Friday, December 27, 2013

Comic Reviews 12/27/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has selected an eclectic mix of new comic book titles for our 2013 year-end review column, so let's get right to it and see how these various new issues stack-up against each other:
Doc Savage #1

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Chris Roberson: Writer

Bilquis Evely: Art

Daniela Miwa: Colors

     Dynamite Entertainment has added to its ever-growing inventory of Pulp-Era comic book titles with the release of Doc Savage #1.  Most baby boomer pulp fans are familiar with the 1930's-era action-adventurer from the very popular 1960's-1970's series of Doc Savage paperback novels, published by Bantam Books and known for their iconic front cover portraits of the golden-hued Doc, symbolic of his full title of Doc Savage, The Man Of Bronze.  The new Dynamite series is scripted by veteran writer Chris Roberson with art by Bilquis Evely and colors by Daniela Miwa.

     Issue #1 presents a one-issue, stand-alone story plot set in 1933 New York City that alternates between two storythreads.  In the shorter sub-plot, we're introduced to the college professor/adventurer Doc and his merry team of fellow adventurers, including sidekicks Monk, Ham, Johnny, Long Tom and Renny. The more substantial storyline throws the crew into a New York mystery adventure, as they track an unknown scientist who is operating a device in mid-town Manhattan that drives ordinary citizens into a mindless, violent rage. Without being a detail spoiler, Doc and his team use their mix of unique science and sleuthing skills to learn the details of the phenomenon, track the bad guy scientist and confront him atop the Empire State Building with a satisfying conclusion to the adventure.

     My fanboy reading interest in Doc Savage goes back to that iconic run of 1960's-70's era Bantam paperback books, and ever since then I've gone out of my way to read at least a few issues of each successive Doc Savage comic book title that periodically reaches the new issues shelves.  As such, I'm pleased to report that with the exception of one production element, this is the best comic book format Doc Savage title that I've come across to-date, for a few reasons. Veteran writer Chris Roberson's writing skills are front-and-center with a high quality script that delivers in two ways. First, it beautifully replicates the Art Deco culture of 1933 New York City, from the characters' speaking dialogue to their style of dress and onto the great architectural background of 1933 New York City itself.  Secondly, the action-adventure of the plot successfully incorporates the 1930's Pulp Era-style of magazine adventure storytelling, as Doc and crew use that era's analog-style of technical knowledge to advance their adventure sleuthing.

     Third, writer Chris Roberson incorporates a neat element of ongoing tension in the Doc Savage storyverse, explaining that Doc has an aversion to the flaws in New York's criminal justice system, leading him to try and address criminal behavior outside of the law.  There are references to a secret Arkham Asylum-like facility that he runs to try and scientifically "cure" criminals of their behavior, which should lead to some interesting upcoming story segments.  Finally, I was intrigued by a notice in the back of the issue that the comic book's timeperiod will be moved-up in issue #2 from 1933 to 1949.  I think that's a good move, as the issue #1 origin storyarc gave us a nice 1933 feel for Doc's origin's while the post-World War II era setting will allow for an entertaining hybrid of Golden Age and more modern-era story structuring that 2013 readers might find somewhat more relevant.

     As for that one constructive criticism element mentioned above, unfortunately artist Bilquis Evely's penciling style is extremely stiff and primitive. While on its own it takes away from some of issue #1's quality, fortunately Chris Roberson's A-Plus storytelling saves the day for an overall high quality production.  So whether you're an old-school Doc Savage fan like me, a newcomer to the Doc or a fan that falls somewhere in-between the two extremes, you'll be well-entertained with this excellent return of this iconic Pulp-Era action-adventurer.  And a well-deserved Tip-Of-The-Review-Hat to Dynamite Entertainment, a publisher that's second-to-none these days in offering a wide-range of very high quality Pulp-Era comic book titles!

Green Arrow #26

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Jeff Lemire: Writer

Andrea Sorrentino: Art

Marcelo Maiolo: Colors

     DC's latest title featuring Green Arrow is up to issue #26.  This is a revamped version of the well-known Oliver Queen/Green Arrow hero, in which he's recast into a younger twenty-something adult,  no doubt to coincide with the younger age of the Green Arrow in the popular television series on the CW Network.  The comic book is scripted by Jeff Lemire with art by Andrea Sorrentino and colors by Marcelo Maiolo.

     Issue #26 is part one of a new multi-issue story arc entitled "Return To The Island."  The plot co-stars a team-up of the young Green Arrow and Shado, a rogue female archer who apparently was Ollie's deceased father Robert's lover and the mother of Oliver's missing half-sister Emiko.  The plot accelerates after this introductory who's-who, as Ollie and Shado journey to an isolated island for the purposes of obtaining an ultra-powerful "totem arrow," rescuing Emiko from her kidnapper who's named Komodo and killing Komodo for murdering Robert Queen.  The second half of the story segment presents the pair's journey around the island and ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #27 as they obtain the totem arrow and are about to be attacked by a mysterious bad guy ninja group who are also hell-bent on grabbing the totem arrow.

     This is a mixed-quality issue that does deserve a positive review recommendation but only in the average-quality category.  On the plus side, its fun to meet this revised younger version of Ollie Queen/Green Arrow, who does breathe some fresh life into this longtime DC hero character.  The general concept of the plot is interesting and the artwork is breathtakingly exsquisite, with the island adventure scenes depicted in one of the nicest visual styles to come along in a superhero comic book in quite awhile.

     On the negative side, this comic book title needs a front page summary narrative more than any comic book that I've read this year.  For newcomers like me, its extremely difficult to figure-out the storyverse structure as well as the complicated relationships between the altered main and secondary characters in this brave new world of a younger Green Arrow.  The first five pages are almost nonsensical, forcing me to re-read them a few times and also do some background research on the internet.  Once I understood the storyworld structure, the rest of the unfolding plot was enjoyable, but it was a long road to travel just to understand the story logic of this new Green Arrow comic book series.

     So to summarize: issue #26 deserves a positive average quality thumbs-up review recommendation, but with the caveat that if you haven't been reading this title on a monthly basis, be prepared for some work in getting to fully understand the basic premise of Green Arrow. Or you can backtrack to read a few of the previous issues in this series, all available on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment.  Hopefully, my review comments above will also assist any of you newcomers in gaining a quick and easy understanding of the 2013 version of Green Arrow!

The Emerald City Of OZ #1

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Eric Shanower: Writer

Skottie Young: Art

Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colors

     Marvel Comics has published the first few issues of a new five-issue limited Wizard Of Oz series, so I backtracked to the first issue to get a feel for the title from its kick-off.  This particular series is an adaptation of "The Emerald City Of Oz," one of L. Frank Baum's later books in follow-up to the original Wizard Of OZ novel, which was first published in 1900.  The comic book adaptation is scripted by Eric Shanower with art by Skottie Young and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

     Issue #1 alternates two sub-plots in three story sections.  Act One focuses on the Nome King, Roquat The Red, who rules an evil underground kingdom of many furry folk in the Land of OZ. The very angry king wants to attack The Emerald City and destroy it in order to regain from the City's Princess Ozma a powerful magic belt which Dorothy apparently stole from him in an earlier novel in the OZ series.  Act Two shifts the plot back to Kansas, where Dorothy, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry face financial ruin and eviction from the family farm.  So Dorothy transports the threesome, her dog Toto and cat Eureka through her magic bedroom mirror to all live with Princess Ozma in The Emerald City Royal Palace.  And Act Three shifts us back to the scheming of the evil nome king, as his emissaries visit another Land Of Oz bad guy race, The Whimsies, in order to forge a powerful alliance pending their upcoming attack on The Emerald City.

     I've never read any of L.Frank Baum's thirteen sequel novels to his original 1900 classic The Wizard Of Oz.  So it was fun to read in this comic book a further adventure of Dorothy and friends adapted from a plot written by Baum himself.  The comic book succeeds in three ways. First, there's the fascination that I just mentioned, of reading a new tale originally penned by the master Oz storyteller Baum.  Secondly, the creative team does a great job in converting the storyline to graphic format, balancing action, adventure and personal emotion reminiscent of the style of the classic 1939 Oz movie that starred Judy Garland as Dorothy.  And third, the artwork is a pitch-perfect style for this type of fantasy adventure, with facial expressions of Dorothy and her pets that are just plain adorable.

      My one review constructive criticism is that this isn't a comic book for very little kids.  Given a mild but at times surprising element of violence amongst the nome kingdom dwellers, I'd recommend that kids be at least say 10-years-old before they become readers of this particular series.  But for kids 10-to-80, this is a fun and very entertaining comic book adaptation of a classic fantasy novel series. 

     And one last fun fact:  apparently, L. Frank Baum eventually became so sick of writing the OZ novels, that after publishing this one as the fifth sequel in the series, he announced to the children of America that the Land of OZ had mysteriously "lost contact" with the U.S., thereby rendering it impossible for him to "update" the kids of America with any new books on the latest doings in the Emerald Kingdom.  Apparently, the kids of 1911 didn't buy that excuse for one minute, flooding Baum's house with thousands of complaint letters which prompted him to unconditionally surrender and write a new Oz sequel novel every year from 1913 until his death in 1919.  The moral of that story: writers beware, don't mess with your loyal fan base!

Letter 44 #1

Publisher: Oni Press

Charles Soule: Writer

Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque: Art

Guy Major: Colors

     Oni Press has published the first two issues in a new science fiction thriller comic book entitled "Letter 44." This new title explores the popular science fiction premise of national political leaders keeping secret the threat of a potential alien invasion of Earth.  I backtracked to the kick-off issue to get an understanding of this series from its very beginning.  Issue #1 is being offered at a special introductory price of only $1.00.  The new title is scripted by writer Charles Soule with art by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque and colors by Guy Major.

     Issue #1 presents the first day on the job for new 44th U.S. President Stephen Blades, who finds a handwritten letter in an envelope marked "44"awaiting him in the Oval Office. In the letter, his predecessor President Carroll reveals the existence of a mysterious alien mining operation discovered three years earlier in our Solar System's asteroid belt.  Due to fear of public panic, to-date only a very select team of civilian and military advisors are aware of and addressing the situation.  After this initial reveal, the storyline splits into two alternating subplots. In the Earthside storythread, Blades meets with his secret situation team and brainstorms his way through analyzing options for handling the unexpected first crisis of his young presidency.  The second plotline presents the 9-member crew of a U.S. space team sent three years earlier to confront the aliens in the asteroid belt.  The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as the space explorers are about to finally arrive in a direct confrontation with the yet-to-be-revealed alien presence.

      Similar to the Green Arrow comic book reviewed above, I had a mixed review reaction to this comic book, again concluding that it deserves a positive review but at the same time very disappointed that a few key elements drag this comic down to the barely average category.  On the plus side, writer Charles Soule puts a very fresh spin on the secret alien threat theme in two ways.  First, he creatively mirrors the real world presidential transition of January 2008, with the comic's two presidents closely mirroring George Bush and Barack Obama in personality and style.  Secondly, there are some very entertaining soap opera-style elements to this story that I won't spoil with any details, beyond saying that some center around political maneuvering among the Earthside crisis advisors, while a few emotional blockbusters are revealed among the 9-member space team.  And third, there's a very interesting back-of-the-book essay written by Oni Press Editor Jill Beaton, in which she muses about some of the very intriguing directions that the various plot elements could take us in upcoming issues.

      Now for the flip side of this title. Three elements weigh down the really good parts of this comic book to the borderline of mediocrity.  The first is a poor quality artwork consisting of a weirdly loose, abstract penciling that's so offputting that I saw the characters almost as weird aliens themselves as opposed to human beings.  A talented grade school kid could provide a more suitable visual style for this comic book than the work of penciller Alburquerque.  Also very grating are some illogical details in the plot including the behavior of some characters in on the big alien secret, President Blades learning about the most serious crisis in human history via a scrap of paper left on an open empty desk, the at-times amateurish dialogue of the players dealing with this event and worst of all, a really stupid reveal for why we fought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that try to connect both conflicts to the alien crisis.

     But the biggest failure of logic in this comic is the nature of the secrecy itself.  Its just too illogical to accept that after three years, no one else on Earth besides the U.S. federal government is aware of a huge alien presence that really isn't doing much to hide itself as it operates out in the asteroid belt.  Either we would have pulled trusted allies into the situation, gossip leaks would have occurred or most likely of all, the non-governmental, academic astronomy community would have easily seen what's going on out there and talked about it worldwide.  That's how true astronomy works.  It's just too much to expect science fiction fans to buy into the idea of a "chosen few" being able to both see this large-scale outer space activity and keep their mouths shut for three years. The idiots in our real world D.C. can't handle the simplest of daily cubicle government operations these days and we're supposed to expect the same fools to keep a three-year secret of alien invasion? Please!

     So the bottom line: my advice is to be nice and make an effort to suspend some standard real world logic in order to give this well-intentioned new science fiction title a try for a few issues worth of reading.  The worthy plot concept here deserves that initial break, but if the creative team doesn't get its act together with better graphics and some more credible storytelling common sense, then "Letter 44" isn't going to come anywhere close to lasting for 44 monthly issues.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest was our annual end-of-the-year challenge for you to tell us what was your favorite comic book title of 2013 and why you liked that particular book or books so much.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Mike Dooley, who nominates Valiant Comics' return of its popular Archer & Armstrong title.  I wrote a very positive review about a year ago of one issue, which features the two title characters as a pair of men, one of whom hasn't aged since ancient times, who deal with action-adventures in our modern world.  Mike writes that he didn't think the latest series could be as good as the original 1990's run but he was wrong.  He adds that the comic book "not only entertains, but provides the most "laugh out loud" moments of any book on the market."

     An excellent explanation of a very entertaining 2013 comic book series.  Congratulations to Mike who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     We're heading into the Oscar season for the movies, and as such The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges have decreed that we kick-off the new year's movie season with an appropriate movie trivia question.  So your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, January 8 with the correct answer to the following question: Who is the only movie star in all of Hollywood movie history to have headlined in at least one #1 film opening at the box office for five decades in a row?  That's right, there's a movie star out there who has starred in a at least one film for 5 consecutive decades that opened at #1 in movie attendance!

     As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, our contest winner will be selected via a roll-of-the-dice.  Please note that our $10.00 first prize 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 a very happy and healthy New Year as well as two great comic book reading weeks, and see you again on Friday, January 10 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Comic Reviews 12/13/13

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has decreed that we come up for air for a moment from our frantic holiday shopping to check-out four new comic book titles for your review enjoyment.  So before we head back to the holiday sales at the mall, let's see how these new titles stack-up against each other:
Rocket Girl #1 & #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Brandon Montclare: Writer
Amy Reeder: Art

     Image Comics has recently published the first two issues of a new comic book entitled "Rocket Girl." The front cover artwork was so beautiful that I decided to read both issues for a combined two-issue review.  The new series is scripted by Brandon Montclare with artwork by A-list artist Amy Reeder.

     This is a time travel science fiction storyline that alternates between "present day 1986" and a futuristic version of 2013.  Rocket Girl is 15-year-old Dayoung Johansson, who serves as a New York City "Teen Rocket Cop" in a very sci-fi version of 2013. We quickly learn that this is a society of futuristic high tech and rocketeering, in which the entire NYC police force is manned by jetpack-wearing 13 to 18-year-olds, because, as stated by a teen cop in issue #2, "it's grown-ups you can't trust...that's why they hire people like us."  In issue #1, Dayoung stumbles upon timestream-altering corruption by the Quintum Mechanics Corporation, a company which initially manipulated the timestream back in 1986 to create this future version of 2013.  So Dayoung timetravels back to 1986 in order to stop the "corporate corruption" and prevent the Buck Rogers-style urban world from ever happening.

     The bulk of issue #1 and all of issue #2 follow Dayoung during her first few days in 1986, as she connects with some young Quintum Corp. scientists who are innocent of the upper management timestream alteration shenanigans.  There's an alternating subplot throughout the two issues, of Dayoung naively responding to street crimes to help the 1986 New York police force, jetpacking in-and-out of typical New York crime situations with the expected theatrical results. By the end of issue #2, Dayoung is bumbling her way out of her latest failed attempt to help the cops, as the 1986 cops decide to arrest her as an interfering, weirdo vigilante kid.

     I'm giving this new title a type of mixed review that I've never written before.  Essentially, I'm giving it a very enthusiatic thumbs-up positive review for teen readers and an adament thumbs-down negative review for adults.  So let's start positive with the teen reader review.  The creative team does a great job delivering a young adult science fiction storyline that teen readers can personally identify with.  Every real-world teen gets frustrated at times with the rules and ways of our society and what better way to vent against that reality than to delve into a comic book in which the teens are given the reins to actually police the sci-fi world of the future?  Writer Brandon Montclare delivers a script that speaks to teens and A-list artist Amy Reeder (one of my favorites since her iconic run a few years ago on DC's Madame Xanadu title) provides gorgeous interior and cover artwork.

      On the flip side, for anyone over the age of 18, the basic premise of this series is just too overwhelmingly illogical to sustain a commitment to read more than one issue out of curiosity.  Even a funny book version of reality needs a thin layer of plot logic, and its impossible for an adult fan reader to accept the idea that society willingly transfers the entire New York City police force over to a bunch of 13-to-18-year olds.  Two tweaks of this plot premise would have worked better: either make the kids a "teen brigade" within the larger traditional NYPD or camp-it-up like the old Batman t.v. series and make this title a satiric joke that we can laugh about and enjoy.  Unfortunately, the chosen approach of the creative team takes neither road, leaving us with an idea that again, any adult reader with an ounce of maturity in them just couldn't enjoy.

      So reviewer's bottom line: kids should be able to get a kick out of this "hey, we're running the world, now!" story concept, while the average adult fan should focus their reading time and budget on the many other science fiction titles available on the That's Entertainment new issue shelves and back issue bins.

Batwoman #25
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marc Andreyko: Writer
Trevor McCarthy, Andrea Mutti, Pat Olliffe & Jim Fern: Art
Jay Leisten & Tom Nguyen: Inks
Guy Major: Colors

     DC Comics is currently up to issue #25 of its Batwoman title.  For the uninitiated, there have been several incarnations of  Batwoman since the Golden Age. Our latest Batwoman is Kate Kane, whose modern-day debut in 2006 gained some mainstream media attention as the first major DC character with a lesbian identity.  The latest storyline is part of the wide-ranging "Zero Year" event within the overall Batman publishing storyverse, which revises some of the standard structure of the world of Batman as The Riddler sends Gotham into a catastrophic power failure event.  The current Batwoman issue is scripted by Marc Andreyko with a very large art team consisting of artists Trevor McCarthy, Andrea Mutti, Pat Olliffe and Jim Ferm, inkers Jay Leisten and Tom Nguyen, and colorist Guy Major.

     The issue #25 story is entitled "...Or High Water" and is set six years in the past, with the plot centering on West Point Cadet Kate returning home for the funeral of her killed Uncle Phil Kane.  The tale is woven from two alternating sub-plots.  The first storythread reveals soap opera-style dynamics among the various members of the extended Kane-Wayne family both during and after the funeral.  Naturally, everyone is put-off by the seemingly cool and domineering Cousin Bruce Wayne, who hosts and controls the funeral-related family activities.  The action picks-up in the second sub-plot; as Gotham City descends into the Riddler's power black-out, Kate goes on nighttime vigilante patrol. Without being a detail spoiler, she sees some interesting action dealing with street criminals as well as interacting with a group of Metropolis cops who are augmenting the Gotham P.D. to assist in the black-out.  By issue's end, Kate successfully deals with her corner of the blacked-out Gotham and reunites with her retired Army Colonel and mentor Dad to await another storyline in next month's issue #26.

     I liked this comic book for three reasons.  First, it makes an entertaining and interesting supporting plot contribution to the main "Year Zero" storyline unfolding in other Batman-related titles.  Secondly, I also enjoyed the story as a one-issue stand-alone script, which had a nice single-issue start and finish as opposed to the multi-issue storylines which are the norm in most new comic books these days. And third, I got a big kick out of the catty dynamics among the members of the extended Kane-Wayne family, as they unfolded around the funeral.  The highlight is a wildly entertaining tiff between Bruce Wayne and a teen cousin named Bette, in which the two back-and-forth diss each other in a scene worthy of a cheesy television soap opera episode.  That catty scene alone (rowr!) is worth the price of admission to reading this comic book!

     On a final review note, I was at first confused about some changes to Kate's personal situation.  I was aware that DC had made some revisions to her storyverse since I last reviewed Batwoman a few years ago, but was surprised to see that the Kane and Wayne families are now cousins and she's actually now portrayed as a blood relative of Bruce Wayne.  On the other hand, it is a neat story structure development and adds a nice counterbalance to Bruce Wayne's traditional identity as a lonely Playboy millionaire. I was also intrigued by the inference in this issue that, at least in this six-years-ago flashback tale, Kate has no idea that Bruce Wayne is Batman.   So all-in-all, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this solidly entertaining latest issue addition to both the Batwoman comic book title and the wide-ranging "Zero Year" Batman storyverse mega-event.

The Maxx: Maxximized #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Sam Keith and William Messner-Loebs: Writers
Sam Keith: Art
Jim Sinclair: Inks
Ronda Pattison: Colors

     IDW Publishing recently released issue #1 in a returned series of The Maxx.  For the uninitiated, The Maxx was a popular alternative comic book title in the mid-1990's that spun-off a very popular animated cartoon series version that was broadcast on MTV in that timeperiod.  This is a very existential, abstract comic book storyverse set in a violent inner-city urban environment and centering upon three main characters: The Maxx, an odd, Wolverine-like creature who lives an urban homeless life, Julie, his hooker-like city-assigned social worker and Mr. Gone, a serial rapist who has metaphysical abilities similar to Dr. Strange in Marvel Comics.  The new series is scripted by Maxx-creator Sam Keith and co-written by William Messner-Loebs, with art by Sam Keith, inks by Jim Sinclair and colors by Ronda Pattision.

      As a back-of-the-book narrative explains, this new series is a revised edition of the original Maxx comic book run.  Thus, issue #1 presents a tweaked update of the original Maxx origin story segment.  The plot alternates between introducing the main characters and presenting the first plotthread.  We meet The Maxx, a confused homeless creature who worries that he is mentally ill as he alternates between his urban homeless situation and another reality in which he's living in the Australian Outback where he roams as a spirit animal named Br'er Lappin.  We meet Julie, the "freelance social worker" who handles The Maxx's case for City Social Services yet dresses and behaves like a street prostitute.  And in the main plotthread we follow the vicious trail of the creepy Mr. Gone, who mesmerizes his female victims before brutally raping and maiming them.  Issue #1 ends in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as the good-hearted Maxx follows Mr. Gone's trail and confronts him for further action in next month's story segment.

      The storyverse of The Maxx is an acquired taste; this is a comic book concept geared toward a narrow niche of readers who enjoy very abstract, hallucinagenic-style fiction in the vein of such literary giants as William Burroughs.  The original comic book series and animated t.v. series succeeded in delivering this style and plot very effectively and in an entertaining manner, and I'm pleased to report that the reissued and revised title does the same.  Think of this as a Director's Cut of the title, in which creator Sam Keith doesn't make any drastic changes to the product, just makes story and artwork tweaks here and there that adjust the tempo and details of the issue in a way that's more personally satisfying to him and refreshing for the fan base.

     My favorite element of this new series is a clarification regarding the alternate reality element of the tale.  It was very muddled and confusing in the first run of The Maxx, and as such Sam Keith makes the situation much more understandable from the get-go in the new issue #1.  Hence we understand from the very start of this saga that there are two legitimate realities at play here.  The Maxx isn't crazy, he's actually ping-ponging between a dreary urban street existence and the alternate reality of an Australian nature setting, full of good and evil spirit animals and fantastic action situations.

      This isn't a comic book series for young readers or for folks looking for a traditional comic book fictional read.  But if you're an adult fan of outside-of-the-envelope existential and experimental fiction, I can't think of a comic book title of the past few decades that has provided a better graphic product within that genre than Sam Keith's The Maxx.  So welcome back, 2013 version of The Maxx, and here's hoping that our beleagered anti-hero continues his monthly adventures in such high quality issues as the excellent issue #1 of this revised series!

The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #24
Publisher: IDW Publishing
James Roberts & John Barber: Writers
Several Artists & Colorists

     IDW Publishing currently publishes three separate comic book titles featuring the well-known Transformers, those popular outer space sentient robots warriors that began merchandise life as a Hasbro toy and morphed into movies and comics.  I've never read one of these popular comic books and decided to check-out the current issue #24 of their "More Than Meets The Eye" title.  This issue is installment number four of an ongoing 12-issue story arc that crosses among the three Transformer titles.  The series is scripted by James Roberts and John Barber and is drawn by a wide-ranging team of seven artists and colorists.

     Issue #24 kicks-off with a very useful one-page summary of the story to-date, explaining that three separate teams of Transformers are having an interconnected adventure in three different outer space locations.  While we read a few brief scenes about two of the adventuring Transformer teams, most of this issue focuses on the third team that's manning The Lost Light, a massive Transformer spaceship that hyperjumped and landed deep undersea on an alien water planet.  The crew quickly learns that a mysterious army of mini-transformers have hitched a ride on their quantum light jump; the situation quickly escalates into an all-out battle between both groups, as the mini-guys assemble/transform themselves into one giant warrior robot. The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to the next story segment, as The Lost Light crew makes an exciting discovery about a missing giant Titan robot that led them into their mission in the first place.

     This is a solid and entertaining comic book read for a few reasons.  First, the co-writers give us a credible plot that transcends the idea of just presenting the toy-based Transformers in comic book format.  This quality outer space science fiction plotline could have easily been presented in any standard superhero comic book series, which gives the Transformers more credibility as actual story characters as opposed to stiff playthings off of a toystore shelf.  Secondly, the writers duplicate the subtle sense of humor among the Transformers that was evident in the first Transformer movie and which helped make that film such an entertaining success.  These guys may have robot bodies, but their personalities are as quirky and fun as the living beings presented in many quality comic books.  And third, a shout-out is well-deserved to that huge art team for providing high quality and well-crafted artwork. I was particularly impressed by the final dramatic page in which The Lost Light crew stumbles upon their gargantuan quarry.

      My only constructive criticism review comment is that its somewhat hard at times to differentiate among the various Transformers, given that they all basically look alike and that there are so many of them.  Page 2 of this issue actually presents a "roll call" listing of 28 main characters in this 12-issue story arc.  But I think the tale still provides a high level of reading entertainment if you do what I did: just ignore trying to sort these guys out and follow the story flow for a ride through the action-adventure of these neat and entertaining outer space robot warriors-with-human-hearts.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to correctly tell us the origins of establishing Thanksgiving as a legal federal holiday.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Keith Martin, who correctly tells us that President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 establishing the legal holiday as an annual National Day Of Thanks in the midst of the ongoing terrible Civil War conflict.  Congratulations to Keith who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     Its that time of the year again that the Bongo Congo Panel of Contest Judges holds our annual "Best Of The Year" comic book contest!  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, December 25 (Christmas Day!) and tell us what your favorite 2013 comic book title or titles have been, with a few words about why you liked the comic(s) so much.  Among my personal favorites this past year were Marvel's Daredevil and Hawkeye titles, as well as this year's story arcs of Atomic Robo from Red 5 Comics.  So tell us what you loved from among the many 2013 offerings on those new issues shelves at That's Entertainment!  Please note that our $10.00 first prize to That's Entertainment is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store, ongoing specials, only.

     That's all for now, so have another two great holiday season and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, December 27 Here In Bongo Congo!