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STORE NEWS
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Review Date: 07/16/2010

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we're to span many universes in our reviews this week, starting with the
mighty Star Wars universe then moving on through the DC universe and on to the Marvel Universe:
 
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Star Wars: The Old Republic
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Rob Chestney: Writer
Alex Sanchez: Art
Michael Atiyeh: Colors

 
 

           
     Dark Horse Publishing has added a new Star Wars title to its many Stars Wars title comics with the issue #1 release of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  A subtitle on the cover explains that this particular Star Wars title is based on the video game from BioWare and LucasArts.  The comic book is written by Rob Chestney with art by Alex Sanchez and colors by Michael Atiyeh.  An introductory narrative on the inside cover explains that the setting of this series is in the Old Republic, thousands of years before the events that take place in the well-known six movie series.

     Issue #1 is entitled "Threat Of Peace," and is the first installment in a three-issue story arc.  The same inside cover narrative introduction sets-up the plot, explaining that the Old Republic and the well-known Jedi Order have been allies in a centuries-long war against the attacking evil Sith Empire.  The plot begins with representatives of the three warring interests coming-together for a Sith-requested peace negotiation.  The setting next flashes amongst many planets to introduce the reader to various representatives of the three warring parties.  Its soon clear that the peace meeting was a ruse by the Sith to strike at the heart of the Republic government and the Jedi headquarters.  The second half of this issue interweaves two sub-plots.  In the first, the Sith initially succeed, taking key hostages as a step toward forcing their demands to be met.  The second sub-plot advances action on the part of those individuals earlier introduced on other planets, as they react to or are affected by the hostage taking effort.

     This is an interesting comic book that deserves a positive review, albeit with several qualifying warnings.  First, as mentioned above, the setting is centuries before the movie series plot, so don't expect to find any of the well-known cinematic Star Wars characters-human, robot or otherwise-to pop-up anywhere in this new comic book title.  Secondly, while there's a nice balance between action and story dialogue, we're presented with so many feature characters in so many universe-wide settings that no one or few folk emerge in this issue as major players for the reader to follow.  Should no one emerge from the storytelling pack in the next issue, this comic title will most likely lose a lot of reader interest.  And third, the plot structure here parallels the format of the final three Star Wars movie, with a lot of detailed political brainstorming and maneuvering amongst the many players.  While its well-presented, it does require a heavy amount of reader focus and at times overwhelms the very popular space opera shoot'em-up side of the Star Wars universe.

     Again, this is a very well-produced product of the type of Star Wars plot that was established in the final three installments of the movie series.  So if you're looking for an entertaining comic book dose of that particular school of the Star Wars franchise, by all means check-out the worthy issue #1 of this new series.  But if you're a fan of the old school original structure, then I suggest that you peruse the many other Star Wars comic book titles available along the newly-carpeted That's Entertainment new issues boardwalk for a comic featuring R2-D2, C3PO, Luke or other characters from the original format of the series.


 
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Batman: Odyssey #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Neal Adams: Writer and Artist
Michael Golden: Inks

 
 

     
 DC Comics has just released issue #1 in a planned 12-issue new Batman mini-series with story and artwork by Neal Adams, assisted on some of the coloring by Michael Golden.  For the uninitiated, Neal Adams was an iconic comic book creator for both DC and Marvel during the Silver Age years of the 1960's and early 1970's.  Among his many accomplishments, Adams broke new comic book storytelling ground with his acclaimed Green Lantern-Green Arrow series in which his stories were grounded in many of the current events topics of the day, including civil rights, environmentalism and national politics.  He's also known for his beautiful style of artistically-rendered finished comic book pages, with a visual realism that looks almost photographic.

     Odyssey #1 marks Adams's first return to Batman in over a generation.  The setting is very early in Batman's career, as a rookie Batman and his sidekick Robin are just figuring-out how to approach the noir crimefighting for which they will eventually be known by all of Gotham City. The plot can be broken into three acts.  The first section throws-us right into high action, as a two-fisted gunslinging Batman confronts a nighttime train highjacking situation.  Act two is set back in the Batcave, as Batman, Robin and Man-Bat have an extended dialogue on whether Batman should take the mainstream approach of being a gun-toting crimefighter or try the non-lethal path for which he's known in all other Batman titles.  And the third section of the plot brings the Dynamic Duo to a nighttime waterfront setting to confront two separate crimes being simultaneously pulled-off by the Riddler and his gang.  Thrown into this section is a surprise development regarding Man-Bat which most likely will get a major storyline focus in issue #2.

      After several decades of absence from the mainstream comic book scene, Adams couldn't be faulted if he didn't produce a high quality reading product. I'm happy to say that he doesn't drop the ball, here; his art style is still of a very high quality visual style and his storytelling is strong, credible and most importantly, entertaining.  I was most impressed that Adams gave us an early Batman story world that isn't a 21st century retro take on the Caped Crusader, but rather a presentation of the Batman world from Adams's early days of comic producing.  I enjoyed seeing again the original kid Robin's old-school innocent enthusiasm regarding crimefighting and the complexities of the Dynamic Duo trying to adjust to using the early Batman technologies, from the first Batmobile to pioneer utility belt options.

     Most importantly, we're not seeing a faded work product here from a giant of the industry in his later years.  Instead, what we get in Batman: Odyssey is the storytelling return of a classic comic book creator with a vintage style that holds-up in 2010 and kicks-off what's sure to be a high quality and entertaining mini-series.  So my obvious positive thumbs-up recommendation is to get onboard the start of this classic re-take on Batman with issue #1, available now.

 
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Scarlet #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics Icon Imprint
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Alex Maleev: Art

 
 

 
          Marvel has just published issue #1 in a new comic book series entitled Scarlet, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev.  The marketing for this comic is promoting it as a "creator-owned venture," similar to Bendis's acclaimed Powers series in which the creative team maintains a higher level of ownership rights than are routinely agreed to by the publisher.

      Scarlet is the main character of this comic book series.  A 20-something woman living the grunge cultural life in Portland, Oregon, Scarlet is not a superhero, but instead plays the story role of the everyday person turned into an avenging angel.  The story opens with Scarlet killing a cop in a backalley.  Bendis then breaks the fourth wall of narrative, having Scarlet talk directly to the reader in presenting an issue-long flashback that shows how a corrupt cop killed her innocent boyfriend and nearly killed her, thereby leading up to the cop-killing event.  The issue concludes with the high-powered rifle-toting Scarlett announcing to the reader that in upcoming issues "you the reader" are going to help her put a stop to the street violence of Portland.

     I'll get right to the point and recommend a thumbs-down on this comic book, for two basic reasons.  First, Bendis doesn't make a convincing case for the "eye for an eye" philosophy that is supposed to justify the cop-killing that he opens with.  Granted that Scarlet and her dead boyfriend are victims of evil, but in the realistic world of socially progressive and politically enlighted Portland, Oregan that Bendis and Maleev choose to make as their story setting, there are a thousand better and more logical ways for Scarlett to address her situation than going all "Charles Bronson Death Wish" on the city and killing folks, no matter how bad they are.  It just doesn't credibly hold-up even in a fictional comic book setting.

     Secondly, Bendis overdoes the street-cred snarkiness dialogue and attitude of his characters. The result is a feeling that he's just trying to shock for the sake of shock rather than add a relevant story element, and it all comes-off as pretentious and amateurish.  I've seen this flaw in some of his early work and I've suspected that good editing at Marvel as his career progressed put a necessary damper on the junior-high school snarkiness that used to creep into his writing.  My guess is that the freedom he obtained with this "creator-owned venture" deal unleashed him from the editing oversight that kept this writing flaw to a minimum in his other Marvel work.

     So my advice is to skip this way over-cooked attempt at street-cred hipness and posing attitude.  Instead, check-out the better-produced Bendis products in the Marvel title inventory, as well as his ongoing Powers title also published by the Marvel Comics Icon Imprint.

 
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Shadowland #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Andy Diggle: Writer
Billy Tan: Pencils
Christina Strain: Colors

 
 

 
     Marvel Comics has just kicked-off a new multi-title event entitled "Shadowland."  The series will be centered in a five-issue Shadowland mini-series which will be supported by several additional one-shot titles and crossover issues within several ongoing regular Marvel monthly features.  Issue #1 of the five-issue mini-series is written by Andy Diggle with art by Billy Tan and Christina Strain.  The series stars Daredevil and features many additional Marvel universe superheroes.

     A page one narrative explains that Daredevil has become the leader of The Hand, the group of ninja assassins with whom he and Electra have clashed over the years.  Daredevil has established The Hand's headquarters in his Hell's Kitchen New York Neighborhood.  As his power grows, Daredevil has become more brutal in using The Hand against local street crime, to the point where many other Marvel heroes are beginning to question both his motives and his growing brutality.

     Issue #1's storyline can be divided into two segments.  The first half of the issue introduces the reader to a large number of Marvel heroes patrolling New York at night, while expressing concern to each other about the Daredevil/The Hand situation.  At the same time, the plot details the escape of the well-known killer Bullseye from police custody.  Bullseye immediately heads for the Shadowland headquarters of The Hand, leading to the second half of the issue focusing on an extended high action hand-to-hand battle between Bullseye and Daredevil/The Hand.  The issue ends very dramatically when it appears that Daredevil may have finally broken that unwritten good guy code and actually killed Bullseye.

     This is a very entertaining start to the new Shadowland story concept.  The creative team does a great job of incorporating a very large number of Marvel superheroes into the fast-paced plot.  The story concept and details as structured by writer Andy Diggle are very fresh and interesting in combination with Billy Tan's beautifully-rendered penciling.  Its an intriguing and new approach on the Daredevil theme to have him as the head of The Hand, after so many decades of Daredevil comics in which Matt Murdock/Daredevil and the ninja group have been mortal enemies.  In the hands of this capable creative team, it should be a lot of comic book reading fun to see how this subject of Daredevil's good guy-or-bad guy temptation plays-out through this new series.

     As a final review comment, I thought it an interesting coincidence that both this comic book and the Batman comic reviewed above have as central story themes the issue of the main superhero struggling to determine how far he is willing to use deadly violence to fight evil.  The Scarlet comic book also reviewed this week takes this subject even further, with writer Bendis exploring the consequences of a civilian character diving headfirst over that line and embracing murder as a routine strategy against the bad guys.

 
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Contest Winner Announcement!!!

    Our latest contest ran for two weeks and challenged you to submit a popular culture item (i.e., movie character, action figure, etc.) and suggest an existing comic book title that you believe fans of the popular culture item would also enjoy.  We have two co-winners of this contest.

     Our first winner is Mike Dooley.  Mike writes that fans of the Doctor Who series would love the comic "Tom Strong."  Mike adds that "although the characters have different abilities, both are science-related heroes whose stories are told with an excellent blend of humor and adventure."

     We also received a large number of contest entries recommending that fans of zombie movies would love reading the comic book title "The Walking Dead."  Since all of these entries made persuasive arguments for this choice, by a roll of the dice we selected a co-winner from this group of entries, also.  Our zombie fan winner is Fardeen Chowdhury.  Fardeen writes that the comic book asks the question of what happens to zombie movie characters after the movie credits end.  Fardeen adds that "anyone who's either loved or hated zombie movies will find something entertaining about The Walking Dead as it re-examines the genre and breathes new life into it-so to speak!"

Congratulations to our co-winners, who each win a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

     We'll go back to a trivia contest next week, but for this week let's try one more thinking cap contest, dipping into one of the contest idea suggestions that we received this past May from our readers.  Mike Dooley suggested the following contest.

     Everyone has their all-time favorite comic book moment.  Examples Mike gives are Rorschach in "Watchmen" saying to the prison polulation "I'm not stuck in here with you, you're stuck in here with me," or the moment when writer Walt Simonson has The Mighty Thor turn into a frog.  One of my own personal favorites is that moment when Peter Parker/Spider-Man learns that with great power comes great responsibility.

     So your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your personal favorite comic book moment.  The winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to that's Entertainment.

     That's all for now, so hope you're still finding ways to beat this endless summer heat and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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