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Review Date: 02/19/2010

Once again, Good King Leonardo has decreed that it's time for an all-Marvel Comics week, so as Stan Lee used to say, let's "Make Mine Marvel" with the following three comic book reviews:
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Siege: The Cabal #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Michael Lark: Penciler
Stefano Gaudiano: Inker
Matt Hollingsworth: Colors

 

 
 

        
     Marvel Comics has published this past week a one-shot Siege: The Cabal comic book, as an introduction and prelude to the new Siege mini-series event.  Both the event and this issue are scripted by veteran Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis.  The one-shot is penciled by Michael Lark, with inks by Stefano Gaudiano and colors by Matt Hollingsworth.  As a page-one narrative tells us, this issue is structured around The Cabal, a secret gathering of the most dangerous Marvel universe villains which HAMMER Director Norman Osborn has assembled with the goal of secretly functioning to their mutual benefit.  In previous issues, cracks have begun to appear in this villainous alliance, as Namor and Emma Frost have broken away from the group.  Osborn also has his evil hands full in dealing with Cabal members Dr. Doom and Loki, Thor's evil half-brother.

     The plot of Siege: The Cabal centers upon Osborn's growing concern regarding the return to Earth of Thor's city, Asgard.  Writer Michael Straczynski gave us that wonderful Thor title series last year, in which Thor regenerates Asgard in the fields of Kansas, leading to a very complicated set of human and Norse God interactions.  Here, Osborn is starting to crack-up again, with the Green Goblin side of his split personality convincing him that Asgard's return is a personal threat to him, and egging him on to find a way to attack and dispose of the city and its inhabitants.  Most of the plot focuses on a tense and confrontational meeting of the Cabal, in which Osborn tries to juggle three efforts: holding the fractious Cabal together, starting to lay the groundwork for a plot against Asgard and trying to control an independent and adversarial Dr. Doom.  Osborn fails miserably, causing the meeting to erupt into a major battle between Osborn and Dr. Doom which quickly spins out-of-control in a very unexpected manner, engulfing the Dark Avengers and the entire city into danger.

     I enjoyed this one-shot comic very much, for two significant reasons.  First, the story was entertaining on its own merit as a stand-alone comic tale.  In the first half of the issue, writer Bendis gives us a cerebral and tense game of intellectual cat-and-mouse, as the two mad geniuses of Osborn and Doom verbally spar and jab at each other across The Cabal conference table.  Midway through the plot, Benid flicks the narrative switch and the head-games erupt into all-out high tech action, as Osborn and Doom throw-down their respective gauntlets and pull-out all of the stops in trying to kill each other.  Its engrossing to read how the battle spins out of control and affects so many other Marvel universe characters, as well as the city itself. 

     Secondly, the issue succeeds in the creative team's goal of giving us a prelude of both action and plot that lays a solid rationale for the events that will be detailed in the Siege mini-series.  A 6-page preview of issue #1 of Siege that's included after the main story in this issue confirms that while Siege is most likely enjoyable in its own right, reading this one-shot prelude definitely adds more richness, depth and overall enjoyment to the Siege series reading experience.  So a definite thumbs-up for including Siege: The Cabal on your new issues reading list.

 
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Marvel Heartbreakers #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Various Writers & Artists

 

 

 

 
 

          
  Just in time for Valentine's Day, Marvel Comics has issued "Marvel Heartbreakers," a one-shot comic book featuring four romance or relationship-oriented stories. The comic presents four short tales, each produced by a different team of varying writers and artists.

     The lead story is entitled "A Chemical Romance" and stars Spiderman mainly in his civilian role as college student Peter Parker.  Writer Kathryn Immonen scripts a very funny soap opera-style tale in which the hapless Parker has to juggle his double-scheduling of perennial girlfriends Mary Jane and Gwen.  At the same time, Parker and Gwen each separately interact with two ditsy college friends who unwittingly create a monster in a chemistry class experiment.  Our second story is entitled "Super Boys!" and features the teenaged monster-hunter Tabitha Smith and teenaged mutant Elsa Bloodstone, as they hang-out together one night by the light of a full moon, both literally trying to ensnare a monster boyfriend and dishing about failed boyfriends past.  Writer Jim McCann gives us "Beauty & The Beast: An Epilogue," a five-page tale in which Hank Pym/The Beast meets his old beauty friend The Dazzler in a quiet restaurant, to provide moral support as she struggles to deal with loneliness and uncertainty.  Our fourth tale is entitled "Snowbird," and presents a story about the interactions of good and bad mythological animal gods starring a female superhero character named Animalia.

     When I picked-up this comic off of the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, I only hoped for a light and entertaining issue with a Valentine's Day relationship theme.  That said, I was surprised by the very high quality of the first three stories in this volume.  Much credit is due to writer Kathryn Immogen for breathing some fresh life into the decades-long triangle of Peter Parker, Mary Jane and Gwen with this very funny and original college romance story.  The secondary characters of the two ditsy chemistry class friends add a wider dimension to the plot that makes this story a real winner. 

     The best of the bunch by far is the Tabitha Smith/Elsa Bloodstone story, which is just flat-out hilarious and sarcastic in its take on high school dating and the potential weirdness of people.  The third story starring The Beast and Dazzler takes the reader in a completely different direction.  After reading two comedy tales, we encounter this quiet and touching tale of heartache and loneliness, that manages to conclude on a melancholy and strikingly beautiful note.  I can't remember the last decade in which I came across a Dazzler story, never mind one that presents this female character in such a touching and emotional light.

     The unanticipated high quality of these three stories elevate this Marvel one-shot issue out of the standard "chick lit" fiction category to the very top of the various multi-story anthology-style comics that I've come across over the past few years.  The only flaw is the fourth and final story, a muddled mess of a tale that incomprehensibly tries to explain something about animal totem gods without making much sense.  However, the first three stories shine so brightly that my enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation is to completely ignore the final tale and just savor each of the first three stories, all of which wonderfully succeed both as female reader-oriented comic tales and stories for general comic readership enjoyment.

 
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Jackpot #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marc Guggenheim: Writer
Adriana Melo: Pencils
Mariah Benes: Inks
Andrew Dalhouse: Colors

 

 

 
 

          
      Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 in a three-issue mini-series starring the superhero character Jackpot.  As background, readers may recall a storyline in Spiderman during the past year featuring Alana Jobson in the role of the superheroine Jackpot.  Alana died from side effects of the mutant growth pills that she took to give her superpowers.  By the storyline's end, Spiderman was trying to convince the original Jackpot, Sara Ehret, to pick-up the mantle and return to superhero duty.

     This mini-series plotline focuses on the return of Sara as Jackpot.  Issue #1 has two interweaving storylines.  The main focus is on Sara's ambivalence in returning to the superhero life, now that she's settled-into life as a wife and mother to a three-year-old daughter.  The second storyline is more action-oriented, as Sara begins patrolling at night and stumbles across a waterfront smuggling operation that involves the supervillain Boomerang.  By the end of issue #1, the smugglers have discovered Sara's secret identity and are planning to harm her family in the next issue.

     This is an average comic that I'm giving a qualified thumbs-up to.  There aren't any flaws or negatives to review, it's just that there also isn't much entertainment offered in the issue #1 storyline.  Too much of the story consists of Sara standing around and expressing at length her discomfort in returning to the superhero world.  Even the action sequence between Sara and Boomerang feels very slow and boring.  I have a feeling that the creative team just really wanted to spend the first issue in this mini-series establishing at length the whole angst thing about being a superhero, before moving the story along in the next two issues.  So my qualified recommendation is a thumbs-up to read issue #1 if you plan to commit to the three-issue run of this title, but to skip it if you were thinking of only reading issue #1 as a stand-alone comic.

 
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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We received a lot of entries this past week to our current contest, asking you to pitch to us your favorite non-superhero comic book character and title.  Some folks gave us interesting submittals for comic characters who didn't wear a costume but still wielded some form of a power, so while we enjoyed reading those submittals, we did disqualify them. 

Our previous contest winner was Gordon Dupuis, who can't be eligible for winning two contests in a row under our That's Entertainment contest rules.  But let's give a worthy shout-out mention to Gordon's entry of Muppet Peter Pan.  Gordon writes that "it's important to feed your inner child...this comic takes the familiar story of Peter Pan and turns it on its ear...just enough to engender the slightly cutesy high energy slap-stick that can only be described as "Muppetness."

And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Mike Dooley with his submission of The Rawhide Kid as his favorite non-super comic character.  Mike mentions that a Rawhide Kid mini-series entitled "Slap Leather" was particularly entertaining, stating that "utilizing other western characters such as the Cartwright brothers was pure genius.  And best of all, the Kid was still the toughest, fastest-shooting character in the book, while everyone else came off as not very bright.  Exceptionally funny and highly entertaining."  Congratulations to Mike for winning the contest prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment with the submittal of an old-time character who still sounds to be very relevent in today's comic book publications.

New Contest Announcement!!!

As you know, we're 8 days into the 16 days of the 21st Winter Olympics, hosted this year by the City of Calgary, Canada.  As such, let's take a break from our usual comic book contest questions and have some fun with Olympic trivia questions.

Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following Olympics trivia question: Which country is the all-time leader for Winter Olympic medals won, from the beginning of the winter games until now?  Should we receive multiple correct entries, the winner of the $10.00 That's Entertainment gift certificate will be chosen by a roll of the dice.  And for our No-Prize Question:  Which country has hosted the Winter Olympics the most times (hint: this country has played host three times to the Winter Games).

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading and Olympics couch potato
t.v. watching week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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