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Review Date: 01/08/2010

Good King Leonardo wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, and to kick-off 2010 right, the King decrees that we start the year off with reviews of the following three Marvel comics; a Stan Lee used to say back in the Silver Age, for this week at least, Make Mine Marvel!:
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Thor #605
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kieron Gillen: Writer
Billy Tan: Penciler
Christina Strain, Emily Warren & Paul Mounts: Colors

 
 

        
Thor #605 was released over the holidays, featuring part two of a three-issue story arc entitled "Latverian Prometheus."  The multi-issue story is written by Kieron Gillen with art by the team of Billy Tan, Christina Strain, Emily Warren and Paul Mounts.

     A page one narrative updates the reader on the story so far, giving us the details of a major war between Marvel Universe bad guy Doctor Doom and Thor's fellow Asgardians.  This storyline picks-up from last year's wonderful Thor storyline written by veteran writer Michael Straczynski, in which Thor resurrects Asgard and its citizens just outside the town of Broxton, Oklahoma.  Prior to issue #605, Dr. Doom has abducted and killed a major Asgardian figure, while torturing and transforming other Asgardians into mindless zombies, whom he calls "Doombots," and whom he unleashes back upon the Asgardians.

     The plot of issue #605 is very action-oriented, as a missing Thor returns and quickly learns of the situation, leading to an issue-long battle between the Thor-led Asgardians versus Doom and his former Asgardian Doombots.  An interesting sub-plot has Thor's evil half-brother Loki playing his usual devious mindgames, in this case seeking trust again from Thor in exchange for his offer to restore the life of the key Asgardian whom Dr. Doom killed in the previous issue.  The story ends in a cliffhanger as Doom unleashes a powerful secret weapon on Thor, utilizing captured energy from Thor's previous use of his hammer.

     I didn't expect this latest Thor issue to match-up to last year's classic Thor interpretation by Michael Straczynski and while my diminished expectations were met, this is still a quality and entertaining Thor story plot in its own right.  I liked the manner in which writer Kieron Gillen evolved the concept of Asgard being relocated into Earth's society to the point where Dr. Doom attacks and takes advantage of the Asgardians.  There is a very moving multi-page sequence in which Thor's brother Balder has to battle and kill three former Asgardian's, flashing back to the good people whom they were prior to their horrible transformation at the hands of Dr. Doom.

     I only had two minor criticisms of this story concept, the first being that there's a lot more blood and mutilation in this issue than I personally enjoy in a comic.  Secondly, it seems odd to me that the human villain Doom is so easily able to physically harm any Asgardians.  Back in the day, Marvel always presented Thor's people as invincible gods, while in the current storyline they're presented as being more physically empowered than the average human, but easily killed or harmed if a villain such as Doom just puts his mind to it.  I suppose that's the only way to generate even a little story drama for a conflict between humans and Asgardians, but it feels a bit odd to me.

     The last two comments aside, a definite thumbs-up recommendation for this entertaining take on the traditional Marvel Universe world of the Almighty Thor, his mythical kingdom subjects and their current nasty conflict with well-known Marvel bad guy Dr. Doom.

 
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The Torch #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Mike Carey: Writer
Patrick Berkenkotter: Art
Carlos Lopez: Colors

 
 

          
      Issue #4 of Marvel Comics's The Torch is now on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves.  The eight-issue mini-series is written by Mike Carey with art by Patrick Berkenkotter and colors by Carlos Lopez.

     I reviewed the first issue in this series, which centers on the return in our present day of Jim Hammond, the Golden Age Torch and Tom Raymond, who served as his sidekick Toro.  The series began with The Torch's mad scientist foe The Thinker delving into the technology which created the synthetic Torch back in the 1930's and from his research developing a mind control technology which he successfully uses on the original Golden Age hero.  Woven into this main action plot is a parallel story focusing on Tom Raymond/Toro's efforts to fit into today's society as well as his efforts to rescue and team-up with the captured Torch.

     Issue #4 advances the storyline with three interweaving storythreads.  The main storyline focuses on The Torch getting free of The Thinker's control and teaming-up with Toro to address the second story element, in which The Thinker's mind control chemical contaminates the ocean, turning human beings along with our old friend The Submariner and his Atlantean subjects into mind controlled zombies, all heading for New York City to attack mankind.  The third storythread advances a mystery element of the series, in which Toro with the assistance of reporter Betty Brant delves into the 1930's origins of The Torch in an effort to resolve the mystery of his own superhero origins.

     After reading all four of the first issues in this eight-issue mini-series, I'm struck by how writer Mike Carey manages to give us a very fresh and interesting return of Marvel's original Golden Age heroes without turning the effort into a pretentious mega-event.  Without the overblown grandeur so often at the center of these "return of our past heroes" storylines, the creative team just gives us a very entertaining comic book series that adds new origin facts to the main characters while bringing them into the modern-day Marvel Universe through both high action and an interesting plot.  Compliments are also due to the artistic team for giving us a beautiful visual series in the oil painting style of Alex Ross.  The cover art of issue #4 is particularly impressive, with a detailed rendering of The Submariner and his soldiers dramatically rising from the sea to invade dry land.

 
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Models, Inc. #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Paul Tobin: Writer
Vicenc Villagrasa: Pencils
Gary Martin: Inks
Val Staples: Colors

 
 

          
     As a change of pace from the usual superhero fare, Marvel has just published the final installment in a four-issue mini-series called Models, Inc.  The title brings back several fashion model characters from Marvel's historic past, including the Golden Age Atlas Publishing fashionista character Hedy Wolfe and the Silver Age characters Millie The Model and Chili Storm.  The series is scripted by Paul Tobin with art by Vicenc Villagrasa, Gary Martin and Val Staples.

     A two-page opening narrative explains the history of the Hedy Wolfe character in the Marvel Universe, followed by a 20-page murder mystery story.  The plot concludes the four-issue story, in which a group of New York fashion model friends are trying to solve the mystery of who murdered one of their friends and stole his priceless paintings.  The girls escape from their own potential murders a few times while investigating suspects.  Without providing any spoiler details, the story builds to a conclusion in which the models escape from harm, solve the murder and recover the missing paintings.

     This issue was an enjoyable change of pace from the usual superhero fare of most comic book titles.  In a positive and entertaining way, I felt as if I was reading the comic book version of an episode of one of the CSI television shows, with the murder mystery involving some well-known comic book fashion characters.  While the plot was understandable as a stand-alone comic, I did feel to some degree that I would have better appreciated the significance of some of the narrative and action if I had read the previous three issues.  I was also surprised to see that the story plot focused on models Chili, Millie and two lesser known fashion characters, while the cover art and wrap-around narrative gives the impression that Golden Age character Hedy Wolfe is the lead character in this title.  Instead, Hedy seems to be the editor of a fashion blog that narrates the tale.  Yet while somewhat misleading, this approach didn't take away from an interesting change-of-pace comic book title.

      On a final note, the opening narrative refers to the possibility of Marvel renewing this title beyond this four-issue mini-series.  So if you enjoy this non-superhero genre, my suggestion is to drop an e-mail to Marvel letting them know that they should keep offering readers the adventures of Models, Inc.

 
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New Contest Announcement!!!

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we begin the New Year with a real thinking person's contest.  As such, the Bongo Congo panel of judges proclaim the following contest challenge: 

Many Batman fans have told us over the years that they are Caped Crusader fans because they like the fact the Bruce Wayne has no given superpowers and as such achieves all that he does by using his intellect, as well as developing a high degree of human-level skills and talents.  This led us to think that similar to preferences for Coca-Cola versus Pepsi, many comic book fans fall into one of two opposing camps regarding superhero preferences, either prefering heroes with unnatural powers (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) or the self-made, human-level hero (a la Batman).

As such, your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and pitch to us which of the two types of superhero camps you fall into as a fan, why you prefer the super or brainy type of hero, and justify your preference by telling us about one or two of your favorite heros in your chosen category.  Please note that we will not choose a winner based on our personal preferences for either super vs. brainy heroes, but solely on the quality of your pitch for your favorite point of view. So give us your best shot, and proclaim to all of fandom why the superpowered or nonsuperpowered-but-highly trained/skilled folks rule!

     That's all for now, so have a great beginning of 2010 comic book reading week and see you again next time here In Bongo Congo!

 
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