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!

No comments:

Post a Comment