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STORE NEWS
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Review Date: 05/21/2010

Good King Leonardo noticed this past week that there are a lot of new and interesting spy and/or espionage thriller comics on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, so let's review three of them and see how they stack-up:
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  Frenemy Of The State #1
Publisher: Oni Press
Rashida Jones, Christina Weir & Nunzio DeFilippis: Writers
Jeff Wamester: Art
Rob Ruffolo: Colors

 

 
       Oni Press has just published issue #1 of a new spy thriller comic with the intriguing title "Frenemy Of The State."  The comic book is co-written by Rashida Jones, Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, with art by Jeff Wamester and colors by Rob Ruffolo.

     This first issue is entitled "Codename: Noob," and introduces us to Ariana "Ari" Von Holmberg, a twenty-something who lives the Hollywood wealthy pseudo-celebrity life by day, while operating as a secret CIA operative at night.  The story unfolds with two interweaving plotlines.  One story thread is Ari's origin story, in which the CIA recruits her due to her notorious reputation as a Hollywood partygirl who has genius-level computer hacking and anti-surveillance skills, which she honed by stalking and harassing her many jilted boyfriends.  The second storyline initiates Ari's first CIA assignment, in which she is required to steal a computer file owned by her best friend's father, while attending said "frenemie's" over-the-top celebrity birthday party.  Issue #1 concludes in a high action bridge to next month's issue, as Ari attempts a dangerous escape with the secret file.

     This is a very fresh and entertaining new addition to the spy thriller comic book genre, which works well for a few reasons.  Its a very relevant idea to take the Jennifer Garner/Alias type of young and beautiful undercover spy tale and give it a fresh coating of today's celebrity sleaze culture for relevancy.  The writing team gives us the right balance of current references to the real-world young Hollywood celebrity culture, including TMZ and a Perez Hilton knock-off named Strfkkr who gives up-to-the-minute tweets on the latest celebrity doings of Ari and her airhead bratty friends.  Ironically, the title Frenemy Of The State duly applies to both Ari's sharkpool nightlife friends as well as her foes in this undercover cat-and-mouse spy world.

     Just two minor constructive criticisms with issue #1.  First, the creative team has to improve their transitioning between real-time and flashback scenes, which were a bit disjointed and confusing in this issue.  And secondly, given that Ari's in the CIA, beyond this first issue, its a bit of a stretch to believe that the CIA is going to keep an undercover operative hanging out issue-after-issue at Lindsey Lohan-type Hollywood parties, so the writers had best move Ari on to world travel and jet-set adventure as soon as possible.  Those minor thoughts aside, this is the best celebrity/pop culture-layered spy series to come along in a long time, so a very positive thumbs-up to get on-board with this entertaining issue #1.

 
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  Garrison #1
Publisher: Wildstorm Productions
Jeff Mariotte: Writer
Francesco Francavilla: Art
Jeremy Shephard: Colors
 
 

              
     Wildstorm Productions has just published issue #1 of a new comic entitled Garrison.  The title is written by Jeff Mariotte with art by Francesco Francavilla and Jeremy Shephard.

      This espionage thriller opens on a very mysterious note, as federal intelligence agents Jillian Bracewell and Bob Walker join forces to try and find a mysterious man in a cowboy hat, whom surveillance tapes across the nation have identified as being responsible for over 150 killings over several weeks.  The plot takes an odd turn as this stranger appears at the intelligence headquarters and murders Bob, while warning Jillian that he did so to prevent Bob from actually killing her.  The second half of the story heightens the mystery of this stranger, as clues lead Jillian to learn that this mysterious Garrison leaves no fingerprints on objects that he touches, nor does he exist in any national database.

      While I'm giving this issue #1 a positive review, its questionable whether this title will sink or swim with future issues.  The mysterious stranger idea has merit, but some of the details of this first issue are clunky and amateurish.  The murder sequence is completely implausible, even for the world of comic books, as Jillian just allows Garrison to stroll away from gunpoint solely on the comment that Bob would have killed her in the near future.  The creative team is going to have to advance this storyline out of the gate very quickly by answering some of the basic questions regarding Garrison's backstory, or else this comic series will trip-up as a pretentious and flat effort at thriller mystery.  So give this issue #1 a deserved read on its own merits, and keep your fingers crossed regarding the story direction of the next few issues.

 
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  Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Rob Levin & Bryan Edward Hill: Writers
Alessandro Vitti: Art
Sunny Gho: Colors

 

 

 
        Our third thriller comic title for this week's reviews is issue #2 of Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box, published by Image Comics.  The series is scripted by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hall with art by Alessandro Vitti and colors by Sunny Gho.

     Issue #2 begins with a very helpful one-page summary of the previous month's story segment, explaining how billionaire industrialist Glorianna Silver and Irish gun-runner Michael Finnegan are respective holders of the Ember Stone and the Glacier Stone, two linked artifacts that give them each incredible powers.  While the pair are actually rivels, both are thrown-into the same situation of being stalked by Elias Legion, who leads a doomsday cult bent on following an ancient trail of clues and instructions that could gain Elias the legendary Pandora's Box, and as such the power to end the world.

     The current issue mixes two alternate storythreads.  One is a cat-and-mouse game, in which Glorianna tries to convince the conflicted Michael to get out of the game by handing-over his magical stone to her.  The lengthier storythread is more high action-oriented, as the pair separately travel across the world and battle the cult members in pursuit of Elias.  The issue climaxes with Michael and an ally of his learning clues to Elias's whereabouts from a mystical witch in rural Russia.  The magical experience unnerves Michael to the point where the issue concludes with him informing Glorianna that he's meeting her wishes by ceding his magical artifact to her and dropping-out of the high stakes pursuit.

     This is an engrossing high action tale that very successfully mixes together the genres of high action thrillers and the unexplainable.  The best pop culture comparison that comes to mind is The X-Files, if the main characters were freelance adventurers rather than federal agents.  While the action and adventure are well-presented, the story quality is greatly enhanced by the dynamic that the writers create between Glorianna and Michael.  While these two magic artifact owners are in the same dangerous situation, they can't decide from moment-to-moment whether to trust each other.  That conflict leads to some sharp and entertaining dialogue at every twist of the story, as the pair makes and breaks their tenuous alliance with every turn of the deadly action.

     In many ways, this is the most unique non-superhero comic title that I've read in awhile. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to read this new comic title as a refreshing change of pace from the standard story characters in other available new issue comic titles.

 
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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was a "contest within a contest," in which you fanboys and fangirls were challenged to submit to us your ideas for an upcoming Bongo Congo contest challenge.  We had some great entries, so the Bongo Congo panel of judges decided to select two winners of this challenge.  And our co-winners are (drumroll, please)...Tanja Pevner and Gordon Dupuis.  We won't tell you right now what their entries were.  Instead, next week we'll run Tanja's contest challenge for you and we'll run Gordon's contest the following week.  Congrats to both of our winners, who each receive 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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