Friday, April 18, 2014

Comic Reviews 4/18/14

     Spring has finally sprung and as such Good King Leonardo has decreed that we celebrate the arrival (finally!) of the good weather by reviewing four interesting-looking new comic book titles. So let's get right to it and see how these new issues stack-up against each other:
Batman & Aquaman #29
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Peter J. Tomasi: Writer
Patrick Gleason: Pencils
Mick Gray, Mark Irwin & Norm Rapmund: Inks
John Kalisz: Colors

     DC's current Batman & Robin title is up to issue #29. The ongoing multi-issue story arc features a fresh stand-in for Robin in each issue, with the latest guest partner of Batman being Aquaman, as reflected in the special title.  The reason being that in this extended story arc, Batman is on the hunt for old foe Ras Al Ghul, who has stolen the bodies of the deceased Damien/Robin and his mother (Ras's daughter), hoping to reanimate both people in his famed Lazarus Pit.  The series is scripted by Peter J. Tomasi with a wide-ranging team of artists.

     The issue #29 story segment is entitled "Devil And The Deep Blue Sea," and kicks-off with Batman encountering Aquaman as he follows an undersea trail of clues toward Ras Al Ghul.  The pair team-up and track the bad guy to an island lair, where Ghul is using whales in a monstrous, Island Of Dr. Moreau-type creepy lab experiment to birth mutant monster versions of Damien from the female whales (yeesh!). In an extended battle, our duo thwart Ghul's island efforts but can't prevent him from escaping to another lair for next month's continued cat-and-mouse pursuit.  The issue ends in a nice bridge to that upcoming story segment, as Batman departs from Aquaman and teams-up with another familiar DC superhero for the issue #30 story segment.

     On a personal level I didn't enjoy this Batman story segment, but from a reviewer recommendation perspective it deserves a positive thumbs-up as a decent comic book tale.  Personally, there was too much gross blood and gore for my enjoyment.  While former Batman writer Scott Snyder often featured a high level of gore in his Batman tales, it was always in context and served the particular storylines well. Here, I just felt that a lot of the blood and guts was unneccessary, including some gross scenes with mutant hordes of Damien clones as well as some whale torture scenes.

     But on the other hand, if your personal reading preferences are more comfortable than me with stories soaked in blood and torture, the story and visuals within that genre result in a decently-entertaining multi-issue story arc segment.  I do very much like the creative idea of Batman pairing-up with various other DC heroes in his pursuit of Ghul and attempt to regain the remains of his family before a Frankenstein-like reanimation takes place.  Its reminiscent of the old Brave & Bold DC title that paired Batman each month with a different story partner, providing a lot of reading freshness and fun with each new monthly pairing.

     So if you're looking for a mainstream, traditional-style Batman tale, this issue most likely isn't for you.  But for a taste of an outside-the-creative-box Batman story that's more steeped in gore and horror genre overtones than your usual Batman storyline, this comic book is a well-produced and entertaining version of that genre for All Good Batman readers to enjoy.

Birds Of Prey #29
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Christy Marx: Writer
Robson Rocha: Pencils
Jonathan Glapion & Marc Deering: Inks
Chris Sotomayor: Colors

     The latest version of DC's long-running Birds Of Prey comic book title is currently up to issue #29. Regular readers know that the Birds Of Prey female hero team has evolved over time and currently consists of Batgirl, Black Canary and a ninja warrior character named Strix. These days, the series presents the team as working with a male superhero named Condor, with this foursome apparently allied with a team of good guys led by Mother Eve, an ancient woman who has Ras Al Ghul-like powers of personal immortality. Similar to the Batman & Aquaman comic book reviewed above, the current plotline has everybody in conflict with bad guy (and Batman's father-in-law!) Ras Al Ghul. The title is written by Christy Marx with pencils by Robson Rocha, inks by the team of Jonathan Glapion and Marc Deering and colors by Chris Sotomayor.

     The issue #29 story segment is entitled "Eve Of Battle" and alternates between two subplots.  The first storythread is soap opera-driven: as Black Canary's husband Kurt Lance lies in a coma, Condor struggles with his conflicted feelings of unrequited love for Canary and jealousy that Lance is still alive and therefore blocking his possibilities of having a relationship with Canary.  The second sub-plot reflects the story title, as this large group team-up prepares for the arrival of Ras Al Ghul, to fulfill an ancient prophesied battle between himself and Mother Eve.  The two subplots interweave as Ghul reaches-out to Condor, offering to kill Kurt Lance if Condor stays out of the impending battle.  The drama heightens as Mother Eve, the Birds of Prey and Condor strategize and prepare for the arrival of Ghul, and the issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #30 as Ghul's forces hit the ground hard against our band of heroes.

     I haven't read an issue of Birds Of Prey for a few years and as such enjoyed this particular issue for a few reasons.  First, the soap opera elements of the plot were well-crafted and frankly intriguing. While the love triangle element was routine, the element of Condor striking a Faustian deal with Ghul was very fresh and frankly shocking; I can't think of another comic book tale in which a supposed good hero agrees to have his romantic rival killed-off so he can get the girl himself, so a hats-off is due to writer Christy Marx for having the storytelling guts to throw that element into the storyline as an unexpected and interesting plot twist.  Secondly, I really enjoyed the yin-and-yang contrast between Mother Eve and Ras Al Ghul. Its a very entertaining story concept to introduce a female good guy who has Al Ghul's resurrection abilities and not only uses them for the cause of good, but has an ancient, highly ritualized blood oath conflict with Ghul.  Its very neat to see this whole history between the pair coming to a dramatic head in this current multi-issue story arc.

     The artwork from this large team of visual creators is also of very high quality, with a well-chosen visual style for this type of large team-up, action-adventure plot.  My only constructive criticism is that it personally felt very weird for me to read a comic book tale in which Black Canary is married to some guy who I've personally never heard of. As a baby boomer, I'm used to generations of comic books in which Canary's romantic interest is The Green Arrow/Oliver Queen.  But that's just a personal reaction that doesn't take away from the high quality production of this solidly entertaining comic book issue.  And maybe a little bit of storyverse romantic change is a good thing! So for both regular fans of Birds Of Prey as well as for All Good DC Readers who haven't been regular readers of this title, the current Birds Of Prey ongoing storyline is well worth reading and enjoying!

Moon Knight #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Warren Ellis: Writer
Declan Shalvey: Art
Jordie Bellaire: Colors

     The latest Moon Knight comic book title is currently up to issue #2.  Often referred to as Marvel's version of Batman, the Moon Knight is former mercenary Marc Spector, who died on a mission in Egypt under a statue of the ancient deity Khonshu, was returned to life under the shadow of the moon god and as such fights crime Batman-style in a Moon Knight costume.  This new Moon Knight series is written by Warren Ellis with art by Declan Shalvey and colors by Jordie Bellaire.

     The issue #2 story segment is entitled "Sniper" and unfolds in two extended scenes. Scene One juxtaposes the daily routines of seven seemingly unconnected men and women, of whom we eventually learn are the now-retired members of a former black ops for-hire global security team. In turn, six of the seven folks are killed by the aforementioned unidentified sniper.  When the Moon Knight confronts the killer, he explains that the operation is in revenge for the team abandoning him for dead on an old botched mission.  After an extended battle scene between the duo that lasts for the entire second half of the issue, the seventh still-living member of the old black ops team arrives on the scene and kills the sniper, concluding the issue with a brief explanation to the Moon Knight of why they all left their previous careers.

     This is one stinkeroo failure of a comic book.  Once again, I took a chance on reading a Warren Ellis-written comic book and once again he's proven that he's completely lost his previous writing skills with which he received rightful acclaim for such early series as Planetary.  There's literally about one-quarter of a normal story idea and plotline here, stretched superthin into a normal-length series of single-issue comic book pages.  Instead of roughly four pages of storyline (7 people are hunted by an assassin, 6 get killed and Moon Knight shows up) to start a plot, Ellis and team have the nerve to excruciatingly spread it out using three very cheap tricks.  One is to follow these 6 folks in the boring, mind-numbing trivia details of their current lives for half of an entire issue, while the second is to intersperse these panels with huge chucks of blank white space trying to make it all look artsy to hide the thinness of detail. And the third scam is to hide the lack of storyline with a 10-page extended fight scene that deserved one or two pages, at most.

     Ellis has previously used the trick of following characters in trivial but overly-lengthy details of their lives in previous failed comics. Its just more proof that he can't come-up with a normal-length comic book plotline anymore and tries to complete his work assignments with mindless filler.  And to top it all off, we're forced to endure one of his usual personal political rants, this time in the form of the sniper raging to Moon Knight that his old black ops team not only deserves to die for abandoning him but also because they now "work for banks."  Ellis needs to save his personal leftist British political rantings for his own personal blog (if one exists, I have no desire to look for it) and not force-feed it to readers just looking for some decent comic book reading entertainment.

     So in sum, bad comic book. Bad, bad comic book.  But the silver ling here is that I've finally learned my lesson and hereby take the following pledge: I will never, ever review or read another Warren Ellis-written new issue comic book.  Feel free to take this pledge with me.  Go ahead. You'll feel all the better for it. Life will be fresh and hopeful again, and all of the wonderful, comic book titles out there that are not written by Warren Ellis will seem that much sweeter to enjoy. In the words of the great Stan Lee: 'Nuff Said.

Silver Surfer #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dan Slott & Michael Allred: Writer
Michael Allred: Art
Laura Allred: Colors

     After a few years hiatus, the Silver Surfer is once again back in his own solo comic book title.  The new series is co-written by Dan Slott and Michael Allred, with art by Michael Allred and colors by Laura Allred.

     Issue #1 kicks-off a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Most Important Person In The Universe," alternating back-and-forth between two sub-plots.  The first plotline presents the childhood and present-day lives of Dawn and Eve, two sisters who along with their father operate a Cape Cod seaside bed-and-breakfast inn. While Dawn is the stay-at-home sister who deeply loves her Cape Cod town, Eve travels the world marketing their business and chiding her sister for never leaving home.  Our second storythread stars the Silver Surfer, who is contacted  by Zed, the leader of an immense hidden galactic vacation planet, who begs our hero to defend the world from an impending threat by The Never Queen, a Galactus-like pending invader. Upon agreeing to do so, the Surfer learns that the custom of the planet is to hold hostage the person "who means the most to its appointed champion".  Upon demanding to see who has been kidnapped in his name, the Surfer learns on the final page of issue #1 that Zed has kidnapped (you guessed it) old stay-at-home Earth woman Dawn as the Surfer's emotional hostage.

     This new comic book series excels as a wonderful mash-up of the two distinctive yet compatible comic book creating styles of this creative team.  On the one hand, we're treated to the droll humor and highly skilled scripting of A-list writer Dan Slott.  I personally loved his award-winning writing of She-Hulk a few years back and he repeats that same element of lightness and humor in this issue.  On the other hand, we're also treated to the strong writing and distinctive visual skills of the husband-and-wife Allred team.  Their very unique artistic stylings are perfectly suited to both the domestic Cape Cod scenes and the alien stylings of both the galactic tourist planet and the features of the aliens themselves.  There's a just plain wonderful sequence of Zed giving the Silver Surfer a tour of the funkiness of the mega-tourism planet, including a poster-worthy two-page display of the wacky place that's equal to the 1960's pop art that's clearly inspired the Allreds in their career art stylings.

     My personal favorite choice bit from this comic is the creative team's great final panel, in which after ranting to Zed against the concept of stealing whomever is supposed to mean the most to him, the Surfer gazes upon Dawn and flatly states: "Okay. I have absolutely no idea who that is." This a great plot twist, in that we the reader know from Dawn's childhood flashback why she is so seemingly inexplicably important to him. Its a neat storythread which should be lead to some very entertaining comic book reading as the creative team expands upon it in upcoming issues.

     So a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this excellent new Silver Surfer title and a tip-of-the-review-hat is also due to the head honchos at Marvel Comics, for taking an outside-of-the-creative box chance and greenlighting this unusual and unique creative team, whose talents are adding a fun and fresh perspective to the well-known storyverse of the Silver Surfer.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to tell us which American City has the unfortunate distinction of having the most multiple pro sports losing streaks in the U.S.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Keith Martin, who correctly answered Cleveland, whose NBA Cavaliers tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for worst professional basketball losing streak and whose former Major League Baseball team, the Cleveland Spiders (yeesh, what a team name!) in 1899 set the MLB losing streak record. The Philadelphia Phillies also tied that record in the modern baseball era, so we would have accepted Philly as a correct answer along with Cleveland, but no one submitted Philadelphia as a contest entry. Congratulations to Keith who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel of Contest Judges have decreed that we offer a late night television talk show trivia contest this week.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, April 30 with the correct answer to the following question: As you know, all late night talk shows (David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.) have an on-show musical house band. Your contest challenge is to give us the correct full name of the house band on The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS, 12:37 a.m. weeknights) and also tell us what is unique and different about the band compared to all of the other house bands among the many late night talk shows on network television.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, 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 two great NHL playoffs-watching (Go Broons!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, May 2 Here In Bongo Congo!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Comic Reviews 4/4/14

Here In Bongo Congo

     Good King Leonardo is thrilled and relieved that Spring has finally sprung after our long, cold Central Mass. Winter, and has decreed that in celebration we review a nice range of new comic book titles.  So let's get right to it and see how these new issues stack-up against each other:

Daredevil #36
Mark Waid: Writer
Chris Samnee: Art
Javier Rodriquez: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently concluded its current Daredevil title run with issue #36. As all good Daredevil fans know, the Daredevil storyverse was just rebooted with a new run starting with a new issue #1, in which Daredevil/Matt Murdock and his supporting cast of characters all relocate from his New York City Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to San Francisco. Given the acclaimed high quality work of the creative team on the recent 36-issue run, I thought it worthwhile to review the recent wrap-up issue before we move on to future reviews of the succeeding Daredevil series.  Issue #36 is scripted by A-lister Mark Waid wirth art by Chris Samnee and colors by Javier Rodriquez.

     Issue #36 brings together several sub-plots into a high drama series conclusion.  One key sub-plot features Matt's law partner and best buddy Foggy struggling through chemotherapy as he fights for his life from cancer, while a second sub-plot involves romance for Matt.  But the key drama centers upon a courtroom battle, in which Matt is being blackmailed by a crime boss and the corrupt judge as they threaten to reveal his Daredevil identity to the world.  In a very dramatic turn of events, Matt turns the table on them by revealing his superhero persona to the world.  I won't spoil any of the amazing story details resulting from this superhero outing, other than to comment that a battle literally breaks out in the courtroom over the reveal. By issue's end, the consequences of the situation lead Matt and friends to start life afresh with a new law practice in San Francisco.

     I loved all of the previous issues of this excellent run of Daredevil and I'm happy to report that the creative team ends the series on a perfect note. The various sub-plots seamlessly come together into one final perfect episode of the multi-issue story arc.  I like several little touches that have major impacts upon the storyline and its ultimate conclusion.  Perhaps the best is a multi-panel, detailed conversation between the ill Foggy and Matt, in which their discussion regarding the ongoing identity reveal becomes a talk about the deep and lasting bonds of their friendship.

     Major kudos are also due writer Mark Waid for a very entertaining and moving speech that he writes for Matt, in which he informs the court why he is going public with his superhero persona.  Without overphilosophizing, its actually a pretty good bigger picture explanation as to why superheros in our comic book reality of 2014 may have outgrown the need to hide the dual sides of their identities from the world. On a final review note, I also liked very much the decision of Marvel to keep this storyverse world of Murdock/Daredevil structurally intact and just move everyone to another city for further adventuring.  There's a lot of good emotional connectivity among these folks, and as such the new Daredevil title should be able to give us a successful balance between the familiar/fun old and new, refreshing elements of Daredevil in San Francisco.

     So a major complimentary tip-of-the-review-hat is due to both this excellent creative team and Marvel Comics itself for hitting the trifecta of a great 36-issue Daredevil run, providing a wonderful issue #36 wrap-up story segment and heading us into what looks like an upcoming fun continuation of Daredevil with some fresh story opportunities. And if you haven't been a regular Daredevil reader of late, by all means catch-up on this current title run with back issues available at That's Entertainment, while at the same time heading into the new Daredevil title run.  We'll be sure to give the upcoming issues a review or two in upcoming installments of this column.

Serenity #2
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Zack Whedon: Writer
Georges Jeanty: Pencils
Karl Story: Inks
Laura Martin: Colors

      Dark Horse Comics is up to issue #2 of its latest Serenity comic book mini-series run.  As all good science fiction fans know, this series is an outer space adventuring comic book based upon Josh Whedon's acclaimed "Firefly" television show, which followed the outer space adventures of the spaceship Serenity, captained by Malcolm Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion in the series and movie) and manned by his tightknit band of smuggler/adventurers. The comic book extends the plot presented in the "Serenity" movie that followed the t.v. series.  The comic book is scripted by Josh Whedon's brother Zack Whedon with pencils by Georges Jeanty, inks by Karl Story and colors by Laura Martin.

     As I mentioned above, the comic book continues the movie plot, in which an interstellar government bounty hunter is trying to capture crewmember Willow and return her to the clutches of the Alliance, the "evil empire" style of galactic government.  We learn two elements of this plan in interweaving sub-plots: first, former crewmember Jayne is part of the hunt for the ship, while the bounty hunter makes his own search for the fleeing ship.  The plot becomes more tense as crewmember Zoe needs medical care after giving birth to her baby; most of the plot centers on the crew's efforts to admit Zoe to an interstellar hospital ship without getting caught by their pursuers.  Without being a detail spoiler, by issue's end, Captain Reynolds and crew have managed to get Zoe on-board the hospital ship and then escape, but not before the Alliance begins to spring a trap to possibly recapture everyone in next month's issue #3.

     As I've mentioned in previous reviews, the key to the success of a comic book series that's based on a movie or television series is the degree to which it manages to duplicate all the good stuff from the original show or series.  In this case, the creative team pulls-off that feat in two successful ways.  First, they do a great job of duplicating the personalities and behavior of the various Serenity characters, to the point where the comic book has a strong feel for the t.v. show and movie.  Secondly, writer Zack Whedon does a great job providing a script that credibly continues the Serenity movie plot. I could easily see this storyline someday becoming a decent sequel to the Serenity movie.

     My only constructive criticism is that the artwork only sporadically resembles the familiar facial features of the very popular actors from the t.v. series and movie.  But the plot is entertaining enough and the general tone of the comic book is so similar to Firefly that its a minor point in this case and does little or nothing to diminish the fun and entertainment value of this title.  So whether you're already a Firefly/Serenity fan or a newbie to this science fiction series, either way by all means check-out and enjoy the latest Serenity mini-series comic book from Dark Horse Comics!

Superman: Lois Lane (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marguerite Bennett: Writer
Various Artists

     DC Comics recently published a slightly oversized, one-shot Lois Lane comic book within its wide-ranging "The New 52!" publishing event.  The title is scripted by Marguerite Bennett with a total of eight different artists taking turns penciling and inking various portions of this 38-page comic book.

     The storyline is entitled "Nostalgia," and can best be summed-up with the marketing blurb on the front cover which proclaims "Metropolis, Mayhem and Monsters!" The plot stars Lois and her younger sister Lucy, alternating between a present-day main plotline and a flashback storythread.  In the flashback, we witness the period in the sisters' childhood when they lived with their parents on a U.S. Army base in Germany.  This subplot is layered with subtle emotion, as the girls bond tightly together while their mother is slowly dying and their father copes with his powerlessness in dealing with the situation.  The present-day storythread dominates the issue and features equal parts mystery and fast action.  When Lucy's roommate is kidnapped by a mysterious military unit, Lois investigates and stumbles upon a conspiracy in which a mysterious new Metropolis street drug is turning people into monsters.

     Without revealing any important detail or plot-twist spoilers, its fair to reveal that Lucy's roommate has been unwittingly prescribed the drug when recently ill, leading to the military unit rounding her up along with other Metropolis citizen-victims.  Action-adventure kicks-in in the second half of the storyline, as Lois infiltrates the secret harbor location where the round-up is located.  As she investigates, she's unexpectedly aided by the anonymous leader of the military unit, who sympathizes with the monster victims and just wants to secretly restore them to their human lives and sweep the existence of the incident under the rug.  When all hell does break loose in the midst of Lois's clandestine visit, she escapes with her sister's roommate. Returning to the safety of home, Lois learns in a very dramatic and unexpected plot twist of her sister's own victimization by the secret project, whereupon the story concludes with the siblings re-bonding emotionally in a manner similar to their childhood flashback experience.

     I had to think awhile about a final review recommendation for this comic book, given the equal mix of strongpoints and glaring flaws within this issue.  I finally decided to give it a borderline average thumbs-up positive review recommendation, several reasons.  On the plus side, there's a lot of well-crafted storytelling emotion and characterization between Lois Lane and her sister Lucy throughout this storyline.  It falls more into the "Chick Lit" genre of fiction-telling rather than a traditional Superman Family comic book telling, but it is well-presented and entertaining as a unique storytelling style that adds to the wide-ranging inventory of Lois Lane comic book tales.  And the story concept itself is interesting, that of a secret drug research program that's turning people into monsters.  Third, there's an interesting storythread in the back half of this tale between Lois and the mysterious military unit leader, as they debate the pros and cons between going public with the conspiracy versus allowing the military to quietly clean-up the mess and restore people to their normal lives.

     On the con side, these good story features are heavily weighed down by the dialogue detail within writer Marguerite Bennett's script, much of which is incredibly amateurish and sloppy, in two respects. The first is her peppering the story with annoyingly illogical small points that all add-up to one glaring annoyance. Secondly, Bennett's writing style for demonstrating folks emotionally bonding together is poor.  The initial scenes of the two girls bonding in childhood are plodding and drag-on for too many pages, while a present-day scene illustrating the friendship bond between Lois and Jimmy Olson is amateurish and cringe-worthy.  By issue's end, I felt that a better writer would have provided readers with a much more entertaining and higher quality product for this comic book.

     So bottom line: this one-shot comic book is an interesting effort that deserves an average-quality thumbs-up positive review recommendation for fans of the extended Superman Family to add to the wide range of their collections.  But the sloppiness of the writing as detailed above does leave one feeling that a better quality product could have been produced by DC Comics for the worthy story concept embodying the storyline premise.  Hopefully, a future one-shot edition of Superman: Lois Lane might improve upon the current effort.  And one last final review comment: its really time for DC Comics to cancel the whole "The New 52!" publishing event. This marketing effort has been around for a few years now and has run out of gas. There's nothing new about the storyverse concept and we're well beyond the original 52 week-period of this tired publishing concept.

Loki: Agent Of Asgard #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Al Ewing: Writer
Lee Garbett: Art
Nolan Woodard: Colors

     Marvel Comics is up to issue #2 of a new title starring Loki, Thor's well-known at-tmes evil, at-times just mischievious younger brother.  The concept in this title is that previously, Loki didn't want to remain evil so he died and was reborn as a good teen Loki.  Then the remaining spirit of his dead self killed-off the young good Loki and secretly replaced him.  This secret new Loki is now an agent as Asgard's powerful All-Mother, conducting secret missions on her behalf.  The series is scripted by Al Ewing with art by Lee Garbett and colors by Nolan Woodard.

     Issue #2 is entitled "Loki and Lorelei, Sitting in a Tree..." and centers on Loki's latest secret mission, that of seeking-out in human society the Asgardian enchantress (and Loki's ex-girlfriend) Lorelei and returning her to Asgard.  The plot begins with humor, as Loki tracks Lorelei to a speed dating event and connects emotionally with Verity Willis, a human woman who has the power to sense when she's being lied to.  From there, most of the issue presents a series of flashbacks  by which Loki tells Verity about Loreliei's various catburgler adventures as well as the details of his past romance with Lorelei.  By issue's end, Loki connects with Lorelei but begins his own scheming partnership with her rather than return her to Asgard, for now at least.

     Marvel Comics has put a lot of energy and creative talent to bear these past few years in presenting a wide range of Thor storyverse titles that present fresh takes on these well-known Asgardian characters.  That said, this latest version of Loki adds some additional freshness and decent entertainment to that inventory, for a few reasons.  First and foremost is the fun element of humor throughout this storyline.  Writer Al Ewing nicely balances the drama story elements with a fun satire on the drawbacks to speed dating, as well as a nice layer of humor in the flashback sequences.  Secondly, the artwork is very appropriate for the storyline, with some effective and enjoyable facial sequences of the characters that support the humor and light elements of the tale.

     Third, the story bridge at the conclusion of this story segment to next month's issue #3 is solid and intriguing in two respects: the first being the unexpected twist of Loki seeming to turn the tables on the All-Mother by recruiting Lorelei for his own grifting purposes and secondly, the potential for a growing relationship (possibly romantic) between Loki and Verity Willis. Regarding one note of constructive review criticism, the whole concept of bad Loki becoming good Loki then becoming secret agent Loki is a bit confusing.  Its not that clear whether this current version is good, secretly bad or a mix of both. While its not a quality dealbreaker for this series, hopefully future issues will clarfy Loki's personality traits for a better understanding of his actions and motives.

     So all-in-all a thumbs-up positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this solid and entertaining addition to the always-expanding Marvel inventory of new-issue Thor comic book titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest challenged you to tell us which U.S. company offered the first plastic gift cards back in the 1990's and why they decided to shift away from paper gift certificates. We had several correct entries, so via a roll of the dice our winner is (drumroll, pelase...) Erin O'Connor, who correctly tells us that Blockbuster Video was the first to offer gift cards, the reason being that some customers were starting to xerox and counterfeit the paper gift certificates. Congratulations to Erin who winds our first prize $10.00 gift certificate (not a gift card!) to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     With the start of the Major League Baseball season this week, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges turn their thoughts to a sports trivia question.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, April 16 with the answer to the following sports question: Which U.S. city has the unfortunate distinction of having three professional sports teams in three major U.S. sports who each own the worst consecutive game losing streaks in their respective sports? Unfortunately, one poor city has this distinction!  As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of our $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.  Please note that our $10.00 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 Boston sports-watching (go Broons and Red Sox!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 18 Here In Bongo Congo!