Review Date: 03/27/2009

Good King Leonardo thought he saw a UFO flashing the royal palace the other night, so as part of The Royal Investigation, we bring you the following comic review, along with a second review of a comic about the usual superheroes 'n stuff:  

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Groom Lake #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Chris Ryall: Writer
Ben Templesmith: Art
Robbie Robbins: Letters


    IDW Publishing has a new aliens 'n UFO's-themed comic out this week entitled Groom Lake.  An original creation of writer Chris Ryall and artist Ben Templesmith, the series is an intriguing new take on the classic UFO genre. The plot of issue #1 gives the reader an introduction to the creative team's particular take on the UFO fiction mythology. 

     20-year-old Karl Bauer of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is informed by the Feds that his missing father was actually abducted and probed by aliens, and has now been returned after a two-year absence.  Karl is taken by Special Agent Leticia Pope to Groom Lake, a secret Area 51-style government facility in New Mexico, where he is reunited with his mutilated father just before his dad's subsequent death and introduced to a cast of alien characters living and working at the base.

     I'm a huge fan of the general UFO genre and have always enjoyed comic book-related UFO and alien material, particularly the Topps Comics X-Files comic line published in the 1990's as a spin-off of the popular Fox Television show.  As such, I'm pleased to report that Ryall and Templesmith provide us here with a very fresh and entertaining addition to the world of UFO's, aliens and generally mysterious doings.

     The strength and entertainment of Groom Lake issue #1 is the result of three combined elements.  First, the creative team nicely combines the UFO genre with the Men-In- Black world, balancing smoothly the idea of unidentified flying objects with the M.I.B. concept of a significantly-large U.S. government agency that employs aliens to work with the Feds in addressing human-alien storylines. 

     Secondly, Ryall and Templesmith give us a nice fresh characterization of the aliens that they create.  In issue #1 we meet Archibald, the quintessential large-headed, bug-eyed little green man (he's grey, actually) who heads-up whatever the Feds are secretly working-on.  Archibald speaks in a very entertaining, happy-go-lucky sing-song of pidgeon English that's worth reading just for its own enjoyment.  We also have Barada 2, the giant killer robot who has unsuccessfully tried to escape from Groom Lake on a weekly basis since he was first captured back in the 1950's buzzing-over Washington in his UFO.  Archibald finds the weekly violent robot break-out attempts extremely entertaining, chainsmoking and chanting "Barada-Bada-Fofada!" with glee as he watches the weekly breakout attempt.

     Third, the creative team manages to apply just the perfect blend of dark humor and light comedy along with a dash of seriousness to this whole alien conspiracy/mystery stew that they're a-brewin' down in Groom Lake.  You just can't take this stuff seriously, and it can be wildly entertaining when its done-up right, as it definitely is in Groom Lake #1.  It's also the presence of little minor story touches that help to make this comic a gem-as an example, look for a very funny take on the "you've got your father's eyes" remark at the top of page 15.

     So whether you're a fan of this genre or just a comic book reader in general, don't miss-out on this new and entertaining comic line.  It'll probably sell very fast, so if the new comics shelf is sold-out of issue #1 by the time you check it out, I highly recommend that you ask the good folks at That's Entertainment to order you a copy.  You won't be disappointed!

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Avengers: The Initiative Special #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Christos N. Gage: Writer
Steve Uy: Artist


     There's seems to be a lot of activity and change these days among the various Avengers titles published by Marvel Comics.  I'm not a regular Avengers reader, but I grew-up as a fan of the original Silver Age Avengers team, so from-time-to-time I dip back into the Avengers universe and review one of the current efforts.  Avengers: The Initiative Special #1 caught my eye last week on the That's Entertainment new comic issues wall, so let's see what its all about.

     This one-shot addition to the current Avengers universe is entitled "The Real Thing," and is written by Christos N. Gage, with art by Steve Uy.  An introductory narrative informs us that S.H.I.E.L.D. has a new program called The Initiative, which trains young super-powered people and fields them in local teams in each of the 50 states.  The plot of this issue initially focuses on the Arizona and Nevada teams working together to save the Hoover Dam against an electromagnetic creature.  The story then shifts to the personal relationship between Arizona team member Komodo, who gained her powers from The Lizard's transforming formula, and her Nevada team member/ boyfriend Hardball, who's being clandestinely pressured by Hydra to betray Komodo and The Initiative.  The story climaxes with an epic street battle in Las Vegas, within which Hardball has to make some difficult choices which I won't reveal for fear of being a story spoiler.

     This is a high quality comic issue in many respects.  One of Gage's strengths as an accomplished veteran Marvel writer is his ability to bring real-world characterization to the superheros that he scripts.  Whether the focus here is on the Komodo-Hardball relationship or the superhero-bad guy action, the story elements and dialogue are well-grounded in realism and believability, which lends a nice mix of literary credibility and enjoyment, for me at least, toward reading the story.  I particularly liked the final third of the story, in which Hardball struggles with some difficult choices regarding loyalty versus betrayal for his teammates, his girlfriend and himself.  The choices are not simple or clear-cut, which again lends a realistic tone to the storyline.

     I also enjoyed very much Steve Uy's quality artwork, combined with a comic that gives-us a large group of young, latest-generation Avengers with whom I was not familiar.  Combined with the leadership of the old-school Marvel figure/Arizona Team Leader of The Two-Gun Kid, the new characters were a colorful and credible bunch to add to the growing army of Marvel superheros.

     There's an eight-page second story in this $3.99 expanded comic issue entitled "Fear For Your Life," scripted by Gage and Dan Slott and drawn by Uy.  The plot focuses on Trauma, a Goth-type kid who struggles in Camp Hammond, The Initiative training center, to cope with the difficulty of having a power that overwhelms the people he meets by projecting their worst fears onto them.  It's a well-presented story, but struck me as being geared toward a younger, high school-age reading crowd.

      So a definite thumbs-up for this issue.  If you're a regular Avengers reader, you'll want to read this comic to keep up-to-date with some of the ongoings within the wider Avengers multi-title universe.  But if you're not a regular Avengers reader, I'd still suggest checking this comic out, as it has staying power as a stand-alone, enjoyable Avengers comic issue.

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Contest Announcement !!!

King Leonardo's Chief Advisor, True Blue Odie, has been inventorying The Good Kingdom's Royal Comic Book Collection, and was struck by the number of wonderful comic book titles from previous years that are no longer being published, yet are as popular as ever amongst collectors.

As such, Odie proclaims as your new contest challenge to submit to us a previously-published comic title that you loved, which you wish would be brought back for a new run.  For example, I'm a huge fan of the Silver Age DC title "The Brave & The Bold," and I'm thrilled that DC brought it back for its current run that began a few years ago.  But if they hadn't brought it back, that's the title I'd be howling for a return!

So e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com, giving us your "Comeback Comic Title" and tell us why the comic title deserves a second life in 2009.  Remember, the contest winner gets a $10.00 That's Entertainment store gift certificate, so crank-up that old-time, diesel-fueled computer of yours and e-mail us now!!!


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