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STORE NEWS
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Review Date: 10/02/2009

Halloween will be here before you know it, so Good King Leonardo has decreed that this week we review two comics with a Halloween theme, followed by the latest Superman mini-series:
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The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror
Publisher: Bongo Entertainment
Matt Groening: Creator
Multiple Writers & Artists

 
 

        
          Fans of The Simpsons television show look forward to the show's annual "Treehouse Of Horror" tribute to all that is Halloween.  Bongo Entertainment also publishes an annual Treehouse Of Horror comic book as part of its extensive Simpsons publishing titles.  This year's edition is guest-edited by Sammy Harkham, who has assembled a wide-ranging team of artists and writers for this Halloween tribute to America's favorite animated/cartoon disfunctional family.

     The 2009 issue has ten stories ranging in length from one-page wonders to more standard-length comic tales.  While all of the tales have a Halloween or basic horror theme, "The Call of Vegulu" stands-out among them all as a classic Simpsons story.  Written by Matthew Thurber with art by Kevin Huizenga, its a very funny spoof on H.P. Lovecraft's classic horror story "The Call Of Cthulhu."  The creative team recasts Lovecraft's tale into an all-Simpsons event, with wide-ranging spoofing of relevant current events.  In one panel alone, there are references to green technology, the economic meltdown, Bernie Madoff's pyramid scheme and 401K investing-whew! That's a lot of jabs at current events, but its all in good fun and works as well as any good episode of The Simpsons t.v. show.

     It's also interesting to see a variety of artistic interpretations in this issue.  While all of the artists keep the basic style of the well-known Simpsons characters intact, they do each bring their own talented interpretations to their respective stories, giving the reader some nice stylistic variety amongst the tales as opposed to producing ten stories with the same cookie-cutter figures rubber-stamped from the t.v. show's format.  So all in all, for $4.99 you do get your money's worth of an oversized, 48-page issue stuffed with enough Halloween-themed stories to keep the reader well-entertained until Halloween 2010 rolls around.

 
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Beasts Of Burden #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Evan Dorkin: Writer
Jill Thompson: Art

 
 

          
         Dark Horse Comics has just published the first issue of Beasts Of Burden, a new title from writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson.  The fantasy story stars a gang of talking dogs and cats who function as paranormal investigators, protecting the small town of Burden Hill from all things dark and evil.  A letters column in this issue aptly entitled "Speak! Speak! Good Boy!" explains that this new comic book title evolved from a series of animal fables tales that the creative team has been producing off and on for Dark Horse Comics since 2003.

     Issue #1 is entitled "The Gathering Storm" and interweaves two sub-plots.  The main storyline has our team of canines and felines investigating a paranormal, literal rain of frogs from the sky.  The host of frogs turns out to be an aggregate demon, which combines into a giant creepy frog which the team has to find a way to defeat.  In a parallel subplot, our team of heroes are visited by an out-of-town sheepdog, who represents a society of paranormal animal protectors.  By story's end, the guest sheepdog commends our friends for their fine protection efforts and inducts them into the society as the new, local Burden Hill chapter of pet protectors.

     I enjoyed this new comic for several reasons.  First and foremost, its a fun and refreshing change of pace to read this fantasy premise about talking dogs and cats protecting their small town.  Secondly, the creative team succeeds in giving the various pets well-defined and entertaining personalities, from the complaining Pug to the noble pack leader Husky.  If you're a dog and/or cat lover, you're sure to recognize the traits of your favorite pet breeds in these characters.  Finally, Jill Thompson's art is perfect for this type of fantasy comic, with her style of painting emphasizing wonderful details of expression in all of these creatures.  So a definite thumbs-up to add this new fantasy title to your Halloween-time reading list.

 
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Superman Secret Origin #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Geoff Johns: Writer
Gary Frank: Penciler
Jon Sibal: Inker
Brad Anderson: Colorist

 
 

          
         The latest new interpretation of the Superman origin story is issue #1 of Superman Secret Origin.  The six-issue mini-series is written by veteran writer Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson.

     Any DC fan is most likely very familiar with the basics of the Superman story universe, from his early origin years through the basic structure of Superman's friends and life as an adult superhero.  What's fun from time-to-time is reading a new interpretation, in which the latest creative team gives us the basic known facts layered-over with their own spin on the details and their own creative approach to the character's emotions and personalities.

     Issue #1 begins by showing us young teenager Clark Kent trying to fit into the world of Smallville, knowing that he has inexplicable superpowers but hiding them from most people as he has yet to learn of his true origins.  As the story proceeds, Ma and Pa Kent divulge his origins to him, as the threesome stumble across the knowledge crystals from Krypton that fill-in the details of Kal-El's Kryptonian origins.  By issue's end, Clark has both met his future nemesis Lex Luthor and donned the Superboy costume for the first time.

     Geoff Johns is one of the most renowned comic writers today, and he doesn't fail his well-deserved reputation in giving us not only a high quality comic but a deeply moving story, as well.  Johns's approach is to present Clark Kent as an ordinary small town kid who wants absolutely nothing to do with his discovered powers, and who genuinely struggles to accept that he has these unwanted abilities.  This approach is very real-world believable, in such scenes as Clark reluctantly trying-on the Ma Kent-produced Superboy costume and swearing that "this is the last time I ever wear this."  We all know better of course, but sympathize with the boy's struggle to try and find some way to accept the burden of his unwanted situation.

     I always enjoy the little adjustments that Johns makes to the story worlds of the DC characters that he takes under his writing wing, and this title is no exception.  My favorite Johns touch in this comic is a subplot in which Clark's friend Lana Lang knows everything about Clark's powers from day one, as he both confides in her and discovers each new power usually in her presence.  I might be wrong, but I personally don't remember any previous Superman stories with this twist and as such, it was a fresh and nice approach to give Clark a trusted confidant from the very beginning of his situation other than just having to rely on his folks.

     So an obvious enthusiastic thumbs-up for this latest mini-series addition to the Superman legacy.  If the creative team keeps-up this high level of quality in the remaining five issues of the series, we just might have another title to place in that highest category of Superman interpretations alongside such masterpieces as the Jeph Loeb-Tim Sale "Superman For All Seasons" classic.  Let's hope so!

 
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New Contest Announcement!!!

The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges thought we'd go with a television trivia question this week, so our contest challenge for this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following:  What extremely popular television show from the 1950's Golden Age of Television often referred to its cast members as "The Kuklapolitan Players?"  If we receive more than one correct answer, we'll select the winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment via the roll of the dice.  So enter now!

That's it for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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