Friday, January 25, 2013

Comic Book Reviews 1/26/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has found lots of fun new comic books on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, so let's get right to reviewing four of them and see how they stack-up against each other:

Madame X (One-Shot)

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Rob Williams: Writer

Trevor Hairsine: Art

Antonio Fabela: Colors

     D.C. Comics has a new one-shot Madame Xanadu comic book on the current issues shelves.  For the uninitiated, the good Madame Xanadu has been a mystical soothsayer and magic practitioner since her DC universe debut back in the 1970's.  She began her life centuries ago as Nimue, younger sister to the evil Morgan LeFey of the Camelot legend.  One of my favorite versions of Madame Xanadu was the 2008-2011 Eisner-nominated title written by Matt Wagner with art by Amy Reeder Hadley, which nicely highlighted our heroine's life experiences from her Camelot days to the modern era.  These days, Madame Xanadu is a team player in DC's Justice League Dark title.  This new one-shot Madame X comic book is scripted by Rob Williams with art by Trevor Hairsine and colors by Antonio Fabela.

     The storyline is entitled "A Voodoo Zombie Mystery!" and presents a reinterpretation of the standard Madame Xanadu storyverse.  Here, she's the former Madame X who has fallen from grace and now lives in New Orleans as Nima, eking-out a living for a local law firm whose senior partner values utilizing her soothsaying powers for his client's cases.  Our story begins as a voodoo mystery; when a prominent city councilor is murdered, the law firm represents a local voodoo priestess accused of the crime.  Nima and her law firm buddy Salinger follow an investigative trail that includes credible eyewitness accounts of a zombie committing the murder.  I won't be a spoiler and reveal the murderer, but I will comment that our pair of investigators follow a trail lined with many occult twists, turns and surprises before the true guilty party is revealed.  The one-shot storyline ends on a very dramatic bridge to potential future issues, as Nima receives a dramatic vision of her partner Salinger shooting her sometime in the future.

      This Madame X comic book is a very entertaining "what if?" reinterpretation of the traditional Madame Xanadu storyverse that succeeds for a few reasons.  First, I liked the "fallen angel" concept of Madame X, with her living as a down-and-out former superbeing/celebrity, going from nationally-renowned talk show guest/soothsayer to quietly rebuilding her life in a new town as a low-level staffer at a law firm.  The reason for her stumble in life is also very relevent to today's popular culture, as Madame X lost her fortune in a lawsuit filed by a billionaire who took offense to a Madame X prediction on his fate.  Secondly, the creative team does a great job of unfolding the plotline against the occult/voodoo background of New Orleans.  Naturally, the whole Madame X character concept fits perfectly with the spookiness of this city and results in a colorful story setting.  And third, the murder mystery element blends very nicely into this story. The occult stuff aside, the basic "whodunit" of the story is well-masked in mystery and takes some nice twists and turns to a satisfying reveal of the guilty party.

     Its clear from the dramatic nature of the story's cliffhanger ending that the creative team would like to see this one-shot title continue as a multi-issue story arc, if not a monthly regular comic book title.  Based on the high quality of the plot, artwork and the fun reinterpretation of our heroine's traditional storyverse, Madame X deserves her shot at a DC universe publishing lifeline.  So a thumbs-up positive review recommendation is well-deserved for all good DC readers to enjoy this one-shot comic book.  And here's hoping that someone at DC throws Madame X that publishing lifeline and hauls her to the safety of some future issues of the occult adventures of Nima/Madame X!

Mara #1

Publisher: Image Comics, Inc.

Brian Wood: Writer

Ming Doyle & Jordie Bellaire: Art

     Image Comics recently published issue #1 of a six-issue limited comic series entitled Mara.  As with many Image titles, this is a creator-owned project, with the creators being A-list writer Brian Wood and artists Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire.  For the uninitiated, Brian Wood is an acclaimed comic book writer known for writing scripts and creating storyverses with strong characters and dialogue on par with non-comic book fiction such as high quality novels and television series.  Among his many achievements is the award-winning and long-running DMZ comic book title.  During the past year, I wrote a favorable review of his interesting science fiction eco-adventure comic book series entitled The Massive.

      Issue #1 of Mara introduces the science fiction theme of this limited edition series.  A futuristic, highly urbanized Earth society has evolved its obsessions with world-wide sports and military action/endless warring to unheard-of heights.  The Number One celebrity in this environment is Mara, a 17-year-old teen who sits at the very top of this planetary frenzy as the world's best team volleyball star.  Not much action occurs in this kick-off issue; instead, via detailed narrative and accompanying scenes, we learn the details of Mara's ultra sports celebrity life, with the entire world endlessly watching her every public move via world-wide television.  The tale takes an unexpected turn in a concluding bridge to next month's issue, as Mara collapses during the live broadcast of one of her games and its discovered that she exhibited a weird power in which with Flash-like speed she had zoomed to the other side of the volleyball court and tapped the ball in the other team's field of play.

      I'll get right to it: this is one bizarre stinkeroo of a comic book, for so many reasons.  But for the sake of our sanity, I'll only comment on four basic flaws.  First, the art is creepily primitive and mannequin-like, with everyone depicted with the same stiff, overserious facial expression in every single panel of the comic book.  Secondly, the basic story concepts of this plot are illogical and ridiculous, even for the laid-back credibility of a fictionalized comic book reality.  I just can't buy into for one comic book reading second the concept of the entire planet going gaga over team volleyball and having the entire planet's society in a constant hyper-excited state about it all.  Third, the brief allusions to worldwide militarism being elevated to an equal pinnacle with the volleyball obsession are also weak and feel flat.  And fourth, the reveal of Mara's Flash-like power is extremely confusing. Is she using her ultra-fast powers to zip around the court and tank her opponents volleyball shots, or what? Is she aware of her behavior or is it an involuntary subconscious action?  From the poor presentation of this story scene, one just can't tell what exactly is going-on with this power.

     Even more disappointing is the unpleasant realization that this poorly-executed concept came from the pen of Brian Wood, who seems to have excelled in everything, and I mean everything, that he's previously written by presenting the reader with emotionally-riveting and realistic stories on the human condition.  It's just so unexpected to see his writing stumble so badly in this instance. On the plus side, I guess it just shows that he's as human as the rest of us and is bound to trip-up once in awhile.  On the negative side, it reaffirms for me the downside of the creator-owned concept of comic book publishing. Once in awhile the occasional dud will shove a more deserving concept out of the way, as a publisher gambles that fans of an acclaimed creator will accept even said creator's flawed, D-list ideas and products.  I've called this the "Stan Lee effect" in previous reviews and also chided Alan Moore and Warren Ellis for taking this occasional marketing misstep, with Brian Wood now joining this growing list.

     But enough venting about this disappointment.  To summarize: avoid this unentertaining, stiff failure of a comic book concept and instead enjoy Brian Wood at his best with any of the other many Brian Wood-scripted comic book titles, all available on the new issue shelves and in the back issue comic book bins at That's Entertainment.

Spaceknights #1

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Jim Starlin & Chris Batista: Writers

Chris Batista: Pencils

Chip Wallace: Inks

     Marvel Comics has recently re-booted its out-of-print Spaceknights comic book concept with a new 3-issue limited series.  Since all three issues are currently on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, I decided to review issue #1 to get a feel for this series from its beginning.  Spaceknights was created in 1979 as a tie-in for the Parker Brothers launch of their Rom, Spaceknight action figure toy.  Baby boomers may also recall the ROM comic book title of that era.  The Spaceknights are good cyborg warriors from the planet Galador who protect the universe fom the evil Dire Wraiths.  Much of the Spaceknights storyverse, from the names of individual spaceknights to the plot stylings, is a science fiction updating of the fictional tale of Camelot.  This latest Spaceknights series is scripted by A-list veteran writer Jim Starlin in partnership with Chris Batista, with art by Chris Batista and inks by Chip Wallace.

     Issue #1 actually presents two story segments in this multi-issue story arc, each of which could standalone as a full-length comic book issue.  This storyverse introduces readers to a new, younger generation of Spaceknights.  Two subplots interweave throughout the twin tales.  When Galador's leader The Prime Director is killed in off-world battle, its up to his oldest son Balin to gather-up the younger generation of new Spaceknights and go off to battle the bad aliens.  Through the journey to the off-world battle site and the early stages of the fight itself, we're introduced to a few older generation holdovers from previous Spaceknight comics along with the large group of young rookies.  A second subplot interweaves political intrigue and family strife into the storyline.  We learn that Balin is a nasty, cocky jerk who is rapidly failing as a new young leader of both his friends and his society, while his nicer young brother Tristan embodies the true values for which the Spaceknights crave for a leader.  There's also a strong political thriller element in this storyline, as its revealed that a trusted advisor to the Galador royal family is the deceitful mastermind behind the off-world strife, with the goal of destroying the royal family and becoming the new dictatorial ruler of Galador.  These sub-plot details all come together in a climactic battle scene in which a key Spaceknight is killed and good guy Tristan is blamed by the entire group for not saving his warrior partner's life.

     This is a pretty decent comic book return for this 1980's-era comic book series.  There's more storytelling substance to this multi-issue tale than one might expect for a storyverse based on a line of action figure toys.  Veteran writer Jim Starlin brings his skill and experience to the task by crafting a tale that's rich with the mix of action-adventure, political intrigue and personal relationship soap opera details for which the Arthurian legend stories are well-known for.  I particularly liked the depth of character development of the Spaceknights as well as their personal interactions with each other.  There are enough elements of romance, personality conflicts and shifting policial alliances packed into this extra-length comic book to script half a season of a television soap opera or thriller series.  Specific elements of the Arthurian legend are also nicely incorporated into this science fiction storyline, including an updating of the King Arthur sword-in-the-stone challenge, which I won't spoil with any review details.

     I also liked the mixing into the tale of two key characters from the previous generation of Spaceknights, now middle-aged in this title re-boot.  Earth girl Brandy Clark is the older, now-widowed ruler of Galador, struggling to lead her people in the interplanetary crisis, while Spaceknight Val/Sentry is a wise mentor to the young newbies, also struggling to contain the recklessness of emerging young leader Balin.  On a final review note, there's a minor but interesting story element throughout issue #1 of Galador's leader Brandy Clark facing growing prejudice from her people due to her roots as a native of Earth.  It introduces the real world issue of discrimination into this science fiction storyverse and it should be interesting to see how the creative team explores this subject as the series progresses.

     So a well-deserved positive review recommendation for this return of a fan favorite galactic adventuring series that blends old King Arthur fable elements with modern-day galactic science fiction storytelling.  And we're certainly getting our money's worth with a comic book that packs two full-length story segments into each issue for the standard price of a one-story comic book.  So get on down to That's Entertainment and enjoy this double-story comic for the price of one!

The Phantom Stranger #4

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Dan Didio & J.M. Dematteis: Writers

Brent Anderson: Pencils

Philip Tan & Rob Hunter: Inks

Ulises Arreola: Colors

     DC Comics is up to issue #4 of its Phantom Stranger re-boot within "The New 52" storyverse event.  This past September, I wrote a positive review of issue #0 in this series, which creatively filled-in some origin elements for DC's magical man of mystery, establishing his biblical origin as Judas Iscariot, having been sentenced by a Council of Wizards along with the fabled character Pandora to walk the Earth trying to make amends for their past sins.  This series also assigns the Stranger with blame for the origins of The Spectre, thereby making the two character's arch enemies of each other.  The current title is scripted by veteran A-list writer Dan Didio in partnership with J.M. Dematteis with pencils by Brent Anderson, inks by Philip Tan and Rob Hunter, and colors by Ulises Arreola.

     The issue #4 story segment is entitled "Abduction" and pits the Stranger against the Justice League Dark.  The plot begins the Stranger living a surprising secret lifestyle as a suburban husband and dad to two small children.  On a routine mall shopping trip with his wife, he's abducted to a meeting with the aforementioned Justice League Dark.  The bulk of the issue details a lengthy, mostly verbal confrontation between our hero and the League, in which League leader John Constantine pulls out all the stops in trying to get the Starnger to join the League in their latest mission against big bad evil doings.  Without being a detail spoiler, after the unsuccessful recruitment effort, the Stranger returns to his secret life to find his family abducted out of the timestream.  The issue ends in a very dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as Pandora arrives and claims that the abduction is The Spectre's latest move against the duo.

     This is one of the better of the many New 52 titles currently out on the new issues shelves.  Led by veteran writer Dan Didio, the creative team succeeds in all regards with this tale, including beautiful artwork, an interesting plot and entertaining story details. Four story elements most intrigued me in this issue.  The first is the "take-no-prisoners" personality of League leader Constantine, who plays a sharp and deadly verbal game with the Stranger in his recruitment effort, resulting in some twists that are sure to pit this tough pair against each other again very soon in this storyline.  Secondly, I enjoyed reading of the unexpected domestic side of the Stranger, in which he attempts to regain a semblance of a normal human life with his secret family.  I haven't been a regular reader of this title so I don't know about previous developments in this sub-plot, but the future possibilities of this storythread could hold some major storytelling potential.  Third, the cameos of among all of the various Justice League Dark members are both interesting and well-balanced in the space of a one-issue story segment.

     The fourth and final noteworthy story element is the bigger plotline here, that of the growing storm of confrontation pitting The Phantom Stranger and Pandora versus the omni-powerful Spectre.  The creative team is building a steady level of tension as the clouds gather for this upcoming mystical war, with the stakes and hatred ratcheting upward with the kidnapping of the Stranger's innocent family members.  All in all, this title is currently presenting a very interesting and potentially significant new line of fictional history within the DC storyverse.  So my review advice is to check-out the current issue #4, then do what I plan to do and backtrack to the previous issues before heading deeper into this storyline with upcoming monthly issues of The Phantom Stranger.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to e-mail us with your proposal for a wacky pair-up of two dissimilar comic book characters, along the lines of the recent Mars Attacks Popeye comic book.  My example suggestion was Deadpool versus My Little Pony (yeesh!).  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who offers-up the idea of pitting JarJar Binks against Sauron.  Gregory tells us "JarJar is annoying, never shuts up and looks like he would make a hilarious squishing sound if hit with a large blunt object.  Sauron is more the strong, silent ultimate badass who wields large blunt objects.  I think it has potential."  Here's hoping that we all get to see the annoying JarJar Binks get his due in Gregory's dream comic book match-up.  Congrats to Gregory who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have decreed that we offer-up to you this week the following television trivia question.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, February 6 with the answer to the following question:  What 1950's television Western series star is a direct descendent of famous frontiersman Daniel Boone?  In the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be chosen via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.  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 two great NHL-watching (welcome back, Bruins!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, February 8 Here In Bongo Congo!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Comic Reviews 1/12/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo is finding lots of interesting comic books on the new issue shelves right now, so let's kick-off the 2013 New Year with reviews of four of these new issues:

The Savage Hawkman #13
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Rob Liefeld & Frank Tieri: Writers
Joe Bennett: Pencils
Art Thibert: Inks
Guy Major: Colors

     Among the many "The New 52" titles in the current DC universe is The Savage Hawkman.  While the background and character of our favorite hot-tempered DC winged hero has been revised many times over the years, in the current title Hawkman is Katar Hol, former police officer from the planet Thanagar.  A second key member of the Hawkman storyverse is his wife Shayera.  Together they wear suits of nth armor, which gives them anti-gravity powers to bring winged justice down on all evildoers and bad guys.  The current Hawkman title is co-scripted by Rob Liefeld and Frank Tieri with pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Art Thibert and colors by Guy Major.

     Issue #13 throws the reader headfirst into major battle action with the latest segment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Enemy Of My Enemy..." The plot pits Shayera against Hawkman; believing that Hawkman has commited a serious act of treason against her family members back on Thanager, Shayera violently attacks her husband and his ally, an Earth scientist named Emma, with the intent of bringing him to justice back on their home planet.  The story segment unfolds as a no-holds barred battle between the duo, with the human Emma proving her skill and ingenuity by assisting Hawkman in the pitched conflict, while Shayera is equally assisted by a human high tech mercenary named Pike. By mid-issue, Hawkman's old foe Xerxes unexpectedly enters the fray, intent on stealing the nth armor for his own evil purposes.  While by issue's end our hero and Emma have won the battle, we're left with a "stay tuned for more" cliffhanger as the defeated Shayera and Xerxes brainstorm teaming-up for another go at the good guys in the next segment of this tale to be published in Green Arrow #14.

     This is a decently entertaining comic book that deserves a thumbs-up positive review recommendation, with the cavet that its of average entertainment quality.  On the plus side, the creative team delivers some magnificent artwork along with some wonderfully panoramic battle action scenes.  The story concept is also very entertaining, with the pitched conflict between our husband-and-wife duo clearly based on some previously-presented deception that led to the mistaking of Hawkman as a traitor to his alien people.  I also liked the brassiness of Hawkman's sidekick Emma, who basically saves the day and pulls our hero's wings out of the fire.  And the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" adage of the title takes a nice twist, as we see it unexpectedly applied to the growing alliance between Shayera and Xerxes.

     However, two concerns slightly lower the rating of this issue from high quality back into the range of average.  The first is the decision to present the story segment as almost completely all-out battle action with very little narrative development.  It is a great extended battle segment but without more dialogue-driven activity its all a very quick read, which left me with a feeling that something was missing in the way of a full issue-length story presentation.  The second concern is regarding a very muddled story segment conclusion.  While Hawkman's foes are subdued, its extremely vague and confusing as to what our hero and Emma specifically did with them, prior to a final panel of our duo flying-off into the moonlight.

     But neither point tips this comic book over into the negative review column.  So my review advice is to read this comic book knowing that its heavy on explosions at the expense of plot development, while its also very visually appealing and serves as an enjoyable action sequence before the storyline resumes and continues further, as advertised at the conclusion of this issue, in Green Arrow #13.

Shadowman #2
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher: Writers
Patrick Zircher: Art
Brian Reber: Colors

     I've recently reviewed the X-O Manowar and Archer & Armstrong comic book titles that have been revived as part of the return of the old comic book publisher Valiant Entertainment.  A third comic title that's been resuscitated by Valiant is Shadowman.  As an inside-the-front-cover narrative explains, Shadowman is Jack Boniface, a man searching New Orleans to learn about his unknown family past.  Jack quickly gets thrown into occult action-adventure as he learns that his father was Shadowman, last defender between our world and the demonic deadside.  In this title reboot, Jack becomes the new Shadowman after bonding with a Loa, a powerful voodoo spirit that provides him with immense powers to confront supernatural evil.  The series is scripted by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher, with art by Patrick Zircher and colors by Brian Reber.

     Issue #2 of this series reboot advances the plotline of a growing conflict between good and evil centered in New Orleans.  Jack is initially confronted by the demon Mr. Twist, who has been dispatched into our world by Master Darque, a major demonic figure seeking to establish a portal that would allow him to enter and conquer our world.  An intial sub-plot is all action, as Jack in his Shadowman persona is attacked by two New Orleans cops transformed into demons by Mr. Twist.  By mid-issue the plot shifts, as Jack in his daytime persona meets Dox and Alyssa Miles, two demon hunters who have a full understanding of the forces at work and offer to train and ally with the rookie demon fighter Jack/Shadowman.  The issue ends in a dramatic cliffhanger as Mr. Twist unexpectedly finds our trio and begins an attack that will play-out in next month's issue #3.

     Shadowman was a very popular and high-selling title in the 1990's, also spawning a popular video game series.  While I wasn't a reader of the earlier versions of Shadowman, I can see from this revision why the character and series was so popular.  This is a very well-constructed supernatural comic book adventure series recreated with a high quality of scripting and artwork.  The voodoo and demonology elements of the storyline fit extremely well with the atmosphere of New Orleans, making the multi-issue storyline more plausible as a comic book storyverse.  I liked the personalities of the various characters including Jack's occult-worldly new sidekicks and the demon Mr. Twist.  This current reboot apparently has revised Jack's Shadowman origin story; in this current title, he's only just learning about the occult situation and is a semi-amnesiac regarding his nightime transformation into the Loa/human hybrid demonfighter Shadowman.  It should be fun to watch Jack grow into his new role in future issues with the guidance of Dox and Alyssa.

     There's a pretty heavy level of demon-caused bloodshed, killing and gore at various points in this story, but its not over-the-top gratuitous and actually makes a lot of sense given the heavy mix of voodoo occultism, demonology and New Orleans as the background for this storyline.  So a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation for this reboot of another of Valiant's very popular line of 1990's-era comic book titles.

 Mars Attacks Popeye (One-Shot)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Martin Powell: Writer
Terry Beatty: Art & Colors

     2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the issuance back in 1962 of artist Wally Wood's famous "Mars Attacks" trading card series.  The popular series depicted an over-the-top invasion of Earth by gross-looking, big-brained evil Martians.  In 1994, the card series was re-issued and in 1996 Director Tim Burton produced a parody movie version of the series starring a large cast of Hollywood stars including Jack Nicholson.  In honor of the 50th anniversary, IDW Publishing is releasing five Mars Attacks parody comics, one during each week in January.  Each issue pairs-up the invaders against a well-known comic character, starting with Popeye and following with KISS, Ghostbusters, Transformers and Zombies Vs. Robots.  The kick-off Mars Attacks Popeye issue is scripted by Martin Powell with art and colors by Terry Beatty.

     The Popeye storyline is entitled "Panic from The Sky!" and features the entire Thimble Theatre family of Popeye characters.  Under cover of a major storm, the Martians begin their Earth invasion but quickly come under the hypnotic control of Popeye's archnemesis The Sea Hag.  Naturally, she turns the focus of the invasion on Popeye and the good people of his seaport town of Sweethaven.  Two sub-plots interweave throughout the storyline.  In the first, Prof. Wotasnozzle and Eugene The Jeep work to steal a Martian weapon and tinker with it to turn its effects back on the invaders.  In our second storythread, Popeye focuses of pulling together recruits to fight the invaders.  The action builds to a big Popeye-style fight between the Martians and our hero, replete with Popeye and his Pappy downing their famous cans of spinach to gain super-strength.  Its not being a story spoiler to report that in the end our hero saves the day, but I'll leave it to you good readers to enjoy the details for yourselves.

     This comic book along with the rest of this one-shot series is a gem of an entertaining and original creative idea, just the perfect style of campiness and kitsch to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this pop culture baby boom-era science fiction trading card phenomenon.  The brilliance of this issue is the idea of sticking to the traditional "Thimble Theatre" visual and narrative style of the Popeye comic book franchise, while slyly inserting the world of "Mars Attacks" into this storyverse.  The result is a ton of fun, with two particular elements serving as major stand-outs.  First is the success of the creative team in balancing all of the Popeye cast members into this one-shot tale.  From the aforementioned characters to Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Alice The Goon and others, everyone gets a major role in this extravaganza.  Secondly, the creative team softens the persona of the Martians to neatly fit into the general warmth and kindness of the Popeye comic book franchise.  Sure they're still visually scary-looking a la the Wally Wood trading card creation, but their savagery is replaced here with an Abbott and Costello-like goofiness.  They're all bark with just a little bit of bite, whcih results in the very successful mash-up of what seems like two incompatible storyverses.

     Pop culture re-mixes of this level of freshness and high quality entertainment don't come along very often.  If just the sound of the title "Mars Attacks Popeye" doesn't grab you, the fun details of the story between the goofy covers surely will.  So by all means, get on-board this limited 5-issue series with Mars Attacks Popeye and stick with it for all five weeks of January to see how each of our well-known Earth comic book heros or teams fair against our aging, 50-year-old anniversary invaders from the red planet!

New Avengers #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Steve Epting: Pencils
Rick Magyar & Steve Epting: Inks
Frank D'Armata: Colors

     As part of its Marvel Now! storyverse re-boot, Marvel has published issue #1 of a revamped New Avengers comic book.  The new series is scripted by Jonathan Hickman with pencils by Steve Epting, inks by Rick Magyar and Steve Epting, and colors by Frank D'Armata.  The membership of this rebooted Avengers team includes The Beast, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Reed Richards and Namor the Submariner.  I was attracted to reviewing this comic book when I noticed its been placed in the creative hands of Hickman and Epting, known among their previous achievements as the creative team behind the critically acclaimed revamping of The Fantastic Four.

     The kick-off story arc is entitled "Memento Mori" and begins with a flashback subplot identifying this team of heroes as the Illuminati, the previously-revealed clandestine group of Marvel superheros who supposedly have been secretly directing major world events for decades.  We learn from this flashback that T'Challa/The Black Panther was the one dissenter who walked away from the original formation of the secret group.  The bulk of the issue follows-up this flashback with present-day action-adventure in The Black Panther's African kingdom of Wakanda.  Initially, T'Challa and three of his kingdom's teenaged science students stumble through a portal into an alternate reality version of his nation.  Things go bad very quickly when they confront an alternate reality superwoman named Black Swan who is leading a military/science team through space/time with the intent of wiping-out various alternate versions of Earth.  Without spoiling any details, our hero and his sidekicks fail in their initial attempt to stop Black Swan.  Upon return to our Earth, Black Panther has no choice but to swallow his distaste and turn to the Illuminati to try and stop this multi-verse armageddon.

     I've mentioned in many previous reviews that I'm a huge Jonathan Hickman fan due to his creative style of bringing epic, universe-spanning traditional hard science fiction storytelling into the Marvel comic book universe.  While he also naturally brings that unique writing skill to this new title, he balances it nicely with some storytelling at the more individual character level, moreso than he has in his previous grand multi-issue tales.  There's some nice interaction and dialogue between T'Challa and his three students that adds more of a real world credibility to this story and balances nicely with the grander save-the-world-or-else themes of this latest Hickman-Epting adventure collaboration.  A positive tip-of-the-review-hat is also well-deserved for the art team, who do a wonderful job of giving us high quality visualizations that differ in style between the flashback panels, the Earth scenes and the alternate Earth stylings.

     So all-in-all, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is warranted for both the general story concept of this New Avengers reboot as well as the approach that Hickman and the rest of the creative team take in presenting this superhero/science fiction hybrid adventure series.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to correctly identify how much water is on the entire planet Earth, based upon generally-accepted scientific calculations.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Keith Martin, who correctly submitted the amount of 326,000,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water on Earth.  That's pronounced as 326 million trillion gallons of water. That's a lot of water!  Congratulations to Keith who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     Our review of the new "Mars Attacks Popeye" comic book inspired the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges with an interesting new contest theme.  Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, January 23 with your own suggestion for a comic book one-shot issue that would feature an unexpected and interesting mash-up of two seemingly imcompatible characters or teams of characters.  Think along the unique lines of Mars Attacks Popeye for your own suggestion such as My Little Pony vs. Deadpool (yikes!) and you get the picture of this particular contest challenge.  We'll forward all interesting entries to the applicable comic book publishers and see if they generate any real comics down the line.   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 two great NFL play-off watching (Go Patriots!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, January 25 Here In Bongo Congo!