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Review Date: 05/15/2009

King Leonardo has declared that its Artificial Humanoid Week here in Bongo Congo-an intelligent robot, a flaming
android and even a human brain transplanted into an evil gorilla, we've got it all in the following three reviews!
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Atomic Robo #1
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Brian Clevinger: Writer
Scott Wegener: Artist
Ronda Pattison: Colors

 
 

      
     Last week's Free Comic Book Day had a free issue of a wonderful comic called Atomic Robo, so I decided to review this week issue #1 of a new 5-issue mini-series of the title.  Published by Red 5 Comics, the comic is scripted by Brian Clevinger with art by Scott Wegener with colors by Ronda Pattison.

     Atomic Robo is a robot with "automatic intelligence," and is the supposed creation of famed inventor Nikola Tesla.  For the uninitiated, Tesla was a famed inventor who was both a contemporary and rival of Thomas Edison.  The storyline in issue #1 is set in 1920's New York City.  While studying one evening at Tesla's lab for his doctorate in physics at Columbia University, Atomic Robo is interrupted by a visit from Tesla's old friends Charles Fort and famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.  The visitors fill-in Atomic Robo on a backstory regarding the pair assisting Tesla a few years earlier in saving humanity from one of the creepy horrors featured in real life in Lovecraft's fiction.  Unfortunately, said gross horror is back and threatening New York and all of mankind.  With Tesla out of town, its up to our hero Atomic Robo to assist the two visitors in saving mankind, a task he is set to begin by the end of issue #1.

     I enjoyed both the comic and the general premise of this title for a few reasons, most particularly due to the personality that writer Clevinger gives to Atomic Robo.  He's actually the most human of all of the characters in the comic, imbued with a genuine warmth and humanity beyond the cartoony personalities of both Fort and Lovecraft.  The humor is fun and original in this story, with Lovecraft portrayed as a goofy neurotic that I assume is very afar from the real Lovecraft's personality.  I'm also a big fan of historical fiction that references both colorful characters and events from real world history.  As such, I was very impressed with Clevinger's skill in artfully and entertainingly weaving into the storyline references to actual people and places from early 20th century history, ranging from Harry Houdini to the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Explosion in Siberia.  Combine all of the above with Wegener and Pattison's excellent artwork, and you've got yourself one high quality and fun comic book to read.

     In addition to reading issue #1, if you haven't already done so try to get a copy of the Free Comic Book Day edition of this title.  It features a hilarious battle between Atomic Robo and Dr. Dinosaur, a wacked-out "genius" Dinosaur who's convinced that he's a time traveler utilizing a time machine made out of a pile of sticks and rocks.  Also, note that the current issue #1 is the start of Volume 3 of Atomic Robo, so consider checking-out Volumes 1 and 2 which are available in reprint compilations at That's Entertainment.  I plan to read both earlier volumes!

 
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Human Torch Comics #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Scott Wegener: Artist
Ronda Pattison: Colors

 
 

          
     Marvel continues its 70th Anniversary tribute with the issuance this week of Human Torch Comics #1.  This one-shot issue is the third of four scheduled anniversary homages to the company's origin as Timely Comics, Inc. back in 1939.  Last month I reviewed the Captain America tribute in this series; the second comic in the series, a Golden Age Submariner tribute, is also currently available at That's Entertainment.

     As with the other issues in this series, Human Torch Comics #1 gives us an original new story along with a Golden Age reprint tale.  The new story, scripted by Scott Snyder, is set in 1939 and focuses on the original Human Torch and his creator, Dr. Phineas Horton.  Unlike Silver Age Torch Johnny Storm of The Fantastic Four, our original Marvel Golden Age hero was an android created by the good doctor. 

     The story plot focuses on The Torch in his first days as Jimmy Hammond, an android trying to make good to help humanity as the world's first superhero.  Jimmy quickly becomes the toast of 1939 New York nightclub society, as the city falls in love with the handsome superstar.  However, an accident temporarily requires him to go out in public without his human skin.  Devoid of his good looks, the City is repelled and actually frightened by their metal robotic savior and turns on him.  How Jimmy deals with the situation and how the plot brings the issue to a resolution is worthwhile reading, and won't be revealed by me here to avoid spoiling your enjoyment of reading this fine comic book.

     This is by far the best comic so far in Marvel's 70th Anniversary tribute run.  While the Captain America and Submariner issues are very enjoyable, writer Snyder's story here transcends average comic book plotting to meaningfully address the issues of race and discrimination.  The parallels between minority discrimination and The Torch's plight are deliberate and well-presented, with a warm and moving conclusion for both The Torch and his African-American girlfriend in the story.  So while I highly recommend the entire anniversary tribute series, I definitely put Human Torch #1 on the gold medal platform, with the previous two issues receiving the silver and bronze tokens.  But all are winners, of course!

     A quick final comment, just to point-out that the reprint story features Toro, The Torch's Golden Age kid sidekick.  The issue concludes with an interesting six-page preview of Marvel's New Mutants issue #1, also available now on the new comics shelf.

 
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Power Girl #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti: Writers
Amanda Conner: Art
Paul Mounts: Colors

 

 
 

          
DC has just published issue #1 in a new Power Girl comic title.  For the uninitiated, Power Girl fills the role of Superman's cousin in the Earth-2 alternate reality.  DC has her these days in the Earth-1 reality, starting her life and superhero role over in the main DC universe.  The new title is written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Amanda Conner and colors by Paul Mounts.

The kick-off issue to this new series has two sub-plots.  The main focus is Powergirl dealing with a massive robotic attack on New York City, which is revealed to be masterminded by Ultra-Humanite, who is explained as being a gorilla inhabited by the transplanted brain of an evil human being.  The storyline alternates with a more humorous secondary plot in which Powergirl in her secret identity as Karen Starr deals with the trials and tribulations of trying to jumpstart her consulting company Starrware while dealing with a cast of employees, consultants and bureaucratic eccentrics.

This is a light, standard superhero comic off to a decent start.  Amanda Conners artwork is always a pleasure to view, displaying her strong skill at a range of emotive facial expressions for all sorts of story situations.  Gray and Palmiotti bring their A-game to the storytelling, balancing nicely Power Girl's superhero and personal identity story issues and struggles.  I cringed for a minute when the gorilla-with-an-evil-human-brain came into the story, but the creative team gave the oddball character a credibility that avoided cheesiness.

So there you have it, a variety of three different types of comics this week, but all enjoyable, recommended reading as described above.  Also, take a minute from your busy week and enter the new contest as detailed below.  Have a great comic reading week, and see you next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our contest this week takes us on a nostalgic trip back into the history of our collectibles home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment.  Newcomers may not be aware that our favorite store was originally located somewhere in Worcester other than the current Park Avenue location.  Your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct original Worcester location of the store, and to submit to us a personal recollection of visiting the original location, such as a fond memory of something that you purchased there, an event at the store or a fan conversation with store staff or visitors, etc.  Let's see how good your memories are!  First prize will be a $10.00 gift certificate to the store, so dig into those memory banks and e-mail us now!!!

 
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