Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comic Reviews 11/30/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo hopes that you all had a good Thanksgiving and has decreed that we kick-off our holiday season comic book reading with a review of four new issues from the That's Entertainment holiday season new issues shelves.  But first, a holiday reading announcement:

Latest Story & Poetry Publishing Announcement!!!

     As some of this column's readers are aware, in addition to writing Here In Bongo Congo I write science fiction and fantasy stories and poems that are published in various magazines and book anthologies.  For a full listing of those writings as well as links to purchasing the issues, feel free to visit my webpage at

     In addition, as we're entering the holiday shopping season, you may want to check-out "Strange Christmas," the latest holiday-themed science fiction/fantasy short story collection from Whortleberry Press, available from all standard webpage book purchase sources as well as directly from the publisher at  My story "The Christmas Raffle" is included in the collection and among other characters, the story stars That's Entertainment's own Ken Carson!  So check-out the tale and tell us what you think of Ken's holiday adventures in "The Christmas Raffle"!

     Now let's get right to it and see how our review comic books stack-up against each other:
Aquaman #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Geoff Johns: Writer
Ivan Reis & Joe Prado: Art
Rod Reis: Colors

     Yet another entry in DC's wide-ranging prequel flashbacks to before The New 52 is issue #0 of Aquaman.  The goal of this particular issue is to provide Aquaman readers with a detailed new presentation of his standard origin story combined with particular details that illuminate some of the plot particulars ongoing within the monthly New 52 issue of this title.  The prequel issue #0 is scripted by A-list writer Geoff Johns with art by the team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, with colors by Rod Reis.

     The prequel story is entitled "Underwater" and begins with a detailed flashback to six years prior to the present day.  The flashback combines the traditional basics of the Arthur Curry-becomes-Aquaman tale with some fresh details; upon the death of his human father, Arthur begins a water and land-based search for clues to his mysterious heritage through his mother, the long-lost Queen of Atlantis.  In the current Aquaman storyverse, the media and general public are well-aware of Arthur's mixed human-Atlantean lineage. A clue leads Arthur to Vulko, an exiled Atlantean living in Norway.  Vulko educates Arthur in the backstory of his Atlantean heritage, including his mother's death at the hands of his half-brother, who now rules Atlantis as a dictator.  The issue concludes in a dramatic scene in which Arthur and Vulko together return to Atlantis to begin the sure-to-be-difficult task of reclaiming his rightful heritage as King of Atlantis.

     I haven't been reading the New 52 Aquaman title but I'm a big fan of our aquatic hero from the old Silver Age days as well as his Justice League appearances.  As such, I found this issue #0 to be both very entertaining and of high quality storytelling.  Led by veteran writer Geoff Johns, the creative team does a solid job in mixing old school Aquaman storyverse elements with fresh plot details.  I liked the element of media pressure on Arthur, as the press hounds him for details on his Atlantean heritage, and I also enjoyed the element of drama/intrigue, as Vulko introduces Arthur's backstory of family murder and betrayal, which sets the pair on a path back to Atlantis for future story action-adventure.

     Its good to see Geoff Johns back at the top of his storytelling game; my personal opinion has been that some of his writing of the past few years has slipped from his previous high quality, but this issue restores that quality, at least in this instance.  And a final tip-of-the-review hat is due to the artistic team, particularly colorist Rod Reis, who provides us with a poster-worthy, magnificent full-page final story scene that dramatically details Arthur and Vulko's return to the awe-inspiring city of Atlantis.  So kick-off your holiday season comic book reading by enjoying this very entertaining and worthwhile addition to the current Aquaman comic book title.

Fantastic Four #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Matt Fraction: Writer
Mark Bagley: Pencils
Mark Farmer: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors

     As I mentioned in our last column, following in the footsteps of DC's before-the-new-52 makeover is Marvel's recent "Marvel Now!" effort to re-boot and re-brand across their comic book universe.  One of the latest of these kick-off new series is Fantastic Four #1.  After last month's conclusion of the acclaimed scripting run on this title by writer Jonathan Hickman, Marvel has turned the creative reins for this restart over to writer Matt Fraction with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Mark Farmer and colors by Paul Mounts.

     Issue #1 is the first installment in a new multi-issue storyarc entitled Unstable.  Our plotline begins with two initial events.  First, the FF return from a timetraveling adventure with Reed Richards having suffered a severe and mysterious injury to one of his elastic-powered arms.  Secondly, Sue Richards discovers upon their return that in their absence, her young son Franklin has had a premonition that has forwarned the family from returning to any outer space adventuring.  Naturally, as the story progresses, Reed discovers that the only cure for his injury, as well as the potential physical deterioration of the entire FF, lies in a faraway space trek.  As such, Reed convinces the FF to take their entire group of family, friends and hangers-on along on a major space adventure, concocting a false "teaching opportunity" for the kids as a cover-up of the severity of the medical threat to the group.  By issue's end, everyone's set to blast-off for the trek to begin in next month's story segment.

     If issue #1 is any indication, this new grand adventure story arc should unfold as a high quality and very entertaining addition to the lengthy story lineage of this iconic, decades-long comic book series.  While I enjoyed Jonathan Hickman's very long run writing FF, it was a story approach that was consistently dark, at times grimly serious and epic with a threat of ultimate disaster.  While new problems and challenges are already arising to the FF in issue #1, the new creative team has a more traditional and lighter touch to their story mood and approach, making it all for a more fun reading ride.  I'm also intrigued by plans to alternate between various artists on this FF re-boot, with very unique artist Mike Allred stepping into the artistic lead for issue #2.

    I will admit that I'm personally irked by the large growth in the number of characters within the extended FF family featured in their storyline over the past few years.  I'm an old-school fan of FF stories focusing mainly on the Fab 4 themselves, and I just don't enjoy as much the inclusion of this assembled modern-day FF family that includes a huge load of alien kids, including one that's just a head floating in a jar of water.  I guess the traveling-school-within-the-family concept allows for some wider storylines, but for me personally it detracts and distracts from the core possibilities of what FF stories are all about.  There's nothing wrong with this current approach and its not a review critique of the quality of this comic book, just a personal desire for the old school FF-vs.-the-world approach to these comics.  So all in all, a deserved thumbs-up positive review recommendation for all good Marvel readers to definitely enjoy this latest quality take on the Fantastic Four.

Joe Kubert Presents #1
 Publisher: D.C. Comics
Joe Kubert, Brian Buniak & Sam GLanzman: Writing & Art

     As all good fanboys and fangirls know by know, iconic D.C. artist/writer Joe Kubert recently passed away.  Kubert is renowned for a 60-plus year DC Comics career that would take pages of narrative to describe in even general terms.  Among his more well-known works were years of artistry on Hawkman and Our Army At War-Sgt. Rock comics.  Among my personal favorite Kubert products is his 1970's run on DC's Tarzan title.  DC Comics is graciously releasing Joe's last project that was in the final stages of production at the time of his passing.  The six-issue limited series entitled is "Joe Kubert Presents" and as Kubert writes in an issue #1 column, he provides new stories of a particular artistic style and story content that are high quality but which we don't see much of in today's comic book publishing world.

     Issue #1 presents four introductory tales. Kubert writes and draws the lead story, a brand-new 22-page Hawkman adventure.  Its a revised and updated origin tale, in which Hawkman/Katar and Hawkwoman/Shayera travel from their home planet Thanagar to initially arrive on Earth in Africa.  The duo immediately become embroiled in a dramatic conflict with a native African tribe that is unwittingly being exploited by outside corporate forces.  Creator Brian Buniak presents a new Angel & The Ape tale, in which our favorite blonde human/hairy simian detective duo are hired to protect local restauranteur Walter Weissmuller, who for reasons I won't go into, had ordered a criminal execution hit on himself and nows wants protection!  A third five-page tale is entitled "Spit," and is the first installment in a multi-issue storyline by Kubert that was inspired by his repeated childhood readings of Moby Dick.  The fourth tale is an autobiographical WWII story by veteran creator Sam Glanzman, coaxed out of retirement by Kubert in order to detail Glanzman's World War II naval experiences in the Pacific campaign onboard the destroyer USS Stevens.

     You can't ask for or expect a more appropriate tribute to Kubert's professional legacy than this wonderful treasure-trove of his final comic book series.  The Hawkman story is frankly mind-blowing, hitting the trifecta of excellent Kubert-style artwork, strong storytelling and successfully incorporating the modern issue of exploiting Africa's people and resources into this iconic superhero's historic storyverse.  Brian Buniak successfully fills the shoes of previous Angel & The Ape creators, presenting a very wacky and entertaining tale in the well-known tradition of the humorous detective duo.  Sam Glanzman's tale is both a high quality production and heartbreaking in its autobiographical authenticity of the horror of war from the perspective of the average enlisted man.  It also serves as a very effective reminder for today's young and old readers alike of the heavy burden that the average draftee experienced and often sacrificed for his or her country on the front lines of World War II.

     A final review shout-out is deserved for that Kubert essay mentioned above, in which he reminisces on some aspects of his career, presents his goals for this title and shares with readers the jaw-dropping memory of holding a hot-off-the-presses, ten-cents-a-copy issue #1 of Action Comics in his DC office gofer hands back in the early Golden Age of comics!  That reminiscence alone is worth the very reasonable $4.99 price of this oversized comic book anthology issue.

     I have only one minor criticism of this issue and its regarding the story "Spit."  While its an interesting seafaring adventure tale in the spirit of Moby Dick, Kubert's decision to present the tale in a highly-detailed, black-and-white pencil sketch-style feels too unfinished and takes some of the impact away from the drama of the story.  But that's only one constructive criticism in the four story kick-off issue of Joe Kubert Presents.  So my review advice is to get on-board with issue #1 for all six scheduled issues of this limited series.  Then save this series to re-read what is sure to be a treasured representative sampling not only of Kubert and his compatriot's historic body of work but also an example of how the late master and his peers were able to produce A-plus quality work up to and including this final comic book gift to all of us.

X-O Manowar #7
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment LLC 
Robert Venditti: Writer
Lee Garbett: Pencils
Stefano Gaudiano: Inks
Moose Baumann: Colors

     Valiant Entertainment is up to issue #7 of its reboot of X-O Manowar.  For the uninitiated, the title originated in 1992 as the creation of Marvel veteran Jim Shooter and artist Bob Layton.  The very popular series is a science fiction epic tale that begins in 402 A.D. when aliens capture a Visigoth barbarian prince named Aric of Dacia.  Long story short, Aric leads an outer space revolt against the alien captors and due to space travel time dilation, returns to Earth 1600 years later in our modern era.  Aric also stole and wears the Shanhara, a sacred all-powerful advanced armor suit for which the aliens are prepared to wage an all-out war against mankind for its return.  The reboot series is scripted by Robert Venditti with pencils by Lee Garbett, inks by Stefano Gaudiano and colors by Moose Baumann.

     The issue #7 story segment is entitled "Uneasy Alliances" and presents two interconnected sub-plots.  The first is to explain further to the reader the story element of "the Vine," which is a shadowy world-wide alliance of thousands of human/alien hybrids who have infiltarted all levels of worldwide society.  Vine members have the ability to gather telpathically in an outside dimension to meet and plot their efforts.  The second sub-plot focuses on Aric himself. After being confronted by a renegade, pro-mankind Vine member and a shadowy ninja warrior, the threesome form an uneasy alliance as they brainstorm a plan to confront the Vine member who has become the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence group.  By issue's end, the aliens forces are preparing for Earth invasion while our trio arrive at MI-6 headquarters for next issue's attack.

     This issue is my first introduction to the X-O Manowar comic book title.  While I like some of the general science fiction themes in this story concept, I'm not impressed with the details of the storytelling approach.  There are just too many mismatched fictional genres mashed together in this concept, including ancient history flashbacks, alien invasion fiction, high tech adventure/action, world-wide conspiracy fiction, etc.  The result is an overstuffed storyline that is too detailed, alternating between genre elements that don't connect well.  What's needed here is a standard, seamless story progression, but what we end-up with are a series of jarring scenes between historical epochs and genres.  The end result is a feel that a whole bunch of disconnected story ideas were glued-together in an attempt to create a standard story world.  As such, the storytelling just never gets into a comfortable narrative groove for the reader to get comfortably absorbed into and entertained by the comic book.

    As a final review comment, the concept of "the Vine" is also oddly explained.  On the one hand, its emphasized that its a "benevalent" attempt to create a hybrid race of alien-humans without any plans to interfere in humanity's business, yet they've infiltrated society's leadership and are clearly plotting world domination.  Its just a contradictory story concept that further muddies the storytelling waters and diminishes the reading entertainment value of the comic book.

     I'm aware how popular the 1990's version of this comic book series was, literally selling millions of issues during its storied initial publishing run.  I doubt if the current storytelling approach mirrors the structure and quality of that version of X-O Manowar.  So bottom line, if you're an old fan of the 1990's X-O Manowar title run, you might want to gamble a few bucks on judging this new title for yourself but my advice is to skip this jumbled puzzle of a title in favor of either back issues or reprint compilations of the old series, or just find another science fiction adventure title to read from among the many such comic books available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to name the NFL team that has won the most Super Bowls.  And our winner via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)... Nessa Shields, who correctly identified the Pittsburgh Steelers as having won a total of six Super Bowl titles in 8 trips to The Big Game.  Nessa also points out that the Green Bay Packers have won less Super Bowls than the Steelers but a league-leading total of 13 championships, starting back in the 1920's pre-Super Bowl era.  Congratulations to Nessa who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     Many columns ago we challenged you to identify which U.S. President weighed the most, with our winner identifying the portly President Howard Taft as weighing-in as our plumpest Commander-In-Chief, before he eventually underwent a very successful diet.  Our latest U.S. presidential trivia challenge goes to the opposite end of the extreme.  Your challenge this time is to e-mail us at  no later than Wednesday, December 12 and correctly identify which U.S. President weighed the least.  Basically, who was our lightest President?  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 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 on-going specials, only.

     That's all for now, so have a great holiday shopping as well as two great comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, December 14 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Comic Reviews 11/16/12

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we celebrate the recent conclusion of our long national election season with reviews of four interesting-looking new comic books, so let's forget all about politics (for now, at least!) and get right to it and see what these new issues are all about:

Marvel Now! Point One (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Various Writers & Artists

On a parallel track to recent storyverse overhauls within the DC Comics publishing universe, Marvel Comics has recently initiated its own fictional universe overhaul entitled "Marvel Now!" The shake-up is in follow-up to the recent Avengers vs. X-Men storyline and is intended to market all-things-Marvel in an effort to attract expanded readership to the wide range of Marvel titles. The "Marvel Now! Point One" issue is an oversized comic book featuring six stories with the goal of providing background information for a handful of the standard Marvel titles included in the relaunch. While a large group of writers and artists are involved in producing these six tales, its worth noting that this eclectic group includes A-list creators Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Allred, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness.

The six featured stories provide fresh storyline beginnings for various players within the Marvel universe. Five of the tales are presented as alternate happenings away from the action of a main SHIELD story, which unfolds in-between the settings of the additional five stories. In the SHIELD tale, Nick Fury and his team attempt the debriefing of a supposed timetraveler from the future, who plays a cat-and-mouse verbal headgame of taunting Fury with tantalizing hints of "significant events" about to unfold in the days to come. Our remaining five stories are presented in-between scenes of this mysterious debriefing and serve as prequels to the following new Marvel Now! titles: Fantastic Four #1 featuring Ant-Man, Young Avengers #1 featuring a Miss America & young Loki plotline, the origin of Nova in a new Nova #1 title, a Cable & X-Force #1 issue re-boot and a Guardians Of The Galaxy title featuring Star-Lord.

This prequel anthology concept is similar to the DC Universe Presents #0 issue that I reviewed in our last column. Similar to that DC effort, the issue works very well in providing the reader with useful background and understanding of the re-boot details across a wide range of Marvel comic book titles. While the entire six-tale effort succeeds, a few of the individual stories stand-out from among the crowd. Writer Nick Spenser deserves a shout-out for penning the Nick Fury/SHIELD tale; his dialogue for the trickster time-traveler is as good as science fiction narrative gets, as the captive futurebeing weaves a web of things-to-come hints that may be true or may be part of an elaborate scam. Likewise, writers Brian Michael Bendis in the Star Lord story and Jeph Loeb in the Nova origin tale each give us a mix of action, sharp dialogue and story action worth ranking at the top of anyone's current comic book reading list. But my favorite story is the Young Avengers tale starring Miss America and Loki, which combines writer Kieron Gillen's edgy dialogue and wonderful artwork from Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton as the kick-off for a title reboot that's sure to provide a lot of entertainment.

My only constructive review criticism of this Point One issue is regarding the lay-out style of the six-story presentation. Unlike the DC Universe Presents title which clearly presented six stand-alone tales, Point One attempts to interconnect these stories by presenting five of them as alternating sidebars sandwiched in-between sections of the kick-off Nick Fury tale. Since the six tales have absolutely no interconnection between their respective plots, this alternating style is at times confusing and/or just plain jarring. Its not a major flaw of this issue, just a needless annoyance that thankfully isn't bothersome enough to sink the high level of entertainment and quality of this issue.

If this prequel primer issue is any indication, the new Marvel Now! storyverse reboot is going to provide us with a lot of reading fun. So a definite positive review recommendation for all good Marvel fanboys and fangirls to read this one-shot Marvel Now! issue, both as an informative prequel primer of all things Marvel Now! as well as for the stand-alone entertainment of the six stories in this excellent oversized issue that's well-worth the $5.99 price.

Sword Of Sorcery Featuring: Amethyst #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Christy Marx: Writer
Aaron Lopresti: Art

DC Comics is including in its latest batch of New 52 features a "Sword Of Sorcery" comic book featuring the return of a 1980's fantasy character, Amethyst: Princess Of Gemworld. The original series was geared toward young readers and featured as the main character Amy Winston, an orphaned Earth girl who discovers that she's actually the exiled princess of the magical Gemworld. Amy's adventures centered on her return to Gemworld to avenge her dead parents and fight the evil ruler Dark Opal. The new series updates and revises the Amethyst storyverse to satisfy modern reader sensibilities in today's DC publishing universe. This revival series is scripted by Christy Marx with art by Aaron Lopresti.

The prequel issue #0 storyline is entitled "Homecoming" and revises/updates our young heroine's origin story. The storyline alternates between three interweaving sub-plots. In the main storythread, we meet Amy Winston on the eve of her 17th birthday. Amy's single mother has moved her from town-to-town, harboring a family secret which she promises to reveal at a specific crucial moment on the eve of Amy's birthday. The second sub-plot focuses on Amy interacting with her new high school classmates, as we're introduced to various teen characters ranging in behavior from good to bad. And our third sub-plot updates life in the other-dimensional realm of Nilaa. Here we learn that Amy's folks had ruled the House Of Amthyst and that her mother had fled to Earth with her as a baby after Amy's evil aunt killed her father and took over the kingdom. The issue climaxes as Amy's mom teleports the pair back to the magical realm at the moment of revealing her origin, throwing mother and daughter into a pitched battle between their old allies and the evil aunt's forces.

I couldn't help but compare this comic book to the Robyn Hood title from Dynamite Comics that I reviewed two columns ago; both titles premise the hiding of a magical realm girl on our Earth, who as a teen learns of her heritage and returns home to battle evil. While I liked the Robyn Hood tale, this Amethyst storyline has much more depth to it than its initial 1980's publication run, providing more story possibilities in the latest title version. I loved the many little changes to the 1980's Amethyst storyverse, all of which successfully update the title for a modern-day quality of entertainment. My three favorite revisions include first, the living presence of Amy's mother as a guide/mentor/partner in her adventures and secondly, the implied reference in a back-of-the-book narrative that this storyline will feature Amy shuttling back-and-forth between Earth and Nilaa, thus balancing her fantasy adventures with her efforts to cope within a typical high school environment. Third, I like the updating of the fantasy realm, renaming it from Gemworld to planet Nilaa, on which several gem-named royal kingdoms, all jockey for position against one another. This situation allows for the possibility of some entertaining story alliances and conflicts among all parties.

Credit is due to writer Christy Marx for transforming a 1980's style teenaged girl fantasy comic book into a more sophisticated fictional concept, one that successfully balances old and new Amethyst elements into a fresh comic book title to be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Normally, I wouldn't read this style of comic book story beyond a review issue, but there's enough intrigue and story possibilities built into this re-boot that I've decided to check-out next month's issue to see where this story arc takes us. And a final shout-out is deserved to artist Aaron Lopresti for his high quality renderings of both worlds that Amy and her mom inhabit in their dual-world adventure. So all-in-all, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this excellent DC Comics edition to the fantasy comic book genre.

Princeless #1
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Jeremy Whitley: Writer
Nancy King, Quinne Larsen & Emily Martin: Art

In follow-up to the above review of DC's reboot of its Amethyst fantasy title, I thought it would be interesting to review another new title that also features a fantasy princess storyline. The small press publisher Action Lab Entertainment has just released issue #1 of a two-issue mini-series entitled Princeless. Subtitled "Short Stories For Warrior Women," the comic book is in follow-up to a 4-issue mini-series of the same title published in 2011. The series depicts the adventures of the preteen Princess Adrienne who lives with her family and subjects in the fantasy kingdom of Ashland. The three short tales presented in issue #1 are written by Jeremy Whitley with art by Nancy King, Quinne Larsen and Emily Martin.

Our first short tale, entitled "The Thing In The Dungeon," introduces Princess Adrienne and her playmates. Excitement ensues when Adrienne and her friend Devin nose around the castle's dungeon, leading to an unexpected enounter with a dragon. Story number two is entitled "The Merry Adventures Of Young Prince Ash" and introduces us to the Prince Ash of the title, who is at least a teenager if not a young adult. The plot is a flashback, in which Prince Ash recounts to the King an adventure that he experienced during a footrace through an enchanted forest. Our third tale is a five-page preview of a longer story scheduled for next month's issue, in which the King gathers together a colorful assortment of knights, challenging them to capture a rogue knight and dragon with the victor receiving the hand of any one of the King's princess daughters.

This is a cute and harmless comic series drawn in the manner of a Saturday morning cartoon with storylines definitely geared to very young readers. As such, it serves as a pretty decent introduction for youngsters to the fantasy genre of fiction. Its colorful, while the stories are very brief and simplistic. Most important of all, the issue is crammed with pin-ups, ads and promos of the Princeless storyverse, all of which provide a nice mix of short attention-span amusement for little kids. The second tale in the issue that features the adventure recollection of Prince Ash does have the potential of a spin-off series that could be scripted to the entertainment level of teenaged readers. But for now, what we have is a high quality fantasy comic book for little kids. So a thumbs-up positive review recommendation for you older readers to encourage younger readers to check-out this new children's fantasy comic book series.

The Bionic Woman #5
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Paul Tobin: Writer
Daniel Leister: Art
Kristy Swam: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment is up to issue #5 of its Bionic Woman comic book. Aging fanboys and fangirls will remember the popular 1970's television shows The Bionic Man and The Bionic Woman, in which the respective characters Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers were partially rebuilt with bionic parts, after which they had action adventures as federal government agents. The Bionic Woman comic book series is scripted by Paul Tobin with art by Daniel Leister and colors by Kristy Swam.

Issue #5 is the latest segment of an untitled multi-issue story arc in which Jamie tracks and confronts a criminal organization that traffics in black market bionic body parts. The first half of the issue is very dialogue-oriented, as Jamie has an extended conversation with Nora, a young woman with flame-producing powers. The focus here is Nora's struggle with her guilt over badly burning one of the black market bad guys back in issue #4. The action kicks-in midway through the story, as Jamie and Nora infiltrate the secret black market facility, where they discover a gruesome organ-harvesting operation with partially dismembered victims kept alive for their parts. Naturally, a battle ensues which builds to an end-of-the-issue cliffhanger as one of the baddies tosses Nora off of the building roof.

I really disliked this issue for two reasons. The main flaw here is the manner in which the creative team has updated the Bionic Woman story style from its 1970's television kitchiness to a 2012 version that's bloody, coldly violent and gruesome in its depiction of the story victims. The charm of the original series concept is completely erased and replaced with a gruesome style which is overly violent. Most disturbing is the casual manner in which Jamie Summers now barehandedly kills her opponents. The second negative here is artist Daniel Leister's bizarre decision to draw every woman in this comic book, and I mean every single women in this storyverse, as the drop-dead gorgeous replica of a Playboy centerfold. Its just fanboy nerd creepy when this happens as it does in the occasional comic book, and just seems more geared to a male teen-aged reader's fantasy rather than creating a product even semi-realistic and readable for general fandom.

So bottom line, a thumbs-down negative review recommendation on The Bionic Woman. If you're a fan of the 1970's version of this fiction franchise you'll just be plain depressed at how the current reboot takes all of the original style and fun out of this storyverse and if you're a new fan, you'll find that this series is just a thin replica of so many much better action-adventure series available throughout the new issue shelves at That's Entertainment.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to correctly tell us what is the most filmed fiction story of all time. We had only one correct entry this week and our winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who correctly identifies Dracula as the most filmed story in history! Congratulations to Erin who now has the opportunity (if she so wishes) to use her first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment to buy any Dracula-related stuff available in the store!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Since we're about halfway through the 2012 National Football League (NFL) season, this week's contest offers-up a football trivia question. Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, November 28 with the correct answer to the following question: What NFL team has won the most Superbowls and how many Superbowls have they won? We all know that the Yankees have won the most baseball World Series, but how many of us know which NFL team is the all-time leader in Super Bowl championship wins? 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 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 on-going specials, only.

That's all for now, so have a great Thanksgiving holiday as well as two great comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, November 30 Here In Bongo Congo!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Comic Reviews 11/4/12

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that we check-out a wide variety of new issue comic books this week, so let's get right to it and see what these new stories are all about:

Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray: Writers
Amanda Conner & Tony Akins: Pencils
Amanda Conner & Walden Wong: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors

     DC Comics has just published a new comic book entitled Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1.  For the uninitiated, the new series reinterprets traditional female DC heroes in the anime/manga style of a popular series of collectible statuettes called Ame-Comi Girls.  The kick-off issue stars a younger-than-usual teenaged version of Wonder Woman in an anime-style reinterpretation of her traditional origin story.  The new title is scripted by the well-known writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with pencils by Amanda Conner and Tony Akins, inks by Amanda Conner and Walden Wong, and colors by Paul Mounts.

     This re-telling of Wonder Woman's origin story mixes both traditional and new story plot elements. In the traditional camp, we have the world's discovery of the hidden Amazon island of Themysceria, followed by Queen Hippolyta dispatching her daughter Wonder Woman/Princess Diana as her ambassador to ally the Amazon nation with the U.S.  Diana also meets-up in her visit with Colonel Steve Trevor who plays the role of her boyfriend in most Wonder Woman storylines.  The main new plot element added to this Ame-Comi retelling of the very familiar tale is recasting Diana as a headstrong young teenager.  In addition, the issue adds two new Ame-Comi bad guy elements to this series.  In the first, while giving a speech at the U.N., Diana is attacked and ultimately captures an Ame-Comi Girls version of DC villainess The Cheetah.  In the second new development, the incident attracts the attention of the three Gotham City Sirens female baddies, who begin to plan their own scheme against Diana that will continue in the serie's next issue, Ame-Comi Batgirl #1.

     This is a fun and light comic book series that deserves a positive thumbs-up review recommendation, albeit with some qualifications.  Its definitely a high quality and entertaining read as a comic book title geared toward younger fans of the Ame-Comi Girls comic storyverse concept.  What this issue is missing is a front-of-the-book explanation of the Ame-Comi concept, so aging fanboys (and fangirls, too!) like me who aren't familiar with this wing of the DC collectibles line have at least an inkling of this nitch in the DC line-up.  My initial read of this book took place prior to learning of the existence of the Ani-Comi Girls and as such I couldn't figure-out where the heck this storyverse fit in the brave new world of DC publishing.  However, now that I know what the goal is here, I can get onboard and recommend the comic for what it truly is: an excellent example of an interpretation of DC's female heroes geared toward the younger side of the readership pool.

     There are two additional strongpoints of this effort also worth mentioning.  The first is the high quality writing and artwork by one of the better A-list creative teams in the current DC line-up.  And the second is the success in meeting the main goal of this Ame-Comi concept, that of recasting DC characters in roles that teen readers can personally identify with.  The creative team hits the bulleye of that goal not just once but twice, successfully portraying Wonder Woman as a young, headstrong teen who is as impulsive and brash as any other kid would be who wields superpowers, then portraying the four teen villainesses notsomuch as evil but moreso as bratty juvenile delinquents.  It should be fun to see how this headstrong-good-versus-bratty-bad dynamic plays-out in upcoming issues.  But don't just take my word for it: if you're a younger reader, get on down to That's Entertainment and see for yourself how this fresh and new take on the DC universe is playing-out in the all-new Ame-Comi Girls series!

He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Keith Giffen: Writer
Philip Tan: Pencils
Ruy Jose, Norman Lee, Ray Snyder & Walden Wong: Inks
Lee Loughridge: Colors

     DC Comics is up to issue #3 of a new comic book series starring He-Man.  For the uninitiated, He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe was a very popular 1980's television cartoon series based upon the He-Man line of figurines.  The show maintains a popular cult following to this day.  The He-Man storyverse is set on the mythical fantasy planet of Eternia, where young Prince Adam wields a power sword that transforms him Shazam-like into the powerful Conan-style warrior He-Man.  Our hero's main nemesis is Skeletor, whose goal is to conquer Castle Greyskull, the source of He-Man's power.  The new comic book series is scripted by veteran A-list writer Keith Giffen with pencils by Philip Tan, inks by four contributing inkers (see credits above) and colors by Lee Loughridge.

     Issue #3 presents a segment of a multi-issue storyarc entitled Blood Tide.  The plotline begins with He-Man deciding to ally himself with a female warrior named Teela as they begin a quest to discover why they suffer from an enchantment that causes them both amnesia.  The bulk of the issue subsequently alternates between two sub-plots.  In a brief storythread, we learn that baddie Skeletor has breached Castle Grayskull, imprisoning the resident sorceress and torturing her in his quest to discover what aspect of the Castle embodies He-Man's power source.  The lengthier additional sub-plot features action on the high seas; as He-Man and Teela take passage on a ship, the vessel is attacked by a Merman and his band of sea monsters on behalf of Skeletor.  The issue #3 story segment ends on a cliffhanger as the Merman and gang destroy the ship, leaving He-Man, Teela and the crew literally in a sink-or-swim situation.

     Given that this comic book is based on a line of kid's toys and figurines, I expected a storyline written to either a kid's level of reading perception or at least a degree of campiness that would bring the story down to that level.  As such, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tale that transforms the kiddie world of He-Man to an adult-level of story quality.  I actually found it absorbing to be pulled-into a high fantasy adventure series on a par with the best of the other well-known similar fantasy titles.  While the storytelling here is mature enough for readers of all ages, there's a wonderful blending-in of the light humor that Keith Giffen excels at producing in his varied scripts.  Giffen actually tones it down somewhat from his well-known wacky level of humor that's evident in such previous Giffen-scripted titles as Ambush Bug and Not The Justice League.  To his credit, the result is the perfect blend of humor, serious adventure and colorful artwork resulting in a worthy homage to the fantasy world of all things He-Man.

     So an enthusiastic positive review recommendation is earned by this fantasy adventure series.  If you're newcomer like me to He-Man you'll enjoy this take on the storyverse and if you're a old-school He-Man fan, you'll also be highly entertained by the new "adult swim" spin that the creative team puts on their reinterpretation of this popular animated series/comic book hero.

A Fine & Private Place #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Peter S. Beagle: Writer
Peter Gillis: Story Adaptor
Eduardo Francisco: Art
Priscilla Tramontano: Colors

     IDW Publishing has just published issue #1 of an adaptation of writer Peter S. Beagle's acclaimed fantasy novel "A Fine & Private Place."  The story is a fantasy love story involving both ghosts and living people set in fictional Yorkchester Cemetary.  Published in 1960, the novel is considered by many readers and reviewers as a fantasy masterpiece.  The book/comic book title is an excerpt from a well-known Andrew Marvell poem: "The grave's a fine and private place/But none, I think, do there embrace."  The premise of the plot is that contrary to that poetic verse, love can blossom among both the living and deceased in a cemetery setting.  The comic book is adapted by writer Peter Gillis (chosen for the assignment by Peter Beagle himself) with art by Eduardo Francisco and colors by Priscilla Tramontano.

     Issue #1 introduces the reader to several main characters and begins the multi-issue plotline.  We meet four key players; Jonathan Rebeck is a homeless former pharmacist who is a squatter in the cemetery and can both see and speak to the ghosts of the deceased.  He's befriended by a talking raven who protectively scrounges for and supplies Jonathan with food.  The widowed Mrs. Klapper is a cemetery visiter who befriends Jonathan.  And finally we meet the ghost of dead history teacher Michael Morgan, who has been both recently buried and may or may not have been murdered by his wife.  The confused new ghost of Michael is briefed by Jonathan that he is in a transition phase and that over the next few weeks he will slowly lose his Earthly memories and his personality as he transitions from our reality to whatever awaits his soul.  By issue's end, two plot situations have been established for upcoming story issues: Michael's resistance to his dilemma and the potential of romance between the living beings Jonathan and Mrs. Klapper.

     While I've read of and heard very good things about Peter Beagle's novel I've never read it.  But even without that prior knowledge, its clear that issue #1 is a high quality adaptation of the story.  The creative team does a wonderful job giving us an enjoyable visual and narrative presentation of the story.  Its a very absorbing tale, presented much in the manner of a stage play, with quality dialogue and intriguing story situations that move the story along and entertain the reader. Future issues will center more on the romantic side of the tale, as the relationship between Jonathan and Mrs. Klapper grows while romance blossoms between Michael and the ghost of a woman also recently buried in the cemetery.  Interspersed with that romantic element are three interesting mysteries, the first being why Jonathan is living and/or hiding-out in the cemetary, the second relating to why he can see and speak to the dead and of course, the third centering on the cause of Michael's death.

     This very well-crafted comic book adaptation also successfully crosses genre lines to encompass the fictional worlds of fantasy, romance and mid-20th century mainstream literature.  Its a rare comic book that presents this style of story, never mind succeeds as well as this one does in conveying the classic storytelling quality of the original novel.  So a definite positive review recommendation is well-deserved for A Fine And Private Place.  Stretch yourselves out of the traditional superhero comic book universe and expand your reading range with this excellent new series.  I plan on reading this entire series and then backtracking to read the original novel.  When time permits, I'll report back in a future review column with a comparison between the novel and comic book versions of this high quality tale.
 DC Universe Presents #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers & Artists

    DC comics has included in its "Before-The-New-52" inventory of #0 issues an oversized issue that presents prequel tales for five of the various New 52 heroes or action teams: OMAC, Mister Terrific, Hawk & Dove, Blackhawks and Deadman.  The idea of these issue #0's is to flashback to a few years prior to the current-day ongoings within various New 52 titles, providing the reader with a new perspective on current-day story developments and/or filling-in some background details on character development and story situations.  The five tales in this DC Universe Presents #0 issue are each created by a different team of writers and artists.

     The OMAC tale is set in Metropolis two years ago and presents story and art by veteran creators Keith Giffen and Dan Didio.  The 11-page story blends together two sub-plots; a thriller tale detailing the origin of the OMAC virus and its effect on transforming Kevin Kho into the current Hulk-like OMAC, alongside the struggle between Maxwell Lord and the orbiting artificial intelligence satellite Brother Eye which ultimately led to the current-day OMAC storyline issues.  Writer James Robinson and artist Tom Derenick present a before-the-new-52 feature starring Mr. Terrific. Its a very abstract story, in which our hero enters an alternate dimension in which he ruminates about his issues with people past and present in his life, as an origin/prequel  summation of his New 52 storyverse. 

     The Hawk and Dove tale, scripted by Rob Liefeld and drawn by Marat Mychaels, gives us an origin story of the New 52 version of this well-known Silver Age duo.  Here we learn the origin details of the team's New 52 transformation, as the original Dove steps out of the picture and is replaced by a woman named Dawn Granger.  Our fourth story is a Blackhawk tale written by Tony Bedard and penciled by Carlos Rodriguez.  Its a high action adventure in which a battle between the Blackhawks and invaders from Apokolips results in the transformation of a Blackhawk character into the New 52 superpowered being known as Mother Machine.  The final tale is a Deadman prequel also written by Tony Bedard with art by Scott McDaniel, in which Deadman interacts with the infamous one-armed man who shot and killed him back in his circus acrobat days.

     I very much enjoyed this DC Universe Presents issue for three reasons.  First, it succeeded very well in providing storyverse background on these varied DC universe characters to readers unfamiliar with their New 52 incarnations.  I personally haven't been following any of these five New 52 titles but now have a solid understanding of their current storylines as well as a desire to definitely check-out some of their ongoing issues.  Secondly, the OMAC and Blackhawk stories succeed very well in blending the Jack Kirby-created Fourth World society into DC's mainstream reality.  I was blown away by the artwork in the OMAC tale, which is frankly the best replication of Jack Kirby's unique art style that I've ever seen. 

     Third, in any multi-story oversized comic book, one can only expect that some of the stories shine and carry the issue for quality.  Happily here, the first four tales all hit the mark for story quality, artwork and filling in the blanks regarding their respective New 52 titles.  The final tale starring Deadman did fail for me; while the artwork was o.k. and the story adequately explained Deadman's New 52 worldview, the idea of Deadman interacting with his assassin was a complete dud.  Any true blue Deadman fan (myself included, or course!) will be very disappointed and let-down with the dullness of the plot.  It was also kind of weird to have Deadman interact in such a low-key way with the assasin, who was the source of his decades-long, dramatic search through the DC Comics world since the Silver Age.

     So with the exception of the Deadman dud, this DC Universe jumbo edition is well-worth the $5.99 price as an entertaining and valuable source of knowledge for understanding the goings-on in five of the titles currently available among DC's The New 52 comic book inventory.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to name the only two NFL stadiums in which New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady hasn't played yet.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) David McBarron, who correctly answered that after the recent Patriots game at Seattle the only two stadiums left for Tom Brady to play in are the home venue for the San Francisco 49ers (Brady's hometown, by the way) and the new stadium occupied by the Dallas Cowboys.  Congratulations to David who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenges you to e-mail us no later than Wednesday, November 14 with the correct answer to the following question:  What is the most filmed fiction story of all time?  Here's a hint: it falls somewhere within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and/or horror (our favorite That's Entertainment genres, of course!).  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 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 post-Halloween candy-eating weeks and see you again on Friday, November 16 Here In Bongo Congo!