Friday, March 25, 2011

Comic Reviews 3/25/11

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week two comic book titles that were suggested by our readers in last week's contest, along with a new Marvel Comics title:
Axe Cop #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Malachai Nicolle: Writer
Ethan Nicolle: Pencils and Inks
Dirk Erik Schulz: Colors

Dark Horse Comics has just published issue #1 of a planned three-issue mini-series entitled Axe Cop. The title was suggested for review by last week's contest winner Mike Dooley, who told us that with all of the marketing buzz around this title, he'd like to know from a review whether he would love it or hate it. The much talked-about gimmick here is that 30-year-old artist Ethan Nicolle teamed-up with his six-year-old little brother Malachai Nicolle and has created a comic based on the supposed writings of Malachai, based on a story the two weaved together in playtime. Colors in the comic are provided by artist Dirk Erik Schulz.

The story in issue #1 is part one of a multi-issue tale entitled "Bad Guy Earth." Our heroes are Axe Cop, a guy who's not a regular cop but someone who graduated from "Axe Cop School" and his talking Dinosaur Soldier friend. They drive around in an Axe Cop car, wielding an axe in hand as they have their adventures. The story begins with a "Bad Guy" big planet appearing next to Earth. As our two heroes try to deal with the "Bad Guy Planet," they encounter various foes, including regular cops who oppose them, supervillains and Earth-bound and outer space effects. By issue's end, two bad guys are on the verge of transforming a "good guy army" into a "bad guy army" to cause more trouble.

The problem with this concept is that we have a story written for a six-year-old for six-year olds. Reading this comic is like sitting in a first grade class during show-and-tell listening to any bright six-year-old present his child-level, nonlinear story musings. Its really cute for what it's worth, but its a very herky-jerky story presented in the very random, kindergarten conceptual level of a very young kid. As such, its just gimmicky to present this in the real comic book publishing world as anything to be considered for a readership beyond very young children. Frankly, for me it became excruciating to have to read more than a few pages of this comic with the story details jumping all over the place as fast as our young author's limited attention span must have shifted as he thought-out this "story" playing in a sandbox somewhere.

So I'm giving this comic a hybrid of a review recommendation. This is a very creative and high quality comic concept for a little kid audience, as supposedly written by a little kid, and on that level I give it a positive thumbs-up recommendation. For any young reader over the age of about ten, I think they'd find the structure of this tale a bit too oddly scattered and kind of babyish. And any adult who truly reads this title for the sheer entertainment of it as opposed to reading it out loud to their own very young children needs therapy. So Mike Dooley, in answer to your contest submittal question, as a fellow adult fanboy, my advice is to skip this title, unless as I said earlier, you want to read it out loud to some very young kids for their entertainment.

PS 238 #49
Publisher: Do Gooder Press
Aaron Williams: Writer and Artist

In comment to last week's contest, my fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc suggested that we give a review to PS 238. The title is published by Do Gooder Press, with both scripting and art by Aaron Williams. The concept here is that PS 238 is a secret school for metaprodigy children, located three miles below the surface under the normal Excelsior School. Most of the teachers are superheroes themselves, with the kids being a mix of all types of typical grade school personalities, only augmented by superpower abilities or super intellect. There's apparently also one token "normal" kid thrown-into the mix.

An inside-the-cover narrative in issue #49 tells us of the story to-date. In one key sub-plot, somehow two of the schoolkids have gotten themselves transported to and stranded on an interstellar lightship 30,000 light years from Earth. Their rescue lies in the hands of one of their schoolmates who can communicate from the school with them. Another subplot focuses on the shenanigans of a few of the PS 238 kids as they meddle with life in an alternate reality version of Omaha, Nebraska, while another storyline focuses on rivalry issues between two of the more supergenius kids at the school.

While there have been many comic book industry takes on the "school for gifted kids" story concept (see X-men, obviously), creator Aaron Williams manages to avoid retreading along the route of those previous titles with his fresh and original take on the theme. I liked very much the varied and credible personalities that he's developed for these kids, managing to nicely blend real-world elementary school kids with the concept of endowing them with super abilities. The science fiction concepts are presented in a very entertaining manner, with the various storythreads all moving forward nicely throughout the issue.

My only concern is that by this current issue #49, this story universe includes so many characters that the reader needs to consult the many character biographies in the back of the issue to gain some background understanding of some portions of the story dialogue. But with that bio information available, it all works. So a positive thumbs-up recommendation for this title and a shout-out thanks to Dave LeBlanc for the review recommendation.

Secret Warriors #25
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Allessandro Vitti: Art

Marvel Comics is up to issue #25 of its Secret Warriors title. The series is a new interpretation of Nick Fury. A page one narrative tells us that in this title, Fury has left his position as head of the world peacekeeping organization SHIELD in favor of leading a team of Secret Warriors, organized into three teams that include many undiscovered young superhumans as well as Fury's son, Mikel. To date, the group has been decimated in battles with traditional SHIELD foe HYDRA as well as a few other groups. These losses include the death of Fury's son. The series is scripted by Jonathan Hickman with art by Allessandro Vitti.

Entitled "Wheels Within Wheels," the issue #25 story segment mostly consists of a detailed backstory set in 1961, which details the creation of a secret group called The Great Wheel, consisting of Fury and the heads of all of the world's major spy organizations. The group is assembled by Aries, a mysterious bearded figure with an undisclosed personal agenda for this secret society. Flash forward to the present, as the group conducts three separate espionage missions, taking-on brutal casualties but securing alien technology that can transform humans into superbeings. The issue climaxes in a cliffhanger, as the Russian member betrays the group and steals the technology for his own purposes. Fury is left wounded and captured by a key enemy for more trouble in next month's issue.

This is a very entertaining and fresh new take on the traditional comic book universe of Nick Fury. Writer Jonathan Hickman is acclaimed for his ongoing hard science fiction interpretation of Fantastic Four and brings the same story flavor and approach to this title. There's that familiar Hickman mix of grand alien/science fiction events unfolding beyond the scope and understanding of we mere mortals, blended with Nick Fury-style action adventure and story progression. The secret espionage society details were interesting and impressive, combined with Hickman's writing approach and some great artwork.

So a positive review recommendation and hats-off to Marvel for giving us a very original addition to the Nick Fury comic book universe, one that makes me want to read future issues of this series as well as backtrack through the previous 24 issues of this title, available either on the new issues shelves or back issues bins at That's Entertainment.

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!
As last week's That's E newsletter has been delayed, we're keeping our ongoing contest open until next Wednesday, March 30 at noontime. So again, e-mail us at with the answer to this Worcester trivia question: How many pies are baked weekly at that famous Worcester pie factory, Table Talk Pies? Our correct winner, or person who gets closest to the correct answer, will win the contest first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. In the event of multiple correct entries, our winner will be selected via a roll of the dice.
That's all for now, so have a great continued snow melting and comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Comics Reviews 3/23/11

We're back from a one-week hiatus, with Good King Leonardo having decreed that its once again time for another DC Comics review week. So let's see how the following three new DC comics issues stack-up against each other:

DC Universe Online Legends #3
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marv Wolfman: Writer
Mike S. Miller, Adriana Melo & Norman Lee: Art
Carrie Strachan: Colors

DC Comics is up to issue #3 of its DC Universe Online Legends comic book. Obviously from the title, the comic is based upon the Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) game of the same name. The series is scripted by veteran writer Marv Wolfman with art by the trio of Mike S. Miller, Adriana Melo and Norman Lee, and colors by Carrie Strachan.

The multi-issue storyline is entitled "Betrayal," and is structured as back-to-back sub-plots. The first sub-plot covers the first half of the issue and is set in a future Metropolis in an unknown year. We're thrown into the middle of a DC Universe catastrophe, in which bad guys Lex Luthor and alien Braniac have succeeded after all of these years in killing Superman. Per the betrayal theme of this title, Braniac has turned on Luthor and is in the process of destroying humanity. In the issue #3 installment, Luthor convinces the few surviving superheroes led by Power Girl that he never meant for Brainiac to turn on mankind, and as such they must ally with him to save humanity. Our second sub-plot is set in both present-day Metropolis as well as in the orbiting Justice League space station headquarters, and consists of the Justice Leaguers arguing over the best strategy to employ against Brainiac at the very beginning of this conflict.

Having never seen the online game version of this series, I can't review this issue in comparison to the video experience. But as a stand-alone comic book, this issue is a pretty decent comic read. There's no clunky video adaptation feel to the plot, which is often a flawed result of such video game-to-comic book adaptation efforts. The story concept is intriguing, with veteran writer Marv Wolfman layering the plot with a complex take on the issue of Betrayal. While the main betrayal in the plot is Braniac turning on Luthor, there's also an unexplained secondary betrayal in progress, as its clear that Luthor is pulling-off a mysterious betrayal of his own against the heroes with his offer of an alliance to save mankind. In addition, the present-day versus future alternate sub-plots are very effective in creating a sense of mystery as to where all of this story action and complexity is ultimately heading.

So if you're a fan of the online game version of this title or just a fan of good DC superhero storytelling, here's an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to check-out the interesting and entertaining issue #3 of this series. You can also catch-up on issues #1 and #2 on the new issues comic book shelves at That's Entertainment.

Legion Of Super-Villains #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Levitz: Writer
Francis Portela: Art
Javier Mena: Colors

DC Comics also has a one-shot Legion of Super-Villains comic book currently on the new issues shelves. The title is written by veteran writer Paul Levitz with art by Francis Portela and colors by Javier Mena.

This over-sized special issue is entitled "When Evil Calls" and is set in the well-known future DC universe of the Legion Of Super-Heroes comics. The plot centers on the efforts of villain Saturn Queen to build an alliance of intergalactic super-villains with the goal of toppling civilization in order, in her words, to let chaos reign. Starting with an elaborate large-scale prison breakout, Saturn Girl moves her effort forward step-by-step. Without being a detail spoiler, midway through the tale, a mysterious advisor mentors Saturn Queen into a new strategy, finding and destroying three hidden planets of superbeings who keep evil in check while promoting universal goodness. By issue's end, Saturn Queen and her minions are hip-deep in carrying-out this effort, with the story to be continued in the upcoming issue #11 of The Legion Of Super-Heroes regular monthly title.

While this issue has several positive elements, first and foremost is the effectiveness of the high quality art. The art team's graphic style and rendering skill is exceptional, on a par with A-list artist Amanda Connor in conveying effective facial expressions and emotions ranging from good to bad. Most impressive is the rendering of wacked-out supervillain Saturn Queen, as she flickers back-and-forth from emoting brilliant leadership of her growing ragtag villain army to plain outright uncontrolled violence and lunacy. Veteran Paul Levitz's story is entertaining and fresh, literally giving us a flip-side, almost bizarro alternate reality of the Legion's future world, where in this case the Legion team structure is welded to the villainy side of the future.

While this issue's a lot of fun to read, it also hooks the reader into wanting to find-out where this runaway train of future villainy is heading in issue #11 of The Legion Of Super-Heroes. So get on-board the storyline with this one-shot issue and stay onboard for the upcoming continued story in future issues of The Legion's own comic book title.

Doom Patrol #20
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Keith Giffen: Writer
Matthew Clark & Ron Randall: Pencils
Art Thibert & John Livesay: Inks

Our third DC Comics review for this week is the current issue #20 of Doom Patrol. This current title run is the fifth and latest DC version of this iconic Silver Age superhero team, consisting of an assembled group of misfit superheroes who had a dedicated cult fan following back in the 1960's. Toward the end of the 1960's title run, DC killed off the team, a unique decision in that era that generated a lot of fan interest. The latest series is written by veteran writer Keith Giffen with pencils by Matthew Clark and Ron Randall, and inks by Art Thibert and John Livesay.

The issue #20 story segment is entitled "With Friends Like These..." The plot sets the Doom Patrol on a mission to find a new secure location in the world. Apparently, the group of mishap heroes has been expelled from their previous base on remote Oolong Island by an international corporation. Finding temporary secure refuge in Vegas, the members split-up and ask various well-known DC hero teams if they can crash in their digs. Each group has its own unique stuttering excuse for not letting the Doom Patrol double-up with them in their respective homes. By issue's end, the Patrol's number one evil nemesis drops by Vegas and convinces the group that they should team-up and take back good old Oolong Island from the corporate take-over.

If this plot sounds somewhat dry and dusty, that's because it is. There's not much happening here in the way of a traditional adventure superhero plot. This is one of those transitional story segments in a multi-issue storyline, in which the characters take a breather and brainstorm for an issue on where the plot should go next. On a positive note, it is really interesting and at times very funny to see the Doom Patrol go begging around the DC universe for a place to stay, like a group of college students kicked-out of an apartment. Without being a spoiler, their rebuff from Batman when they consider moving to Gotham is my favorite get-out-of-my-town moment in this story.

So I'm giving this issue a borderline average thumbs-up positive review recommendation. Its a little dull, fairly funny but best enjoyed if you commit to reading it not as a stand-alone issue, but in conjunction with the previous few monthly issues and stick with this plotline as it unfolds in the next few new issues.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had several interesting entries to our current contest, which challenged you to pitch to us a worthy comic book title for us to review in a future edition of this column. My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc suggested reviewing a comic book entitled "PS 238," a comic about gifted kids in a clandestine school secretly located a mile below a real public school. Dave McBaron pitched reviewing Ultimate Spider-man, saying its focus on Peter Parker as a teenager effectively revisits the original concept of Spidey, as opposed to other titles in which Parker is now older.

And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Mike Dooley, who writes that he'd love to read a review of the new comic "Axe Cop." This comic's getting a lot of industry and fanboy/fangirl buzz. Mike writes that for him, there's never a middle ground for such a bizarre premise, he'll either love it or hate it. As such, he'd like to read a review in order to hear another opinion before he gives it a try. Sounds like a plan, Mike, so in addition to your first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, we'll schedule a review of Axe Cop as soon as possible. Plus, we'll be taking a review look at some of our other worthy contest entry suggestions.

New Contest Announcement!!!

For a change of pace, this week the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges bring you an off-beat Worcester local trivia question. As all good Worcesterphiles know, the Table Talk Pie Company located at Kelley Square is world-renowed for its decades of producing wonderful pies for all. Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at with the answer to the following question: How many pies does Table Talk produce on a weekly basis? If you don't know the answer and want to guess, guess high, because to us at least, its a surprisingly very high number. As always, if we receive more than one correct answer (or answer closest to the correct number of weekly Table Talk pies), the winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.

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!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Comic Reviews - 3/4/11

Here In Bongo Congo

It's Bizarro World Week here in Bongo Congo, with Good King Leonardo having decreed that we review three comic books that seem extremely oddball or weird from the looks of their front covers. But you know the old saying, "you can't judge a book by it's cover," so let's get inside these comics and see how the stories stand-up against each other:

Archie #617
Publisher: Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
Alex Simmons: Writer
Dan Parent: Pencils
Rich Koslowski: Inks

The winner of the most bizarre comic book front cover for this week is Archie #617, which features Archie posing with his arms around President Barack Obama and ex-Governor Sarah Palin while proclaiming "Everybody Gets Along In Riverdale!" The issue is scripted by Alex Simmons with pencils by Dan Parent and inks by Rich Koslowski.

The story itself is part two of a two-issue story arc entitled "Campaign Pains." A page one re-cap of last month's story segment explains that while campaigning against each other for Riverdale High class president, Archie and his buddy Reggie have their pictures taken with Obama and Palin respectively, then use the photos in their campaigns without getting either politician's permission. The effort spins out of control in issue #617, as both peeved professionals show-up in Riverdale to find-out who's behind faking their endorsements. There's a lot of panic and highjinks throughout the tale as Archie and pals spend most of the story avoiding Obama and Palin. By issue's end, the visitors team-up to finally trap our friends, who confess and apologize, with Principal Weatherbee meting-out appropriate punishment for all involved.

Wacky front cover aside, as with previous issues of Archie Comics that I've reviewed, this is a pretty solid and decent story within the standards of the Archie comic universe. Writer Alex Simmons strikes a very credible balance between standard Archie comical highjinks and presenting the two real-world politicians within the reality of Archie Comics. There are some excellent one-liners from both Obama and Palin that aren't cheesey and actually deliver a combination of comic book humor and observation on our real-world national politics. Good Archie Comics scripts often include a life lesson for the reader and this one is no exception. The issue of Archie and Reggie promoting the fake endorsements is addressed head-on in the second part of the story, as each is confronted by their respective politician. Again, to the writer's credit, politics is put aside as both Obama and Palin provide the mature mentoring here that lead both kids to a better understanding of being responsible for one's own actions.

So while the nutty front cover led us to review this issue, the inside story happily provides some very high quality entertainment, giving the reader a fun Archie tale blended with some interesting real world political relevancy. Whether you're a fan of Archie or either of these story guest stars, here's a definite thumbs-up positive recommendation to add this issue to your new issues reading pile.

Mark Zuckerberg: Creator Of Facebook (One-Shot)
Publisher: Bluewater Comics
Jerome Maida: Writer
Sal Field: Pencils
Kamui Oscuro: Colors

Bluewater Comics has a one-shot biographical comic book on the new issue shelves featuring Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. The issue is scripted by Jerome Maida with pencils by Sal Field and colors by Kamui Oscuro. The issue makes our "bizarro" review column based on its kinda creepy-looking cover art of the Facebook founder, combined with a back cover that has a bizarro ad for an upcoming Justin Bieber "graphic novel."

This is an oversized comic that chronicles Zuckerberg's progress is creating Facebook. The story starts at the beginning of his Harvard experience as the kernal of the Facebook idea forms. Step-by-step, we follow the experience as Zuckerberg interacts and allies himself with friends who in one way or another get involved in the process. An intersecting storyline deals with the conflict side of the story, as Zuckerberg deals with various folks with try to take advantage of the financial potential of the social network, including high tech venture captial investors. The issue ends early in Zuckerberg's experience as he initially gets the social network to a significant national size and deals with some early conflicts and untrustworthy people.

I admit that I haven't seen yet the popular movie "The Social Network," which also portrays Zuckerberg's story, but I suspect from reviews and clips of the movie that I have seen that this comic book takes a different approach, focusing more on the gritty details of Zuckerberg's progress from start-up to intial bigtime success. I'm giving this comic book a bizzaro mixed review. The idea of a comic/graphic presentation of this well-known bio story is presented poorly here, and fails on traditional merits-the art is horrendous, practically at the level of crude stick figure doodling, the lettering is microscopic and the tale is visually presented in boring, talking head-style in just about every panel.

But on the bizarro flipside, if you can squint your way through or use a magnifying glass to read the dialogue, you'll find the narrative details of one of the most fascinating early 21st century high tech success stories. I would actually recommend ignoring the crude drawings in each panel and just read the engrossing dialogue of this at times dramatic rags-to-riches tale as written on each page of the issue. So while this comic book fails as graphic entertainment, for the purposes of our weird review theme this week it succeeds as a solid and entertaining journalistic article on the Mark Zuckerberg story.

Deadpool Team-Up #884
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Tom Peyer: Writer
Jacob Chabot: Art
John Rauch: Colors

Marvel Comics's "Deadpool Team-Up" comic book title is up to issue #884, with a suitably bizarro front cover proclaiming this issue's team-up between everyone's favorite costumed nutty assassin and guest-star The Watcher. The story is written by Tom Peyer with art by Jacob Chabot and colors by John Rauch.

The wacky plot begins with Deadpool trying to remember where he stashed his millions in payment from his last assassin job. Searching with advice from two voices he hears in his crazy head, Deadpool crosses paths with The Watcher; hijinks ensue as the pair get into trouble, with The Watcher constantly repeating the rules of his watching game, how he can't interfere or assist Deadpool is addressing the various tight spots they get into. Without being a detail spoiler, by issue's end, the poor Watcher has become so stressed-out from dealing with Deadpool that (you guessed it), he snaps and does interfere with direct action instead of passive watching, with hilarious results.

Unlike our two previous comic book reviews above, this story is as entertainingly bizarro as the issue's front cover. But that's not too surprising, given that the nature of this comedic costumed assassin is completely nutty to begin with. There are some great Mad Magazine-style riffs in this tale, including a nice satire on the many comic book titles that Deadpool currently stars in, as well as the introduction of "The Assistant Watcher," a college stoner-type flunky who The Watcher sticks with all of the really boring watching jobs (yeesh!).

So the bottom line here is another enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation for this consistently bizarro comic book title that delivers its usual high level of fun and just-plain- nuttiness in this current issue. As a final review heads-up, the creative team continues its teaming-up of Deadpool with grand-scale characters with an announcement in the back of this issue that next month's team-up guest star is none other than Galactus, devourer of worlds, who chooses our idiot friend Deadpool as his new outer space-surfing herald!

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

We haven't received any eligible entries yet for our current contest, which challenges you to e-mail us at submitting your recommendation for a comic book that we should review in a future issue of this review column. So drop us an e-mail and tell us why we should review your suggested comic! Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to (you guessed it) That's Entertainment.

We're taking the next week off, so have two great comic book reading weeks and we'll see you again on Friday, March 18 Here In Bongo Congo!