Review Date: 05/29/2009
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Dean Koontz's: Nevermore #1
Publisher: Dabel Brothers Productions
Dean Koontz: Creator
Keith Champagne: Writer
Andy Smith: Artist
Andrew Dalhouse: Colors


     This is the first comic title that I've read and reviewed as published by Dabel Brothers Productions, an independent publisher that focuses quite a bit on graphic adaptations of well-received fantasy and science fiction novels.  The Nevermore comic title is based on an original story written by Dean Koontz specifically for the comic, adapted for the comic title by writer Keith Champagne with art by Andy Smith and Andrew Dalhouse.  For the uninitiated, Koontz is the extremely successful novelist with a very long list of best-selling novels, many of which reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

     The Nevermore comic title is a five-issue mini-series.  Issue #1 quickly introduces us to scientist Bobby Godric and his support team of three men and one woman.  Godric has invented a technology that allows the team to access and physically cross over into a parallel reality.  We learn that this parallel America is extremely authoritarian, with robot surveillance and armor enhanced police enforcing a very restrictive society.  Godric's purpose for crossing the reality stream is to contact and bring back to our world the alternate version of his wife Nora, who had died of a brain tumor in our society.  While the initial mission is a success, issue #1 ends with two unexpected science fiction twists that complicate the results of the mission and serve nicely as dual sub-plot bridges to the second issue of this mini-series.

     While Koontz writes about a range of fiction themes, I'm a fan of his novels that build a very credible version of our society while introducing a science fiction or fantasy element that would be very believable in our real world.  As such, a successful Koontz comic book for me would have to translate this type of story successfully to the comic book format.  I'm pleased to report that Nevermore issue #1 succeeds very well on this count.  The creative team gives us a 30-page story that is fast-paced while clearly explaining the science fiction element involved in the plot.  I was particularly impressed with Koontz and Champagne's very effective and timely use of flashbacks to incorporate quite a bit of backstory into the unfolding story narrative.

     The basic plot idea here is not completely original, in that previous science fiction writers have written very effective stories on the theme of accessing parallel realities in search of alternate versions of lost loved ones.  What makes this comic version both fresh and exciting are the twists and turns that Koontz throws into the storyline.  This could have been a five-issue series completely centering the plot on following the efforts of the team to find Nora and bring her to our world.  Instead, in typical Koontz fashion this effort succeeds early in the storytelling; the enjoyment of the second half of issue #1 as well as upcoming issues is in learning of the unexpected consequences of this effort, and how the players cope with, and either succeed or fail in addressing the unanticipated domino effect of their actions.

     While this may sound like a lot of heavy literary effect for the comic book form, the creative team succeeds tremendously here in adapting Koontz's story structure and details into a comic book story that's clear and presented with story elements that make this tale a real page turner.  I was engrossed and pulled-into every panel of this graphic science fiction tale, and I'm looking forward to issue #2 to see where this science fiction adventure takes the characters and the reader.

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Captain America #50
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker: Writer
Luke Ross: Pencils
Rick Magyar & Luke Ross: Inks
Frank D'Armata: Colors


     Issue #50 of Captain America is the latest in the new "post-Steve Rodgers" Captain America series, in which Cap's sidekick James Buchanon "Bucky" Barnes has picked-up the superhero's mantle now that Steve Rodgers is dead.  Scripted by Ed Brubaker, the issue is entitled "Days Gone By," and is drawn by the team of Luke Ross, Rick Magyar and Frank D'Armata.

     Brubaker gives us a story centering on Bucky's birthday.  When Bucky/New Captain America is attacked by unknown high tech assailants on his present-day birthday, he has a series of flashbacks regarding various previous birthdays in his life, including those during his World War II fighting days with Steve Rodgers and The Invaders.  The point of the story is to show how Barnes always sacrificed his personal life for his country, even on his birthdays.  There's a nice conclusion after he deals with the present-day bad guys, in which he finally gets a decent birthday celebration with his friends and colleagues in his new role as Captain America.

      I enjoyed this comic very much, not just in its own right but also within the overall scheme of recent Captain America titles, each of which give us some new historical details and insight into the early days of Cap and Bucky. Its been a banner year for Captain America comic books, with several titles giving us high quality interpretations and additions to this often complex myth of the great American superhero.  This comic fits-in well with such 2008-2009 interpretations as Jeph Loeb's "Captain America: White" and Marvel's recent one-shot 70th Anniversary Timely Publications issue.  Here, Brubaker is showing us that while Bucky was denied much of a personal, normal life as Cap's sidekick in the 1940's and later as The Winter Soldier in the late 20th century, he also has gained a lot by taking up Steve Rodger's role in 2009, as evidenced by the loved ones who celebrate his birthday with him in this issue.  While it may sound like a simple story element, the creative team presents it here as a moving addition to the intriguing storyline that's unfolding these days as the myth of Captain America evolves in a very new direction.

     Also, a heads-up that the 22-page main story in issue #50 is followed by a second story by Marcos Martin entiled "Sentinel Of Liberty," which gives us an excellent, 14-page overview of the evolution of Steve Rodgers and Bucky Barnes in their respective hero roles from World War II to the present day.  And finally, a huge shout-out for a two-page satire on Cap and The Human Torch, written and drawn by Fred Hembeck, that rounds-out this issue.  For those readers too young to remember, Hembeck produced some wonderful Mad Magazine-like satire of well-known superheros back in the 70's and 80's.  I haven't seen a new Hembeck in print since those days, so this was an unexpected treat at the end of this issue.

     So another thumbs-up for this entertaining three-story comic book issue.  Marvel is doing a top-notch job these days in giving us some comic issues with multiple stories, including this issue and the ongoing new Astonishing Tales series.  These multi-story comics are well worth the price, as well as providing a refreshing and entertaining balance to the multi-issue story arcs that have come to dominate most comic titles of the current generation.

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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest was for you to correctly identify That's Entertainment's previous store location in Worcester and give us a personal memory regarding visiting the store.  We had only one entry, but it was a good one, and the winner is...Mike Dooley, who remembers that the store was originally located on Chandler Street, at the corner of Chandler and Queen Streets. 

     Mike's recollection was regarding what he calls "The Great Price War," in which That's Entertainment and an unnamed competitor were competing by lowering the cover price of new comics, which at the time were only 60 cents apiece!  At the height of the price cutting, Mike recalls 60-cent comics on sale for 30-cents each.  It's an interesting memory, reflecting how much cover prices have changed over the years.  You're also showing your age, Mike, by remembering when new comics were less than a buck!  Thanks and congratulations on your contest prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment! 

New Contest Announcement!!!

      King Leonardo has received a Royal Invitation from Archie Comics to the impending wedding of their famed perennial high school character Archie Andrews!  The problem is, it hasn't been revealed yet which of his two girlfriends Archie will be marrying.  For 68 publications years now, Archie has gone back and forth between chasing blonde Betty and brunette Veronica.  In August, the publisher will be revising the comic title by aging Archie by five years, upon which he graduates from college and proposes to either Betty or Veronica (or Betty and Harmonica, as Evan at That's Entertainment refers to the duo!).

     As such, the King has decided to settle the issue once and for all, and attempt to influence who Archie will marry.  Your assignment for this contest is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your vote for Archie to marry either Betty or Veronica, and most importantly, tell us why he should marry your choice.  Things are getting heated here on this issue, with myself and Ken Carson at That's Entertainment co-chairing the local "Betty As Archie's Wife" campaign, while Dave Taberner has volunteered for the politically suicidal job (in Ken's and my own opinion, of course!) of "Veronica As Archie's Wife" Campaign Manager.  Be assured, however, that the Bongo Congo judging panel will not be biased against your pick of either candidate for Archie's wife; the contest winner will be chosen based upon the best argument for why your favorite should be picked as Archie's wife.

Send your contest entry as soon as possible to Gordon_A@msn.com.  The winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

So that's about it for this week.  Have a great comic book reading and contest-entering week, and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!


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