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STORE NEWS
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Review Date: 05/08/2010

Good King Leonardo is having a fun time this week reading all of the wonderful free comics that he picked up at That's Entertainment during last Saturday's national Free Comic Book Day.  So The Good King has decreed that we provide you this week with the following reviews of some of this year's bumper crop of free comics:

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  The Sixth Gun #1
Publisher: Oni Press
Cullen Bunn: Writer
Brian Hurtt: Art
 
       Oni Press has just premiered this monthly new title by offering issue #1 as a Free Comic Book Day freebie.  The comic has an interesting blend of supernatural, horror and western genre themes and is scripted by Cullen Bunn with art by Brian Hurtt.

     Issue #1 introduces us to a wide range of story characters in an unnamed year back in the Wild West.  The supernatural element is very central to the plot, as everyone is maneuvering in search of the legendary "sixth gun," reputed to have supernatural powers when operated by its current owner.  The evil and mysterious Mrs. Hume has set a team of famed Pinkerton investigators on the trail, in competition with both a shadowy stranger and a team of supernatural characters.  The trail leads to the present gunholder, an elderly farmer who with his dying breathe bestows the gun to his good-hearted stepdaughter Becky.  By issue's end, the Pinkertons have captured Becky and the gun, and are enroute to bringing both to Mrs. Hume, while the supernatural bad guys are rallying around their evil leader in planned pursuit.

     This new comic book is a very entertaining read for several reasons.  Writer Cullen Bunn does an exemplary job in blending a traditional western story with a host of supernatural story elements.  The story ranges back and forth between traditional western action and supernatural activities.  Its a high quality mix that would make Stephen King himself, the author of the acclaimed "The Dark Tower" series, proud.  However, there isn't an overly dark or gruesome quaility, here.  Brian Hurtt's excellent art is of a cartoon style that lightens the heaviness of the theme, so we're not repulsed by the horror element; the horror instead effectively enhances the conflict elements within this new western tale, resulting in a wonderful and very entertaining new adventure series.

     So my enthusiastic thumbs-up advice is to enjoy the good luck of reading issue #1 of of The Sixth Gun as a Free Comic Book Day issue, then continue reading this new monthly series as a regular monthly issue.  Fans of the supernatural, horror and western fiction/comic book genres won't be disappointed.

 
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  Doctor Solar, Man Of The Atom
And
Magnus Robot Fighter

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Jim Shooter: Writer
Dennis Calero & Bill Reinhold: Art
Dennis Calero & Wes Dzioba: Colors
 
         In 2007, Dark Horse Comics obtained the rights to many of the 1960's Gold Key Comics heroes, and is scheduled this summer to introduce brand new versions of many iconic Gold Key characters, including Doctor Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter, Mighty Samson and Turok Son of Stone.  Step one in this effort is publication of a Free Comic Book Day issue featuring brand new Doctor Solar and Magnus Robot Fighter stories.  Both tales are scripted by veteran writer Jim Shooter with art by the team of Dennis Calero, Bill Reinhold and Wes Dzioba.

     A quick and brief background regarding both 1960's Gold Key characters: Doctor Solar is physicist Philip Solar, who is irradiated in a reactor accident and gains the power to convert himself into any form of energy.  Naturally, he dons a self-made superhero costume and begins his many comic book adventures.  Magnus Robot Fighter was the 1963 creation of Russ Manning, and featured the main character as the human champion of the robot-dependent urban society of the year 4000 A.D.  Assisted in his adventures by his girlfriend Leela and "robo-cops," Magnus battled rogue robots in this comic which Manning created as a science fiction homage to Tarzan.  Both Silver Age series have been also prized by collectors for the beautiful oil-rendering front covers of each issue.

       The Doctor Solar story setting commences right after the reactor accident and focuses on Doctor Solar adapting to his new situation, confiding in a scientist colleague as he decides to use his newfound powers for good.  A parallel plotline has Doctor Solar confronting and fighting a bad guy who has developed similar powers through a spin-off effect from the original reactor accident.  The Magnus Robot Fighter plot introduces our hero, his girlfriend Leela and his robo-cop allies in a high action adventure as they battle a team of criminal robots whose ultimate goal is to find the buried robot head of their leader and restore him to power as their robot criminal leader.  The story climaxes with the criminals succeeding in this effort, thus setting-up a major battle between the resurrected robot leader and Magnus in the final pages of this story.

     The two stories in this issue differ greatly from each other, both in terms of style and quality.  The Doctor Solar tale really shines as a beautifully-drawn and strongly-plotted reinterpretation of the scientist hero's Silver Age origins.  Veteran writer Jim Shooter is faithful to the original universe of this character while giving Doctor Solar a modern, 21st century make-over that presents this comic as an up-to-date and entertaining read.  The Magnus Robot Fighter tale only worked for me as an unintentionally campy homage to the 1960's version of this title.  Both the art and plot were clunky and stuck in a 1960's style that was too wooden to be taken as enjoyment for the 2010 comic book reader.  For the upcoming regular series to develop a decent-sized fanbase, Shooter and team will need to take the Doctor Solar approach and add some new elements to the old-school Magnus that they present in this free premier story.

     So an enthusiastic thumbs-up for a successful re-booting of the Doctor Solar comic title, along with a mixed recommendation to stick with the Magnus title only if you're curious to read an issue of unintentional campiness.  I'm also looking forward to the Dark Horse Comics announced return of Turok Son of Stone as mentioned above, and will bring you a review of that new series as soon as possible.

 
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  Yow! A John Stanley Library Grab-Bag
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
John Stanley: Writer
Dan Gormley & John Stanley: Art
 
        Drawn & Quarterly Publishing has issued a Free Comic Book Day comic that provides a sampler from their reprint volume series that features various well-known Golden Age newspaper comic strip characters during the years that they were scripted or drawn by John Stanley.  This particular comic features stories starring the Ernie Bushmiller-created Nancy, Tubby, Melvin Monster, Choo Choo Charlie and Judy Junior.  These characters, along with the well-known Little Lulu, are apparently available in the various reprint volumes from Drawn & Quarterly Publishing.

    If you're of a certain age like me, you have some level of childhood memory of reading these 20th century comic strip characters, either in their original newspaper comic strip form or in their later Dell and Gold Key comic book titles.  If you're a nostalgic fan of these cartoon figures, then by all means enjoy this free sampler, and also talk to the good folks at That's Entertainment regarding obtaining one or more of the volume reprints mentioned above.

    I'm giving this comic a positive review recommendation for providing a very nice representative sampler of this nostalgic corner of old time comic characters.  However, in re-reading these stories for the first time since childhood, it struck me how unexpectedly creepy some of the storylines were.  John Stanley was known for bringing a sometimes bizarre writing style to his scripting, most particularly when he took over writing chores in the 1940's from creator Marjorie Henderson Buell for Little Lulu.  As such, his plot for the first Nancy story in this free comic issue seems fever-dream creepy to me, and the characters in the other stories frankly seem either nasty, nuts or just plain weird.  It is entertaining in its own unique way, as an academic observation on both the nature of these comics back in those decades and the nature of American society in those times.

    Anyhow, those overbearing sociological comments aside, its an odd but interesting collection of stories in this free comic volume worth checking out if only for the uniqueness of this historical corner of the comic book industry.

    As a final review comment, while I'm not providing detailed reviews here of the Free Comic Book Day issues of Archie Comics and The Simpsons comic, just a positive shout-out for you to check out these issues as well as their regular monthly titles, as they're always high quality and entertaining reads.  So all-in-all, we hope that you enjoy the various Free Comic Book Day comics enough to continue reading these titles in their regular, year-round issues.

 
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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We received a very large number of correct responses to this week's contest, which challenged you to correctly give us the name of the mysterious and little-known "fourth duck brother" related to Donald Duck's three better-known nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie.  By a roll of the dice, our contest winner selected from the many correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Peter Nierintz, who correctly identified the fourth nephew as "Phooey Duck."  Legend has it that a Disney artist accidentally added a fourth nephew into a Donald Duck comic panel which made it to print, whereupon Disney Editor Bob Foster nicknamed the anonymous duck as "Phooey Duck."  Whether by accident or on purpose, brother Phooey showed-up from time-to-time in additional Donald Duck comics beyond his first appearance. Congratulations to Peter for winning the contest prize of a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

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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