Review Date: 02/26/2009

Our Good King Leonardo has just completed hosting the Good Kingdom's annual tournament of the board game Clue (Colonel Mustard in the pantry with a monkey wrench!) and in the spirit of the competition has decreed that we declare it "Mystery Comic Book Week" Here In Bongo Congo.  As such, let's see how two new mystery-themed comics stack-up from the That's Entertainment new issues inventory wall:

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The Spaghetti Strand Murder
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Bret M. Herholz: Author
Bret M. Herholz: Artist
Peter Simeti & Erin Kohut: Editors

The Spaghetti Strand Murder is published by Alterna Comics.  A creation of writer and artist Bret M. Herholz, the issue gives us a 72-page graphic novel consisting of a main, 43-page story and two shorter additional tales.
         The title story is a whodunit murder mystery plot a la Agatha Christie.

  In 1920 England, Lord Algernon Sloughshire is found murdered in his country estate, with the aforementioned single spaghetti strand as the apparent murder weapon.  Its up to the bumbling Detective Inspector Ferguson to round-up the usual suspects among Lord Sloughshire's family and guests and ferret-out the killer.

     Credit is due to Herholz for giving us a nice, new take on this popular genre. The author takes the very standard British murder mystery format familiar to all fans of Agatha Christie or episodes of PBS's Mystery Theatre, and infuses it with a well-balanced blend of humor, intriguing plot details and fresh characterization.  The plot steadily builds as suspect-after-suspect is focused upon and found innocent, leading to a well-played and humorous answer to our whodunnit-using-food mystery.

     I was particularly impressed with two elements of the story structure.  First, Herholz demonstrates ability as author-artist to infuse a nice sense of mystery genre humor with a skillfully-produced, wide range of effective character facial expressions.  As I've mentioned in previous reviews, it takes a quality artist to convey plot meaning and dialogue with a mere exasperated glance or a devious narrowing of the eyes, a pattern that's produced throughout this story with effective and often very humorous results.

     Secondly, good British-style mystery needs a certain element of English theatrical farce blended into its humor.  Herholz brings this ingredient to the plot in two ways; first, giving us a funny, two-page introductory biography of the cast of characters, and secondly, making Detective Inspector Ferguson completely unwitting in his bumbling misinterpretation of clues and evidence that practically screams correct answers at him regarding plot mysteries.  I also liked the addition in the third, shorter story of the more sane, logical Assistant Inspector Jenkins to assist and balance-out Ferguson in his sleuthing mishaps.

     So an enthusiastic thumbs-up for our first mystery comic review of the week.

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House Of Mystery #10
Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Luca Rossi and Kyle Baker
Cover by Glenn Fabry


DC's House Of Mystery comic title has a very long and distinguished pedigree.  Originating as a horror series in 1951, DC revamped the title for a storied 1960's Silver Age run, featuring at times The Martian Manhunter and the Dial H For Hero series, before reverting to its horror and suspense heritage.    

The current House Of Mystery is published through DC's Vertigo line.  Issue #10 is the fifth and final part of a five-issue story arc entitled "Love Stories For Dead People."  Its written by Matthew Sturges with pencils by Luca Rossi, inks by Jose Marzan, Jr. and colors by Lee Loughridge.
The main character in this series is Bethany "Fig" Keeler, a former college architecture student who is trapped in The House Of Mystery, a creepy Victorian mansion where the action centers in the house bar.  The bar's inhabitants include an array of aliens and past and future humans, who take turns telling their stories and dealing one way or another with the situation of their supernatural imprisonment.
Issue #10's plot is a bit difficult to completely comprehend as a stand-alone story within this setting.  The best summary of it is to say that Fig, her Dad and two apparent friends are pursued though The House of Mystery by a demon that is somehow psychically connected with a very messed-up, battered woman who ultimately teams-up with the bar's inhabitants to save the day.
I like this current take on the House Of Mystery comic world for two main reasons.  First, the atmosphere of the basic setting has a nice resemblance to the gothic Victorian settings of horror master H.P. Lovecraft's stories, as well as Edgar Allen Poe's classic stories such as "The Fall Of The House Of Usher."  Secondly, writer Sturges has wedded this classic horror theme with a well-known science fiction/fantasy plotting element of bringing together characters from across space and time to tell their personal tales to each other and jointly address the story action.  Two famous science fiction works along this line include L. Sprague DeCamp's "Tales From Gavagan's Bar" and Spider Robinson's "Callihan's Crosstime Saloon."
I also liked the offering of a 6-page second story in this issue that follows the 16-page main story.  Entitled "Fig's Adventure In Stuffytown," the production by writers Bethany and Peter Keele with artist Kyle Baker offers a cute children's fantasy tale with an underlying life lesson, starring Fig in her childhood years.
So all in all, we have two excellent mystery comics for your recommended reading this week, one in the tradition of whodunnit suspense and one in a more gothic, creepy yet fun reading mode.  King Leonardo plans on reading both and recommends that you do, too!

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Being Gordy Now Available At That's Entertainment!!!

      That's Entertainment now has available limited copies of the preview comic book for my brother Dave's forthcoming graphic novel "Being Gordy."  If you like Seinfeld-style comedy, add a copy to your weekly reading the next time you're in the store.  I wouldn't shamelessly shill a relative's work unless I really enjoyed it, so take it from me and the rest of the Bongo Congo crew and check it out.  Also, check out previews of the graphic novel at www.beinggordy.com.

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

     Just a reminder that there's only one week remaining in our current Bongo Congo contest to tell us what superhero new t.v. show you'd like to see added to ye olde network schedule. Give us all of the juicy details-what superhero or heros, half-hour or full-hour, comedy a la Batman or drama a la Incredible Hulk, etc.  E-mail us now at Gordon_A@msn.com!


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