Friday, November 26, 2010

Comic Reviews 11/26/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that for this Thanksgiving holiday week, we review four comic books starring very well-known heroic figures, so let's see how these titles stack-up against each other:

The Spirit #8
Publisher: D.C. Comics
David Hine: Writer
Moritat: Art
Gabriel Bautista: Colors

DC Comics is up to issue #8 in its latest incarnation of Will Eisner's well-known detective-noir character, The Spirit. This current Spirit title is published as one of the many titles within DC's ongoing First Wave event, which reintroduces and supposedly reinterprets such Golden Age comic book and pulp fiction icons as Batman, Doc Savage, The Spirit, Rima The Jungle Girl, Blackhawks and many other fictional stars of that bygone era. Issue #8 is written by David Hine with art by Moritat and colors by Gabriel Bautista.

This issue is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Return Of Jimmy Bauhaus." The story begins in Central City's Wildwood Cemetary, which is also the location of Denny Colt/The Spirit's secret hideout. Our hero witnesses the funeral of Jimmy Bauhaus, a local gangster whose young widow is the daughter of another local crime family head. A mystery unfolds over the next several days, as The Spirit witnesses strange comings-and-goings by the young widow Bauhaus to the large family crypt. Colt begins to investigate and stumbles across a mystery that threatens to ignite an all-out, bloody crime war amongst the eight crime families of Central City. The issue #8 story segment climaxes in the second half of the story, as the widow supposedly murders a key crime family rival. In a dramatic bridge to next month's issue, The Spirit uncovers the real killer and faces death from the angry murderer.

This past year, I wrote one or two lukewarm reviews of early issues of DC's First Wave event titles. I'm happy to say that this latest effort is a major improvement on those earlier comic issues. Writer Hines is smart enough to only slightly modernize the story universe of The Spirit's art deco, mid-20th century detective world, while retaining the old school flavor that makes The Spirit such a wonderful comic book read. While he's retained the basic personalities of the characters, the tale is layered with a new element, that of eight city crime families who hate each other but are held together in an uncomfortable crime alliance under the control of The Spirit's archenemy, the unseen but all powerful Octopus. The result of this dynamic is a very rich and entertaining soap opera-like plot, full of intrigue and backstabbing (literally!) as these bad guys circle each other while The Spirit, Police Commissioner Dolan, his daughter the lovely Ellen and The Spirit's female sidekick Ebony work their way through the murder mystery.

So a positive review recommendation for this high quality addition to the rich and historical heritage of this iconic detective comic book icon, along with much credit due to the creative team for providing a much-improved addition to DC's ongoing First Wave event series. As a final review comment, there's also a very good black-and-white second story in this issue, equal in quality to the main feature.

Superman #705
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J. Michael Straczynski: Writer
Wellington Dias & Eddy Barrows: Pencils
J.P. Mayer & Eber Ferreira: Inks
Rod Reis: Colors

The main Superman title is up to issue #705 this month and continues the story concept begun several months ago as scripted by A-list writer J. Michael Straczynski, with pencils by Wellington Dias and Eddy Barrows, inks by J.P. Mayer and Eber Ferreira and colors by Rod Reis. For newcomers to the title, Straczynski is in the midst of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Grounded," in which Superman responds to a personal crisis of faith regarding his worth to mankind by deciding to literally walk across America and get a feel for everyday life. The series is similar in ways to the iconic 1970's Green Lantern-Green Arrow title created by Neal Adams, in which the leading heroes tried to identify with the life of everyday people in order to truly understand the people that they serve.

The part four installment of Grounded is sub-titled "Visitation Rights," and interweaves three sub-plots. In a brief but very moving storyline, Superman is shaken to learn that many average people resent the major damage caused by his well-known battles with villains, to the point where they fear being in his presence. A second storyline presents a mystery, as Superman is trailed by a seemingly ordinary woman who appears in a dream and actually unleashes forces that physically hurt The Man Of Steel back in the real world. The third sub-plot dominates most of the issue and centers on William, a physically-abused boy who eagerly anticipates Superman's walking trek arrival in his hometown of Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Without giving away any spoiler details, the story details William's brutal abusive home situation which Superman becomes embroiled in upon his arrival, with a conclusion to the situation by issue's end.

I've said it before and I'm paraphrasing my earlier comments again here: there's no one better than Straczynski at blending together a traditional comic book plotline with moving, emotional life lessons that add another realistic dimension to our favorite comic book characters. He's done it again here, overlaying a standard Superman tale involving Lois Lane and the mysterious stalker with a more significant, real world story that addresses the relevant issue of physical abuse. What really shines here is the conclusion to the abuse situation; instead of wrapping-up the problem in an expected comic book way, Straczynski instead has Superman address the situation more as a social service or police figure would, adding much credibility to the effort of The Man Of Steel's struggles both to understand the problems of ordinary folk and relate to people via more acceptable actions.

While it all sounds like heavy stuff, it actually is a lot more entertaining and comfortable to read in the capable scripting hands of Straczynski. So a positive recommendation for the good DC reader to add this latest Superman issue to your ever-growing pile of DC comics written by this very talented and gifted writer.

The Avengers #7
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
John Romita Jr.: Pencils
Klaus Janson: Inks
Dean White: Colors

Among the many Avengers-oriented titles these days is the Avengers series scripted by Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by John Romita Jr., inks by Klaus Janson and colors by Dean White. I reviewed a previous issue of this new series, which assembles a traditional Avengers membership under the leadership of the original Captain America, Steve Rodgers. A page one narrative in this month's issue #7 summarizes that the ongoing storyline so far includes the Avengers imprisoning bad guy The Hood, as well as the team experiencing an attack by former Avenger member Wonder Man, who unexpectedly opposes the reformation of the group. The narration also reveals the identity of the Red Hulk, which I won't reveal here as a spoiler for anyone who hasn't come across that identity in another Marvel comic book.

There are two alternating sub-plots in this issue. The lengthier storyline follows the efforts of an unnamed bad guy, as he travels to exotic places to retrieve certain mega-powerful stones that appear to provide him with immense power. His journey eventually crosses paths with the Red Hulk, leading to an immediate fight. The second storyline focuses on the Avengers themselves, as Thor and Iron Man confront Wonder Man regarding his animosity toward the group. Wonder Man neither explains why he's so angry at the team nor does he agree to back-off, foreshadowing a major confrontation in the near future. The issue concludes in a dramatic scene, in which a badly injured Red Hulk is tossed by the gem-collecting bad guy into a party held by The Avengers, and mumbles the guy's name to the assembled group.

This is an entertaining and interesting story segment featuring this particular mix of Avengers. I was particularly impressed with the multi-page confrontation between Thor/Iron Man and Wonder Man. The visuals of this scene are wonderful, with the art team presenting the trio as hovering over the Golden Gate Bridge as they have their serious discussion regarding their differences. The Avengers party scene also adds a fun dose of humor to the tale, as Spider-Man provides his usual wisecracks and everyone's completely flummoxed that new Avengers team member Noh-Varr brings a normal civilian girlfriend to the gathering. My only criticism is that for the casual reader such as myself, its very unclear as to who this mysterious gem-collecting bad guy is. The story would have been more enjoyable if his identity was clarified earlier in the unfolding of this story segment.

But irregardless of the bad guy's identity, this is a well-produced and entertaining Avengers story as crafted by A-list writer Brian Michael Bendis in partnership with veteran penciler John Romita Jr., and is well-worth the read.

Red Sonja #52
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Eric Trautmann: Writer
Walter Geovani: Art
Adriano Lucas: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment is up to issue #52 of its Red Sonja comic book line. The series is the latest incarnation of the sword-and-sorcery female warrior character created back in the early 1970's by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith within the original Marvel Comics Conan The Barbarian title. The current title is written by Eric Trautmann with art by Walter Geovani and colors by Adriano Lucas.

Issue #52 is part two in a multi-issue story arc entitled "Grim Tidings." In a complex tale of political intrigue, a page one narrative updates the reader as to the various maneuverings of several kingdoms in Red Sonja's story universe, as various royal leaders hire mercenaries to either lead or advise their armies against each other. After beating a local squad of soldiers, Sonja and her band of warrior brothers are hired by the king of the City-State of Shem to assist against gathering invading forces. The plot splits into two efforts; training the local inexperienced civilians for war and scouting-out the evil invaders. After a Sonja-led scouting mission discovers a huge invading force, Sonja and the local ruler receive a grim message from the evil leader of the invaders, in the form of the severed heads of another scouting party that included a member of Sonja's warrior band.

A few years back, I read the first year's worth of this title, then drifted away from it as the scripts seemed overly-focused on one-dimensional swordfight action. As such, I was very intrigued by the more evolved scripting approach of writer Eric Trautmann in this current story arc. Trautmann gives us a tale worthy of any skilled high fantasy fiction novelist, emphasizing at this stage of the tale the political maneuvering among the various kingdom's leadership factions. As these city-states jockey for regional political power, the favored military strategy is to hire skilled mercenaries to gain advantage against foes. Its intriguing in issue #52 to see a neighboring kingdom be manipulated into battle against Sonja's employer by an evil mercenary who schemes his way into controlling the host country's military. It should be very entertaining and interesting to see how the situation unfolds both on the impending battlefield and back home in each kingdom's royal court, as the multi-issue story arc continues.

So a positive thumbs-up review for this latest tale of our well-known swordswoman. The traditional high fantasy setting and action nicely combine with a strong element of palace intrigue and soap opera-like political manipulation to deliver an entertaining Red Sonja adventure within her dangerous ancient fantasy world.

Book Announcement!!!

That's Entertainment has just stocked copies of "Strange Mysteries 2", the science fiction, fantasy and horror short story anthology from Whortleberry Press (Jean Goldstrom, Editor) that includes my short story "The Proper Equipment." So if you're looking for something fun to read or give as a holiday gift, it's available at our favorite pop culture emporium, alongside copies of two other short story collections that include stories of mine, "Strange Stories Of Sand & Sea" (Fine Tooth Press) and "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country (Xlibris Press). Happy reading!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was once again taken straight from an episode of the t.v. sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," and challenged you to identify the iconic Silver Age issue of a DC comic book that was the subject of a bet between Sheldon and Howard. That's Entertainment owner Paul Howley was the first to correctly identify the comic book as Flash #123, the famous "Flash Of Two Worlds" cover. And the winner of our contest via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified this cover, which shows both the Golden Age and Silver Age Flashes racing each other to save a guy as a building beam is about to fall on him. If you haven't seen the cover its really neat and is on display from time-to-time in the display case at That's Entertainment. Congratulations to Kevin for winning the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!

Here's a change-of-pace type of comic book-based contest challenge for you. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenges you to e-mail us at and tell us your favorite name of one or more comic book characters. It can be an odd name, a name that just seems creative or appropriate for a character, a funny name, etc. Feel free to pitch the name of a well-known character or someone obscure. For example, one of my favorite comic book character names is Woozy Winks, Plastic Man's old sidekick. I just like the sound of this goofy character's name (Woozy Winks, Woozy Winks...). So e-mail us with one or more favorite or interesting names. Our first prize contest winner will receive the coveted $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

That's all for now, so hope you're having a great post-Thanksgiving holiday week along with a great comic book reading week, and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comic Reviews 11/19/10

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review four premier issues of new comic book titles this week, two from Marvel Comics and two from D.C. Comics, so let's see how these #1 issues stack-up against each other:

She-Hulks #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Harrison Wilcox: Writer
Ryan Stegman: Penciler
Michael Babinski: Inker

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of She-Hulks. As the latest addition to the Hulk family of comic book titles, She-Hulks co-stars Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk and Lyra/Savage She-Hulk. A page one narrative details to the uninformed reader that Jennifer is the original Hulk/Bruce Banner's cousin, while Lyra is the daughter of the Hulk from an alternate savage future reality, stranded here in our world. I was a huge fan of the award-winning She-Hulk title run of a few year's ago and as such wanted to check-out this latest version of all things Hulk.

Issue #1 is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Man Hunt," and introduces the main plotline, in which the Avengers have authorized Bruce Banner to lead the team of various Hulks to seek-out and capture various Marvel universe villains who have assembled in a new bad guy team known as The Intelligencia. The main storythread is action-oriented, as Jennifer and Lyra initially capture one super-villain and then pursue a second more dangerous bad guy. A second storyline threads throughout the issue, focusing on Jennifer helping Lyra adjust to life in her new secret identity as a high school-aged civilian. The pair settle in New York City, where Lyra begins to attend a local high school and has to deal with everyday high school situations such as fitting-in, maneuvering her way through the various high school student cliques, meeting guys, etc. The issue ends with the capture of the second super-villain and Jennifer announcing that the hunt for the team of bad guys has only just begun.

This is a very fun and entertaining new comic book for at least three reasons. As a child of the Silver Age, I grew-up with Bruce Banner as the only Hulk existing in the Marvel Universe. So its a lot of fun to have this large group of Hulks existing in Marvel Comics these days, and issue #1 of this comic infers that many of the other Hulks will be joining the two stars in future issues. Secondly, writer Harrison Wilcox gives us a strong storyline that nicely balances superhero action with the more personal sides of Jennifer and Lyra's lives. The sub-plot focusing on Lyra's attempts to fit-in as a "normal" teen are both funny and entertaining, as she consistently one-ups folks at her new high school without even realizing what she's doing. Third, the art team's style is top-notch, mixing standard panel lay-outs with one full-page panel of battle #1 and a two-page panel of battle #2 that are among the best visual action scenes to come along in comics over the past few years.

So a definite positive recommendation to check-out this latest addition to the Hulk family of comic book titles. Whether you're a She-Hulks fan or just a superhero comic book fan in general, you won't be disappointed with this fun new comic book title.

Ant-Man & Wasp #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Tim Seeley: Writer & Pencils
Victor Olazaba: Inks
Val Staples: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a three-issue mini-series starring the duo of Ant-Man & Wasp. The limited series is written by Tim Seeley, with pencils also by Tim Seeley, inks by Victor Olazaba and colors by Val Staples. The Wasp here is well-known Avengers scientist-member Hank Pym and Ant-Man is Eric O'Grady, a young man who has inherited the mantle of Ant-Man.

Issue #1 has two interweaving sub-plots. The first one introduces the reader to the current status of these two superheroes. Hank Pym/Wasp is the older, respected scientist member of The Avengers, while we learn that Eric/Ant-man is an arrogant, hard-drinking womanizer who doesn't take his superhero role seriously, focusing more on partying than his responsibilities. The two heroes are brought together when Ant-Man visits Hank Pym at Avengers headquarters and unwittingly assists a supernatural foe to access the building and steal an artifact on behalf of The Avengers traditional bad guy foes A.I.M. It's revealed that the artifact can have specific bad effect on one particular Avenger, whom I won't identify to avoid spoiling the details. By issue's end, after reviewing the situation with other Avengers members, its decided that Ant-Man and Wasp will team-up and take the first crack at retrieving the artifact.

This is a run-of-the-mill decent comic book. There's nothing heavy here in the way of a grand comic book event or new interpretation of certain superheroes. Instead, we're given a comfortable old school tale, reminiscent of comic book plotting back in the 1980's and 1990's, of Marvel superhero characters facing a traditional foe in a traditional type of confrontation and figuring-out how to deal with it all. This type of tale is a worthwhile balance to the many cutting-edge, grand mega-event stuff that comic book publishers like to prioritize these days. It should be entertaining to see how the good guys deal with both this struggle with A.I.M. and the threat to their friend over the course of the next two issues of this series. It should also be interesting to see how the immature Ant-Man (hopefully!) grows and changes for the better through this particular adventure.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Nick Spencer: Writer
Santiago Arcas: Colors

DC Comics has just published issue #1 in a revival of the Silver Age comic book Thunder Agents. For the uninitiated, the original comic series was published by Tower Comics beginning in 1965 and featured art by the iconic Silver Age artist Wally Wood. The superheroes in this team were an arm of the United Nations, fighting word-wide villainy under the acronym "The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves." The original series heroes included popular heroes Dynamo and No-Man, who were each spun-off into their own brief comic book titles.

The issue #1 story is entitled "The High Road." Its a very detailed story, densely packed with a mix of action and dialogue that introduces the reader to a complete revamping of the Thunder Agents comic book concept. There's a darker theme here, in which the origin details of the team are modernized based on the concept that the U.N. carefully selects candidates, then empowers them as superheroes with the expectation that the heroes will sacrifice their lives in the course of duty in dealing with some very unusual threats to mankind. Without going into heavy spoiler details, the issue #1 plot centers on both the deaths of current Thunder Agents and the recruitment of their replacements. There's also a detailed plot thread in which a very detailed plot of betrayal unfolds, leading to the heavy death toll of Thunder Agents who need to be replaced by issues end.

I'm giving this issue #1 debut a deserved positive recommendation based upon the quality of both writing and artwork. However, I honestly was creeped-out by the darkness of the storyline. I was a big fan of the 1960's comic title and still cherish my copy of issue #1 as autographed by Wally Wood. The new storyline is updated to our 2010 world and story sensibilities, and as such there's an incredibly heavy dose in this plot of nasty betrayal and sacrificing of lives. There's a very jaded and cold feel to the players in this story, with the good guys seeming as nasty and cold, if not moreso, than the evil guys. Think of a very hard-edged, bleak version of Warren Ellis's classic series Planetary and you get the picture. On its own, there's nothing wrong with that type of comic book tale, but its just kind of disappointing and grating to read such a harsh and cold reinterpretation of an iconic comic book series from a much simpler comic book reading time and place.

So again, a deserved thumbs-up for quality, but I have a feeling that a lot of old-time Thunder Agents fans are going to pass on continual, monthly reading of this series when they get exposed to the atmosphere of this bleaker version of an old-school iconic series.

The All New Batman: The Brave And The Bold #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Sholly Fisch: Writer
Rick Burchett: Pencils
Dan Davis: Inker

DC Comics has just begun publishing a new title of Batman: The Brave And The Bold. The comic book is based on the animated television series and is written by Sholly Fisch with pencils by Rick Burchett and inks by Dan Davis.

Issue #1 is a stand-alone, single-issue tale entitled "Bottle Of The Planets." The plot begins with a fun, three-page battle in which Batman and Black Canary defeat the Joker and his army of Joker robots. Superman quickly arrives on the scene and whisks Batman away to the famed bottled City of Kandor, where the two shrunken heroes are thown into working to solve a mysterious crime, in which someone is stealing pieces of technology which could be used as a dangerous weapon. Our costumed duo has to sift through many potential suspects, including various political leaders of the bottled city. There's robot fights and mystery throughout the tale, which climaxes in a creative sting operation by which Batman and Superman solve the crime.

My previous positive reviews of comics based on t.v. cartoon shows always point-out that the strength of the comic includes the fact that the quality of the writing and artwork are enjoyable for adult readers as well as children. While that's happily the case again here, there's also an extra positive writing element here, in that the plot successfully introduces young readers to well-known elements of the classic Superman-Batman partnership. The two heroes here talk about how they're both very different in personality and superhero style, yet are close friends who can work togther and respect each others strengths and weaknesses. So in addition to offering an entertaining comic book tale, the plot offers a worthy life lesson to young readers about valuing and respecting others who are different from oneself.

As such, I'd highly recommend this cartoon show-based comic book as a worthy addition to the many Batman-Superman varieties of storytelling out there in the wide world of DC publishing.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge came straight out of the final question round of a recent episode of Jeopardy, in which we asked you to name the only two countries in the world that have the letter "X" in their names. We had several correct entries, so by a random roll of the dice the winner from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please)...David Ruiz, who correctly identified Luxembourg and Mexico as the two countries. David further tells us that while he came-up with Mexico, his girlfriend identified Luxembourg. So David, you'd better split that $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment with your girlfriend, if you know what's good for you!

On a final contest note, Ken at That's Entertainment kiddingly took a guess at Texas rather than Mexico. However, Ken is correct in that science fiction alternate reality where Mexico won the Texas War Of Independence!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We have one more contest up our sleeve based on the television show "The Big Bang Theory," although I'm sure we'll think of more Big Bang Theory contest ideas as time goes by. In a particular episode last season, Sheldon makes a bet with Howard, wagering his precious copy of an iconic Silver Age edition of The Flash comic book that he keeps in a bank safety deposit box. Naturally, Sheldon loses the bet and has to relinquish his treasure to our favorite t.v. show lounge lizard.

As such, your contest challenge is to e-mail us at and tell us which issue of The Flash was used in the bet, and what is so neat and iconic about that issue's cover. As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, we'll select a winner of the $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment via a random roll of the dice.

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Comic Reviews 11/14/10

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week the premier #1 issues of three new comic book titles, so let's see how this trio of comics stack-up against each other:

Superboy #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jeff Lemire: Writer
Pier Gallo: Art
Jamie Grant: Colors

DC Comics has just published issue #1 of a new comic book title starring the Conner Kent version of Superboy. For the uninitiated, this version of Superboy is a clone created from a combination of Superman and Lex Luthor's respective DNA. In previous Superman Family comic book titles, Conner has come to live with Ma Kent in Smallville and after struggling with the idea of his mixed good-evil heritage and has decided to try and live in Smallville under his Conner Kent-Superboy dual identity, following Superman's boyhood path in developing into a hero for the cause of all good.

Issue #1 is part one of a multi-issue storyline entitled "Smallville Attacks!" The plot begins with The Phantom Stranger arriving in Smallville to warn Conner that some future action of his will put a loved one in grave danger. This warning is followed by an attack on Conner by super-villain The Parasite, who wants to drain Conner's powers to use against Superman. The bulk of the issue unfolds as a mega-battle between the pair both within and eventually just outside of Smallville. After Superboy creatively defeats the villain, the issue ends with a dramatic bridge to next month's issue, as a surprise character from the Batman story universe arrives in Town and dramatically announces that its too late to save Smallville from The Phantom Stranger's prophecy.

I enjoyed this comic book very much for a bunch of reasons. The artwork is exceptional, with Pier Gallo including some aerial scenes of breathtaking beauty which emphasize the rural loveliness of Smallville, Kansas. Secondly, Krypto is prominently by Conner's side throughout this storyline; I'm a huge Krypto fan, so any comic book co-starring our favorite super-pup has redeeming qualities in my eyes, irregardless of any other features of the story. Third, there are two very interesting support characters in this new comic book title: Lex Luthor's friendly (and apparently love-smitten) niece Lori and Conner's best friend, brainy Simon Valentine, who dramatically announces to Conner that he knows he's Superboy, just as the battle action starts. It should be fun to see how this threesome interacts with each other as future monthly issues unfold.

And finally, with being a spoiler, I just love writer Jeff Lemire's choice of the Batman universe character who arrives in Smallville at the end of this issue. This is a never, ever before-seen pairing in the DC Universe of these two characters, who at first seem completely incompatible and unlikely allies, but who have the potential for giving us a very fresh and entertaining storyline in upcoming issues. So for for all of these reasons, issue #1 of this latest incarnation of a Superboy title deserves both my positive review thumbs-up and your worthy comic book-reading attention.

Carnage #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Zeb Wells: Writer
Clayton Crain: Art

Marvel Comics has recently begun publishing a five-issue mini-series entitled Carnage, starring the team-up of Spider-Man and Iron Man. Issue #1 is part one of a storyline entitled (naturally) Carnage and is written by Zeb Wells with art by Clayton Crain.

The main plotline focuses on a monstrous, howling six-armed version of Spider-Man running amok through New York City. Peter Parker/Spider-Man identifies the thing as a follower of the supervillain Carnage. As the normal Spidey and Iron Man take-on the creature, its clear that the monster has a desperate motive of reaching some person, which it tries to communicate to the pair as it fixates on reaching an armored car. The issue #1 story segment concludes on two notes. First, two figures in Iron Man-type suits named Royal Blue and Firebrick show-up at the battle and kill the creature. Secondly, its revealed that the person said creature was trying to reach is a particular Marvel universe villain being transported in the armored car, whose identity I won't reveal as a spoiler.

My reaction to this comic book is to give it a mixed review. Its not a terrible comic, but it could just be a whole lot better. Writer Zeb Wells scatters thin slices of his basic plot here and there in the issue, all the while overwhelming those plot details and mystery elements with just too much focus on the battle scene, which occupies almost every single page of this issue. A much better quality product and much more entertaining issue would have resulted by cutting the battle stuff in half and expanding the potentially interesting plot details, such as the mystery of the connection between the monster and the end-of-issue supervillain, and expanding a very brief sub-plot involving Tony Stark and a corporate rival inventor.

I was also at a loss regarding the identity of the two wannabe Iron Men who show up on the battlescene, as to whether these guys are new Marvel characters created here by writer Wells or serve as carryovers from some other Marvel comic book. And finally, I'm just not a fan of the extremely dark and dreary colorization and graphic style presented in this comic book. So while there's some good story elements scattered a bit throughout this issue, its not enough for me to recommend a read of this new series unless you're a very loyal fan of Spidey and Iron Man and want to cover all the bases of various versions of this twosome out there in today's Marvel publishing universe. Maybe the cobwebs (no pun intended) will shake-out in this mini-series in future issues, but I'm not feeling it.

One final positive observation, however. There's a funny Spider-Man themed Mazda automobile ad on the back cover of this issue, with a cute play on words on the well-known "with great power comes great responsibility" Spider-man quote, that's worth taking a look at.

Generation Hope #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kieron Gillon: Writer
Salvador Espin: Art
Jim Charalampidis: Colors

Our third premier comic book title this week is issue #1 of Generation Hope, published by Marvel Comics. The comic is written by Kieron Gillon with art by Salvador Espin and colors by Jim Charalampidis. The title stars Hope Summers, the young X-Gene mutant who was raised in the future by Cyclops's son Cable and has starred in an extensive Hope Summers and Cable series of comics prior to this new title.

Issue #1 is part one of a multi-issue storyline entitled "The Future Is A Four-Letter Word." A page one narrative explains that having returned to the present day from her previous adventures with Cable, with the assistance of the X-Men, Hope has gathered together four fellow mutant teens; by touching each of them, she has helped them gain control over their out-of-control mutant powers. In this issue #1 plotline, Hope, her new group of four teens, Cyclops and Wolverine travel to Tokyo to help a fifth known out-of-control young mutant, who has morphed into an out-of-control giant monster-that-ate-Tokyo. The issue interweaves two sub-plots. In the first, we meet each of the group of new teen mutants and learn their thoughts, hopes and fears about their new team situation. In the second, the entire group confronts the out-of-control Tokyo mutant teen, with the issue ending in a large-scale acceleration of the battle, which no doubt will continue at the center of next month's issue #2.

This is an entertaining comic book for a few reasons. First, I enjoyed very much the character of Hope Summers in the issue of Cable that I reviewed last year, so its satisfying to see Marvel continue to progress her adventures within the Marvel comic book universe. Writer Kieron Gillon gives us a very interesting and entertaining plot concept, that of Hope and the X-Men gathering newly-emerging mutants and using Hope's touch abilities to assist them in gaining mastery over their out-of-control powers. Its very creative for Gillon to place the final, most dangerous mutant in trouble in a Tokyo setting, echoing the well-known Godzilla monster movies set in the same locale. The art team's style is very appropriate to this comic book setting and the dialogue is engaging, particularly the thought narratives as each character conducts an inner dialogue with themselves regarding the stress of joining the new team.

As a final comment, its worth noting that the main story is followed by an eight-page illustrated narrative entitled "The Saga Of Hope," which provides a detailed and very useful summary of the adventures of Hope Summers to-date in various Marvel comic books, followed by a list of nine softcover reprints of the various Hope Summers/Cable tales. So a very well-deserved positive review recommendation to read this latest installment in the ongoing Marvel Comics adventures of Hope Summers, her new emerging team of teen mutants and the original X-Men.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to rename Marmon Place, the private way next to That's Entertainment, with a name appropriate to the theme of our favorite pop culture emporium. For example, Ken at That's Entertainment suggested renaming the street as Lois Lane! Ken and I also together brainstormed the idea of going the Superman route and renaming the street "Truth, Justice And The Amercian Way!"

And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Gordon Dupuis, who suggests renaming the road as Wonder Way. Gordon adds "after a being a regular for eight years I'm still washed with an overpowering sense of coolness and creativity every time I step through the door." The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges agreed that the name "Wonder Way" serves as an appropriate symbol for the whole range of wonderful things that That's Entertainment represents for all of us fanboys and fangirls, alike. Congrats to Gordon, who wins the contest first prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to you-know-where.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's cleanse our contest palates this week with a simple, standard trivia contest. This question was actually the final question at the end of a recent episode of Jeopardy. We wanted to use it this week, because while it seems potentially deceptive, it was actually a very straightforward question to answer. So e-mail us at and tell us what are the only two countries on Earth (yes, just Earth, no other planets, please!) that have the letter "X" in their countries name. As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet will be selected from among the correct entries by a roll of the dice.

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comic Reviews - 11/5/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review an eclectic mix of comic books this week, including the return of two classic titles, the lates
t issue of a Marvel title and the premier issue of a new Top Cow title:

Warlord Of Mars #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Arvid Nelson: Writer
Stephen Sadowski: Art
Adriano Lucas :Colors

Dynamite Entertainment has recently issued the latest comic book presentation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic science fiction novel series Warlord Of Mars. The title is scripted by Arvid Nelson with art by Stephen Sadowski and colors by Adriano Lucas. I was a fan of the 1970's "John Carter, Warlord Of Mars" comic book version of the series, as published by Marvel Comics, and was interested in reviewing this latest incarnation of the story to see how it compares to earlier versions as well as to the original tale in novel form.

Issue #1 is the first installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "A Tale Of Two Planets." The story introduces two of the main characters by alternating between an Earth-based and a Mars-based sub-plot, both of which will lead in future monthly installments to American John Carter's Mars-based adventure. In the first storythread, we're introduced to Confederate war veteran John Carter as he experiences a violent and deadly shoot-out in an 1866 Arizona saloon, as he and his gold-prospecting partner face-down Federal soldiers. The second storythread introduces us to Martian warrior Tars Tarkas, as he and a fellow warrior have a high action battle with wild Martian white apes in rescuing captured Martians from near-death at the hands of the savage apes. While both stories are very battle-oriented, they also portray the respective subtle personality traits of John Carter and his future Martian friend Tars Tarkas.

While the art and storytelling are both strong and entertaining in this premier issue, I was most impressed with the decision by writer Arvid Nelson to approach this retelling of the well-known science fiction classic tale by literally presenting a prequel to the main storyline. I fully expected a kick-off Martian adventure in which John Carter arrives on Mars and begins the well-known warlord tale. Instead, writer Nelson evenly paces us with a first issue in which the Mars adventure is a mere foreshadow. The strategy is very effective, in that the reader gains much worthwhile knowledge about the respective backgrounds and circumstances of Carter and Tarkas, all of which should add a lot more depth to upcoming adventure segments of the unfolding storyline. While John and Tars experience two very different respective adventures in issue #1, both sub-plots are linked with the theme that both men have the same character trait of standing-up for the innocent in the name of justice. This issue #1 portrayal will strengthen the partnership between the pair as they meet-up on Mars in future issues that no doubt will be filled with exotic pulp-style action and adventure.

While hardcore fans may be disappointed that the Mars-based adventure doesn't kick-in in issue #1, I think they'll also be highly entertained by the separate but parallel backstory tales of these two interplanetary adventurers, as will new readers who are unfamiliar with this classic science fiction tale. So my positive thumbs-up review is for readers who enjoy both the classic science fiction and general action-adventure storytelling genres to consider giving a read to this worthy new interpretation of a well-known classic story series.

Conan #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Kurt Busiek: Writer
Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors

Dark Horse Comics is reprinting its 2004 reinterpretation of the classic Conan The Barbarian series, with issue #1 on the new issues comic book shelves at an introductory $1.00 price. The series is a reinterpretation of the barbarian warrior series best known in both its original form by novelist Robert E. Howard, as well as from the award-winning and long-lasting Marvel Comics series. The Dark Horse Comics series is written by A-list veteran writer Kurt Busiek with art by Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates, and colors by Dave Stewart.

Issue #1 is entitled "Out Of The Darksome Hills," a title which literally kicks-off the story as Conan emerges out of the hills to rescue a woman whose village is savagely attacked by her tribe's enemies. Conan quickly gets pulled-into village intrigue in three ways. First, the menfolk of the village who return home after the attack are untrusting and ungrateful toward our hero. Secondly, the fair blond maiden whom Conan rescued has eyes for him, thereby leading to animosity from her spurned village suitor. And finally, Conan makes a seemingly bad choice in agreeing to join the village men in a counterattack against their enemies. The issue ends with hints that the village chief is setting Conan up for trouble, as is the jealous spurned boyfriend of the blond fair maiden.

I'm not a huge fan of the sword and chainmail genre of action adventure, and admit that I've never read more than a handful of the iconic Marvel Comics run of this hero. That said, I was highly entertained as a relative outsider to the ancient storytelling world of Conan. The art here is exquisite, with the art team combining formal, oil-painting style visuals with a strong talent for a range of facial emotions for the various characters. A-list veteran writer Kurt Busiek brings a nice blended balance to his script between old-school sword adventure and soap opera-like intrigue amongst the players in this ancient tale. I also enjoyed the element of Conan's bigger adventure in this series, as he tells his tale to the village chieftan of why he left his native land of Cimmeria and what his ultimate goal is in undertaking his travel adventure.

My only constructive criticism is that the plot establishes this version of Conan as being a 16-year-old teenager, a point that the artistic team seems to ignore when in certain scenes he's drawn to look as old or older than the well-known Marvel Comics adult version of Conan. That point aside, for the price of a buck its a nice bargain to give this reissuance a shot and add it to your ever-growing pile of new issues comic book reading.

Secret Avengers #6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker: Writer
Mike Deodato: Art
Rain Beredo: Colors

Among the many Avengers titles being published these days, Marvel Comics is up to issue #6 of the Secret Avengers title. The series stars a version of the Avengers in which the team functions as a secret black ops unit, led by Captain America and including Moon Knight, War Machine, Beast, Ant-Man, Black Widow, Valkyrie and Sharon Carter. The series is scripted by veteran writer Ed Brubaker with art by Mike Deodato and colors by Rain Beredo.

Issue #6 is part one of a five-issue story arc entitled "Eyes Of The Dragon." The issue begins in Hong Kong with high action, as Shang-Chi, Master Of Kung Fu is attacked by assassins from a martial arts order that is loyal to his dead father. The Avengers soon arrive on the scene, and inform Shang-Chi that the order is seeking a pair of mystical ancient gems, the Eyes Of The Dragon, which they intend to use to resurrect Shang-Chi's evil dead dad. By issue's end, the threesome of Shang-Chi, Captain America and Black Widow have followed a lead on the location of the gems to a Hong Kong museum exhibit, thereby triggering a trap. The story segment ends in a dramatic bridge revealing that the dead bad guy has already been partially resurrected and is seeking the gems to fully restore his human form.

This is a solid average comic tale that delivers a nice mix of constant action, thriller-style plot mystery and effective dialogue to move the multi-issue plot forward. It was interesting to read a story featuring this particular blend of Avengers team members. While all of the team members couldn't be prominently featured in this one issue story segment, the mix of Captain America, Black Widow, Sharon Carter and guest character Shang-Chi worked very well together to provide both entertaining story action and plot progression. It's also mentioned in a page-one narrative that an evil lifelike model decoy of Nick Fury is in the story mix, and he's briefly present in one story panel late in the issue. It should be interesting to see how the evil Nick Fury duplicate fits into future segments of this ongoing storyline.

So another positive thumbs-up recommendation for you to add this interesting alternative Avengers team to your reading schedule if you haven't done so already. And if you have been reading this title, I'd recommend that you stick with it if issue #6 is any indication of the ongoing quality of this series.

Pilot Season: Crosshair #1
Publisher: Image Comics & Top Cow Productions
Jeff Katz: Writer
Allan Jefferson: Pencils
Jordi Terragona: Inks
Michael Atiyeh: Colors

Image Comics/Top Cow Productions is currently publishing an interesting contest concept called "Pilot Season." The idea is to publish five very different single-issue comics as experimental "pilot" issues and have readers vote for their favorite, with the highest vote-getter moving into monthly production. Of the five comic books in the contest, I chose to read and review an action hero espionage-themed comic book entitled Crosshair. The comic book is written by Jeff Katz, with pencils by Allan Jefferson, inks by Jordi Terragona and colors by Michael Atiyeh.

Crosshair stars Justin Weller, a former U.S. government black ops assassin who retired ten years ago and now lives a peaceful suburban life with his wife and young daughter. That life is quickly shattered when "Mother," Weller's old female team leader, inexplicably sends his old teammates in to kill him. The bulk of the issue consists of the firefight between Weller and his old buddies, as it ranges throughout his suburban neighborhood. After killing the entire hit squad, Weller heads for Washingon, D.C. to find Mother and get some answers. The issue ends on a very dramatic note, as its revealed that Mother is actually now the first female U.S. President and that she actually wants Weller to access the White House and confront her.

This is a pretty good entry to this "Pilot" contest. The story moves at a fast but clearly-understood pace, with lots of thriller espionage action. As a very entertaining plot element, writer Katz reveals how Weller anticipated an eventual attack and designed many neighborhood amenities (kid's treehouse, etc.) as tools to help him in such an attack. I also really liked the surprise ending revealing Mother's true present role in the U.S. government. The creative team reveals this end-of-story unexpected twist very effectively, leaving the reader to definitely want to read another issue to find out exactly why "President Mother" has set this sequence of events into action. My only criticism is that many of the neighborhood battle panels are ridiculously gory, i.e., with eyeballs being shot out of people's faces. If this comic book wins the contest, I'd recommend toning-down some of the stupid blood and gore.

So while I haven't read the other four titles in this Pilot Season contest, I'd recommend both reading this contest entry as a stand-alone action-espionage thriller and consider checking-out the other four entries in this interesting contest (and voting for a winner, too!).

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We ended the baseball season this past week (congrats to the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants!) with a baseball trivia contest, asking you to tell us what are the only two teams left in all of Major League Baseball who haven't had an appearance yet in the World Series. And our contest winner via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please...) Tom Courchaine, who correctly identified the two teams as the former Montreal Expos-now Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners. Congratulations to Tom for winning the $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's a fun contest challenge for all fans of our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment. You may think that the store parking lot is just a run-of-the-mill parking lot, but if you're observant, you'll notice a sign right next to the store proclaiming that the pavement is actually a private city street named Marmon Place. You're contest challenge this week is to e-mail us at and suggest a name change for said private street that would be more compatible with That's Entertainment. It could be a comic book-related name suggestion, a popular-culture or gaming theme, etc. Use your imagination and come-up with a street name that all fans of our favorite pop culture emporium would be proud of!!!

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