Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic Reviews 10/29/10

Good King Leonardo is back after a week's hiatus with four new comic book reviews including two DC Comics, a Marvel/creator-owned collaboration and a new Darkhouse comic book:

Batman: Hidden Treasures #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Ron Marz: Writer
Bernie Wrightson: Penciller
Kevin Nowlan: Inks
Alex Sinclair: Colors

DC Comics has just issued a new Batman comic entitled Batman: Hidden Treasures #1. The lead story is written by Ron Marz with pencils by Silver Age veteran Bernie Wrightson, inks by Kevin Nowland and colors by Alex Sinclair. A page-one essay by DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello sets the tone for this unusual and interesting comic book. Chiarello writes that there are several "urban myths" among comic fandom, rumors of legendary stories that have never seen publication, such as a Jack Kirby version of the legendary 1960's cult television show "The Prisoner." One rumor is apparently true, of a lost Bernie Wrightson Batman story. For the uninitiated, Wrightson is an iconic Silver Age artist, well-known among other efforts for his work on Swamp Thing. As such, this comic book presents that Batman "hidden treasure" once and for all.

The 22-page story is entitled "Splash," and is presented in short story/graphic format. On the right side of each page, we have a Batman tale in traditional paragraph short story narrative, while the remainder of each page is dominated by one large, full-page panel illustrating each page's respective section of story narrative. It's a dark Gotham-noir tale, in which Batman searches for clues to the identity of the "Sewer Killer," someone who is killing hobos and leaving their bodies in sewers. The clues seem to point to The Caped Crusader's old foe Solomon Grundy. After a confrontation between the pair, the story takes an unexpected twist (which I won't spoil, of course!), leading us away from Grundy and revealing the true killer.

This is a very enjoyable and fresh alternative take on Batman comics for two reasons. First, the concept of presenting a "lost tale" by a famous artist is fun and interesting. Secondly, the alternative story lay-out structure, essentially illustrating a short story narrative, is an enjoyable change of pace from the traditional story panel lay-out more common in comic books. Wrightson's pencilling is of his well-known high quality, with the swamp and sewer settings of the tale providing an atmospheric link to Wrightson's classic Silver Age run on Swamp Thing. As an added bonus, the issue contains a second story, a reprint of Wrightson's "Night Of The Bat" tale from the 1973 issue #7 of Swamp Thing, guest-starring Batman with Swamp Thing.

It's not clear whether this issue is a one-shot publication or issue #1 in a new series that would unveil previously-unpublished DC masterpieces. Here's hoping for the latter, but if it is only a one-shot publication, even more reason to read and "treasure" this intriguing and entertaining Batman: Hidden Treasures comic book.

Freedom Fighters #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmioti & Justin Gray: Writers
Travis Moore: Pencils
Trevor Scott: Inks
Rob Schwager: Colors

DC Comics has just begun publishing a new Freedom Fighters comic book title. For the uninitiated, Freedom Fighters is a superhero team that DC has published off-and-on since purchasing the rights to these heroes back in the 1970's from the former Quality Comics company. The new Freedom Fighters include the team leader Uncle Sam, Navajo superhero Black Condor and Firebrand, along with several additional characters.

Issue #1 begins a multi-issue story arc entitled "American Nightmare." The first half of the issue introduces the various Freedom Fighter members by alternating between three separate battles that the members of the team are involved in. After communicating with each other to jointly win all three conflicts, the team is summoned by leader Uncle Sam to the White House, where the President asks the group to find the kidnapped Vice-President. Clues lead the team to an underground lair in Wyoming. The issue ends in a cliffhanger as the group unwittingly unleashes four ancient and powerful Native American evil spirits.

While I'm giving a positive recommendation to this new comic book title, my thumbs-up comes with a warning to the writing team of A-list veterans Jimmy Palmioti and Justin Gray. This first issue is well-drawn and the basic concept of this team is well-presented. However, the plot itself is too overstuffed with multiple sub-plots. There are drawn-out references to several different political conspiracies, thrown together with the Vice-President's kidnapping, ancient Indian spirits, etc. The result is a plot that needs to take a deep breath and settle-down over the next few issues into progressing two or three of these major storythreads, instead of jarring the reader about like a human pinball between disconnected storythreads.

With the quality of this creative team, I'm hopeful that the pace of this storyline will settle-in over the next few issues into a more enjoyable read. So it's worth checking-out this rather hectic and overstuffed issue #1 storyline and see where the creators take us in the next few monthly issues of this decent new title addition to the Freedom Fighters team universe.

Superior #1
Publisher: Icon/Millarworld
Mark Millar: Writer
Leinil Yu: Pencils
Gerry Alanguilan: Inks
Dave McCaig: Colors

Marvel Comics's Icon imprint in partnership with creator-owned Millarworld has just released issue #1 in a new comic book entitled Superior. The comic is written by Mark Millar, creator of such acclaimed series as Kick-Ass and Nemesis, with pencils by co-creator Leinil Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan and colors by Dave McCaig.

The issue #1 story is entitled "One Magic Wish" and introduces us to Simon Pooni, a young New York City teenager with athletic promise who's become tragically afflicted with severe multiple sclerosis. The plot quickly introduces the reader to Simon's mother and his best friend Chris, a fellow athlete who's stuck with Simon through thick and thin as a good friend. Both boys are huge fans of Superior, a Superman-like comic book and movie hero. Asleep one night, Simon awakens in a spaceship, where a spacesuited monkey informs him that he's been granted one magic wish, thus transforming him into his comic book fictional hero Superior. In the form of Superior, Simon is dumped back home with the cryptic comment from said spacemonkey that "all will be explained in one week." The issue ends with Superior/Simon fleeing in a panic to his friend Chris, to try and figure-out what has just happened to him.

I enjoyed the premier issue of this new title for a few reasons. First, veteran writer Mark Millar skillfully presents the reality of Simon's debilitating illness, giving us a very moving and real-world portrayal of a young man facing such a difficulty by finding some solace in his superhero fiction. Secondly, there's a perfect balance of atmosphere within this comic book of story elements that make this new series worthwhile and enjoyable reading for kids and adults, alike. Think of the premise of the old Tom Hanks movie "Big," with a superhero slant, and you've got a feel for this comic book concept. Third, the mysterious monkey was a fun oddball twist that works very well here and adds just enough mystery to the plot situation to keep readers on their toes for several issues, at least.

So a well-deserved positive review recommendation for the latest new comic book title concept from creator Mark Millar and his creative team partners.

Turok, Son Of Stone #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Jim Shooter: Writer
Eduardo Francisco: Art
Jose Villarrubia: Colors

Dark Horse Comics has just published issue #1 in its eagerly-awaited revival of the Silver Age comic book "Turok, Son Of Stone." The original series followed the adventures of Native American Turok and his young sidekick Andar as they made their way through an underground prehistoric land. The series is scripted by veteran writer Jim Shooter with art by Eduardo Francisco and colors by Jose Villarrubia. This is the third in a series of Dell Comics Silver Age titles being revived by Dark Horse Comics, the first two being Doctor Solar: Man Of The Atom and Magnus, Robot Fighter.

The premier story is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Part One-Aztlan Out Of Time." It's a reinterpretation of the original Turok origin story that was published in the December, 1954 premier issue of the title. The original story was an adventure tale starring Turok and Andar as two hunters who stumble across a cave entrance to the prehistoric hidden land. Writer Jim Shooter re-works the plot into an action-adventure tale. A large party of vicious Aztec-like warriors have come north from their land of Aztlan and encounter Turok and Andar. The plot moves quickly, as the pair struggle to flee the pursuing invaders. Soon, all stumble upon the cave entrance to the hidden land and continue their struggle in the prehistoric world below. Issue #1 ends in a dramatic bridge as the duo barely escape the marauders, only to be captured by a mysterious tribe led by a beautiful princess who plans to feed our heros to the dinosaurs (youch!).

This is a wonderful comic book for two reasons. First, it goes without saying that there's no one better (and few equal) to esteemed veteran Jim Shooter in scipting a basic action-adventure comic book tale. Shooter outdoes himself here by providing a script that perfectly balances elements of the original Turok storyline with fresh details and twists in the origin story. The result is a tale that's entertaining and fun for old-school Silver Age fans and younger generation readers, alike. Secondly, a well-deserved hats-off is due to the artistic team, who provide the perfect artistic style and graphic format for this unique story universe that blends a Native American adventure tale with elements of science fiction.

The main story is followed by a reprint of the December, 1954 original Turok origin tale, which gives the reader the fun opportunity to compare and contrast the two stories. Happily, instead of finding the 12/54 story stale in comparison to Shooter's reinterpretation, I found that both stories had strong legs, standing on their own as respective versions of this intriguing and historically popular comic book universe. As a final review comment, this large, 48-page "First Issue Spectacular" is only priced at $3.50, an extremely affordable buy, given both the issue size and the amount of entertaining story details delivered in this issue. So an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to definitely add this kick-off re-issuance of Turok, Son Of Stone to your ever-growing new issues comic book reading pile!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you with a "Big Bang Theory" television show question. We asked you to tell us what interesting comment that the show's character Rajesh made in an episode regarding Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee's method of naming his characters. And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from amongst several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Eric O'Connor, who tells us that Rajesh makes an observation that Stan Lee makes use of alliteration in naming his characters, or repetition between the first and last names of the characters. The result has been such well-known Marvel comic book characters as Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Peter Parker, etc. (you get the picture!). The habit isn't confined to Stan Lee, of course, with DC Comics giving us such names as Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Clark Kent, etc. Congratulations to Erin, who wins the contest first prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

With the Major League Baseball World Series in full swing this week, let's hold one last baseball trivia contest of the season. This year's World Series pits the American League's Texas Rangers against the National League's San Francisco Giants. The Rangers finally got into their first World Series in the 49-year history of the team. That leaves only two teams in all of Major League Baseball who have never made an appearance in the World Series.

So the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenge you to e-mail us at and tell us who are the two remaining teams in the game who have yet to make it to "the big dance" to play in the World Series. Our contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. As always, in the event of multiple correct contest entries, a winner will be selected from among the correct entries via a roll of the dice.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Comic Reviews 10/19/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week three Marvel comics along with a new Wildstorm title based on a video game. So let's see how the four books stack-up against each other:

Ultimate Spider-Man #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
David Lafuente: Art
Justin Ponsor: Colors

The Spider-Man title in Marvel's Ultimate series of comic books is currently up to issue #14, but there's currently a stack of last year's issue #1 on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment (most likely a reissuance), so let's go back to this premier issue and check-out the very start of this ongoing comic book title. The series is scripted by veteran writer Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Lafuente and colors by Justin Ponsor. For the uninitiated, Marvel's Ultimate series of titles constructs a Marvel comics universe with alternate or "what if" elements to the characters that differ from the mainstream, established Marvel universe.

The kick-off issue to this comic book is entitled "The New World According To Peter Parker." A page-one narrative explains that the story begins six months after a massive terrorist tidal wave caused by the evil mutant Magneto that destroyed much of New York City. In the aftermath of the disaster, both New York City and Peter Parker work to get-on with their lives. Parker is a 16-year-old high school kid in this Ulimate side-reality. Issue #1 introduces the reader to his high-school aged world, with Parker working after school at a fast food joint while trying to balance his Spider-Man responsibilities in between school, work and dating girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Sub-plots in this premier issue include Spidey nabbing some street criminals and Johnny Storm/The Human Torch showing-up at Parker's house mysteriously ill. The issue ends in a cliffhanger as a new super-villain arrives in Town, announcing himself by killing the well-known New York crime boss The Kingpin.

I've mentioned in previous reviews of Ultimate titles that its a kick to see the story elements in this series that differ from so many established basics of the mainstream Marvel Universe. Many of these changes are plot elements that we as loyal readers always wanted to see but knew didn't fit into the permanent reality of our favorite Marvel heroes. My favorite reality change here is how the young Peter Parker shares his superhero identity with his Aunt May and girlfriend Gwen Stacy. Its nice for a change to see a version of Parker who isn't so isolated and angst-ridden about his hero identity. Its also a hoot to see a version of Spider-Man that takes the main characters back to their original Silver Age high school kid roots. I'm very impressed by writer Bendis's skill in effectively protraying these characters as basic high school kids, almost as an homage to those very first years of Spider-Man comics back in the early Silver Age. The opening scene in which Parker struggles with a difficult customer at his fast-food job is a perfect balance of humor and high school-aged anxiety, setting just the right story-telling tone for this revision of the world of Spider-Man.

So a positive thumbs-up recommendation for this well-presented title. My advice is to take advantage of the availability of new copies of issue #1 of this title, and read it as an entry into this title, then catch-up as time permits with the latest monthly issues of this fun and refreshing reinterpretation of one of the best-known of Marvel's superhero characters.

Ultimate Thor #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Carlos Pacheco: Art
Dexter Vines: Inks
Edgar Delgado: Colors

Marvel Comics has expanded its inventory of Ultimate titles this month with the addition of Ultimate Thor #1. The comic is written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Carlos Pacheco, inks by Dexter Vines and colors by Edgar Delgado. The title is the start of a limited new Ultimate Thor mini-series. In previous Ultimate Thor titles, the alternate version of Thor is a separate character from traditional alter ego Dr. Donald Blake. Here, Thor is former psychiatric nurse Thorleif Golmen, a man who suffers a nervous breakdown and learns that he is Thor, albeit with weaker powers than the traditional version of the hero.

This new mini-series presents three interweaving sub-plots. In the present-day storyline, an international security agency has called-upon Dr. Donald Blake to try and understand the emotionally-troubled Thor. The pair have an intriguing cryptic conversation about an impending world-wide disaster foretold in mythology. Our second storyline is set in 1939 Nazi Germany, and focuses on the infamous bad guy Baron Zemo trying and succeeding in figuring-out how to access Asgard and gain evil mythological allies. The third plotline is set in Asgard eons ago, and presents a high action battle scene is which the very young trio of Thor, his half-brother Loki and Balder The Brave battle ice giants in defense of the fabled land. By issues end, there are hints that the three storylines will nicely weave together in future installments of this limited series.

Again, as mentioned in the Ultimate Spider-Man review above, its a lot of fun to see an alternate side of a traditional Marvel hero as presented in one of these Ultimate titles. Here, its intriguing to read a version of Thor who is weaker and mentally unstable, juxtaposed with a flashback storyline in which Thor, Loki and Balder are young and seemingly invincible. It should be interesting to hopefully learn the details of how Thor became troubled and weakened over the ages and it should also be interesting to see how Thor's evil half-brother Loki is presented in this alternate universe storyline. So far, Loki is presented as initially extremely brotherly and loyal to Thor, with a back page preview hint that in issue #2 his evil transformation will begin.

As a final review comment, an acknowledgement is deserved regarding the quality of writer Jonathan Hickman's effort, here. Hickman has been writing to popular acclaim the Fantastic Four title for quite awhile now, in which he brings a strong science fiction element to that comic book. Here, he provides more of a traditional comic book storytelling atmosphere, but still drops in some narrative touches that hint of science fiction-like events gathering on the storytelling horizon on a grand scale. It should be a lot of fun to see where Hickman and the art team take us in this very intriguing new Thor title.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Warren Ellis: Writer
Kaare Andrews: Artist
Frank D'Armata: Colors

Marvel is in the midst of a 5-issue limited X-Men series entitled "Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis." The series is written by veteran scribe Warren Ellis with art by Kaare Andres and colors by Frank D-Armata. Issue #1 begins with a series of mutant-like babies being born in a remote African village. When reports of the incidents reach the Black Panther/T-Challa, he contacts the X-Men, who decide to investigate. Issue #1 concludes with the team of six X-Men, led by Scott/Cyclops, landing their plane in Africa and being surrounded by an armed military unit.

This is a very good X-Men comic story concept presented in a below average manner. The problem, unfortunately, is Warren Ellis's heavy-handed writing style. This is at least the third Ellis comic that I've reviewed over the past few years which fell flat on its face. Here, Ellis has further devolved his writing style into a preachy and pretentious narrative that just plain drains anything worth reading out of the comic book. The bulk of the story focuses on page-after-page of various X-Man having an extended conversation during the plane flight regarding what a violent geopolitical mess the continent of Africa is in these days. While there's nothing wrong with a dose of political reality in a story, Ellis goes off the deep end with his overly preachy and personally opinionated attitudes, including some extremely creepy and conspiracy-nut remarks about Nelson Mandela. The result is a mess of a tale that just serves as a platform for Ellis to vent his own sophomoric personal views rant-style in a comic book.

So bottom line: this is a very good comic plot concept presented poorly. Unless you're a real hard-core X-Men fan looking to read an alternative spin on the X-Men, I'd advise skipping this mess and reading one of the many other X-Men titles available on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment.

Telara Chronicles #1
Publisher: Wildstorm Productions
Ricardo Sanchez: Writer
Pop Mhan: Art
Zac Atkinson: Colors

DC Comics's Wildstorm imprint has just begun publishing a new comic book entitled Telara Chronicles, based upon a video game called "Rift: Planes Of Telara" from Trion Worlds. The title is written by Ricardo Sanchez with art by Pop Mhan and colors by Zac Atkinson.

Issue #1 is entitled "Black And White," and stars a woman named Asha Catari, a warrior member of the Dragonslayers Covenant on a medieval-like planet called Telara. The scene is the final battle of what's known as the Mathosian Civil War, an epic conflict in which coalitions of good and evil are led by two princely brothers. As the battle escalates, the bad brother unleashes an uncontrollable mystic evil force that seems to wipe-out the world. Fast forward to 80 years later, and via some modern high tech equipment, survivors from the good side manage to resurrect from the "soulstream" our hero Asha Catari. After being briefed of the situation by an old friend and ally, the issue concludes with Asha preparing to join this new effort to continue the epic conflict.

This is an interesting comic book due to the science fiction spin to its plot. From reading the early pages of the comic, I expected a standard medieval genre battle tale, based upon a video game. So the unexpected plot turn, of tossing the main character 80 years into the future via high tech equipment, was an interesting story twist. Intererestingly, the blend of two separate genre elements, grand medieval battle stuff and future technology, seems to blend together here comfortably. If like me you're not at all familiar with the video game origins of this story, there's a nice level of stand-alone understanding and entertainment to issue #1 of this new Wildstorm title. So a positive thumbs-up recommendation to expand your superhero-reading horizons and give this video game-based comic book a try.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had many correct entries to our current contest, which challenged you to identify the speaker of the following quote: "If the Golden Age Green Lantern's weakness is wood, and the Silver Age Green Lantern's weakness is the color yellow, then I could take the both of them out with a number two pencil!" And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly identified the speaker as fanboy and physics expert Rajesh Koothrappali from the CBS television sitcom "The Big Bang Theory." Congratulations to Gregory, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Since so many of our readers had fun with last week's contest, let's stick with our Big Bang Theory friend Koothrappali for this week's contest challenge. In a scene in another episode of "The Big Bang Theory," Rajesh, Leonard and Howard are standing in line at a comic book event waiting to get esteemed Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee's autograph. Rajesh makes an interesting observation about an odd quirk over the years in Stan Lee's pattern of naming many of Marvel's famous characters. You don't have to give us the exact quote, but your challenge is to e-mail us at and just tell us generally what Rajesh says about Stan Lee coming-up with comic book character names. It's funny but also very true, so send that entry in now! Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, we'll choose our contest winner via a roll of the dice.

I'm taking next week off from this column, so we'll be back on Friday, October 29 with new comic book reviews, our contest winner announcement and a new contest challenge. So have two great comic book reading weeks, and see you again just before Halloween Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Comic Reviews 10/8/10

Here In Bongo Congo:

This week we're reviewing three new comic books that represent different genres but all have action/adventure as a common theme:

Star-Spangled War Stories #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Billy Tucci: Writer
Justiniano and Tom Derenick: Pencillers
Andrew Mangum: Inker
Tom Chu: Colors

DC Comics is in the midst of releasing a series of one-shot comics both reviving and honoring DC's series of Silver Age war comics titles. I've recently reviewed the one-shot return of both Our Army At War starring Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales. This week, I'm taking a review look at the Star-Spangled War Stories one-shot, starring Mademoiselle Marie, the World War II French Resistance Fighter. The comic book is written by Billy Tucci, creator of last year's acclaimed Sgt. Rock mini-series, with pencils by Justiniano and Tom Derenick, inks by Andrew Mangum and colors by Tom Chu.

The story in this comic is entitled "Vivre Libre Ou Mourir!" and begins with Marie parachuting into the German-occupied French countryside in the Spring of 1944. Trouble begins when she teams-up with a group of resistance fighters. The story features several plot threads of conflict, both among the group members and between the group and Marie, including disagreement on their assigned mission, problems trusting each other and fear of a traitor in their midst. The group's fears become real when they actually are betrayed by one of their own members and almost completely wiped-out by attacking German soldiers. In the second half of the issue, its up to Marie to track-down the traitor, avenge the massacred freedom fighters and complete her original mission.

In the previous two issues reviewed in DC's new series of one-shot war comics, the creative teams managed to provide a quality balance between honoring the Silver Age heritage of the title's characters while providing a story that entertains modern-day readers. Writer Tucci and the art team successfully complete the trifecta of success here with this latest installment in the series. The plot gives us a traditional comic book action-adventure war story, with Tucci layering the narrative and story action with several modern themes, including duty and responsibility to the war mission, honor and trust among strangers and revenge against those who have caused betrayal. Its both ironic and moving that after being in serious conflict throughout the tale with the local freedom fighters, to the point where her life was in danger from disagreeing with them regarding mission issues, Marie dedicates herself to avenging their wrongful deaths.

So a positive review recommendation for this high quality war story comic book which offers the reader an entertaining wartime tale with a plot that also provides some quality life lessons about duty, honor and decency.

Stargate: Vala Mal Doran #3
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Brandon Jerwa: Writer
Cezar Razek: Art
Salvatore Aiala: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment is up to issue #3 of one of its Stargate titles, Stargate: Vala Mal Doran. The series is based on the popular syndicated science fiction television series Stargate SG-1, in which a team of American military folk and scientists use alien Stargate teleportation technology to jump around the universe and have adventures fighting good and evil with alien races. For the uninitiated, the character of Vala Mal Doran was added to the television series during the eighth season, as a new member of the Stargate team and love interest of team member Dr. Daniel Jackson. This comic book title is scripted by Brandon Jerwa with art by Cezar Razek and colors Salvatore Aiala.

The untitled issue #3 gives us the latest installment in a multi-issue story arc. The first two-thirds of the plot focus on Vala conducting an elaborate sting operation; after deliberately being imprisoned in an alien jail, Vala and her alien and robot sidekicks manage to steal from the jail a form of alien plant life that supposedly holds a very dangerous power that could destroy the universe. The plot shifts in the final third of the tale, revealing that the sting operation is actually a flashback to several years earlier. Now in the present, the plant is in danger of being stolen from the safe planet where Vala and her team hid it. So its up to the Stargate team to jump to the planet and avoid the abduction. The issue ends with the team in full battle against aliens on the planet as they try to reach the plant in time to avoid the disaster.

I was a fan of the first few seasons of the Stargate television show, so before reading this comic book I wasn't aware of the additon of the character Vala Mal Doran in later years to the Stargate fictional universe. So it was both fresh and interesting to read of a new major character in this science fiction franchise. Writer Brandon Jerwa succeeds in two main ways in creating the issue #3 story segment. First, the extended flashback segment adds a wider dimension to the tale, as it gets the story away from solely focusing on Stargate teleportation issues, adding an element of basic science fiction action and adventure. Secondly, Jerwa does a nice job in the last third of the story of balancing the plot focus equally among Vala and the other members of the Stargate team that the show was originally based on. The art team also does a very credible job of visually presenting the well-known t.v. show characters in graphic form, avoiding the woodenness trap that so many comic book adaptations of t.v. shows unfortunately fall into.

So a positive recommendation to read this interesting spin-off of the well-known Stargate SG-1 science fiction televisions series, which gives us a nice mix of faithful adaptation of the t.v. show's basic elements with a fresh and entertaining new tale in comic book reading format.

Action Comics #893
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Cornell: Writer
Sean Chen: Pencils
Wayne Faucher: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors

DC's flagship Action Comics title is up to issue #893 this month (just 7 months away from the #900 anniversary issue!) with a story starring Lex Luthor and our favorite super-intelligent bad guy gorilla, Gorilla Grodd. The issue is written by Paul Cornell with pencils by Sean Chen, inks by Wayne Faucher and colors by Brad Anderson. The comic book also includes a second story starring Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, scripted by Nick Spencer with pencils by R.B. Silva and colors by Dave McCaig.

The main story in this current issue is part four of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Black Ring." The setting is a wildlife refuge in Uganda, where Lex Luthor and his team have arrived to infiltrate the high tech lair of Grodd and his gorilla sidekicks to obtain the power of the black ring. Most of the tale unfolds as a very elaborate strategy on the part of Luthor involving himself, Lois Lane and several other team members utilizing android replicas of themselves to ultimately get Grodd to let his guard down so that the group obtains their objective. The story takes a very unusual twist toward the end, as the fleeing group are attacked by Grodd; in a cliffhanger ending, Luthor unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a well-known comic book character from the Sandman comic book world of esteemed writer Neil Gaimen.

The second story is entitled "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week," and follows the trials and tribulations of Jimmy dealing with his break-up with girlfriend Chloe Sullivan, a local internet news reporter. Jimmy has a lengthy and awkward confrontation in a nightclub with Chloe after finding her out on the town with an obnoxious executive who works for Lex Luthor. After focusing on relationship soap opera drama for the length of the story, the tale ends on a cliffhanger as aliens arrive to invade Metropolis in next month's issue.

There's a lot to like in this latest Action Comics issue. Most of all, I enjoyed the format of the comic book, which is a throwback to DC's silver and bronze age policy of using Action, Adventure and other old school titles as books to feature two stories that star the secondary characters from the main superhero universe of DC. Its a lot of fun to see Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen starring on their own in the variety of comic book situations featured in this issue. While I'm not a fan of how bloodthirsty and nuts DC characterizes Gorilla Grodd these days, the Lex Luthor story was extremely clever in featuring a very complicated and fascinating scheme involving unexpected role-switching among androids and humans. And the surprise Neil Gaimen-themed end-of-story cliffhanger is not to be missed!

So not only a positive thumbs-up for this issue, but also a heads-up for all good DC readers to look forward to next month's issue #894 of Action Comics, which will continue the Neil Gaimen surprise cliffhanger into the next segment of this multi-issue story arc, along with the alien invasion of Metropolis in the second story starring Jimmy Olson and his crumbling love-life.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to "Cast A Comic Movie," e-mailing us with your suggestions for which real-life actors and actresses should be cast in a movie version of your suggested comic book. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Christian Mock. Christian writes "I am going to go with the Alan Davis, 1980's Batman-less Outsiders (specifically looking at the cover for Adventures Of The Outsiders #36). Here are my choices, which, I admit, suffer from age or physical stature issues:

Geo-Force: Kenneth Branagh
Black Lightning: Donald Glover
Looker: Jessica Biel
Katana: Jamie Chung
Halo: Anna Sophia Robb
Metamorpho: Vin Diesel

I put my choices (with the photos I like best) on my blog here:

A very interesting entry from Christian, reflecting a lot of effort and thought. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges are particularly impressed with the Metamorpho/Vin Diesel casting; just picture Vin Diesel in the Neil Gaimen-scripted Metamorpho adventure in last year's Wednesday Comics! Congratulations to Christian, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. And do yourself a favor and check-out Christian's excellent posting of the comic characters side-by-side with his casting choices, at his blog address listed above.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Heres an easy trivia challenge for a rainy week: e-mail us at with your answer identifying the author of the following quote: "If the Golden Age Green Lantern's weakness is wood, and the Silver Age Green Lantern's weakness is the color yellow, then I could take the both of them out with a number two pencil!" As a clue to the answer, I made passing reference to this quote in one of my columns a few years ago. In the event of our receiving more than one correct answer, the winner of the first 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, October 1, 2010

Comic Reviews 10/01/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo offers no particular theme for our selected comcis for review this week, just four interesting-looking comics that he saw on display this past week on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment:

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? #15
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Philip K. Dick: Writer
Tony Parker: Art

BOOM! Studios is up to issue #15 in its 24-issue adaptation of writer Philip K. Dick's classic science fiction novel, "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?". The effort is not a graphic reinterpretation, but instead is a faithful word-for-word graphic adaptation of the entire original novel in 24 parts. Science fiction fans are no doubt aware that the classic novel was the basis for Director Ridley Scott's 1982 movie "Bladerunner," starring Harrison Ford as futuristic Los Angeles bounty hunter Rick Decker, assigned by the L.A. Police Dept. to search for and destroy human-seeming androids who have illegally returned to Earth in a desperate attempt to establish normal lives on a depopulated planet. I've reviewed a few early issues in this series and wanted to check-in with issue #15 to see how the series is progressing at this later stage in the storyline.

This latest issue gives us a 22-page installment in the ongoing adaptation of the novel. In previous issues, Decker has successfully discovered and killed many of the group of android returnees. This latest issue focuses on three of the surviving androids, Pris, Roy Batty and Roy's wife Irmgard, who are hiding-out in an abandoned L.A. apartment complex with one human neighbor, Isadore, who is unaware of their android origins. The storyline at this point is low on action, focusing more on an extended narrative in which the three fugitives plan an intricate defense of the building for the expected eventual arrival of Decker. There's also a cat-and-mouse intellectual thread to this issue's narrative, in which the threesome talk quite a bit about their dilemma in front of their human neighbor Isadore, teasing him with clues to their origin, none of which the good-hearted but dim-witted human picks-up on.

Artist Tony Parker continues in this latest issue to maintain the exceptional quality of the earlier issues in the series of faithfully presenting a major classic novel in graphic format. The beauty of this novel is writer Dick's ability to utilize a science fiction-based plot to transcend that genre of entertainment, giving us a modern American classic that addresses wider philosophical issues of what it means to be human and lead a worthwhiole life. The sci-fi plot and action are there, of course, but at certain points in the plot the more literate side of the story takes center stage. Issue #15 is one of those points in the tale; the three "replicants" discussing and worrying about their fate could be any real humans trying to deal with life situations. Ironically, at times they seen to be emotionally more human than many of the real people in the story.

While it all sounds like a story weighed-down by pretty heavy philosophy, its actually a lot more entertaining and enjoyable a read than that. On a final review note, its also a lot of fun to read this series and see what portions of the novel were either included or excluded from Ridley Scott's partial movie adaptation of the novel. So whether you're a hard-core Philip K. Dick fan, a general science fiction fan or just a comic book reader looking for something different to check out, this current issue and the rest of the series is a high quality and entertaining read, and continues to deserve a well-earned thumbs-up review recommendation.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dan Way & Marjorie Liu: Writers
Giuseppe Camuncoli: Pencils
Onofrio Catacchio: Inks
Frank D'Armata: Colors

After last week's review of the Wolverine-themed X-23 #1, my interest was piqued to read and review another of the several new titles that Marvel Comics has just started publishing under its new multi-title Wolverine event. So this week, we're reviewing Daken: Dark Wolverine #1. The new title is scripted by Dan Way and Marjorie Liu, with pencils by Giuseppe Camiuncoli, inks by Onofrio Catacchio and colors by Frank D'Armata. For the uninitiated, Daken is the son of Wolverine. A lengthy background narrative in the back of this issue details his personal history as a bad guy within the Marvel comic book universe.

Issue #1 is the kick-off installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Empire." The main purpose of this first story segment is to introduce the reader to Daken's place in the unfolding multi-story "Wolverine Goes To Hell" event. Daken is presented here in his civilian identity as a person who hangs-out in Milan, Italy within the world of high fashion. While his personaility simmers with evil, folks seem to not catch-on while he manipulates them for fun and other as yet undisclosed reasons. By issue's end, bad guy Daken's mind games have led to him murdering at least one person in the fashion world. Without being a story spoiler, the plot then reveals exactly why Daken was spending time for awhile in the world of high fashion. The issue #1 story segment concludes with a bridge to next month's issue, with Daken arriving in San Francisco and donning his bad guy costume in preparation for future mayhem.

I'm neither a regular reader of Marvel's Wolverine comics nor a big fan of comics that heavily feature blood and gutting a la Wolverine claw-style. So I'm personally not very entertained by this issue. But looking objectively at the quality of this effort for this type of comic, the issue is extremely well-done and deserves a postive thumbs-up as a successful effort within the genre of hack-and-slash comic-telling. The art team does a perfect job in conveying through Daken's facial expressions both his purely evil intent and his ability to mask it from folks at key moments. I also think it was a good idea to focus the entire first issue's plot on unfolding in painstaking detail the evil personality of Daken, in anticipation of whatever really bad stuff he initiates starting in next month's issue. So a deserved thumbs-up recommendation for this darkly-themed comic that holds some very interesting storyline potential within the Wolverine event series.

Darkstar & The Winter Guard #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Gallaher: Writer
Steve Ellis: Pencils
Scott Hanna: Inks
Val Staples: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #3 in a three-issue mini-series entitled "Darkstar & The Winter Guard." Since there are available copies of all three issues on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, I decided to review issue #1 to see if its worth reading this series from the beginning. The title is written by David Gallaher, with pencils by Steve Ellis, inks by Scott Hanna and colors by Val Staples. By way of background, Darkstar is a mutant superheroine created by Marvel back in the mid-1970's as a second-tier character. She was a mutant from the former Soviet Union who's appeared here and there in Marvel titles, including various X-Men and Champions storylines.

This new mini-series introduces a new young woman, Reena Stancioff, picking-up the Darkstar mantle as she joins a Russian-based superhero team called The Winter Guard. The plot starts with high action, as The Winter Guard teams-up with the American-based Agents Of Atlas superhero team in a battle against Atlantean bad guys. After winning the day, the story shifts to more personal issues, as two other members of The Winter Guard, Red Guardian and Crimson Dynamo, try to work-out their respective style and personality differences as team members. The story literally takes flight in the final third of the issue, as the team members jump into a crisis caused by an interdimensional rift in the space-time fabric. The main story is followed by a secondary story entitled "A Plague Among Us," featuring the X-Men visiting Russia.

I'm giving the lead Winter Guard story in this issue a mixed review, as an average to slightly below average tale. While the art style is a bit cartoony and the plot is light, it is interesting for a change of pace to read a story featuring a Russian team of heroes that echo the style of the more familiar American-based Marvel superhero team-ups. What really shines in this issue, however, is the back-up second story. The pencilling artwork by Brett Booth and Ron Lim is of very high quality, and the storyline, in which writer Joe Pruett puts the X-Men in Russia interacting with Darkstar, is actually much more engrossing than the lead storyline. Its unusual, in my experience at least, for a back-up story in a comic book to be of such higher quality than the main tale. But that is the unusual case here, to the point where I'd recommend reading this comic book, but suggest that you flip to the back and start with the second story and then read story number one as a follow-up.

Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton #2
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Cary Bates: Writer
Renato Arlem: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

Issue #2 has been released in DC's three-issue "Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton" mini-series. I reviewed issue #1 last month of this intriguing alternate/what if? version of the standard Superman tale, in which baby Kal-El actually arrives on Earth with his parents Jor-El and Lara. Veteran DC writer Cary Bates is scripting the series, with art by Renato Arlem and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

There's a lot of story advancement in this extra-sized, 48-page second installment in the tale. The twin younger brother and sister of Kal-El are growing-up fast, while Kal-El struggles to decide what his role in life on Earth should be. Parents Jor-El and Lara have settled into their decided roles in life, Jor-El as the head of an advanced scientific corporation (assisted by faithful employee and young genius Lex Luthor!) and Lara as the spiritual advocate for the Kryptonian lifestyle philosophy of Raoism. There's action aplenty mixed into the latest installment of this alternate history tale, including conflicts with an anti-El Family human terrorist group, the kidnapping by the group of the younger twin daughter and the family's struggle in dealing with a newfound element called kryptonite. By the end of this story segment, Kal-El as a young adult first dons the Superman hero costume and role as savior of Metropolis, a life decision which angers his father and distances himself from the rest of the close-knit El family.

By the time I finished reading this wonderfully creative what if? take on the classic elements of the Superman story, I felt as if I'd just read at least three issue's worth of high quality story material. Veteran writer Cary Bates and the art team are juggling several story themes and sub-plots beautifully, giving us a wide range of entertaining storylines. So much of the alternate storyline here is amazingly fresh and brand-new to the DC universe. I have two particular favorite new elements that are explored in this title. First is the alternate role of Bruce Wayne. In this tale, without giving spoiler details, the El family prevents the murder of Wayne's parents. As such, Batman never exists, while Bruce Wayne follows a different lifepath connected to the El family. The second element I enjoyed was the manner by which Kal-El still eventually becomes Superman. While he never undergoes the Superboy experience, fate still leads him to become the savior of Metropolis.

There's so much just plain good, entertaining alternate storyline stuff going-on in this title concept that my only review criticism is that I wish the title was scheduled for more than three issues. But that's all we readers have (for now, at least!), so enjoy the brief ride and if you haven't done so yet, get onboard and start reading this excellent addiition to the wide range of Superman Family titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to offer a suggestion for one of the free comics that are distributed nation-wide the first Saturday in May in celebration of national Free Comic Book Day. And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gordon Dupuis, with his entry for a Muppet Show comic book free giveaway. Gordon writes that "with at least two titles, going on at one time, hooking new readers would be a smart move. Boom! Kids does the Muppets properly, its perfectly suited for kids but with layers of puns, word-play and references that more than suffice to keep the interest of even the most sophisticated adult." A well-pitched case for this comic, Gordon, one that coincidentally mirrors my review of the Muppets comic book awhile ago. So congrats to our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

This week's contest winner, Gordon Dupuis, has also suggested our new contest challenge for you. Let's play the "Cast A Comic Movie" game! Your challenge is to think of yourself as a casting director, and e-mail us at with your suggested cast for a movie based on a comic book of your choice. As an example, Gordon suggests casting in a movie based on the comic "The Infinite Gauntlet" Michael Chicklis as Thanos, Gary Oldman as Mephisto and Leonardo DiCaprio as Adam Warlock. As for me, I still think Brad Pitt would be perfectly cast in a Green Lantern movie. So e-mail us soon with your great comic book movie casting ideas! Our selected contest winner will win a first prize $10.00 gift certificate to your favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment!

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