Review Date: 10/03/2008
 Ambush Bug: Year None #1
Story by: Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Wonder Chick
Art by: Keith Giffen, Al Milgrom, Wonder Chick
Colors by: Guy Major
Letters by: Pat Brosseau
Cover by: Liam Sharp
Publisher: DC Comics

     DC is in the process of issuing a six-issue Ambush Bug-Year None mini-series.  Issues #1 through #3 are on the new issues wall at That's Entertainment, so I decided to give issue #1 a review.
     Keith Giffen created Ambush Bug as an oddball DC character in the 1980's.  He's been an interesting satirical minor character over the years, often used by DC writers and artists in a very surreal and unexpected manner.  Some DC artists/writers have even just put him silently in the background of a panel; I recall one comic panel just had one of his antennas peeking into the scene!
     The current mini-series puts Ambush Bug back in the main character role.  Its written by Bug creator Keith Giffen along with Robert Fleming and drawn by Giffen along with Al Milgrom.  Issue #1's basic plot is a murder mystery, as Ambush Bug pops around (that's his thing, he pops in and out of places-teleport is too elegant a word for it!) trying to solve the mystery of who is murdering various DC female characters, including Jonni DC, a female version of the old Johnny DC cartoon logo. 
     To be honest, although the plot is solid, it doesn't really matter, here.  The entire comic is just a very funny, well-crafted satirical riff on bits and pieces of the Silver Age DC universe.  Think of Mad Magazine doing an issue satirizing the DC Universe and you get the picture.
     What I most enjoyed about this issue is the range of Giffen's satirical bits.  It was fun to see humorous send-ups of a wide range of DC minutiae, including the old Cap's Hobby Hints comic strip that ran in the 1960's DC comics.  He even gets major mileage out of skewering the old checkerboard paneling design along the border of Silver Age DC comics!
     All in all, this creative team keeps the laughs coming from start to finish.  I'm sold on this mini-series and look forward to checking-out the remaining issues.  Hope you do, too!

 Flash Gordon #1
Story by: Brendan Deneen
Art by: Paul Green
Letters by: Richard Emms
Cover by: Paul Green
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

      One of the most famous newspaper comic strips of all time is Flash Gordon, created back in the 1930's by Alex Raymond.  The comic has been paired with the equally famous Buck Rogers over the decades as the premier science fiction strip of the newspaper world.  The basic premise follows Earth adventurer Gordon, his girlfriend Dale Arden and scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov as they have adventures and battle Ming The Merciless from the planet Mongo.
     Writer Brendan Deneen secured the rights from King Features Syndicate to produce an independent Flash Gordon comic book and distribute it through Diamond Distributors, in affiliation with Graham Cracker Comics, a chain of comic stores in the Chicago area.  Deneen has partnered with artist Paul Green on this effort.
     Deneen has taken the approach of updating the Flash Gordon story from its original Art Deco world of the 1930's to our modern society.  As such, issue #1 is a modern retelling of the origin strips of the series, with the three characters getting together and at the end of the issue blasting off in a rocket ship for Mongo and their first encounter with Ming The Merciless.
     I had a mixed reaction to this comic.  On the positive side, Paul Green's art is beautiful.  Credit also has to be given to Deneen for trying to update an iconic classic into our world.  Its not easy to make such major changes, but he's done a credible job of adding 2008 social elements to the Flash Gordon world.  Dale Arden is a CIA agent, who pairs with Yale Professor/CIA training school washout Gordon in finding the missing Zarkov in Africa, realizing that the good doctor has been framed by rogue CIA elements, and banding together to head for Mongo and destiny.  Deneen mixes-in modern action and intrigue story elements well, such as the CIA world, references to weapons of mass destruction, use of modern adventure technology, etc.
     Unfortunately, a critical negative here is that the storyline just plain drags; there's too much talking head dialogue, with the story moving much too slowly.  This is the flaw of an independent effort done outside of a conventional comic publisher, which would have provided professional editing oversight of this project, resulting in a tighter and much more effective storyline.
     Overall, the issue just feels too much like an amateur, albeit loving tribute to the creative team's favorite comic book subject.
It takes an entire comic book issue here for the three main characters to get together and blast off for outer space in the very last panel, an event that should have happened no more than one-third of the way into this book.
     As such, a reluctant thumbs-down against recommending this one.  While its a heartfelt attempt at paying tribute to a great comic figure, its in desperate need for the editing touch of an established comic book company to move it into the plus column for quality.


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