this grand, mythic, brash character down to a milder, more human scale. If the issue #2 preview scene at the end of issue #1 is any indication, think of a young, unsure Peter Parker trying to figure out how to both start-out as a superhero and get the girl at the same time, and you'll have an idea of this particular Thor approach.

It should be a lot of fun to see where the creative team takes this Thor interpretation in upcoming monthly comic book issues. So both a hats-off and a positive thumbs-up to Marvel for giving us this entertaining and high-quality addition to the many comic book interpretations, both past and present, of Thor.

Captain America: Forever Allies #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Roger Stern: Writer
Nick Dragotta: Art
Marco Santucci: Pencils
Marco Santucci & Patrick Piazzalunga: Inks
Chris Sotomayor: Color

Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 of a new four-issue Captain America mini-series entitled "Captain America: Forever Allies." The title is scripted by Roger Stern with art by the team of Nick Dragotta, Marco Santucci, Patrick Piazzalunga and Chris Sotomayor. The series picks-up on a story theme presented in Captain America titles over the past few years, in which Bucky Barnes in his new role as Captain America addresses past issues from his interactions with other World War II-era teenage Marvel Comics heroes.

The early part of issue #1 updates the reader on Bucky's World War II days fighting alongside two teenage hero groups, The Young Allies and The Kid Commandos. The plot presents the background of these characters, then flashes forward to today's world, in which Barnes attends the funeral of Young Allies member Washington Jones. Barnes encounters a young Asian woman at the funeral who bears a strong resemblance to the Young Allies's 1940's foe Lady Lotus. In the second half of the issue, Barnes investigates and finds enough clues to confirm that a youthful Lady Lotus is somehow alive and hiding in the U.S. The issue ends with a confirmation that she is indeed alive and planning some type of trouble, which will no doubt be revealed in next month's issue #2.

I enjoyed very much the Captain America storyline of a few years ago in which Barnes manages to track down the few remaining elderly survivors of his boyhood superhero teams, and was hoping that Marvel would at some point provide more stories addressing this reunion. That's the central focus of this brief mini-series. It's a very good story concept to move the story action by providing Barnes/Captain America with a foe from the Golden Age who apparently has experienced for whatever yet unrevealed reason a lack of aging, similar to his own situation. I was also impressed with writer Roger Stern's focus on addressing the ethnic/racial stereotypes that were imbedded in society and as such were also part of the Timely/Marvel 1940's structure of these characters. The flashback scenes in which the youthful 1940's African-American Washington Jones stands-up to racial discrimination add a realistic and effective storytelling atmosphere to the old-school 1940's sections of this story.

In sum, the creative team succeeds in giving us a new mini-series that nicely balances elements of the old-school 1940's Golden Age Timely/Marvel universe with the modern-day Marvel universe in which a still youthful Bucky Barnes has taken-up the mantle of serving as Captain America. It should be interesting to see how this storyline unfolds in the next three issues as the modern-day Bucky interacts with his historic friends and foes in a modern storysetting.

Deadpool Corps #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Victor Gischler: Writer
Rob Liefeld: Pencils
Adelso Corona: Inks
Matt Yackey: Colors

Back in April, I reviewed an issue of Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth, one of several current Deadpool titles published by Marvel Comics. The covers of these issues are so creative and eye-catching that I couldn't resist picking-up this week's issue #4 of "Deadpool Corps" for a review. For the uninitiated, the Deadpool titles are a satire on the mercenary-for-hire comic book genre. Deadpool Corps stars Wade Wilson as the masked ninja-like mercenary as head of the Deadpool Corps that includes a female Deadpool, a kid Deadpool, a masked dog Deadpool and the bodyless floating head Deadpool from an alternate universe. If you can accept all of that as a nutty comic book satirical concept, then you can have a really fun time reading any one of the Deadpool titles and issues.

In this issue #4 fast-moving space adventure, the Deadpool Corps are on a mission to save the Universe. Step one is to confront the giant Space Eyeball, an alien smuggler who supposedly has a clue on moving the mission forward. The first half of this issue is all action, as the Corps fights through the Eyeball's alien bodyguards. After getting the clue from said giant space eyeball smuggler, the team follows their lead to the Broken Blade, codename of a sexy alien ninja who agrees to help the team travel to The Awareness, some sort of alien mega-entity that holds the key to the Corps saving the universe.

I don't want to give away much more than the bare bones plot described above. There's just too much fun and funny stuff going-on in every panel of this typical Deadpool issue, stuufed with satire ranging from casual brief remarks to major story components. Like I said in my last Deadpool review, picture Mad Magazine pioneers Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder putting together a nutty comic book and you have a good idea of the style of this comic book. There's enough humor, love, lust and genre satire in just one Deadpool issue to fill a dozen issues of most conventional comic book titles. While this is the fourth issue in a five-issue story arc, it completely works as a stand-alone single-issue read. My only question is that its not clear whether this is a five-issue mini-series or just a five-issue kick-off to a monthly title. Here's hoping for the latter, but either way, my recommendation is to definitely enjoy this issue of Deadpool Corps as well as any of the other titles and issues in this gem of a Marvel Comics satire franchise.

As one final review comment, if anyone reading this review works at Marvel Comics (or knows someone who works there), how about publishing a trade paperback or hardcover edition reproducing all of those wonderful and wacky front covers from so many of the Deadpool comic book issues?

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us that if comic book characters were real, who would you want to meet and why. And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gordon Dupuis. Gordon submitted a "fanboy" dating suggestion and a "non-fanboy" suggestion. For "fanboy" purposes, Gordon says he'd like to meet She-Hulk, because "she's smart, funny and kind. Besides, I'm 6'8" so if I wore my winter boots we'd be the same height." His "non-fanboy" suggestion is The Phantom Stranger. Gordon writes "I'd love to talk philosophy with such an ancient, enigmatic and (I would suspect) lonely individual. Besides, my pet theory is that he is actually the D.C. Universe's version of God (see the Hal Jordan Spectre series!)." Well thought-out submittals, both. Congratulations to Gordon, who wins the prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!

To show our support for our beloved Red Sox's hard fight for a wild card play-off spot, let's go back to a baseball trivia question for this week. We had a lot of entries a few weeks ago for our football trivia question, so here's a similar baseball challenge. E-mail us at with the answer to the following: How many baseballs are used by Major League Baseball in an annual full season? That's National League and American League combined, for the total number of all baseballs used. In the event of more than one correct answer, the winner of the prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen by a roll of the dice.

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Comic Reviews 8/6/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three comic books this week starring a trio of the most famous and well-known of historic comic book characters, two from the D.C. universe and one from the Marvel universe:
Wonder Woman #601
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J. Michael Straczynski: Writer
Don Kramer: Penciler
Michael Babinski: Inker
Alex Sinclair: Colors

DC Comics has followed-up last month's historic Wonder Woman #600 with a brand new Wonder Woman make-over starting in this week's issue #601. The new creative team consists of A-list writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Don Kramer, Michael Babinski and Alex Sinclair. DC introduced the new Wonder Woman concept in the fifth and final story featured in the #600 anniversary special issue, which also introduced a new and updated costume design for Wonder Woman a.k.a. Diana Prince.

Issue #600 is entitled "Past Imperfect, Present Tense." The plot picks-up from the ending of the previous issue's storyline, with Wonder Woman dialogueing with an urban street version of Cassandra, the famed blind seer of Greek mythology. We quickly learn that something has happened to alter the timestream, thus resulting in the previous destruction of the Amazon nation, the death of Diana's mother Hippolyta and the scattering of the few Amazon nation survivers into hiding around the world. The bulk of the issue consists of a flashback in which Cassandra helps Diana view the past events of destruction, led by a mysterious shadowy male figure from the outside world. By issue's end, Diana is rushing to a secluded location in modern-day Turkey, to rescue a band of Amazon survivors under attack by the mysterious foe's military forces.

The iconic Wonder Woman has gone through periodic make-overs over the generations of comic book publication, and this latest make-over gives us a very entertaining and high quality finished product. J. Michael Straczynski is one of the hottest and most talented current comic writers and maintains his recent success with this kick-off Wonder Woman transformation. The storyline is fresh and interesting, centering on the idea that someone has somehow altered the known timeline, thus resulting in past desturction of the Amazon nation. Straczynski gives us a very polished story setting, of survivors scattered to the winds and looking to Wonder Woman to gather them together and both protect them and somehow restore the reality stream to its rightful state.

In addition to the strong plotting, this issue is elevated in quality by two additional factors. First is the style of dialogue unique to the writing of Straczynski. It's the small narrative twists and touches that make the reading of a Straczynski story such a special experience. As an example in this issue, without being a detail spoiler, I'd recommend checking-out the role of chewing gum in the extended conversation between Wonder Woman and the urban street version of the muse Cassandra. The final strong factor here is the exquisite artistic style of the art team. The high quality of this graphic presentation is the perfect visual component to a tale brings mythic grandeur and the modern world together in the epic clash centered within this new Wonder Woman story concept.

So whether you're a regular Wonder Woman fan or just a general fan of excellent comic book storytelling and graphic presentation, my recommendation is to get onboard now at the beginning of this latest chapter in the long history of this flagship DC superhero title.
Detective Comics #867
Publisher: D.C. Comics
David Hine: Writer
Scott McDaniel: Pencils
Andy Owens: Inks
David Baron and Allen Passalaqua: Colors

Detective Comics #867 kicks-off a new multi-issue story arc entitled "Batman: Imposters, Part One: Laugh And The World Laughs With You." The story is written by David Hine with art by the creative team of Scott McDaniel, Andy Owens, David Baron and Allen Passalaqua.

The plot of this story centers on the real-world phenomenon of flash mobbing, in which a spontaneous social gathering pops-up after notice is spread to folks via texting, e-mailing and posting on social networking sites. In part one of this storyline, someone who is impersonating The Joker is using a modified version of his laughing gas to infect Gotham citizens into dressing-up as Jokers and causing social mayhem in flash mob events. At first the events are just harmless goofs, but by mid-issue the Joker impersonator ratchets-up the mayhem by shooting a police office during a mob event. By issue's end the Joker-themed flash mob phenomena has spun out of control, with a gathering ending in violence that leaves several Gotham police officers dead. The part one story segment ends with Batman and Police Commissioner Gordon facing an angry mob of police officers who blame Gordon for letting the situation get out of hand.

I enjoyed the creativity that writer David Hines brought to this issue by featuring this very interesting and current social activity of flash mobbing. Putting a dark Gotham City spin on this real world phenomena was a very creative plot element. Hines takes this current event and uses it to create a storyline that features three interesting Batman universe sub-plots. The first one is a typical Batman story mystery, asking the question of who the imposter Joker is and detailing his villainess disruption of Gotham society. The second storythread centers more on Police Commissioner Gordon and the conflict that grows between him and the Gotham police force, who feel both used and abandoned by Gordon due to his decisions on how to handle the growing Joker mess. And the third theme in the story focuses on vigilantism, as an imposter Batman starts broadcasting via the internet as a renegade reaction to the Joker flash mobs.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation for you to read and enjoy this latest issue of Detective Comics that introduces a new multi-issue storyline with a very relevant social current event at the center of the story.
Captain America: The 1940's Newspaper Strip #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Karl Kesel: Writer, Penciler and Inker
Ben Dimagmaliw: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #2 in a three-issue mini-series entitled "Captain America: The 1940's Newspaper Strip." As the title obviously indicates, the series is an homage to the old-time superhero comic strips published in daily local newspapers starting back in the Golden Age of comic book publishing. The title is written, drawn and inked by creator Karl Kesel, with colors by Ben Dimagmaliw.

The plotline of this series is a missing persons mystery. Cap and Bucky are in Washington, DC during World War II, while Cap undergoes scientific testing to determine whether the lost super soldier serum which created him can be duplicated from his blood. As the team of scientists disappear one-by-one, its up to Cap, Bucky, Cap's FBI liaison Betsy Ross and FBI espionage expert Micky Flynn to solve the missing scientist mystery. The storyline includes an ongoing disagreement between Cap and Flynn regarding whether or not the infamous Red Skull is involved in the mystery. Naturally he is, and the issue ends in a bridge to issue #3 in which the whodunit is revealed and the Red Skull and Cap confront each other.

The goal of this mini-series is to faithfully recreate both the visual style and the storytelling atmosphere of the Golden Age newspaper superhero comic strip. In that regard, this title and this particular issue are a huge success. Karl Kesel skillfully formats his storyline into four-box comic strip panels, structuring each strip into a nice daily segment of the ongoing story. Kesel also succeeds in creating a 1940's comic strip-style adventure plot for his characters. This is not a modern-day Captain America tale with 21st century storyline details and character's personalities. Instead, we have a more 1940's storyline in which Kesel puts front-and-center a classic and entertaining mystery tale in which the good guys approach the problem with an good-natured enthusiasm which reflects a more Golden Age comic book storytelling style.

Fans of the modern-day Marvel Comics universe won't be bored by this old school telling of a Captain America and Bucky tale. Instead, I think that you'll greatly enjoy the change-of-pace of an old-style story presented by a modern-day creative team. So a thumbs-up recommendation to add this interesting interpretation of Captain America and his friends and foes to your stack of comic book reading material.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had a tie for correct answers between two entries to our latest contest, which challenged you to correctly answer true or false to five trivia questions. And our co-winners are (drumroll, please)...Tanja Pevner and Nathan Manna. The correct answers are as follows:

1. The can opener was invented 48 years after the can was introduced-True.

2. Until he was 18 years old, Woody Allen read virtually nothing but comic books-True.

3. Since 2008, movie dvd's have outsold video games-False, the reverse is true.

4. 18 of 47 U.S. Vice-Presidents have gone on to become President-False, the answer is 14.

5. Ice tea was introduced at the 1904 Saint Louis World's Fair-True, although Tanja pointed out that ice tea was invented before the 1904 Fair, it was introduced there as a mass-produced U.S. consumer product.

Congratulations to our co-winners, who each receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's alternate from a trivia contest this week with another thinking person's comic book challenge. This contest is a twist on a contest suggested in May by Gordon Dupuis. Gordon suggested that we ask readers to submit what superhero they would want to date if superheros were real. While interesting, it seemed to the Bongo Congo panel of judges to be a bit too fanboy fantasy narrow in contest scope. So we've tweaked Gordon's idea a bit.

Instead, your challenge is to e-mail us at and tell us if comic characters were real, which comic book character or group of characters (superhero or non-superhero) you would want to meet and and why. For example, I personally would like to meet Rip Hunter Timemaster and do some time-traveling myself. Or maybe I'd want to meet Ritchie Rich and ask for a loan! So let us know who you'd want to meet if the comic book universe was real and also tell us a bit why you'd want to meet the person or people.
That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!