Review Date: 03/12/2010

Good King Leonardo has selected for reviews this week two comics from ongoing mini-series as well as one comic from an ongoing monthly series, so let's see how all three are faring:
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First Wave #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Brian Azzarello: Writer
Rags Morales: Art
Nei Ruffino: Colors


     DC Comics has released this past week issue #1 in its eagerly-awaited and much-advertised First Wave comic book title.  This is a six-issue mini-series that brings together several Golden Age comic book characters with the Golden Age pulp fiction hero/adventurer Doc Savage and his team of adventurers.  I reviewed a few months ago a one-shot Doc Savage/Batman comic book prelude to the series, which introduced the concept of the veteran hero Doc Savage training a young and inexperienced Batman in the ways of being a hero.

     Issue #1 of First Wave introduces three separate sub-plots.  The main storyline focuses on Doc Savage and his four adventurer friends.  Savage investigates the mysterious recent death of his father and soon confirms that Clark Savage, Sr. is not deceased but instead has disappeared, leaving a mysterious clue for the team to pursue.  Our second sub-plot stars Rima The Jungle Girl, who assists an American stranger to her South American jungle, as he flees an evil and mysterious scientist who endangers both the American and the jungle's tribespeople.  And our third storyline stars The Spirit, who teams with his friend Police Commissioner Dolan in investigating a crime that leads The Spirit into an issue #1 cliffhanger introduction to The Blackhawks.

     As an old fan of the Doc Savage pulps, I've been very excited awaiting this new series, which crosses Savage into the mainstream comic book world to interconnect with this group of well-known comic book characters.  I wasn't disappointed at all with this high quality and very entertaining comic.  This kick-off issue is very well-crafted, as writer Brian Azzarello skillfully introduces his three separate hero plotlines.  The three storylines alternate back-and-forth nicely, with clear indications that these seemingly separate adventures are actually interconnected and that these characters will come into more contact with each other as the storyline progresses in upcoming issues.

     I only had two minor concerns with this issue.  First, there's so much good, detailed story narrative and just plain stuff going on that I wonder whether or not the six planned issues of this mini-series are enough to successfully wrap-up this wide-ranging and multi-character story universe.  Our good friend the young Batman hasn't even been introduced to this storyline yet.  I'm hoping that the six-issue mini-series is just a kick-off event to this wide-ranging Art Deco reinterpretation of the early DC universe, leading to a follow-up monthly title or a second limited series.  Secondly, writer Brian Azzarello takes the approach of portraying The Spirit's friend, Police Commissioner Dolan, as having a politically corrupt side to his personality.  As a long-time Spirit fan, I found the depth of this side of Dolan to be disturbing, and I'm hoping that Azzarello tones this corrupt element in Dolan down quite a bit as the series continues.

     But overall, a very enthusiastic thumbs-up to this wonderful and entertaining interpretative addition of the Golden Age, Art Deco early days of both the DC universe and the world of adventure pulp fiction.

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Madame Xanadu #20
Publisher: Vertigo D.C.
Matt Wagner: Writer
Joelle Jones: Penciller
David Hahn: Inker
Lee Loughridge: Colors


     Vertigo DC Comics has just published issue #20 in its ongoing Madame Xanadu comic book title.  For the uninitiated, this character was created by DC veteran artist Mike Kaluta back in the late-1970's as a mystical character who has since undergone various revivals and reinterpretations within the DC universe.  She's often scripted in modern-day tales as an occult character operating from her Greenwich Village tarot shop.  The current Vertigo series explores Madame Xanadu's early historic origins in ancient times as part of the King Arthur legend.  This series establishes her as the young wood nymph Nimue Inwudu, sister to both Merlin's future rival Morgana le Fey and Vivienne, the Arthurian legend's famed Lady Of The Lake.

     Issue #20 is Chapter 5 of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Broken House of Cards."  Set in Arthurian times, the tale has two interweaving storylines.  The main narrative has the good-hearted future Madame Xanadu/Nimue sparring with her bad girl sister in an extended dialogue regarding their actions toward the humans of their ancient era.  Nimue is unsuccessful is halting Morgana's meddling in royal politics, leading by issue's end to Morgana setting-up the initial political intrigue of what will become the famous tale of Camelot.  The second plotline introduces a young Merlin to the tale; by the issue's end, the rookie sorcerer has stood his ground against the selfishness of Morgana's actions, laying the groundwork for their eventual tragic conflict later in the Arthurian legend.

     When I began reading this comic book, I had expected to find a modern-day Madame Xanadu tale set in her Greenwich Village tarot shop.  I was surprised and ultimately very pleased with this Vertigo historical infilling of Madame Xanadu's early life.  The creative team gives us a very entertaining addition to this character's backstory.  While the art is more of a cartoon-style, its the perfect fit for conveying the emotion between the three main characters of the young Nimue, Morgana and Merlin, as they butt heads which each other in taking their first hesitant steps along their respective good or evil paths for which they become famous in the King Arthur legend.

     So an enthusiastic thumbs-up for this unexpected treat that foreshadows the famous tale of Camelot through the eyes of the Madame Xanadu comic book universe.

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Green Hornet #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Kevin Smith: Writer
Jonathan Lau: Pencils
Ivan Nunes: Colors


         Dynamite Entertainment has revived the old-time masked action hero The Green Hornet, along with his trusty masked chauffeur sidekick Kato.  Issue 31 is written by well-known writer and movie director Kevin Smith, with art by Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes.  Phil Hester is listed in the credits as being responsible for "breakdowns," a term that I've never seen listed in comic book credits before.

     Older comic book fans will remember that The Green Hornet is Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and a masked crimefighter by night.  Reid is assisted by his chauffeur Kato, who drives their technologically-advanced car called Black Beauty. The Green Hornet was known for fighting criminals with knockout gas and knockout gun darts.  The character originated in the 1930's with a nationally popular radio program and crossed into the comic book genre in the 1940's.  One interesting piece of trivia is that the character was created as the great-nephew of The Lone Ranger, giving him a marketing spin-off connection to the very popular Lone Ranger radio show of the 1930's Golden Age of Radio entertainment.  Baby boomers may also remember the very popular 1966-67 television series, starring Bruce Lee as Kato.

     Issue #1 is entitled "Episode One: Night And Day."  The first half the the story is set in the past and is action-oriented, as Century City's two remaining crime families hold a summit to consider creating a truce in order to join forces to eliminate The Green Hornet.  The Hornet intervenes and single-handedly subdues the huge gathering of bad guys.  Thus ends the reign of organized crime in the city, allowing the original Green Hornet and Kato to retire.  The second half of the issue moves to the present day, and introduces the Hornet's spoiled son, just as his girlfriend dumps him because he's a shiftless wealthy playboy.  The issue ends with a hint that the now elderly Britt Reid will be anointing his son as the new Hornet to give him a purpose in life.

     The letters page of issue #1 states that this comic series is an adaptation of an unproduced Kevin Smith screenplay for The Green Hornet.  After reading this issue I can see why the screenplay is unproduced.  The problem is that this is a Kevin Smith-scripted comic book, loaded with Smith's trademark pretentious and extremely snarky dialogue and character attitude that many readers including myself just don't enjoy.  You don't have to be politically correct to feel at the least uncomfortable and at the most actually offended by Smith's inapproriate dialogue references to the Italian and Japanese ethnicity of the criminals; combine that with one weird, incomprehensible gun-toting scene/snarky sexual remark involving Reid's wife along with a final panel in which the younger Reid closes the issue by mooning the reader, and you've got a typically smug Kevin Smith comic.

     Smith has a very loyal comic book reading following, so if you're one of his loyal fans, feel free to check-out his typical fare in this new series.  But if like me you're not a Smith fanatic, my advice is to skip this new interpretation of The Green Hornet, which disrespects the heritage of this iconic Golden Age character by updating the original character's world only by adding modern-day coarseness and snarkiness to the storyline.


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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest asked you to answer the trivia questions of what is the largest man-made water body in America, and what major construction project resulted in the creation of this water body.  We received several correct answers, so by a random roll of the dice the winner is (drumroll, please)...Matt Turnbull, who correctly answered that the largest man-made American water body is Lake Mead, which was created as a result of the construction of Hoover Dam.

New Contest Announcement!!!

It's time to put your thinking caps back on with a comic book-oriented contest challenge.  The theme of our latest contest is superhero sidekicks.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and tell us who your favorite superhero sidekick is and why you prefer this sidekick above all others.  There are many obvious well-known sidekicks, such as Robin and Bucky tagging-along respectively with Batman and Captain America, and feel free to make your case for one of the A-list sidekicks.  But also feel free to pitch us someone unusual or obscure.  My favorite sidekick is Plastic Man's old buddy Woozy Winks, just because he's such an oddball character. First prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, so e-mail us with your contest entry now!

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


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