Review Date: 05/22/2009

It's "Back To The Fifties Week" here in Bongo Congo!  King Leonardo has apparently been watching The History Channel of late, and has
proclaimed that this week we review the following two comic books with stories set back in the decade of the 1950's:
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Booster Gold #20
Publisher: DC Comics
Keith Giffen: Writer
Pat Olliffe: Penciller
Norm Rapmund: Inker


     DC's Booster Gold comic line is currently up to issue #20 of the title.  Added to DC's superhero line-up back in the 1980's, Booster is John Michael Carter, a time traveler who journeyed back to our time with his robot assistant Skeeter to gain fame and superhero celebrity glory.  I was always annoyed by the original portrayal of this character as a vainglorious egomaniac, and was curious to see how DC is characterizing him these days in his own comic title.

     These days, Booster Gold travels through the time continuum with Rip Hunter, Time Master to address anomolies that are occuring in the aftermath of the 52 comic series.  Issue #20 is Chapter One of a new story arc entitled "1952 Pick-Up."  While Hunter makes repairs to their time vehicle out in the timestream, Booster makes a side timetrip to the year 1952, hoping to enjoy a little "Happy Days," R&R, a la Fonzie-style.  Instead of arriving at the nearest diner, Booster lands smack in the middle of a Nevada desert military facility, where he spends most of this issue embroiled in a Cold War thriller involving Soviet double agent military scientists, a CIA-type spy group and DC's Suicide Squad.

     I was very happy to see that DC has evolved Booster Gold in 2009 by toning-down his overinflated ego and giving him a less annoying, more standard superhero personality.  Veteran writer Keith Giffen guest scripts this issue, and has crafted a very enjoyable spy thriller in which Booster deals with multiple factions maneuvering around 1950's Cold War secret missile research and testing in the Nevada desert.  I particularly enjoyed a three-page sequence toward the end of the story in which Booster returns to Rip Hunter in the timestream, who interprets for him the consequences of his visit to 1952 on the various people that he interacted with.

     I want Booster Gold fans to know that I'm not criticizing the happy-go-lucky features of this character's personality; instead, I always wished that he was balanced by having a more responsible superhero side to his personality.  As such, kudos to the creative team here with not only evolving this character but still embodying him with a less gagging level of wackiness.  Writer Giffen blends a comfortable level of wackiness into the story with an excellent final two pages to the issue, in which Booster and Rip Hunter make a quick return visit to 1952 so Booster can briefly indulge in his "Happy Days/Fonzie" fantasy.

     So all-in-all, an enthusiastic thumbs-up for a very enjoyable comic book as well as an equally enjoyable updating of this 1980's DC superhero character.

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Ignition City #1
Publisher: Avatar Press
Warren Ellis: Writer
Gianluca Pagliarani: Artist
Digikore Studios: Colors


     Well-known comic writer Warren Ellis's latest comic title is issue #1 of a five-issue mini-series entitled Ignition City.  The veteran Ellis is well-known for a wide-range of comic titles and subjects, including the very popular Planetary and Transmetropolitan comic lines that originated in the late-1990's.

     Ignition City is set in an alternate-reality world where adventurers fly around in banged-up looking small rocket ships.  The setting in issue #1 is February of 1956, where explorer Mary Raven receives notice in Berlin that her estranged pilot father has died in Ignition City, an artificial island spaceport described as "Earth's last remaining spaceport".  Mary flies her small personal rocketship to the port and begins the task of finding her father's remains at the spaceport and speaking with folks who knew him in order to learn the details of his life and the manner in which he died.  In the second half of the issue we are also introduced to several burnt-out characters who hang-out in and around a seedy bar at the port.

     This is a decent enough comic book concept gone very bad for two reasons.  First, the "seedy spaceport full of rough characters" theme is a science fiction and comic book concept that's been so overdone and beaten to death over the last fifty years that a writer needs a very special and fresh take on it in order to be even remotely relevant and entertaining in the year 2009.  Warren offers nothing of the sort in issue #1.  The beat-up support characters here just have a tired feel to them and are basically disgusting.

     The second and much more significant flaw here is the very jumbled and confusing alternate world that Ellis attempts to create in this comic.  The only thing that's clear is that the society differs from our world in that folks tootle-around in the sky and into space in tiny one-person rocket ships.  There are intriguing snippits of partial explanation regarding how this version of post-World War II 1950's society came to be, but they are all contradictory to each other to the point that nothing makes sense, here.  Is this world the result of an alien invasion, the Earth adaptation of alien technology, implementation of World War II-era military rocket designs, etc.?  I couldn't tell, and given how the story world seemed glued together from so many contradictory bits and pieces of ideas, I was left with a feeling of just not caring about any of what Ellis was trying to pull-off with this comic.

     So while I'm a big fan of Warren Ellis's body of work, I recommend that the good comic reader take a pass on this jumbled mess and check the That's Entertainment back issue bins or graphic compilation section for one of his more respectable comic efforts.

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Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

Only one more week remaining for submissions to our current contest, in which we ask you to tell us where That's Entertainment was located in Worcester before its current Park Avenue location, as well as you telling us a fond memory of visiting the original store.  My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc of course remembers the first location well, and offers the memory that the store was "small but had friendly people and all the comics you'd want to buy.  I also rememebr the floor was not level-don't know why I remember that!"  Come to think of it, Dave, you're right, the floor wasn't level in some places!  So e-mail us no later than Wednesday, May 27 at Gordon_A@msn with your entry-first prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and comic book reading week, and see you here
again next week (Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!) Here In Bongo Congo!


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