Friday, October 28, 2011

Comic Reviews 10/28/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Once again there's lots of interesting-looking new stuff on the new issues comic book shelves of late, so let's see how three of these titles stack-up against each other:

Snarked #1
Publisher: Kaboom!
Roger Landgridge: Writer & Artist
Rachelle Rosenberg: Colors

Boom Entertainment's Kaboom! line of kid-oriented comics has just kicked-off a new comic line entitled Snarked. The series is created by writer-artist Roger Landgridge with colors by Rachelle Rosenberg. Readers may recognize Roger Landgridge as the writer behind last year's acclaimed eight-issue "Thor, The Mighty Avenger" mini-series published by Marvel Comics.

Issue #1 of Snarked lays-out the basic fairytale-like story universe of this comic book. The characters live in a small, unnamed kingdom by the sea, whose popular king went on a sailing trip six months previously and hasn't returned. Two parallel sub-plots begin the issue and merge together by issue's end. In the first storythread, we're introduced to town citizens Wilburforce J. Walrus and his sidekick Clyde McDunk, who live a Popeye and sidekick Wimpy-like existence in the Village, trying to get by during hard economic times. Our second storyline introduces young Princess Scarlett and her baby brother Prince Rusty, who together deal with the political shenanigans of the king's evil advisors, emboldened by their Dad's prolonged absence. Advised by a protective Chesire Cat, the young royals flee the bad-guy advisors and by issue's end have linked-up at the Town's waterfront with Wilburforce and Clyde for mutal continued adventure as they seek to avoid the bad guy's clutches while searching for and hopefully finding the missing king.

Roger Landgridge provides us with a very fresh and original take on the fairytale storytelling genre. On the visual side of the storytelling, he's smart enough to give us a cartoon-type drawing style that works perfectly for entertaining kid and grown-up readers, alike. The story itself is Grade A in quality with a lot of originality here, both in plot and presentation. I liked how the narrative shifted at times into creative poetry that moved the tale along in a very original manner. There's also interesting and effective echoes of previously popular fictional characters which add a nice depth to this title. I particularly liked two such elements: first, Wilburforce J. Walrus literally channeling the well-known Popeye character Wimpy as he cons a town butcher out of sausages and secondly, the use of the Alice In Wonderland Chesire Cat as a very effective character in this new storyline.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this new comic book title, which succeeds as an entertaining new storytelling universe for readers of all ages.

Wonder Woman #2
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Brian Azzarello: Writer
Cliff Chiang: Art
Matthew Wilson: Colors

Issue #2 is already on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment of the revamped Wonder Woman comic book title, as part of DC's "The New 52" mega-event. The title is scripted by A-list writer Brian Azzarello with art by Cliff Chiang and colors by Matthew Wilson. I had enjoyed reading issue #1 last month, in which Wonder Woman comes to the aid of a young human woman impregnated by the God Zeus and as such wanted to review the continuation of this tale in this month's latest issue.

The storyline in issue #2 is entitled "Home" and advances the tale with two interweaving storylines. In the first storythread, Zeus's jealous wife, Queen Hera, plots with her daughter the Goddess Strife against the poor human who's carrying her husband's love child. Our main sub-plot advances with Wonder Woman bringing the woman to Paradise Island, home of the Amazons. There, we meet Diana/Wonder Woman's mother, Queen Hippolyta, as well as certain individual Amazon warriors. The story builds dramatically as the goddess Strife arrives and battles the Amazons. In a dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, Strife makes a surprise announcement as to having an alternative reason for arriving on Paradise Island.

This is one of the more innovative re-boots of a DC title under "The New 52" effort that I've read so far. The creative team gives us a very unique visual reinterpretation of the Wonder Woman universe. In graphic style its reminiscent of Roger Landgridge's retake of Thor in last year's "Thor, The Mighty Avenger" series, also coincidentally mentioned in the Snarked review above. Two elements particularly stand-out in this adventure tale. One is the interesting mix of old-school Greek mythological story elements with pieces of our modern culture, most effectively used here in the portrayal of some of the younger Olympian gods and goddesses as modern-day, Manhattan jaded clubgoers. Secondly, there's a significant level of bloodshed in this tale that actually doesn't gross-out the reader but instead works well in emphasizing the action-adventure side of the Greek mythological telling of this storyline.

I was very happy with The New 52 Deadman title reviewed in our last column and I'm glad that the new Wonder Woman title also has some entertaining staying power. So also add this strong title to the list of comic books to add to your ever-growing new issues reading pile.

Red Hood And The Outlaws
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Lobdell: Writer
Kenneth Rocafort: Art
Blond: Colors

Yet another of "The New 52" titles handy for review this week is Red Hood And The Outlaws, a series that teams-up three superhero characters: the former Jason Todd/Robin as Red Hood, Green Arrow's former sidekick Roy Harper and the female alien Starfire. The new comic book title is scripted by Scott Lobdell with art by Kenneth Rocafort and colors by Blond.

Issue 31 is the first installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "I Fought The Law And Kicked Its Butt!" The plot begins with action-adventure, as Red Hood/Jason Todd successfully breaks Roy Harper out of a Middle Eastern prison. The trio assembles on the tropical island of St. Martinique, where a female superpowered character named Essence unexpectedly arrives and asks for Jason Todd's help in solving the murders of a Himalayan sect which apparently mentored Red Hood in the past. The issue ends in a confrontation at the murdered sect member's mountain fortress beween Todd and the mysterious band of murderers, which will no doubt kick-off next month's issue #2 with a huge battle scene.

You'll notice that the story summary above is briefer than in most of my reviews. That's because there's little to summarize in the way of story details here. The bulk of the issue is the over-lengthy Caribbean beach scene in which Harper and Todd take turns sleeping with the sexy alien Starfire. You don't have to be politically correct to be offended by the whole extended bizarreness of the episode, which is basically a young teenage boy's fantasy of having a supermodel-level hot chick around who will sleep with anyone in sight. Its fairly creepy the way writer Scott Lobdell explains away the episode by justifying that Starfire's alien make-up includes conveniently forgetting past male relationships, thus opening her up to quickly jumping from guy-to-guy in the behavior. If all this was a minor part of the plot I wouldn't center my review on it, but unfortunately it serves as the main section of most of the issue, thus sinking the whole issue into a mess of daydream drivel.

So without wasting any more time and effort on the above, my review advice is two-fold: if you're a teenage boy looking to indulge in a daydream hot chick fantasy, then feel free to read this issue. And if you're anyone other than a teenaged boy, don't waste your time or money on this slow-paced, creepy wish fufillment drivel and instead read one of the other many new comics out on the store shelves right now.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

In follow-up to our previous Worcester history trivia contest, we challenged you in our latest contest to name the Worcester city park or field that historically has been nicknamed "Peat Meadow." This one was apparently a real stumper, as for the first time in a few years we didn't have a single entry. So no winner this time, but the correct answer is Duffy Field, located near Newton Square; the field is located on an old peat bog, which led to the "peat meadow" name and which also results in a very foggy field on certain days.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's an interesting trivia challenge for this week. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenges you to e-mail us at with the answer to the following question: What is the most commonly-used street name in cities and towns across America? It could be as simple as an Elm Street or Maple Street, or it might be something unexpected. But either way, send us your answer no later than noontime on Wednesday, November 9. 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 roll of the dice.

That's all for now, so have a great late-Fall comic book reading week and see you again on November 11 Here In Bongo Congo!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Comic Reviews 10/14/11

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three brand new Marvel and DC Comics titles that had their respective premiers recently, so let's see how these issues stack-up against each other:

Avengers 1959 #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Howard Chaykin: Writer & Artist
Jesus Aburtov: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a 5-part limited edition series entitled "Avengers 1959." Earlier this year, I reviewed a one-shot comic title of this concept, which presents a 1959 retro version of The Avengers with Nick Fury as teamleader along with team members Kraven The Hunter, Namora, Bloodstone, Sabretooth, Silver Sable and Dominick Fortune. Picture a cross between James Bond-style dapper tuxedoed sleuthing and 1950's superheroes, and you get a feel for the setting of this title. Both the earlier one-shot and this new series are the product of iconic veteran writer-artist Howard Chaykin with colors by Jesus Aburtov.

Issue #1 establishes a multi-issue plotline which centers upon the return of the previous decade's World War II defeated Nazis to try and establish international domination. The story unfolds in several quick two to three-page sub-plots, in which each member of the Avengers undergoes their first encounter with or attack from representatives of the new Nazi threat. Some are outright assaults such as a failed assassination attempt on Nick Fury, while other encounters consist of more subtle espionage maneuvers. A few non-Avenger Marvel elements are also drawn into the conflict, including Black Panther's Wakanda Kingdom and the retro Marvel heroine Blonde Phantom. The issue #1 story segment concludes in a dramatic bridge as Nick Fury is confronted by a mysterious stranger who announces that he's not a foe but a friend who wants to assist the Avengers.

I liked very much the previous one-shot of this retro Avengers concept, with its addition to the wide world of Avengers lore of a Marvel universe reality consisting of Golden Age pulp adventurer-style characterization and plot action-adventure. And Howard Chaykin's definitely the creator meant to explore this concept in this new five-issue mini-series, given his impressive track record with such pulp-style concepts as DC's Blackhawks and his retro style American Flagg! series. This first issue is a very entertaining read, chock full of alternative Avengers history and concepts. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere of the tale, with our heroes living a New Yoprk upper-crust lifetsyle and adventuring in topcoats and formal clothing, versus traditional superhero costumed adventuring.

My one constructive criticism is that Chaykin needs to settle the plot down very quickly within the upcoming issue #2 into one main, focused plotthread with very little meandering into side plotlines. There are only four issues left in this series and worthwhile story advancement needs to replace the issue #1 lay-out of eight separate sub-plots each taking their storytelling turn for two or three pages. But while the sudden scene shifts make for a somewhat jarring read for issue #1, it does serve the initial storytelling purpose to get this intriguing new Avengers universe out of the gate for what looks to be a very interesting read of this new five-issue Marvel title. So give this month's premier issue a shot and by all means check-out next month's issue #2 to see where veteran storyteller Howard Chaykin takes this interesting tale.

Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Liss: Writer
Jefte Palo: Art
Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colors

Marvel Comics has also just published issue #1 of a new Black Panther title. A page one narrative informs the reader that in previous Marvel comic book issues, our hero T'Challa/Black Panther is no longer king of the African nation of Wakanda. Stripped of his powers and wealth, he's moved to Daredevil's old Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York City to run a diner by day and serve at night as the new Daredevil-like guardian of the neighborhood. This new series is scripted by David Liss with art by Jefte Palo and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

The kick-off issue presents a stand-alone one-issue tale entitled "True Sons." The plot begins as a murder mystery, as someone is stalking and killing women who were recently helped in some way by Black Panther. Teaming-up with his new sidekick Sofija and the NYPD, our hero sets a trap which quickly snares a old foe from T'Challa's days back in Wakanda. Without being a detail spoiler, the foe is a very close and long-time archrival. By story's end, T'Challa prevails and wins the day, but not without some end-of-the-story philosophical musing addressing his guilt that the victims were killed because he initially entered their lives to try and help each of them.

I really got a kick out of reading this issue. I haven't been reading many Marvel Comics of late, so the concept of Daredevil being replaced (most likely for the time being, only) in Hell's Kitchen by Black Panther was a fun and unexpected surprise. For this concept to work, the creative team needs to add some fresh story universe elements to the title beyond just dropping T'Challa into Daredevil's old superhero timeslot. Writer David Liss succeeds on this point by adding two well-constructed characters. The first is the aforementioned Sofija, a Serbian immigrant to New York with strong martial arts/action skills, who functions by day as a young waitress in T'Challa's daytime diner while serving as his action sidekick at night. The second sidekick is Police Detective Alex Kurtz, who serves as Black Panther's main contact with the NYPD. While he physically resembles Batman friend Commissioner Gordon, his role is unique here as he walks a tight and delicate line in trying to keep the angry, shoot-from-the-hip T'Challa from crossing the violence line and alienating the police department.

There's a very nice mix in this premier issue of entertaining storyline, action/adventure and subtle emotional themes. I was very drawn-in to this particular portrayal of Black Panther as barely able to control his personal rage as he struggles to bring a Dark Knight sense of personal justice to the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen. It should be very interesting to see how this theme evolves in future issues of this new title. So a definite thumbs-up positive recommendation to check-out this fresh and very entertaining new spin on the world of Black Panther.

DC Universe Presents: Deadman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Jenkins & Bernard Chang: Creators
Blond: Colors

DC Comics has just released its Deadman title re-boot as part of the "New 52" publishing event that revamps all DC comics titles with renumbering along with some restructuring of the DC universe superhero reality. I've reviewed a few of the other New 52 titles in my past two review columns. The Deadman series is co-created by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang with colors by Blond.

The issue #1 story segment is entitled "Twenty Questions" and is part one of a multi-issue story arc. Its essentially a revised re-telling of the well-known Deadman origin story, in which an unknown assassin kills circus trapeze artist Boston Brand. At the moment of death, the Hindu deity Rama gives Brand the chance to remain on Earth as the ghostly Deadman, able to enter living folk's bodies and help them with their problems, thereby advancing Brand/Deadman along the road of selflessness toward an eventual afterlife enlightenment. The first half of the issue effectively repeats the well-known Deadman origin facts. The second half of the story focuses on Deadman's philosophical musings on the unexplained purpose of much of this experience, combined with his frustrations with Rama leaving him in the dark regarding motivations for establishing the odd post-life situation he's stuck-in. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge in which Deadman puts the life of his latest possessed "client" in peril in an attempt to gain an upper hand on Rama as a means toward finally getting some situational answers.

I'm happy to report that after reading and reviewing a few below-average-to-average "New 52" titles, in this issue I've finally found a "New 52" title that's blown me away with exceptional high quality. Finally, loyal Deadman fans have a story concept regarding Brand's supernatural situation that the character has always deserved but never been provided with. From the Silver Age onward, Deadman titles have always focused on action/adventure and the mystery of our hero's mysterious killer, giving little focus on the nature of the Rama-Deadman relationship. Issue #1 puts the supernatural side of the tale front and center at last, with Deadman and Rama seemingly established as the co-main characters in the situation, vying with and against each other for their own respective purposes. The scenes in which Deadman as narrator muses on his relationships with various living "clients" add an emotional and very effective element to this unique retelling of the familiar origin story.

This is a gem of a comic book that has the potential, if the quality of issue #1 continues for awhile on a monthly basis, to become the break-out hit of the entire "New 52" series. So hurry on down to That's Entertainment and get-in on the ground floor with issue #1 of this new Deadman comic book series!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you with a piece of Worcester historical trivia, asking you to tell us which well-known Worcester arterial roadway has been nicknamed by generations of drivers as "The Speedway." We had several correct entries, so via the roll of the dice our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly tells us that Mill Street, with its 4-lane and grassed median design connecting from Tatnuck Square to Webster Square, has been known since the horse and buggy days as "The Speedway." Congratulations to Gregory who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to (you guessed it) That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We had such a good reaction to our Worcester historical trivia contest above that The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has decreed that we announce yet another Worcester trivia contest. This one might be a bit more of a difficult challenge-your assignment is to e-mail us at with the correct answer to the following question: Which current park or field in the Worcester Parks system historically was known as "Peat Meadow" by Worcester residents? As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of our first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.

E-Book Announcement!!!

Just a quick shout-out to all e-book readers that the recent e-book conversion of my short story collection "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country," which I mention on my webpage ( as available from all e-book sources at $9.99, is currently on sale from the Barnes & Noble webpage ( for only $7.99!

That's all for now, so have two great comic book reading and leaf raking weeks and see you again on October 28 Here In Bongo Congo!