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Review Date: 04/16/2010

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its science fiction theme week again Here In Bongo Congo, so let's review the following two science fiction-themed comic books, followed by a traditional Marvel comic that to me has always had somewhat of a science fiction feel to it, all topped-off with a science fiction robot trivia contest announcement:

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  Electric Ant #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Mack: Writer
Pascal Alixe: Art
Christopher Sotomayor: Art
 
      Marvel Comics has published this past week issue #1 of the new five-issue mini-series Electric Ant, which is a graphic re-telling of the science fiction short story of the same title, written in 1969 by science fiction author Philip K. Dick.  Dick's classic novel "Do Android's Dream Of Electric Sheep?" was the basis for the 1982 movie "Bladerunner," which itself is currently undergoing a 24-issue comic book re-telling by BOOM! Studios.  Electric Ant is scripted by David Mack with art by Pascal Alixe and Christopher Sotomayer.

     The main character of the story is Garson Poole, a citizen of a future Earth society who wakes-up after a flying car accident to be informed by the hospital staff that in treating him they've discovered that he's an "electric ant," slang for electricant or artificial human being.  The mystery deepens throughout the tale as Garson seeks to find-out who created him and why his true identity has been hidden from him.  He also discovers that he can open his chest and manipulate a computerized punchtape, which alters his reality whenever he makes new holes in the program tape, thus leading to questions regarding the nature of the story's reality itself.

     Issue #1 gives us the introductory segment of Phillip K. Dick's classic tale.  The first half of the issue details Garson Poole awakening and learning of his hidden identity.  A more dense narrative is presented in the second half of the issue, as Garson goes to a robotics expert to repair his damaged hand and learns the mechanics of his body structure.  The issue ends on a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #2 with Garson receiving an unexpected visit from his girlfriend just as he's opened-up his chest for a full inspection of what literally makes him tick.

     This is a very well-presented comic book interpretation of one of Dick's most famous short stories.  Two of Dick's most common story themes are exploring the questions of what it means to be human and what is the true nature of reality.  This story combines the two in some heavy philosophical ways that could pose a complex problem in representing the story in a comic book format.  So far with issue #1, the creative team is pulling it off by presenting this often-heavy storyline in a clear, well-paced and entertaining manner.  While the artistic style is a bit primitive and clunky at times, artists Alixe and Sotomayer redeem themselves with an amazing full-panel final page of the issue, in which Garson Poole dramatically opens-up his chest to reveal the mechanics of his true self just as his girlfriend shows-up at his front door. 

     So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this intriguing and enjoyable five-issue mini-series based on a well-known science fiction classic short story.  And as a reminder from my previous positive review, also pick-up the ongoing 24-issue BOOM! Studios word-for-word graphic retelling of Dick's "Electric Sheep?" novel.  All ten issues published so far are available on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment.

 
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  Starstruck #8
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Elaine Lee: Writer
Michael William Kaluta: Artist
Lee Moyer: Colors
 
       IDW Publishing has just released issue #8 in a planned 13-issue comic book series entitled Starstruck.  The comic is written by Elaine Lee with art by veteran artist Michael Kaluta and colors by Lee Moyer.  Starstruck is a comic book expansion of an off-Broadway play written by Elaine Lee.  Many of the characters were formulated in an early 1980's comic strip that ran in Heavy Metal magazine.  The Starstruck comic book universe further evolved in an earlier title published by Marvel's Epic comic line.  It appears from some promo material that the new title is a mix of new and reprint material with recoloring by Lee Moyer.

     Starstruck is an space opera-themed comic, in which a fleet of "Galactic Girl Guides," modeled on our real world Girl Scouts/Girl Guides organizations, tootle-around the universe in small rocket fighters and have adventures.  Issue #8 presents two such adventures, starring Galactic Girl Guide Brucilla and her friends/colleagues.  The first story is entitled "I've Got My Finger On It Now," and stars Brucilla crash-landing her tiny ship as just about all of her fighter squadron is annihilated around her.  Story number two is entitled "Forty Meters And A Ship!"  I read a few pages of it and gave up very quickly, for reasons detailed in the next paragraph.

     This comic title is a pretty decent idea for a girl-themed science fiction adventure comic that fails very badly, for a few basic reasons.  First, there's absolutely no plot structure here.  Elaine Lee just presents characters and has them tootle-around in space or argue with each other, with absolutely no storyline.  There's a lot of annoying singing that might be a reflection of the concept's off-Broadway play roots, combined with details fleshing-out the space culture of these folks.  The reader learns all types of new space opera slang words made-up for this universe, but is given nothing to read but page-after-page of presenting the style of how these girls speak, argue and sing little ditties as they tootle-around in their glamour rockets.  This plotless posing wore on me to the point that for the first time in a very long time, I just couldn't bring myself to slog through the second story in this dud.

     So if you're looking for a kid-based space adventure comic for younger comic book readers, stay away from this plotless failure and instead check-out Ender's Game or one of many other space opera-themed comics available on That's Entertainment's new issues shelves.

 
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  Avengers: The Origin #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Joe Casey: Writer
Phil Noto: Art
 
 

     Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 in a five-issue mini-series entitled Avengers: The Origin, which offers us a new version of the classic origin tale of the Avengers.  The series is scripted by Joe Casey with art by Phil Noto.  This is a reinterpretation of the original formation of the group; while the Avengers origin tale was initially published deep in the Silver Age back in the early 1960's, this tale reinterprets the story by placing the team's origin as occuring in present-day 2010.  As such, the issue fits this week's science fiction column theme by offering an alternate-reality version of the well-known historic Avengers origin events.

     Issue #1 features Thor's evil half-brother Loki banished to Hades but manipulating events back on Earth from afar.  Without providing spoiler details, Loki manipulates communications amongst several individual Marvel superheroes to try and get Thor and other heroes via misunderstanding into common conflict against The Hulk, who is wandering through the American Southwest desert.  By issue's end, Thor, Iron Man, The Wasp and Ant-Man have been manipulated into a confrontation with the Hulk's sidekick Rick Jones and his computer-nerd friends, which most likely will lead to The Hulk getting involved in this messy situation in the next issue.

     While the story synopsis detailed above might sound somewhat dry and routine, in the hands of this creative team its actually a very interesting storyline.  The creative team also takes the unique and entertaining approach of blending today's modern-day American society with interesting retro elements of the Silver Age Marvel universe.  Its clear from the start of this issue that while the year is 2010, the era of these Marvel heroes is just emerging a la the 1960's Marvel origin years.  The little retro touches, such as Iron Man's primitive early-style body armor and the fact that the Avengers don't exist yet, make for a fresh and satisfying perspective on this very well-known and almost vintage hero team-up. 

     An enthusiastic thumbs-up is also deserved for Phil Noto's artwork.  I've enjoyed his unique and high quality style in several previous DC Comics mini-series and was glad to see that his artistic vision translates very effectively into the Marvel universe.  So a positive review recommendation to include this new mini-series in your reading stack as a worthy addition to the various interpretations of key events in Marvel universe history.

 
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New Contest Announcement!!!

Since this is a science fiction-themed review week, Good King Leonardo has decreed that we challenge you with a contest that tests your science fiction trivia knowledge and skills.  Our contest theme for this week is science fiction robots.  Everyone is familiar with the more popular sci-fi movie robots, such as R2-D2 and C3P0 from Star Wars.  So here's a challenging trivia question for you: What popular science fiction cult classic movie featured among the main characters three brother robots named Huey, Dewey and Louie?  E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your answer.  First prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.  In case of multiple correct entries, the winner will be selected by a random roll of the dice.

     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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