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STORE NEWS
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Review Date: 06/18/2010

Good King Leonardo is back from a wonderful vacation in the wilds of Maine, so he's raring to get back into our reviews with the following
four comic book reviews, followed by our latest contest winners announcement and the posting of our new contest challenge for you:

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Joker's Asylum II: The Riddler #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Peter Calloway: Writer
Andres Guinaldo: Penciller
Raul Fernandez: Inks
Tomeu Morey: Colors

 
 

           
D.C. Comics has been publishing a series of Joker's Asylum stories, in which Batman's archfoe narrates a series of tales that each star a different Batman villain.  This particular one-shot in the series stars The Riddler.  The comic is written by Peter Calloway with art by the team of Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez and Tomeu Morey.

     This Riddler tale is entitled "The House The Cards Built," and is structured as an old Riddler tale being recounted by The Joker to an unseen visiter (namely, you the good comic book reader) to his cell in Arkham Asylum.  It's essentially a love story, as the Riddler falls head-over-heels in love with Jessica Duchamp, an art student whom he meets during an art heist.  Naturally, the good-hearted Jessica wants nothing to do with our old villain friend Ed Nigma.  The Riddler/Eddie sees this situation as a riddle that he needs to somehow solve, with the answer being the solution to the question of how to get Jessica to love him.  The story takes a series of interesting twists and turns.  I don't want to be a spoiler about the ending, so I'll just say that Eddie does find an answer to the riddle, but its up to you to read the ending to see what he does with the answer in deciding whether or not to resolve his unrequited love situation.

     This is a very entertaining comic book for a few reasons, first and foremost being the plot details.  Writer Peter Calloway gives us a story that's just the right balance of comedy and darkness, as this psychopath tries to find a way to break through his loony villain personality and deal with the fact that in many ways, he's just another common nerd who's fallen for a woman who wants nothing to do with him.  Calloway's smart enough to have The Riddler realize up-front that he'll have to somehow act like a normal guy if he wants to have even a prayer of getting Jessica to change her mind.  The Joker's Asylum concept of this title is also very entertaining.  I like the idea of the Joker narrating these tales, thereby actively inserting himself into every story with his very detailed narration of the tale.  There's also a nice twist at the end of this story, in which the Joker doesn't reveal the identity of a key villain in The Riddler's love story, challenging you the reader to try and figure-out who the person was.

     So my thumbs-up review advice is to read this very enjoyable issue, check-out the other issues in the Joker's Asylum series of one-shot comics and e-mail me at Gordon_A@msn.com with your opinion of who the unknown villain is who plays a key role in this story.  My own opinion is that the unnamed villain is The Joker himself, but I'm curious to see if any of your readers agree with that conclusion or not.

 
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Serenity: Float Out #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Patton Oswalt: Writer
Patric Reynolds: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors

 
 

              Over the past few years, Dark Horse Comics has published several mini-series and one-shot titles based on writer Joss Whedon's very popular Firefly television show and its follow-up Serenity movie.  The series is classic space opera science fiction, starring a band of smugglers who have adventures in space smuggling between planets under the nose of The Alliance, the interplanetary government.  I'm a fanatical fan of the t.v. series and the Serenity movie, but this is the first comic book in the Dark Horse series that I've taken a chance at reading.  This one-shot comic book is entitled "Float Out" and is written by well-known actor/comedian/writer Patton Oswalt, with art by Patric Reynolds and colors by Dave Stewart.

     This particular issue in the Serenity series presents three interconnected short stories, each starring Hoban "Wash" Washburne, the very popular ship's pilot in the Firefly t.v. series who was unexpectedly killed-off toward the end of the Serenity movie.  In this comic book, three pilot friends are christening their new ship, and each chooses to honor Wash by telling a reminiscence about their deceased buddy.  All three tales are high-action outer space smuggler adventures with "Wash Being Wash."  At the end of the storytellings, Wash's widow, Zoe, joins the trio for the actual ship's christening, adding her own touching remembrance of her husband, along with a very interesting story detail (which I won't spoil by telling in this review), which serves as a neat bridge to future issues in this Serenity comic book series.

     As I've mentioned in previous reviews, I'm always leery of reading comic books based on popular television shows and movies, due to their oft-failed attempts to reproduce in graphic format the magic of the original series.  I'm pleased to report that the creative team clears that hurdle with this issue, giving us a wonderful comic book that works on several levels.  First and foremost, the issue supplies faithful Firefly/Serenity fans with a high-quality addition to the universe of the series.  The three short stories present Wash with the endearing personality traits which made him such a fan favorite.  Secondly, the artwork is skillfully rendered, giving fans accurate reproductions of the real-life actors from the series.  And third, the three stories starring Wash all succeed both as tales in the Serenity universe and as stand-alone science fiction stories presented in graphic form.  There's been some negative criticism amongst reviewers that some of the Dark Horse Serenity comic books include plots that could only be understood and enjoyed by faithful Serenity fans.  I can't speak for previous issues, but I can tell you that this issue does not fall into that category, and is a highly entertaining read for comic book and science fiction fans alike, not just for die-hard fans of the series.

     Two quick final review comments are warranted here.  First, a well-deserved shout-out is due to writer Patton Oswalt.  I had no idea that this well-known actor and comedian (including a starring role on The King Of Queens t.v. show) is also an accomplished and veteran comic book writer, whose credentials include a story published in issue #600 of Batman.  Oswalt steps outside of his acting/comedy envelope here, writing a plot that is dramatic, moving and a gem of a new edition to the Serenity story universe.  Secondly, just a heads-up to the series fans that the letters column in this issue announces that in November, Dark Horse will be publishing a new graphic novel starring Shepard Book, another popular character from the Firefly/Serenity series.


 
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Sif #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kelly Sue Deconnick: Writer
Ryan Stegman: Penciler
Tom Palmer and Victor Olazaba: Inks
Juan Doe: Colors

 
 

 
     Marvel Comics is in the midst of publishing a series of "Women of Marvel Comics" one-shot comics.  One of the latest editions is Sif #1, starring Thor's perennial sweetheart Sif of Asgard.  This issue is scripted by Kelly Sue Deconnick with the art team of Ryan Stegman, Tom Palmer, Victor Olazaba and Juan Doe.  A page-one narrative catches-up the reader to the setting of Thor's comic book universe these days, explaining how a few years ago, Thor restored the destroyed Asgard, locating the returned city of the gods to a cornfield outside of Broxton, Oklahoma (you can check-out back issues of Thor at That's Entertainment to read that wonderful series, penned by writer Michael Straczynski).  The Lady Sif has now decided to try and live a mortal's life in Broxton, rather than return to living in Asgard.

     This issue's story is entitled "I Am Lady Sif," and gives the reader two sub-plots to illustrate both sides of Sif's new lifestyle.  The early part of the comic features Sif trying to adjust to living amongst the average folk of the Town, while still dealing with fear and trauma from her dealings in previous issues of Thor comics with Thor's evil brother Loki.  The action kicks-in with our second plotline, as the Thor-like Beta Ray Bill and his girlfriend come to Town and Sif agrees to help recapture Bill's spaceship from alien pirates.  The entire second half of the story shifts to high-action space adventure as the trio heads for outer space and attacks the alien hijackers.  Without revealing any spoiler details, all ends well of course, but more importantly, in the process Sif finds a way to put her Loki trauma behind her and embrace her new Earth-bound Oklahoma lifestyle.

     I enjoyed reading this comic book more than any of the four books reviewed this week, for a few basic reasons, the first being Kelly Sue Deconnick's script.  I've never heard of this writer before and was very impressed with both the quality dialogue of her storytelling as well as the skill that she brought in presenting the bigger question of the story, namely, can Sif find a way to balance living a small town rural life while occasionally getting involved in superhero adventure.  That she does very well in this issue, as well as putting the trauma she's suffered at the hands of the evil Loki behind her.  I also enjoyed the artwork in this issue, which doesn't shoot for giving the reader highbrow realism, but instead illustrates the tale with a very nice cartoon-style.  The result is a lot of just plain comic book reading fun here, as opposed to another grand attempt at highbrow graphic literature, which is fine but can be wearing at times.

     So a positive thumbs-up for this fun and entertaining issue.  Similar to the Joker's Asylum issue reviewed above, this comic book has peaked my curiosity regarding the other issues in Marvel's Women of Comics series, so my final recommendation is to also check-out what other reading gems might shine in this ongoing series of one-shot comic books.


 
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Batman #700
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Grant Morrison: Writer
Various Artists

 

 
 

 
     It doesn't seem that long ago, but it was actually the 1990's when we Batman fanatics were reading the landmark issue #600 in the title series. But time does fly and here we are in June of 2010 with the publication of anniversary issue #700, which is written by veteran writer Grant Morrison.  Entitled "Time And The Batman," the team of many artists is broken into four groups, each of which is given the chance to illustrate about one quarter of the 30-page story.

     Morrison's approach is to give us a time-spanning tale, with three segments which respectively star the Bruce Wayne Batman, the Dick Grayson Batman, and Damian Wayne as a future Batman, all grown-up from his current role as the psycho son-of-Bruce-Wayne Robin.  The plot is a time-travel murder mystery in which the various Batmen interact with Gotham scientist Carter Nichols and his timetravel technology.  The tale becomes a murder mystery when the present-day Dick Grayson Batman is called-in to solve the scientist's mysterious murder, then jumps to the future, in which a time-traveling younger version of Nichols joins-up with the Damian Wayne Batman to solve the crime.  The main story is followed by several pages of anniversary art by various artists, as well as a detailed rendering of the Batcave.

         I love nothing more in comic book reading than the Batman universe, and generally have a soft spot for all levels of storytelling quality, in the belief that they all have a place in the widespread quilt of titles and interpretations that make-up the panorama of all that is Batman.  But that said, I just can't give this issue a positive recommendation.  The idea of a time-spanning, three-part story that stars three different Batman incarnations sounds good in and of itself.  Likewise, the idea of various artists getting-in on the tribute issue is also worthy and often adds a nice touch to the various anniversary or special comic book issues where the team approach has been applied before.  But Morrison's script is just plain awful and pulls all of the other good elements of this issue under the water's surface to drown the whole mess.  The first quarter section of the story is plainly disjointed nonsense, and things don't get much better from there as the reader suffocates in Morrison's attempt to add futuristic jargon to his dialogue, as a weak attempt to make a poorly-constructed story somehow feel futuristic.  I've read this thing twice, and I'm just extremely uncomfortable and not entertained with the very disjointed storytelling, along with the just plain weird details of the third section of the story, featuring Batman in the future.

     I really hate to do this, but I honestly can't give a positive recommendation to this special anniversary issue of my favorite comic book character.  Please feel free to read this issue and judge for yourself, but I have the feeling that a lot of Batman fans are going to agree at least partly with my assessment.  The fact that there were still a lot of copies of this issue on the new issues shelf when I picked it up might be an indication that the word is out there in fandom.  But again, feel free to judge for yourself and see if your reaction is similar or different from mine.  Our good friend The Batman at least deserves that on his 700th issue anniversary!


 
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Contest Winners Announcement!!!

We have the winners from our last two contests to announce today!  First-up is our contest in which you were challenged to submit a futuristic or fantastic item which would be fun to see included in a comic book story.  This contest was suggested by Tanja Pevner.  And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gabriel Lebel, who submitted the idea of an alien supercomputer that predicts the future.  Gabe suggested that in a comic book story "an advanced alien race would scatter billions of information-gathering probes/drones across the universe.  These probes would collect data on literally everything that happens in the universe and the super computer would sort the information and use it to predict the future with remarkable accuracy...the super computer would be called "Fate" or something."  An interesting new approach to computer technology, Gabe, maybe a comic book writer will read this column and add your invention to his or her story!

Our second contest challenged you to answer the trivia question of which three Massachusetts towns are named after foreign countries.  We had several correct entries, so by a random roll-of-the-dice, our winner is Stephen Kostrzewa, who correctly identified the towns of Holland and Wales here in Central Massachusetts and Peru out in the western part of the state.  My fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc also points-out that none of these three small New England towns have municipal water departments!

     Congratulations to both of our contest winners, who each win a $10.00 gift certificate to our favorite comic book/pop culture store, That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

With the baseball season in full swing and our Red Sox heating-up, let's go with baseball trivia for our next two contests, then we'll return to presenting a few contests submitted by our contest participants themselves.  So here's a Red Sox trivia contest for this week: your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and tell us which current Red Sox player had an unexpected role as a teenager in a popular 1990's movie, and tell us what the movie was and a bit about his role.  As always, the winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment and in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner will be selected via a roll of the dice.

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

 
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