Thursday, February 24, 2011

comic reviews 2/25/11

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo offers up a mix of comic themes for review for this week, ranging from a standard DC Comics title to a classic science fiction theme and ending with an alternative European-published comic title:

Teen Titans: Cold Case #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Mark Sable: Writer
Sean Murphy: Art
Brad Anderson: Colors

DC currently has a Teen Titans one-shot special comic book on the new issues shelves entitled "Teen Titans: Cold Case #1." The issue is written by Mark Sable with art by Sean Murphy and colors by Brad Anderson. The story is entitled "Father's Day" and the setting is actually a sort of throwback, set approximately one year after the "Identity Crisis" DC mega-event published back in 2004. For the uninitiated, Identity Crisis was a popular mystery series scripted by well-known writer Brad Meltzer, which revolved around the question as to who murdered Sue Dibny, wife of DC superhero The Elongated Man. Part of the plot involved Robin/Tim Drake's father being murdered.

This Teen Titans one-shot storyline picks-up on the "death-of-Robin's-father" theme, opening with Robin struggling with two parallel issues: coping with internal guilt for having failed to prevent his father's murder while at nthe same time trying to coalesce a new membership of Teen Titans, consisting of himself, Rose Wilson/Ravager, Wonder Girl, Cyborg and Kid Devil. There's a lot of mistrust here, particularly regarding Ravager, the supposedly reformed daughter of bad guy Deathstroke. An intricate story thread proceeds, as Deathstroke lures his daughter into a trap with the bait of a mysterious briefcase, the contents of which supposedly will help Robin address his father's death. Said trap consists of the entire Teen Titans stumbling into a major confrontation with The Rogues, the large and well-known group of villains from the Flash comic book universe, led by old Flash foe Captain Cold. The second half of the issue details and interconnects three plotthreads: a major battle among the players, a reveal of the briefcase contents and the Teen Titans attempting to resolve conflicts and teen angst issues within the group.

I've shyed away for a few years from reviewing any comic book starring The Teen Titans, after consistent disappointment with the Titan comics that I picked to read each time back then. As such, it was very enjoyable to give these well-known young DC team members another read and find this latest one-shot title a major improvement on those earlier issues. Its very creative and entertaining of writer Mark Sable to take us back a few years within the chronology of the DC universe with a postscript storyline from the Identity Crisis era. The strength of this effort lies in Sable's weaving of three major themes into one cogent plot: the struggle of the new Teen Titans to coalesce as a functional group, their conflict with the group of bad guys and Robin's struggle within the "Father's Day" title theme to come to terms with the circumstances of his father's death. Graphically laid-out with strong effect, the tale is entertaining, emotionally moving and satisfying from start to finish.

I have no idea whether this one-shot storyline serves to establish a new direction within the ongoing monthly Teen Titans title, but I suspect it does; either way, it's a worthy high quality comic to check-out and its definitely pushed me into checking-out the regular Teen Titans series in the near future for hopefully some more installments of this particular make-up of Teen Titan characters and their ongoing adventures.

Formic Wars: Burning Earth #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Aaron Johnston: Writer
Giancarlo Caracuzzo: Art
Jim Charalampidis: Colors

Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 in a new five-issue limited series of a science fiction comic book entitled "Formic Wars: Burning Earth". The series is a prequel story to well-known science fiction writer Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" series of science fiction novels. Marvel published a comic book adaptation of Ender's Game last year, for which I wrote a positive review of issue #1. This current series is scripted by Aaron Johnston with art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and colors by Jim Charalampidis.

A page one narrative tells us that this prequel is set during the First Formic War, which was a smaller-scale outer space war in which a ragtag group of outer space asteroid miners fought-off the first appearance of the insect-like alien invaders. The first issue story segment introduces us to two warring asteroid mining factions-the large Juke Limited Corporation and the independent mining ship El Cavador, crewed by a large extended family of Venezuelan miners. The plotline unfolds as the two groups literally war against each other over rare asteroid stakes. A nasty attack by the corporate big bad guys leaves the El Cavador no choice but to try and stake-out a very remote asteroid claim. By issue's end, the El Cavador has picked-up a remote signal of an approaching alien vessel, obviously the invaders who will arrive on the scene in issue #2.

I was very impressed with the creative team's graphic production of this slice of Orson Scott Card's grand and impressive Ender's Game space opera universe. There's a richness of dialogue detail that's missing in most science fiction comic book adaptations, as page-by-page we're introduced to the warring asteroid miner factions. Its obvious that as the invasion proceeds, these human rivals are going to have to put aside their differences and unite to save humanity, so its both interesting and very effective to have an issue #1 story segment that delves deeply into the background of their internal human rivalry.

Even the best graphic adaptations of good science fiction generalizes the tale that is being adapted to comic book form. As such, its a rare treat to find a series that manages to overcome that obstacle and project a sense that one is reading the full storyline of the fictional version of the tale. So a definite positive thumbs-up review recommendation for fans of writer Orson Scott Card, general science fiction fans and even generic comic book fans to check-out this high quality new limited edition series from Marvel Comics.

Meditterranea #1
Publisher: GG Studio
Alessandro Cenni: Writer
Gjianluca Maconi: Pencils
Alessia Nocera & Barbara Ciardo: Colors

The first two issues are available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves of an imported comic from the Italian comic book publisher GG Studio, entitled Meditterranea. I decided to review issue #1, written by Alessandro Cenni with pencils by Gjianluca Maconi and colors by Alessia Nocera and Barbara Ciardo.

This is a high fantasy genre tale, set in the fantasy world of Meditteranea. The plot centers on a trio of travelers, the elderly Master Auraki and his two young and sexy female assistants, Eleni and Alonisso. Apparently, the inhabitants of this world consist of a few different humanoid races. The first half of the issue details the trio traveling to and arriving in a coastal city with the purpose of Master Auraki getting set to negotiate a revision to the treaty that keeps the peace among these varied beings. Action and suspense kick-in for the remainder of the issue, as a mysterious female assailant tries to disrupt the effort and a just-as-mysterious savior arrives to protect the travelers. Its clear by issue's end that the fast action and political maneuvering will progress in the next issue.

I reviewed GG Studio's "The One" comic not too long ago and liked it, although it was a bit confusing to follow at times. No similar problem is at-hand, here; this is an excellent high fantasy premise, reminding me of the best short story and novel fantasy fiction of classic fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin. I loved the story setting that blends both old and new, the old being a geographical setting resembling Earth's coastal Meditteranean society and the new being the obviously alien location inhabited by a futuristic population of fantastical people. The European graphic style of presenting the many young women in the story as sexy and bikini-clad isn't overdone and actually makes sense, given the beachside story setting.

So try something different for a change, and add this interesting Italian import to your ever-growing pile of domestically-produced new comic books. A little variety will do you some good and you won't be disappointed with this unusual and intriguing fatnasy storyline.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
In honor of Major League Baseball spring training, our current contest challenged you to name at least one of two famous former Red Sox pitchers who pitched early in their careers for the Pan-Alaska Goldpanners, a collegiate team in the summer Alaskan Baseball League. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please),,,David McBarron, who correctly identified Bill "Spaceman" Lee as a former Goldpanner. Our second player was former pitching great Tom Seaver, who did a brief stint with the Red Sox late in his career. Congratulations to David, who is the winner of the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!
Let's put our comic book thinking caps back on for this week's contest. Your challenge for this week is to e-mail us at and pitch to us a comic book title that you think we should review in an upcoming edition of this column. It can be a comic title that we've reviewed before and you think we should review once again, or you can offer-up a title that we haven't taken a look at yet. Either way, make your case on why your submittal is "review-worthy." Our contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment and, of course, we will review the winning contest entry!
That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Comic Reviews 2/18/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week a DC Vertigo Imprint comic, a DC one-shot issue and a new Marvel Comics limited series title, so let's see how they all stack-up against each other:

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever #1
Publisher: DC Vertigo Comics
Chris Roberson: Writer
Shawn McManus: Art
Lee Loughridge: Colors

DC's Vertigo Comics imprint has just published issue #1 of Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, a brand-new mini-series in follow-up to this past year's Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love limited-run title. Both series star Cinderella as a female James Bond-type spy, jetting around the world in a plotline focusing on spy thriller details as she works to address threats to the general Fabletown community and cast of characters. The series is scripted by Chris Roberson with art by Shawn McManus and colors by Lee Loughridge.

The "Fables Are Forever" title is an inference to the James Bond "Diamonds Are Forever" title, which makes sense as the series concept is in the vein of a Bond spy thriller. The issue #1 plot interweaves two storythreads, a flashback and a present-day scenario. In the flashback, Cinderella recounts discovering on a mission to Russia a few years back that an entire Eastern European society of Fables characters exists whom the New York-based Fables weren't aware of. She tangles with an unidentified female spy code-named "Silver Slipper," barely surviving the encounter. In the present-day, a series of murders is occurring at the Fabletown farm, with the evidence pointing to the return of Silver Slipper. Folks from Cinderella's Russian mission begin popping-up in the present, both as potential victims and suspects. The issue ends in a very dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as the identity of Silver Slipper is revealed.

This kick-off issue of the limited-run series is a worthy and entertaining follow-up to last year's Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love series. At first, I was missing the Fabletown setting, as most of the story takes Cinderella through both the "Mundy" ordinary New York world as well as across the globe. But on second thought, that's necessary to progress the plot action for a jet-setting James Bond-type spy character. By issue's end, more Fables characters, both good and bad guys, are becoming active in the plot, and I'm sure much of the upcoming issues will revisit the upstate New York Fables farm where the unsolved murders will keep occuring.

A positive review comment is also due to the creative team's skills. Writer Chris Roberson gives us his usual humorous dialogue well-balanced with spy thriller twists, turns and tension, while the art team gives us a sexy and interesting femme fatale spy in Cinderella. And the identity of Sliver Slipper is just great fun and totally unexpected (here's a hint: we ain't in Kansas, anymore!).

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to read this new series, which is sure to be a lot of fun for fans of the Fabletown comics universe, spy thriller fiction and all-around fun comic book reading, alike.

Superman 80-Page Giant 2011 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers & Artists

DC Comics has just published a one-shot, over-sized 80-Page "Superman Giant 2011" comic book. The issue includes 7 stories by various teams of writers and artists. Similar to a few other giant Superman-themed comics that I've read and/or reviewed in the past year, the comic is structured more as a tribute to Superman rather than starring The Man Of Steel. Each story stars a member of the extended Superman Family, with our hero either playing a supporting or bit role.

Three of the seven stories really stood-out to me as high quality entertainment. The lead tale is entitled "First Time For Everything" and stars Superman's father Jor-El in an action tale set back on Krypton before the planetary explosion. Unlike most Jor-El tales over the years, its a real shoot-em-up thriller, mixing-in a science sub-lot that leads us to a moving and emotional story conclusion. Story number two is entitled "Old Men Talking In Bars." The plot co-stars Daily Planet Editor Perry White and superhero Wildcat, who meet-up one night in a small Metropolis bar, swapping ancedotes and philosophies with humor. "Quarter-Life Crisis" is an intriguing tale starring Jimmy Olson. 100 clones of Jimmy have been accidentally created and loosed upon the city, Jimmy pursues them around the city, as each experiences one day of life before expiring.

Of the four additional stories in the issue, three are still solid and entertaining, just not as outstanding as the three tales reviewed above. My only complaint is one story featuring the Bizarro Superman on his Bizarro planet. Its just too convuluted to follow, with all of the Bizarro double and triple-speak, even for a Bizarro story. As a concluding review comment, I really like the approach of DC in the last few Giant Superman issues, of presenting stories starring Superman's friends and family. The approach both provides fun reading and serves as a nice tribute to how our hero influences these people in their daily lives in a good way. So add this issue to that ever-growing pile of new Superman issues to read!

Onslaught Unleashed #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Sean McKeever: Writer
Filipe Andrade: Art
Ricardo Tercio: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 in a planned four-issue mini-series entitled "Onslaught Unleashed." The series co-stars two teams of Marvel heroes, the Secret Avengers led by Captain America/Steve Rodgers and the Young Allies, consisting of young heroes Nomad, Spider-Girl, Toro, Gravity and Firestar. The comic book is scripted by Sean McKeever with art by Filipe Andrade and colors by Ricardo Tercio.

The title refers to the central focus of the plot, the return to the Marvel universe of Onslaught, who according to a back-of-the-comic-book narrative is a Marvel universe villain who evolved by combining elements of the X-Men's Dr. Xavier and bad guy mutant Magneto's personalities. The return of this villain doesn't occur until the last page of issue #1. The bulk of the issue is a storyline in which both teams of heroes are lured into a trap set by Onslaught. A series of disturbing dream messages received by Nomad are followed by Toro's kidnapping, with clues leading the two teams to Colombia. Naturally, Onslaught is behind the action and springs his trap on the heroes. In a surprising twist, his return actually consists of possessing the body of one of the good guys, whose identity I won't reveal in this review.

This is a solid, middle-of-the-road decent comic book; nothing really great here, but a good, entertaining read. As a non-regular reader of these characters, I was confused a bit by both the interactions among the Young Allies members as well as the concept of Onslaught and his return. The uninformed reader like me would have been better served if the Onslaught bio was located at the start of the comic instead of at the end of the book. So I'd suggest that the remaining issues have a brief narrative update at the beginning of each story segment. Otherwise, this comic deserves a thumbs-up positive review for being both an interesting and a well-constructed storyline.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to pitch to us your favorite newspaper comic strip or strips, and tell us why you're such a fan of your selection. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please),,,Kevine Browne, who lists Peanuts, The Far Side, Fox Trot and Dilbert among his favorites, but nominates Calvin & Hobbes as his all-time favorite. Kevin describes Calvin & Hobbes as "sometimes poignant, often-times nostalgia-provoking, and ALWAYS fun and enterianing. The sheer wonder and enthusiasm that (creator) Bill Watterson poured into each and every one of his strips still entertains and inspires me to this day."

A very articulate and heart-felt submittal from Kevin for a truly worthy comic strip. Paperback compilations of Calvin & Hobbes are available at That's Entertainment. Congrats to Kevin who wins our $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

This past week, we finally reached that wonderful time at the end of the winter when pitchers and catchers report to Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Florida! In honor of this sacred event, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges bring you a new baseball trivia contest challenge, one that combines the themes of baseball and our still-freezing winter weather!

Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following: Name at least one of the two former Red Sox star pitchers who at one point in their minor league careers pitched for the Pan-Alaska Goldpanners, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Alaska Baseball League. In the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of our $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

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

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Comics Reviews 2/11/11

Good King Leonardo has again selected a wide variety of comics for us to review this week, from the well-known Uncle Scrooge and Batman to a pair of lesser-known titles, so let's see how they all stack-up against each other:

Uncle Scrooge #400
Publisher: BOOM Kids!
Multiple Writers and Artists

Disney's iconic Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic book is up to its #400 anniversary issue with this past week's issue. The comic book features two new stories along with three one-page reprint tales. The main, longer new story is written by Rudy Salvagnini with art by Giorgio Cavazzano. The theme of this anniversary issue is a tribute to iconic Disney duck family artist Carl Barks. Fans of Donald Duck comics know that Barks is renowned for both classic issues of Donald Duck family comics as well as original Duck family oil paintings that are highly collectible.

The main story is entitled "Uncle Scrooge And The Man Who Drew Ducks." The plot consists of an interview of Barks and his wife by a journalist researching his long association with Uncle Scrooge. As an alternate reality plot theme, the idea here is that its all real, with Barks detailing the history of how he approached the infamous duck miser, convinced him to allow the licensing of comic books produced by Barks of his "real life duck adventures," and the rest is history. The back-up story is entitled "Obsession." Written by Byron Erickson with art by Daan Jippes, its the latest installment on a long-running Scrooge comic title theme, in which duck witch Magica DeSpell plots to steal Scrooge's "original dime," the very first coin he ever earned, which contains potent magical powers.

It was unexpected yet interesting to find that this anniversary issue focuses more on Scrooge's famous primary artist as opposed to the character himself. But that makes a lot of sense, given how inseparable the character and artist have become over the decades. The Barks tribute story is both cute for kids and entertaining for adults, as is the back-up Magica DeSpell story, which balances the main tale with a plot focusing on Scrooge and his foe moreso than Barks. And the three one-page reprint tales provide a nice sampling of the quality that Barks brought to his beloved characters back in his heyday.

So a definite thumbs-up for this latest Uncle Scrooge issue, both as a decent monthly issue of the title as well as a worthy and well-produced tribute to both the Uncle Scrooge character and the beloved creator so connected to his life's artistic work.

Batman Confidential #53
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marc Guddenheim: Writer
Jerry Bingham: Art
David Baron & Jerry Bingham: Colors

The Batman Confidential title is up to issue #53 this month. Time flies since I reviewed one or two issues of this popular Batman universe title back in its early publication days. The current story run is written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Jerry Bingham and colors by David Baron and Jerry Bingham.

Issue #53 is entitled "Altered States" and is Chapter 4 in a multi-issue storyline entitled "Super Powers." The front cover also refers to the name of the current plotline as "The First League!," which accurately sums up the story focus. Without having to read the previous three story installments, its clear from the start that Batman is in a confrontation with the original Justice League members (Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, etc.), a group that in this version of the DC Universe he's never met before. The story interweaves two plot threads. In the first, the Caped Crusader has an initial unintended battle with the group, after which he reveals that they've crossed paths in joint pursuit of an alien villain. A second plotline is a flashback experience, of Bruce Wayne training with a Far Eastern band of mystical warriors. The dialogue and issues of the dual storyline parallel and overlap at times, culminating in a dramatic reveal at the end of this story segment regarding the actual nature of the supposed alien foe, bridging to a wider threat to be explored in next month's issue.

Writer Marc Guggenheim has scripted several recent DC titles that I've read and/or reviewed in which he delivers both high quality and highly entertaining scripts, and this issue deserves to be added to that list. Its a fresh and interesting story concept to structure this version of Batman's world with our hero neither part of nor familiar with the Justice Leaguers. Guggenheim is clearly exploring the Lone Wolf side of the Batman persona, as the flashback narrative also focuses on Bruce Wayne's conflicted feelings regarding the alternate paths of either joining the mystical warrior group or choosing the go-it-alone hero route. There are also some small plot touches here that add some nice color and depth to the story, such as a new totem-like explanation of the Bat Symbol and some personality and experience similarities between Batman and the bad guy.

The many well-produced but "cutting edge/big event" Batman titles out there these days often lead Batman fanatics like me to seek-out a solid, standard Batman storyline for a bit of balance. This is one of those titles, currently providing us with a successful blend of old-school Batman with some fun and entertaining new twists. So for a dose of the best of both Bat-worlds, combining our old Bat-buddy with some excellent new twists and turns, I'd recommend this well-produced comic book for both heavy-duty and casual Bat-fans alike.

Locke And Key: Keys To The Kingdom #3
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Joe Hill: Writer
Gabriel Rodriguez: Art
Jay Fotos: Colors

Our good friend Pete at That's Entertainment recommended that we review this new comic book title from IDW Publishing, scripted by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez and colors by Jay Fotos. This is a horror /mystery thriller in the atmospheric vein of Stephen King's storytelling gothic horror universe. This is hardly surprising, as writer Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. A brief but effective inside front cover narrative explains that the three Locke siblings, two teens and a preteen, live together in a gothic mansion in a Maine coast-type setting. After their father is murdered, the Locke kids have direct access to a set of mystical keys in the home, which allow them certain supernatural abilities including selectively removing emotions, trading direct memories and past experiences with people and battling horror threats. Unbenownst to the trio, their best friend is their enemy, trying to access the one key which will connect him with evil.

The creative team has structured each issue as a month's narrative sets of panels moving the storyline through listed days of the month. Naturally, the current issue #3 progresses the storyline through the current month of February. The story is complex and very rich in details and layers, so for the purpose of this review, as well as the desire not to be a story spoiler, I'll summarize the plot by keeping it very general. Day-by-day, our trio both interact with friends and foes, some with whom they share their key-using practices and some who they keep completely in the dark. They face a wide variety of supernatural threats from using the keys, while balancing a lot of personal relationship angst as they make-up and break-up with girlfriends, boyfriends and best friends. There's one plotline from start to finish throughout the issue focusing on one pair of young lovers, as their relationship starts with the beginning of February and seemingly ends along with the end of the month.

My first taste of Joe Hill's writing unfortunately was bitter, as I reviewed last month his comic book title "The Cape" and found it to be once of the worst comic books that I've ever read and definitely the worst that I've ever reviewed for this column. So its both a relief and a wonderful surprise to find this comic at the polar opposite extreme of that unfortunate reading experience. This comic is frankly stunning in many ways, blending horror, thriller mystery and teen relationship/soap opera storytelling in an addictive narrative and graphic style. To his credit, Joe Hill keeps the horror low-key, never taking it all too grossly bloody and over-the-top. The personalities of the many teen characters in this title are both realistic and intriguing, laying-out a high quality dialogue that immerses the reader deep into the storytelling of this very original fictional world.

I say it once in awhile in certain reviews and I'll say it again, here; this is one of those titles that clearly have " Television Series Smash-Hit" emblazoned on every page and panel of the storyline. I can't picture this gem not making it onto the small screen sooner or later, so have some fun and discover it right now in graphic form, before its all over in the next 16 issues, as mentioned on the front cover. And a quick thumbs-up thank-you to Pete, who was right on target with his opinion that this is a not-to-be-missed comic book title.

R.P.M. #1
Publisher: 12-Gauge Comics
Mick Foley and Shane Riches: Writers
Jose Holder: Art
Michael Wiggam: Colors
12-Gauge Comics has a new comic book entitled R.P.M. The title is scripted by Mick Foley and Shane Riches with art by Jose Holder and Michael Wiggam.

The setting of this comic is close-to-Worcester out in Revere, Massachusetts. Our main character is Revere Windsor, a direct descendent of Paul Revere, He's an independent courier, delivering sensitive material and information for the federal government. The plot kicks-off with Revere taking an outside job, guaranteeing to deliver via high-tech security automobile a synthetic diamond formula to Florida for a diamond company, along with two key company employees. The action kicks-off as the trio are attacked just south of Boston by Angolan nationals, who want to sabotage the synthetic diamond effort to protect their country's natural diamond mining industry. Issue #1 ends in a twist as one of Revere's companion's turns-out to be a traitor to the company.

This is a very original espionage/thriller comic book. It was fun to stumble upon a comic with a very local setting; I also liked very much the idea of Windsor being a descendent of Paul Revere, thereby updating the Revere-as-Colonial-courier idea to a modern-day high tech setting. While the action starts late in this issue, that's appropriate in order for the creative team to spend most of issue #1 establishing the basic premise of the high tech security courier idea as well as the character's basic personalities.

My only constructive criticism is that the art work is pretty weak, of a style that's very sketchy and rough, and just not pleasing to the eye. That could be a major stumbling block in keeping fans committed to reading monthly this strong story concept. So my advice to the publisher is to shift to a new artistic team and give this decent new comic title with the local Massachusetts setting a chance to put down some roots and thrive on a monthly basis.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
Our latest contest challenge was a tribute to those many bit players on our favorite animated television shows, as we asked you to identify who Eleanor Abernathy is and on what show she appears. And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Keith Martin, who correctly identified her as the well-known crazy cat lady of The Simpsons. Congratulations to Keith, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!
The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges realized this past week that while we've held many contests featuring comic book-related media such as animated movies and television shows, we've never held a contest on newspaper comic strips themselves. So let's try to make amends this week with a comic strip contest!

Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at and tell us about one or more of your favorite newspaper comic strips. Feel free to elaborate on why you like the strip, where you read it, can it be accessed on-line, etc. There's still a great variety of comic strips out there these days, from our old favorite Peanuts to new stuff like Pearls Before Swine and Rhymes With Orange (even Hi & Lois is still out there!), so e-mail us now with your entry! As always, our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.
That's all for now, so have a great snow melting and comic book reading week and see you again next week, Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Comic Reviews 2/4/11

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo has declared that we review this week an eclectic trio of comics, one from an established, iconic creator along with two new titles introducing some newly-created superheroes:
Batman/Catwoman: Follow The Money #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Howard Chaykin: Writer and Artist
Jesus Aburto: Colors

DC Comics currently has an interesting-looking one-shot Batman universe comic on the new issues shelves, entitled Batman/Catwoman: Follow The Money #1. The comic book is both written and drawn by veteran comics creator Howard Chaykin, with colors by Jesus Aburto. For the uninitiated, Howard Chaykin is a very well-known veteran of the comics industry, renowned among his many efforts for pioneering through his popular American Flagg! comic title, published by First Comics in the 1980's, the emergence of a literate graphic storytelling style that appealed beyond hardcore comic book fans to readers of all fiction genres. Chaykin also created the popular The Shadow mini-series and the Blackhawk title for DC back in the 1980's.

"Follow The Money" pairs Batman and Catwoman in a Gotham City adventure. The plot begins with two interweaving events. The first storythread is action-oriented, as Batman and Catwoman each separately confront The Cavalier, a local costumed villain, who eludes both of our heroes. Secondly, news breaks in the Gotham media that three Wayne Enterprises company employees have looted the corporation's pension fund and are on the run. Both plot threads come together as our two heroes determine that The Cavalier is the mastermind behind the theft. Without being a detail spoiler, our duo have to work together on two fronts, capturing the villains and restoring the pension funding. By issue's end, many complicated story details come together in a satisfactory resolution.

Reading any new Chaykin comic book has to take into account Chaykin's iconic reputation for that particular storytelling style of his that pioneered the late 20th century comics industry advancement into literate graphic storytelling. Here, he demonstrates that he still has the touch in this one-shot extra-length story, successfuly applying his unique blend of pop culture references, noir detective story elements, science fiction and jazz culture into a fresh and entertaining Batman/Catwoman tale. The story is simply mezmerising at times, flowing with flawless dialogue between our two heroes as they playfully bicker and banter their way through a complex financial crime scenario with costumed villainy behind the entire mess. The dual narrative is similar to the Superman/Batman comic title, in which the reader sees how Batman and Catwoman interpret shared experienced events differently.

There have been so many Batman/Catwoman comics over the years that its not fair to expect the latest adventure of the pair to break any new ground. As such, its a tremendous treat to find that Chaykin has delivered the unexpected, and serves-up a wonderful, extra-long adventure blending his own special storytelling approach with a just-plain-interesting and fun Gotham tale. So a strong thumbs-up positive recommendation to add this unique and excellent Gotham tale to your constantly-expanding new issues reading pile. You won't be sorry!

Halcyon #3
Publisher: Image Comics
Marc Guggenheim & Tara Butters: Writers
Ryan Bodenheim: Art
Mark Englert: Colors

Image Comics is up to issue #3 of a new superhero comic entitled Halcyon. The series is written by Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters, with art by Ryan Bodenheim and colors by Mark Englert. An brief inside-the-front-cover narrative summarizes the multi-issue story arc so far. The premise is that all war, violence and individual aggression among mankind has recently and mysteriously stopped, thus leading to two questions-why exactly have all humans on the planet become so passively nonaggressive, and what is the role of the world's superheroes in this new world reality?

The issue #3 story segment alternates between a few subplots that focus on a handful of superheroes who apparently make-up a superhero team called Halcyon. The main plotthread features Devlin, a Batman-like character who suspects a villainous conspiracy behind the new reality. Teaming-up with an unnamed flying superheroine, Devlin pursues his theory that another superheroine named Psiclops, who manifests strong psionic powers, is somehow embroiled in the conspiracy. The pair's investigation confirms Devlin's theory; the tension grows as they pursue clues to a deserted lab in Iceland, leading to a very unexpected and climactic end-of-issue discovery which I won't reveal in this review.

This is an absorbing new title and story concept in many respects. The artistic style, plot concept and overall story atmosphere are very similar to the best elements of Warren Ellis's acclaimed Planetary series, echoing Ellis's story universe concept of technological mysteries secretly out-of-control and threatening the basic nature of existance. There's also an intriguing emotional element to this tale, in which superheroes who are suddenly not needed by the world react in one of two ways: some, such as the heroine on the issue #3 cover, react with emotional breakdown leading to devastating consequences, while others such as Devlin smell a conspiracy rat and decide to go on the offensive.

A well-deserved hats-off is also due to writers Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters for exploring some intriguing side issues within the concept of this "What If The World All Went To Peace?" question. There's an intriguing section of the issue in which any researcher of the peaceful phenomenon is somehow psychologically diverted away from focusing on the peaceful phenomenon. Our hero Devlin pursues a bloody yet interesting strategy to address this problem, with successful results. However, my favorite story sub-plot features Damon Oculus, a Lex Luthor look-alike evil genius. Imprisoned in his jailcell, Oculus is also affected by the peaceful malaise effecting all of humanity. Stripped of all evil desires, out of boredom he puts his brilliant mind to good use, doodling lengthy equations on his cell walls that result in the cures for all forms of cancer!

I've read and reviewed over the past few years more comics than I can count that attempt to introduce us to worthwhile new superhero characters addressing a realistic world crisis situation. Most stumble to various degrees in trying to achieve these two worthwhile comic book storytelling goals. As such, those well-meaning but imperfect efforts all make Halcyon shine even brighter above the pack, as a great new comic that gives us solidly constructed and intriguing new superheroes dealing with a fascinating mystery that will keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat with every monthly issue. While Halcyon deserves a positive review in its own right, it also deserves the rare complement that this is a graphic storytelling creation deserved of comparison to the classic Planetary series.

Marineman #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Ian Churchill: Writer and Art
Ian Churchill and Alex Sollazzo: Colors

Another new comic title from Image Comics this week is Marineman, currently up to issue #2. The series is written and drawn by Ian Churchill with colors by Ian Churchill and Alex Sollazzo. Issue #2 is entitled "Deep Trouble" and is the latest installment in an ongoing multi-issue story arc. Marineman is Steve Ocean, a blond and burly twenty-something marine biologist who gave up academic research for television celebrity stardom as the host of an ocean environmental series. Steve made this career decision with the belief that he could help the world's oceanic eco-system more by educating the masses and bringing environmental awareness to the average person. Our scientist friend is also harboring a secret that only a few folk know, including his military scientist father-that he also has some superhero abilities, including super strength and the ability to hold his breath underwater for extremely long periods of time.

The "Deep Trouble" title of issue #2 is dead-on, as Steve Ocean deals with a host of problems. One issue is Steve being ordered by his military researcher dad to play good host to the visiting career soldier daughter of an old colleague. Said guest has little respect for Steve's choice to go the celebrity t.v. route, leading to ongoing tension between the pair. Steve's troubles escalate during a live telecast of his t.v. show. When his best friend is attacked by a shark, Steve has no choice but to rescue his buddy, revealing to the entire television audience his secret superhero powers. Issue #2 ends in an interesting bridge to next month's story installment, revealing that an elderly, unnamed villain has also watched the live television event and has evil intentions toward our hero.

Marineman is a positive breath of fresh air, taking a different storytelling tack away from today's mainstream of often jaded and grim superhero comic titles. Its fair to complement this comic book as a positive throwback, combining a plotline featuring undersea and on-land action and adventure with an almost innocent educative message about ocean protection. The result is a nicely-styled comic title starring a new superhero who's a little bit like Aquaman but mainly a regular scientist, intent on dealing in his own small but effective way with the ongoing worldwide crisis of ocean resource depletion. There's also an excellent two-page feature in the back of the book interviewing a National Geographic-affiliated scientist regarding the world's oceanic issues.
It's rare to find a comic book that so seamlessly blends a real-world scientific issue with comic book entertainment, as well as one that appeals to and entertains readers of all ages. So whether you're looking for a new water-based hero, interested in the world's oceans or just want a plainly-good quality comic book story to read, you won't go wrong becoming a well-entertained fan of this new comic book title from Image Comics.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
Our latest contest challenge was for you to answer the baseball trivia question asking who is the only person to ever wear the uniforms of all four New York-area major league baseball teams-the New York Yankees, Giants, Mets and the Brooklyn Dodgers. And our contest winner by a roll of the dice from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified that person as baseball legend Casey Stengel, who played for the Giants and Dodgers, and managed the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets. Congratulations to Kevin, who is the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!
The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges has decreed that we hold a trivia contest this week in honor of all of those second-string, B-list, benchwarmer, back-up characters that inhabit all of our favorite television animated shows. After all, where would our favorite animated t.v. stars, from Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson, be without all of their friends, neighbors and colleagues? So your challenge this week is to e-mail us at with the answer to the following question: What animated television show features the minor, secondary character Eleanor Abernathy, and by what nickname is she better known as? As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, we'll select the winner of our $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.
That's all for now, so pace yourself in shoveling-out from under our non-stop snow, have a great comic book-reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!