Friday, January 28, 2011

Comic Reviews 1/28/11

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week two new Marvel limited edition titles, followed for a change of pace by a review of an offbeat new independent comic book:

Wolverine And Jubilee #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kathryn Immonen: Writer
Phil Noto: Art

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a new 4-issue mini-series starring the duo of older X-Man Wolverine and younger X-Teen Jubilee. The series is scripted by Kathryn Immonen with art by Phil Noto. A page one narrative very helpfully sets the background for this new series, explaining two key points to readers such as myself who don't regularly follow the current X-Men universe story events. The first point explains that Jubilation "Jubilee" Lee is a teen mutant who wields energy-blast power and has served as Wolverine's young sidekick. Due to recent M-Day events, she's lost her powers. The second point tells us that as part of recent "vampire invasion" events in other X-Men titles, Jubilee has been bitten and turned into a vampire, herself.

Issue #1 is entitled "Curse," and centers on various issues of the vampire problem storyline. The story begins with Jubilee detained by the X-Men, after being treated to control her vampire bloodlust while still being stuck as a nighttime-living vampire. This plot thread focuses on the emotional side of Jubilee's vampire status, as she struggles with the counseling of Wolverine, Emma Frost and a few of the teen X-Men to come to terms with her new and terrifying status. A second plotline introduces a mysterious local female adult vampire, who befriends Jubilee in downtown San Franscisco and mysteriously starts to mentor her. Jubilee disappears, only to be found by Wolverine when she's set-up by her new vampire mentor for a mass murder for which she's innocent. The issue concludes with Wolverine planning a major shift in both strategy and geographical location in order to clear his friend's name and protect her from the vampire bad guys.

This is an interesting and very entertaining new mini-series, for a few reasons. For non-regular X-Men readers like me, its a very fresh approach to pair the old-school X-Men led by Wolverine and Emma Frost with the newcomers, such as Jubilee and her friend Pixie. The vampire premise sounded cheesey at first, but in the skilled writing hands of Kathryn Immonen, the plot is very plausible and connects the seemingly disparate worlds of X-Men and vampires seamlessly together. There's a workable balance here between teen angst via Jubilee's situation and standard superhero mystery and action, which heats-up every time Wolverine and Emma Frost take charge of the situation. Finally, its always a treat to read another series with art by the popular Phil Noto. As I mentioned in last week's review column, Noto's art is one of my favorites both in style and emphasis on pleasing pastel coloring. Hats-off to Noto also for his particular rendering of Wolverine, which captures a strong resemblance to Hugh Jackman of movie Wolverine fame.

So a well-deserved review recommendation for you to get on-board for the first issue of this four-part mini-series. It should be fun to see where the mystery and action leads all of our characters as this limited series moves forward.

Captain America & The Korvac Saga #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ben McCool: Writer
Craig Rousseau: Art
Rachelle Rosenberg: Colors

Our second limited edition title for this week's reviews is issue #2 of Captain America And The Korvac Saga, part of a four-issue mini-series from Marvel Comics. The title is written by Ben McCool, with art by Craig Rousseau and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg. For the uninitiated, Korvac is a 1970's Marvel character who briefly appeared in a handful of issues, as a bad guy from an alternate universe who became a cyborg and tried to conquer the universe.

The issue #2 story segment is entitled "Souljacker." The issue begins with Captain America having jailed Korvac for whatever shenanigans he was up to in last month's issue #1. The futuristic Guardians Of The Galaxy team of interstellar superheros arrives on the scene to take Korvac away for their own captive purposes. Captain America resists, and in the melee Korvac escapes through a time portal to the 31st century. The second half of the issue is all action, as Captain America and two of the Guardians fight Korvac in the 31st century. As Korvac gains in unstoppable power, our heroes figure-out that Galactus, of all characters, holds the only technology able to contain the cyborg villain. The issue concludes as the trio of heroes prepare to visit Galactus's enormous spaceship to try and obtain the weapon needed to stop the villain.

Bringing-back a fairly obscure bad guy from the 1970's can be a risky undertaking, but the creative team does a very good job here of combining Marvel universe footnote Korvac with Captain America and The Guardians Of The Universe. There's a nice science fiction edge to the plot storyline and atmosphere, which one doesn't see very often in a Captain America feature. It's fun to see Captain America's reaction to the situation, as he's thrown into a very alien 31st century environment. The premise here is that Cap has never crossed paths with Korvac, The Guardians or even Galactus, so its interesting to observe as bit-by-bit these players are explained to him and he has to struggle to absorb the future shock of the situation while maintaining his focus on getting the bad guy.

So similar to the Wolverine/X-Men situation in the review above, its very worthwhile to add this unique take on the adventures of Captain America to your current issues reading pile.

The Guild: Vork
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Felicia Day & Jeff Lewis: Writers
Darick Robertson & Richard Clark: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors

Dark Horse Comics has just published a one-shot comic entitled The Guild: Vork. The comic is based on the internet comedy webshow The Guild, created and written by Felicia Day. This comic book-edition of the series is written by Felicia Day and Jeff Lewis, with art by Darick Robertson and Richard Clark, and colors by Dave Stewart. Similar to the webshow, the comic tells the story of the players who make-up an online game guild, similar to one of the band of players in the World Of Warcraft online game.

This particular one-shot story focuses mainly on Herman, a middle-aged member of the guild whose character in the game is known as Sir Vork. The story alternates between and interconnects Herman's real and online lives. In the real world, Herman lives with his 90-plus-year-old grandfather, a good-hearted but wacky old-timer who gets the two of them into trouble everywhere they go. On-line, the meek Herman lets his frustrations vent as the bossy Sir Vork, to the point where his fellow guilders boot him from the guild to teach him a lesson. Without spoiling any details, by issue's end Herman/Sir Vork faces his problems in both worlds and things come to a fair resolution in both realms.

The story here is dominated by non-stop, wacky humor that works consistently well. The creative team does a very credible job of developing the plot of an everyday mensch who let's his tough guy fantasies emerge within the game, getting burned in both realms but accepting some valuable lessons and happily working things out in the end for himself, his grandfather and his online friends. Besides the comedy, there's a very worthwhile life lesson going on here amidst the well-deserved laughs, regarding being decent to your friends and family, as well as learning to compromise in life's situations to the fair benefit of all involved.

While I had never heard of The Guild web series before reading this comic book, the high quality of this one-shot makes me want to definitely check-out this web sensation, as well as check-out four planned future The Guild one-shots that Felicia Day is spearheading at Dark Horse Comics. So cleanse your palate of your ordinary superhero reading, oh web guild warriors, and join us in reading The Guild:Vork now!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Surprisingly, we didn't have any entries to our current contest challenging you to pitch us your favorite animated, comic-related television series. However, we did receive a solid entry from Greogory Goding pitching his favorite t.v. comic-related series, which happened to be non-animated. Gregory makes a good case for nominating Human Target as his favorite comic book genre-related television show. The Fox series is based on the comic book featuring Christopher Chance as a mercenary-for-hire who takes the place of his clients to protect them against whatever danger they're facing.

Gregory likes the show because it has plenty of action and provides decent entertainment. While he hasn't read the DC comic book, the show will motivate him to check it out at some point. So the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges congratulates Gregory for an excellent entry and awards him the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Good King Leonardo just can't wait for Major League Baseball spring training to start, only about 4 or 5 weeks away, now. So to get us through the "hot stove" winter league of baseball rumors, what-ifs and just plain anticipation for our Boston Red Sox, the King has decreed that we offer you a mid-winter baseball trivia question.

Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following trivia question: Who is the only person in Major League Baseball history to have worn the uniform of all four of the New York-area major league clubs-the Yankees, Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers and the Mets? As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, the winner of the $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen from among the correct answers via a roll of the dice.

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

Friday, January 21, 2011

Comic Reviews 1/21/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its once again Women In Comic Books Week, so let's review the following three comics starring three empowered (pun intended) super-heroines:

Power Girl #19
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Judd Winick: Writer
Sam Basri: Art
Sunny Gho & Jessica Kholinne: Colors

Last year I reviewed kick-off issues #1 and #2 of the Power Girl title, and I just finished reading the initial 12-issue story arc borrowed from my brother Dave, so I though it would be interesting to read and review this month's latest issue #19 of Power Girl. For the uninitiated, Power Girl is Kara Zor-L, Superman's cousin as the last survivor of a vanished alternate universe, now living in our world and trying to establish herself as both a superhero and as businesswoman Karen Starr. The title got off to an immensely popular start last year, with the first year's storyline scripted by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Amanda Conners. The current issue is written by Judd Winick with art by Sam Basri and colors by Sunny Gho and Jessica Kholinne.

Issue #19 is entitled "One Step Forward...Two Steps Back." The title is very appropriate, as the plot centers on a major memory problem plauging Power Girl and her fellow JSA members. It seems that none of our heroes remember DC Universe bad guy Max Lord and all of the very bad stuff that he's done over the past few year's in the DC universe storyline, including killing The Blue Beetle. Toward the beginning of the issue, Power Girl does remember and convinces a skeptical JSA, with the trust of Batman, that they've all suffered a legitimate memory loss engineered by Lord, covering-up his identity and all that he's caused. As the story progresses, Lord somehow again erases Power Girls' memory of his existence and past actions, thus leading to the various heroes wandering off in false directions away from the true evil situation. By issue's end, Power Girl's amnesia leads her to wander to the jungles of Vietnam, where she stumbles across a re-established Cadmus Project, the well-known DC universe secret superpower-related research facility.

While I was initially disappointed that the creative team of Palmiotti and Conner are no longer working on this title, I was quickly won over to the new direction in which the current creative team has taken this title. This is a darker, more serious interpretation of Power Girl than Year One readers of the comic book would expect. We're provided with several emotional and deeply moving story scenes, as the characters struggle to remember their erased past, knowing all the while that they're caught in some form of a Groundhog Day situation, constantly rediscovering some lost past only to lose it again as soon as they break the spell of Max Lord's grand deception. One particular scene is particularly gut wrenching, as Power Girl weeps knowing that she's just again lost a vital memory but has no idea what it is. The theme of the meaningfulness of memory is best portrayed here in the five-page opening scene, in which Power Girl reminisces about a JSA past battle victory, involving Max Lord before he broke bad. Aging fanboys like myself will get a nostalgic kick out of this plot thread, as it stars the old Royal Flush Gang as the villains in the battle; I for one haven't seen a DC comic featuring those guys since the early Silver Age issues of The Justice League. So welcome back, Royal Flush Gang, even if its just for this well-presented cameo appearance!

A final review shout-out has to go to the coloring duo of Sunny Gho and Jessica Kholinne. Its rare that I mention the colors in a review, but the praise is well-deserved, here; the duo's choice of pastel shadings are unique and just plain beautiful, reminding me most of artist Phil Noto's work on the Superman/Maelstrom mini-series of a few year's ago. So a very well-deserved positive thumbs-up recommendation for the latest issue of Power Girl. While the current run isn't in the vein of the more humorous Palmiotti/Conner take on the title, its extremely well-crafted and very entertaining in its own right, as a more emotional and serious perspective on this always-interesting DC universe superheroine.

Wonder Woman #605
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J. Michael Straczynski & Phil Hester: Writers
Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica & Daniel Hdr: Pencils
Alex Sinclair: Colors

The long-running Wonder Woman title is up to issue #605 this past week. A-list writer J. Michael Straczynski took over scripting duties with the #600 anniversary issue, and partners with writer Phil Hester in the current issue. Don Kramer, Eduardo Pansica and Daniel Hdr provide the pencils with colors by Alex Sinclair and inks by a large group of artists including Jay Leisten, Marlo Alquiza, Wayne Faucher and Eber Ferreira.

The issue #605 story, entitled "Runaway Fate," provides two interweaving storylines. In the main plot thread, we're introduced to The Morrigan, a team of three evil mythological women, one each from Celtic, Roman and Greek mythology, with the Greek partner in this evil turning-out to be the well-known head of Medusa, whose gaze turns all who look upon her to stone. It seems that the team is alive and kicking in modern-day New York City, and planning a trap for Wonder Woman. A secondary plotline is a flashback to Wonder Woman's childhood, in which she narrates a memory of standing-up for oppressed mortals during her childhood in a remote area of present-day Turkey. By issue's end, the Morrigan have sprung their trap against Wonder Woman, badly injuring her as a cliffhanger for next issue's resumed all-out attack on our hero and her Amazon allies.

While this is an entertaining and well-produced Wonder Woman comic book, it's important to note that the story doesn't have that the style that fans of writer J. Michael Straczynski have come to know and expect from him. My guess is that co-writer Phil Hester is taking the lead here, while Straczynski focuses more on the other DC universe writing efforts that he's responsible for at the moment. There's nothing wrong with that, given that we're still served a high-quality tale that mixes characters and elements of ancient mythology in a modern-day story setting. As with any good Wonder Woman tale, there's equal portions here of grand action and soap opera drama, as our heroine juggles personal friendship issues with all of the "save the world" adventure that's heaped upon her by her supernatural foes. And it all works, advancing the story in ways that are at times absorbing and always entertaining, leaving us with a to-be-continued dramatic cliffhanger for next month's story installment.

So a deserved positive recommendation for this comic book, with the caveat that its a worthwhile read but lacking the particular "bells and whistles" that Straczynski has been bringing to his solo writing efforts in other DC and Marvel titles over the past few years.

Batgirl #17
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Bryan Q. Wilson: Writer
Pere Perez: Art
Guy Major: Colors

The latest Batgirl title is already up to issue #17 this month. Bryan Q. Wilson continues his ongoing writing of this title, with art by Pere Perez and colors by Guy Major. For the uninitiated, the latest Batgirl is Gotham University student Stephanie Brown, who lives with her physician mother, hiding her crimefighting identity from the world by day while at night she patrolling Gotham, while being mentored via high tech by former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, now known as the computer crimefighting consultant The Oracle.

Issue #17 has the lengthy story title "Batgirl: The Lesson-Frogs, Snails & Puppy-Dog Tails..." Its a very appropriate title, as the plot continues the recent partnering of Batgirl with Damien, the ten-year-old son of Bruce Wayne, who serves as the latest Robin. The pair spontaneously pair-up while on Gotham patrol, to try to solve the mystery of disappearing school children. After infiltrating in civilian guise a school field trip to a museum, the pair discover that a kidnap ring is behind the disappearances. Fast action ensues as our heroes take-on the kidnappers in a runaway bus full of field trip kids, saving the day of course, and freeing the other previously missing schoolkids to boot.

While the above brief story synopsis hits the main points of the storyline, it can't do justice to conveying the wonderful style that the creative team keeps bringing to monthly issues of this title. Writer Bryan Q. Wilson in Number One these days in providing crisp humor, one-liners and a fresh sense of humor that never strays into snarkiness. There's a very strong story element woven throughout this issue, of Batgirl figuring-out how to get through the unbelievably strong walls of isolation that this Damien kid has built about his personality; without being a detail spoiler, Batgirl successfully chips-away at these psychic barriers around the kid, and by story's end she's established a small but significant foothold into helping the human, ten-year-old side of Damien begin to emerge.

Prior to the teaming of this duo in some recent issues of this title, I despised this Robin character as being too killing-machine, one-dimensional as portrayed by various DC writers. Happily, the character has found a home in this comic book, in the hands of writer Wilson and in partnership with Stephanie Brown/Batgirl, who gets this kid's personality and is up to the task of humanizing him. So get on-board for the continuing adventures of this seemingly-mismatched, but actually well-balanced, team of young heroes as they continue to bicker their way together across the detective-noir evening skies of Gotham, in search of bad guys, adventure and trying to satisfy their mutual craving for Batman's paternal approval!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had several correct entries to our current contest, which asked you to tell us what those mysterious "13.1" bumper stickers mean on all of those cars driving around Worcester these days. And our winner via a roll of the dice from amongst the correct entries is (drumroll, please)... David McBarron, who correctly tells us that the bumper stickers stand for the distance of a half-marathon (26.2 miles being a full marathon), and are seen on the cars of folks (including my neighbor Ray!) who successfully ran in a half-marathon. Congratulations to David, who's the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

As you know, this column is named after a popular group of 1960's Saturday morning television cartoon characters. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges recently realized that we just don't keep-up these days with the current television cartoon shows related to today's comic book characters.

As such, your new contest challenge is to e-mail us at and tell us what your favorite current comic book character-related cartoon show or shows are, and why you're a fan of your choice. Your entries can be very mainstream, such as a DC or Marvel character-based show, or something that's really under the radar, if you wish. As always, our first prize contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Comic Reviews 1/14/10

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week three new comic issues starring well-known superheroes, two comics from the DC universe and one from the mighty world of Marvel Comics:

Batman Beyond #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Adam Beechen: Writer
Ryan Benjamin: Pencils
John Stanisci: Inks
David Baron: Colors

In follow-up to the recent Batman Beyond six-issue mini-series, DC has just premiered issue #1 in its new monthly Batman Beyond title, The series is a futuristic addition to the wide Batman story universe and features Gotham teenager Terry McGinnis as the Caped Crusader in an unidentified future year in the City. Terry is mentored and supervised in his Batman adventures by an elderly Bruce Wayne. The series is scripted by Adam Beechen with pencils by Ryan Benjamin, inks by John Stanisci and colors by David Baron.

The issue #1 story is entitled "Madness, Mayhem & Mentachem," and is part one of a three-issue story arc. The main plotline centers on Carson Jatts, an employee of a Gotham company named Mentachem, which warehouses dangerous superhero-related materials. Upon learning that he's dying from work-related contamination, an embittered Jatts steals a villain's superpowered wand from the facility, losing control of the weapon and accidentally transforming himself into a megapowered bad guy. A second plotline folds the young Batman into the story, as he comes to realize that his mother and young brother are among the hostages that Jatts takes at a city shopping mall. Issue #1 ends in a dramatic confrontation between Batman and the Justice League, as the Caped Crusader takes a stand against the League's desire to bull-into the shopping mall without much heed to civilian casualties.

I gave a positive review to an issue of the Batman Beyond mini-series and I'm happy to be able to provide the same thumbs-up recommendation for this kick-off issue of the monthly title. Its very fresh and fun to read this enhancement of the Batman story universe that adds a futuristic spin to all that is Batman. The strongest entertainment element here is writer Adam Beechen's talent in blending new futuristic elements together with the traditional Batman story universe. My favorite traditional example is the aged Bruce Wayne, an embittered, always-on-duty old man struggling to relate to his caped protege's positive outlook regarding both the job and life in general. The most interesting futuristic element in issue #1 is the future Justice League, five individuals completely different from our 2010 League. I won't be a spoiler regarding their identities, beyond the one irresistable comment that there's a new Green Lantern in the mix, and I can't figure-out whether he's human or alien.

So a well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation for all good DC readers to read this premier Batman Beyond issue. If you haven't already read the just-completed mini-series, then by all means check-out the back issues which are still available on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment or talk to the store staff about any upcoming graphic compilation reprints of this excellent series.

Iron Man Legacy #9
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Fred Van Lente: Writer
Steve Kurth: Pencils
Allen Martinez: Inks
John Rauch: Colors

Similar to the Batman universe, there are lots of various Iron Man titles on the new issues shelves these days at That's Entertainment. I wasn't familiar with the Iron Man Legacy title, so when I saw issue #9 on the new issue shelves this past week, I thought I'd take it out for a review test-drive. The comic book is scripted by writer Fred Van Lente with pencils by Steve Kurth, inks by Allen Martinez and colors by John Rauch.

Issue #9 is sub-titled "Bunker Mentality" and is part four of an ongoing multi-issue story arc entitled "Industrial Revolution." A page one narrative catches-up the new reader on the story situation so far: the year is 1984 and Tony Stark has lost control of his corporation. Living in the L.A. inner city, he's organizing the neighborhood into a groundroots cooperative, in which he and the local African-American population will be research entrepreneurs, creating groundbreaking high tech and manufacturing these products to bring some economic prosperity to Stark's newfound downtrodden friends.

The plot advances in this month's issue, as Stark leads the folks into squatting in an abandoned warehouse and starting their business operation. Along the way, Stark and friends deal with multiple challenges, including threats from the police as well as danger from a local criminal organization that appears to have some supervillain support. By issue's end, Stark has made progress on some of these issues. The story segment ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue, as Stark's roommate/girlfriend is captured by the bad guys, revealing both their supervillain connections and their plans to threaten Stark with his girlfriend's life in the balance.

Credit is due to the creative team for taking the unique story angle of setting this entire title run in the year 1984. While it limits their ability to have fun with today's 2010 lifestyle and technology, its both a challenge for the writer/artists as well as a rare experience for the modern-day reader to see these characters function in the pre-cell phone, pre-personal computer world. I got an entertaining kick out of seeing everyone in this story have to struggle on their own without today's standard personal equipment to deal with all of their problems and situations. These story boundaries provide a nicely-crafted alternative type of Iron Man tale, as well as wake the reader up regarding how we get so overwhelmed these days, both in comic book stories and in real-life, by all of the gizmos in our world.

So have some fun with this comic book-use it as an entertaining chance to see characters creatively use their wits to work with each other to deal with the interesting story situation, as opposed to pushing a button or using an I-phone app to immediately solve the problem at hand. You'll be glad that you took a chance on this interesting throwback Iron Man tale.

Superman/Batman #79
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Chris Roberson: Writer
Jesus Merino: Art

DC's very popular and long-running Superman/Batman title is up to issue #79 this month. The series is currently written by Chris Roberson with art by Jesus Merino. For the uninitiated, this comic book (obviously from the title) pairs Superman and Batman together, with the stories often structured with a dual, parallel narrative that reveals how the pair often think differently or see their common situation in very different ways.

This issue kicks-off a new, multi-issue story arc entitled "World's Finest." The story setting is the 853rd century, as a time-traveling supervillain named "Epoch,The Lord Of Time" arrives in that century and announces he's there to conquer the world. The story immediately shifts into high action and adventure, as the Superman, Batman and robot-Robin sidekick of that day take-on the bad guy. Without spoiling any details, the battle and maneuvering among the foursome rapidly shifts between such locations as the future versions of the Batcave, Fortress of Solitude and Justice League headquarters. The issue ends in a plot twist as Epoch time-jumps away from the future heroes, arriving in today's Times Square where our 2010 trio of heroes are waiting to take him on in next month's issue.

Among the many Superman and Batman-themed comics out there, this title has always stood-out as an excellent source for veteran and newcomer fans alike to get a high quality double dose of our heroes. This current issue is no exception to that rule. Writer Chris Roberson succeeeds in three entertaining respects. First, he gives us a far future, science fiction version of Batman and Superman that's both credible and avoids potential cheesiness. And you gotta just love their robot Robin sidekick! Secondly, he adds fun and entertaining far future details regarding the well-known DC universe props of the Batcave, Fortress of Solitude and Justice League headquarters. And third, he brings all of this action and plot nicely full-circle by issue's end back to our present-day heroes, for further fun adventure and action in next month's issue.

So a positive recommendation to add this well-crafted comic book issue to your ever-growing new issues reading pile. There's a nice mix of far future and present-day DC universe details and atmosphere in this comic book that makes it well-worth taking the time for an entertaining read.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us your most favorite and least favorite comics of 2010. We have co-winners this week, who are (drumroll, please...) Mike Dooley and David Ruiz. Mike's favorite comic this past year was The Lone Ranger, with Mike telling us that the build-up of suspense from issue-to-issue was well-worth the wait. His least favorite title was Ultimate Spider-Man, telling us that "the current storyline is just too much Spidey and his Amazing Friends."

David Ruiz's favorite comic book of 2010 was Thor, The Mighty Avenger, which we just reviewed last week. David liked its classic, works-for-all-reading-ages style and wishes Marvel wasn't ending publication of the title next month. David's least favorite title this past year was Nemesis, saying that the title for him didn't live-up to its hype and much of the storyline didn't seem to make much sense. Congrats to our contest co-winners, who each receive a first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

As a final contest comment, for what its worth, my own three most favorite comics of 2010 were Thor, The Mighty Avenger, the ongoing comic book adaption of Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? and the science fiction futuristic take on Batman, "Batman Beyond." For least favorite, check out my reviews throughout 2010 which gave a thumbs-down to a handful of titles.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's a simple mystery contest for you. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges has noticed that there are many cars around Worcester these days (my neighbor Ray's car, included) with bumper stickers on them that mysteriously just list the number "13.1." So e-mail us at and tell us what these mysterious "13.1" bumper stickers mean. In the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner of the That's Entertainment $10.00 gift certificate will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

That's all for now, so have a great start-of-2011 comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comic Reviews- 1/8/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo wishes everyone a very Happy New Year and has decreed that we begin the 2011 comic book review year with a review of a new Batman title followed by two Marvel Comics reviews:

Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
David Finch: Writer and Pencils
Scott Williams: Inks
Alex Sinclair: Colors

DC Comics has just published issue #1 of a new Batman comic book entitled Batman: The Dark Knight, starring the returned Bruce Wayne as The Caped Crusader. The series is both written and penciled by David Finch with inks by Scott Williams and colors by Alex Sinclair.

This premier issue kicks-off a multi-issue storyline entitled "Golden Dawn." The plot centers on missing Gotham socialite Dawn Golden, the subject of a massive search-and-rescue manhunt by the Gotham police. Two plotlines interweave throughout the story. The first is a flashback storyline, as we learn both that she was Bruce Wayne's best childhood friend and that she had a very emotionally-troubled childhood. Our second modern-day plotline unfolds as Bruce Wayne/Batman takes her supposed kidnapping very seriously, as his emotional buttons are pushed by fear for his old friend's well-being. Batman's search for clues pays off step-by-step, leading him from an initial confrontation with Killer Croc to a dramatic bridge to issue #2 as he's captured by another well-known Gotham super-villain.

I was very entertained and also intrigued by the details of this premier issue, for a few reasons. First, although I'm a huge Batman fan, I've never come across this person Dawn Golden in the wide Batman universe, so it was a lot of fun to be introduced to another Gotham player, albeit one with whom Bruce Wayne has very strong emotional ties. Secondly, writer David Finch has structured his plot to include a strong element of doubt as to what is really happening to the missing Dawn Golden. Without being a detail spoiler, there are enough false clues, too-easy clues and traps for Batman here that all lead to the question of whether Dawn Golden is an actual innocent missing victim or whether instead she's possibly involved in something villainous, herself. And third, its just great to have the original Caped Crusadar back on the Gotham nighttime beat, after the lengthy "Death Of Batman" event, which was interesting but went on long enough, thank you.

So a very positive thumbs-up recommendation and a happy welcome back to Bruce Wayne/Batman, along with a well-deserved tip-of-the-review-hat to writer/penciller David Finch for giving us an excellent return tale in issue #1 of this new series. I for one am really looking forward to upcoming monthly issues of this new series, as this well-crafted Batman tale of Gotham-noir mystery continues to entertainingly unfold.

What If? #200
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marc Guggenheim: Writer
Dave Wilkins: Art

Marvel Comics's long-running What If? title has reached its 200th anniversary issue this month. The special issue has three stories in it, with the lead story written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Dave Wilkins. For the uninitiated, the popular What If? title has been around since 1977, and gives us an alternate universe-type storyline with each issue, asking a what if? question and answering it with the particular story plot. For example, the premier issue #1 in 1977 asked "What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?"

The lead 22-page story in issue #200 asks the question "What if Norman Osborn won the Siege of Asgard?" In last year's Marvel mega-event, the good guys obviously beat-back the evil Norman and all was well again in the good old Marvel Universe. Here the opposite happens; the body count piles-up page-by-page, as Osborn and his allies kill all of the well-known Marvel heroes. Finally, The Sentry goes nuts and kills Osborn, unleashing the demon within The Sentry which proceeds to destroy all of mankind.

I was very disappointed in this tale. For the 200th anniversary issue, I expected a plot that fit the long-time character of the What If? title, giving us a story that entertained with an intriguing and thought-provoking alternative idea for the Marvel Universe. Instead, we're presented with a bleak, plotless and simple-minded slaughterfest of the entire Marvel universe, concluding with the destruction of the entire human race and Earth. I felt as if I was reading the graphic lay-out for a very bloody video game as opposed to a Marvel comic book.

Given that our general culture and mass media has become more jaded and violent in the current generation, I suppose its inevitable that some comics fall into that same devolution category. But its a shame that the fun and entertainment that this title has been known for is replaced in its iconic 200th issue with a bleak slaughterfest. So if you like that stuff, feel free to read this comic, but I can honestly only recommend that this issue be skipped. While the second story, a Watcher/Silver Surfer tale, and the third story, a reprint of an classic Daredevil/Electra tale, are both o.k., they don't provide enough quality balance to give this issue a thumbs-up recommendation.

Thor, The Mighty Avenger #7
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Roger Langridge: Writer
Chris Samnee: Art
Matthew Wilson: Colors

Marvel's Thor, The Mighty Avenger title is up to issue #7 this month. I gave a very positive review to last year's premier issue #1, so let's take a look at this month's issue to see how this series is holding-up. The title is scripted by Roger Langridge, with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matthew Wilson. As I mentioned in my issue #1 review, this series is a reinterpretation of the standard Thor comic book universe, presenting Thor as a young, personable and inexperienced superhero adjusting to life in small-town America.

The issue #7 story is entitled "Robot," and interweaves two plot threads. One storyline focuses on the personal relationship between the young Thor and Jayne Foster, the single and available Town Library antiquities expert in the Town of Bergin, Oklahoma. In the standard Thor story universe, Jane Foster is Thor's alter ego Dr. Don Blake's nurse and Thor/Blake's love interest. The second storyline seems to be a continuation of a previous storythread, in which two local scientists are tasked by a mysterious financier to invent a bunch of killer robots to attack and capture Thor. Issue #7 ends in a dramatic battle between Thor and said robots, in which he's captured and being taken to the scientist's lair for further action in next month's issue #8.

I loved issue #1 of this series and the latest issue #7 didn't disappoint at all. This is just a very fresh and fun reinterpretation of Thor, taking all of "The Mighty Thor" mythic starch out of the big guy, and replacing him with a charming, lanky, naive farm-boy-type Thor, who is embraced by this small Oklahoma Town as one of their own "boys." The relationship between Thor and local girl Jane is sweet and charning, and you just root page-by-page for their romance to thrive and grow, as the two balance trying to have a relationship while dealing with the superhero/bad guy/robot stuff that just keeps getting in the way of their plans.

As in my issue #1 review, a well-deserved hats-off is due to artist Chris Samnee, whose artistic style perfectly conveys the emotion and charm of this series, leading me again to complement his graphic product as being on equal par with Tim Sale's work a few years ago within D.C.'s iconic four-issue "Superman For All Seasons" mini-series. My brother Dave tells me that next month's issue #8 wraps-up up this wonderful series, which is a real shame. But Marvel has just released a softcover compilation reprint of issues #1 through #4, so my recommendation is to pick-up a copy of that book and also catch-up at That's Entertainment with the remaining issues #5 through #7 in anticipation of next month's concluding issue #8.

Books Available At That's Entertainment!!!

Our favorite pop culture emporium has just restocked with post-holiday shopping season copies of three short story anthologies that include several of my stories. So if you're in the mood for reading some fun science fiction, fantasy and/or horror short stories, pick-up a copy at That's Entertainmnet of either "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country," "Strange Stories Of Sand & Sea" and/or "Strange Tales #2." They make great gifts, too!

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

As of this writing, we don't have any entries yet to our current New Year's contest, which challenges you to e-mail us at and tell us what your favorite and least favorite comics were of 2010. There's a $10.00 prize gift certificate just waiting to be spent by the winner, people, so get those entries e-mailed to us no later than noon on Wednesday, January 12!

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