Friday, December 31, 2010

Comic Reviews 1/1/11

Here In Bongo Congo

For our end-of-the-year review column, Good King Leonardo has decreed that we ring-out 2010 with an eclectic mix of comics to review, one DC comic, one Marvel comic and two independent publisher comic books:

Adventure Comics #521
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Levitz: Writer
Geraldo Borges & Marlo Alquiza: Art

DC's long-running flagship title Adventure Comics is up to issue #521 this month, with a lead story starring The Legion Of Super-Heroes and a second story starring The Atom. The main Legion story is scripted by Paul Levitz with art by Geralso Borges and Marlo Alquiza. The Atom tale is written by Jeff Lemire with pencils by Mahmud Asrar, inks by John Dell and colors by Pete Pantazis.

The Legion story is entitled "The Summons Of The Ring" and is part one of a new multi-issue story arc. The plot kicks-off with the arrival at 31st century Legion headquarters of Dyogene, an alien creature from Oa, the homeworld of the Guardians of the Green Lantern Corps. Dyogenes announces that he will anoint a new Earth Green Lantern from amongst the ranks of the Legion members. The bulk of this story segment unfolds with the various Legion members going about their various Legion duties as they mull over the pending selection. I won't spoil the selection surprise beyond noting that by stories end, Dyogenes selects a Legion member, who immediately accepts the role as Earth's 31st centruy Green Guardian. As a brief mention of the back-up Atom tale, the plot focuses on The Atom teaming-up with his civilian scientist uncle to combat bad guys wielding nano-technology, with the story segment ending in a cliffhanger as the bad guys hold The Atom's dad hostage.

I enjoyed both stories very much. Veteran DC writer/editor Paul Levitz by now certainly knows his way around the details of the 31st century Legion of Super-Heroes universe. Levitz seamlessly blends three story elements together very well: smoothly introducing the many, many members of the Legion into the brief, half-issue story segment, incorporating a few sub-plots of Legion action events and progressing the main storythread of a new Earth Green Lantern selection process. I loved the actual selection of the new Lantern, who is an excellent choice and should provide some fun plot details as this multi-issue story moves forward. A positive review thumbs-up is also deserved for the second Atom tale in this issue. Nothing earth-shaking with this story, just an entertaining little Atom script (pun intended) in which our small hero does his best to battle bad guys alongside his uncle and rescue his kidnapped dad.

So a definite thumbs-up review recommendation to get your traditional, old-school DC universe entertainment fill for this week with this fun two-story issue of Adventure Comics.

Fantastic Four #583
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Steve Epting: Art
Paul Mounts: Colors

Marvel Comics kicks-off in the current issue #583 of the Fantastic Four its well-publicized supposed death of one of the Fab Four. The story arc is entitled "Three" and is written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Steve Epting and colors by Paul Mounts. For the uninitiated, this creative team has received much acclaim in the past year or so for revitalizing this long-lasting Marvel comic book title with exciting storylines featuring science fiction plots on a grand adventure scale, in balance with excellent plot details regarding the personal lives and issues of the Fantastic Four family members.

This Part One of the "Three" storyline is subtitled "In Latveria, The Flowers Bloom In Winter," and unfolds with two interweaving storythreads. The briefer storyline is a high action plotthread, as the FF fight a battle at the edge of the forever city of The High Evolutionary. This is a follow-up to previous FF issues in which several science fictional cities emerge at various locations around Earth. But this action-adventure is overshadowed by the main storyline, in which Reed and Sue's genius daughter Valeria teleports to Latveria to try and enlist Victor Von Doom to assist her father in an unexplained ciritical effort. Genius Valeria quickly realizes that Doom has lost his genius intellect (apparently detailed in previous issues) and deftly strikes a bargain with the evil dictator, in which he agrees to assist the girl-genius in exchange for her restoring him to his previous intellectual brilliance.

The creative team continues its iconic run in this title with the kick-off to another exciting major multi-issue story arc. Writer Jonathan Hickman once again proves his skill in delivering a comic book superhero-themed tale on a grand scale of science-fiction adventure. Hickman's style is to progress a story far and fast in each issue's story segment, and he does so again here, progressing the tale with lots of action but maintaining the sense of mystery and anticipation that hooks the reader into wanting to stick with the adventure through each monthly issue. I particularly got a kick out of a dramatic issue-ending, two-page bridge to next month's issue, which pulls The Silver Surfer into the story situation in a very clever and dramatic way.

My only constructive review criticism of the issue is to suggest that Hickman and team tone-down a bit the precociousness of genius FF daughter Valeria. She comes off a bit too smug and know-it-all at times, to the point where I wanted her to trip-up in her efforts just to wipe the self-satisfied smugness off of her face. But that minor peeve aside, there isn't a comic book title out there these days doing a better job of providing grand-scale science fiction in a traditional super-hero story-setting, so a strong recommendation here not to miss this interesting and enjoyable adventure as it plays-out toward the big "death of an FF member" finale.

The One #2
Publisher: GG Studio
Giuliano Monni & Davide Rigamonti : Writers
Pasquale Qualano: Pencils
Alessia Nocera & Andrea Errico: Colors

Issue #2 of a comic book entitled "The One" caught my eye this past week as I wandered the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment. The comic is an English translation of an Italian comic book published by GG Studio. The series is written by Guiliano Monni and Davide Rigamonti with art by Pasquale Qualano, Alessia Nocera and Andrea Errico.
The setting of this title mirrors the fictional universe of Tolkien's well-known Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The story begins with Sadhel and Erara,two female representatives of tribes of enchanted forest people, arguing over whether or not to ally with the mistrusting human tribes, in anticipation of some sort of upcoming epic war. The plot next shifts to a personal love story between a human man, Masdhin, and his enchanted girlfirend, Faras. We learn detailes of their relationship history via flashback, then in the present we follow Masdin's attempt to rescue Faras who's been captured by some bad enchanted folk. The issue ends wirth the duo, aided by a troll sidekick, on the run from the bad guys.
In many ways, this title is a warmed-over version of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, i.e., enchanted and human tribes and individuals jockeying for position and gain in the shadow of an upcoming huge military confrontation. But it is entertaining in its own right. The art is exquisite, with loads of gorgeous warrior women drawn in the style of the late great Michael Turner. The dialogue is a bit detailed and complex, to the point where I did have to double-back and check a few previous pages to understand the story progression. But more importantly, the plot is interesting and the characters are very credible. So if you're a fan of high fantasy, I think that you'll enjoy this particular Italian-imported interpretation of the type of fantasy world that Tolkien is so well-known for creating.

The Cape #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Jason Ciaramella: Writer
Zach Howard: Art
Nelson Daniel: Colors

The Cape is a new comic book title just published by IDW Publishing. The series is written by Jason Ciaramella with art by Zach Howard and colors by Nelson Daniel. The credits explain that Ciaramella's script is the adaptation of a short story entitled "The Cape," written by Joe Hill.

The main character of The Cape is Eric, whom the first half of the issue follows from childhood to his 20-something years. Playing superhero as a kid and wearing the aforementioned Cape, Eric has a brutal injury falling from a tree. It's all downhill from there, as the plot follows Eric through years of injury pain and general behavior negativity. His relationship with loving girlfriend Angie can't stop him from spiraling down to the very bottom rung of the loser ladder. After being dumped by Angie and crashing in his mother's basement, Eric finds his old childhood cape and discovers that it gives him the power to fly. In this case, I'll gladly provide the dramatic ending spoiler: our boy Eric is a rotten-to-the core loser who uses the cape to take ex-girlfriend Angie for a Lois Lane-Superman type flight and thus slaughter her with a bloody drop from high altitude. Next issue's theme: how a rotten guy uses a found power for further rottenness.

I'll get to the heart of this review recommendation fast-this is the worst comic book that I've reviewed among the hundreds I've reviewed over the past few years. The plot twister could have been creative, in that one assumes until the last few pages that the cape will offer Eric the chance to turn his life around for good instead of being a tool for Eric to go the evil route. But all of the details of the story just plain radiate grossness and disgust, from Eric's needlessly rotten attitude to every decent person in his life to the culmination of this issue, when he disgustingly slaughters his girlfriend and is proud of it. A story can be dark and gross but of high quality if there's some redeeming value in the tale. None of that element is even hinted of here, so its not worth sticking around for even one issue's worth of viewing this disgusting creep's life. So don't waste a dime on this failure of a story presentation.

One final important review comment. This waste of paper has nothing to do with the upcoming new superhero television series "The Cape," premiering on January 9 on NBC. So give the television show a try and read some other comic book.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
Our latest contest challenge posed the following question: what is the one sport in which the defense controls the ball? We had several correct entries, so by a roll of the dice our winner is (drumroll, please)...Stan Hosmer, who correctly identified baseball as the sport in which the defense controls the ball. Congrats to Stan on winning the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Challenge!!!
It's time to ring-out 2010 and ring-in 2011, so let's have an appropriate end-of-the year contest. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenge you to e-mail us at and submit to us your entries for Most Favorite and Least Favorite comic books of 2010. Feel free to nominate in these categories either your most or least favorite individual issues or a comic book title in general, and tell us a little bit about why you like and/or dislike your entries so much. As always, our first prize contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to 2010 and 2011's favorite pop culture emporium, That's Entertainment!!!
That's all for now, so have a very Happy New Year and a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Comic reviews 12/25/10

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review an eclectic mix of comics this holiday week, so let's start with the unfamiliar supernatural and then move on into the familiar world of superheroes:

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called #3
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Patricia Briggs and David Lawrence: Writers
Amelia Woo: Art

Issue #3 of this supernatural-themed comic book title is currently on the new issues shelves. The series is based on author Patricia Briggs's popular fiction novel series starring (who else) Mercy Thompson. For the uninitiated, Mercy is a car mechanic living in Washington state in a town full of supernatural beings (i.e.,werewolves, vampires, the usual lot). She's apparently a "walker," a last-of-her-kind magical being with the power to shapeshift at will into a coyote. So she's not exactly a "were-coyote," having more of a higher, independent control over her abilities/talents.

This latest issue is part three of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Moon Called." The plot begins with fast action, as a shotgun-toting Mercy races to a werewolf neighbor's house after she finds a murdered teen on her doorstep, only to stumble into a fight to the death between her transformed neighbor and an attacking werewolf. Mercy kills the attacker, but not before her neighbor Adam is badly wounded. The bulk of the remaining storyline follows with Mercy racing against time to get her wolf-neighbor help at another town full of enchanted characters. Without giving away any spoiler details, Marcy's arrival at the safehaven town sets off a host of soap opera-like conflicted feelings in her regarding painful past relationships with some townfolk, including an old werewolf boyfriend. The issue ends in a bridge to next month's story segment, as after ignoring a friend's warning to just sit tight for awhile, Mercy gets impulsive and transforms to coyote form, in order to seek-out her ex-boyfriend who's off in the wild in his own wolf form.

My fear going into reading and reviewing this title was that it might turn out to be a wannabe Twilight series, given the immense popularity of that supernatural teen heartthrob franchise. Happily my fears were unwarranted, as the series stands very strongly on its own unique legs as an entertaining supernatural storyline. Patricia Briggs collaborates in this comic book series with co-writer David Lawrence, and the pair structure a very well-crafted graphic tale mixing supernatural elements, mystery thriller plot details and standard relationship fiction. I was unfamiliar with the Mercy Thompson fiction character and enjoyed learning about her unique walker/coyote power, which makes for a fresh approach to the standard werewolf story structure. While there's a lot of good stuff in this comic for fans of supernatural fiction, there's also a nice mainstream fiction plotline threaded throughout the tale, of a fiercely independent loner woman struggling to maintain her cherished independence while being pulled against her will back into difficult past relationships. My only review criticism of this comic is about the lettering, of all things. There are several major lettering misspellings in the dialogue that actually garble the narrative at times, so here's hoping that the good editors at Dynamite double-check the letterer in upcoming issues of this title.

So a definite positive thumbs-up recommendation for Mercy Thompson. If you're a fan of the supernatural, this is an excellent addition to the many new comics titles available in that genre. And even if the supernatural isn't your reading preference, that genre is balanced in this comic with enough mystery and mainstream fiction story elements to give any comic book fan their money's worth of an entertaining read.

Green Lantern/Plastic Man: Weapons Of Mass Deception (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marv Wolfman: Writer:
Brent Anderson: Art

DC Comics has just issued an oversized one-shot special comic book teaming-up Green Lantern and Plastic Man in a story entitled "Weapons Of Mass Deception." The issue is written by veteran scripter Marv Wolfman with art by Brent Anderson. Older fanboys and fangirls will remember Wolfman as one of the leading comic book writers at both DC and Marvel back in the day, known among his many outstanding efforts as the 1970's creator of the Marvel character Nova and co-creator of Black Cat, as well as the creator behind the resurgance of DC's Teen Titans in the 1980's. Brent Anderson is also very accomplished, including his groundbreaking work in partnership with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross on Astro City.

The plotline of Weapons Of Mass Deception focuses on an alien conspiracy against Earth. The story breaks-down into three plot segments. Section one details Plastic Man's effort to explain and convince Hal Jordan/Green Lantern that he's stumbled upon an alien conspiracy against Earth involving alien weaponry. The mid-section of the tale unfolds with the pair discovering that a duck-like alien group of bad guys are out to conquer Earth by duping American Earth criminals into doing their dirty work for them. And the third segment of the tale advances the action by alternating between our two heroes fighting the aliens in outer space and turning the tables against them on Earth by convincing the duped criminals to place Earth's well-being above their criminal instincts. Obviously, by issue's end, the good guys prevail.

I'm very conflicted about this comic book, ultimately giving it a lukewarm, middle-of-the-road positive recommendation. The basic plotline concept is o.k., effectively mixing together Green Lantern's world of aliens and space adventure with Plastic Man's world of ordinary, Earth-bound crimefighting. The problem is that Marv Wolfman's plot details and narrative dialogue is out-of-date for today's 2010 comic book reading-public. The slang and behavior of the characters are so "1980's" that after awhile its actually uncomfortable reading these story details. Its like watching an over-the-hill lounge act in Vegas desperately trying to be hip and relevant. The duck-aliens particularly don't work for me; they're either a flat insiders joke on Wolfman's iconic Howard The Duck work in the 1980's, or just a very stale and creaky idea for outer space villains.

These weighty negatives aside, three elements save the story from a thumbs-down recommendation. The first is a decent general underlying story concept, of combined space and Earth-bound superhero adventure to save Earth from alien dominance. The second is a quality sub-plot woven throughout the tale, in which Green Lantern is continually exasperated by Plastic Man's goofiness, to the point where he questions the guy's value as a crimefighter. There's a nice resolution by story's end to this sub-plot, in which Green Lantern learns of Plastic Man's worth and gains a valuable lesson about prejudging friends and colleagues. And the thrid redeeming element is Brent Anderson's always top-notch artwork, including some fun Plastic Man stretched-out graphics.

So a real mixed-bag review reaction to this one-shot, which ultimately deserves an average rating positive recommendation, based on the basic story idea, an interesting sub-plot between the two heroes and finally, some really nice artwork by Brent Anderson. And who knows, maybe there's a worthy place in today's fandom base for stories that feel a bit too retro but still serve as a well-meaning homage to an earlier, simpler time of comic book story-telling.

Widowmaker #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jim McCann: Writer
David Lopez: Pencils
Alvaro Lopez: Inks
Nathan Fairbairn: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 in a new 4-issue mini-series entitled Widowmaker, starring the superheroes Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Mockingbird and the Black Widow. The title is scripted by Jim McCann with pencils by David Lopez, inks by Alvaro Lopez and colors by Nathan Fairbairn.

The plot in this series is an international thriller. An anonymous tip leads Hawkeye and Mockingbird to Japan, where they discover that an American spy has been murdered on the eve of sensitive diplomatic talks scheduled between Japan and Russia over disputed border islands. It turns out that the murder is part of a much wider ongoing bloodbath instigated by an old, World War II era shadowy ninja group called Dark Ocean. The body count rises heavily as the duo head for Siberia, unexpectedly linking-up with the Black Widow/Natasha Romanov who also received an unknown tip. The trio discovers that Dark Ocean has set them up, as by issue's end they're mistakenly captured by Marvel's Russian superheroes, clearing the path for Dark Ocean to go after Russia's president in issue #2.

This is a very entertaining mini-series, mixing fast-paced action in multiple settings as the story moves forward very quickly in this first issue. Writer Jim McCann gives us an intriguing and complex tale, full of spy thriller false leads, mindgames and backstabbing worthy of a spy thriller novel on the par of fiction novelists such as David Baldacci. Be prepared to really focus and even dounble-back on a few pages worth of dialogue as you follow this complex but very worthwhile international spy thriller as it kicks-off its multi-issue storyline in issue #1. And a final review shout-out is warranted to the art team, which gives us both a high-grade graphic style and some wonderful large panel and full-page action sequences throughout this adventure.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
We had three correct entries to our current contest, which challenged you to identify just what product is being sold in that Christmas-themed Acura car commercial in which the spokesman quotes "the chestnut, she is a fickle beast." And our winner via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Thomas Courchaine, who correctly identified the frivolous product as a "double-vented, quad-chambered chestnut roaster." Congrats to Thomas who wins our $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, and a note to the good staff at That's Entertainment to consider stocking the deluxe chestnut roaster on the store shelves!

New Contest Announcement!!!
The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenge you this week with a sports riddle contest. E-mail us at with an answer to the following question: What is the one game in which the defense has control of the ball during play? Its a simple sports trivia question but it has stumped some people at times, so let's see whether or not our good comic review readers easily get this one. Our winner will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the (hopefully) correct entries and will receive the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to (you guessed it!) That's Entertainment.

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comic Reviews 12/17/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we kick-off the holiday season with a review of a holiday-themed DC comic, followed by reviews of two standard superhero comic books:

DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers and Artists

DC Comics kicks-off the holiday season with a holiday-themed one-shot entitled DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1. The issue includes six stories written by various teams of writers and artists, starring an eclectic mix of well-known DC Universe heroes, both super-powered and otherwise. The six stories star, in order, DC’s old caveman adventurer Anthro, Western anti-hero Jonah Hex, Green Lantern John Stewart, Superman, The Spectre and The Legion Of Super-Heroes.

As a brief summary of the plotlines, each tale focuses on a different holiday that occurs during this holiday season. Since Anthro pre-dates our modern religions, Anthro and his caveman family have a hunting adventure as they consider celebrating “the winter solstice.” The Jonah Hex tale is a Hanukkah story set in the Old West, as Hex helps a young Jewish boy avenge his Rabbi father who was murdered by a pair of Old West thieves. The Green Lantern story features a holiday observance on another planet with parallels to Muslim festivities, while the Superman tale focuses on Thanksgiving. The Spectre tale centers on the Persian New Year, while the Legion story is set in 31st century Metropolis on “Holiday,” a generic future holiday that combines all of our 2010 holidays into one generic observance.

While I’m sure every reader will have their own particular preferences among the six titles, in my review opinion, I found four of the tales to be both entertaining and high quality, while two didn’t make the grade for me. The Jonah Hex tale was very strong, lending a Wild West atmosphere to the celebration of Hannukah. I really liked the Green Lantern tale, with its drawn parallels between the alien’s religion and the Muslim holiday as a nice comment on the universality of belief. The Superman tale was a very moving comment on the true nature of heroism and The Spectre tale was also a very moving comment on the current Iraq war situation and faith in human decency.

The Anthro and Legion tales didn’t work for me. It was too much of a stretch to try to fold the caveman hunting adventure into this holiday-themed comic book with the occasional story dialogue about the winter solstice; it just doesn’t hold-up with the modern holiday focus of the rest of this issue. While the Legion tale was a decent mystery-themed story, it was on very thin ice with the just plain stupid concept that in the future, the world government for the sake of harmony has ordered that all of today’s various celebration holidays are bundled into a generic one-stop observance officially called “Holiday” (yeesh!!!)

But the two weaker stories aside, the four better tales are very enjoyable and well-crafted, both in script and in the various artistic styles. And who knows, there are likely readers out there who like the Anthro and Legion tales more than I did. So a definite and worthy holiday-season thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this interesting and eclectic 2010 holiday season one-shot comic book from DC.

I Am An Avenger #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Various Writers and Artists

This comic book is the latest installment in a five-issue mini-series from Marvel Comics, similar in format to the DC holiday issue reviewed above in that it contains four separate stories related in some manner to the Avengers. The first two tales are the lengthiest, respectively starring Ben Grimm/The Thing and Firestar and Justice, followed by a two-page short featuring Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. The fourth and final story is a one-page wonder starring Iron Man and Stature.

The Ben Grimm story is the concluding segment of a multi-issue tale, in which Ben joins a new assemblage of the Avengers led by Luke Cage. The plotline centers on the effect on the Fantastic Four/Richards family as Ben works to balance belonging to both groups. The tale resolves with a nice message on what it means to be part of a team (Avengers) as well as a family ( the FF, of course). The Firestar/Justice tale is the final segment of a very high action story. I won’t spoil the details, beyond saying it centers on time travel, bad guy/Norse God Loki and emotional issues between the pair of heroes. The remaining two stories are short little vignettes that I won’t summarize for fear of giving away their very brief plots.

This is a fun and variety-packed issue with a nice mix of both featured characters and styles of storytelling. I was very impressed with the two main tales. The Ben Grimm story is a nice comment regarding superheroes trying to balance job with family and the Firestar/Justice tale’s time travel plot is very intriguing, as several Marvel heroes pair-up with the older/younger versions of themselves to battle Loki. The story ends on a very well-presented, albeit melancholy note that adds a lot of emotional punch to the tale.

I did find the Spider-Woman/Ms. Marvel tale a waste of two good pages of comic book print; there’s absolutely no plot in this brief story, as the pair beat-up a few bad guys all the while proclaiming how happy they are fighting crime. And finally, the one-page Iron Man/Stature story is the icing on the cake, a perfectly adorable ending to the issue. Created by Lucy Kinsley, it’s just a funny riff on the pair of heroes that’s most likely produced for kids but is entertaining for all ages, nonetheless.

So its nice to see in this week’s reviews so far two comics featuring multiple short tales in each issue, offering both quality and variety for fans of all reading tastes and preferences. Some nice reading variety from DC and Marvel for your holiday season reading pile!

Doorways #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
George R.R. Martin: Writer
Stefano Martino: Art

IDW Publishing has released two issues so far in its new science fiction title Doorways, so I decided to review last month’s issue #1 to get a feel for the title from the beginning of the story. The comic book is the brainchild of well-known science fiction writer George R.R. Martin, with art by Stefano Martino.

The plot of this science fiction adventure centers on Cat, a young female warrior who materializes one evening in our world and immediately lands herself in an emergency ward, where she’s befriended by the young emergency room doctor, Thomas Mason. Unable to speak English and loaded with hand-held alien-like technology and weaponry, the authorities lock-up Cat to try and figure out just what the heck is going on here. The sci-fi adventure gets ratcheted-up real quickly here, as three demon-like pursuers materialize in our world and ready themselves to enter the big city and catch the interdimensional fleeing Cat. The first issue ends in a dramatic bridge as the good Doctor Mason helps Cat escape custody so together they can begin fleeing the demonic pursuers.

My initial reaction as I started to read this comic book was that the general concept didn’t seem that original: exotic girl jumps worlds, meets ordinary American boy and they team-up to either flee or fight alien pursuers. But in the talented hands of veteran writer George R.R. Martin, this is a very original and entertaining graphic science fiction adventure. Martin elevates this title above the ordinary with intriguing details regarding Cat’s technology and the mystery of exactly who she is and what her alternate reality is really all about. Comic book readers of all interests should get a kick out of reading this well-crafted graphic science fiction adventure tale.

On a final review note, its worth mentioning that the 22-page story is followed by a four-page column written by George R.R. Martin, which chronicles in detail the history of his efforts in the early 1990’s to get this story concept on the air at ABC as a weekly television series. It’s a fascinating account of the television production process, as he came within a breath of getting the show on the air, before it was bumped by the network for another science fiction t.v. show entitled “Lois And Clark”-sound familiar?!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us what work of fiction you believe would make a good transition to publication in comic book form in the Classics Illustrated comic book series. And our winner is (drumroll, please)…Kevin Browne who suggests that J.K. Rowland’s Harry Potter books would make a good Classics Illustrated series. Kevin mentions that he assumed that somewhere out in the wide world of comic book publishing, Harry Potter had already made the transition but he did a bit of research and nothing popped-up. It’s probably just a matter of time before we do see Harry Potter comics, though. Congrats to Kevin who wins our $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That’s Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

With the holiday season in full swing, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges want to challenge you with a holiday season-related trivia contest that fits right into our pop culture emporium world. So here’s your couch potato, television-watching contest challenge. E-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: What product is being sold in the Christmas-themed Acura automobile commercial currently being aired on t.v., in which the character in the commercial makes the statement “The Chestnut, she is a fickle beast…” Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That’s Entertainment. As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner will be chosen from among the correct entries by the roll of the dice.

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Comic Reviews 12/10/10

Good King Leonardo has decreed that the occult is our theme for this week, with reviews of three new comic books that have spooky, occult themes:

Kolchak: The Night Stalker Files
Publisher: Moonstone
Christopher Mills: Writer
Jaime Martinez: Art
Jason Jenson: Colors

Moonstone Publishing has just released issue #1 of Kolchak: The Night Stalker Files, written by Christopher Mills with art by Jaime Martinez and colors by Jason Jenson. The series is based on the cult favorite 1974-75 television show The Night Stalker, starring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, a newspaper reporter who investigates occult and paranormal phenomena every week on the show. I was a huge fan of the t.v. series, which pioneered the idea of combining a noir detective atmosphere with horror/occult themes, and is considered the groundbreaking series which laid the path for such later shows as The X-Files and Fringe to evolve.

The issue #1 tale begins with Kolchak receiving a tip regarding many disappearances of actresses over the previous few years who acted in a string of B-horror movies filmed by a small Hollywood horror film company. Kolchak investigates, with the plot leading him to discover a sleazy Hollywood producer who has used an occult spell to summon an actual demon for the monster scenes in his successful film series. Naturally, the demon needs human meat to survive in our world, which the producer supplies from his cast of young unknown starlets. As in the t.v. series, the episode peaks with a dramatic action scene in which Kolchalk saves himself from death and also saves the day. And just like the t.v. series, the authorities don't believe a word of Kolchak's adventure and he moves on to another big city (looks like Miami for the setting of next month's issue #2) to investigate his next paranormal tip.

This is a wonderful comic book adaptation of the iconic t.v. series, enjoyable for old fans such as myself and newcomers alike, for a few reasons. The narrative style of writer Chrisopher Mills is both a perfect homage to the voice-over narrative of the t.v. series as well as the perfect vehicle for delivering this type of noir-occult tale in comic book form. The result is enough story progression to fill two comic book issues, providing lots of fun entertainment reading in just this one issue. The art is also very effective and appropriate for this particular type of tale, with the right blend of noirish colors, graphic style and panel lay-outs. And just like the t.v. show, there's a fun blend of quality story seriousness and old-school horror cheesiness so that we have equal elements of tension, excitement and humor, all resulting in a very fun comic book read.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to read this dead-on (no pun intended) comic book version of a wonderful t.v. show that pioneered the occult genre of television. I own a dvd of the one and only first season of the show and it still holds-up in 2010 as great entertainment, so you also might want to speak to the good staff at That's Entertainment about ordering a dvd of the series from them, too!

Madame Xanadu #29
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Matt Wagner: Writer
Amy Reeder: Pencils
Richard Friend: Inks
Guy Major: Colors

DC Comics has just released the final issue, issue #29, in its Madame Xanadu title. I wrote some enthusiastic reviews of the Eisner Award-nominated first multi-issue story arc of this title, followed by a disappointed review a few months back of the recent declining quality of this title. For the uninitiated, the good Madame Xanadu is the occult seer based in New York City, who began life as Nimue, an enchanted forest nymph in Arthurian England. In the extremely-creative hands of Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder, Madame Xanadu experienced amazing and often emotionally-moving adventures at various key points in world history, leading her though the chronology of this title to present-day New York. Along the way she had some surprising and very entertaining interactions with key superhero figures in the DC Golden Age universe, along with a continual and often-strained relationship with The Phantom Stranger.

The story in this farewell issue is entitled "The Advent Of Tomorrow," and reunites series creator Matt Wagner with the original series penciler Amy Reeder. The plot has three segments. In stage one, we follow the interactions between Madame Xanadu and college student Charlotte Blackwood, as the Madame trains the young, gifted apprentice seer in the ways of occult divination as a means to help people. The mid-section of the plot shifts the focus to the Madame visiting Barbara, a now-elderly and very troubled woman from a previous story series in this title. Their interaction focuses on the subject of faith, as the Madame attempts to convince Barbara that her visions forsee a better life for her old and embittered friend. And the third segment of the storyline brings The Phantom Stranger back into the Madame's life for the first time in many decades. I don't want to spoil any of this wonderful reunion of the pair, save to say that it interconnects Madame Xanadu with much currently happening and planned by DC in the Brightest Day event series.

Given how this exemplary title had horribly declined in both writing and art over the past several months, DC has given us a wonderful holiday gift by restoring it to its previous quality grandeur in this final issue. The duo of Wagner and Reeder give us a product on par with with best of their Eisner-nominated first-year storyline run. There's a picture-perfect mix of exquisite art, storytelling, characterization and emotion, all peaking with the return of The Phantom Stranger. I enjoyed very much the connection of Madame Xanadu through her divination visions to the rest of the DC universe; the details of this wrap-up segment of the issue give us both a satisfying conclusion to the 29-issue title run as well as a good feeling that we're bound to come across Madame Xanadu again, sooner rather than later, somewhere out there in the wide DC comics universe.

So an enthusiastic review recommendation to read this farewell issue of a wonderful comic book character and title. Thanks again to DC comics for restoring the good Madame within this good-bye issue to the quality glory that the title and character well deserves.

Zatanna #6
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Dini: Writer
Jesus Saiz: Art
John Kalisz: Colors

DC's latest title starring Zatanna is up to issue #6 this past week. The series is written by veteran scribe Paul Dini with art by Jesus Saiz and colors by John Kalisz. Regular DC Comics readers are very familiar with Zatanna, who's been a mainstay in the DC universe since the Silver Age as the beautiful female magician with some major occult/magic powers, featured over the decades both in her own right and as a member of the Justice League Of America (JLA).

The issue #6 story is entitled "Married In Vegas" and stars Zatanna alongside her magician cousin Zach. After Zatanna misses attending the premier of Zach's headlining Las Vegas magic act, he searches for her and finds her under the demon Mammon's spell, about to undergo a Vegas-style wedding that will seal Mammon's control of her soul. Zach frees his cousin from the spell and the two have a major, flat-out magic spell dual with the demon. Without spoiling any details, the good guys win but there are some very interesting and entertaining details as to how they win and the aftermath of the big magicians-versus-demon battle.

I avoided reviewing issue #1 of this latest Zatanna title after I browsed the issue on the store rack and it seemed very dark and gory. This current issue is much more mainstream in style and enjoyable. Paul Dini is one of my favorite writers, not just for his scripting skills but for his particular style of story dialgue. He doesn't fail here, delivering a tale that gives us a solid magic adventure. But what really worked for me was the double element of humor woven throughout the tale. There's a lot of subtle comedy here on the whole concept of Las Vegas, from the almost-shotgun wedding of Zatanna, to the battle with Mammon, the demon of greed and money and concluding with the undisclosed resolution of the battle, which also offers a sly commentary on greed and Vegas itself. There's also a very funny and entertaining running argument between Zatanna and cousin Zach, as in the heat of battle they still manage to bicker about Zatanna having a lucrative Vegas show contract while the Town seems to have taken Zach to the cleaners in his lousy entertainment deal. That type of midst-of-battle humor often comes off as stiff and forced, but here, Paul Dini does a great job delivering some very funny moments.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to add Zatanna to your ongoing list of both occult and superhero comic book reading. And a final shout-out to the art team of Jesus Saiz and John Kalisz for providing just the right style of art for portraying our favorite sexy superhero magician as she takes on the city of Vegas.

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

Just a reminder that to-date, we haven't received any entries to our latest Bongo Congo contest, which challenges you to e-mail us at and tell us which work of fiction that you've read do you think would make an entertaining addition to the Classics Illustrated line of comic book fiction adaptions. There's a first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet at stake here, people, so come on, put on those thinking caps and e-mail us your entry no later than noontime on Wednesday, December 15!

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

Friday, December 3, 2010

Comic Reviews 12/2/10

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three new comic books this week, two that offer new beginnings for established DC and Marvel comics heroes and one that offers a new start for an iconic comic book creator:

Batwoman #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman: Writers
J. H. Williams & Amy Reeder: Art
Richard Friend: Inks
Dave Stewart: Colors

D.C. Comics is launching Batwoman into her own comic book title with the publication of Batwoman issue #0. For the past few years, the character has had a popular run in Detective Comics. For the uninitiated, Batwoman is Gotham City crimefighter Kate Kane. The masked heroine is a revival of the Golden Age Batwoman DC character. In the current version, Kate fights crime with the mentoring of her retired military officer father, Jacob Kane, to avenge the deaths of her mother and twin sister at the hands of terrorists. The character received much media attention a few years back when DC announced her as one of the few starring gay characters published by the major comic book companies these days.

The issue #0 story is entitled "Beyond A Shadow," which accurately summarizes the main focus of the story plot, in which Gotham's main caped crusader, Batman, conducts discrete surveillance to try and confirm his suspicions that wealthy Gotham socialite Kate Kane is indeed the Batwoman. The story is structured with a diary narrative, illustrating Batman's various entries as he tails Kate/Batwoman, observing both her costumed crimefighting and her civilian activies. Without being a story spoiler, the story builds to a climax in which Batman in a civilian disguise steps-in and tests Kate, ultimately getting the proof he needs that she is indeed the Batwoman. The story ends with a bridge to next month's #1 issue, as Batman decides to confront Batwoman regarding her crimefighting role on his turf.

This issue #0 prequel is an excellent primer for the newcomer to Batwoman regarding her character profile and also serves as a nice transition story for the character to move from a guest star role in Detective Comics over to her own independent title. I very much liked the unique narrative style and story panel lay-out, with Batman literally proving a narrative voice-over of his surveillance diary entries as the story unfolds. While it appears that writer-artist J.H. Williams will draw the upcoming monthly issues, at least in issue #0 he splits the art duty with one of my favorite current artists, Amy Reeder, who produced some amazing work in 2008-2009 within the first multi-issue story arc in the Madame Xanadu comic book title. My only criticism is that the very entertaining 16-page story feels much too short, as its crowded by a follow-up 4-page preview of next month's issue #1 and a 7-page preview of Detective Comics issue #871.

But I'm sure that next month's issue #1 will cut-back on the other issue previews and focus on a stand-alone Batwoman tale. So a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation to check-out this latest new title edition to the ever-growing group of Batman universe titles published these days by DC Comics.

Astonishing Thor #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Robert Rodi: Writer
Mike Choi: Art
Frank D'Armata: Colors

Marvel Comics unveiled its latest Thor title this past week with the publication of Astonishing Thor #1. The comic book is scripted by Robert Rodi with art by Mike Choi and colors by Frank D'Armata.

Issue #1 kicks-off an untitled multi-issue story arc. After spending the first several pages of the story preventing a giant tidal wave from destroying Manhattan, Thor is summoned back to the ruins of Asgard by Heimdall, guardian of The Rainbow Bridge. Heimdall informs Thor of the approach toward Earth of a giant object. After a brief flashback interlude that provides a romantic sub-plot to the storyline, Thor investigates the approaching stellar object and discovers that its something called Ego, The Living Planet, literally a giant roving evil planet with a huge human face on its surface(!!!). The issue #1 story segment ends by revealing that the evil planet (bad planet...bad, bad planet!) is in league with another Marvel universe villain, whose identity I won't reveal, except to say that he informs Thor that he is the evil creator of the bad roaming planet.

I got a kick out of this comic book, which to me, at least, seems to be an interesting blend of serious storytelling and either intentional or possibly unintentional campiness. I'm not a regular Thor reader, but I got the impression that Thor and Ego The Living Planet have crossed paths before. I couldn't stop laughing reading about the bad planet, drawn with a scowling human face on its surface as it wanders the universe, looking perpetually constipated. Irregardless of the intent of writer Robert Rodi, it all comes off as a very fun mix of action/adventure, grandiose Thor dialogue and 1980's style grand Marvel goofiness that's worth the price of admission. On a final serious note, a well-deserved thumbs-up is due to the art team of Mike Choi and Frank D'Armata, who provide some magnificent, two-page panel spreads throughout this tale, utilizing a classic art style that very well suits the grandeur of our favorite Marvel old school mythological superhero.

The Traveler #1
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Mark Waid: Writer
Chad Hardin: Art
Blond: Colors

BOOM! Studios has just published issue #1 of a new comic entitled The Traveler. This is one of a few comics being heavily marketed by the publisher as supposedly created by renowned Marvel comic creator Stan Lee. The credits in this issue list Lee as "Grand Poobah," with scripting by BOOM! publisher/writer Mark Waid, art by Chad Hardin and colors by someone going by the one-word name of Blond.

The plot is a time traveling action adventure tale. A mysterious costumed figure arrives one day in Richmond, Virginia and attacks a woman using magnetic powers. The woman is rescued by The Traveler, another costumed figure who explains that he is in a constant battle with three time-traveling futuristic villains known as the Split-Second Men, assassins from the future who inhabit the moments in between seconds to travel back in time and assassinate people. As the story unfolds, The Traveler prevents the Split-Second Men from killing three local citizens. The story climaxes as two FBI agents interfere and attempt to detain The Travelor, thereby allowing the assassins to succeed in seemingly killing a fourth local target.

This is an entertaining comic book that succeeds in the difficult task of presenting brand-new superhero characters within an engaging plot. The time-travel action-adventure storyline works very well here, with A-list writer Mark Waid withholding enough of the explanation from the reader to maintain an interesting level of mystery throughout the tale. By issue's end, I was intrigued enough to want to read next month's issue and learn the answers (or at least get some clues) to several questions, including who these mystery heroes/villains are and why are they battling over the lives of seemingly innocent civilians in Richmond, Virginia.

While this new comic book well-deserves a positive recommendation, I'm really put-out by the whole "from the mind of Stan Lee" marketing campaign surrounding both this comic title and BOOM ! Studios's new "Soldier Zero" title. Even if both comic concepts actually were germinated from elderly Stan Lee's mind, he's clearly not involved in any way in actually writing this Mark Waid/BOOM! scripted productions. Other than the words "Stan" and "Lee" in the overbearing marketing blitz material, there isn't even a comment blurb from Stan anywhere in this issue. So my advice to the publisher: tone down the smoke-and-mirrors marketing ploy of renting-out Stan Lee's good name and just let the legitimate quality of the comic stand for itself.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our current contest challenge was for you to e-mail us with your favorite comic book character's name, telling us also why you like that name so much. We had some entries that gave us interesting complaints about why certain character's names seemed inappropriate or ill-fitting to a character, but we were really looking for a name that you found interesting and liked.

And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Gordon Dupuis who makes a worthy case for why he thinks the most interesting comic character name is DC's The Phantom Stranger. Gordon writes that he likes the name because its "elegant yet staightforward, with a 70's horror feel...has just the slightest hint of goth about it...the character is strong, lonely and mystifying." An interesting submittal of, when you really think about, an unusual and creative comic book character name. Congratulations to Gordon for winning the first prize contest $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges came-up with this new contest challenge when recently flipping through the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and coming across the section listing back issues of the old Classics Illustrated comic book. For those fans too young to remember, Classics Illustrated was a wonderful Silver Age title that published abridged, graphic versions of traditional classic works of fiction in comic book form.

Your challenge for this contest is to e-mail us at with your entry of a particular work of fiction that you think in today's world it would be entertaining and worthwhile to publish in Classics Illustrated comic book form. It can be a genre piece of fiction (science fiction, fanatsy or horror, etc.) or just a mainstream work of fiction, best-selling book or just an obscure favorite read of yours. Just tell us what the work is and why you think it would be a fun read in comic book form. Who knows, maybe someone out there in the wide world of comic book publishing will read your winning entry and publish your idea in comic book form! Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

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