Review Date: 06/19/2010

Good King Leonardo is back from a week's vacation in the wilds of Maine, and has decreed that we return to this column
with reviews of two new comic books with roots in the 1940's Golden Age of Marvel and DC superheros:
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Miss America Comics #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jen Van Meter: Writer
Andy MacDonald: Artist
Nick Filardi: Color Art


     Marvel Comics continues this week the latest publication in its series of one-shot tributes to the 70th Anniversary of its parent company, Timely Comics, with the issuance of Miss America Comics #1.  This is the fifth one-shot in this ongoing tribute to Timely's Golden Age superhero line-up.  I've previously reviewed the Captain America and original Human Torch tribute issues.  Each issue includes a new story featuring the Golden Age hero, followed by one or more 1940's reprint tales.

     For the uninitiated, Miss America is young socialite Madeline Joyce, niece of radio mogul James Bennet.  Madeline gained her superpowers when struck by lightning during a science experiment, and went on to join Timely Comics's All-Winners Squad, to fight Golden Age bad guys alongside Captain America, Bucky, The Human Torch, Toro, The Submariner and The Whizzer.  In later years she married The Whizzer.  Her original comic book run began in 1944 and lasted through various incarnations until about 1958.

     The new Miss America tribute comic gives us an original 22-page new story scripted by Jen Van Meter, with art by Andy MacDonald and Nick Filardi.  Entitled ""Shipyard Sabotage!," the story begins with Madeline, her fiance The Whizzer and a third hero, the rarely-seen Timely superhero Blue Diamond, together battling World War II bad guys in Europe.  The plot quickly moves stateside to a shipyard, where Miss America goes undercover amongst the all-female work crew to ferret-out a team of Nazi spies and saboteurs.  Toward the end of the story, the scene shifts back to the European warfront, where Miss America is able to return from her shipyard adventure with discovered information from breaking-up the spy ring which saves the day for The Whizzer and Blue Diamond.

     This is an excellent comic for three main reasons.  First, writer Jen Van Meter demonstrates a strong skill in maintaining the Golden Age basic style and personalities of the characters, while blending-in a more modern style of dialogue and story detail.  Its pretty rare for a story based on Golden Age characters to straddle both the 1940's and 21st century comic story worlds so well.  Secondly, Van Meter wonderfully explores the true historic World War II phenomenon of women coming to the forefront of the U.S. labor force by carrying-out crucial jobs in the shipyards of America.  The support characters of the many "Rosie The Riveters" who interact with Miss America are not token window dressing, but are presented as fully-developed, main characters in this story.  Third, the creative team mixes into the story some excellent humor.  The dialogue is priceless, campy in a fun way without coming-off as cheesy. as Miss America discovers and battles in the shipyard the spy team of "fifth column floozies" as she calls them, including Madame Mauzer, Vichy Vixen, Axis Annie, Fraulein Fatale and Penny Panzer.  The dozen or so pages focusing on their shipyard battle gets high marks here for quality action and enjoyable dialogue.

     In sum, you can't ask for a better tribute to a Golden Age superhero character than a brand-new story that shows us why this hero was popular in her day, while at the same time giving the reader a tale that's entertaining by modern-day story standards.  So a definite thumbs-up recommendation for you to read this issue.  You'll learn something about a bygone superhero as well as some true World War II cultural history, and enjoy the story on its own merits, as well.  On a final note, the three short back-up reprint stories here hold-up fairly well, also, although they inexplicably feature The Whizzer and a standard detective instead of Miss America.

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JSA vs. Kobra #1
Publisher: DC Comics
Eric S. Trautmann: Writer
Don Kramer: Pencils
Michael Babinski: Inks
Art Lyon: Colors


     Our second review this week of a comic with Golden Age roots is the just-released JSA vs. Kobra #1.  This is the first issue of a six-issue mini-series.  DC fans are most likely familiar with the recent completion of writer Geoff Johns's iconic two-year revival of the Justice Society of America in its ongoing monthly title.  Johns's premise was for the Golden Age Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman and Wildcat to reconstitute the JSA with late-20th century DC heros such as Powergirl, along with a new, younger generation of teen heroes.  The result has been a wonderfully written few dozen issues of JSA, blending three generations of heroes who balance and learn from each other in a very entertaining way.  A few months back, I reviewed in this column Johns's final issue as he moved on to other comic title projects.

     The creative team for this mini-series is writer Eric S. Trautmann and artists Don Kramer, Michael Babinski and Art Lyon.  Issue #1 is entitled "Part One: Bad Religion," and introduces a growing confrontation between the JSA and the terrorist cult Kobra.  The plot consists of the JSA both confronting Kobra operatives in a series of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, as well as trying to figure-out the ultimate motive to Kobra's various actions.  Its clear here that the various incidents are both diversions and clues to an ultimate plan of Kobra that is leading to a huge attack and planned disaster.  A very effective sub-plot consists of JSA member Mr. Terrific using his experience as a former member of the clandestine agency Checkmate to make some interrogation headway with some of the captured Kobra operatives.

     Its clear that one of the creative team's goals here is to create a mini-series with story parallels and relevance to our real world international terrorism situation, and in that respect the comic succeeds very well.  The portrayal of the JSA's Kobra foes is at times chilling, as both writer and artists succeed in conveying the terrorists fanaticism and disregard for innocent human life.  As such, the JSA superheroes actually come across in issue #1 as frustrated, confused and relatively powerless to stop the single-minded violence of these non-superpowered, ordinary human terrorists. 

     This issue serves as an excellent starting point for this real-world issue; it will be interesting to see how the creative team has the JSA confront and most likely (hopefully) overcome this situation as the six-issue mini-series unfolds.  As such, this recommended issue serves as an interesting counterbalance to the Miss America issue reviewed above, giving the reader a group of Golden Age-based superheroes struggling with a very modern, post-9/11 story situation.

     So in sum, we have two very different Golden Age superhero-based comics for recommending reading this week, very different from each other but each entertaining in its own way.  King Leonardo recommends reading both of them for your complete fix this week of both Marvel and DC's historical hero figures!

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Contest Results Announcement!!!

    The entries are in for our latest contest, in which your challenge was to tell us whether you feel perennial Riverdale High teenager Archie Andrews should marry Betty or Veronica in the Archie Comics wedding planned for a July issue of the title.  Marketing seems to show Archie aged into his early 20's and engaged to Veronica for this storyline, although who knows where the plot twists will take this 50-year-old comic threesome.

     And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Dan MacInnes with the following entry: "I think Archie should marry Veronica.  I know that Betty is the "good girl," the sweet and innocent girl-next-door, but a blonde will eventually break your heart every time.  At least that's been my experience."

     I hear you and agree Dan, although I personally am still casting my own vote for blonde Betty; Veronica just seems too high-maintenance for me!  Congratulations on winning the $10.00 That's Entertainment gift certificate!

Well, that's all for this week.  Happy comic book reading, and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!


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