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Review Date: 04/11/2009

Good King Leonardo is in a eclectic mood this week, and has decreed that we shall review three different types of hero comics: a tribute to a Golden Age superhero, the return of a Silver Age classic superhero and the release of a brand new superhero character.  Let's start with the return of the Silver Age classic:

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The Flash: Rebirth #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Geoff Johns: Writer
Ethan Van Sciver: Artist
Moose Baumann: Colors

 
 

      
    DC has published issue #1 this week of the eagerly-anticipated return of Barry Allen as The Flash.  The issue is scripted by the renowned Geoff Johns, with art by Ethan Van Sciver and colors by Moose Baumann.  The Barry Allen version of The Flash is one of the Silver Age's flagship DC characters.  Most comic book enthusiasts consider DC's introduction of the Barry Allen Flash in Showcase #4 back in 1956 as the official start of the Silver Age of superhero comicdom.  I'm a big fan of the Carmine Infantino issues of Flash from the 1960's, and as such have been looking forward to The Flash: Rebirth series. 

     Issue #1 reflects the wide-ranging changes to The Flash Universe since those days.  In helping to save the world in previous DC storylines in the recent past, Allen/The Flash apparently got pulled into "The Speed Force," which is a part of the extradimensional lightning that all speedsters access to do their superspeed running.  The plot of issue #1 is a two sub-plot introductory story.  One storyline focuses on introducing the reader to the wide-ranging cast of both good and bad characters in The Flash's life, as his friends, family and the world in general prepare celebrations honoring his return to Central City from his entrapment.

     The alternating storyline is an extended dialogue between The Flash and Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, as Barry Allen expresses angst over his return and how he sees his roles and responsibilities in society versus the other people's expectations.  The issue concludes in a cliffhanger, as Allen unintentionally re-opens access to The Speed Force, with seemingly disastrous multiple results.

     Given that Geoff Johns scripted the issue, Spoiled-Old-Me expected an instant classic along the lines of Johns's acclaimed run at Action Comics last year, or at the level of rare quality that he has brought to Justice Society.  While we don't get that level of story quality, we do get a very good comic story in a more traditional format that follows very nicely in the style and content footprints of the traditional Flash comic title that has evolved over the decades.

     While this comic wasn't what I expected, I did find it very enjoyable for a few reasons.  Johns takes on the detailed task of introducing the reader to the very wide range of Barry Allen's family, friends, foes and the various Flash successors, from Wally Wood onward.  He pulls this introduction off very well, to the point where someone like me who hasn't followed The Flash for years and doesn't know many of these characters can actually come away from this issue having easily learned a bit as to how these folks fit into the 2009 world of this title.  Johns also provides credible writing on the action side of the story.  The accidental access to the dangers of The Speed Force is handled well, leaving the reader with several good hints anticipating at various sub-plots that will evolve in upcoming issues.

      So a definite thumbs-up for a well-scripted and nicely drawn return to the 2009 DC Universe for the traditional Barry Allen version of The Flash.

 
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Irredeemable
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Mark Waid: Creator & Writer
Peter Krause: Artist
Andrew Dalhouse: Colorist

 
 

          
      BOOM! Studios has released issue #1 of Irredeemable, a bold experiment by creator/writer Mark Waid.  Best known as the writer of DC's iconic Kingdom Come, Waid has presented us with a unique new series that explores the dark side of superheroism-gone-bad to a degree rarely presented in comic book format.

     The main character of Irredeemable is The Plutonian, a blond, blue-eyed All-American Boy caped superhero cut in the midwestern cloth of Superman.  In flashback sequences, Waid shows the mysterious Plutonian teaming-up with a Justice League-type group of superheros and all initially seems well in their world.  However, Waid juxtaposes this flashback world with the present day, in which The Plutonium has gone murderously berserk and is in the process of relentlessly hunting-down his teammates and slaughtering them and their innocent loved ones.

     This is a very cutting edge and at times mesmerizing take on the dual questions of why a Superman-like boy scout of a hero would go rogue and just what does it take to stop the most powerful person on the planet when he completely goes over to The Dark Side.  Mark Waid pushes the plotting envelope farther than I believe any comic creator ever has in exploring this difficult theme.  I actually had to read this comic book twice, in order to absorb the revulsion of several of the scenes of The Plutonian's violence and mayhem against innocents and his good guy former superhero friends and allies.

     Waid also examines in this new series the major comic superhero theme of the nature of good versus evil.  Issue #1's story line is rich with Waid's proposal that this is a very grey issue area;  while The Plutonian's former allies initially are presented as preyed-upon, weaker good guys, there are strong plot hints here that all is not as it seems, that they themselves harbor dark sides and quite possibly may have betrayed The Plutonian to the point where they are responsible for victimizing him until he transforms into a slaughtering madman.

      If you miss this comic title, you're quite possibly missing one of the boldest experiments in examining the psychological nature of superheroism to come down the publishing pike in quite some time.  So my advice is don't miss Irredeemable.  Reading this comic is to some degree uncomfortable and draining, but it's definitely entertaining.  And unlike just about any other comic out there at the moment, without sounding pretentious, its just plainly an important comic book in its sobering and difficult examination of the basic superhero concepts of good, evil and the nightmare of when the All-American dream of caped crusading goes awfully, horribly, irredeemably wrong.

 

 
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Captain America Comics #1
One-Shot 70th Anniversary Special
Publisher: Marvel Comics
James Robinson: Writer
Marcos Martin: Artist
Javier Rodriquez: Colors

 
 

          
     My brother Dave recently brought to my attention that in honor of the 70th anniversary this year of Marvel Comics, the company is issuing four one-shot anniversary tributes to its original three superheros.  The first comic book is out this week as a tribute to Captain America, with the remaining issues to be in honor of The Sub-Mariner, original Human Torch and Marvel Mystery Comics.  This Captain America one-shot is written by James Robinson with art by Marcos Martin and Javier Rodriquez.

     The issue is a beautiful tribute not only to the Golden Age 1940's era of Captain America and his sidekick Bucky, but also to Marvel's original parent company, Timely Comics, Inc.  The Timely logo is prominent throughout the issue as an historical tribute to the roots of today's Marvel comics universe.  Marvel also pays a nice narrative tribute on the bottom of the first page to the multiple artists and assistants who labored anonymously on Timely's 1940's comics through the Simon & Kirby studio without getting personal credit references in the published issues in those days.

     Issue #1 gives us two stories.  The main story, entitled "What Makes The Man," is a 23-page flashback tale narrated by Bucky Barnes, giving us a completely new, reinterpreted version of how Steve Rodgers became Captain America.  Here, the scrawny 4-F recruitment washout actually gets caught-up in pre-World War II espionage intrigue, as he stumbles out of the Army recruitment center and directly into a confrontation with pre-war Nazi domestic spies.

     The point of the plot is to show us that the basic character attributes of Captain America already existed in the pre-Cap, scrawny Steve Rodgers.  The main story focus is a wonderful, cinematic chase sequence through pre-war New York, as Steve uses acrobatic skills, trash can lids a la his famous future shield and just plain gutsiness to prove, as Bucky narrates, "when he was still frail and slight, inside he was still the man that he is now."

     The beautiful art and at-times moving reinterpretation of a familiar Captain America storyline puts this comic on a par with Tim Sale's "Superman: For All Seasons" 4-issue mini-series back in the 1990's.  As such, this comic book gives us both an entertaining read and a worthy 70th anniversary tribute to an iconic figure of both comicdom and general 20th century American popular culture.  Also, don't miss the second story in the issue, a reprint from Captain America Comics #7, originally published in October of 1941.  Entitled "Captain America: Death Loads The Bases!" its a baseball-related action story that is very timely, given the start this past week of the Major League baseball season.

 
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Contest Winners!

We have two co-winners for our latest contest, in which we called for you to tell us which former comic book title you'd like to see revived in print.  The Bongo Congo judges panel has declared two co-winners, Kevin Browne and Mike Dooley. Kevin recommends bringing back DC's classic Silver Age title "Dial H For Hero," and writes the following:

I think a title DC could benefit from re-launching would be Dial H for Hero, but this time simply call it Hero.  I know that this was just relaunched a few years ago with Will Pfeiffer, and that it was a pretty decent series, but I would twist it a little bit this time around.
 
I would focus on one main character (a teenage kid probably), who discovered the Dial and stumbled upon how to make it work.  Now, in previous incarnations of this title, the Dial would imbue its owner with various identities and powers (I think in the original version those identities and powers were submitted by fans, and in the long run that might be cool to do again, especially with the internet now).  But I would focus the first year or two on the young protaganist assuming either the costumed identity, or a variation on, an established DC hero.  Thus when the young man dials H-E-R-O, he becomes Superman or Batman or the Flash or the Green Lantern, or maybe a younger variation on one of those identies.
 
That way, we would not only have the chance to explore the various corners of the DC Universe (Metropolis, Gotham, Keystone, etc.), we would also see a kid who got to live out the dream all of us had when we first read comics in the first place- the dream to actually be one of these heroes and have their amazing powers.

 
     Mike proposes that "Tom Strong" be brought back for a fresh title run:

The comic that desrves another try in 2009 (and I hear may actually return) is Tom Strong. Although it is not an old title, it is a personal favorite. Having read comics regularly for over 45 years now, I was once at a point where I was a little bored with all the monthly titles. Nothing seemed new, every story felt like a retelling of something I had read years ago, and I was at the point where I did not even subscribe to any titles. Instead, I just went to the store and picked up whatever caught my waning interest, often I did not even stop by every week (gasp!!).
Then, one day I spotted the cover to Tom Strong #1. The subtle connection to Doc Savage immediately caught my attention, and I picked it up on that basis. The storyline was fantastic (serious, but not too serious) and the artwork was crisp. But the biggest surprise: the story wrapped up in one issue!!!!!! At the time, this was unheard of. I was immediately hooked, and I still look back at the initial numbers of the series as one of my personal "top 5 of all times" run, along with such series as The Dark Knight Returns, the Watchmen and the Walt Simonson run on Thor.
Bring back Tom Strong.


     The contest judges declared our two comic fans the winners based upon their persuasive explanations of why they feel these former comics deserve another chance at current-day publication.  Congrats to our winners, who will each receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.  King Leonardo will be forwarding the two winning entries to the comic's respective publishers, so perhaps you'll see these two titles back in print, eventually!

 
New Contest Announcement!

Good Prince Itchy has informed Our Benevolent Ruler that for a change of pace we should try for this week a "fun facts" contest as opposed to a "favorite" or "best of" challenge.  As such, Good King Leonardo calls for contest participants to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answers to the following: Name the current hit television sitcom on one of the major networks in which the stars of the show are fanatical comic fans.  Also, name at least one of the two DC Comics superheros who are constantly referred to on the show, and give us one joke from the show regarding either one of the two DC superheros.  The winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.  So e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com now!


The first six correct answers will be assigned a number and a roll of the dice will determine the winner. You should put your real name in your message so we know who you are. Prizes must be claimed by the winner at our store within 30 days of winning. The prize will be a $10 credit slip, which will be redeemable for merchandise at regular retail or in-store ongoing specials only. Only one prize per person will be allowed per every 4 weeks. I will be the sole judge of the correct answer even if more than one answer could be correct. Submit only one answer per Email please but guess as often as you like.

Happy reading, and see you next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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