Review Date: 02/26/2010

Good King Leonardo doesn't have a theme this week, just decreed that we review three comic books that looked interesting as we perused the new issues shelves this past week at That's Entertainment.  So let's see how this eclectic mix of comics fared:

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Atomic Robo #1
Publisher: Red 5 Comics
Brian Clevinger; Writer
Scott Wegener: Art
Ronda Pattison: Colors




         It's that time of year when Red 5 Comics begins its latest volume of Atomic Robo, so this week we're reviewing issue #1 of the planned Volume #4 four-issue mini-series of the Atomic Robo title.  I gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up review to the Volume #3 series last year.  For the uninitiated, Atomic Robo is a humorous series that features the title character as the briliant scientist/robot head of Tesladyne.  The premise is that the actual historic inventor Dr. Nicola Tesla created both our robot friend and the company.  The series flits back and forth between different decades of the 20th century, featuring Atomic Robo investigating "the unexplained" in the science world, in many ways similar to humorous episodes of the television show "The X-Files."

     Issue #1 of the new mini-series is set in Tesladyne headquarters in 1999 New York City.  As Atomic Robo interviews a new staff scientist, an ongoing lab experiment goes awry and opens a portal into an alternate reality, with the result that the building is flooded with crazed vampires entering the company from the alternate dimension.  So its up to Atomic Robo, the young scientist interviewee and an assorted cast of oddball Tesladyne employees to beat-back the vampire hordes, reverse the interdimensional portal and save the day.

     I've been a big fan of this comic book title since last year's Volume Three series and I'm pleased to report that the latest issue didn't let me down.  This is just one fun, tongue-in-cheek humorous take on the concept of being a science wonk, symbolized beautifully by the idea of a Tesla-created robot guy who has more human common sense and logic in him than all of the ditsy real people combined with whom he works.  If you haven't read this comic title yet, picture the corporate science company world of the comic strip Dilbert mixed with a science fiction/paranormal element and you get a sense of the fun and wackiness of this title.

     In addition to an obvious thumbs-up recommendation for this comic book, I also recommend checking-out the trade paperback reprints of the first three volumes of Atomic Robo, all available at That's Entertainment.  Finally, just a quick heads-up that its announced on the letters page of this issue that issue #3 in two months will continue the "Dr. Dinosaur" story that was introduced in the 2009 Free Comic Book Day giveaway issue of Atomic Robo.  That hilarious story has made the Free Comic Book Day giveaway issue a hot collectible among Atomic Robo fans, so if you can get your hands on it, definitely read it in anticipation of that storyline continuing in the upcoming issue #3.

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Supergirl #50
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Sterling Gates: Writer
Jamal Igle: Penciler
Jon Sibal & Mark McKenna: Inks
Nei Ruffino & Pete Pantazis: Colors


     DC's current Supergirl title has just reached its 50th issue, which is quite a longevity feat for any comic book title, these days.  The main story in this extra-length $4.99 issue is written by Sterling Gates with art by the large creative team listed above.  I've been a fan of this title since esteemed veteran writer Jeph Loeb kicked the series off with a classic run in issues #1 through #5.  Since then, the title has rollercoasted erratically up-and-down in terms of quality.  My favorite post-Jeph Loeb issue was #30, which gave us a very well-crafted story in which Supergirl tries to find a worthwhile role for being on Earth, given that she was originally supposed to be serve as an older mentor to her then-baby cousin Kal-El as Kryptonian refugees.

     The issue #50 story is entitled "Queen," and gives us a monster-oriented story.  It continues the previous issue's plot, in which Lana Lang has contracted an infection that transformed her into some sort of queen bee alien.  The current issue teams-up Supergirl, Dr. Light and the crimefighter Gangbuster to tackle both the transformed Lana and her hoard of giant bee monsters, now operating out of a giant hive that they constructed around the local hospital.  A parallel sub-plot unfolds the return of Lana's supposedly deceased sister in the role of Superwoman as she clashes with her father, General Lang. A second, 6-page story is also in this issue, written by Jake Black and former Supergirl movie actress Helen Slater.

     As a stand-alone Supergirl story, I give this tale a decent thumbs-up.  Its a bit campy with all of the bee monsters floating around, but its still works as an action-oriented tale pitting Supergirl and her two superhero allies against the local monster threat, and their solution to the problem was creative and enjoyable.  I was disappointed that issue #50 didn't give us a more commemerative-oriented special story, one worthy of acknowledging that this title has reached the 50th issue plateau.  Instead, all we get is a special 50th issue cover by the late Michael Turner (which is very nice by the way), along with the brief second story.  That back-up tale is a disaster, a six-page mess that is more of an ad for reading Supergirl minus any story plot.  If Helen Slater truly wrote the story, then her writing skills are as wooden as her acting was in that dud of a Supergirl movie that she starred in back in 1984.

    So overall, my review advice is to put aside any expectations of a special anniversary issue gem, which this issue doesn't deliver.  Instead, just enjoy the quality of the Michael Turner special cover, the decency of the standard storyline and most importantly, don't corrupt your eyes by reading the short second story that Helen Slater attached her name to as a marketing ploy.

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Joe The Barbarian #2
Publisher: D.C. Vertigo Comics
Grant Morrison: Writer
Sean Murphy: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors



     DC's Vertigo comic book line is up to issue #2 in the planned eight-issue mini-series of Joe The Barbarian.  The comic is written by the popular veteran writer Grant Morrison, with art by Sean Murphy and Dave Stewart.  My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc gave a positive and interesting review to issue #1, so I was curious to see how the new series is holding-up in its second issue.

     The plot of this mini-series stars young Joe Manson, a middle school-aged boy being raised by his single mother.  Joe is an alienated artistic kid, who one evening starts alternating between the reality of his action figure-filled attic bedroom and the otherworldly reality of a fantasy world at war, with the warring parties consisting of his action figures come to full-scale life.  The story structure has Joe irratically flitting between both worlds, questioning his own sanity while trying to survive when he's gone from his house into the otherwordly place and time.

    Issue #2 begins with an action figure proclaiming Joe as "The Dying Boy" whom it was prophesized would appear and save the action figures from whatever unexplained evil has invaded their land.  Joe stumbles into saving the warrior "Jack," who is a humanized version of his pet rat back in the real world, from death at the hands of the bad guys.  The pair journeys in the remainder of this second issue through some colorful settings within the action figure world, learning more details of the prophecy; the issue ends in an action cliffhanger as they're trapped by the evil forces at a key point in their quest.

     This mini-series is a very fresh and unique take on the old theme of a boy's action figures come to either real or imaginary life.  Murphy and Stewart's artwork is the perfect style for conveying both the nature of Joe's drab real world as well as the wonder and breathtaking beauty of whatever this alternate world will turn out to be.  Even the full-page spreads of warring destruction glow with the loveliness of Joe's newfound kingdom.  I was also very impressed with writer Grant Morrison's interweaving of the fantasy elements of the tale with Joe's reaction to his dual reality situation.  Joe's constant questioning of his sanity and his actions as he tries to absorb his uncontrolled and erratic tripping between worlds adds a very authentic feel to this tale, adding to the mystery of just what is causing this situation.

    My first reaction to reading both issue #2 and last month's premier issue was that this is an excellent comic book geared toward younger readers.  But since reading both comic issues, the story has resonated with me and my opinion has grown to now enthusiastically recommend this very original tale as an impressive read to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  So hop onboard and start reading Joe The Barbarian now, before you're forced to search for scarce back issues to read when this colorful concept is inevitably transformed into a television or movie version of the story.

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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We received several correct entries to our 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics trivia question asking which country has won the most overall medals in the history of the Winter Olympics.  And by a role of the dice the selected correct winner is Eric Moberg, who answered correctly that Norway has the lead with a total of 280 overall winter games medals.  No one entered our no-prize question contest, which asked which country has hosted the winter games most often.  The answer is Canada, with the current 2010 games as the third time Canada has hosted.

New Contest Announcement!!!

In honor of the second week of the Olympics, our latest contest challenges you to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer  to the following: name three countries which have each sent only one solo athlete to compete in the current games.  Believe it or not, there's a lengthy list of countries that have sent solo athletes, so it shouldn't be too difficult to name three of them for us.  Multiple correct answers will result in a roll of the dice to select the winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

As a No Prize for this week, can you tell us the age of the oldest athlete participating in the Vancouver games and what sport the person plays?  Hint: the athlete is male and is from a country which isn't associated with cold weather sports.

That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading and 2010 Winter Olympics couch potato-television watching week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

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