Review Date: 11/13/2009

As the November days get shorter and the nights get longer, Good King Leonardo has decreed that we turn our attention this week to three dark, noirish new offerings from D.C. Comics (none of which feature Batman, for a change!):
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Greek Street #5
Publisher: D.C. Vertigo Comics
Peter Milligan: Writer
Davide Gianfelice: Artist
Patricia Mulvihill: Colors



          D.C.'s Vertigo Comics line of adult-oriented titles is up to issue #5 of its new and popular Greek Street title.  The series is written by Peter Milligan with art by Davide Gianfelice and Particia Mulvihill.  The title is an ingenious modernization of ancient Greek Mythology.  The story is set on Greek Street, an actual street in modern-day London, with the plotline focusing on noir-style murder mystery and intrigue among characters including the police, criminals and, of course, updated versions of well-known Greek mythological humans and gods.

     Issue #5 is entitled "The Anger Of The Gods," and is the final installment of a five-issue story arc subtitled "Blood Calls For Blood."  The basic plot is a modern-day murder mystery updating of a mix of Greek mythology tales, including the story of Oedipus.  Here, Oedipus is a London guy named Eddy, who's story is juxtaposed with a London murder mystery featuring Detective Constable Dedalus.  Issue #5 focuses on the point in the Oedipus story where he meets the future-seeing seer Cassandra, updated in this comic as London street punk Sandy.  As Dedulus investigates a trail of bloody murder and Eddy begins to follow his destiny with Cassandra/Sandy, there's references to such other Greek tragedy characters as Medea and The Furies.

     This is a first-rate and high quality effort to bring Greek tragedy storylines and characters into a modern-day setting.  The creative team succeeds in blending new story details and plot elements with the old-school characters without tripping-up on pretension or cheap gimmick.  There's a very gritty feel here, of a modern-day noir detective setting.  While it would help to remember a lot more of the classic Greek tragedy storyline than I personally recalled from my school days, enough of the tale of Oedipus echoed in memory for me to appreciate the skill with which the writer and artists bring these characters into our world in a very believable manner.

     One word of caution; while D.C.'s Vertigo comic line is obviously more adult-oriented, this comic particularly includes a strong sexuality theme not suitable for underage readers.  However, for adults the sexual story element is not gratuitus and accurately reflects an updating of some of the strong sexual elements within the original classic Greek tales, further strengthening Greek Street as a well-crafted homage to the original storytelling.  So an enthusiastic recommendation to take a walk on the noir wild side with this fresh and new Vertigo comic book title.

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Detective Comics #858
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Greg Rucka: Writer
J.H. Williams III: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors




         D.C. has just released the latest issue of Detective Comics currently starring Batwoman.  A few months back, I reviewed the first issue of the new Batwoman run in Detective, so I thought it would be interesting to check-in on the latest issue and see how this new character is faring.  The issue is written by veteran scribe Greg Rucka with art by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart.

     The new Batwoman is Kate Kane, an update of the 1950's Kathy Kane Batwoman whom DC retired as a published character back in the early Silver Age.  Kane was reintroduced in 2006 in the 52 mega-event series and installed this past year as the lead character in Detective Comics.  She received much mainstream media focus at the time as one of the few lesbian characters among the lead hero characters being published in comics these days.

     The issue #858 story is entitled "Twenty Years Ago," and is a flashback story of Kane's life as a child.  We learn that she was a twin and that both of her parents were in the military.  The plot initially focuses on the difficulty of being an army family kid, moving from base-to-base, then escalates into a thriller as Kate, her twin sister and mother are kidnapped by terrorists who target them because of her father's key role in national and military security.  Without spoiling the details, the kidnapping climaxes in a bloody and deeply tragic rescue mission led by Kate's father, scarring both of them for life and deeply affecting their present day roles, Kate's as Batwoman and her retired father as her mentor and confidant.

     This is a very high quality backstory telling of the Kathy Kane Batwoman origin.  Only 4 pages of this 20-page story focus on the present-day Batwoman.  The remaining 16-pages give the reader a mesmerizing tale that is strong enough to completely stand alone outside of the superhero world as an emotionally moving story of ordinary people who get horribly caught-up in a tragic event.  Frankly, this flashback narrative tale is strong enough to serve as an entertaining episode of the television series "NCIS."  While most flashback tales focus on explaining the direct events that led the main character into the superhero life, this tale serves the more subtle purpose of providing more of a childhood portrayal of the early traumatic experience that began the long journey of Kathy Kane which ultimately led her many years later to wear the Batwoman cowl.

     Writer Greg Rucka also teams with artists Cully Hamner  and Dave McCaig on the second story in this issue, the fifth and final installment in a multi-issue story arc starring the new female disguised detective The Question, also re-introduced in DC's 52 mega-series of a few years back.  The 10-page story is action-oriented and wraps-up the plot that I reviewed in part one of this tale, as The Question seeks to rescue captured and exploited illegal immigrants in Southern California.  The story concludes nicely for the good guys, and serves as a decent enough introduction to this new secondary character in Detective Comics.

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Vengeance Of The Moon Knight #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Greg Hurwitz: Writer
Jerome Opena: Pencils
Dan Brown: Colors




         Our third and final review this week of a dark noir comic is the first issue in a new Moon Knight comic title just released by Marvel Comics.  As George at That's Entertainment accurately commented to me the other day, for those not familiar with the character, Moon Knight in many ways is Marvel's version of Batman; a dark avenger-type hero who relys on skill instead of superpowers to confront evil.

     Moon Knight has been published by Marvel in many versions and titles since the mid-1970's.  His identity is former American soldier Marc Spector, who dies in the African desert serving bad guy mercenary leader Raoul Bushman.  Spector is mystically brought back to life by Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon and vengeance, upon which he dons the Moon Knight costume and fights evil.  Interestingly, Spector also creates two additional civilian identities for himself, thus giving him three civilian personalities to take turns using when not wearing the Moon Knight costume.

     Vengeance Of The Moon Knight #1 is a fast-paced tale that kicks-off with a one-page narrative telling us that Spector/Moon Knight has become fed-up with hiding from major Marvel bad guy Norman Osborn, and has decided to re-enter the superhero world irregardless of Osborn.  From page 2 onward, we're thrown into a very past-paced action story, as Moon Knight roars into midtown New York City in dramatic fashion, foiling a bank heist and announcing to the world that he's back.  The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as one of Osborn's Dark Avengers arrives on the scene to try and put our returning hero out of action.

     While I've heard of Moon Knight, in all of my comic book readin' years (and believe me, thats a lot of comic books and a lot of years!) I've never read a single story featuring this character.  I was apprehensive that he would turn-out to be a carbon copy Batman wannabe, and was very happy to discover that while there are similarities, Moon Knight is a fresh and stand-alone character in his own right. 

     The creative team gives us a 26-page tale that's action-packed and exciting.  I was impressed with two particular story elements.  First, within the ongoing Norman Osborn-dominated Marvel saga, I enjoyed reading of this character, who impressed me as the most confident and talented Marvel hero that I've read so far able to stand-up to and potentially take down Osborn's current dominance of the world.  Secondly, there's an interesting psychological sub-plot woven throughout the story, in which Spector/Moon Knight is repeatedly visited by a vision of the Egyptian god Konshu, who seems evil and is pressuring Spector to give-in to urges of violence and vengeance as opposed to heroism.  Whether these visits turn-out to be true visions or the delusions of a possibly mentally unbalanced hero should be an intriguing storyline as this new title continues.

      As a quick final comment, an appreciative thumbs-up to Marvel for including as a second feature in this $3.99 comic a beautiful reproduction of both the Moon Knight #1 cover from the 1980 premier of our hero's early title run, as well as the 24-page 1980 origin story wonderfully drawn by veteran Bill Sienkiewicz.

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Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

Just a friendly reminder from the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges that you have until Wednesday, November 18 to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your contest entry for a What If? alternate comic book character idea that you'd like to see from any of your favorite comic titles.  See last week's column for some examples of how to stretch your comic book reading imagination with a new idea entry.  Our contest prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

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


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