Friday, March 29, 2013

Comic Reviews 3/29/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that our theme this week is to review alternate versions of traditional superhero storyverses, with three reviewed comics presenting either alternate realities or alternate versions of their character's well-known personalities.  We're reviewing three comics this week instead of our usual four titles, in order to make room in this column for the following announcement:

William Watts "Buck" Biggers (1927-2013)

     Our friend and colleague Ron Niquette of Rising Moon Genealogy, Inc. informed us this past week of the passing of television animation giant William Watts "Buck" Biggers.  Biggers was actually living in Manomet, Massachusetts when he passed away on February 10, 2013 at the age of 85.  He's best known as the creator of of Underdog, the popular 1960's television cartoon starring our favorite canine superhero along with such supporting characters as Sweet Polly Purebread and Simon Bar Sinister.   But we honor him today at the top of this column for his role as the creator of our namesake, Good King Leonardo.  In his first 1960's animated series entitled "King Leonardo and his Short Subjects," he created the King himself, the King's supporting characters led by True Blue Odie and the entire talking animal kingdom of Bongo Congo. Other well-known 1960's animated television series created by Biggers, his working partners and studio staff included Tennesse Tuxedo and His Tales, Go Go Gophers, Tooter Turtle, The World Of Commander McBragg and Klondike Kat. 

     As an interesting trivia footnote, Biggers based his Total TeleVision (TTV) Studio here in Massachusetts on Cape Cod, creating and managing all of his successful 1960's television titles locally "on the Cape" with the animation produced at Gamma Studios in Mexico.  He closed Gamma Studios at the end of the 1960's due to the loss of General Mills as chief financial sponsor and headed to NBC for a successful stint as Vice-President of Creative Services.  Eventually relocating back to Cape Cod, he co-founded Victory Over Violence, a Boston-based organization dedicated to developing positive attitudes to counter the growing cynicism and negativity in the media with which we're all unfortunately too familiar.  He often used Underdog as a promotional character for Victory Over Violence's efforts.

     While all baby boomer fanboys and fangirls are grateful for the many wonderfully creative and entertaining television series created by Mr. Biggers, I'm particularly grateful for his inspiration that led to our Here In Bongo Congo comic book review column concept.  So Good King Leonardo hereby dedicates this biweekly issue of our column to the recent passing of Mr. William Watts "Buck" Biggers, as well as all future issues of our column to both his memory and inspiration.

Ame-Comi Girls #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palimiotti & Justin Gray: Writers
Eduardo Francisco: Art
David Lopez & Santi Casas: Colors

     I've reviewed a few issues of the previous DC Ame-Comi Girls title and thought it would be worthwhile to check-out issue #1 of DC's second phase revamping of this series.  For the uninitiated, the series reinterprets traditional female DC heroes in an alternate, anime-style style of their personas as younger-than-usual teenaged characters.  The comic book is based on a popular series of Ame-Comi Girls collectible statuettes.  While the previous title focused on individual female heroes in alternating adventures, the new title brings the entire cast together in a wide-ranging large team adventure.  The revamped series is co-written by A-list writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Eduardo Francisco and colors by the team of David Lopez and Santi Casas.

     Issue #1 is the kick-off of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Rise Of The Brainiac."  The creative team presents a very fast-paced action tale in which a large team of Ame-Comi Girls fights an Earth-invading, Ame-Comi teenaged female version of traditional Superman Family foe Brainiac.  Four sub-plots weave together thoughout the issue: While Batgirl works to disrupt Brainiac within the invader's large spaceship, Powergirl confronts an army of Brainiac-controlled robots beneath the Earth's surface.  In the meantime, teen female versions of Wonder Woman, Robin, Catwoman, Steel and The Flash have a drag-out fight with Supergirl, who's turned evil from exposure to black kryptonite.  And in a fourth plot thread, Ame-Comi versions of Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Duela Dent break their alliance with Brainiac and side with our heroes in the pitched battle to save the entire human race from Brainiac's brain-sucking evil plot.  I won't spoil any of the many sub-plot details here, except to say that the battle continues into next month's issue #2 on a cliffhanger in which Power Girl is in mortal danger in her section of the battle.

     This is a high quality and entertaining comic book for a few reasons.  First, in keeping with this week's "alternate reality" review theme, writers Palmiotti and Gray do a great job in recrafting the traditional roles of our well-known superheroes and villains into the Ame-Comi version of the DC Universe.  Even more fun is the creative idea of redesigning or replacing male DC stars with female teenaged versions, including Brainiac himself, Robin, Steel, The Flash and Duela Dent.  The plotline is also top notch, presenting exciting, non-stop battle action with a substantial narrative plot that all balances together into a wild and fun superhero storyline.  Third, the new title meets the series goals of smoothly bringing-together the indivdual character storylines that were presented in the previous Ame-Comi Girls title.  As a reader of that series, its a lot of fun to see the second phase of this title evolve the ongoing story situations into one large group feature.

      On a constructive criticism note, I was surprised to see that the current artistic team seems to have abandoned the title's previous anime-oriented visual style for a more traditional artistic approach.  While there's some anime visual element evident, the characters are mostly presented in a traditional rendering style, albeit younger versions of their usual adult selves.  But that's a minor criticism, given the overall fun and entertainment value of this comic book.  So a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation for all Good DC Readers to by all means check-out this excellent latest version of DC's ongoing storyverse of Ami-Comi Girls!

Dark Avengers #187
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jeff Parker: Writer
Neil Edwards: Pencils
Terry Pallot: Inks
Chris Sotomayor: Colors

     Marvel's Dark Avengers title is currently all the way up to issue #187.  As regular readers know, this particular title among the many Avengers titles features a team of supervillains assembled by bad guy Norman Osborn who, unknown to the public, are masquerading as the Avengers.  The series began in 2009 with A-list writer Brian Michael Bendis at the scripting helm.  After 16 issues, it shifted over to the Thunderbolts title with issue #175 of that series, which was retitled to Dark Avengers and continued the issue numbering of that previous comic book line.  The series is currently written by Jeff Parker with pencils by Neil Edwards, inks by Terry Pallot and colors by Chris Sotomayor.

     The current multi-issue story arc is an alternate reality tale entitled "The World Is A Dangerous Place."  A front-page summary of the story so far explains that the Dark Avengers have been tossed into an alternate reality version of New York City, in which Earth's well-known Marvel heroes have splintered into rival factions, each of which controls a section of the City.  The storyline of the current issue alternates among a few sub-plots in which the scattered Dark Avengers have conflicts with evil versions of our world's superheros.  Without revealing specific details, conflicts include the team members battling an evil Ben Grimm/The Thing, interacting with a really evil version of Iron Man who's oppressing both the alternate world's version of Hank Pym/Ant Man as well as a clone of Thor, and dealing with a nasty street crew who include in their ranks alternate versions of Hawkeye, Spiderman and Daredevil, among others.  The issue concludes in a very dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as it appears that the evil Ben Grimm has killed a key member of the Dark Avengers.

      This is an intriguing alternate version of the Marvel Universe that deserves a positive review recommendation, although there's one negative story concept that holds it back from the ranks of the highest quality category of comic tale.  Writer Jeff Parker does a stand-up job of recrafting many of our favorite Marvel storyverse heroes into alternate reality versions of themselves, with personalities that range from pure evil to just plain nasty folk.  While the evil Ben Grimm is a run-of-the-mill character, the evil Iron Man is frankly chilling and the alternate Spiderman is insect-like creepy to the point where he just might be non-human under that mask.  The overall result is a fresh perspective on the world of Marvel Comics with a really neat science fiction feel to the whole concept.  Hats-off is also due to the art team, which provides the right visual style for this type of comic book tale.

     As I mentioned above, one story element does keep this comic book in the "very good" category as opposed to an exemplary product, and that's the desnity of the presented sub-plots.  There's just so much story action and narrative detail jammed into the quickly alternating sub-plots, featuring a huge cast of characters, that the storyline is hard to understand in some places.  This overstuffed format also seems to rush the plot along at too fast a pace for absorbing the story progression for a normal read.  Similar to some other overly jam-packed comics that I've previously reviewed, we'd all be better entertained if the creative team took a deep breath and adjusted the story pace and alternating sub-plots down to a routine speed, making the multi-issue story arc reading experience all the better.

      To be honest, due to the story pacing, I had to re-read the issue a second time to get a good feel for everything that's frantically going-on in the many corners of this wide-ranging alternate reality tale.  But it is a unique and extremely interesting story and as such well-worth it for readers to check-out, although you'll be back-checking a bit to keep-up with all the good story stuff happening in this exciting Dark Avengers action-adventure.

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #22
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Sam Humphries: Writer
Joe Bennett: Pencils
Ruy Jose: Inks
Matt Milla: Colors

      Literally "the ultimate" in alternate reality superhero comics being published these days is Marvel's Ultimates comic book universe, in which the basics of the well-known Marvel Avengers superhero personalities and traditional fictional roles are often altered to the extreme from their familiar fictional roots.  The Ultimates concept was launched in 2002 and rebranded in 2011 with writer Jonathan Hickman at the helm as "Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates."  The series is currently up to issue #22 and is scripted by Sam Humphries with pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Ruy Jose and colors by Matt Milla.

     Issue #22 is the latest installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Reconstruction." A front page narrative summarizes the story so far: In the wake of previous major conflicts among the Marvel heroes and within U.S. society, Captain America is now the U.S. President and struggles to manage many domestic threats, including terrorism by HYDRA and a successionist movement by the state of California.  The current issue plot consists of three storythreads.  In the first, Cap-As-President has a verbal confrontation in Washington with one of the leaders of the California successionist effort, who isn't intimidated at all by Cap's national leadership.   Our second storythread is more action-adventure, as in a flashback we learn the brief history of a previous team of government-enhanced metahumans who were put in stasis by the Feds due to their dangerous personality traits.  The third sub-plot focuses on Tony Stark/Iron Man, who has a brain tumor that he's personalized within his perception of reality as a young child named Anthony, as a means of controlling the tumor and enhancing his intellectual abilities.  The issue ends in a dramatic bridge bringing together all three sub-plots, as the California rebels defy Cap by unleashing the hidden unstable metahuman team with a vicious attack directly on Tony Stark.

     Much credit is due to the creative team in living up to this title's name and giving us an ultimate, extreme alternate reality version of our familiar Marvel storyverse.  Writer Sam Humphries rolls the dice with his extreme restructuring of this reality and the result in a very creative and entertaining story structure and plot.  Beyond just the basic factual reality changes, two particular creative plot elements stand-out in this tale.  The first is the personality trait of Captain America.  His persona is one of aloof authority and commanding behavior; rather than roll up his sleeves and work on government issues, he arrogantly tells all parties involved in these topics to go and work out their own differences.  I loved one scene in which he locks two cabinet members in the Oval Office, telling them that he'll return when they work their differing opinions out.  Its a childish, overly simplistic attitude toward governing that's clearly a failure and already leading to some very bad consequences evolving in the story.

     The second story element stand-out is the very unique idea of Tony Stark's coping with his brain tumor.  It's abstract and kind of wacky, but Stark's literal visualizing of his tumor as a kid named Anthony who hangs out with him in his penthouse is an extremely creative and ultimate (no pun intended) plot twist that fits very well into the situation.  In Stark's parental role to this vision, he's able to both control the tumor and use that afflicted part of his brain to its unusual intellectual ability as a junior partner in his creative efforts.  There are a ton of intriguing storyline possibilities within his concept, and it should be very interesting to see which direction among them that writer Humphries selects to advance this weird but impressive plot idea.

     So all-in-all, while all three of our reviews this week present excellent alternate reality superhero comic book stories, Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #22 advances this story concept to the farthest reaches of the alternate reality story genre.  If you're looking for an entertaining story that really pushes the envelop of this type of storytelling, then this issue is clearly for you!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our contest this week was another Worcester trivia question, challenging you to identify two famous and very popular baby boomer-era businesses in Worcester that had the word "House" in their business names.  Although a few people gave it a try, for the first time in a few years, no one correctly answered our contest.  The correct answers are "The White House," which was a very popular local restaurant on Park Avenue and "The Treasure House," which was a coin and stamp hobby shop located downtown across from City Hall on Franklin Street. Both businesses flourished for decades until they closed sometime in the late 1970's-early 1980's.

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have decreed that we offer-up a television trivia contest this week.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, April 3 with the correct answer to the following.  Correctly fill-in the blanks identifying the first names of the following three current regular characters on three of the most popular shows currently on t.v.: __________ Sciuto, __________ Hofstadter and __________ Nahasapeemapetilon.  All three shows that these characters star on are ranked number one these days in at least one category of television viewing.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be selected 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 beginning-of-Springtime (finally!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 5 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Comic Reviews 3/8/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review four new comic books this week that will hopefully serve to cheer us up through the final slushy days of winter.  So let's get right to it and see if we picked four Spring-heralding winners:

Justice League Of America #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Geoff Johns: Writer
David Finch: Artist
Sonia Oback & Jeromy Cox: Colors

     DC's latest big event is a Justice League re-boot that restores the team membership to a modified version built around the core of the original Silver Age cast.  There's also an issue #1 marketing gimick featuring 53 variant front covers of team members raising a large flag per the iconic World War II Iwo Jima flag-raising.  The flags featured among the varied covers are the American flag, the 50 state flags and the flags of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  The new series is scripted by veteran writer Geoff Johns with art by David Finch and colors by Sonia Oback and Jeromy Cox.

     Issue #1 is the first segment of a multi-issue storyarc entitled "World's Most Dangerous."  The plot is an intricately-detailed weaving of two sub-plots that focus on creating this new Justice League of America team from scratch.  The main storyline centers upon the federal government charging Wonder Woman's ex-boyfriend, Colonel Steve Trevor, to serve as a government liaison in convincing various A-list D.C. heroes to assemble as a new Justice League of America.  Without spoiling any details, Trevor focuses on his assigned players and by issue's end has firmed-up the new League to include Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Hawkman, Katana Vibe, Stargirl, Martian Manhunter, Catwoman and a few listed others not featured in this premier issue.

     Our second sub-plot follows the bloody escape effort by a presumed villain being pursued by the Big Three of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.  In a surprise twist, our barely alive escapee makes his way to Colonel Trevor and its revealed he's actually a classic DC universe superhero conducting an undercover surveillance operation.  And in a less dramatic but just-as-important bridge to next month's issue, Colonel Trevor also learns at issue's end that the federal objective of creating a new Justice League "of America" is to replace the existing, more worldwide version of the Justice League with a more traditional, American-based version of the ever-evolving team.

     This "Of America" re-boot of the Justice League is a smash success in four big ways.  First and foremost, the issue presents one of writer Geoff Johns' best scripts of the past few years.  As I mentioned above, Johns weaves an intricate tale, in which Colonel Trevor and his government handler must weave a careful strategy to convince these reluctant loner heros to band together into a new League.  The resulting fresh and fascinating game is part-blackmail, part psychological warfare and all-entertaining, as one-by-one the players are forced or duped into their designated roles.  The second plus here is the plot premise that the Feds wish to replace the up-and-running Justice League with a new, more American-based retro team.  I haven't been reading the recent Justice League comic book title, but there's clearly some great storytelling potential for upcoming issues to pit this new team against both the space station-based version of the Justice League as well as the Justice League Dark version of the League.

     Third, there's a brief but very effective sub-plot introduced in which the Feds are frankly scared of any possible outcomes to the budding romance between Superman and Wonder Woman, ranging from producing a family of superkids to fall-out damage to society if these two ever have a superviolent break-up.  Again, there could be some amazingly creative future storylines about the impacts of this superpowered celebrity pairing.  And last but hardly least, the mystery and reveal of the undercover, barely alive (or dying) team member adds a very creative element into this new storytelling mix.  I personally can't wait to see how writer Johns explains why our good guy was being pursued to the brink of death by the Big Three A-list heroes of the DC storyverse.  So while the variant front cover marketing gimmick is a lot of fun, there's a lot more substance behind the covers of this wonderful and very high quality reboot to Justice League of America.  Feel free to collect all of the variant cover versions that you wish to, but at the very least, pick-up one copy of the very entertaining issue #1 of this new series.  You won't be disappointed!

It Girl And The Atomics #7
Publisher: Image Comics
Jamie S. Rich: Writer
 Mike Norton: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

     Image Comics is currently up to issue #7 of its It Girl & The Atomics comic book series.  This is a follow-up series to Mike Allred's "The Atomics" comic book title that was initially published about 12 years ago.  The tongue-in-cheek series features a 1950's beatnik-style group of misfit superheroes, led by Dr. Gillespie Flem.  The current title features It Girl front-and-center, with The Atomics more in the roll of a supporting cast.  Our heroine's power seems to be the ability to convert herself into whatever type of material she touches at the time (i.e., becoming hard steel when touching a shovel, etc.).  While the series was created by the well-known writer-artist Mike Allred, the title is currently being written by Jamie S. Rich with art by Mike Norton and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

     Issue #7 kicks-off a new multi-issue storyarc entitled "The World Is Flat."  The plot features espionage adventure, as It Girl parachutes into a Swiss Alps-type setting to rescue an inventor named Professor Osamu from kidnappers.  Overtaken and imprisoned with the professor, It Girl learns that he's the keeper of an extraordinary invention which is still in his possession.  The second half of the issue is an extended escape attempt/confrontation with the kidnappers.  The issue ends in mid-fight, where It Girl discovers that a pair of the kidnappers are robots instead of human.

     This is a disappointing production of a pretty creative idea.  While hats-off is due to Mike Allred for creating a fun and funky beatnik-style riff on superheroing, this current version of his creation fails on several counts.  First, writer Jamie Rich stumbles out of the gate with a poorly conceived storyline that's both thin on plot detail (see extremely brief story outline above) and sloppy in omitting the little details that make a story enjoyable, from identifying the story setting to including some basic narrative details.  Secondly, while one goal here is to present a humorous story in the style of an old-time Saturday morning cartoon, that presentation style doesn't seem to translate well in this particular instance to the comic book page.  Again, the story details just seem unusually thin and overly simplistic, to the point where it feels as if we have about 6 pages of routine story detail overly thinned-out into a full-length issue's worth of story panels.

     My third problem with this comic is the front cover pitch proclaiming the comic as "Michael Allred's It Girls & The Atomics."  This marketing blurb, combined with Allred himself drawing the front cover, misleads readers into mistakenly believing that they're buying an Allred-produced comic book with the attending high quality that goes along with most of this A-list creator's productions.  Instead, we're left with a shadow of an Allred knock-off which just doesn't make the entertainmnet grade per the reasons that I've spelled-out above.  So bottom line review recommendation: skip this one and instead check-out any of the many fine comic book titles actually produced by Mike Allred himself, all available on the new issues shelves and in the back issue bins at That's Entertainment.

Alpha: Big Time #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Joshua Hale Fialkou: Writer
Nuno Plati: Art

     Marvel Comics recently published issue #1 of a new mini-series entitled "Alpha: Big Time."  For the uninitiated, Alpha is Andy Maguire, a Pittsburgh teenager who on a school fieldtrip to Peter Parker's Manhattan-based Horizon Labs gets doused with "Parker Particles" in a lab accident, thereby endowing him with superpowers.  Marvel Comics introduced Maguire in its main Spiderman title, leading up to the recent issue #700 mega-event in which Dr. Octopus pulled-off a mind-body switch with Parker that resulted in our original webslinging hero (supposedly) dying in Doc Ock's body.  Alpha's role in the Spiderman storyverse prior to the issue #700 climax was to develop an overblown ego and mishandle his powers, putting so many people in harm's way that the pre-switch Parker deactivated the teen's powers for both his own good and the safety of all around him.  This new mini-series picks-up with Maguire's post-deactivation life and is scripted by Joshua Hale Fialkou with art by Nuno Plati.

     The issue #1 story segment is entitled "I Used To Be Big Time" and plays-out in three plot segments.  Act One provides a narrator's update of Andy/Alpha's backstory, while also presenting his fall from grace in the high school food chain, from the glory of his superhero days hobnobbing with the "beautiful teens" back down to the cafeteria lunchtable for losers.  The Act Two mid-section of the tale reunites Andy with Parker.  During Andy's monthly required check-in at Horizon Labs, the Doc Ock-possessed Parker unexpectedly decides to restore our hero's powers.  At the end of a multi-page lab procedure process, Andy's initially received a 10% restoration of his previous level of powers.  Parker/Doc Ock sends the kid back out into the world of superheroing charged with the mantra that "with great power comes great opportunity."  In Act Three, Andy returns to the crime-fighting scene in his hometown of Pittsburgh and immediately puts his restored powers to work.  After successfully helping firefighters put-out a building fire, he intercedes in a sidewalk robbery which results in disastorous consequences as a bridge to next month's issue #2.

     As a baby-boomer fanboy, I'm usually wary of the periodical efforts of both Marvel and DC to make-over the basic story structures of their A-list superheros.  As such, I've stayed away from the aformentioned "death of Spiderman" storyline, fearing that its either one of those routine temporary hero deaths for marketing purposes or alternately a sincere effort to restructure a hero's story world that strays too far from the path of my Silver Age superheroing tastes.  That said, this mini-series deserves to be reviewed on its own merits and in that respect its a very well-produced and entertaining comic book title for a few reasons.  I enjoyed very much the concept of Andy's personality and story situation.  As the creative team writes in a post-story narrative, while Andy follows in the well-worn footsteps of teen hero Spiderman, he's much more of a real-word teen who's part-has been, part-bumbling teen and part-B list jerk in the local high school social setting.  But writer Fialkou constructs Andy as a jerk with a heart of gold.  When instructed by the secretly evil neo-Parker that "with great power comes great opportunity," the kid's goodnaturedness leads him to interpret its meaning as great opportunity to help people.  Thus, we can't help but root for this loser, hoping that his second chance at greatness pans-out.

     In addition to Fialkou's top-notch script, a tip-of-the-review-hat is equally due to artist Nuno Plati for his excellent artistic style and panel presentations.  I'm not familiar with either member of the creative team but sure look forward to reading a lot more of their work, both in upcoming issues of this limited series and in other comic book titles.  So whether you're happy, sad or still on-the-fence in your opinion regarding the recent major overhaul of the all-things-Spiderman universe, I strongly recommend giving this very creative and fun new addition to the Spiderman family of comic book titles a well-deserved read.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Katie Cook: Art
Andy Price: Art
Heather Breckel: Colors

     A few columns ago, for our "odd hero pairings" contest I made a joke suggesting "Deadpool versus My Little Pony" as an example of the type of wacky pairings that we were looking for among the contest submittals.  Given both that joke and the fact that we're overdue to review another child-oriented comic book, I thought we'd round-out this week's column with a review of (you guessed it) "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1," the latest in a line of several My Little Pony comic book titles published by IDW Publishing.  For the uninitiated, My Little Pony is a line of very popular plastic pony toys created by Hasbro back in the early 1980's.  The design of the figures has undergone major changes over the decades to keep it fresh and popular among new generations of kids.  The toys come in a wide range of bright colors and feature various symbols on the ponies' flanks, called "cutie marks."  This new comic book title is scripted by Katie Cook with art by Andy Price and colors by Heather Breckel.

     Issue #1 kicks-off a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Return Of Queen Chrysalis."  The plot is a take-off on the trend of zombie stories that are currently very popular in film, as well as the classic horror film "Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers."  While galevanting around their pony town/village, a group of the young horses notice that most of the village is acting weird.  It turns-out that everyone's being replaced by evil changling ponies led by Queen Chrysalis, apparently a bad guy staple in the My Little Pony storyverse.  The changlings entrap their victims in gooey pods and then take their place around town, acting zombie-like.  Without giving away any details, by issue's end our initial group of ponies saves the day and beats back the invaders.  The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to issue #2 as Queen Chrysalis takes three of the ponies hostage and the main group has three days to travel to her evil land and save the entrapped trio.

     This is lighthearted fare that succeeds as a high quality kid's comic book.  It's best quality is that the creative team actually shares an issue-long confidential laugh with the reader regarding the obvious oversappiness of the "everything's a rainbow" style of this little girl's toy franchise.  There's a continual, subtle theme in this story in which the ponies sometimes step out of goody-two-shoes mode and act a bit like the characters out of a Mad Magazine satire, which makes this comic book equally entertaining for the little kids who won't notice the satirical barbs and for the parents who are reading this comic book to their young children.  While I couldn't bring myself to try and differentiate among the very numerous names and personalities of the many little ponies featured in the issue, the creative team has varied their looks and personality traits enough that young readers most likely would really get into choosing their favorite characters to follow in the title.

     As a final review comment, its worth noting that the issue also includes a second, two-page story written and drawn by Katie Cook that's a cute humorous scene geared toward very young readers.  So a definitive positive review recommendation for this latest addition to the IDW Publishing stable (pun intended!) of My Little Pony comic book titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to fill-in the blank in the following statement from a very popular 2005 MTV music video:  "Before there was Weezer there was _______."  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who correctly completed the sentence as "Before there was Weezer, there was Weeze."  The band referred to, of course, is the alternative rock band Weezer.  This popular and very funny video spoofs the rock star celebrity life by presenting a fake flashback to the band's origins; originally known as Weeze, the fictional group is led by an out-of-control lead singer played by actress Elisha Cuthbert, who's replaced in the video's conclusion by actual Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo.  The video is a fun satire of eccentric rock star personalities and is also well-known for including in several scenes actual Weezer fans who responded to a casting call.  Congratulations to our Weezer-knowledgeable contestant Erin, 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 its time again for a Worcester local history trivia contest question.  So your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, March 20 with the answer to the following question.  From at least the 1950's through the early 1980's, there were two very popular local Worcester businesses with "House" in their names, "The White House" and "The Treasure House."  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, March 20 and tell us what specific type of business each of these "houses" were in.  Here's a hint to jog your history memories: one of these houses was located on Park Avenue while the other "house" was located on Franklin Street in the heart of downtown.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be selected 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 Boston Celtics-watching (keep that hot win-streak going!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, March 22 Here In Bongo Congo