Friday, February 21, 2014

Comic Reviews 2/21/14

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has found a nice variety of new comic book issues this week on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, so let's get right to it and see how these comic books stack-up against each other:
ElfQuest: The Final Quest #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Wendy Pini & Richard Pini: Writers
Wendy Pini: Art
Sonny Strait: Colors

     Dark Horse Comics has just released issue #1 in the latest incarnation of the well-known ElfQuest comic book title.  For the uninitiated, ElfQuest is the cult-hit fantasy comic book series that features (naturally!) a tribe of elves on a primitive Earth-like world, searching for their ancestral home-land.  The group co-exists within their tribe with a pack of companion wolves that they often ride, hence the elves are sometimes referred to in the series as Wolf Riders.  The series began in 1978 as the product of married creators Wendy and Richard Pini and has had a very devoted fan following since then as it moved through various comic book publishers, including the Pini's own Warp Graphics, Marvel, DC and now Dark Horse Comics.  The Pini's are joined in the current production by colorist Sonny Strait.

     Issue #1 kicks-off a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Final Quest." The plot quickly introduces a wide range of main character elves along with their wolves and initially focuses on a portion of the tribe happily embarking on a long-overdue traditional hunt.  The hunt takes a dramatic turn as the group is met by Lehrigen, an elderly dying human referred to as a former ally of the tribe.  The group next confronts a marauding band of human warriors intent on destroying the elves' forest home.  After an intense intial skirmish with the human invaders, the issue ends with Lehrigen and the elves commiting to work together to further oppose this growing threat.

     I was a fan of the initial 1970's Warp graphics debut of ElfQuest and admittedly haven't read a single issue of any subsequent runs of the title.  So it was fun to revisit this acclaimed fantasy series and double the fun to enjoy this well-constructed latest version of the series.  The visual presentation of the series is integral to this particular comic book storyverse and artist Wendy Pini along with colorist Sonny Strait provide an A-list quality visual style.  The Pini's story is solid, too. I particularly was impressed with a sub-plot portraying tension between a few of the elves and the human Lehrigen; there's a lot of unfinished business implied among these wary folks, which lends a layer of distrust and wariness among the reunited former allies.  It should be interesting to see how this tension plays-out in upcoming story segments.

      My one constructive criticism of issue #1 is a decision by the Pini's to cram a huge amount of individual tribe members into the kick-off issue story segment. Notice I haven't named one individual elf in the above story summary.  That's because there are too many of them each briefly shoved forward for a brief few story panels before the next elf takes center stage.  Hard-core ElfQuest fans might enjoy this cavalcade of stars but for the newbie or casual reader, its somewhat confusing and jarring. But hopefully, the series will settle-down in the next few issues and not feel as overcrowded as issue #1.

     On a final review note, there are two fun and interesting back-of-the-book features in this issue, the first being an analysis of evolving ElfQuest cover stylings over the years and the second presenting a neat article about dialogue font in the series. Lettering font sounds like a boring topic, but writer Nate Piekos actually does provides a fun piece on the topic. So in sum, this latest revival of ElfQuest deserves a positive thumbs-up review recommendation as an enjoyable and entertaining read for old and new fans alike!

Disney Kingdoms: Seekers Of The Weird #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brandon Seifert: Writer
Karl Moline: Pencils
Rick Magyar: Inks
Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently published issue #1 of a new occult-themed series entitled "Disney Kingdoms: Seekers Of The Weird."  The new title is based upon an interesting Disney historical footnote: apparently back in the 1960's Walt Disney and his staff designer Rolly Crump completed plans for a Museum Of The Weird, which was never constructed within the Disney theme park system.  This comic book reimagines that basic concept within a new action-adventure story series.  The title is scripted by Brandon Seifert with pencils by Karl Moline, inks by Rick Magyar and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

     The plot is set in New Orleans and stars Melody and Maxwell, two high school-aged siblings who live with their parents in an apartment above "Keep It Weird," the family's curio shop that sells all sorts of weird/occult merchandise. Picture the occult shop from the later years of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" t.v. series and you get the picture.  When a casting spell goes awry and the duo's parents are sucked into another spooky dimension, their long-lost Uncle Roland appears to help, revealing that the store is actually a portal into a huge-scaled Museum Of The Weird. Its soon revealed that other-dimensional demons are holding the kid's parents hostage in exchange for a museum artifact called the coffin clock.  Without being a detail spoiler, the issue ends in a very dramatic bridge as the family efforts to find the coffin clock along the museum artifacts go horribly awry, possibly killing Uncle Roland and leaving Mel and Max to try to figure-out their next move on their own.

     This a very unique and entertaining new addition to the genre of occult-based comic book adventuring that has several solid features to it.  The first is the fun connection to the old Disney theme park concept of a Museum Of The Weird.  The details of the Museum are very similar to the real-world Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with a layer of occult spookiness thrown-in.  Mix-in the New Orleans story setting and this holds the potential for some interesting upcoming story segments.  Secondly, writer Brandon Seifert does a great job in developing colorful and credible personalities for each of the main story characters that include the studious and reserved Max, adventurous and athletic Mel, their eccentric parents and Uncle Roland.  Roland is particularly interesting, portrayed as a pirate-like swashbuckling adventurer who is a veteran of many occult adventures. I truly hope that he's still alive after the unresolved cliffhanger ending to issue #1.  Third, the artwork is of a very appropriate style, with a television animation flair that well-suits the action-adventure theme of the comic book series.

      Finally, I was impressed by the tone of this particular occult adventuring storyverse.  Unlike many modern occult series, the dark theme here is more subtle and not steeped in gore and heavy violence.  True to its Disney roots, this new series is truly designed for readers of all ages in the style of a Disney television show or movie.  And it does work as a credible entertainment for all ages of readers; kids can identify with the young adventurers Max and Mel, while adult readers will be very entertained by the rich details of the creative occult elements that appear throughout the story action.

     So all-in-all, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this revival of an interesting 1960's Disney Kingdom idea into a fresh 2013 creative concept in the form of an excellent new comic book action-adventure series.

The Flash #27
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Brian Buccellato: Writer
Patrick Zircher: Art
Matt Hollingsworth: Colors

    The current version of DC's The Flash comic book title is up to issue #27.  The series stars DC's well-known "scarlet speedster," who in his civilian identity is Central City police forensic analyst Barry Allen.  In 2009, DC restored Barry Allen as the identity of The Flash, after a few years of other fictional folk wearing the cowl of the speedster, including Barry's former Kid Flash sidekick, Wally West.  One of the ongoing storythreads of The Flash comics these days is Barry's attempt to solve the mysterious murder of his mother. The current storyline is written by Brian Buccellato with art by Patrick Zircher and colors by Matt Hollingsworth.

     Issue #27 kicks-off a new multi-issue storyarc entitled "History Lessons." The plot begins with a brief flashback to an old 19th-century murder from the early days of Central City. Shifting back to the present, a street battle between The Flash and two supervillains ends in a cave-in that reveals a cache of old human remains. When police conclude its the work of a now-imprisoned serial killer, Barry/The Flash has his doubts and follows a trail of clues both in his civilian police investigator role and in his guise as The Flash.  The trail includes an extended scene of high drama as The Flash confronts the imprisoned serial killer and tangles with an imprisoned supervillain housed in the same cellblock as the suspect.  Finally, the story segment ends in a dramatic cliffhanger set in a local cemetery, as The Flash both discovers an odd clue to the mystery and is simultaneously attacked by what seems to be a ghost connected to the opening scene's 19th century historic murder.

     The basic plot and presentation of this latest Flash issue is entertaining and fits well within the long lineage of varied stylings of The Flash, for at least three reasons. First, there's a nice character balance in the presentation as Barry equally alternates between his civilian police identity and superhero persona in pursuing the murder mystery.  Secondly, I was particularly impressed with the art team's visual style; it can be an artistic challenge to present the hyper-speed elements of The Flash's activities, but in this case artists Patrick Zircher and Matt Hollingsworth rise to the occasion. Their speedster scenes are frankly exceptional, conveying a wonderful sense of superspeed motion to the appropriate story panels.  Third, subplot of the 19th century flashback murder adds an interesting extra element to the storyline.  While only briefly introduced in issue #27, it promises to play a larger role in the plot as the multi-issue storyline continues to unfold.

     The last time that I reviewed a Flash comic book was a few years ago, when DC had Barry Allen is flux, trying to adjust his basic storyverse with changes to the backstory of his usual support characters, including that of his wife Iris.  Its important to note that apparently a lot of those changes took root in this title.  Barry's wife Iris is no longer in the picture; I have no idea if she's dead, divorced or DC just conveniently erased her from The Flash storyverse, but she's gone and Barry now has a police investigator girlfriend named Patty.  Barry's dad is also in prison.  While the reason isn't clear in issue #27, it looks to me like he was wrongly convicted of Barry's mom's death, which could add a sense of motivation to Barry's search for the real killer.

     So in sum, the latest issue of The Flash confirms that DC seems to have succeeded in providing a worthwhile upgrade to the world of The Flash.  The updated and revised character structure seems to work well and the creative team effectively uses that new storyverse structure to deliver an enjoyable and intriguing first segment of a multi-issue murder mystery tale, one that's well-worth the attention of all good fanboys and fangirls.

Ms. Marvel #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
G. Willow Wilson: Writer
Adrian Alphona: Art
Ian Herring: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently released issue #1 of a much-anticipated new version of Ms. Marvel. The re-boot of Ms. Marvel with a new character in the title role is in follow-up to the July 2012 re-tooling of the traditional Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel character into "Captain Marvel," as she replaced Marvel Comics' original now-deceased Captain Marvel character. I gave a negative review to the Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel overhaul (a trainwreck of a re-boot, in my opinion), so I was very eager to check-out this new incarnation of Ms. Marvel to see how it does or doesn't fill the shoes of the old-school Ms. Marvel title. The new series is scripted by A-list writer G. Willow Wilson with art by Adrian Alphona and colors by Ian Herring.

     Issue #1 is the origin tale of our new Ms. Marvel, who is 16-year-old New Jersey teenager Kamala Khan.  The first two-thirds of the plot introduces Kamala's life situation.  We meet her Pakistani immigrant family along with her best friend Nakia ("Kiki"), male friend Bruno and the "cool kids" at Kamala's high school, an inner clique of jocks and beauty queens to whom, like any typical high school kid, Kamala is both attracted to emulate and repelled by their oafish behavior at the same time.  Kamala struggles to balance conforming to her parents expected good girl behavior with the desire to rebel and "party like its 1999." This conflict peaks mid-point in the story, when she sneaks out of the house one evening to attend the proverbial high school "kegger in the woods." 

     After some typical high school social pecking order drama occurs at the party, Kamala heads home and here's where the Ms. Marvel plotline takes over for the final third of the storyline.  After a mysterious fog envelops her route home causing her to pass-out, Kamala awakens on the street to be confronted by the mystical force of "Faith," which appears in the familiar guises of Kamala's favorite Marvel heroes, those of Ms. Marvel, Captain America and Iron Man.  Speaking for the group, Ms. Marvel/Faith explains that Kamala's life is at a crossroads, whereupon Kamala and the mystical presence have a discussion about the conflicting desires in Kamala's life.  When our teened heroine wishes outloud that she was Ms. Marvel, the mystical Ms. Marvel figure announces that Kamala is about to "get the kind of total reboot most people only dream about," but warns that its not going to turn out the way that Kamala thinks this fantasy will.  Without spoiling any details, the issue concludes with a two-page scene in which Kamala morphs into a teen-aged blonde, masked and costumed version of Ms. Marvel.

     G. Willow Wilson is a comic book and general fiction writer/journalist of Muslim faith acclaimed for her Middle East and Muslim cultural-based themes in such works as her acclaimed graphic novel Cairo and her World Fantasy Award-winning novel Alif The Unseen, as well as previous comic titles such as Air (DC's Vertigo Imprint).  Here, she mixes her well-honed writing skills and Muslim cultural interest together to provide an exceptional reinterpretation of the Ms. Marvel comic book character.  Too often, a reboot of any comic book character fails as either a wooden recasting of the familiar storyverse or straying just too far afield from the traits that made the original storyverse so popular to begin with.  That unfortunately for me was the case with the off-putting reboot awhile ago of the traditional Ms. Marvel into the Captain Marvel persona.

      Wilson completely avoids that trap, with a wonderful mix of old and new in the personage of Kamala Khan. The girl has many of the same self-doubts and personal issues of her predecessor Carol Danvers along with the new issue of being a teenaged Pakistani immigrant in the strange new land of New Jersey.  Wilson hits a home run in providing a rich and wonderful variety of support characters in this title, all ably portraying aspects of the overarching and conflicting theme Kamal's life, that of balancing her heritage against the deceptive siren song of 21st century American pop culture.  Its not only very relevant to the melting pot theme of American immigrant life, but provides for a very engrossing and absorbing read.  Mix all this in with the superhero element of the tale and we end-up with a wonderfully entertaining new take on Ms. Marvel to add to the previous interpretations of this Marvel superheroine.

     I can't end this review without commenting on the parallels of this re-boot to two other well-creafted fictional standards.  The first is the original Silver Age version of Peter Parker/Spiderman, whose teenaged angst and high school situation are closely mirrored in this re-boot.  And the second is the 2002 British hit movie "Bend It Like Beckham," which also brought the same type of warmth and introspection that Willow brings to this take on immigrant life in a strange new land.  So don't just take my word for it, get on down to That's Entertainment and get a copy to read for yourself of this very entertaining and high quality new spin on the further adventures of Ms. Marvel!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest took advantage of our current 2014 Winter Olympics fever, challenging you to pitch to us what Olympic sport you're most looking forward to watching.  And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who tells us that she's been really looking forward to checking-out the sport of Skeleton at the Sochi Winter Olympics.  Eric writes "I was first intrigued by the name, but then the fact that they ride a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down is what sold me."  This is opposed to Luge, in which the sled rider lies face-up on the sled. We're also pleased to report that last Friday evening, American female athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace won the silver medal in Women's Skeleton! So congratulations to Erin, who wins our $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

     And on a final Winter Olympics note, my fellow That's Entertainment reviewer Dave LeBlanc reports that his favorite Winter Olympics sport is Curling, because in Dave's own words, in what other sport can you participate and also drink a beer at the same time?!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     For some strange reason, the Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has suddenly contracted robot fever and has decreed that we offer-up a robot trivia contest question.  So your latest challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, March 5 with the answer to the following question: What was the actual name of the robot on the famous 1960's science fiction television series "Lost In Space"?  That's right, while the character was often just referred to as "Robot" on most episodes, it actually did have a formal name.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of our $10.00 first prize gift cetrificate to That's Entertainment 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 two great Major League Baseball Spring Training (Welcome Back, Red Sox!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, March 7 Here In Bongo Congo!



Friday, February 7, 2014

Comic Reviews 2/8/14

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo has declared that its superhero week Here In Bongo Congo and has decreed that we review comic titles featuring solo caped crusaders in action.  Per royal decree, we've selected three comic books featuring new heroes in action, including two interconnected titles from Dark Horse Comics, along with one title featuring a well-known Marvel action hero.  So let's get right to it and see how this fearsome foursome stack-up against each other:
Captain Midnight #6
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Joshua Williamson: Writer
Eduardo Francisco: Artist
Stefani Rennee: Colors

     Dark Horse Comics is up to issue #6 of its Captain Midnight comic book title.  The series is a modernization of the famous Captain Midnight hero who originated within a 1930's radio program and has evolved over the decades through various comic series and publishers.  The Captain himself is WWI U.S. Army pilot Jim Albright, an inventor of early high tech that allows him to function as a flying caped crusader.  The current Dark Horse series updates the premise by having the Captain time travel via the Bermuda Triangle to 2014, where he battles former familiar baddies including the organization "Black Sky," a secret government unit that's using his invented technology for evil purposes.  The title is scripted by Joshua Williamson with art by Eduardo Franco and colors by Stefani Rennee.

     Issue #6 is part one of a two-issue story arc entitled "Mission: Midnight!"  The plot features two alternating storythreads. In the main, lengthier sub-plot, Captain Midnight develops a strategy and implements an assault on a secret Washington D.C. location of a Black Sky unit.  We're introduced in this effort to two allies of Captain Midnight, Federal Agent Marvin Jones and Rick Marshall, an historian of the Captain's pre-time travel exploits.  As the trio prepare their Black Sky attack plan, we presented with the technical details of the Captain's self-invented technology that allows him to function as a superhero. 

     The second, briefer sub-plot focuses on Charlotte Ryan, the granddaughter of Joyce Ryan, Captain Midnight's love interest from his earlier life.  Charlotte visits the now-elderly Joyce to discuss her grandmother's past issues in the relationship, whereupon Charlotte vows to bring the time traveler to visit his aged love for a confrontation.  The issue #6 storyline ends in a dramatic cliffhanger to next month's story segment, as both Captain Midnight and Agent Ryan appear to be thwarted in their Black Sky attack by a superstrong freelancer-for-hire bad guy named Hollow.

     The standard for success for a comic book that revises an old pulp-era hero is two-fold: to present an entertaining plot and to make credible the challenge the handling of the old-school character's adjustment to both our modern era popular culture and the style of modern-day comic book storytelling.  Captian Midnight happily succeeds very well on both counts. Writer Joshua Williamson does a great job of giving us a well-paced action-adventure storyline and more importantly, fleshes-out very well the various personalities of the Captain's new allies.  On the second count, the creative team also does a solid job of addressing those man-out-of-time story nuances.  I liked the Captain's realistic reactions to learning of 2014 societal developments including the constant presence and use by everybody of the internet.

     Most intriguing of all is the plothread centering on his aged love, Joyce Ryan. So far, the situation is being presented with heartfelt and realistic plotting, and it offers some very interesting story possibilities as their eventual interaction with each other will unfold. As a final review comment, I also enjoyed the structuring of Captain Midnight's personality and speech as a 1930's era do-gooder.  His dialogue and mannerisms truly present him as a fish-out-of-water time traveler and only reinforces the storytelling possibilities for this new series.

     So in sum, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this new title, which reinterprets and extends the storytelling of an iconic Pulp-era superhero crusader into the world of modern-day comic book adventuring.

Skyman #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Writer
Manuel Garcia: Pencils
Marta Martinez: Colors

     Dark Horse Comics has recently published issue #1 in a new series entitled Skyman.  An inside-the-front-cover narrative connects the series to the Captain Midnight comic book reviewed above, explaining that in the decades since Midnight's Bermuda Triangle disappearance, the U.S. military has used his superheroing technology to create The Skyman Program, consisting of a secret U.S. Army unit of Captain Midnight-style flying caped crusaders.  The new comic book is written by Joshua Hale Fialkov with pencils by Manual Garcia and colors by Marta Martinez.

     The issue #1 storyline presents a Skyman Program in disarray, as an expelled unit member goes berserk and in a very brutal multipage scene, murders innocent people while spewing an offensively racial rant against President Obama.  As social media broadcasts the carnage and rant, the President and U.S. Army General Abernathy move to revamp the program, adding to the lily-white battalian a handicapped African-American Army veteran hero named Eric Reid.  Reid signs-on with the plan when he learns that wearing the Skyman technology temporarily restores his ability to walk.

     The second half of the premier issue moves the gameplan into action.  We witness the training regiment of Eric under the tutelage of his sadistic Skyman handler Lieutenant Sharp.  Racial tensions build between the pair, resulting in a violent fight between the two that doesn't resolve the conflict but at least leads to some wary mutual respect between them.  The issue concludes with Eric's dramatic airborne entrance to a public rally in Washington, D.C., where he's enthusiastically introduced by the president as the first Skyman Program unit member to be publicly identified by his true, unmasked identity.

     This is a very interesting companion title to Captain Midnight, that both interconnects the heroing worlds of these titles while presenting two storyverses that are very different from each other.  While there's a Golden Age Pulp Era innocence and gentleness to the world of Captain Midnight, alternately the Skyman storyworld is full-throttle real world 2014, full of story characters brimming with anger, bigotry and the ability to carry-out pure brutality on innocent victims.  The bridge between the two comic books is the common Captain Midnight technology, but the directions that each creative team chooses to take in exploring storytelling have no commonality yet.  Its inevitable that the worlds of Captain Midnight and The Skyman Program will eventually cross-connect in both titles, and it should be fascinating to see how that head-on collision meets and explodes in potential plot opportunities.

      On its own, Skyman offers the same high quality scripting, character development and decent artwork that Captain Midnight offers.  A tip-of-the-review-hat is also deserved for the creative team's skillful approach in exploring the issue of present-day racism within the context of the script.  The dialogue and the issues of resentment and anger among all parties to the story are presented in a very literate manner and are equal to the effort that acclaimed creator Neal Adams produced in his iconic Green Lantern-Green Arrow series at DC Comics back in the 1970's.  There's the potential here for a multi-issue comic book storyline that goes beyond standard reading entertainment to join Neil Adam's work as an example for making some important statements about the nature of racism and the lessons we can learn on the subject from a well-crafted work of fiction. Time will tell whether this title heads in that literary direction or not.

      So Skyman succeeds as a new comic book issue on three counts: as a worthy partner title to Captain Midnight, as an entertaining and well-produced comic book read in its own right and as a new addition to the long lineage of Amercian comic book titles that address serious societal issues in both an entertaining and literate manner.

Iron Man #20
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kieron Gillen: Writer
Joe Bennett: Pencils
Scott Hanna: Inks

     Marvel's latest Iron Man title is up to issue #20 and presents part 3 of a 5-issue story arc entitled Iron Metropolitan.  An inside-the-front-cover narrative summarizes the tale to-date which interweaves two sub-plots: Tony Stark and his newly-found brother Arno constructing high tech cities of the future, and the now-dead supervillain the Mandarin's famous set of 10 rings gaining sentience and searching for evildoers as their new hosts.  The comic book is scripted by Kieron Gillen with pencils by Joe Bennett and inks by Scott Hanna.

     Issue #20 kicks-off with a fast action battle scene, as Tony Stark/Iron Man confronts Abigail Burns, a left-wing journalist who has become a Human Torch-like host to the Mandarin's former seventh ring, called Incinerator.  The battle continues for about two-thirds of the issue, as the duo fight to a standstill while Abigail spouts her political philosophy against Tony's plans for his cities of the future.  The final third of the storyline focuses the plot back on the 10 Mandarin rings themselves, as Tony visits a top secret Avengers storage facility and discovers that the now-sentient rings have escaped the facility and are off in search of various hosts in order to create a team of supervillains.  The story segment ends in a one-page bridge to next month's part four, as the rings become aware of Tony's discovery and communicate with each other a decision to accelerate their evil plan.

     This is a decent comic book that delivers solid entertainment for a few reasons.  First, it breathes two fresh story elements in the very long-running and familiar Iron Man storyverse, both the introduction of Tony's brother Arno and the concept of the Mandarin's rings having artificial intelligence.  I was very intrigued with the concept of Arno being disabled to the point of having to live in an iron lung, a very creative metaphor for Tony's brother being entrapped by his necessary life-giving technology while Tony is alternately empowered by his life-giving Iron Man high tech.  Its a neat fictional concept and lends itself well to some interesting future story opportunities.  Secondly, its a very fun and interesting idea to give the Mandarin's rings each their own sentient personality and particular power, such as ring #7/Incinerator bestowing Human Torch-like powers on its wearer.  Its as if the 10 rings themselves constitute a League of Supervillains and should also provide some entertaining direction for upcoming story segments.  Third, the artwork provides a very appropriate style for the action-adventure concept of this storyline.

     As a minor constructive criticism, I found the action battle scene between Iron Man and Abigail too long as it ate-up two-thirds of the entire issue.  But I see the point of the lengthy albeit a bit tedious scene, given that this is a 5-issue story arc and that the ongoing conversational banter between the battling duo is crucial to the overall multi-issue story concept.  I personally would have preferred a shortened battle scene to allow a page or two of issue #20 to address the cities-of-the-future project that Tony and Arno are obviously working on.  But I'm sure that a reading commitment to the entire 5-issue series will provide a nice overall balance to the two alternating sub-plots.

     So in sum, this latest issue #20 of Iron Man deserves a positive thumbs-up review recommendation for succeeding as an entertaining and creative comic book read, both as a stand-alone story segment and as the midway-point installment in its wider, five-issue story arc.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to build on the review in our last column of an Archie Comics title in which the zombie invasion reaches Archie's hometown of Riverdale.  We asked you to suggest another comic title that you'd also like to see receive the zombie treatment!  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Mike Dooley, who nominates the comic book title Eternal Warrior published by Valiant Comics to next be infected by the zombie horde.  For the uninitiated, this title features the past, present and future-day warrior adventures of Gilad, one of three immortal brothers born thousands of years ago.  The title is connected in storyverse concept to Valiant's Archer & Armstrong series.  Mike writes that "Eternal Warrior currently has a plotline ongoing in the year 4000. Since the hero will obviously still be around then, it stands to reason that he might encounter a zombified world at some point."  A very good observation and interesting zombie story proposal.  Congrats to Mike as the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to our favorite zombie-free sanctuary, That's Entertainment!

     Please note:  That's Entertainment is in no way affiliated with the "zombie-free sanctuary" joke listed above.  It is the policy of That's Entertainment to welcome all zombie customers as well as qualified zombie employees.  The store appreciates its many past and current zombie customers and is proud of its many past and current zombie employees.

New Contest Challenge!!!

     We're at a slow point this month in our annual Boston pro sports calendar, with the NFL season over, Major League Baseball (MLB) spring training yet to start and the NBA and NHL slogging along in their respective mid-seasons.  So Good King Leonardo has decreed that we turn our contest challenge focus to the next two weeks of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  Your challenge is e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, February 19 and tell us which among the many scheduled Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch and why you're looking forward to watching it on that non-stop, 24/7 two-week television coverage.  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 two great Winter Olympics-watching (Go U.S.A.!) and comic book-reading weeks and see you again on Friday, February 21 Here In Bongo Congo!