Friday, April 29, 2011

Comic Reviews 4/29/11

Good King Leonardo has declared that its another eclectic week here in Bongo Congo, with a wide-ranging variety of comics to review, from an obscure import title to the premiere issue of a major new Marvel series event to a DC one-shot. So let's see how these comic books stack-up against each other:

Cyclops #4
Publisher: Archaia
Matz: Writer
Luc Jacamon: Art

Archaia Entertainment is currently up to issue #4 of a comic book series entitled "Cyclops." The comic is an English language reprint of a series originally published in France and Belgium by Casterman. The series is the product of a writer who goes by the one-word name Matz, with art by Luc Jacamon. An inside-the-front-cover narrative explains the story so far. The setting is the year 2054, in which a hot war rages between Argentina and Chile. In this brave new world, a private military corporation named Multicorps has been hired to fight in the war, using their Cyclops brigade of soldiers as infantrymen. The spin here is that the brigade's military experience is broadcast live to the world as a hit reality television series! The term "Cyclops" is applied to the brigade due to the high-tech television camera units mounted within each soldier's helmet, broadcasting the "show" live to the television network.

Three sub-plots advance in the current issue #4. In the main military plot thread, the unit goes "off-script" when attacked in an ambush, fleeing through a nearby forest and stumbling across an unknown massacre location. The second storyline focuses on the soap opera-like personal life of Cyclops Commanding Officer Doug Pistoia, who's having an affair behind his wife's back with Lizbeth, one of the show's executives. And our third plotline focuses on intrigue, as Doug interacts via I-phone with investigative journalist Jeremy Fuentes, as the pair gather evidence to support their mutual belief that there's a conspiracy behind both the war and the use of the Cyclops unit, most likely to generate television ratings.

This obscure comic book title is a fresh new spin on the concept of the war comic book, creatively blending the military fiction element with the concept of our evergrowing world-wide addiction to reality television. The creative team hits a home run here with the very realistic and believable details of the mash-up of the two concepts. One of my favorite elements here is the play-by-play commentary of the battle scene, provided back in the t.v. network studio by a retired military general. But the big kicker here are the off-duty scenes of the Cyclops soldiers; as they relax in a nightclub and rank on each other, the conversation is beamed live onto t.v. screens worldwide. The creative team alternates these panels with scenes of fan viewers world-wide enjoying the soldier's friendly arguments and taking sides, similar to real-world reality television show fans everywhere rooting for their favorite reality t.v. stars.

As such, I highly recommend checking-out this very entertaining and high quality comic book, which succeeds on three counts: as a military comic, as a conspiracy thriller tale and as a sharp and very witty commentary on the continued evolution (or de-evolution, depending on your opinion!) and dominance of reality television in our society. As a final review comment, just a heads-up that there's strong sexual content here regarding Doug's affair with Lizbeth, so this definitely isn't a comic book for kids. But its worth checking-out for appropriately-aged readers for all of the reasons outlined above.

Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker: Writer
Scot Eaton: Pencils
Mark Morales: Inks
Sunny Gho: Colors

Marvel Comics has kicked-off its "Fear Itself" mega-event with a prologue one-shot comic book entitled "Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull." The issue is scripted by Ed Brubaker with pencils by Scot Eaton, inks by Mark Morales and colors by Sunny Gho. This prologue issue is followed by a core seven issue mini-series and a wider multi-issue tie-in similar in format to the Civil War mega-event. The series focuses on the concept of the Marvel universe superheroes contending with the God of Fear, a supervillain who uses each hero's personal fears against them.

The prologue one-shot comic book begins the tale by alternating between the present-day and World War II-era Marvel universes. In the current storyline, bad guys Baron Zemo and Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, explore a secret underground desert lair in search of an unnamed super weapon left behind by the Red Skull. The 1942 storyline is set in Germany and depicts Cap, Bucky and Namor pursuing the Red Skull as he seeks via mystical enchantment to obtain a secret black magic weapon of mass power. The two storylines converge by issue's end, as its clear that the Red Skull obtained the weapon, with the means to obtain it today falling into his daughter Sin's hands. Thus the basic backstory premise of the upcoming Fear Series is established for further action and adventure.

While everyone has their own comic story tastes and preferences, I personally have been very disappointed by the storytelling quality of certain past mega-event comic series, such as DC's "52." I'm pleased to report here that this kick-off issue of the "Fear Itself" event doesn't give me a sense of that problem here, at all. Writer Ed Brubaker kicks it all off with a very high quality script, presented in perfect visual style by the art team. There's a nice, steady blend of fast action and talking head narrative explanation that establishes a very solid Marvel universe premise for this whole concept. Most importantly, the issue delivers that key requirement of a Prologue issue, leaving the reader wanting to know much more about the interesting story events that have been jumpstarted in this premier story edition.

So an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to enjoy this comic book both on its own merits as a fun Marvel Comics read, as well as a successful introduction to what seems at this point to be a well-crafted concept for the comics industry's latest mega-event series.

Jimmy Olsen #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Nick Spencer: Writer
RB Silva & Amilcar Pinna: Pencils
Dym & Rob Lean: Inks

DC Comics has just published an over-sized one-shot Jimmy Olsen comic book. The book is a reprint compilation of a multi-issue Jimmy Olsen story arc that was featured monthly in 2010 as a second story in issues of Action Comics. AOL's Comics Alliance rated it one of the top ten best comic book storylines of 2010. The series is scripted by Nick Spencer with pencils by RB Silva and Amilcar Pinna, and inks by Dym and Rob Lean. I had reviewed one of the stories last year and was interested in reading the entire story arc for a more comprehensive review.

The story is entitled "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week," and follows Jimmy day-by-day through seven day's worth of action and adventure. The plot actually follows the adventures of Jimmy and his journalist girlfriend Chloe. Chloe dumps Jimmy at the beginning of the tale, but the two constantly interact with each other through a fast-paced tale that involves an invasion of Metropolis by alien Lindsay Lohan wannabes, Jimmy experiencing a sorceress-induced alternate "what-if" version of his life as a Superman-like hero, and finally, Jimmy and Chloe together foiling a plot by an employee of Lex Luthor to take over the world. By stories end, Jimmy and Chloe are beyond all the action and deciding whether or not to get back together again, the outcome of which I won't spoil for potential readers.

I enjoyed very much the one segment of this story arc that I read last year and enjoyed even more reading the entire story arc as reprinted in this one-shot comic book. Writer Nick Spencer does a first-rate job on three counts: first, skillfully combining the successful Jimmy Olsen formula of presenting him as half-nerd, half-hero. Secondly, giving us a fun plotline that moves quickly and entertainingly through a sampling of typical Jimmy Olsen story situations (alien invasion, threats from Lex Luthor, girlfriend trouble, etc.). And third, infusing the story with lots of relevant humor, from the invasion of the alien Lindsey Lohan party girl and her clubbing entourage through very sharp one-liners and dialogue. I also liked the romantic subplot between Jimmy and Chloe, with a conclusion that provided a more realistic situation than your average comic book relationship.

On a final review note, there's also a really funny brief cameo by Supergirl dropped unexpectedly into the middle of the storyline, that's in the vein of writer-artist Amanda Conner's fun style of comic book humor. So a positive thumbs-up recommendation to not miss the opportunity to purchase and read this entire story arc conveniently published within this oversized one-shot Jimmy Olsen comic book.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We received several correct entries to our latest contest, which challenged you to tell us which state after Alaska is the biggest U.S. state not to serve as home to a major league baseball team. And our winner via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Jeremy Mower, who correctly identified Montana as lacking an MLB team. Jeremy comments that while Alaska's lack of population and harsh climate make it baseball-less, possibly Montana's in the same boat for being the contiguous 48 states's version of Alaska! Congratulations to Jeremy for winning the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We'll try another comic book-based contest again in the near future, but in honor of our Red Sox getting back on their feet with a hot winning streak lately, let's do another baseball contest this week. So your challenge is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: which retired switch-hitting Major League Baseball Hall of Famer completed his career with exactly 50% of his hits coming as a lefty and exactly 50% coming as a righty? This one might be a challenge to find, so here's one hint: his total hits were 3,630, with 1,815 compiled from each side of the plate.

As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Comic Reviews 4/22/11

Here In Bongo Congo

We're back from our one-week hiatus, and as such Good King Leonardo has decreed that its "Captain America Week" here in Bongo Congo. So let's see how the good Captain fares in the following three new Marvel Comics issues:

Captain America #616
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Multiple Writers & Artists

Marvel Comics has just released Captain America #616 as an over-sized 70th Anniversary commemorative issue in honor of the iconic Marvel Universe A-List superhero. The special issue features seven stories. The kick-off tale is entitled "Gulag: Part 1," and continues the current modern-day run in this title starring Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier as the current Captain America and successor to Steve Rodgers. The story is written by veteran scribe Ed Brubacker with art by Mike Deodato and colors by Rain Beredo. The six additional stories are scripted and drawn by various artists and writers, including one tale both written and drawn by well-known comics industry veteran Howard Chaykin.

While the main "Gulag" story takes place in a 2011 setting, the follow-up tales celebrate Cap's anniversary by paying tribute to his early Marvel Universe roots. Each plot is either set in World War II or focuses on more modern circumstances colored by Captain America/Steve Rodgers's World War II experiences. My favorite tale is Howard Chaykin's "Opaque Shadows," in which Steve Rodgers attends a modern-day auction centering on a Norman Rockwell-type painting that he posed for during World War II. In flashback, we learn of a love affair between Steve and the "Rosie The Riveter" model he posed with. Its a satisfying and emotionally-moving tale with a neat present-day conclusion to the story. While the main "Gulag" tale and 4 of the additional stories are all solid and entertaining, there's one dud in the mix: "The Exhibit" is an illogical and weak Hitler-clone story that falls flat in terms of both story logic and entertainment.

In sum, I was very impressed on three counts with this issue. First, the variety and quality of the tales is top notch, along with the creative team's efforts to consciously present tales that pay sincere tribute to the early history of this iconic American comic book hero. Secondly, the jumbo size of this comic book is a real bargain for the cover price. And third, there's a nice two-page break in the middle of the issue featuring back-and-white sketches of Cap by Jim Aparo and Curt Swan, along with some tribute narrative. So an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to take your time and enjoy working your way through this excellent over-sized tribute to one of the greatest of Marvel's A-List superheroes.

New Avengers #11
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin: Artists
Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado: Colors

Marvel's New Avengers title is up to issue #11 with the latest issue. The comic book is written by veteran Brian Michael Bendis with art by the team of Mike Deodato and Howard Chaykin, and colors by the team of Rain Beredo and Edgar Delgado. A page one narrative details a two sub-plot storyline to-date: in the first storythread, Captain America/Steve Rodgers has reassembled the Avengers and assigned former HAMMER badgirl Victoria Hand to be the team's liaison. The second plotline features Nick Fury forming an early Avengers team in 1959, as a counterespionage team against The Red Skull.

The present-day story segment begins with a crisis, as Avenger's member Mockingbird has been critically-wounded in the previous issue's action. As the Avengers await her prognosis, led by Spider-Man the team begins to suspect that they were set-up by Victoria Hand. Back at Avengers headquarters, Captain America and Hand herself discuss her concern that the team will blame her for the disaster. These developments are interspersed with the 1959 storythread, which is much more action-oriented as Nick Fury's new team battles the Red Skull. The issue ends in a cliffhanger as Captain America mysteriously arrives on the scene.

While there are lots of Avengers titles on the new issues shelves these days, the current issue of this particular title deserves some acclaim for at least three reasons. First and foremost is Bendis's plot structure approach to the tale. I very much enjoyed how he balanced the more introspective, dialogue-driven installment of the present day plotline with lots of fast-action in the 1950's storyline. Secondly, without being a detail spoiler, its also fun to see the creative, unusual 1950's-era early Avengers team that Bendis has scripted as Nick Fury's early-era version of the group.

And third but hardly least, its neat to see iconic artist Howard Chaykin back in the graphic saddle with a mainstream comic book publisher, both in this issue and in the Captain America issue #616 reviewed above. It's been a long time since we last saw him carrying-out mainstream monthly comic book creative duties, so let's hope that its not a temporary gig and Chaykin settles-in for awhile with Marvel Comics at these and any other monthly comic book duties that are available.

As a final review comment, for newcomers and veteran comic readers alike, you won't regret checking-out among Howard Chaykin's many accomplishments his groundbreaking work from the decade of the 1980's on the titles "American Flagg!" and "Blackhawk", available in the back issue bins at That's Entertainment.

Captain America & Batroc The Leaper (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kieron Gillen: Writer
Renato Arlem: Art
Nick Filardi: Colors

Our third Captain America title for review this week is a one-shot Marvel Comic entitled "Captain America & Batroc The Leaper." For the uninitiated, Batroc is a Silver Age Marvel Comics character who is a French mercenary-for-hire and master of the French form of kickboxing known as savate. Traditionally presented as a comic relief character, of late various Marvel creators have reinterpreted Batroc in a more serious role. This one-shot comic book follows that reinterpretive line and is written by Kieron Gillen, with art by Renato Arlem and colors by Nick Filardi.

The title of this tale is "Traceur," and develops a basic mercenary-for-hire plot set in Paris, France. Batroc is hired-out to protect a group of thieves planning a heist while somehow knowing that Captain America will intercede. When Cap arrives on the scene, the duo tangle in an elaborate setting of a blighted and semi-abandoned Parisian inner-city neighborhood. Its not spoiling any action details to reveal that while Cap obviously wins the day and foils the heist, the manner in which he does so allows Batroc to rationalize that he's achieved some personal goal of at least taking-on Cap in hand-to-hand battle and holding his own, while escaping to fight another day.

As a stand-alone comic this is an average, decent story. However, I was disappointed in this serious reinterpretation of Batroc. The whole "Dark Knight" version of this character just needlessly bleeds all of the fun out of this perennially goofy Silver Age "anti-hero with a heart of gold," replacing it with nothing but a bleak loser who rationalizes his failures by proclaiming that at least he lives to "fight another day." On the plus side, we do have a second story in the issue that's a reprint of a classic Silver Age Batroc and Captain America confrontation. So my recommendation is to read this comic book, but read the back-up retro reprint tale first to get a fun dose of what Batroc was meant to be, followed by the more avant-garde reinterpretation style of the first story in this one-shot comic book issue.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us what special significance the number 2609 holds for the Boston Celtics. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who tells us that although he's a Philadelphia native and is cheering for his 76ers in the NBA playoffs, 2609 is the record-setting number of three-point field goal points scored by the three-point NBA recordholder, own own Celtic Ray Allen. We won't hold Kevin's 76ers allegiance against him, so congratulations to him for winning the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We have an interesting and offbeat baseball trivia question for you this week, that comes right out of a recent Final Jeopardy question entitled "Baseball Geography." Your challenge is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: While Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. not to host the home location of a Major League Baseball team, what is the second-largest state in the country that doesn't have a MLB team located in it? As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of the first prize $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 Celtics playoff-watching and comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, April 8, 2011

comic reviews 4/8/11

Here are three new comic book reviews for this week, along with the current contest winner announcement and a new contest announcement:

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has been informed that Godzilla is here, running amok in Worcester and stepping on our favorite pop culture emporium, so let's review the return of our favorite creature-feature, along with two DC comics titles for this week:

Godzilla: Kingdom Of Monsters #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Eric Powell & Tracy Marsh: Writers
Phil Hester: Pencils
Bruce McCorkindale: Inks
Ronda Pattison: Colors

IDW Publishing is publishing the latest return of that icon of Japanese and international pop culture, Godzilla! "Godzilla: Kingdom Of Monsters" #1 is on the new issues shelves this week, with a second comic entitled "Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths" due for release in the near future. Issue #1 is written by Eric Powell & Tracy Marsh with pencils by Phil Hester, inks by Bruce McCorkindale and colors by Ronda Pattison.

Issue #1 provides the latest interpretation of the arrival of the giant lizard sea creature in Japan. After coming ashore near two children playing on a beach, the monster runs amok, destroying a village and killing hundreds of people in the process. The big boy begins rampaging in the direction of Tokyo, leading to a nuclear attack which only results in somehow adding a firebreathing ability to the lizard. By issue #1's end, the big guy seems unstoppable in his lumbering toward the big city, resulting in the Japanese Prime Minister informing President Obama of the growing crisis.

This is a very light and insubstantial comic, progressing the introductory issue's storyline very quickly and with a limited amount of dialogue-I can't remember the last time that I read through a comic book so quickly. On the other hand, the whole idea of Godzilla is so pop culture goofy and fun, that an in-depth, plot-driven approach to the lizard king isn't really required in order to have an enjoyable time reading about the well-known monster in a comic book format. As such, this hors d'oeuvre of a storyline works well enough to be fun and entertaining, if you're in the mood for reading a kitschy monster mag of a comic book. The art is also appropriately cartoony to match the simplicity of the storyline. I do think that for this comic book to last for awhile, the creative team will have to add some depth to the sketchy human characters and the seeming brainlessness of the rampaging Godzilla. But for now in issue #1, it's all good enough to have some retro fun. So a positive recommendation for you to run screaming "Godzilla! Godzilla" down to That's Entertainment for the latest comic book version of our creature-feature friend.

On a quick final review note, a hats-off is due to IDW Publishing for the neat marketing gimmick of allowing comic shops nation-wide to stock special issues featuring a front cover of the big guy stepping-on and crushing your favorite local comic emporium. So enjoy the issues available at That's Entertainment accurately depicting Godzilla squishing our favorite Park Avenue pop culture emporium. Yikes!

Justice League Of America/The 99 #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Stuart Moore & Fabian Nicieza: Writers
Tom Derenick & Drew Geraci: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

DC Comics has just published issue #6 in a six-issue mini-series teaming-up the Justice League Of America with The 99. As the entire series is available at That's Entertainment, I thought it would be more useful to review issue #1 to see if its thumbs-up worthy to read the series. For the uninitiated, including myself, The 99 is a team of teenaged superheroes based on Islamic culture created in 2006 by former Marvel and DC Comics veterans for Teshkeel Comics. The 99 members of the group each possess a magical Noor stone which embodies them with super or magical-powered abilities. The mini-series is written by Stuart Moore and Fabian Nicieza, with art by Tom Derenick and Drew Geraci, and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

The issue #1 story segment is entitled "The City Of Tomorrow," and focuses on three sub-plots. In the first, the grand opening of a city of peace is being inaugurated in the Middle East desert, populated by people of all races and nations from around the globe. While Superman and Wonder Woman attend the grand opening, a mysterious epidemic of violence breaks-out among the city inhabitants. Secondly, in St. Louis, a member of The 99 is attacked by costumed bad guys, resulting in the good guy losing control of his power. And third, at a South American dig, mysterious circumstances originating from possible Noor stone activity are investigated by Hawkman. By issue's end, all three plotthreads are being addressed by combinations of various JLA and The 99 team members.

This is an interesting comic read with an old-school, 1980's feel to the art, dialogue and storyline, most likely due to the fact that the series is the creation of some older comic industry veterans. The mixing of the three plotthreads is well-balanced, with the story situations DC universe-credible and well-presented. The issue could have been a smoother read had the creative team provided a page one narrative regarding the background of The 99, a superhero team for which I (along with many readers) wasn''t at all familiar with and as such had to research for my own understanding. But with a little understanding of the group, the cross-over mini-series works.

In sum, this isn't a cutting-edge or big event comic, but a decent, average read in an old-school style. So a positive review is warranted for this interesting mini-series offering us a fresh pairing-up of the well-known, iconic Justice League Of America with the newcomer superhero team of The 99.

Starman/Congorilla #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
James Robinson: Writer
Brett Booth: Pencils
Norm Rapmund: Inks
Andrew Dalhouse: Colors

DC Comics has published the kick-off issue #1 of a new title featuring the team-up of Starman and Congorilla. I last reviewed the pair as part of the wider team of DC superheroes featured a few years ago in the Cry For Justice mini-series. This new comic book title is written by James Robinson with pencils by Brett Booth, inks by Norm Rapmund and colors by Andrew Dalhouse.

The premier story segment is entitled "Now & Then," and alternates the plot between the present moment and the previous five hour lead-up to now. In the backstory sequences, a mysterious impenetrable energy dome has surrounded Washington, D.C. Before our heroes can join the widespread superhero effort to disperse the dome, they need to trackdown for various reasons the missing Malavar, a superintelligent gorilla buddy of Congorilla. Clues along the missing gorilla's trail lead Starman and Congorilla to enlist Animal Man and Rex, The Wonder Dog in their effort. Our present-day plotline leads the foursome into Florida swamp country, where they find the missing super ape under attack by bad supergorillas from Gorilla City. Without being a detail spoiler, the day is saved by a surprise superhero whom Malavar was secretly assisting. Everyone gets through the battle safe and sound, setting-up the story to focus on the Washington, DC superdome dilemma as continued soon in Justice League Of America issue #53.

Having given a thumbs-down review to the previous Cry For Justice mini-series, I wasn't sure what to expect from this continuation of the adventures of two of that series featured heroes. I'm pleased to report that I enjoyed this comic title much more than its predecessor, for a few reasons. First, it didn't contain the over-the-top element of blood and gore featured in the Cry For Justice issue that I reviewed. Secondly, while the plot details are average at best, you just have to give a gold star for effort to any comic book that brings back the rarely-seen Rex, The Wonder Dog. Our boy Rex apparently lives these days with Animal Man and his wife; the scenes here in issue #1 where Rex and Animal Man communicate via woofs and sighs are worth the price of the comic alone. And third, while the plot is a bit overly dense and complicated at times regarding Congorilla's musings regarding his missing friend, its still an interesting premise and worth the challenge of following the detailed dialogue, as a worthwhile counterbalance to so many of the overly simplistic plotlines featured in some new issue comics these days.

So whether you're a fan of a talking gorilla, a woofing wonder dog or just some of the benchwarming, secondary feature players within the DC superhero universe, this is a decent-enough new comic title to take a reading chance on and see where the first few issues take us for action and adventure.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us why the small village of Plato, Missouri has been in the national news of late. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...David McBarron, who correctly answered that it was announced last week that the latest U.S. Census counts show that Plato is the new exact geographic center of the U.S. population, as the growth of the national population continues to move westward. Not too long ago, the exact center of our population distribution was located farther eastward in Illinois. Congratulations to David for winning our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

As our beloved Boston Celtics are just a few days away from starting the NBA play-offs, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have decreed that we hold a Celtics trivia contest this week. So e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: What record-breaking significance does the number 2609 hold regarding a current Celtics team player? Hint: if you do a little research, you'll see that the number increases with just about every Celtics game. As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner will be chosen via a roll of the dice.

That's all for now-we're taking next week off from reviewing comics due to a work commitment with our day job, so have two great springtime comic book-reading weeks and we''ll see you again on Friday, April 22 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Comic Reviews 4/01/11

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three new comics this week that star some classic superhero characters, two from Marvel Comics and one from DC Comics, so lets see how they stack-up against each other:

FF #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Steve Epting: Pencils
Steve Epting & Rick Magyar: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors

Marvel's current change of direction for its Fantastic Four franchise has officially kicked-off with the publication of FF #1. The new series is scripted by Jonathan Hickman with pencils by Steve Epting, inks by Steve Epting and Rick Magyar, and colors by Paul Mounts. As all good fanboys and fangirls know, Marvel recently supposedly killed-off Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, opening-up new opportunities for plot development and emotional angst for the surviving members of the team as well as their friends and colleagues.

The issue #1 storyline is entitled "The Club," and begins several interweaving sub-plots in this post-Human Torch FF story universe. Per Johnny's video recorded wishes, the group has recruited Spider-Man/Peter Parker to join them as their new fourth member. In a second storythread, a breakaway group of former HYDRA bad guys take-on our heroes by rescuing a famous FF foe from prison, thereby setting-up some major conflicts with our heroes in upcoming issues. And a third plot thread continues the past year's developments in this title as the Fantastic Four continue to establish their Future Foundation, a major effort with the assistance of their assembled team of young alien creatures to set-up a thinktank to radically change the direction of mankind. The issue #1 story segment ends dramatically as young Valeria Richards succeeds in her recent effort of bringing Doctor Doom into the fold of this grand plan.

I mentioned in last week's review of Secret Warriors #25 that no one's better right now than writer Jonathan Hickman in providing hard science fiction stories for our favorite Marvel comic heroes. He continues his hot streak here with the debut of the new Fantastic Four universe direction. I liked very much the continuation of his long-range plot direction established over the past few years in the Fantastic Four, of grand science fiction events unfolding on multiple stages, mixed with an entertaining sense of both mystery and feeling that all of this alien-tinged stuff is unfolding beyond the control of mere mortals. Its a real kick to see page-by-page and issue-by-issue where its all heading. Besides the strong writing, there's a nice mix of characterization touches here, including that pack of alien kids at the Future Foundation, the return of Reed Richards's time-traveling dad, and of course, that old pesky adversary/sometimes reluctant ally Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Call me jaded, but after so many "death of our hero" event comics from Marvel and DC over the past several years, you know its just a matter of time before this post-Human Torch version of the FF is fully explored by Marvel, resulting in the inevitable "Johnny Storm Is Alive And Kicking!" mega marketing event. So we might as well all have some comic book reading fun with it and go along for the reading ride. At least we're in the capable hands of a high quality writing and graphic creative team, which so far, as evidenced by issue #1 of FF, is giving us our money's worth of entertainment and quality.

Silver Surfer #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Greg Pak: Writer
Harvey Tolibao & Stephen Segovia: Pencils
Wil Quintana: Colors

Marvel is up to issue #2 of a new four-issue mini-series starring our favorite intergalactic surfboard-riding herald, the Silver Surfer. The limited edition series is scripted by Greg Pak with pencils by Harvey Tolibao and Stephen Segovia, and colors by Wil Quintana. A page-one summary of last month's issue #1 explains that the Surfer had landed in the Mexican desert, where he was attacked by Marvel universe super bad guy The High Evolutionary. The villain has drained the Surfer of his cosmic power, as such reverting him back to his original form of alien mortal Norrin Radd.

The issue #2 story segment starts with a brief flashback to Norrin's pre-Surfer life with his sweetheart Shalla-Bal, then fast forwards to the present-day, in which the government has captured the now powerless Surfer and confined him in a desert scientific facility. The plot moves forward as Shalla-Bal look-alike Dr. Endo sympathizes with our injured hero and helps him escape confinement. Without being a detail spoiler, lots of escape/pursuit action and adventure unfold, as the pair travel through the desert to confront The High Evolutionary, hoping to retreive Norrin's cosmic power. The issue ends in a cliffhanger confrontation with the bad guy that includes an interesting and unexpected plot twist.

The Silver Surfer is one of Marvel's most popular Silver Age characters not only for the uniqueness of his character but also for his popular romantic backstory, that of a hero who chooses permanent separation from his soulmate in order to save her life and that of his entire race. All post-Silver Age high quality Surfer stories have mixed this romantic element into the latest storytelling. Writer Greg Pak does a top-notch job here of following this standard formula for Silver Surfer storytelling success, filling us in quickly on the well-known backstory then bringing it into the modern-day tale by introducing a human look-alike of Shalla Bal. Its an effective plot element, adding effective romantic tension to the high action as Norrin struggles to deal with his obvious attraction to this newcomer.

My only constructive criticism of this title is the artwork. While the penciling is excellent, the coloring is too dark and dreary for this detailed and fun adventure series. So while my advice to Marvel is to lighten-up on the coloring in the remaining two issues of this mini-series, in the meantime, here's a well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation to squint your way through the dark tones of this well-written and entertaining latest interpretation of our solar wind-surfing hero.

Giant-Size Atom (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jeff Lemire: Writer
Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman & Robson Rocha: Pencils
Pete Pantazis: Colors

DC Comics has just published an oversized one-shot comic starring the Atom. The issue is scripted by Jeff Lemire with pencils by Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman and Robson Rocha, and colors by Pete Pantazis. The story is the conclusion of the multi-issue tale entitled "Nucleus" featured as the second story this past year in issues of Adventure Comics. In the story to-date, a group of rogue scientists called The Colony have kidnapped scientist Ray Palmer/the Atom's father and uncle and want our hero's supply of white dwarf matter, which provides his shrinking power, in exchange for their freedom.

The plot begins with a hostage-freeing ploy partnered by the Atom and his traditional sidekick Hawkman which goes awry. A detailed, high action sequence unfolds in which the Atom literally battles atom-sized members of The Colony within Hawkman's bloodstream to save his life. The second half of the story shifts to a pair of sub-plots. In the first storythread, our pair of heroes plan and execute another elaborate strategy, aided by The Oracle and Dr. Fate, to gain the hostages freedom. The concluding plot thread addresses and resolves family tensions and issues between Ray Palmer, his father and his uncle.

I enjoyed the Adventure Comics installment of this series that I reviewed this past January and was glad to see DC Comics give it an opportunity to conclude in this oversized one-shot issue. We have about two standard comic books worth of material in this issue, the length of which gives the creative team ample room to explore both the main storyline of the Atom versus The Colony and the ongoing side plot in which Ray Palmer comes to terms with his brother's previous death and resolves family issues with his dad and uncle. A well-deserved shout-out also goes to the art team, which gives us several great, poster-worthy two-page spreads of action scenes throughout this issue.

So another positive thumbs-up for our third comic book reviewed this week. You'll definitely get your money's worth of quality and extra-length entertainment in this special issue starring the pint-sized and popular Silver Age-oriented DC universe hero the Atom.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had three correct entries to our Worcester trivia contest, which challenged you to tell us how many pies are baked weekly at our famous local pie factory, the Table Talk Pie Company located at Kelley Square. And our winner selected via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly answered that they make a million (yes, that's right, a million!) pies a week at the factory, as recently reported on an episode of the Chronicle television show.

We also accepted as correct any answer submitted over a million, as some internet sources report that they often bake up to 1.5 million pies during peak sales weeks. So thanks to all of our entrants and congrats to Gregory, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's an interesting trivia contest for you. E-mail us at and tell us what interesting distinction the town of Plato, Missouri received in the past week that's receiving national media attention. As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet will be selected via a roll of the dice.

That's all for this week, so have a great one more spring snowstorm shoveling week (arrgh!!!) and comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!