Review Date: 01/16/2009

Now that we're coming off of the Holiday Season, King Leonardo has declared that we start the New Year off on an equal footing
for the two major comic publishers.  As such, this week we have one Marvel Comics review and one DC Comics review, as follows:


Runaways #5
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Terry Moore: Writer
Humberto Ramos: Penciler
Dave Meikis: Inker
Christina Strain: Colorist



     Runaways is a unique Marvel comic series that was created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona in 2003.  The very original premise of the comic is that a group of seemingly ordinary kids discover that their parents are secretly a group of super-powered criminals known as "The Pride."  Using newly-discovered powers of their own, along with technology stolen from their parents, the kids defeat the old folk and go on the run, with the goal of doing good to atone for their parents misdeeds.

     The comic is currently in its third volume.  Creators Vaughan & Alphona departed awhile ago, with Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan creating a few issues.  The current volume three is written by Terry Moore and penciled by Humberto Ramos.

     I've been wanting to both read and review this comic for awhile now, for two reasons.  First, the basic concept here, about kids who discover that their folks are secret super evil-doers, sounded very fresh and intriguing.  Secondly, I've been curious to read Terry Moore's take on this style of storyline, given that it seems like such a different type of comic genre for him, compared to his well-known Strangers In Paradise and Echo comic lines.

     Issue #5 is entitled "Dead Wrong," and is the fifth installment of a multi-issue storyline.  We're told on page one in a narrative summary that the kids were previously attacked by a group of Majesdanian soldiers intent on capturing Runaway Karolina Dean (the daughter of aliens).  As such, issue #5 gives us one very detailed, complete-issue action sequence as the Runaways try to elude their pursuers and protect Karolina Dean.  The action here is very intense and aerial, involving a large rocket ship (the pursuers), a small rocket ship (the Runaways) and the most creative use of a VW bus in the history of comic books.

      I liked this comic for several reasons.  First, although the Runaways are all young teens, the comic is enjoyable for adults to read, due to Terry Moore's plotting.  Word on the Internet is that Moore is committed to writing Runaways at least through issue #9.  The action in this story is combined with excellent dialogue, taking the reader on a rollercoaster of a fun chase sequence.  There's absolutely no advancing of the ongoing multi-issue storyline here.  But it really seems worth it to get onboard in this issue for one fun, 21-page wild chase scene and then pick-up the plot again in the next issue #6.

      In addition, I liked the fact that this comic centers on a bunch of teenagers, thereby giving young readers out there a comic to relate to and attract them into the wide world of comic reading.  Since I started these reviews last year, DC's Blue Beetle is the only other comic I've come across so far that seems to relate to young comic readers in the same quality manner.  Please feel free to e-mail me at Gordon_A@msn.com if you know of any other decent comics for younger readers, and I would be glad to consider reviewing them for the younger generation of comic fans.

     Critics have also lauded Runaways for being more female-centered than the standard fanboy comic, with four of the current Runaway team members being girls (Nico, Clara, Molly and Karolina) and only two of them being guys (Victor and Chase).  Again, a good move to address an underserved segment of young fandom.

     So if you liked the movie Speed (which I did), and like quality chase scene action, hop onboard Runaways with the current issue #5 and hang on for the ride of a lifetime.  And again, without providing a spoiler, just trust me, the $2.99 price of the issue is more than worth it just to check out what Moore and Ramos do with that VW bus!


Black Lightning #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Jen Van Meter: Writer
Cully Hamner: Art
Laura Martin: Colors



     DC has just released issue #1 of a new Black Lightning 6-issue miniseries.  Black Lightning, a.k.a. Jefferson Pierce, first appeared in 1977 as one of DC's first African-American superheroes.  A resident of the Southside inner-city neighborhood of Metropolis, Black Lightning wields electrical-generating powers.

     The current mini-series is scripted by Jen Van Meter, with art by Cully Hamner and Laura Martin.  The narrator in issue #1 is Jefferson's wife Lynn Stewart, as the couple along with their young daughter are relocating home to inner-city Southside.  Pierce has accepted a new job as principal of the local high school.  Pierce immediately gets drawn into dangerous confrontations with The 100, a local street gang, with bloody and deadly results by the end of this first issue.

     The creative team's structure for initiating this mini-series is to devote issue #1 to the personal identity side of Black Lightning.  Here, he is not in superhero garb wielding his electical abilities, but instead instead trying to establish himself as an educational leader in a violent inner city neighborhood environment.  This plot structure is both effective and powerful from a story-telling vantage, giving us the start of a socially-relevant tale of individuals, particularly high school-age kids, trying to function and survive in a desperate, deadly world with little hope of succeeding.

     I was reminded in reading this issue of two previous stories plotted in a similar socially-relevant structure, both the Neal Adams run in Green Lantern back in the Silver Age, when Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Black Canary dealt with social issues such as race and poverty, as well as segments of the movie Grand Canyon that addressed the same issues.  Issue #1 of Black Lightning holds it own with both previous stellar efforts.  The story is powerfully told, blending a low-level of superhero reference with wider, more realistic social issues.  Its obvious that with the bloody, heartbreaking ending in issue #1, Jefferson Pierce will be forced in upcoming issues to try and find a way to combine his superhero abilities with his civic role in coping with the problems of this difficult world.  Given the quality of issue #1, I believe that the creative team is up to the task of evolving this story beyond just an entertaining read to also provide us with a moving and heartfelt tale relevant to the social issues of today's American urban life.

Contest Winners Announcement! (RERUN FROM LAST WEEK-NOW COMPLETE!)

We're happy to report that we received a last-minute, higher-than-normal number of submittals to our current contest, in which we asked for your favorite single comic issue of the decade of the 1980's along with a stated reason why this comic is so near and dear to your fanboy or fangirl heart.

Many contestants persuasively pitched  comics of the 1980's that serve as very well-known comic icons of the decade, such as various issues of Watchmen, Batman's The Killing Joke, etc.  Ted Van Liew also reminded us of the groundbreaking impact of Howard Chaykin's issue #1 of American Flagg (great poster-like cover!) and said that while all of the Cerebus comic line was great, issue #44 in particular stood out as one of the funniest comics he's ever read.

While all submittals were strong, the Bongo Congo panel of judges became partial to unexpected favorite issue submittals, those more obscure issues that touched the individual reader in a more personal way.  Remember, this wasn't a contest to pitch the most famous or "best" comic of the decade, but rather which comic meant the most to you, enough of a personal favorite for you to still like it that much 20 years or so later.

As such, Good King Leonardo, Prince Itchy and True Blue Odie unanimously decree that we have the following two contest co-winners:

Colin Solan co-wins for his submittal of G.I. Joe issue #85.  Colin writes that it was the first issue he bought with his own money and has become well-worn from many re-readings over the past two decades.  He met artist Paul Ryan at Boston Con a few years ago, who told him that it was a fun issue to draw, with writer Larry Hama sending him at the time a whole bunch of GI Joe action figures for reference.  Colin adds that he also likes that its one of the famous "silent" comic issues of the time with no dialogue, just straight-up ninja action.

Doug White also co-wins for his submittal of Thor #337.  Doug feels that no other single issue of any comic packed the punch this one did, leaving him dazed and amazed.  In this first issue of his run, Walt Simonson blew-apart everything we knew about Thor.  Thor boards a spaceship heading toward Earth, awakening an onboard alien named Beta Ray Bill.  Incredibly, Bill defeats Thor and grabs Thor's mystic mallet, becoming God-like.  Suddenly, Odin, thinking he is summoning Thor, whisks Bill away to Asgard, leaving poor Don Blake, and us readers, looking for answers.  A classic, says Doug.

Ah, comic book memories!  Congratulations to our Bongo Congo contest co-winners, and stay-tuned for a new contest announcement soon!  See you next week!


© 2011 - 2018, 2019 All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.