Friday, March 30, 2012

Comic Reviews 3/30/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that we celebrate this month's early and very warm arrival of Spring with reviews of a wide variety of newly-arrived comic books.  So let's get right to it and see how this variety of new issues fare:

Avengers Assemble #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mark Bagley: Pencils
Danny Miki: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors

     Marvel has added to its wide range of Avengers titles with the recent issue #1 release of the new Avengers Assemble title.  While the storyline and concept most certainly stand alone from the plot of the Avengers motion picture scheduled for release on May 4, the timing of the new comic book is obviously tied to the marketing of the movie, particularly since a movie advertisement is splashed across the top of the issue #1 cover.  The new series is scripted by A-list writer Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Danny Miki and colors by Paul Mounts.

     The issue #1 plotline kicks off with a new beginning for the Avengers, as the current 14-member team both celebrates and settles-into their brand new skyscraper headquarters built for them by Tony Stark/Iron Man and located in the heart of New York City.  On a parallel track, we witness a new group of international supervillains named Zodiac forming to take-on the reconstituted Avengers.  The plot further splits into two parallel storythreads.  The first sub-plot centers on The Hulk, who stumbles across a U.S. Army convoy under attack in the Southwest desert by an unknown assailant.  The attack unleashes a captive with odd water-based superpowers who quickly flees the scene, leaving the Hulk (of course!) to be blamed for the entire mess.  Our second sub-plot features Hawkeye and Natasha Romanov/The Black Widow, who are dispatched as Avengers members to Latvia to stop the anticipated theft of an artifact.  Heavy battle action erupts as Iron Man and Thor join the pitched battle and its revealed that Zodiac is behind the ongoing theft.

     This is a decent quality and entertaining issue #1 kick-off to the new Avengers Assemble title.  There's no grand Marvel Universe event series unfolding here, just a well-presented story produced by a veteran writer and skilled art team.  I liked the balance of sub-plots that Bendis weaves into one overall story arc, starting with a new team assembly effort/beginning for both the Avengers and the group of bad guys, splitting-off into two parallel smaller sub-plots and signaling by issue's end that the battle will widen in next month's issue to pull everyone on both sides into the fray.  It's also nice to see that an entertaining new storyline can be produced within the basic storyverse of The Avengers, without having to manufacture a huge, new publishing mega-event in order to capture the attention of readers.

     As a final review comment, its worth noting that the 22-page main story is followed by an 8-page preview from issue #1 of the well-publicized new Avengers Vs. X-men title, scheduled for sale in April.  The preview is very entertaining and piqued my interest enough to recommend that all good Marvel readers get in line early to grab a copy of this upcoming new "battle of the A-list Marvel superhero teams" comic book event.

Buckaroo Banzai: Tears Of A Clone #1
Publisher: Moonstone Books
Earl Mac Rauch: Writer
David Daza: Art
Patrick J. Williams: Colors

      Moonstone has just released issue #1 of a 2-issue mini-series entitled Buckaroo Banzai: Tears Of A Clone.  For those too young to remember, "The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension!" was one of the leading cult hit sci-fi genre B-movies of the 1980's.  The film starred Peter Weller as good scientist/Renaissance Man Buckeroo Banzai, who led his merry band of eclectic sidekicks called "The Hong Kong Cavaliers" in a movie adventure to save the world from the alien reptile race the Red Lectroids.  The movie featured several well-known 1980's-era actors including John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Ellen Barkin.  Apparently, Moonstone has been publishing various Buckeroo Banzai comic titles off-and-on since 2006, with this being the latest two-issue edition.

     The issue #1 storyline kicks-off by introducing various members of The Hong Kong Cavaliers as they attend a rock concert performed by Buckeroo.  The gang quickly learns that a clone of deceased group member Penny Priddy exists and is performing as a stripper at a nearby club.  The mid-section of the story focuses on Buckeroo and the gang pulling her out of the club while confronting the club owner regarding the origins of the clone.  The final third of the tale consists of a battle scene between the heroes and the mysterious cloners, who turn-out to be disguised Red Lectroids.

     I've summarized the plot of this issue as briefly as possible in order to focus my review energies on warning all good readers to stay as far away from this comic book as possible.  The issue's a disappointing failure for two reasons, the first being a very disjointed plot presentation.  The story is just so garbled that I had to backtrack three or four times through various story sections just to summarize the basic story concept in the brief paragraph above.  But the biggest failure here is the writer's decision to present this tale as loaded-down with raunchiness; every scene is brimming with pornograhic references, heavy sexual themes and adult humor that isn't even a bit funny.  I knew we were in for trouble when a lame joke about Buckeroo playing his concert to raise money for a "juvenile herpes" charity is beaten to death repeatedly for the first four pages of the story.

     I can't understand why someone would warp the cult-hit kitchiness of the 1980's movie version of Buckeroo Banzai by wringing-out all of the fun and porning-it-up with this comic.  I've got nothing against adult story elements; the same story strategy in the hands of a quality writer such as Howard Chaykin can result in a comic book masterpiece.  Unfortunately, this failed attempt is so lame that its actually more boring and weird than offensive reading, although it is definitely a double insult: both to the original fanbase of the Buckeroo Banzai cult film hit and to the sensibilities of modern-day comic fans, who certainly could enjoy a well-crafted tale of this B-movie franchise without the need to inject such creepy jadedness into the story.  But we've wasted enough seconds of our lives musing over this comic.  Run fast and far away from this comic and enjoy all of the other good stuff recommended this week by myself and my fellow reviewers.

Angel & Faith #7
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Christos Gage: Writer
Rebekah Isaacs: Art
Dan Jackson: Colors

      Among several comics published within the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" franchise by Dark Horse Comics is an Angel & Faith title, currently up to issue #7.  For those few fanboys and fangirls unfamiliar with the various Buffy characters, Angel is the over 200-year-old vampire who still has a soul and as such fights on the side of good against demonic evil, while Faith is a vampire slayer on par with Buffy herself.  Actor David Boreanaz played Angel both in Buffy and in the popular Angel spin-off television series, while actress Eliza Dushku played the emotionally-troubled Faith in both t.v. series.  An inside-the-front-cover narrative explains that both of our heroes have left the California setting of all things Buffy and currently live and work in London.

     Issue #7 is part two of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Daddy Issues"  and alternates between two sub-plots.  In one storyline, Angel confronts his old vampire sidekick Drusilla, who is living in London and has seemingly shed her very evil ways.  Having linked-up with an odd demon, Drusilla channels the demon's powers to ease the troubles of emotionally-damaged London residents. Naturally, Angel mistrusts this seemingly positive enterprise, resulting in much conflict and mayhem playing-out between the pair in issue #7.  The alternating subplot is more germaine to the story title, as Faith's alcoholic father unexpectedly arrives from Boston for a visit.  Given Faith's troubled family past, the expected trust issues play-out panel-by-panel; its inevitable by issue's end that while Faith begins to accept and trust her father, readers are exposed to the beginnings of an obvious betrayal by the visiting Dad which will likely take center stage in next month's issue #8.

     I'm on a personal all-things-Buffy roll at the moment, having watched over the past three months the first 4 seasons of Buffy and the first season of Angel on dvd.  As I'm smack in the middle of the Season 2 Angel dvd, I'm expecting only the highest quality of entertainment from any and all of the Dark Horse Buffy universe comics.  I'm happy to report that this comic book didn't disappoint in meeting my expectations.  Worcester native Christos Gage brings his usual A-game scripting to the title, providing us with a story that entertains both for hardcore Buffy fans and those readers unfamiliar with the structural details of the story franchise.  Most effective is Gage's decision to utilize the t.v. show's structure of effective flashbacks within story segments.  As such, we have an issue #7 storyline that advances the present-day plot by flashing-back to 19th century details of the relationship between Angel and Drusilla, adding both understanding and richness to the consequences of Angel's behavior in the present-day story scenes.

     A final review shout-out is also due to the art team, which does a solid job in conveying the facial resemblances of the story characters to the well-known actors from the television series.  And I just can't resist a quick tip-of-the-review-hat to writer Gage for staying true to his Worcester roots and sneaking-in brief Red Sox and Patriots remarks from Faith's visiting Dad!  So an all-around positive thumbs-up review recommendation to add this entertaining Angel and Faith comic book to your ever-expanding new comic book issues reading pile.

Super Crooks #1
Publisher: Millarworld Limited/Marvel Entertainment
Mark Millar: Writer
Leinil Yu: Art
Gerry Alanguilan: Inks
Sunny Gho: Colors

     Millarworld Limited has recently added to the new comic book shelves issue #1 of a new series entitled Super Crooks.  Already well-known for titles such as Kick-Ass and Nemesis, Mark Millar scripts this new title himself, with art by the team of artist Leinil Yu, inker Gerry Alanguilan and colorist Sunny Gho.

     The concept of this new series is that after getting fed-up with constantly losing every encounter with the multitudes of heroes patrolling the New York City region, electrical-powered bad guy Johnny Bolt has an epiphany: why not assemble a team of super crooks, get out of Dodge and set-up business in a place outside of the normal patrolling area of the superhero elite?  Issue #1 details the futility of the New York City situation, portraying the consistently losing efforts of Johnny and his criminal allies including his psychic fiance Kasey.  When their small-time elderly crook buddy Angel gets in trouble with the Vegas mob and comes to the pair for help, Johnny cooks-up the scheme to gather-up the old crew and hightail it to Spain as a potential Superhero free zone.  As Johnny utters in a very memorable line, Spain should work for their plan because "I've never heard of a Captain Spain, have you?"  By issue's end, the trio begins to execute their plan by calling their old villain buddies and heading for Spain in next month's issue.

     I just plain loved the originality of this new comic book.  This is one of those concepts that's both fresh and so obvious as a story idea that you have to ask yourself why someone didn't come-up with the idea before: why keep wacking your head against the crimefighting wall of several hundred New York superheros; in the real world, some supervillains would have the brains to go somewhere else, be it Indiana, the south of France or yes, Spain, and only worry about the local human-powered cops! 

     There are at least three additional strengths to this series beyond the fresh story concept.  First is the very high quality of the artwork, including Leinil Yu's art (on par with the likes of such luminaries as Neal Adams and Adam Kubert) and Sunny Gho's always wonderful color scheme.  Secondly is writer Mark Millar's talent in bringing us a first rate story with credible, real-world dialogue.  And third is the decision by Millar to make these guys sympathetic to the reader.  These aren't supervillains out to harm mankind; instead, we're presented with characters who are small-time crooks looking to burgle and rob for money, who just happen to have a few psychic or superpowered abilities to help them make a buck along the way.  These are just everyday crooks with the word "super" thrown into their name for good measure.  I suspect we'll be rooting for these folk to make some bucks as their adventures unfold in Spain.

     Two quick final review comments.  First, Millar's credible and effective use of adult themes and language in this comic book only further emphasizes the ineptness of the creative team in the Buckeroo Banzai comic reviewed above, who only deepen their title's mess of a story by inappropriately mixing adult topics into a failure of a storyline.  And secondly, after reading Super Crooks, I now have to e-mail my cousin Michael in Spain and ask whether Spain is as superhero-free as Millar proposes.  Perhaps our anti-hero Johnny Bolt is wrong and there really is a Captain Spain fighting crime for Truth, Justice and The Spanish Way!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest challenged you to identify which U.S. President is credited as being the inventor of the coathanger.  And our winner selected via a roll of the contest dice from among a handful of correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified President Thomas Jefferson as our jack-of-all-trades presidential inventor.  While the mass-produced wire hanger that we're most familiar with today was patented in 1903 by Albert J. Parkhouse, Jefferson invented the original wooden version coathanger.  In my own humble opinion, while Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon sheparded ongoing funding of our successful space program to the moon, Jefferson's effort is the most useful achievement of any President on behalf of everyday American life!  Congrats to Kevin who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     This week's contest is our second consecutive challenge featuring a presidential trivia question.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, April 11 with the correct answer to the following question: Which U.S. President is famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for having gotten himself stuck in the White House bathtub?  Supposedly, it took four White House staffers and a gallon of butter to dislodge this Commander-In-Chief from his captivity.  And no, the answer is not Bill Clinton back in his overweight, junk food-binging days!  As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.  Please note that the gift certificate is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

     That's all for now, so have two great early Spring yardwork and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 13 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Comic Reviews 3/16/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     We've got a very eclectic mix of comic book titles to review this week, so let's get right to it and see what these varied titles are all about:
Ralph Wiggum Comics #1
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Various Writers and Artists

     Bongo Comics is kicking-off a new series of one-shot comics each featuring a different secondary character from The Simpsons.  The series starts this month with a one-shot comic book starring everyone's favorite good-natured idiot-with-a-heart-of-gold, Police Chief Wiggum's son Ralph Wiggum.  The stories are the creation of various featured writers and artists.

     The issue features five stories of varying length.  The 7-page kick-off story is entitled "The Man Of The House" and gives us a plot in which Ralphie is home alone and has a grand disfunctional time wrecking the house as he tries to make breakfast.  "Ralph's Room" is a one-page silent feature with story and art by well-known humorist Sergio Aragones.  Story number three is a 7-page tale entitled "Ralph Wiggum's Day Off," in which Ralph inadvertently skips school and wanders the Town of Springfield, convincing himself that he's having a time-travel adventure in a future Springfield.  Sergio Aragones returns again in the fourth story feature with a two-page tale that is also entitled "Ralph's Room," which features Ralph's adventure in a school costume contest.  Our fifth and final story is a 7-page tale scripted by Jesse McCann entitled "Ralph The Role Model."  This story has a fantasy theme, in which Ralph is being harrassed by an evil Leprecaun and unwittingly bests the bad guy at every turn.

     I've been impressed with every Bongo Congo Simpsons comic book that I've read or reviewed regarding the consistency of the comic creators in matching the iconic Simpsons television series in terms of story content and character style.  Happily, this one-shot title is no exception to that strong point.  The endearingness of Ralph Wiggum isn't his low IQ goofiness, but instead his heart of gold that leads him in the longer stories in this comic to unwittingly either honestly help folks or do the right thing in an important situation.  There's actually a very moving moment in the "Ralph The Role Model" tale in which his genuine niceness moves a woman to tears.  I don't want to over analyze a simple Simpsons comic book, but its worth noting that there is definitely an bit of fictional depth beneath the simple story surface here that, similar to the t.v. show, makes this comic book an entertaining read for both kids and adults alike.

     As a final review note, besides the five stories reviewed above, there's a bunch of fun kid activities in this issue, including a one-page "Where's Ralph?" puzzle similar to Where's Waldo?, a very funny letters page and a kid's contest on the last page of the issue.  So overall, a very well-deserved thumbs-up review recommendation for fans of all ages to read this comic book.  Keep an eye out for the next issue in this series, advertised as a one-shot Bart Simpson's Pal Milhouse issue, scheduled for release in May.

Batman Beyond Unlimited #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Adam Beechen: Writer
Norm Breyfogle: Art
Andrew Elder: Colors

     DC has just reintroduced the Batman Beyond concept in a new series entitled "Batman Beyond Unlimited."  I've reviewed a few issues of the previous Batman Beyond series, which stars Terry McGinnis as the teenaged new Batman in a future Neo-Gotham, mentored via electronic communication during his adventures around the city by a now-elderly and retired Bruce Wayne.  This kick-off new series issue #1 features two stories, the first from the creative team of Adam Beechen, Norm Breyfogle and Andrew Elder and the second story produced by Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen and Randy Mayor.

    The first tale is entitled "10,000 Clowns (Prelude)" and centers on Batman/Terry's ongoing conflict from last year's series with the roving gangs of future Gotham street teens known as Jokerz, who worship the original present-day Joker and emulate him by designing their own unique Joker style costumes.  There's some tongue-in-cheek humor in this story as Terry deals with a varied range of goofy-looking but extremely dangerous teen Joker wannabes.  Three plot threads interweave here: Terry fighting a couple of Jokerz street gangs while on patrol, the aged Bruce Wayne and Police Commissioner Barbara Jordan identifying a troubling pattern of out-of-town Jokerz mysteriousily migrating to Gotham and Terry's computer hacker friend Max getting herself entangled in an ongoing computer crime scheme.

     Our second story is entitled "Konstriction" and features Terry as an active member of this future world's Neo Gotham-based Justice League of America.  The plot initially centers on a drug war turf conflict between two types of Neo-Gotham street gangs, a group of Jokerz and a gang of teens surgically enhanced into various predator animal forms.  As the gang war erupts, our future JLA jumps-into the mix to deal with both street gang groups.  The story abruptly changes direction with a visit from an aging but still very active Superman, who introduces some interesting espionage story elements that involve both the evil organization Kobra and a secret undercover superhero spy within Kobra, who may or may not have turned rogue against the good guys.

     DC has played it smart by reintroducing the Batman Beyond storyverse into its monthly line-up without revising it in any way from last year's popular and high quality series.  I love the blend of superhero old and new in this future Gotham concept; Superman and Bruce Wayne may be officially elderly, but they haven't given-up the ghost just yet, not just mentoring the new generation of heroes but leading them into battle in new and entertaining ways. While both issue #1 stories are entertaining, if I had to rank them I'd list "Konstriction" as the better of the two due to the new JLA's starring role.  I really enjoy these new JLA characters who are inheritors of the present-day JLA team members, including a next generation Aquagirl, a new Barda, a Hawkman successor named Warhawk, a new Atom and an alien boy as the future Green Lantern for Earth's sector of space.  Our grey-haired older Superman fits in well as a member and wise mentor of this team.

     So a review hats-off to both DC and the two creative teams that produced this excellent return to the very entertaining and fun world of Batman Beyond.  And if you haven't read any of the previous Batman Beyond series, by all means get on-board by checking out the back issue bins and graphic reprint shelves at That's Entertainment for stories from last year's fun series.

Supurbia #1
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Grace Randolph: Writer
Russell Dauterman: Art
Gabriel Cassata: Colors

     Issue #1 of a new four-issue mini-series  from Boom! Studios entitled "Supurbia" is on the new issues shelves this week.  Picture the ABC hit television series "Desperate Housewives" with a superhero living in each household on the suburban neighborhood cul-de-sac and you have a good feel for the premise of this new comic book.  The series is created and written by Grace Randolph with art by Russell Dauterman and colors by Gabriel Cassata.

     The first issue story segment has two goals: to introduce us to the various superhero/normal human couples on the street and to establish the initial soap opera shenanigans going-on in the neighborhood.  By issue's end, we're familiar with five various couples and their issues.  There's Night Fox and his human wife, who's just discovered her husband's affair with his male sidekick.  There's the Superman-like Sovereign and Helen, his reformed villain live-in girlfriend.  There's the Wonder Woman-like Bright Moon and her normal husband and two kids.  There's newcomers Bulldog and his registered nurse wife Eve.  And finally, there's aged superhero Marine Omega and his wife Ruth Smith.  Together the heroes form the superteam known as the Meta Legion.  In addition to Night Fox's affair, there's dirt a'brewin' in each household.  It's also clear that someone is poisoning the elderly ailing team leader Marine Omega and by issue's end the neighborhood culprit in dramatically revealed for further intrigue in next month's issue #2.

     The heavy advertising campaign for this series led me to mistakenly believe that this comic was more of a take-off on "The Real Housewives Of..." reality t.v. series, so at first I was disappointed to find more of a comic book take on the fictional concept of Desperate Housewives.  But once I started reading this comic book, any misgivings quickly disappeared.  This is a very entertaining concept that blends the world of soap operas and superheroes into one successful hybrid of reading fun.  Much credit is deservedly due to series creator/writer Grace Randolph for constructing a very layered and interesting series of sub-plots for each of the neighborhood households, all of which seamlessly weave together into one big dramatic and kitschy tale.  There are also several minor story elements that no doubt will grow and unfold in upcoming issues, among them nurse Eve's overall nosiness which obviously will lead her right into uncovering the secret poisoning of Marine Omega.

    I could comment on many more sopa opera plot twists and turns throughout issue #1.  But why ruin the fun for you good readers?  Instead, let's just sum-up with a well-deserved thumbs-up positive review recommendation for this very original spin on the everyday lives of superheroes just trying to find a way to fit into the American suburban way of life. So check-out this comic book and see for yourself what type of intrigue is unfolding in Supurbia!

The Manhattan Projects #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Nick Pitarra: Art
Cris Peter: Colors

     Image Comics has a new science fiction comic title out this past week entitled The Manhattan Projects.  As a blurb on the front cover explains, the comic is an alternate history take on the real world Manhattan Project, in which a team of U.S. scientists led by Dr. Robert Oppenheimer developed the atomic bomb during World War II.  This new series is scripted by A-list writer Jonathan Hickman with art by Nick Pitarra and colors by Cris Peter.

     Issue #1 gives us an alternate reality version of the beginnings of The Manhattan Project in 1942, when U.S. Army General Groves appointed Oppenheimer as head of the secret project.  Two sub-plots alternate throughout this issue.  In the first, Groves gives Oppenheimer a tour of the secret project facility, revealing that the bomb project is a front for the true purpose of the project, which is to explore paranormal and sci-fi issues for the war effort, including other dimensions, mystical issues and of course, UFO's.  The second sub-plot is a detailed flashback that follows Oppenheimer's life from childhood onward in parallel with a mentally disturbed serial killer twin brother.  By issue's end, its revealed that the evil twin recently murdered the real Dr. Oppenheimer and has secretly taken his place in his role as the new director of the Manhattan Project.

     This is a disappointing example of a wonderfully creative idea gone very bad in its actual production.  The core idea here is excellent and intriguing, that of an alternate, science fiction take on this famous real World War II historical secret scientific program.  But the details here misfire in major ways.  While I didn't think much of the squiggly art style, the biggest flaws here are two-fold.  First, there are just too many alternate reality facts and elements jammed-in here to provide an entertaining plot progression.  Hickman should have cut at least in half the many sci-fi ideas that he grocerylisted and briefly dropped into this tale and instead allowed a few of them to take root and grow in the story.  The result is a mish-mash of sci-fi stuff that's jarring and confusing.  Secondly, the whole twin brother serial killer thing is just plain gross.  The sickening details of mutiliation and bloodiness needlessly divert this sci-fi genre tale into gross-out horror, which doesn't fit with the theme of the story.  This is a clear example of less being more effective; structuring Oppenheimer's twin as a regular bad guy/murderer would have been enough and avoided the failure of the serial killer thread as detailed in the story.

     I'm a huge and unapologetic fan of the wonderful scripting work that Jonathan Hickman has produced for a few years now over at Marvel's Fantastic Four title.  I guess the silver lining here is that this creative bump in the road proves that Hickman is as human and fallible as the rest of us and was due for a miss to be included with his illustrious line of creative hits.  So bottom line, skip this well-intentioned but not very good title and check-out some of Hickman's better work available on the new issues shelves and back issues bins at That's Entertainment.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest challenged you to identify the one episode of a television series that has been rebroadcast more than any other series episode in U.S. television history.  And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...David McBarron, who correctly identified the episode of The Brady Bunch is which Marcia asks Davy Jones from The Monkees to sing at her prom.  This trivia fact was mentioned during the ABC Nightly News tribute to Davy Jones upon his recent unfortunate passing.  Congrats to David who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have decreed that we challenge you this week with the first of two trivia contests with facts regarding U.S. Presidents.  Your current challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, March 28 with the correct answer to the following question:  Which U.S. President is the actual inventor of the original version of the coathanger?  In my personal opinion, this is probably the most useful one thing that any U.S. President has ever done for his country!  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.  Please note that the gift certificate is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

     That's all for now, for have two great NCAA Basketball March Madness viewing and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, March 30 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Comic Reviews 3/2/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that its "Traditional-Superheroes-In-Comic-Books-Week" Here In Bongo Congo, so let's see how these four new comics that star traditional heroes stack-up against each other:

Star Trek/Legion Of Super-Heroes #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Chris Roberson: Writer
Jeffrey Moy: Pencils
Philip Moy: Inks
Romulo Fajardo, Jr.: Colors

     IDW Publishing is up to issue #5 of its well-publicized new title that combines the original series Star Trek crew with DC's Legion Of Super-Heroes into one giant cross-over adventure series.  Once again, since there are copies of the first five issues available at That's Entertainment, I decided to backpedal and review issue #1 to get the best feel for what this series is all about. This feature event is scripted by A-list writer Chris Roberson with pencils by Jeffrey Moy, inks by Philip Moy and colors by Romulo Fajardon, Jr.

     The untitled kick-off issue #1 story segment is set in the 23rd century world of both teams of futuristic story characters, and consists of three story segments.  In our first 6-page story sequence, we're clearly learning of an alternate reality version of the Star Trek universe's Intergalactic Federation, one in which the Federation is a bloodthirsty military empire that wipes-out peaceful alien races to further its brutal imperial goals.  The mid-section of the tale shifts to the normal timelines of both featured hero teams; without being a detail spoiler, events happen to both groups that throw them out of their normal realities into the oppressive alternate reality timeline.  The third and final story segment alternates panels between the two teams, as both groups upon arrival begin respective battles against attacking imperial bad guys.  By issue's end, the two teams haven't yet joined-up with each other, but both have realized that clearly they're not in Kansas anymore.

     This is an entertaining and interesting crossover event for the two iconic comic book teams of heroes.  Three particular elements give this new series both quality and storytelling staying power.  The first is the commonality of the two teams; both the Trek and Legion folk have long histories of comic book action-adventure storytelling on a grand scale, and as such are very well-suited to being blended-together into the epic adventure of this science fiction series.  Secondly, unlike many crossover event characters, we have the unusual situation of the super-powered Legion team partnering-up with a team of Star Trek characters who are non-superpowered.  It should make for an interesting mix of story details with this powers-versus-human skills partnership.  I can't help but compare this scenario to a Superman-Batman team-up, representing the same superhuman/regular person team mix.  And our third positive element in this new title is the artwork, which does equal justice to both hero teams, giving us both a high quality visual style and succeeding in capturing the facial resemblance of the real-world, original group of Star Trek actors in excellent comic book form.

     So a definite and well-deserved positive thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this new series which nicely combines the two different fictional worlds of DC's Legion Of Super-Heroes and the well-known original Star Trek universe into one enjoyable cross-over adventure series.

Blackhawks #5
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Mike Costa: Writer
Cafu: Pencils
Bit: Inks
Guy Major: Colors

     Yet another of the new comic book titles in DC's The New 52 universe is Blackhawks, which is up to issue #5 this month.  When I selected this comic for review, I assumed that it was the latest version of the traditional Blackhawks action-adventure series, but quickly discovered that its a completely different series based on a new cast of military adventurers led by a female commander named Lady Blackhawk.  But since the group can be seen as inheriting the mantle of the traditional Blackhawk team, let's review it anyhow for our traditional heroes review week series.  The title is scripted by Mike Costa with pencils by Cafu, inks by Bit and colors by Guy Major.

     The issue #5 story segment is entitled Burial but is best described by a blurb on the front cover that announces "Rescue Mission In The Stratosphere!"  This is the latest segment of a multi-issue story arc in which the Blackhawk team are battling a mysterious computer-based nemesis who threaten's all of humankind.  The plot in this month's issue focuses on team members Canada and Wildman, who have crashlanded on an Earth-orbiting space station controlled by the enemy.  Without being a detail spoiler, the duo juggles three plotthreads throughout the issue: sparring via computer simulation with the malignant computer villainess, trying to keep her from destroying mankind and crashing the orbiting station, and ultimately finding a way to somehow get back to Earth since their original vehicle was damaged upon arrival.  Naturally, all goals are somehow achieved, with the last few pages of the issue reserved for a very creative and unique effort for getting back to Earth.

     While I was at first disappointed that I wasn't reading a traditional Blackhawk team comic book, I quickly warmed to the quality and entertainment of this new team.  The action-adventure here is non-stop and fun to read, as our two heroes have a very interesting and at times nail-biting outer space adventure.  Lady Blackhawk is also featured prominently in this tale, as she strategizes long-distance to assist her two stranded team members and ultimately gets heavily involved in the big rescue gamble to save these guys from being stranded in Earth orbit.  There's also lots of high quality artwork in a visual style that's very effective for portraying outer space adventure.

     Word from DC's marketing efforts is that the publisher is pulling the plug on this title with next month's issue #6 to make way for a "second wave" of new 52 titles.  To me, that translates to an admission that sales are low on this title.  That's a shame, because the quality of this new title is top notch.  So I'd recommend living in the moment, enjoying this month's issue #5 of Blackhawks as well as next month's finale issue and if you haven't checked them out yet, I'd recommend backtracking to read the first 4 issues in this limited series.

Action Comics #6
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Grant Morrison: Writer
Andy Kubert: Pencils
John Dell: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors

     After last column's positive review experience with issue #6 of DC's main Superman title, I was eager to see if the good review news continues with this month's "The New 52" make-over issue of the other iconic Superman title, the esteemed Action Comics title.  The current Action Comics storyline is scripted by A-list writer Grant Morrison who teams-up with penciler Andy Kubert, inker John Dell and colorist Brad Anderson.

     The issue #6 story is entitled "When Superman Learned To Fly" and is the latest installment in an on-going multi-issue story arc.  There's a strong science fiction theme to this tale, in which Superman and adult versions of Legion of Superheroes members Saturn Woman, Lightning Man and Cosmic Man team-up to hunt-down super bad guys who've stolen the kryptonite power source from the original rocket in which baby Kal-El/Superman originally arrived on Earth.  There are three interconnected crises linked to the missing K-power source:  the power source is needed to keep the artificial intelligence of the old rocket alive, lack of the source will cause the rocket to infect and destroy Earth's computer network, and last but hardly least, the power source is an especially lethal form of kryptonite that can be used against our hero.  There's a ton of action-adventure here, as Superman and his trio of futuristic friends have an all-out adventure on an Earth orbiting space station culminating in a satisyfying resolution to this multi-issue tale.

     This is the most entertaining mainstream Superman tale that I've read over the past few years, which shouldn't be that surprising given that the creative team is led by A-list writer Grant Morrison and just as A-list artist Adam Kubert.  Three story elements in particular combine to make this issue a special reading treat.  The first is the premier quality artwork by the Kubert-led visual team.  Secondly are various combined small Superman universe touches that add-up to a fresh and entertaining mix of new fictional detail additions to the wide and well-known Superman universe.  My three favorites are the use of adult versions of the well-known teen members of the Legion, the concept of Kal-El's escape rocket having an advanced artificial intelligence persona and the discovery by our heroes of the very unique place where the bad guys are hiding out and directing their brand of evil against the good guys.  Last but hardly least, there's also a nice heartwarming homage in the final panels that very effectively connects the current story to the well-known Silver Age tale of how Superman and the Legion members originally met back in Clark Kent's childhood Smallville years.

     As a quick final review comment, a worthy shout-out is also deserved for a second, eight-page tale in this issue entitled "Last Day," which centers on young adult Clark Kent's final day on the family farm in Smallville before striking-out for the big city of Metropolis.  Its a bit sappy at points, but the exquisite visuals of artist Chris Cross and colorist Jose Villarrubia, combined with the quality of the general plotline give us an emotionally moving and worthy addition to the inumerable story versions published over the years of this emotional stage in our hero's well-known life.  So by all means, add this current issue of Action Comics to the top of the list of successful New 52 titles right now, and get down to That's Entertainment as soon as possible for a copy of your very own!

The Mighty Thor #11
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Matt Fraction: Writer
Pasqual Ferry & Pepe Larraz: Art
Frank D'Armata: Colors

     Our final traditional hero comic book review for this week stars the venerable Norse God himself in this month's issue #11 of The Mighty Thor title.  The current Thor storyline is part of the ongoing "Shattered Heroes" Marvel Comics event series, which is a follow-up to last year's "Fear Itself" event line.  The Shattered Heroes concept unfolding in The Mighty Thor has so far seen the death of Thor, his replacement by a new Thunder God named Tanarus and Thor's subsequent (naturally) resurrection.  In addition, no one but Thor's mischievous half-brother Loki has any memory of Thor.  The series is scripted by Matt Fraction with art by Pasqual Ferry and Pepe Larraz, and colors by Frank D'Armata.

     A very useful page one narrative brings new readers like me up-to-date on the Shattered Heroes events so far in The Mighty Thor.  Issue #11 is the fourth issue in the current multi-issue story arc and centers upon the returned Thor gathering a handful of allies and proceeding to move against his enemies in this bad new Asgardian world.  The action is fast and shifts rapidly between multiple scenes and sub-plots.  Among key story elements are a successful effort by Loki to restore The Silver Surfer's memory of Thor and Tony Stark/Iron Man innocently assisting Thor's enemies in restoring a damaged Asgard to technological efficiency.  But the main storythread centers on Thor and two helpful allies entering the giant maw of Demogorge; similar to the Biblical whale that swallowed Jonah, this giant beast swallows Norse god-beings and entraps them supposedly forever.  By issue's end the various sub-plots all build to a mutual dramatic climax, as Thor and allies reach the heart of Demogorge and the main baddies of the Shattered Heroes storyline simultaneously spring their attacks across the Asgardian realm.

     I don't read Thor titles very often and when I do, I hope for the type of grand Norse space opera tales that I enjoyed as a baby boomer Thor reader back in the Silver Age.  I'm pleased to report that this current issue #11 is on par with the quality as well as the style of those classic Thor comic books.  The creative team is superb in balancing the various subplots and their respective story characters into one connected action-adventure tale.  While there's tons of fast action here, there's also a nice balance of story dialogue and narrative development that makes for an absorbing read.  I also particularly enjoyed the art team's unique reinterpretation of Loki; rather than go the heavy evil/horn-helmeted bad guy route, Loki is portrayed here as a young teenager, who in this instance is working really hard with the good guys to restore the traditional Thor world order.  Obviously, its all to his own selfish advantage due to his reduced stature in the Shattered Heroes world order, but like the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

     So a well-deserved positive review recommendation for issue #11 of The Mighty Thor, which is thumbs-up worthy in two ways: as a stand-alone issue within the current Thor multi-issue story arc and as an excellent introduction for readers into the brave new world of Marvel Comics's current Shattered Heroes mega-event.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenge was the third and final question in our series based on U.S. States.  We challenged you to tell us the name of the independent state that was formed after the American Revolution, failed to gain Congressional approval by 2 votes to formally enter the Union and was ultimately absorbed by two nearby states.  This question generated a lot of interest as well as correct entries, so via a roll of the dice the selected winner from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly identified the state as Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin, himself.  Ultimately absorbed by Tennessee and North Carolina, after failing to gain acceptance into the Union, the state declared itself a free republic until North Carolina sent-in troops and the state was carved up by the two nearby states sometime after 1790.  Congrats to Gregory, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges offers this week a very interesting pop culture contest challenge.  E-mail us at no later than Wednesday, March 14 with the answer to the following question:  What is the one episode of a television series that has been rebroadcasted more than any other t.v. show episode in U.S. television history?  This one could be tough to find, so here's a hint: it's not an episode of The Monkees, but it was referred to in the ABC National Nightly News broadcast on February 29, 2012 during that evening's news tribute to the passing of The Monkees lead singer Davey Jones.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.  Please note that the gift certificate is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

     That's all for now, for have two great Red Sox Spring Training and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, March 16 here In Bongo Congo!