Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comic Reviews 10/29/10

Good King Leonardo is back after a week's hiatus with four new comic book reviews including two DC Comics, a Marvel/creator-owned collaboration and a new Darkhouse comic book:

Batman: Hidden Treasures #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Ron Marz: Writer
Bernie Wrightson: Penciller
Kevin Nowlan: Inks
Alex Sinclair: Colors

DC Comics has just issued a new Batman comic entitled Batman: Hidden Treasures #1. The lead story is written by Ron Marz with pencils by Silver Age veteran Bernie Wrightson, inks by Kevin Nowland and colors by Alex Sinclair. A page-one essay by DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello sets the tone for this unusual and interesting comic book. Chiarello writes that there are several "urban myths" among comic fandom, rumors of legendary stories that have never seen publication, such as a Jack Kirby version of the legendary 1960's cult television show "The Prisoner." One rumor is apparently true, of a lost Bernie Wrightson Batman story. For the uninitiated, Wrightson is an iconic Silver Age artist, well-known among other efforts for his work on Swamp Thing. As such, this comic book presents that Batman "hidden treasure" once and for all.

The 22-page story is entitled "Splash," and is presented in short story/graphic format. On the right side of each page, we have a Batman tale in traditional paragraph short story narrative, while the remainder of each page is dominated by one large, full-page panel illustrating each page's respective section of story narrative. It's a dark Gotham-noir tale, in which Batman searches for clues to the identity of the "Sewer Killer," someone who is killing hobos and leaving their bodies in sewers. The clues seem to point to The Caped Crusader's old foe Solomon Grundy. After a confrontation between the pair, the story takes an unexpected twist (which I won't spoil, of course!), leading us away from Grundy and revealing the true killer.

This is a very enjoyable and fresh alternative take on Batman comics for two reasons. First, the concept of presenting a "lost tale" by a famous artist is fun and interesting. Secondly, the alternative story lay-out structure, essentially illustrating a short story narrative, is an enjoyable change of pace from the traditional story panel lay-out more common in comic books. Wrightson's pencilling is of his well-known high quality, with the swamp and sewer settings of the tale providing an atmospheric link to Wrightson's classic Silver Age run on Swamp Thing. As an added bonus, the issue contains a second story, a reprint of Wrightson's "Night Of The Bat" tale from the 1973 issue #7 of Swamp Thing, guest-starring Batman with Swamp Thing.

It's not clear whether this issue is a one-shot publication or issue #1 in a new series that would unveil previously-unpublished DC masterpieces. Here's hoping for the latter, but if it is only a one-shot publication, even more reason to read and "treasure" this intriguing and entertaining Batman: Hidden Treasures comic book.

Freedom Fighters #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmioti & Justin Gray: Writers
Travis Moore: Pencils
Trevor Scott: Inks
Rob Schwager: Colors

DC Comics has just begun publishing a new Freedom Fighters comic book title. For the uninitiated, Freedom Fighters is a superhero team that DC has published off-and-on since purchasing the rights to these heroes back in the 1970's from the former Quality Comics company. The new Freedom Fighters include the team leader Uncle Sam, Navajo superhero Black Condor and Firebrand, along with several additional characters.

Issue #1 begins a multi-issue story arc entitled "American Nightmare." The first half of the issue introduces the various Freedom Fighter members by alternating between three separate battles that the members of the team are involved in. After communicating with each other to jointly win all three conflicts, the team is summoned by leader Uncle Sam to the White House, where the President asks the group to find the kidnapped Vice-President. Clues lead the team to an underground lair in Wyoming. The issue ends in a cliffhanger as the group unwittingly unleashes four ancient and powerful Native American evil spirits.

While I'm giving a positive recommendation to this new comic book title, my thumbs-up comes with a warning to the writing team of A-list veterans Jimmy Palmioti and Justin Gray. This first issue is well-drawn and the basic concept of this team is well-presented. However, the plot itself is too overstuffed with multiple sub-plots. There are drawn-out references to several different political conspiracies, thrown together with the Vice-President's kidnapping, ancient Indian spirits, etc. The result is a plot that needs to take a deep breath and settle-down over the next few issues into progressing two or three of these major storythreads, instead of jarring the reader about like a human pinball between disconnected storythreads.

With the quality of this creative team, I'm hopeful that the pace of this storyline will settle-in over the next few issues into a more enjoyable read. So it's worth checking-out this rather hectic and overstuffed issue #1 storyline and see where the creators take us in the next few monthly issues of this decent new title addition to the Freedom Fighters team universe.

Superior #1
Publisher: Icon/Millarworld
Mark Millar: Writer
Leinil Yu: Pencils
Gerry Alanguilan: Inks
Dave McCaig: Colors

Marvel Comics's Icon imprint in partnership with creator-owned Millarworld has just released issue #1 in a new comic book entitled Superior. The comic is written by Mark Millar, creator of such acclaimed series as Kick-Ass and Nemesis, with pencils by co-creator Leinil Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan and colors by Dave McCaig.

The issue #1 story is entitled "One Magic Wish" and introduces us to Simon Pooni, a young New York City teenager with athletic promise who's become tragically afflicted with severe multiple sclerosis. The plot quickly introduces the reader to Simon's mother and his best friend Chris, a fellow athlete who's stuck with Simon through thick and thin as a good friend. Both boys are huge fans of Superior, a Superman-like comic book and movie hero. Asleep one night, Simon awakens in a spaceship, where a spacesuited monkey informs him that he's been granted one magic wish, thus transforming him into his comic book fictional hero Superior. In the form of Superior, Simon is dumped back home with the cryptic comment from said spacemonkey that "all will be explained in one week." The issue ends with Superior/Simon fleeing in a panic to his friend Chris, to try and figure-out what has just happened to him.

I enjoyed the premier issue of this new title for a few reasons. First, veteran writer Mark Millar skillfully presents the reality of Simon's debilitating illness, giving us a very moving and real-world portrayal of a young man facing such a difficulty by finding some solace in his superhero fiction. Secondly, there's a perfect balance of atmosphere within this comic book of story elements that make this new series worthwhile and enjoyable reading for kids and adults, alike. Think of the premise of the old Tom Hanks movie "Big," with a superhero slant, and you've got a feel for this comic book concept. Third, the mysterious monkey was a fun oddball twist that works very well here and adds just enough mystery to the plot situation to keep readers on their toes for several issues, at least.

So a well-deserved positive review recommendation for the latest new comic book title concept from creator Mark Millar and his creative team partners.

Turok, Son Of Stone #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Jim Shooter: Writer
Eduardo Francisco: Art
Jose Villarrubia: Colors

Dark Horse Comics has just published issue #1 in its eagerly-awaited revival of the Silver Age comic book "Turok, Son Of Stone." The original series followed the adventures of Native American Turok and his young sidekick Andar as they made their way through an underground prehistoric land. The series is scripted by veteran writer Jim Shooter with art by Eduardo Francisco and colors by Jose Villarrubia. This is the third in a series of Dell Comics Silver Age titles being revived by Dark Horse Comics, the first two being Doctor Solar: Man Of The Atom and Magnus, Robot Fighter.

The premier story is part one of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Part One-Aztlan Out Of Time." It's a reinterpretation of the original Turok origin story that was published in the December, 1954 premier issue of the title. The original story was an adventure tale starring Turok and Andar as two hunters who stumble across a cave entrance to the prehistoric hidden land. Writer Jim Shooter re-works the plot into an action-adventure tale. A large party of vicious Aztec-like warriors have come north from their land of Aztlan and encounter Turok and Andar. The plot moves quickly, as the pair struggle to flee the pursuing invaders. Soon, all stumble upon the cave entrance to the hidden land and continue their struggle in the prehistoric world below. Issue #1 ends in a dramatic bridge as the duo barely escape the marauders, only to be captured by a mysterious tribe led by a beautiful princess who plans to feed our heros to the dinosaurs (youch!).

This is a wonderful comic book for two reasons. First, it goes without saying that there's no one better (and few equal) to esteemed veteran Jim Shooter in scipting a basic action-adventure comic book tale. Shooter outdoes himself here by providing a script that perfectly balances elements of the original Turok storyline with fresh details and twists in the origin story. The result is a tale that's entertaining and fun for old-school Silver Age fans and younger generation readers, alike. Secondly, a well-deserved hats-off is due to the artistic team, who provide the perfect artistic style and graphic format for this unique story universe that blends a Native American adventure tale with elements of science fiction.

The main story is followed by a reprint of the December, 1954 original Turok origin tale, which gives the reader the fun opportunity to compare and contrast the two stories. Happily, instead of finding the 12/54 story stale in comparison to Shooter's reinterpretation, I found that both stories had strong legs, standing on their own as respective versions of this intriguing and historically popular comic book universe. As a final review comment, this large, 48-page "First Issue Spectacular" is only priced at $3.50, an extremely affordable buy, given both the issue size and the amount of entertaining story details delivered in this issue. So an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to definitely add this kick-off re-issuance of Turok, Son Of Stone to your ever-growing new issues comic book reading pile!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you with a "Big Bang Theory" television show question. We asked you to tell us what interesting comment that the show's character Rajesh made in an episode regarding Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee's method of naming his characters. And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from amongst several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Eric O'Connor, who tells us that Rajesh makes an observation that Stan Lee makes use of alliteration in naming his characters, or repetition between the first and last names of the characters. The result has been such well-known Marvel comic book characters as Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Peter Parker, etc. (you get the picture!). The habit isn't confined to Stan Lee, of course, with DC Comics giving us such names as Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Clark Kent, etc. Congratulations to Erin, who wins the contest first prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

With the Major League Baseball World Series in full swing this week, let's hold one last baseball trivia contest of the season. This year's World Series pits the American League's Texas Rangers against the National League's San Francisco Giants. The Rangers finally got into their first World Series in the 49-year history of the team. That leaves only two teams in all of Major League Baseball who have never made an appearance in the World Series.

So the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenge you to e-mail us at and tell us who are the two remaining teams in the game who have yet to make it to "the big dance" to play in the World Series. Our contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. As always, in the event of multiple correct contest entries, a winner will be selected from among the correct entries via a roll of the dice.

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading (and World Series watching!) week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

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