Friday, June 29, 2012

Comic Reviews 6/29/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review four interesting new comic books this week, so let's get right to it and see what these new titles are all about:

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Darwyn Cooke: Writer and Artist
Phil Noto: Colors

     DC Comics has just launched a new interconnected mini-series of comic book titles set within the storyverse of the acclaimed Watchmen graphic novel.  I don't think that I need to detail the background of Watchmen, as there probably isn't a fanboy or fangirl on the planet who isn't at least minimally aware of the iconic and unique superhero series created in the 1980's by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  The idea here is to feature a prequel series starring The Minutemen, the 1940's-era group of superheros featured in the graphic novel (and subsequent movie) who were succeeded a generation later by the Watchmen group of heroes.  Watchmen members also star in this series, in stories set prior to the era of the original graphic series.  I chose to review the kick-off issue of the Minutemen title, which is written and drawn by a-list comic book creator Darwyn Cooke with colors by Phil Noto.

       Issue #1 begins a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Minute Of Truth."  The plot begins with the present-day reminiscences of elderly former Minuteman The Nite Owl as he muses over the draft of a tell-all book about his superhero experiences.  The bulk of the issue consists of an extended flashback to 1939; in a series of vignettes, each member of the Minutemen is introduced at the very start of their young careers.  Thus we see the early efforts of Hooded Justice, Sally Jupitor, The Nite Owl, Eddy Blake, Byron Lewis, Dollar Bill, Avenging Angel and Nelson Gardner as they each in turn jumpstart their respective solo crimefighting careers.  The issue concludes with a focus on Nelson Gardner as he reaches out to the other individuals with the suggestion that they team-up into the Minutemen.

     Creator Darwyn Cooke is both smart and skilled enough to avoid trying to match the literary quality of the classic Watchmen series.  Instead, he expands the range of that world using his own unique artistic and narrative style to add a new comic book flavor to the Watchmen franchise. The result is high quality entertainment, an interpretation of the world-of-Watchmen that's less grand and epic than the original, but frankly filled with a lot more basic comic book storytelling entertainment.  Credit is also due to Cooke for structuring the kick-off issue as a series of mini-vignettes revealing the early days of each Minuteman team member.  It all serves as both a fun read and an excellent briefing on who these folks are, prior to next month's issue when they start to gather for team adventure.

     In addition to the Minutemen title in this series, DC has released first issues of Before Watchmen titles starring Nite Owl himself and two of the actual Watchmen, both Silk Spectre and the infamous Comedian.  I'm personally looking forward to next checking-out Silk Spectre #1, given that Darwyn Cooke and fellow A-list creator Amanda Connor team-up to produce what potentially could be a gem of a title. Word on the street is that Watchmen creator Alan Moore is furious the DC is exercising their publishing rights and producing this prequel series. That's a shame, for while I respect the creator's feelings, this is a harmless and enjoyable addition to the Watchman storyverse.  So a definite positive thumbs-up review recommendation to kick-off the start of your comic book reading summer by diving-into Minutemen and the other connected titles in DC's new Before Watchmen event series!

Fury Max #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Garth Ennis: Writer
Goran Parlov: Art
Lee Loughridge: Colors

     The Max Comics imprint published by Marvel Comics recently began publishing a new Nick Fury comic book title.  For the uninitiated, Marvel created the Max comics line in 2001 in order to publish a line of adult story-themed titles, with content equivalent to that of an R-rated movie.  Previous Nick Fury titles within the imprint have been heavily criticized by Nick Fury creator Stan Lee as needlessly over-the-top violent and gory.  This latest Fury series is set in 1950's French-controlled Indochina, with Fury as an American agent assigned to advise the French in the well-known colonial war that evolved into the Vietnam War in the 1960's.  The title is scripted by Garth Ennis of "Hellblazer" and "Preacher" fame, with art by Goran Parlov and colors by Lee Loughridge.

     The title of this multi-issue story arc is "My War Gone By."  Issue #2 interweaves two sub-plots that began in the previous premier issue.  One storythread focuses on the interactions between Fury, visiting American Congressman "Pug" McClusky and his sexy staffer Shirley Defabio, with whom Fury falls into a heavy sexual relationship.  This storythread focuses both on the passionate personal relationship and the trio engaging in diplomatic maneuvering with the French authorities.  Our second plotline is more action-oriented, as Fury and his military attache George Hatherly get out into the countryside into the thick of the wartime action.  This storythread dominates the second half of the issue by unfolding a very detailed battle sequence which climaxes with a major act of bravery by Hatherly.

     This is a wonderful new Nick Fury character interpretation to add to the decades-long archive of Nick Fury titles. Whether or not its in reaction to Stan Lee's criticism, the excessive gore and violence of the earlier Max Fury title is missing.  In the hands of A-list writer Garth Ennis, this latest Fury is the perfect blend of the well-known curmudgeon of a career warrior acting-out in a more adult-world setting.  Ennis seamlessly blends the use of adult language and heavy sexuality with the traditional Fury character without the oft-repeated mistake of many adult-themed comics, of overshadowing basic storytelling elements with gore, sex or strong language just for its own sake.  The result is a perfect-pitch Nick Fury tale that feels much more real-world than the average non-superhero comic book tale.

     A tip-of-the-review hat is also due to the creative team for two additional story features.  The first is the art team's graphic style, which is both fresh and very appropriate for this type of military adventure comic book.  The second is the skill that writter Ennis brings in weaving a story theme into the plot regarding the difficulty of comfortably separating good and evil in wartime situations.  This issue is effectively and dramatically illustrated in the ongoing hateful relationship between Fury's good guy attache Hathaway and Sergeant Steinhoff, an unrepentent German Nazi now advising the French colonial forces and pairing with Fury and Hathaway in the current wartime scene.

     So another worthy positive review recommendation is deserved for this new title.  Whether you're a fan of Nick Fury himself or just looking for a military adventure-themed comic book, you'll be highly entertained by this very well-crafted new addition to the military adventure comic book genre.

All Star Western #7
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray: Writers
Moritat: Artist
Gabriel Bautista: Colors

     DC Comics's "New 52" re-boot of All Star Western is currently up to issue #7.  This is the third version published by DC over the years of this well-know western comic book series.  It currently connects with the "Night Of The Owls" Batman publishing event by presenting an multi-issue story arc starring Jonah Hex, Amadeus Arkham and other 19th century-era familiar DC characters in an Old West adventure taking place in historical Gotham City.  The series is co-written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Moritat and Gabriel Bautista.

    The ongoing story is entitled "Vengeance In The Big Easy" and advances the multi-issue tale by advancing the plot in three acts.  Act One tosses the reader into the thick of an ongoing battle between good and bad guys in "The Big Easy" of New Orleans that seems to be a culmination of an adventure that mostly played-out in the previous issue. For several pages, a group of heroes that includes Jonah Hex and the masked adventurer duo of Nighthawk and Cinnamon struggle with and eventually subdue a crew of masked and ordinary bad guys.  Act Two occurs hours after the battle, as Jonah Hex has a confrontation with a mysterious 19th century version of one of the masked owl baddies familiar to readers of the main "Night Of The Owls" Batman storyline. Our final Act Three shifts the plot back to 19th century Gotham City, in which a Wild West adventurer named Tallulah Black confronts a gathering of Gotham's power elite, including a Bruce Wayne ancestor, to seek revenge for a western land grab scheme. The episode ends in a bridge to issue #10 as Jonah Hex and friends wade-into the confrontation.

     While this is an interesting and entertaining slice of the 19th century historical period of the DC Universe, the issue could really use a brief kick-off summary narrative of the storyline to-date; this is one of the more difficult comic books that I've come across in awhile to fully decipher all of the story elements without the aid of a brief narrative link to the previous story installments.  Still, its a very fun read, with a plot of the usual high quality from the A-list writing partnership of Palmiotti and Gray, as well as excellent western-genre story art from Moritat and Bautista.  However, its clear that the one-shot reader such as myself is missing-out on appreciating a lot of the little nuances along with the full texture and depth of this multi-issue story arc.  One nuance that's worth mentioning and actually is understandable for the casual reader is a hilarious mid-issue discussion of a past marriage of Jonah Hex, the details of which I'll leave for readers to fully enjoy themselves.

     There's also a brief back-up tale in this issue starring the duo of Nighthawk and Cinnamon.  That secondary story plot does stand-alone very well on its own two feet.  So while I'm giving this comic book a deserved thumbs-up positive review recommendation, its with the caveat that The Good DC Reader consider backpedaling to check-out one or two of the previous month's issues of All Star Western, in order to fully appreciate this segment of the multi-issue story arc.  However, if you're not able to do so, this is still an entertaining enough western genre comic book to read in its own right.

The Ravagers #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Howard Mackie: Writer
Ian Churchill: Art
Norm Rapmund & Ian Churchill: Inks
Alex Sollazzo: Colors

     Among the newly-issued comic books within DC's "Second Wave" of titles that both follow-up and tweak the "New 52" publishing event is a series entitled "The Ravagers."  Issue #1 continues an origin story begun in the recent Teen Titans #9 comic book, presenting a new group of Teen Heroes led by Dr. Caitlin Fairchild, a good-looking scientist who rescued the superpowered teens from a prison lab and attempts to form the ragtag fugitives into a working team.  The new title is scripted by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill, inks by Norm Rapmund and Ian Churchill and colors by Alex Sollazo.

     The new adventure plot, entitled "Children Of Destiny," consists of a one issue-length scene detailing the group's attempt to survive their initial prison lab break, as they make a stand in the icy nowhere of northern Alaska.  The issue #1 story segment mixes equal portions of battle action and emotional angst.  On the battle side of the story, both the main group of fugitives and various breakaway members fight separate battles against their seemingly relentless and overpowering prison lab pursuers.  The angst pie is split in half and shared respectively by Dr. Fairchild and a brother-sister duo of fugitives.  Dr. Fairchild muses throughout the issue in a narrative voice in which she expresses her insecurities in getting these meta-human teens to both respect her and follow her leadership, while the superpowered siblings struggle with balancing their thirst for revenge vs. fleeing to safety.  Without being a detail spoiler, the issue concludes with a very dramatic and risky last-ditch effort by the group to evade their close-at-hand pursuers.

     Similar to the All Star Western title reviewed above, I have a mixed reaction to this comic book, which ultimately lands the issue in qualified positive review territory.  On the plus side, I'm intrigued by this fresh mix of Teen Titan-like heroes, mixing a few familiar young heroes such as Beast Boy and Terra with some fresh meta-humans, all led by an implausibly sexy young scientist who looks like a redhaired version of Power Girl, if Power Girl picked-up a science Ph.D and worked undercover in an evil science lab.  There's enough kitsch and story potential in that premise alone to last at least 12 issue's worth of storytelling.  But writer Howard Mackie's plot is too loaded with overly lengthy, plodding scenes in which the teen characters hash over the details of every felt emotion or impulse.  Its like watching a few scenes from Beverly Hills 90210 stuck on an endless repeated loop.  Note to creative team: less can be so much more when exploring teen angst and issues of insecurities, especially in a comic book adventure with superpowered bad guys hot on the good guy's meta-human tails.

     Teenaged readers can probably relate better to that level of teen emotional introspection, so for those readers I'd recommend that they dive-into reading and enjoying this latest new teen-aged group of powered teens.  For post-teenaged adult readers, I'd recommend checking-out this new title for the curiosity of seeing the membership of this new team.  But unless the story approach matures in an issue or two, I can't forsee the average mature comic book reader (is that phrase a potential contradiction in terms?) becoming a loyal monthly reader of this new series.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our current contest challenged you to identify which popular science fiction/fantasy/horror genre television character died in a popular t.v. series and ended up with the cheesy epitaph "She Saved The World A Lot" on her gravestone.  We had several correct entries, so via a roll of the dice our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Christopher Begley, who correctly named the well-known Buffy Summers of "Buffy The Vampire" fame as our heroine-with-the-oddball-gravestone.  For the uninitiated, Buffy died saving the world (once again!) at the end of Season 5, then was resurrected at the beginning of Season 6 for two more television season's worth of vampire slaying/loving and demon fighting.  Congrats to Christopher, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     Our above contest inspired the Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges to announce another television-based contest.  As such, your new challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, July 11 identifying your favorite television series currently on-air within the science fiction, fantasy and/or horror genres.  Besides naming the show, tell us a bit about why this show rises above the pack as your favorite series.  Remember, we want a show that's currently on-air, anywhere from this past television season onward.  We'll hold a future contest asking for favorite shows from the past.  Please note that our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

     That's all for now, so have two great summertime Red Sox watching and comic book reading weeks and see you again on July 13 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Comic Reviews 6/9/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that its another Official Eclectic Week Here In Bongo Congo, so let's review a wide variety of comic book titles for this week's four reviews:

G.I. Combat #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
J.T. Krul, Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti: Writers
Ariel Olivetti & Dan Panosian: Art
Rob Schwager: Colors

     D.C. Comics has recently premiered several new titles as part of its "Second Wave" marketing event, which adjusts the publishing inventory of its "New 52" titles after one year of that grouping of DC comic books being published.  One of the Second Wave titles is the return of the Silver Age iconic army comic book, "G.I. Combat."  Issue #1 features two stories, each of which kicks-off a respective multi-issue story arc.  The first tale is a science fiction/military adventure written by J.T. Krul with art by Ariel Olivetti and the second story is an Unknown Soldier feature scripted by the A-list writing duo of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Dan Panosian and colors by Rob Schwager.

     The main feature story is entitled "The War That Time Forgot" and is a retake of the classic comic book/science fiction plotline of modern-day soldiers fighting dangerous dinosaurs.  In this instance, the setting is North Korea; when U.S. intelligence monitoring discovers a dead communications zone in that country, a U.S. Special Forces team is sent-in to investigate.  When the Special Forces coptor convoy is attacked by prehistoric pterodactyls, only two soldiers survive to wander the woods and wonder how prehistoric creatures are alive and kicking.  The issue #1 story segment ends in a dramatic two-page, single scene spread, as the pair stumble into an all-out battle between local North Korean troops and a herd of giant dinosaurs including T Rex's.  Our second story is a reinterpretation of the origins of The Unknown Soldier.  In this version of his story, our anonymous hero comes of age on the Afghanistan battlefield.  After his initial battlefield heroism and resulting facial mutiliation, the Soldier comes to the attention of the Army brass.  Via flashback, he details his military history, progressing from the death of his family in a London terrorist attack to failing the medical exam for U.S. Army enlistment and finally enlisting in the South African Army, thereby gaining access to fighting in the war against terrorism overseas.  The initial story segment concludes with our hero being informed that he's being recruited by U.S. intelligence for bigger and better action in next month's issue #2 story segment.

     DC's G.I. Combat title has a long publication history as well as a distinguished reputation for bringing a wide variety of military genre storytelling to generations of comic book reading fans.  I'm pleased to write that this latest installment succeeds in maintaining that level of story quality and tradition.  "The War That Time Forgot" walks a well-worn trail with yet another retelling of the often-presented soldiers-vs.-dinos comic book tale.  Yet the creative team avoids the hack retread trap by making a strong effort to update the story details into our present-day world.  The story's relevant setting within the ongoing real-world U.S.-North Korean tension, combined with the current events details of today's Special Forces operations makes for a fresh and entertaining re-telling of this type of sci-fi/military adventure.  It should be interesting to see how future segments of this story arc mix the dinosaur sub-plot with the emerging sub-plot of U.S. military forces operating (and stranded) in a hostile country's terrritory.  The Unknown Soldier back-up story is even more entertaining than the feature tale.  There's no comic book writing partnership better these days than Gray and Palmiotti, and their skills are on full display here with sharp dialogue, engrossing story details and a just-plain-refreshing re-boot of the Unknown Soldier story concept to fit our modern world.

      My only constructive criticism is that the editors should have flipped the order of these two tales.  Without taking anything away from the fun and quality of "The War That Time Forgot," in the hands of Gray and Palmiotti there's just more story detail, dialogue and substance to The Unknown Soldier tale, resulting in a story that deserves the lead slot in this issue.  I suspect that DC made the decision to kick-off with the dinos-vs.-soldiers tale, along with its featured place on the issue #1 cover, to take advantage of the summertime movie blockbuster marketing strategy of featuring the more sci-fi genre fare that summertime and beach readers prefer this time of year.  Nothing wrong with that, given that we're still getting our fanboy and fangirl money's worth with both of these high quality stories in one comic book issue. So by all means get down to That's Entertainment and add this entertaining return of G.I. Combat to your very own
summertime comic book reading pile!

Dorothy Of Oz Prequel #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Denton J. Tipton: Writer
Blair Shedd: Art
Joana Lafuente: Colors

     IDW Publishing has already published three monthly issues of its new Dorothy Of Oz Prequel title.  An inside-the-front-cover narrative explains that in a separate Dorothy Of Oz IDW title, our well-known fantasy heroine is magically transported back to Oz after her original safe return to Kansas that concluded her famous original storyline.  This prequel title documents adventures and developments in the Land of Oz that occur prior to Dorothy's second visit to the magical kingdom.  I decided to review the kick-off issue #1 of this new series, in order to get a good feel for the current multi-issue story arc from the beginning.  The comic book is scripted by Denton J. Tipton with art by Blair Shedd and colors by Joana Lafuente.

       The issue #1 story segment is entitled "The Jester and the Magic Sceptor."  The plot introduces a replacement evil character for the dead Wicked Witch Of The West, in the guise of her brother The Jester.  Settling-into her castle and taking control of her army of flying monkeys, The Jester plots to transform the witch's infamous broom into an all-powerful evil sceptor.  The midsection of the storyline details both his successful effort to steal the broom from the safety of The Emerald City and sleuthing at the crime scene by Dorothy's old pals the (formerly cowardly) Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow.  The final third of the comic book details The Jester's initial efforts to wield the Sceptor's evil power as he causes trouble in Munchkin Land, ultimately kidnapping the Munchkin Mayor as step one toward further shenanigans in issue #2.

     Over the past few years, there's been a run on comic book publishers mining the gold of the Wizard Of Oz story franchise for further adventures and/or reinterpretations of the original Frank L. Baum-authored storyverse that has become so ingrained in the fabric of American pop culture.  High quality examples that I've reviewed in the past year or two include Marvel's Dorothy of Oz limited series and Big Dog Ink's Legend Of Oz Wicked West, one of the best new comic industry titles of 2011.  Maybe I'm just a softie for all things Oz, but in general I've been very impressed with the quality of these efforts, as well as their success in balancing between sticking to the basics of Baum's Oz story universe and presenting fresh plots and story elements for new generations of readers.

     The new Dorothy Of Oz Prequel storyline further adds to the inventory of these high quality and entertaining efforts, for at least three reasons.  First, the series finds its own unique and unexplored niche in the Oz timeline, featuring a timeperiod just after the original story ended and filling-in that gap nicely for the second-coming-of-Dorothy storyline in IDW's other Dorothy title.  Secondly, the new Jester villain is creative and represents a nice direct link to his sister, the deceased Wicked Witch of the West.  Third, the creative team succeeds in balancing the atmosphere of the story so that its entertaining for both little kids and adults, alike.  The basic story details are entertaining for adult readers, while writer Denton J. Tipton throws in light jokes or pratfalls at just the right pace and moments so as not to dissuade younger kids from enjoying the story.  As such, unlike the inaccurate marketing for the Takio comic book reviewed in our last column, this title is truly a comic book for readers of all ages.

     So in sum, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this new Dorothy of Oz title to be added to your summertime new issues reading pile.  It offers a fun and refreshing light fantasy change-of-pace to mix-in with the many superhero genre comics that always dominate the summer season's reading lists and new issues shelves.

The Defenders #6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Matt Fraction: Writer
Victor Ibanez: Art
Chris Sotomayer: Colors

      In December, Marvel began publishing a new version of The Defenders superhero team-up.  Silver Age fans will no doubt remember the iconic front cover of Marvel Feature #1, that introduced the original Defenders as a superhero trio consisting of Dr. Strange, The Submariner and The Hulk.  Since then, the team has undergone various team member adjustments as well as several title runs up to the latest incarnation of the group.  The current Defenders line-up consists of original members Dr. Strange and Namor/The Submariner along with new members The Silver Surfer, Iron Fist and the Red She-Hulk.  This month's issue #6 is scripted by Matt Fraction with art by Victor Ibanez and colors by Chris Sotomayor.

     A page one narrative in issue #6 catches-up the reader to previous developments in this ongoing multi-issue story arc.  To date, the team has stumbled upon two ancient machines that have the immense power of warping space and time.  Dr. Strange had discovered the technology's immeasurable potential as one of the devices read his mind and brought a deceased former girlfriend temporarily back to life.  The challenge of the machines deepens in issue #6 in the face of two parallel mysteries.  First, Iron Fist finds that several of his former superpowered collegues have been systematically murdered, with circumstances pointing to the machines as the cause.  Secondly, Iron Fist and The Silver Surfer stumble across research material that documents an unknown, early 20th century Avengers-like team of heroes who previously interacted with the machines.  It appears that the very public history of this older superhero team has been erased from society's memory, with the clues of this erasure again pointing to the machines.  The issue ends in a bridge to next month's story segment, as a surprise human protector of the technology arrives on the scene, leading Iron Fist to determine that The Defenders must shut-down the machines in order to save mankind.

     The Defenders has a lot going for it in adding an excellent multi-issue storyline to the very long history of Defenders comic books.  Three story elements stand-put for particular recognition.  The first is the new team make-up, which nicely blends the two original members with the three newcomers.  While the Red She-Hulk isn't featured in issue #6, I think she's a great new addition as the Hulk Family successor to the original Hulk.  I also liked learning that Betty Ross is the identity of this new member of the ever-growing Hulk clan.  Secondly, the science fiction element of this plot is original and very well-presented.  Writer Matt Fraction's skill in weaving a sci-fi based tale featuring omnipotent, reality-altering technology is on a par with writer Jonathan Hickman's sci-fi storytelling of the past few years in Marvel's Fantastic Four title, securing Marvel's place as the top publisher of new issue superhero comics that offer quality science fiction genre storylines for readers.  And third is a very effective humanizing of our heroes in this storyline.  While everyone displays their usual superhuman abilities, writer Fraction displays a light, down-to-earth side of some of our heroes, which results in making our heroes more sympathetic and relatable to readers.  Thus we see a Dr. Strange who has normal girlfriend struggles, a Silver Surfer who in his Earthly guise is trying to fit in as an ordinary small-town citizen, and an Iron Fist who has enough Everyman self-doubts in his life to rival Peter Parker/Spiderman in that category.

      A final shout-out must go out to the creative team's extremely entertaining two-page flashback montage that fills-in the reader regarding the team membership and adventures of the Avengers-like mystery team of historic heroes.  Maybe I've missed these folk in some previous Marvel comic book, but they're a new entity to me and they're presented so well in this story segment that I'm hooked on wanting to read more about these guys, hopefully in a comic book title all their own.  So for all of these reasons detailed above as well as lots more story details that I don't want to dwell on for fear of being a story spoiler, by all means all good Marvel readers should come home to the world of The Defenders with this high quality and entertaining latest version of the team.

Hell Yeah #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Joe Keatinge: Writer
Andre Szymanowicz: Art
Jason Lewis: Colors

     Image Comics has already published the first few issues of a new comic entitled Hell Yeah (The Last Generation Of Heroes).  I backtracked to April's issue #1 to get a good feel for this new title from its premier story segment.  April's issue is already in its second printing, which is a good indicator of a strong positive reader response to the new series.  This comic title presents its version of the theme of disaffected children of superheroes trying to make their way in the world, balancing their heritage with their desire to live the life of a normal human being. The title is written by Joe Keatinge with art by Andre Szymanowicz and colors by Jason Lewis.

     The kick-off story segment is set in Portland, Oregon and stars Benjamin, who has a normal father and a superpowered mother.  Benjamin himself harbors some limited powers of strength and endurance, and as such attends a local college for the children of superbeings.  The plot alternates between two subplots; one is a flashback sequence to the Kuwaiti War of 20 years ago, in which unknown superhumans mysteriously arrived on the scene, rescuing Ben's military dad from Iraqi capture.  The current-day subplot alternates between scenes of the superheroes transforming the world into an advanced society over the next 20 years and scenes of Ben's troubled life, as he struggles with violent tendencies that get him into trouble with his college's administration and his parents.  Issue #1 ends in a very dramatic story sequence, as three superpowered women suddenly confront Ben on-campus and announce that they've been searching for him because he's dead in all alternate realities.

     I enjoyed this comic book very much, in spite of a few structural flaws.  On the negative side, writer Keatinge boomerangs somewhat all over the story scene by cramming a few too many story concepts into one kick-off comic book issue.  After layering-in the themes of parental superhero angst, mysterious heroes arriving and changing the world and college-age soap opera drama, we're suddenly confronted with an extra plot layer of alternate reality sci-fi.  On the plus side, while it does feel a bit too cramped for one standard-sized comic book issue, it all somehow manages to coalesce into a logical and entertaining story progression.  I also liked two threads of story mystery woven throughout the tale:  first, the obvious unanswered question of just who the heck are these mysterious powered beings who appeared out of nowhere and secondly, a clever mystery regarding Benjamin's mother.  We never see her visually but only hear her off-stage and thus learn two things about her-Ben and his Dad are scared stiff that she has a murderous temper and both Mom and Dad are hiding a huge mystery regarding the true, hidden identity of their small family.  And as a final review comment, I'm very curious about the series title "Hell Yeah," which doesn't relate to the issue #1 storyline but hopefully will make sense as the plot moves forward.

 There have been too many comic titles to easily count over the past decade that offer one or a combination of the story themes outlined above.  But credit is due to this particular creative team for reinvigorating a well-worn theme with a fresh approach to plot and characters.  Mix-into the recipe the mysteries presented in issue #1 and the end product is a decent, entertaining addition to this subgenre of superhero storytelling, well-worth the attention of readers.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!
     Our latest contest is our second annual Summer Movie Blockbuster Challenge, in which you pitched to us your pick for most anticipated movie of the 2012 summer movie season.  We had two excellent finalists and since one is a Marvel-based submittal and one is a DC Comics submittal, to avoid a Coke versus Pepsi decision, we're awarding both entries co-winner status.  And our co-winners are (drumroll, please)...Mike Dooley and Gregory Goding!  Mike was our First Annual Summer Movie Blockbuster Challenge winner last year with his Cowboys Vs. Aliens entry.  This year, Mike makes a strong case for "The Avengers" as the biggest mega-hit of summer 2012, writing that while there are many other strong movie contenders such as Men In Black 3 and Spider-Man, The Avengers is the ultimate culmination of so many previous individual hero Marvel Movies.  He further offers the intriguing idea of following-up this movie not with an Avengers sequel, but instead a Marvel/DC comic universe crossover event!  Co-winner Gregory takes the DC Comics route with his nomination of this summer's installment in the Batman franchise, "The Dark Knight Rises."  Gregory writes that while he thinks the movie won't top its predeccessor "The Dark Knight," the Bane villain character is very compelling and could equal Heath Ledger's Joker in character quality.  He adds that even if the movie quality isn't perfect, there's enough mega-hype marketing frenzy around it to push it to the top of the heap of Summer Movie Moneymaking Blockbusters (SMMB!).  Congrats to our co-winners, who each win a $10.00 gift certificate to our favorite summer blockbuster pop culture emporium, That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!
     Our latest contest challenges you to email us at with the correct answer to the following television series trivia question:  What popular television character in a science fiction/fantasy/horror genre t.v. series was killed at the end of Season 5 of the series and had the epitaph placed on her tombstone stating "She saved the world a lot"?  As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected from among the correct entries via a roll of the dice.  Please note that our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.
     That's all for now, so have two great Celtics play-off watching and comic book reading weeks and see you again on June 22 Here In Bongo Congo!