Friday, June 24, 2011

comic reviews 6/24/11

Here In Bongo Congo
Good King Leonardo has declared that this week we review two D.C. Comics and one Marvel Comic that look like interesting summertime reading, so let's see how each of these issues fare:

Flashpoint: Deadman & The Flying Graysons #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J.T. Krul: Writer
Mikel Janin: Art
Ulises Arreola: Colors

Among the many titles currently being published under the umbrella of DC's Flashpoint mega-event is issue #1 of a three-part mini-series entitled "Flashpoint: Deadman & The Flying Graysons." The issue is scripted by J.T. Krul with art by Mikel Janin and colors by Ulises Arreola. I reviewed not long ago issue #1 of the main five-issue Flashpoint mini-series. For the uninitiated, the premise of Flashpoint is that an enemy of Barry Allen/The Flash has managed to alter the reality of the DC superhero universe. The most significant change features Wonder Woman and Aquaman leading their respective armies in war against humanity, resulting in millions of lives lost in Western Europe. Many creative changes occur regarding the idntities and histories of numerous DC heroes.

Issue #1 of this three-part series pairs alternate realities for Dick Grayson/Robin with Boston Brand/Deadman. In this new world, Grayson never became Robin, instead teaming with his still-living parents in a traveling circus trapped in Europe while the war rages. Their fellow circus performers include a still-living Boston Brand performing as an egocentric acrobat and Dr. Fate, relegated in this new world to a sideshow magic act. Two sub-plots thread their way through this Flashpoint segment. One focuses on the changed personalities and interaction between our DC heroes who are now relegated to circus act status, while the second brings the world war to their insulated world. The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, in which Wonder Woman's troops arrive in seacrh of poor Dr. Fate, for a key reason which I won't reveal as a spoiler in this review.

I liked the kick-off Flashpoint issue that I reviewed last month, due to the entertaining potential that the alternate reality concept holds for DC readers. This latest series doesn't fail in that regard, continuing to give us some really fresh and creative changes to very familiar hero roles turned topsy-turvy in this dangerous new reality of superhero world war. One of the most intriguing elements of this series is the decision by writer J.T. Krul to construct personalities for Robin, Deadman and Dr. Fate completely different from their standard DC characters, thereby taking the alternate reality story concept even deeper than normal into the brave and often frightening new world that the Flashpoint series is constructing. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to have some fun summertime light beach reading by diving into this "what if?" version of our favorite DC superheros.

Freedom Fighters #9
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti: Writers
Travis Moore: Pencils
Trevor Scott: Inks
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

DC's Freedom Fighters comic book title is currently up to issue #9. The Freedom Fighters superhero team consists of Native American hero Black Condor, Doll Man, Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, The Ray and team leader Uncle Sam. I had given a negative review to the first issue of the title and wanted to revisit it this month to see how the story quality is faring. The creative team consists of co-writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, penciler Travis Moore, inker Trevor Scott and colorist Allen Passalaqua.

The current issue is Part Nine of the ongoing multi-issue storyline entitled "American Nightmare," and presents three story segments. The first sub-plot consists of a detailed discussion among the team members on how best to assist Human Bomb in functioning on his own while the group tries to address an unclear but inferred ongoing break-up of the team. The mid-section of the issue shifts to standard superhero crimefighting fare, as Black Condor returns to his home in the Southwestern U.S. and assists his deputy sheriff cousin in crimefighting. The final third of the issue abruptly shifts the storytelling genre, as the team reassembles to fight bizarre alien-like creatures who invade the U.S. from a future timeline with the goal of killing millions of humans to affect supposedly historic events.

Unfortunately, the Freedom Fighters comic book title hasn't outgrown the series flaws and problems which were evident from the beginning of this comic book series. While the artwork is top notch, the story presentation is bizarrely jumbled. None of the three story sections connect in subject matter or transition with the others, rendering much of the plotline illogical even for a comic book world. The beginning of the story is confusing and would have been helped with a catch-up narrative updating new readers on the details of the ongoing group break-up. And the sudden dumping of readers in the third section of the issue into a weird future alien invasion is very jarring and just adds to an overall sense that someone is mailing-in the effort here, oddly cutting and pasting-together story ideas that just don't blend together in a one-issue storyline.
So unfortunately, a belated thumbs-down recommendation to pass on this uncomfortable storyline with an unfinished feel to it. There's lots of other entertaining DC comics on those new issues shelves at That's Entertainment for your summer reading enjoyment.

Ghost Rider #0.1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Rob Williams: Writer
Matthew Clark: Pencils
Sean Parsons: Inker
Robert Schwager: Colors

Marvel Comics is in the process of rebooting its well-known Ghost Rider character, with the publication of a prequel issue # 0.1 leading up to issue #1 of the new title. Fans of Ghost Rider are familiar with the story of motorcycle rider Johnny Blaze, who makes a deal with a demon that backfires, leaving him as the fire-wielding, skullblazing hero Ghost Rider. The new series is scripted by Rob Williams with pencils by Matthew Clark, inks by Sean Parsons and colors by Robert Schwager.

Prequel issue # 0.1 is entitled "Give Up The Ghost." The title is applicable, as Johnny is approached by a mysterious stranger named Adam who offers him the chance to be finally free of the skull-on-fire Ghost Rider demonic curse. After struggling throughout the story to make a decision, by issue's end Johnny takes the plunge, following Adam's instructions and seemingly ridding himself of the curse. Its also clear that Adam has not-so-good intentions regarding his purpose for helping Johnny, and that part of the deal is that some unknown person will be burdened with the relocated Ghost Rider curse.

I'm an old Ghost Rider fan and clearly remember the day when I bought that very first issue of Ghost Rider back in the good old comic book reading days. As such, I was very pleased with this latest take on the story universe of this cursed Marvel hero. The artwork is wonderful, with the motorcycle action scenes both plentiful and providing the reader with an impressive feel for the action and adventure. I was also impressed with writer Rob Williams's approach of building a storyline of mystery around the lifting-of-the-curse storythread. It should be a lot of fun in upcoming issues for readers to learn more about the mysterious Adam as well as the consequences to everyone on the lifting of the curse. Obviously, Johnny will be put in a situation in which he will have to take the curse back in order to free some poor soul, but the details of the story should be very entertaining.

So whether you're an old Ghost Rider fan like me or a newcomer to our favorite hell-on-wheels good guy, this issue and the upcoming new series promises a lot of summer reading heat wave entertainment!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
Our latest contest challenged you to correctly tell us which letter of the alphabet is not included in the names of any of the 50 U.S. states. My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc correctly answered the question for fun, having seen this question on the same recent episode of Jeopardy that I did. We received a lot of correct entries (as well as a few incorrect ones), and our randomly-selected winner is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified the letter Q as never popping-up in any names of the 50 states. Congrats to Kevin, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!
Let's try another summertime trivia contest this week. E-mail us at with the answer to the following question: What does the middle initial "S" stand for in President Harry S. Truman's name? As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of the first-prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen via a random roll of the dice.
That's all for now, so have a great summer comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Comic Reviews 6/18/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review the kick-off issues of two new mini-series that just debut, one from Marvel Comics and one from D.C. Comics, along with a fun, new satire title of a well-known science fiction franchise. So let's get right to it and see how these three new titles fare:

Mystery Men #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Liss: Writer
Patrick Zircher: Art
Andy Troy: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a new five-issue limited series entitled Mystery Men. Set in 1930's Depression-era America, the story concept introduces some brand-new Pulp-era costumed heroes to the Marvel comic book universe, while eventually having these characters interact with the Golden Age versions of well-known, established Marvel superheroes. The series is scripted by writer David Liss with art by Patrick Zircher and colors by Andy Troy.

Issue #1 has two interweaving sub-plots. The first storyline kicks-off the origins of the Mystery Men team of pulp-era new superheroes. When cat burgler Dennis Piper's Broadway star girlfriend is murdered and he's falsely blamed for the crime, he becomes "The Operative," trading-in his cat burgler persona to try and solve the crime. By the end of this first issue, he's begun to assemble the Mystery Men, as two additional people get pulled-into the mystery: his girlfriend's twin sister pilot adventurer and "The Revenant," a mysterious African American superhero whose powers seem to be a combination of those of DC's The Flash and The Spectre. Our second sub-plot follows the actions of the murderer himself, a deformed evil humanoid known as "The General," who operates in two directions. One is the management from his lair in the brand-new Empire State Building of an evil secret corporate board of directors. His second area of activity is within the occult, as he clearly has dealings with the demonic world in exchange for wielding the power to cloud people's minds to hide his deformity and his evil actions. By the end of issue #1, its clear that the next two steps in this series are the further assembly of the Mystery Men team and further advancement of The General's plans for occult murder and world dominance.

Its incredibly difficult for any comic book creative team to introduce brand-new hero characters that comfortably fit into the publisher's existing superhero story universe. As such, Marvel Comics has achieved the very rare feat of successfully jumping this creative hurdle. The three good-guy characters here very comfortably and credibly fit nicely into the Golden Age Marvel Comics universe. Writer David Liss explains in a back-of-the-book letter that he had two goals with this title-first, to add such credible new characters to the Marvel comic book world and secondly, to use the plot to address some gritty historical themes of Depression-era America, such as racism and societal inequalities in general. He progresses very well out-of-the-gate with these goals in issue #1. Blend-in Patrick Zircher and Andy Troy's highly skilled artistic style and we've got a very significant and entertaining new conceptual branch added to the wider tree that is the Marvel universe.

I couldn't help but compare this new series to DC's ongoing First Wave event series, which also takes a pulp-era approach to comic book storytelling. While I've enjoyed much of what I've read in the First Wave titles, Mystery Men clearly raises the bar in terms of delivering high-quality Pulp Era comic book action and adventure within the framework of a major comic book publisher's existing story universe. It should be a lot of fun to see how Marvel weaves its established stable of superheroes into this new spin on Marvel storytelling. So whether you're a Pulp-era story fan and just a standard Marvel Comics fan, by all means don't miss-out on the premier of this new and worthwhile Marvel Comics story world!

Batman: Gates Of Gotham #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins: Writer
Trevor McCarthy: Art
Guy Major: Colors

DC Comics has also just published issue #1 of a new five-issue Batman mini-series entitled "Batman: Gates Of Gotham." The series adds a new spin on the many Batman story universe concepts by proposing to blend a "secret history of Gotham City" into the world of all things Batman. The series is scripted by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins, with art by Trevor McCarthy and colors by Guy Major. Scott Snyder is also known among us Batman fanatics as the writer of a very popular multi-issue story arc currently unfolding in monthly issues of Detective Comics.

Issue #1 is sub-titled "A Bridge To The Past" and literally takes the title to heart, providing us with a tale that flashes between past and present as it focuses on three famous bridges in Gotham City. The past segment of the tale focuses on the 19th century origins of the bridges, as Bruce Wayne/Batman's grandfather Alan Wayne creates the three river spans in partnership with the Elliotts and the Cobblepots, ancestors of Batman's archfoes Thomas Elliot/Hush and Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. In the present-day plotline, a mysterious foe blows-up the three bridges and threatens "the founder's families," leading to an unlikely alliance between Batman/Dick Grayson and The Penguin against the attacker-with-an-historic-agenda.

Its always fun to come across a new mini-series that adds a fresh perspective to the well-known elements of a popular hero's world. Add this new title to the list of series that succeed on that count. The historic element is very creative, allying the grandfathers of today's trio of adversaries; I particularly got a kick out of The Penguin's willingness to grudgingly cooperate with Batman, valuing their joint family history over today's situation. A hats-off is also due to the artistic team for presenting a unique artistic format that's perfect for conveying the mix of Victorian Gotham that co-exists in both the past and present sides of the storyline. So by all means get in on the ground floor with issue #1 of this new and very entertaining Batman mini-series.

Space Warped #1
Publisher: Kaboom!
Herve Bourhis: Writer
Rudy Spiessert: Art
Mathilda: Colors
Dan Heching: Translation
Kevin Church: Americanization

Kaboom! comics, the children's division of Boom! Entertainmnet, has just published issue #1 of an American edition of an overseas-produced parody of Star Wars entitled "Space Warped". The creative team includes writer Herve Bourhis with art by Rudy Spiessert and colors by Mathilda. The Kaboom! version of this title was assisted in production by translater Dan Heching and with "Americanization" by Kevin Church.

This Stars Wars spoof faithfully follows the main events of the very first Star Wars movie. The idea here is to re-present the plotline in a low tech satiric manner. Instead of robot droids we have two human "druids," instead of hover cars we have ox-drawn carts, instead of a death star we have a bad guy's castle, etc. Names have been changed also, so Princess Leia is now Lady Leica, Darth Vador is Lord Salvador, Obi Wan Kenobi is Bernard The Mad Monk (you get the picture). By the end of issue #1, the story has progressed to the point equal in the original tale at which our friends link-up with Harrison Ford and Chewbacca to begin the outer space segment of the first movie adventure.

While the first few pages of this storyline unfolded a bit slow and in a somewhat confusing manner, by page four I was hooked on this extremely funny and original retake of the classic Star Wars movie #1 tale. It was a brilliant and just plain fun move to place the well-known story in a primitive low tech setting. The result is a series of hilarious riffs on the well-known movie scenes. Without being a detail spoiler, my favorite touches in this retelling include this comic's version of "The Force." as well as the bust-a-gut retelling of the original scene in which Luke and Obi Wan find that the Imperial Stormtroopers have killed Luke's aunt and uncle back at the ranch on Tatooine (sounds potentially unfunny, but it really does work).

The satire here is sharp and funny, but without coming close to the edge of snarkiness or staleness abyss that some Mad Magazine-style satires sometimes fall into. So by all means, grab at copy of Space Warped at That's Entertainment, and "May The Farce Be With You!"

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to tell us what upcoming comic or superhero movie you most anticipate seeing. And our winner is (drumroll, please),,,Mike Dooley. While Mike tells us that he's a big fan of such heroes as Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America and The X-Men, he's being non-traditional this summer and most looking forward to the upcoming film "Cowboys and Aliens," the science fiction western starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel.

Mike writes that while the comic book has never appealed to him, he feels that the premise could be perfectly suited for the big screen. A bold and cutting-edge choice, Mike-we'll all know whether we agree with you or not after the movie hits the theatres on July 29! Congrats to Mike for winning our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's try another trivia contest for this week. E-mail us at with the answer to the following question: What is the one letter of the alphabet that is not included in the names of any of the 50 states in the U.S.? As always, in the event of multiple correct submissions, the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet will be chosen via a roll of the dice.

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

Friday, June 10, 2011

comic reviews 6/10/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its "Science Fiction Theme Week" Here In Bongo Congo, so let's review two new science fiction-themed comic book titles along with a classic Batman title:

Strange Adventures #1
Publisher: D.C. Vertigo Comics
Various Artists & Writers

DC Comics has recently restarted through its Vertigo imprint of comics its Strange Adventures title. Aging fanboys and fangirls will recall DC's long-running Silver Age version of this comic book, which featured science fiction tales in comic book form and is renowned among Silver Age collectors for having some of the most interesting and fun classic science fiction front covers. The over-sized issue #1 in the new series features a whopping nine stories encompassing a broad variety of science fiction storylines, with each tale presented by a different writer-artist team. The issue also features a fun science fiction cover by popular comic book artist Paul Pope.

While I expected a wide range of story quality from strong to weak, I was blown-away by the excellent quality of the three tales that lead in the issue. The first story is entitled "Case 21" and gives us a taut thriller set in a Bladerunner-type future mega-city with a shocking ending. Our second tale is entitled "The White Room." To avoid any spoiler details, I'll just comment that its an engrossing tale on the nature of reaility as well as a subtle comment on our real-world addiction to video-related technology. The third story is entitled "Partners," and has an entertaining Twilight Zone feel to it. Again, without spoiling any details, the plot centers on two male friends, each of whom has convinced the other that one of them is real and the other an imaginary sidekick, and neither one knows which-is-which. Overall, the credited writer-artist teams consistently deliver in this trio of stories with taut cutting-edge storylines and appropriate graphic styles for each of the varied story themes.

Of the additional tales, three are average and decent, one tale is a cliched re-hashing of an old science fiction story theme and two are just outright gory in graphic style and stupid in plotline. Any mix of nine stories in a comic book is going to have a range of story quality, so three excellent stories and three decent tales give us a higher-than-expected batting average for quality in this premier issue. So in sum, a very well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation for the return of this classic standard Silver Age science fiction-themed comic book title. Here's hoping that DC Vertigo keeps this new title going for awhile and keeps publishing it in the multi-story, over-sized format of issue #1.

Science Dog #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Robert Kirkman: Writer
Cory Walker: Pencils & Inks
Dave Stewart & Chris Chuckry: Colors

Image Comics is up to issue #2 of a new science fiction series entitled "Science Dog," featuring a humanoid dog scientist and his human sidekicks Rachel and Daniel. The series is written by Robert Kirkman, known among many projects for his work on The Walking Dead and Invincible comic book series. Pencils and inks are provided by Cory Walker with colors provided by Dave Stewart and Chris Chuckry.

The issue #2 plot is a very fast-paced tale of timetravel and alternate versions of reality. After being detained by aliens onboard an Earth-orbiting spaceship, Science Dog returns to Earth to find immense death and disaster caused by his arch-enemy Walter. Our hero attempts to make things right by using his timemachine several times, each time altering reality in some unexpected way. Obviously, by issue's end things are set right. But the kicker at the conclusion is very emotional and heart-rending, regarding the fate of Science Dog as he makes a particular personal sacrifice to reset reality in a particular way to assure that his friends Rachel and Daniel are protected from harm in the original disaster.

I was very impressed with this new comic book title for a few reasons. First, in a good way it reminded me of a Fantagraphics comic book title from the 1980's entitled "Dalgoda," (A Dog Lad spelled backwards). That very entertaining limited issue title featured an almost identical humanoid dog character's adventures in space, leading me to speculate that perhaps Kirkman wrote that title, also, or at the very least is paying homage to Dalgoda with this title. Secondly, while bleak and dark at times, the issue #2 plotline is beautifully presented, mixing traditional time travel/alternate reality story themes with some striking emotional content. And third, its fair to conclude that this comic book, in story style and graphic presentation, has many of the good elements that make the very popular "Atomic Robo" such a pleasure to read.

So whether you're a fan of talking dogs, science fiction themes or just plain entertaining comic book storytelling, by all means give this new Image Comics title a read.

Detective Comics #877
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Jock: Art
David Baron: Colors

DC's flagship Batman title, Detective Comics, is up to issue #877. There's been a lot of enthusiastic talk among Batman fans of late regarding the current creative team at the helm of this title, which includes popular writer Scott Snyder, renowned for his accomplished work on American Vampire. An artist named Jock pencils this issue with colors provided by David Baron.

This issue is the second installment of a three-part story arc entitled "Hungry City." Its a Dick Grayson-As-Batman tale, with The Caped Crusader smack in the middle of fast action as he tries to protect Sonia Branch, the good daughter of a mob boss, from threats by two modern-day Gotham crime kingpins called The Roadrunner and Tiger Shark. The plotline unfolds in three segments, starting with a battle between Batman and The Roadrunner, proceeding to an extended brainstorming session between Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Sonia Branch, and progressing into an undersea hunt through Gotham Harbor which ends in Batman's dramatic arrival at Tiger Shark's underwater criminal lair.

This is an excellent Batman story which stands solidly on its own two feet as an independent tale as well as the second segment of a three-part multi-issue story. This creative team goes betond refreshing Detective Comics, literally CPRing new life into the flagship DC Comics title. Jock and David Baron's graphic product is on equal par with past Batman A-list artists including Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, with the mid-story meeting of Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Sonia Branch in a driving Gotham evening rain the quintessential depiction of a Dark Knight Gotham noir setting. The combination of this well-written and beautifully-rendered story left me breathless and feeling rainsoaked myself.

So a well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation this week for this very high quality Batman tale in Detective Comics, which successfully doubles as a single story segment as well as the latest installment in this entertaining ongoing storyline.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Out latest contest challenge was for you to answer a simple trivia question as to what is the most popular fruit eaten annually in the U.S. these days. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges were astounded by the flood of e-mail submissions to this question-we received the most contest submittals that we've ever received for a contest! I guess its the simple questions that get readers attention, after all. And the winner of our contest chosen at random from among our many correct submittals is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly answered that the banana is the most popular fruit in the U.S. Other folks made logical guesses that the orange and the tomato (yes, the tomato is technically a fruit!) are most popular, but the banana rules! Congratulations to Gregory for winning the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

As all good fanboys and fangirls know, this summer will see the release of more than the usual number of summer blockbuster superhero movies. So far, we've seen the Thor movie and can't wait to check-out as many of the other great movies as possible (X-Men rule!).
So your challange this week is to e-mail us at and pitch to us either the best summer superhero movie that you've seen so far, or tell us which one you're most looking forward to seeing and why. As always, our contest winner will receive a $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

That's all for now, so keep enjoying the recent early summer sunshine and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, June 3, 2011

We're off this week from adding any new reviews, so we'll be back on June 10 with new reviews for you along with our current contest challenge winner and a new contest challenge for you-in the meantime, enjoy our reviews below!!!

Thanks So Much,