Thursday, July 28, 2011

comic reviews 7/28/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has an eclectic mix of comics in his new issues reading pile for this week, so let's review a variety of three of them-one DC Comics, one Bongo Comics and one Marvel Comics title apiece:

DC Retroactive: Flash-The 70's #1 (One-Shot)
Cary Bates: Writer
Benito Gallego: Pencils
Sal Buscema: Inks
Kevin Colden: Colors

DC Comics has a new series out this week entitled DC Retroactive, with the intriguing goal of producing one-shot issues that are throwbacks/tributes to a particular comic book era. The first group of comics out of the publication gate focuses on the decade of the 1970's, with veteran creative teams who worked in that era paying tribute to the style and content of that decade's comic books with brand new stories. George at That's Entertainment tells me that after the 70's are addressed in this series, DC will issue retroactive tributes to the 1980's and 1990's styles of comic book-producing. I chose to review this week The Flash one-shot in this series, scripted by veteran writer Cary Bates with pencils by Benito Gallego, inks by veteran artist Sal Buscema and colors by Kevin Colden.

The brand new throwback tale in this issue is entitled "Son Of Grodd" and naturally gives us a tale focusing on the historic conflict between Barry Allen/The Flash and his well-known super-intelligent gorilla foe Gorilla Grodd. The story interweaves two plotthreads. In the main storyline, Grodd hatches a bizarre plan to disrupt Barry Allen's marriage to Iris by cloning a human-looking son from a combination of his own DNA and DNA stolen from Iris. Without being a detail spoiler, the story proceeds with complicated developments involving Iris being subconsciously manipulated into helping to raise the rapidly aging clone, who goes rogue on Grodd and attacks him. By issue's end a temporary team-up between Grodd and The Flash, with the help of the clone's maternal figure Iris, resolve the situation. A secondary plotthread focuses on domestic issues between Barry and Iris, as they cope with the discovery that at least for now, The Flash's superpowers have made him unable to father children.

This was a very interesting and entertaining comic book for a few reasons. First and foremost is the high level of satiric campiness/cheesiness/kitschiness of this story. I don't think I've ever read a mainstream superhero comic book with this level of heavy-duty campiness in it; certain snippets of dialogue, storyline and facial expressions are beyond hilariously nutty. I'm assuming that the creative team wanted to pay tribute to some of the wacky story premises of the more innocent 1970's era of comic book publishing. There's just no way this level of campiness isn't a very deliberate creation. And it works very well here, for a lot of laughs and fun entertainment. Secondly, the artistic style is a perfect recreation of one standard type of 1970's-era artwork, thanks to veteran Sal Buscema's timeless quality inking skills. And third, the heavy campiness of the tale is somewhat balanced with a nicely constructed serious subplot focusing on the personal relationship issues of Barry and Iris, which concludes in a nice way.

As an added treat, there's a really fun, 25-page 1970's tale reprinted from "DC Comics Presents" issue #2 as a second story in this issue, republishing an excellent timetravel tale starring Flash, Superman and Flash's archenemy Professor Zoom. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to enjoy this oversized one-shot comic that gives us a mix of a new and a reprint story, each well-representing the comic book style of the bygone 1970's comic book publishing era. If this Flash issue in the "Retroactive 1970's" series is an indication, fans young and old won't be disappointed with this excellent tribute series!

Sergio Aragones Funnies #1
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Sergio Aragones: Writer & Artist
Tom Luth: Colors

Bongo Comics (Good King Leonardo's favorite name for a comic book publisher!), best known for its Simpsons and Futurama titles, has just published issue #1 of Sergio Aragones Funnies. For decades, Aragones has been acclaimed as a very funny cartoonist on the staff of Mad Magazine and is also known for such comic book titles as Groo The Wanderer, Plop! and my personal favorite, the Fanboy six-issue mini-series published by DC Comics back in 1999 as a fun parody of comic book fandom. Aragones is assisted in this new title by colorist Tom Luth.

The 26-page issue #1 provides all-new comedy material in an eclectic mix of of narrative styles and graphic presentations, ranging from one-page gag cartoons to multi-page stories. Page one presents a 7-panel hello to the reader from Sergio himself. There's a very well-presented retelling of the Trojan Horse story with an unexpected and funny punchline, along with a very entertaining and hilarious true autobiographical tale, in which the college-aged Sergio and his friends served as Indian extras in a Western movie shot by a Hollywood studio near his college in Mexico. The issue also has two fun "find what's wrong with this picture" games, including one set in a comic book shop not unlike our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment!

Needless to say, this new comic book is a gem of a title, offering up a fresh and well-stocked mix of all that is part of Sergio Aragones extensive, decades-long world of cartoon magazine humor. I love the variety in this funnies-oriented comic book, from a few traditional, multi-page stories to one-page cartoon gags to those two interactive puzzle challenges. The depth and detail of Sergio's wonderfully-complex panels are on full display here, just jam-packed with crowds of people and things, showing us once again that Aragones pioneered the fun "find that person or thing in the crowd" style that has become even more well-known these past few years with the advent of the "Where's Waldo?" puzzle challenges. The hilarious two-page Letters To The Editor page also deserves a loud shout-out, as its full of hilarious letters from real-life comedians and comic industry folk, mixed with a few serious, heartfelt congratulations to this pioneer of comic book humor on his latest comic book endeavor.

You're missing-out if you don't read this funny offering from one of the giants of cartoon/comic book comedy, a man who's work is as fresh, timeless and relevant today as the day he drew his first gag. So don't miss out and get yourself over to That's Entertainment for your very own copy of Sergio Aragones Funnies #1!

Daredevil #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Mark Waid: Writer
Paolo Rivera: Pencils
Joe Rivera: Inks
Javier Rodriguez: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a brand new Daredevil series. There are two separate stories in the premier issue. The main tale is scripted by veteran writer Mark Waid with pencils by Paolo Rivera, inks by Joe Rivera and colors by Javier Rodriguez. The bonus story is also written by Mark Waid with art by Marcos Martin and colors by Muntsa Vicente.

The main story interweaves three storythreads. In the initial pages, Daredevil intervenes at an organized crime family wedding to stop a kidnapping by a bizarre supervillain, resulting in much action and bedlam at the wedding, amongst guests armed to the teeth. A second plotline focuses on Matt Murdock trying to function as a New York attorney, all-the-while fending off constant attention on him from both the general public and his fellow lawyers, in the wake of his being outed as Daredevil in previous Marvel Comics Daredevil titles. The third plotline commences toward the end of the story, as Daredevil is attacked by a foe who seems to know a lot about his weaknesses. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue as the attacker is revealed to be a certain good guy fellow Marvel superhero.

There have been so many Daredevil comic book titles and issues over the years that I was curious to see how A-list writer Mark Waid would attempt to provide a fresh perspective on our hero in this new series. To his credit, Waid doesn't try to reinvent the basics of the Murdock/Daredevil stroy universe. Instead, he injects a layer of levity and light humor into Murdock's personality that has been sorely lacking over the years. Its both entertaining and refreshing to read in both of these stories a version of Murdock who isn't burdened with multiple layers of guilt and angst over the particulars of his situation. The second story in this issue particularly succeeds on that account, giving us a wonderful tale in which Matt and his sidekick Foggy take a stroll around New York. The art is wonderful, giving the reader a feel of cinematic-like mobility as the blind Murdock effortlessly leads Foggy around the city, all the while espousing an update and positive philosophy about both New York City and life itself.

So whether you're a long-time Daredevil fan like me or a newcomer to all things Daredevil, you'll be highly entertained by this new Daredevil title. And a well-deserved tip-of-the-review-hat to the creative team for giving us two separate stories in this issue, which given their high quality make it seem as if we're getting two full-length comic stories combined into one excellent and affordable monthly issue. I plan on continuing to read this title, at least for awhile, on a monthly basis to see how Mark Waid's infusion of a more positive outlook within Murdock's personality plays-out in the monthly storylines.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was a historic trivia question, asking you to tell us just how many millions of postcards were mailed in the U.S. in 1913, the peak year for use of postcards back in the pre-internet/e-mail/twitter days of personal communication. And our winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please...) Jeremy Mower, who correctly answered that over 968 million (almost a billion!) postcards were mailed in the U.S. that year. Jeremy adds that the number calculates-out to almost ten cards mailed for every man, woman and child alive in the country at the time. Jeremy also signs his entry as "Jeremy From The Paris Of The Eighties," which any local native knows is Worcester! Congrats to our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

Last week's history trivia contest was so popular that the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges has decided to offer another history challenge for this week. Your challenge is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: which northeastern state was actually entirely part of Massachusetts until it gained its independence as a separate state in 1820? As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, our winner of the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.

We'll be on vacation next week, but we'll return with new comic book reviews, our current contest challenge winner announcement and a new contest challenge on Friday, August 12. So have two great comic book reading weeks and see you again then Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, July 22, 2011

comic reviews 7/21/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Its Women In Comic Books Week again Here In Bongo Congo, with Good King Leonardo decreeing that we review the following three new comic books starring female characters in the main story roles. So let's see how these issues stack-up against each other:

Wolverine & The Black Cat: Claws 2, Issue #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray: Writers
Joseph Michael Linsner: Art
Dan Brown & Nick Filardi: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a three-issue mini-series as the second short installment in the ongoing Wolverine & Black Cat: Claws series. A page-one narrative informs the reader that the first series teamed-up the Marvel duo in an adventure that took place in the Antarctic wilds of Ka-Zar's Savage Land. This current installment is scripted by the team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Joseph Michael Linsner and colors by the team of Dan Brown and Nick Filardi.

Two sub-plots interweave and eventually combine in this issue. The first storythread focuses on the dating relationship between our two heroes; as they unwind in an upscale New York restaurant after their Savage Land adventure, they juggle sharp banter about their relationship with the immediate crisis of an ongoing robbery of the restaurant by a masked gang. The second ploththread follows the escape from The Savage Land of villains Arcade and White Rabbit. Naturally, they end-up tracking our heroes to the New York restaurant, (which is obviously having quite a busy night!), where a new battle begins. Without being a detail spoiler, the storyline takes a surprise twist as Wolverine and Black Cat are abruptly tossed via alien technology into the future, where they meet an unexpected futuristic Marvel universe hero for further adventure in next month's issue #2.

I enjoyed very much this kick-off issue of the Claws 2 mini-series, for a few reasons. First and foremost among the high points is the writing team's dialogue. Veterans Palmiotti and Gray are at the top of their game in providing sharp and witty dialogue between Wolverine and The Black Cat, who are fun and funny whether sparring over a meal about their romance or smoothly tossing zingers at their foes in the heat of battle. Secondly, I liked the story continuance from the first run of this title into this second series; its tough to compress a detailed plot into only three issues, so there's a lot more depth and detail in the adventure by building on the previous series as a strong backstory. And third, I was very impressed and entertained by the sudden surprise futuristic twist in the final pages of this issue. Taking a 180-degree story turn by unexpectedly tossing our heroes into a future setting could have been a blunder, but in the capable hands of this writing team, the turn works very well and provides a rich extra layer to all that's happening in this fast and fun adventure tale.

So a definite thumbs-up positive recommendation to get-in on the ground floor with issue #1 of this very entertaining Wolverine and Black Cat team-up. And also enjoy catching-up on the comic book issues of the first series, Claw 1, available at That's Entertainment.

Michael Turner's Soulfire #0
Publisher: Aspen Comics
J.T. Krul: Writer
Marcus To: Pencils
Saleem Crawford: Inks
Beth Sotelo: Colors

Aspen Comics has an issue #0 on the new comics shelves this past week kicking-off Volume #2 of its Soulfire series. The comic has an October, 2009 printing date, so I suspect its a reissuance or restocking to push upcoming publications of this title. Irregardless of the publication schedule, the series is scripted by J.T. Krul with pencils by Marcus To, inks by Saleem Crawford and colors by Beth Sotelo.

Issue #0 presents a limited, 12-page story that provides an introduction to the storytelling universe of this series. The year is 2212 and apparently magic is returning to modern society. In high tech megacities such as Beijing, China and Sydney, Australia, individuals are emerging with meta-human style powers that are deemed in this title as the reemergence of magic into the modern world. Not much happens in this issue #0 beyond interactions among friends who exhibit these powers. In the Beijing pages, two friends stumble upon a magical lizard hatchling at the zoo. In Sydney, a handful of magical-powered young adults talk about the burden and confusion of their powers. Two leaders are also introduced: Maliki, an eons-old winged magical woman who mentors the good guys and by issue's end, an unnamed magic-powered bad guy who's assembling young bad folk about him in San Francisco.

I was a fan of the late Michael Turner's art and writing efforts at Aspen Comics and I'm glad to see the creative folk at that publishing house continuing their comic book title efforts in his stylistic footsteps. There's nothing cutting-edge here, just a brief, decent-enough introductory storyline sold at a reduced price to introduce readers to the second edition run of this series. It serves its purpose of aquainting newbies like me to the Soulfire characters and succeeds in assuring us that if we get into this title we'll get exquisite art along with a fresh take on the "emergence of folks with powers" theme that is repeated often in the comic book publishing world.

So a deserved positive recommendation for this decent promo-style issue #0 of all-things-Soulfire over at Aspen Comics. As a final review comment, beyond the 12-page kick-off story segment we're treated to some very nice sketchbook pages of the characters, along with some decent advertising of reprint compilations of various Aspen Comics titles, including Fathom and the Volume 1 series of Soulfire, all available in one form or another at That's Entertainment.

Flashpoint: Lois Lane & The Resistance #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning: Writers
Eddie Nunez: Pencils
Don Ho: Inks

Among the many mini-series titles under D.C.'s Flashpoint mega-event umbrella is issue #1 of the three-issue series entitled Flashpoint: Lois Lane & The Resistance #1. As I've mentioned in previous Flashpoint series reviews, the premise of this series is that a foe of The Flash has altered reality, such that Aquaman and Wonder Woman are leading their respective kingdoms in world war against mankind, resulting in millions of deaths at the war front in Western Europe. While Barry Allen/The Flash seeks to find a way to restore the world's proper reality, he must interact with a wide range of DC universe characters whose own backgrounds and storylines have been radically altered in the new world timeline. This particular Flashpoint title is scripted by the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with pencils by Eddie Nunez and inks by Don Ho.

Issue 31 is entitled "Breaking News" and weaves the Lois Lane story piece into the fabric of the Flashpoint saga. The plot moves forward quickly with much action and adventure; reporting on a Parisian fashion show when the war erupts, Lois is a rare survivor of Aquaman's flooding destruction of Paris. Rescued by Amazons, Lois is transported to England as a captive of Wonder Woman's empire. The story progresses through Lois's initial months of captivity as she develops a double life as a spy for America against her captors balanced with her cover as a supposedly willing convert to the Amazon cause. The issue #1 storyline ends in a cliffhanger as Lois and a surprise ally are exposed and face life-threatening danger at the hands of the Amazons.

This particular mini-series addresses a key piece of the Flashpoint saga that's referred to in other titles, that being the role of Lois Lane as a leader of the human resistance behind enemy lines. As such, its both informative regarding the wider story universe being constructed within Flashpoint and entertaining as a stand-alone action-adventure tale. This is the first Flashpoint title I've read that drops the reader right into the frontlines of the world war, so the story also succeeds from the perspective of a war comic book. A tip-of-the-review-hat is also deserved to the creative team, who blend the story together with a strong combination of excellent artwork and engrossing dialogue. As a final review comment, the front cover hints at the addition of The Demon and an Ambush Bug-like character as future issues unfold, which should add further interesting developments to this unfolding tale.

So a well-deserved positive review for yet another Flashpoint series comic book title. While I've enjoyed the four titles that I've read so far, for its success in filling-in some of the big picture elements of the ongoing world war, this particular title is my personal favorite read to-date in the Flashpoint series.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest came about after New York Yankee Derek Jeter recently reached the 3000-hit plateau by hitting a home run. We asked you to tell us of the 27 Major League Baseball players who reached 3000 hits before him, who is the only one to also hit a home run for number 3000? And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly tells us that former Red Sox Third Baseman Wade Boggs also hit a homer for his hit number 3000. Congratulations to Kevin, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have an unusual historical trivia challenge for you this week. As we all know, way back in the day before the advent of e-mails, tweets, etc., penny postcards sent through the U.S. mail were a very routine way for folks to drop notes to each other; many collectible magazines refer to old-time postcards as the e-mails and tweets of their day. The popularity of postcards peaked in 1913, the year that a huge, and I mean HUGE number of them were mailed around the U.S. Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at and tell us just how many millions of postcards were mailed in the U.S. in that peak year of 1913. If you're guessing, again, think really huge, because its a pretty mind-boggling number! As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, we'll select the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment via a roll of the dice.

That's all for now, so stay cool in this summertime heat by having a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Comic Reviews 7/15/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its time to review another eclectic group of comics, so let's review three comic books this week that feature characters somewhat outside the mainstream of superhero-themed comic books:

Rocketeer Adventures #1 and #2
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Various Writers and Artists

IDW Publishing has recently revived for a fresh publishing run the ever-popular Rocketeer comic book title. Long-time fanboys and fangirls know very well the popularity and history of this character; created in 1982 by the late artist/writer Dave Stevens, the original comic book title was very popular, culminating in the Walt Disney Company releasing in 1991 a Rocketeer feature film. Set in 1938 Los Angeles, the comic featured stunt pilot Cliff Secord, who finds a mysterious jet pack and becomes the masked Rocketeer hero/adventurer. The Pulp Era series was also famed for Dave Stevens's high quality illustrations of Secord's girlfriend Betty, drawn as a lookalike of famed 1950's pinup girl Bette Page. I originally planned on reviewing issue #2 of this new series, but found it so interesting that I went back and also read issue #1, as such combining the two issues into a single review.

The concept of the new title is to pay homage to both the late Dave Stevens and his beloved character creations with four stories presented in each issue. Each story is produced by a different well-known comic creator, including issue #1 stories written and/or drawn by Mike Allred and Kurt Busiek/Michael Kaluta and issue #2 stories created by Mark Waid, Darwyn Cooke and Gene Ha. Three stories stand-out in particular. "The Rocketeer" kicks-off issue #1 with a fast and furious action/adventure plot written and drawn by John Cassady, beginning with classic gangster action and ending on a perfect comedy note. "It Ain't The Fall That Kills Ya..." leads-off issue #2 with a Mark Waid plot that's a sharp commentary on fame, fortune and movie industry politics in Hollywood. And issue #2's "Episode Six-Betty Saves The Day!" is a wonderful Darwyn Cooke tale featuring girlfriend Betty replacing Cliff in the lead action role as an homage to the old Republic Studios weekly movie serial adventures.

This new comic book series is that rare treat of a title that I just couldn't put down. It was simply brilliant of IDW Publishing to structure the comic book as a monthly four-story series featuring a cavalcade of the best and brightest comic story creators that the industry has to offer. While the three stories singled-out above were my personal favorites, all eight stories in these two premier issues are of equal production quality, entertainment and just-plain-fun. There isn't a comic title out there right now that does a better job of presenting the pulp fiction/art deco action adventure era, with each story providing a different interpretive spin on that world, as seen by the various artists and writers involved in this project.

Two final elements deserve notice in this title. The first is an exquisite Betty pin-up page in issue #1 as drawn by artist Jim Silke. And secondly, the title honors the late Dave Stevens with a full page notice in each issue soliciting donations to the Hairy Cell Leukemia Research Foundation, Inc., to help battle the disease that took Dave Stevens much too soon from the world of his wonderful comic book creations. So don't just add this new series to your comic book reading pile, but instead place this comic at the very top of that ever-growing pile to read as soon as possible!

Ruse #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Mark Waid: Writer
Mirco Pierfederici: Art

Marvel Comics is currently up to issue #4 in its mini-series revival of Ruse. For the uninitiated, Ruse was a Crossgen Publications title that ran about a decade ago. The concept was the unusual premise of presenting a Victorian-era detective series with a science fiction twist. While the story universe resembled Sherlock Holmes's London, the setting was actually on the planet Arcadia in the Victorian London-like city of Partington. The Holmes-like "world's greatest detective" in the series was Simon Archard, assisted by his assistant/partner Emma Bishop in adventures that included fantasy elements. Well-known writer Mark Waid launched the Crossgen title and returns here to script the Marvel series, with art by Mirco Pierfederici.

The multi-issue storyline is entitled "The Victorian Guide To Murder." A page one narrative informs the reader that to-date, the tale centers on Simon and Emma pursuing Simon's old detective mentor Lightbourne, who is effectively using blackmail and murder to advance a devious scheme to control Queen Victoria and grab control for himself of India. Without being a detail spoiler, a lot of fast-paced Holmes-style deduction, sleuthing and big-time battle action rolls-out from page-to-page in this issue. A humorous sub-plot threads its way through the storyline, in which Simon and Emma keep-up a witty banter about Emma's equal role in the detective partnership, versus Simon's efforts to see her as a subservient assistant. All of the various plot sub-elements advance nicely to a thrilling conclusion, which nicely wraps-up this four-issue mini-series in a satisfying ending.

This comic book presents an off-beat and interesting genre style that makes for a refreshing change of pace from the usual comic book hero storylines. While I can't speak to the first three issues, this fourth and final issue in the mini-series excludes any real fantasy elements and gives us a well-presented and very entertaining take on the classic Victorian detective genre. A-lister Mark Waid's dialogue and story pacing is top notch and Mirco Pierfererici's artistic style is well-suited to this particular storyline. The issue also succeeds very well as both a stand-alone, single issue read and a final installment to the four-part title series.

Two final review notes are worth mention. First, the "Solving The Mystery" letters to the editor page in this issue pitches for readers to write or e-mail Marvel Comics if they wish to see future installments of Ruse. And secondly, there's a fun preview as a second story in this issue of the upcoming Mark Waid-scripted run of a new Daredevil title thats an additional fun read. So an enthusiastic recommendation for you to expand your superhero-reading horizons with the addition of this historical thriller title to your comic book reading list. And don't forget to e-mail or write to Marvel Comics to tell them to produce future editions of Ruse!

Moon Girl #2
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Tony Trov and Johnny Zito: Writers
The Rahzzah: Art

Red 5 Comics had a very interesting preview of this new title as a second story feature in their Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day title, so I thought I'd check-out a full issue of this off-beat new series. The character of Moon Girl was actually created in the Golden Age by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff for EC Comics. Moon Girl is Princess Klara, royalty from an Eastern European country who comes to America and fights crime using superpowers derived from a moon rock. The original EC presentation of Moon Girl is credited as being one of two comic books that started the historic trend of EC horror comic books. The Red 5 Comics re-boot of this character is scripted by the team of Tony Trov and Johnny Zito, with art by someone who calls himself The Rahzzah.

The issue #2 storyline continues a multi-issue storyline which interweaves two sub-plots. In the main storyline set in 1955 New York City, Moon Girl battles a villainess named The Sugar Plum Fairy, who's out to zombify (is that a real word...if so, I claim all copyrights to it!) the city populace. A second sub-plot alternates between 1938 and 1955 and focuses on a battle of wills between Moon Girl and her old world mentor/trainer Mistress Satana. When Klara escapes to America to start a normal new life, Mistress Satana follows her to New York and implements a very bloody strategy to drag her fleeing prodigy back into the world of being Moon Girl.

This is one of the more intriguing and very weird comic books to come down the new issues pike in quite awhile. The mix of The Rahzzah's unique and gorgeous artwork with the odd juxtiposition of flashbacks and heavy dose of s&m mixed into the Mistress Satana storythread brew-up into a fever dream of a tale that feels almost like a hallucinatory version of a Grimm's fairy tale. Frankly, on first read I disliked the entire feel of this comic, but it hooked me into a second read a few days later and it grew on me. So I'm giving it a positive thumbs-up review recommendation with an important caveat: this is not your father's (or grandfather's, more likely) Golden Age-innocent style of Moon Girl. This is a Moon Girl redesigned for the jaded, early 21st century, full of modern-day storytelling blood, horror and s&m. So while I suggest keeping the kids and old-timers away from this title, it is a very interesting change-of-pace read for young adult and middle-aged readers, alike.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to correctly identify three famous television dog actors that we quizzed you on. And our winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please...) Gregory Goding, who correctly tells us that Eddy The Jack Russell Terrier starred on Frasier, Duke The Bloodhound was one of our favorite characters on The Beverly Hillbillies and Rex The Wonder Dog German Shephard starred back in the Golden Age of television on The Roy Rogers Show. Congratulations to Gregory, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

As all baseball fans know, during this past week Derek Jeter of the Yankees became only the 28th player in major league baseball history to reach the 3000 hit plateau, hitting a home run for his 3000th hit. Our baseball trivia challenge for this week is for you to e-mail us at and tell us of the previous 27 players to reach the 3000-hit plateau, who is the only one to also hit a home run for his 3000th hit? As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen via a roll of the dice.

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Comic reviews 7/8/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Its another "All-DC Comics Week" Here In Bongo Congo and as such Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review two new Flahpoint event series titles along with the latest issue of a regular DC monthly title. So let's see how these new comic books stack-up against each other:

Flashpoint: Hal Jordan #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Adam Shlagman: Writer
Ben Oliver: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

Among the many limited-issue new comic book titles under the wide umbrella of DC's Flashpoint event series is issue #1 of Flashpoint: Hal Jordan. As I've mentioned in previous Flashpoint reviews, the concept of this alternate universe series is that an enemy of The Flash has altered the structure of the DC storytelling universe. In this brave new world, Aquaman and Wonder Woman lead their respective empires in world war against humanity, resulting in millions of deaths in Western Europe. In addition, the backstories and lives of most of the major DC superheroes are radically different throughout this series. The Hal Jordan mini-series is scripted by Adam Schlagman with art by Ben Oliver and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

Issue #1 is entitled "Rising Tide" and alters the familiar origin tale of Hal Jordan becoming the Green Lantern. In this revised origin story, instead of working as a hotshot test pilot for Ferris Aircraft, Hal and owner Carol Ferris are transformed into co-pilots patrolling the Atlantic against Aquaman's forces, as the company appears to be conscripted into military service. Without being a detail spoiler, the pair have a wild action adventure against some of Aquaman's forces. In follow-up to the incident, Hal goes out on solo flight patrol and by the end of the issue #1 story segment encounters the crashlanded, dying alien Green Lantern who we know will bequeath the coveted Green Lantern power ring to him at the start of next month's issue #2.

Its been a lot of fun this past month reading a selection of the various Flashpoint titles; DC deserves a worthy shout-out for adopting the strategy of unfolding various alternate history segments of their wider superhero universe via the production of these short-run mini-series titles. The three-issue Hal Jordan title should provide just the right length of story arc to introduce the alternate version of Green Lantern and establish his place in the Flashpoint event universe for further action as the entire series evolves. Issue #1 in this brief series definitely provides a mix of alternate history freshness and entertainment as one piece of the overall Flashpoint picture puzzle. It should be a lot of fun to see how the creative team of this title uses the Emerald Warrior within the world war situation of Flashpoint. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to place Flashpoint: Hal Jordan at the top of that ever-growing list of various Flashpoint series titles to read over the summer.

Flashpoint: Project Superman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder & Lowell Francis: Writers
Gene Ha: Art
Art Lyon: Colors

Our second comic book reviewed this week within the Flashpoint story universe is issue #1 of the three-issue mini-series entitled Flashpoint: Project Superman. Obviously, this branch of the Flashpoint event establishes an alternate tale of DC's favorite All-American superhero. The series is based on a general plot outlined by the writing team of Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis, with Francis soloing on fleshing-out their joint concept into a detailed story script. The title's artwork is produced by Gene Ha with colors by Art Lyon.

Issue #1 establishes a prequel storyline in lead-up to the eventual issue #2 arrival of Superman on the scene by focusing on "Project Superman," a secret U.S. Army Project managed by the infamous General Lane, whose goal is to create a Captain America-style supersoldier. The ultimate secret volunteer for this experiment is Lieutenant Neil Sinclair, who in the standard DC comic book universe is apparently the superhero Apollo from the Wildstorm group of characters that DC incorporated into their publishing world a few years ago. The issue #1 plotline interweaves two sub-plots; the decades-long intense experimentation on Sinclair, as he steadily evolves the range of Superman's well-known powers (x-ray and heat vision, super-hearing, etc.), along with a parallel decline in Sinclair's basic human compassion and value for human life. By issue's end, the inevitable bloody tragedy occurs, resulting in Sinclair being squirreled away by General Lane in lock-up for the safety of America. The issue #1 story segment concludes with the rocket carrying baby Kal-El crashlanding in Metropolis instead of Kansas, with the public attention of the event leading Sinclair to scheme a plan for the true eventual Superman to assist in his resurrection and freedom.

While I'm giving this issue a well-deserved positive review recommendation, its with the qualification that it could have been a better-produced comic book issue, on two counts. First, choosing to focus an entire Flashpoint comic book issue on an alternate version of Sinclair/Apollo was confusing for readers like me who aren't experienced readers of the Wildstorm hero character. A first page narrative or some other explanatory device would have been helpful in providing a clearer understanding of the standard and alternative Sinclair storyline structure. Secondly, scripter Lowell Francis just wastes too much time plotting at length the evolution of Sinclair's Superman-like powers in parallel with his decline in moral character. Given the constraints of a three-issue mini-series, this issue #1 storyline should have been condensed to the first half of the issue, allowing much more story space for evolving Superman into the mix right in issue #1.

So in sum, while this is an interesting and entertaining comic book, its just not among the very best of the Flashpoint story titles. I'd keep it on my list for Flashpoint reading, but suggest getting around to reading it after such other titles as the main Flashpoint mini-series, the Flying Graysons title and the Green Lantern title reviewed above.

Power Girl #25
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Judd Winick: Writer
Hendry Prasetya: Art
Jessica Kholinne: Colors

DC's Power Girl title is up to issue #25 this month. I gave a very positive review to an issue in the early run of this series and a negative review to a follow-up issue, so I was interested this week in returning to the latest issue to see how this comic book is faring with the current creative team. I was also attracted to the fact that Batman guest stars in the current story run. The series is currently scripted by Judd Winick with art by Hendry Prasetya and colors by Jessica Kholinne.

Issue #25 is the second and final part of a two-issue story arc entitled "We Can Be Heroes." The story quickly updates the reader on plot progress to-date, in which Power Girl and Batman have helped the government imprison a meta-human named Rayhan Mazin. It turns out that Mazin has been falsely profiled as a terrorist due to his Arab-American background. In issue #25, Mazin breaks-out of confinement to visit his dying father. Without being a detail spoiler, Power Girl and Batman have an extended confrontation with Mazin, which alternates between heavy battle action and detailed conversation throughout the issue. By issue's end, the unjust and false accusation against Mazin is resolved; the issue ends on a neat, two-page redirection of the plotline, in which Batman and Power Girl have an interesting conversation resolving some lingering JSA business between the two heroes.

I enjoyed very much the change-of-pace plot focus of this issue, as an alternative to the big-time Flashpoint universe events dominating this summer's DC new issues publication schedule. Veteran writer Judd Winick does a stellar job in blending the relevant political topic of racial/ethnic profiling with a standard battle action subplot. The artwork here is exquisite, with the art team giving us some of the best action panels that I've seen in a very long time, particularly a series of panels that emphasize to great visual effect just how superpowerful and ultra-invincible Power Girl is in comparison to other, obviously less-powerful heroes in the DC Universe. I also enjoyed the freshness of the Rayhan Mazin character and hope that DC continues to feature this meta-human character, who I personally have never seen before this issue, in future issues of DC comic book titles.

So I'm very glad to see that the current creative team has successfully restored the Power Girl title to a level of entertainment and production quality on par with the early issues of this title that were helmed by renowed comic creator Amanda Connor.

Current Contest Results!!!

We had no entries to our current contest, which challenged you to pitch to us your favorite episode of the long-running animation series The Simpsons. So we'll just move-on to a new contest below.

New Contest Announcement!!!

We'll go back this week to our ever-popular trivia form of contest challenge. And since we're smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, what better time than to offer-up a dog trivia contest! The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenges you this week to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following challenge: Name the correct popular television shows that each of the three following famous dog actors appeared on:

Eddie, The Jack Russell Terrier

Duke, The Blood Hound

Bullet The Wonder Dog, A German Shephard

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

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Comic Reviews 7/1/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its Back To The Future Week here in Bongo Congo, so let's review two new DC comics and one new Marvel comic that star some of the more historical, long-term A-list superheroes from the respective publishers:

Superman #712
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Kurt Busiek: Writer
Rick Leonardi: Pencils
Jonathan Sibal: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors

DC's flagship original Superman title is up to issue #712 this month. A page one Editor's Note explains that due to a production delay, the scheduled start of a new multi-issue story arc is replaced in this month's issue with the publication of a "lost classic" story starring Krypto the Superdog. The storyline is set shortly after Superboy died in the Infinite Crisis event and Superman went missing. This one-issue tale is scripted by A-list writer Kurt Busiek with pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Jonathan Sibal and colors by Brad Anderson.

The story weaves together two interconnected sub-plots, one set in the past and one in the present-day. The past storyline updates the reader on the events of Infinite Crisis that led to the demise/disappearance of members of Krpto's extended Superman Family. The present-day pages detail Krypto's actions in two respects, patiently waiting for his family members to return all the while searching across the Earth and in outer space for his missing human buddies. Without being a detail spoiler, the story concludes by coming full circle from the opening flashback panels, with Krypto settling-in for a long, continued wait nestled by a favorite toy that he shared in play with Superboy at the start of the tale. There's a hopeful note at the conclusion, as the last panel marks the story close as "Not The End..."

This one-shot filler tale succeeds as an entertaining issue of Superman in several respects. First, its provides a nice, simple mid-summer breather from the multitudes of multi-issue "event" story arcs that prevail in most of the new comic production out there these days. Secondly, veteran writer Kurt Busiek succeeds in adding another quality story to the inventory of occasional Krypto stories existing in the DC comic universe. Busiek does an admirable job of balancing the flashback sub-plot as a strong support to the present-day Krypto storyline, helping to make the narrative-free dog-centric scenes make sense due to the past tense human narrative. And third, Busiek gives us doglover's a treat by effectively portraying that wonderful trait of all dogs, that of unconditional love for their family, as Krypto patiently searches and waits for all to be right again in his world.

At times emotional and almost heartbreaking, at times just a fun and entertaining read, all-in-all this issue well deserves a positive thumbs-up recommendation as a mid-summer treat starring everyone's favorite DC universe superpup!

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jonathan Vankin: Writer
Marco Castiello: Pencils
Vincenzo Acunzo: Inks
Barb Ciardo: Colors

DC has also just published issue #1 in a three-issue mini-series that follows-up with DC universe events in the aftermath of the Brightest Day series events. This particular title focuses on the search for Swamp Thing and stars everyone's favorite demon world-connected sleuth John Constantine, along with Batman and Zatanna. The issue #1 cover also implies that Superman will be joining the plot in upcoming issues of the title. The comic book is scripted by Jonathan Vankin with pencils by Marco Castiello, inks by Vincenzo Acunzo and colors by Barb Ciardo.

The kick-off story segment begins with Constantine being ambushed in London after receiving a false message from his old friend Swamp Thing, resulting in his being infected with a swamp-based life-threatening malady. John travels to Gotham to enlist The Batman both in search of Swamp Thing and in search of a cure for the increasingly-viral infection. Most of the issue #1 storyline progresses a detailed confrontation between Constantine and Batman, in which the pair verbally joust as Costantine works hard to establish credibility and trust with the Caped Crusader. By issue's end, Zatanna enters the picture and joins the newly-formed team. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as a surprise development regarding Swamp Thing's identity is revealed which hints of a possible answer to both Swamp Thing's disappearance and John Constantine's strange malady.

This new title is a decent and entertaining addition to the varied Brightest Day and post-Brightest Day events unfolding in the DC comic book universe. The combination of Constantine, Batman and Zatanna provide a unique and fresh mix of characters as a hero team. I particularly enjoyed the extended verbal duel between Constantine and Batman, with the demonic detective more than holding his own with witty remarks and sharp dialogue, resulting in Constantine at times actually getting the better of Batman and ultimately succeeding in adding the Caped Crusadar to his team. Writer Jonathan Vankin structures the story with just the right sense of mystery that makes the reader want to stick with this tale to see where the plot takes us over the course of three issues. It should also be fun to see how Superman fits into this story beginning in next month's issue #2.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to add this fresh and interesting limited series title to your mid-summer pile of beach-reading new comic books!

Ultimate Spider-Man #160
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mark Bagley: Pencils
Andy Lanning & Andrew Hennessy: Inks
Justin Ponsor: Colors

The latest "death of our favorite superhero" storyline wraps-up its five-part story presentation with "Death Of Spider-Man: Part 5" in issue #160 of Ultimate Spider-Man. For the uninitiated, the many "Ultimate" titles published by Marvel provide very interesting alternative character histories of some of the most well-known Marvel heroes. Significant alternate Spider-Man elements in this title include re-booting Peter Parker/Spidey and friends back to their original high school-aged roots, along with the key premise revision that everyone near and dear to Parker, from Aunt May to Mary Jane and back again, share in the knowledge of Parker's superhero identity. The Death Of Spider-Man event series is scripted by veteran writer Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks shared by Andy Lanning and Andrew Hennessy, and colors by Justin Ponsor.

This concluding story segment consists of a single issue-long mega-battle scene. Having been seriously wounded by a crazed Green Goblin in last month's issue, Parker must now confront the killer supervillain literally in his home neighborhood in front of Aunt May's house. As the action unfolds, Spider-Man is forced to desperately juggle two efforts with split-second precision: trying to fend-off the Goblin's fianl push to kill our hero, while also attempting to protect his various friends and loved ones who stand smack in the path of harm's way. Various fellow teen heros and Spidey family members try and fail to help our hero. In the end, as expected, Spidey/young Parker seemingly stops the villain while also seemingly bleeding-out and expiring from his Goblin-inflicted wounds.

I say "seemingly" in the story summary because as all good fanboys and fangirls know, no hero is ever permanently expired in any of the periodical "death of our favorite hero" comic book publishing events. But that's o.k., because none of us really want to lose our heroes; the fun of these situations is seeing how the creative team that's assigned the task eventually resurrects our hero and explains the supposed demise in the first place. In that respect, this part five conclusion is both entertaining in its own right and provides a nice first act to the second and third acts of the play, the respective "coping with Spidey's death" and "hooray, our hero's back" segments of the story. A particular hats-off in issue #160 is deserved for A-list writer Bendis, who stretches out of his writing comfort zone with a tale light on his usual detailed dialogue and philosophical character rambling and heavier on old-fashioned Marvel Comics battle action. The result is a nice throwback style of storytelling that fits perfectly with entire "back to the future" teen years reboot of Spidey in this particular Ultimate comic book title.

So we're three-for-three this week, with another positive thumbs-up recommendation to add this entertaining and just-plain-fun issue of Ultimate Spider-Man to our growing pile of new comic books to read on that beach blanket!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest asked you to correctly identify what the initial "S" stands for as President Harry S. Truman's middle name. We had quite a few correct entries, so via a roll of the dice our selected winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who correctly tells us that the S stands for just that, the letter S! Truman's parents chose the letter S to honor both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. Single initial middle names were a common historical practice among Scot-Irish immigrant families to America. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have also decided to award a second, honorary contest prize to Christian P. Mock, who is the only contest entrant who has the same name situation; Christian tells us that his folks also couldn't decide which grandparent to honor, thus giving him the middle name of the letter P! Congrats to both of our winners, who each receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's take a break from trivia this week and have a comic/animation-related contest challenge. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges was recently watching an episode of this past season's The Simpsons and was impressed how the writing quality of the show has maintained its strength over the many years of the show. As such, your challenge this week is to e-mail us at telling us which episode of The Simpsons is your very favorite episode, and why. As always, our selected first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment!

That's all for now, so great a great Fourth Of July comic book reading week and see you again next week here In Bongo Congo!