Friday, September 30, 2011

comic reviews 9/30/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo noticed lots of premier new comic book titles out there this week, so let's see how three of these issue #1's stack-up against each other:

John Carter Of Mars: A Princess Of Mars #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Roger Langridge: Writer
Filipe Andrade: Art
Sunny Gho: Colors

In lead-up to next summer's Marvel Comics/Disney movie production of John Carter Of Mars, Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a 5-issue mini-series of the story. I've previously reviewed a few issues of various Dynamite Comics titles which either re-tell or add new adventures to the well-known Edgar Rice Burroughs-penned science fiction tale of a 19th century American who's mysteriously teleported to Mars (called Barsoom by the natives) and has many pulp adventures with the various Martian indigenous races, along with a romance with Martian Princess Deja Thoris. This latest interpretation of the tale is scripted by Roger Langridge with art by FilipeAndrade and colors by Sunny Gho.

Our new re-telling of the tale is entitled "First Contact!" Its a fast-moving plot which begins with Carter disoriented after teleporting to Mars and being captured by the dominant, green-skinned warrior race. Most of the issue #1 storyline balances the desire of Carter to escape his captors with the fact that he and the Martians actually warm to each other as they each get to know a bit about the other side. When an opportintuy to escape does arise, Carter walks into danger only to be rescued by his giant Martian guard dog. The incident further bonds Carter to the aliens, just in time for a high tech battle to ensue between Barsoomian races. The premier issue story segment ends in a dramatic bridge, as Carter and his jailers/new allies capture a battle survivor, who turns-out to be none other than Princess Deja Thoris herself.

There have been so many comic book and fictional tellings of this tale, that a new comic title better bring something very special to the reading table if its going to make its own mark within the wide inventory of John Carter storytellings. Both surprisingly and happily, this new title adds such groundbreaking quality and storytelling to the well-worn franchise. I suppose this success really shouldn't be that much of a surprise, given that Roger Langridge scripts the title. Langridge proved in last year's popular "Thor The Mighty Avenger" series that he has a strong ability to add a fresh perspective to a well-known, established fictional storyline. He wonderfully repeats that Thor franchise success here with John Carter. From the dialogue to the visual presentation to the basic story action/panel lay-out, the Langridge-led creative team gives us a very fresh and entertaining new storytelling spin, to the point where by issue's end, I felt as if I'd read a brand-new John Carter adventure, as opposed to a very creative re-telling of a familiar pulp science fiction classic story.

So a positive thumbs-up review recommendation to read this new mini-series, whether you're already a John Carter fan or just looking for something new to experience. And if the quality of next summer's tie-in movie is anything close to the creative and high quality approach of this comic book title, there's going to one mega-box office blockbuster hit out there in the cinematic version of this excellent comic book series.

Stormwatch #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Cornell: Writer
Miguel Sepulveda: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

Among the many new titles being released as part of DC's "New 52" restructuring is Stormwatch #1. For the uninitiated, Stormwatch is a title created by Jim Lee at Image Comics which further evolved at Wildstorm Publishing and is currently revamped for inclusion in the new DC universe. The concept is that Stormwatch is an international team of heroes, currently affiliated with the United Nations, that has secretly protected mankind from alien threats over the centuries. The DC revival of the series includes some previous Stormwatch characters, a few new team members and DC's well-known superhero the Martian Manhunter. The title is scripted by Paul Cornell with art by Miguel Sepulveda and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

The issue #1 storyline is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Dark Side." The story mixes three sub-plots together to re-start the world of Stormwatch. In Moscow, a team of Stormwatch folk including the Martian Manhunter pursue and confront a citizen with mysterious powers who has no intention of getting involved in superbeing do-gooding. In a very unique plotthread, an alien artifact transforms the moon into a sentient being equipped with giant claws and a huge eye, intent on threatening the Earth. And in the Himalayas, a pair of superpowered Stormwatch members trackdown a giant, frozen worm creature (shades of Dune!) for unexplained purposes. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge as the Moscow team is defeated by the mysterious superbeing Midnighter, who offers the pursued Moscow super-citizen a chance to kill every bad guy on the planet.

I had a mixed reaction to reading issue #1 of this new title. On the positive side, there's a lot of fun and intriguing story stuff jam-packed into this issue. Any one of the three sub-plots has enough action, adventure and fresh plot concepts to stand-alone as a full-issue storyline. I particularly enjoyed two story elements: the "rogue sentient moon" plotthread and writer Paul Cornell's style of dropping into the dialogue intriguing backhistory treats about various team members, which reflect their centuries-long history and lives. There's also a nice feel of grand-scale, science fiction-like events unfolding in these storylines, similar to Warren Ellis's story approach in the acclaimed Planetary series, which was a sister publication to Stormwatch in its earlier Wildstorm Publishing incarnation.

Balancing this good story stuff is a very jumbled story presentation; the fun stuff is just thrown all over the story lay-out with absolutely no explanation of the Stormwatch team concept or their backstory. Everything that I've described so far in this review about the Stormwatch universe was derived from sources outside of issue #1. This premier issue gives the reader absolutely no orientation or explanation of who the heck these folk are or what they're all about. So a mixed review, here: a definite recommendation to check-out this title, along with the helpful warning that DC better add some page-one narrative details to future issues, or the confusion's gonna mount for "New 52" readers who aren't veteran Stormwatch fans, and the title will be in danger of fading in fanbase support.

Static Shock #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott McDaniel & John Rozum: Writers
Scott McDaniel: Pencils
Jonathan Glapion & Le Beau Underwood: Inks
Guy Major: Colors

Another one of the "New 52" titles premiering this past week is issue #1 of Static Shock. Again for the uninitiated, Static Shock is 15-year-old African-American teen Virgil Hawkins, who has costumed hero adventures using his electromagnetic powers. The character has been around the DC and animated television universe for a few decades and actually originated as a proposed concept for Marvel Comics based on the Spiderman teen-angst model. The new title is scripted by the team of Scott McDaniel and John Rozum, with pencils by Scott McDaniel, inks by Jonathan Glapion and Le Beau Underwood and colors by Guy Major.

The issue #1 re-boot is appropriately entitled "Recharged" and opens with a fast-action sequence as Static battles to control a renegade STAR Labs technician who's out-of-control wearing an electromagnetic power suit. The plot shifts to more of a mystery/intrigue theme as we learn that the lab tech was actually manipulated by a large supervillain syndicate led by the villain Piranha. A second plotline focuses on Virgil Hawkins's civilian life, as he tries to adjust to his family relocating from Dakota to New York City. Virgil's civilian and hero identities blend together in his daily life when he spends time in his new role as a student intern at STAR Labs. The issue #1 story introduction ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue as Virgil/Static is attacked on his patrol of the city by members of the superhero gang.

This is a decent and entertaining read for teenaged fanboys and fangirls as well as older readers. Its the first DC comic that I've read since the most recent Blue Beetle title of a few years ago that specifically stars an average-teen-with-powers and as such does an admirable job of filling the shoes of that previous teen-oriented comic book. You can definitiely see how the original teen angst persona of Peter Parker/Spider-Man influenced the Static creators. Beyond that target audience effort, I was impressed with the quality of the storytelling. The writers have a knack for weaving subtle but intriguing story elements into this issue which most likely will lay the groundwork for interesting developments in future monthly issues of Static Shock. My two favorites were an unexpected reference to the possibility of events attracting Hawkman's attention and the presence of some corrupt police detectives as active members of the villainous syndicate.

So a positive thumbs-up recommendation to both check-out issue #1 of this latest incarnation of Static Shock and to stick around for the upcoming issues to see where some of these interesting plotthreads lead over the next several months.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to e-mail us with your honest opinion, good, bad or anywhere in between, regarding the quality of all or some of the many "New 52" titles that are part of the ongoing re-boot of the DC Comics universe. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...David McBarron, who tells us that so far he's read the New 52 Detective Comics, Action Comics and Green Lantern issues. David tells us that he thought that the Superman plot in Action actually was similar in some aspects to a Spider-Man story element. In addition, he adds "The stories seem good so far and the art was also seems that the heroes in these books are more on the edge and are a little more gritty...I will keep reading them for awhile and see what happens." Sounds like some good obervations and advice from David as we all continue to read various New 52 titles. Congratulations to David as the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's try another local Worcester piece of trivia again for our latest contest. Your challenge is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: What well-known (and well-traveled!) Worcester roadway has been nicknamed "The Speedway" by generations of Worcester drivers? As always, in the event of more than one correct contest entry, our 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 two weeks of comic book reading (and baseball playoffs watching!) and see you again on October 14 Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comic Reviews 9/16/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo is back this week with an interesting variety of new issue comic books to review, so let's get right to it and see how these comics stack-up against each other:

Reed Gunther #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Shane Houghton: Writer
Chris Houghton: Art

Image Comics has a new comic book series out entitled "Reed Gunther." There are four monthly issues on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves of this comic book with a Western Adventure theme that's billed as fun "for all ages". I decided to review issue #1 to get a better feel for the premise of the comic book. The series is scripted by Shane Houghton with art by his brother (I presume) Chris Houghton. A back-of-the-book blurb explains that the pair initially was producing this series as a black-and-white independent comic until it was picked-up and produced in color by Image Comics.

Our issue #1 storyline is entitled "Reed Gunther And The Steak Snacking Snake!" Our heroes are cowboy-for-hire Reed and his sidekick, Sterling the bear, who doesn't speak but is clearly "smarter-than-the-average-bear", as our old friend Yogi Bear used to say. While out camping, our heroes come to the rescue of Starla, a woman rancher whose cattle are disappearing one-by-one. Its quickly discovered that a gigantic snake is devouring cattle one huge gulp at a time, hence the title of the story. Hijinks ensue as our trio tries different strategies to defeat the snake rustler. Without being a detail spoiler, by issue's end the problem is solved. And on the last page we see Reed riding off on Sterling's back into the classic Western sunset, in search of next month's issue #2 Wild West adventure.

This new title is an adorable and very entertaining fresh addition to the Western Adventure comic book storytelling genre. The Houghton brothers succeed on all counts in creating a comic book world that's clearly geared to kid-level reading and entertainment while still providing enough high-quality storytelling to serve as a worthwhile reading pasttime for teen and adult readers, alike. Two particular storytelling elements stand-out in distinction. The first is the decision to use a very cartoony graphic style for this comic book. It works extremely well to convey the emotions and facial expressions of the characters, which is particularly important when one of the lead story stars is a non-talking bear who communicates through facial cues. Secondly, there's a nicely-constructed sub-plot here in which Starla and Reed get off on the wrong foot, which to me at least, ultimately conveyed a nice life lesson for young readers about trust and getting along with others.

In sum, its both refreshing and just-plain-fun to have a new and cute addition to the non-superhero world of comics that doesn't take itself seriously in delivering-up some good old-fashioned comic book entertainment. So using one of Reed Gunter's favorite expressions, for pickled beets sake, folks, go out and read this comic book!

Zatanna #16
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Writer & Art: Adam Beechen and Victor Ibanez

While there's a lot of attention this past week among fanboys and fangirls regarding DC Comics rolling-out its company-wide "New 52" make-over, there are a lot of traditional DC new issues titles still on the new issues shelves from just the past few weeks of publishing. One of them is issue #16 of the ever-popular "Zatanna" comic book, starring the DC universe's favorite good-looking magician/sorceress. Issue #16 is written and drawn by the creative team of Adam Beechen and Victor Ibanez.

The storyline is entitled "The Sorceress's Apprentice." Its a humorous, tongue-in-cheek plotline in which a sleep-deprived Zatanna is unexpectedly visited by the blue-skinned Klarion, an impish sorcerer-boy from Limbo Town, the magical place in the DC universe that's also the hometown of Klarion The Witch Boy. The creepy kid claims he wishes to becomes Zatanna's magical apprentice, but its soon apparent that he has an ulterior motive for getting into her secret magician's library. Without revealing any details, the bulk of the plot consists of Zatanna giving chase to Klarian from her library through many magical dimensions, ultimately foiling the brat's scheme and dumping him back in Limbo Town where he can do no more harm. The issue wraps-up in a nice joke that began on page one of the issue, relating to sleep deprivation and dreaming.

I've reviewed a few previous issues of this title run and have always been impressed with the creative team's ability to mix quality light humor with a magical thriller plotline. This issue is no exception, and actually exceeds the quality of previous issues in this regard. The art is of very high quality and just the perfect graphic style for conveying the colorful magic realism scenes of Zatanna and brat-boy hopping through very creative other-dimensional scenery in their magical adventure. Two particular full-page panels, one conveying the magical vastness of Zatanna's library and one when she finally catches Klarian in another magical dimension are among the most poster-worthy comic book scenes of the year. And finally, a deserved shout-out to the creative team for bringing this title to a pre-New 52 close with that nice, understated final scene that combines a cute joke with some relevant pop culture references.

So a very positive thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this final issue in the latest Zatanna comic title run. Let's hope that there's room someplace in the DC universe after all of the "New 52" bedlam and consternation subsides for a similar high quality Zatanna title. In the meantime, I'd suggest reading issue #16 and backtracking through the That's Entertainment new issues and back issues inventory for copies of the previous 15 Zatanna issues and/or softcover reprint compilations.

Batgirl #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Gail Simone: Writer
Ardian Syaf: Pencils
Vicente Cifuentes: Inks
Ulises Arreola: Colors

Well, the "New 52" brave new world of DC Comics is finally here and for my first review of the bunch I chose issue #1 of the new Batgirl title. The reboot of Batgirl is scripted by veteran writer Gail Simone with pencils by Ardian Syaf, inks by Vicente Cifuentes and colors by Ulises Arreola.

The issue #1 story is entitled "Shattered" and stars the original Barbara Gordon/Batgirl character. While its acknowledged throughout the tale that Barbara has undergone some sort of miraculous experience to regain her mobility and leave behind her wheelchair-bound Oracle persona, we're not let-in on any of the details in this premier issue. Instead, a few sub-plots are threaded-together that focus on Barbara/Batgirl literally getting back on her feet into everyday life, both as a costumed crimefighter and a civilian. We see Batgirl in her first new crimefighting effort, rescuing an innocent couple from potential gruesome torture and murder by masked home invaders. Barbara spreads her wings and finds herself an eccentric new roommate. And finally, Batgirl trails a mysterious masked murderer and in confronting him in a hospital, fails to prevent the villain's latest murder, as such accused by a cop on the scene as being "a murderer" for hesitating for a moment and not stopping the hit.

As both a comic book reviewer and a longtime fanboy I try to be a pragmatic guy, cherishing old comic book traditions and legacies while also embracing inevitable change and new, fun publishing ideas. So I'm not completely opposed to the DC attempt to shake things up with the New 52 effort, although I don't like the renumbering of landmark titles such as Action Comics and I still believe that the old numbering will be restored in a few years as landmark old-numbering anniversary issues come-up on the publishing horizon. However, I'm also a believer in the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and as such I'm critical of this new Batgirl rebooting.

The 25-issue Stephanie Brown/Batgirl series ran circles around this first issue Batgirl reboot regarding both artistic quality and story content. At the risk of ticking off the gazillions of Gail Simone fans, this is a dull and weak story representation of Batgirl. I felt like I was reading a DC tale written in the duller stretches of the 1980's, full of hokey dialogue and stiff character behavior. The dialogue between Barbara and her new roommate is just amateurish writing, but worst of all is the Just-Plain-Stupid cliffhanger ending, in which a cop screams "murderer" at Batgirl for failing to stop the bad guy. If a return to such tired mid-20th century comic plot cliches as supposed cliffhangers is what's in store for readers in the "New 52," we're all in big comic book reading trouble.

So to get to the point asap, a disappointed thumbs-down recommendation on this particular New 52 reboot effort. When DC files for the inevitable bankruptcy when the New 52 doesn't resolve the company's ongoing financial solvency problems, let's hope that the new company investor overlords, Chinese or otherwise, do us all a favor and apply the common sense of restoring Batgirl and a few of the other "unbroke" titles to their pre-New 52 quality.

Atomic Robo #1 (Volume 6)
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Brian Clevinger: Writer
Scott Wegener: Art
Ronda Pattison: Colors

Red 5 Comics has has just published issue #1 in the sixth and latest 5-issue Atomic Robo mini-series. As Atomic Robo fanatics like me can tell non-readers, the series chronicles the tongue-in-cheek adventures of our favorite Robot lad, created back in the 1920's by Thomas Edison's main inventor rival Nichola Tesla. The previous volumes of this series each features a multi-issue story arc set in a different 20th century historical period, blending the pop culture and scientific technology of each era into a very entertaining science-based action adventure. The comic book is scripted by Brian Clevinger with art by Scott Wegener and colors by Ronda Pattison.

The new volume 6 series is the first plotline set in the present-day August of 2011. As head of his scientific research company Tesladyne, Atomic Robo receives an emergency request from NASA to rescue 5 astronauts stuck in Earth orbit. The plotline follows a 7-hour countdown, as Robo and his scientist support team, all featured in previous storylines, scramble to figure out how to get-up into orbit and save the astronauts. An interweaving sub-plot features two ultra-nerd Tesladyne scientists, who Robo dispatches to London to assist Scotland Yard in investigating the mysterious vanishing of a London building. Issue #1 ends in a dramatic cliffhanger, as Robo gets up to Earth orbit to find a situation that no one on Earth expected.

The key to the very popular success of this comic book franchise is the creative team's skill in blending some really interesting science action adventure plot details with a very witty, well-presented sense of humor on the part of Robo and his co-stars. The closest comparison that I can make is to the comic strip Dilbert's sense of humor, toned-down a bit and mixed in with old-school science fiction pulp storytelling, and you're in the Atomic Robo ballpark. Volume 6 keeps the Atomic Robo series winstreak intact, giving us a much-needed fix of this wonderful, wacky and funny blend of unique comic book adventure and humor. Its also fun to read a Robo tale set in the present-day for a change. Note to Red 5 Comics: after five volumes of historical story settings as well as the current present-day setting, how about setting the upcoming Volume 7 series sometime in the future?

So stop reading this review already and get down to That's Entertainment to pick-up your very own issue #1 copy of this latest Volume 6 series starring everyone's favorite Atomic Robo!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to correctly tell us which Red Sox player has hit the longest home run in Fenway Park's history and also tell us in what permanent way has the team commemorated the event at the stadium. And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Keith Martin, who correctly identified Red Sox slugger Ted Williams as the player who belted the longest-ever Fenway home run into the right field bleachers. The homer was belted on June 9, 1946 in a game against the Detroit Tigers and traveled 502 feet before it landed at the fan seated in Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. Its estimated that the ball would have traveled a total of 535 feet if the seat hadn't gotten in its way! The seat is painted red among a sea of green bleacher seats to permanently honor The Splendid Splinter's achievement and game tickets to sit in the seat can be purchased for $23.00 a game. Congrats to Keith who wins our contest first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's focus this week on the current mega-event in the comic book reading world, DC's roll-out of The New 52. Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at and tell us what you think, either positively, negatively or a mix of both, about specific New 52 premier issues. I'm hearing all sorts of opinions ranging from very good, unfortunately bad and much in-between, so let's hear from you about which titles you like or dislike, and why. I personally was disappointed in Batgirl #1 (see review above) and my brother Dave tells me that Animal Man #1 and Action #1 are really, really good comics. So tell us what you think! As always, our first prize contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment (you can buy more issues of The New 52 with your prize)!

That's all for now, so have two great comic book reading weeks and see you again on September 30 Here In Bongo Congo!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

comic review 9/3/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has proclaimed that we celebrate the passing of Hurricane Irene with an eclectic mix of new comic books to review. So let's see how these three titles from DC, Dynamite and Marvel Comics stack-up against each other:

Superman Beyond #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz: Story & Pencils
Sal Buscema: Finished Art
Chris Beckett: Colors

DC Comics has just published a one-shot issue #0 entitled Superman Beyond. The plot is set in the same futuristic world of the very popular Batman Beyond series, in which a young Terry McGinnis pairs with an elderly Bruce Wayne to fight crime about a generation from now in "Neo-Gotham." This futuristic Superman companion to that series is scripted and penciled by the team of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, with finished art by veteran artist Sal Buscema and colors by Chris Beckett.

The issue #0 story is entitled "Home Is The Hero!" and stars a slightly gray-haired version of Superman aged into late middle-age. The early plotline establishes Superman's current life situation: his wife Lois Lane having passed away and his powers diminishing with age, Clark Kent/Superman struggles with a late middle-aged life crisis. Our hero is shaken out of his funk when an everyday Metropolis convict is accidentally doused with the Meta-Human chemical featured often in the Batman Beyond series, transforming him into a dangerous Hulk-like being. When the future Justice League is knocked out of action by the villain, its Superman to the rescue. Two sub-plots dominate the action portion of the story; the main superfight and a subtle storyline, in which Superman tries to help the villain deal with the horror that his transformation has brought to his wife and daughter. The issue wraps-up with a nice final page that brings Superman and the aged Bruce Wayne together with a hint that we'll see this "World's Finest Beyond" pair again in some future DC Comics publications.

While I expected an obvious futuristic Superman tale in this issue, I was surprised and happy to read how far the creative team went to incorporate Superman into the preexisting world of the Batman Beyond series. Its a very entertaining treat to read the blend of old and new in this high quality comic book. The old includes a cameo by Terry McGinnis along with major storytime for Bruce Wayne and that futuristic JLA. The new includes Superman/Clark Kent himself, along with our old pal Jimmy Olson, who has evolved into an international media conglomerate head, sort of a kind-hearted version of Rupert Murdoch, if you can believe it. Beyond the action adventure entertainment of this tale, the real success of this story is the quiet message built into the plotline, one that's really brought home in the final Bruce Wayne/Superman scene, a message that as our heroes age and somewhat decline, they still have a valuable and worthwhile role to play in their respected lives as aging heroes. Its a positive life lesson for the story characters and readers alike, one that's special both as pure comic book reading entertainment and as a philosophy-of-life affirmation.

So a very positive thumbs-up recommendation for the good DC reader to check-out this excellent comic book, which succeeds both as a very satisfying conclusion to the recent Batman Beyond series and as a stand-alone enjoyable one-shot interpretation of an older version of Superman who still has a lot to contribute to and enjoy regarding his DC universe world.

Warehouse 13 #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Ben Raab & Deric A. Hughes: Writers
Ben Morse: Art
Jonathan Cooper: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment has just expanded its inventory of eclectic comic book titles with the publication of Warehouse 13 #1. The comic book is based upon the hit SYFY cable network television series of the same name. For the uninitiated, the t.v. show is a comedy-drama mix that follows the adventures of a team of secret service agents who "bag and tag" mystical artifacts and store them in Warehouse 13, a vast secret installation in the wilds of South Dakota that resembles the secret government mega-warehouse in the final scene of the first Indiana Jones movie. Issue #1 of the new comic book title is scripted by Ben Raab and Deric A Hughes with art by Ben Morse and colors by Jonathan Cooper.

The issue #1 storyline sends lead agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering off to Rio De Janeiro to investigate the latest in a series of earthquakes which lead investigator Artie Nielsen believes are artifact-related. Our adventurers follow a trail of clues to a shady Brazilian mining conglomerate, which has a habit of finding major gold discoveries in the earthquake zones. Eventually, we learn that the company is using an ancient Chinese mystical hammer artifact which creates the diasters as its wielded in search of treasure (Thor never had this problem with his hammer, did he?). The second half of the storyline turns to action-adventure, as Pete and Myka evade corrupt Brazilian police, identify which company excecutive is wielding the artifact and nab the gizmo for safekeeping back at Warehouse 13.

I've mentioned in previous reviews that I'm always expecting the worst in t.v. show or movie-related comic books, as so many of them combine clunky graphic styles with wooden attempts to recreate the success of the visual medium on which they're based. Thankfully, we don't have that problem with this new title. The comic book succeeds in avoiding both traps, providing excellent artwork combined with a storyline that is fresh and entertaining, both as a stand-alone comic book and as a representation of the t.v. show. A creative tip-of-the-hat is deservedly due to the writing team, who do a great job of providing the little personality traits of the various characters which have gone over so well among fans of the show. These range from team leader Artie's grumpy-bear personality, to twenty-something member Claudia Donovan's creatively witty remarks, and finally to the fun and funny repartee between partners Pete and Myka which make the show such a pleasure to watch.

A blurb at issue's end announces that next month's issue is written by two of the television show's writers. Given the quality start that writers Raab and Hughes have provided in their issue #1 debut, I'd say the newcomers have big creative shoes to fill in next month's issue. So another positive review recommendation for a new comic book title that strongly stands on its own two feet as an entertaining science fiction comic book while also successfully transferring the quality of a hit t.v. show to comic book format.

Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Paul Tobin: Writer
Pepe Larraz: Art
Andres Mossa: Colors

As part of its wider "Spider-Island" publishing event, Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 of a three-issue mini-series entitled "Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl." The premise of the event series is that for various reasons, which I'll leave for readers to discover for themselves, random civilians around the Island of Manhattan start to exhibit Spider-Man type powers. This title stars Spider-Girl/Anya Corazon, who according to a page one introduction used to be just a costumed nonpowered crimefighter but is now among the many who actually have Spider-Man's special powers. The mini-series is scripted by Paul Tobin with art by Pepe Larraz and colors by Andres Mossa.

In the extremely fast-paced issue #1 storyline, all hell is breaking loose in New York City as the "Spider-Person Epidemic" expands. The plot kicks-off with Anya and her roommate attacked at their high school by an army of "Society Of The Wasp" humanoid wasp creatures, whose mindless goal is to kill as many Spider-People as possible. Various Marvel universe players enter the fray in unexpected ways, including the ninja assassin society The Hand and Hobgoblin. Without being a detail spoiler, its worth noting that the battlers either ally themselves with or oppose Spider-Girl in unexpected ways. The issue ends in a very dramatic bridge as a major Marvel universe villain reveals him/her/itself as one of the infected Spider-Persons and offers a surprise alliance with our heroine.

This is an excellent comic book issue to read as a first-time exposure to the wider Spider-Island event series. The concept of a city-wide Spider-Man type of superpower epidemic is so fresh and well-presented that I couldn't help but wonder why someone at Marvel had never thought of this event concept before. A major shout-out is deserved for the art team, who give us a graphic style perfectly suited to the very fast pace of battle action in this series, with the panels just leaping off of the printed page. My only constructive criticism is that given the complexity of the mix of sub-plots and constantly-shifting action details, there is a bit of a feeling here that the plot details are somewhat too compressed, in order to jam all of the interesting story details into three short issues. This series and its readers might be better served with a five or six-issue publication schedule that would allow the creative team more room to explore all of the wonderful things happening in this title. But perhaps issue #3 will segue into one of the other Spider-Island event comic titles.

So that one question aside, I highly recommend not missing a moment of the fun of this very creative new Spider-Man universe mega-event. If you haven't started reading the series yet, I'd recommend jumping-into it with this issue and if you're already reading some of the other Spider-Island titles, definitely prioritize this three-issue mini-series at the top of your ever-growing new issues comic book reading pile!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to pitch to us your favorite comic book villain, also explaining why you rank he/she/it as number one on your list of baddies. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who tells us that his favorite bad guy is James Gordon, Jr. Kevin tells us that Detective Comics writer Scott Snyder has revealed Police Commissioner Gordon's son to be a major Batman universe villain, one who Kevin feels serves as an excellent "dark mirror" to Batman Dick Grayson's goodness. An interesting choice-it should be fun to see where Detective Comics and any other Batman comic book titles take this villain in future Batman stories. Congratulations to Kevin who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We're heading into the final stretch of baseball season, as our Red Sox and the Yankees battle neck-and-neck for first place in the American League East Division. In recognition of all of the home runs that the Red Sox have been belting lately, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges offers-up the following Red Sox home run trivia contest challenge. E-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: Which Red Sox player has hit the longest home run at Fenway Park, and how has the team commemorated that home run in a permanent way at Fenway Park? This is a fun Red Sox fact that many fans cherish as a piece of Sox historical trivia, so e-mail us asap! 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 selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

E-Book Announcement!!!

Just a quick announcement that my science fiction & fantasy short story collection "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country" has just been re-released by Xlibris Press ( as an e-book for only $9.99! Feel free to check-out a very positive book review posted on my webpage ( or go to the xlibris page or anywhere else where e-books are sold for a copy today!

Finally, just a reminder that we're temporarily on a bi-weekly new comic book reviewing schedule. So have two great comic book reading weeks and see you again on September 16 Here In Bongo Congo!