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Review Date: 09/10/2010

Since this past week was the first official week of Fall, Good King Leonardo has decreed that we kick-off the new season with an eclectic mix of comics to review from across many comic book genres. So let's see how the following four comics fare, representing the varied comic book genres of Westerns, Army Comics, Super-Heroes and Classic Fables:

The Lone Ranger #23
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Brett Matthews: Writer
Sergio Cariello: Art
Marcelo Pinto: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment's Lone Ranger title is up to #23 with this month's issue. The title is written by Brett Matthews with art by Sergio Cariello and colors by Marcelo Pinto. For the younger, post-Baby Boomer fanboys and fangirls who may not be familiar with the character, The Lone Ranger is an iconic western fictional character of the early and mid-20th century, who became an early modern media pop culture icon with the advent of radio in the 1930's and transfering that popularity over to the world of early baby boomer television with the emergence of 1950's and 1960's television programming. As I mentioned in a Green Hornet comic book review this past year, said Hornet was actually created in the Golden Age of radio and comics as the nephew of The Lone Ranger, which was a very shrewd marketing move to build on the immense popularity of The Lone Ranger back in the day.

Issue #23 is billed as Part 7 in a multi-issue story arc entitled "Resolve." The plot is basically a set-up for next month's face-to-face confrontation between the Ranger and bad guy Butch Cavendish. This issue begins with Cavendish capturing and torturing a small-town sheriff as bait to lure The Lone Ranger into the upcoming confrontation. The bulk of the storyline then focuses on the Ranger getting ready for the impending facedown, in three ways. First, he brainstorms a bit with his well-known Native American sidekick, Tonto. Secondly, he and Tonto convince a local woman and her son to get out of harm's way and leave Town under Tonto's protection. And third, our hero finds the tortured sheriff, who gives the Ranger some important advice regarding the upcoming battle, before dying himself. The issue ends in a bridge to next month's story segment, with the evil Butch Cavendish picking the spot for the fight and settling-in to wait for the Ranger's arrival.

Prior to reading this issue, I was apprehensive that Dynamite might follow DC's Jonah Hex route that I've negatively commented on in the past, of updating a well-established western comic book genre icon into our modern world of way over-done splatter-gore and bloodshed. I'm happy to report that the creative team here hasn't fallen into that trap. Instead, we're treated to a western comic tale that stays within the storytelling traditions of western fiction. But the story is anything but stale, here. Writer Brett Matthews gives us a script that is spare on dialogue but modern, intriguing and most importantly, entertaining in the details of the various characters jockeying their positions in this multi-issue struggle between good and evil in The Olde West. While I would have liked to have seen more of Tonto in this story segment, its clear that he has a larger role in this overall tale, both in previous and future issue segments. My only constructive criticism is that the issue could have used a brief page-one narrative introduction for the new reader, to summarize some key events from the previous six issue installments. Such a narrative would provide a first-time reader such as myself with more understanding regarding both the role of the mother and child in the tale and the previous actions of bad guy Butch Cavendish that led to the Sheriff's capture and the upcoming big fight.

But that minor critique aside, a deserved positive thumbs-up is due to the creative team for giving us this latest excellent incarnation of one of the giant comic book, radio and television American popular culture fiction characters of the last century. Whether you're a devoted fan of the Western comic genre or just an eclectic comic book reader, give this comic book a read for its successful formula of remaining faithful to its character's roots but providing both a modern yet effective visual and narrative presentation that easily entertains today's reader.

Our Army At War (One-Shot) #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Mike Marts: Writer
Victor Ibanez: Art

DC Comics is kicking-off this Fall a return to several of its well-known army genre comics titles. This past week's effort is the publication of a one-shot new issue of Our Army At War, the well-known Silver Age title starring Sargent Rock. The one-shot is written by Mike Marts with art by Victor Inbanez. In a tribute to the history of this series, the cover is illustrated by veteran Joe Kubert, famed for illustrating this series, among many others, back in the Silver Age.

The issue is entitled "Time Stands For No Man," and consists of two alternating sub-plots. The first is set in the present-day and features Keyon Jasper, who after witnessing the 9-11 attacks enlists in the army and is sent to fight in Iraq. The plot centers on two themes, his unit's fighting action in the war and a more emotional element, in which very personal issues pertaining to Kenyon regarding the 9-11 Twin Towers attack are dramatically revealed at the story's conclusion. The second sub-plot is set in World War II and stars an Army enlistee named Anthony Sigliano, who after Pearl Harbor enlists and is sent to fight in Europe. His plotline centers on Anthony meeting and interacting with Sargent Rock and the other Easy Company cast of characters. The issue concludes with both sub-plots and timeperiods coming-together in a very dramatic and unforeseen story connection, which I won't spoil at all here in this review.

Writer Marts and artist Ibanez hit a major home run out-of-the-park here with this excellent one-shot comic book, in three respects. First is the stylistic lay-out. While most comic books these days alternate throughout the issue with two or three sub-plots, the creative team here literally alternates the two stories every other panel of the tale, as opposed to every other page. The effect is very fresh and foreshadows the unexpected connection between the two tales. The second successful element here is that surprise ending, which is very emotional, heartrending and extremely well-written as both a comment on the 9-11 tragedy and a personal comment on the emotions of the story characters. And the third shout-out here goes to Victor Ibanzez's wonderful artwork, which represents a very effective visual style for a war comic and conveys the war-themed emotions of the characters very well.

In sum, this one-shot succeeds in maintaining the esteemed tradition of DC's Our Army At War title by presenting a traditional war story combined with themes of relevant non-combat social issues. So a well-deserved thumbs-up recommendation for fans of war comics as well as fans of good, general comic book entertainment to read this well-crafted one-shot comic book title.

Fantastic Four #582
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Neil Edwards: Penciler
Scott Hanna: Inker
Paul Mounts: Colors

Marvel's "The Heroic Age" company-wide event also includes the ongoing monthly Fantastic Four series. As I've written in previous Fantastic Four reviews, writer Jonathan Hickman has been on an acclaimed and very popular run with this title for some time now, placing the Fantastic Four in a very cutting-edge, hard science fiction-themed series of multi-issue story arcs. Hickman is joined in this effort by penciler Neil Edwards, inker Scott Hanna and colorist Paul Mounts.

Issue #582 is entitled "...Because Of All These Things I've Done." A page one narrative highlights the previous major developments in this ongoing story. It's a time-travel adventure, in which the Fantastic Four interacts with Reed Richard's time-traveling father, Nathaniel Richards, as well as the time-traveling future adult versions of Reed and Sue Storm's two children, Franklin and Valeria. There are two interweaving, time-traveling sub-plots. The first is a high-action battle story, as Nathaniel Richards teams-up with the past, college-age versions of Reed, Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom to battle an evil, alternate version of Nathaniel who is trying to alter the timestream. In a parallel storyline, the adult version of Reed and Sue's kids both interact with the present-day Sue Storm and advise Nathaniel Richards in his own time-traveling efforts. Similar to the Our Army At War comic book reviewed above, both time-traveling sub-plots dovetail together at the end of this issue in a dramatic bridge to next month's continued storyline.

Threats to the timestream are a very common theme in the comic book industry, as evident by the number of comics that I review annually that include this element in their respective stories. As such, there's a danger of the latest effort being stale or a rehash of previous or other ongoing efforts. But writer Hickman rises above that potential pitfall, here. For the past year, he's essentially been writing several classic, hard science fiction scripts that could be published as standard science fiction short stories, and instead adapting them to the world of The Fantastic Four. The result in this lastest story is fantastic, no pun intended, delivering a complex and very detailed time-travel tale that keeps the reader on the edge or his or her seat with every panel and turn of the page. The time travel paradoxes and effects result in a non-stop, exciting adventure, highly worth reading and re-reading, for that matter.

So we're on a roll this week, with our third consecutive thumbs-up review in this week's column of a comic that works for both fans of the particular genre of the title, in this case the superhero genre, as well as providing worthwhile entertainment for general fans of comic books or science fiction.

Prince Of Persia: Before The Sandstorm #2
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Jordan Mechner: Writer
Tom Fowler, David Lopez and Niko Henrichon: Art

Another new Dynamite Entertainment comic is issue #2 of Prince of Persia: Before The Sandstorm. The comic book is written by Jordan Mechner with art by the team of Tom Fowler, David Lopez and Niko Henrichon. The inside cover of this issue states that the comic is based on both the screenplay of the recent "Prince Of Persia" movie and a "Prince Of Persia" videogame.

The setting of this comic book is right out of the 1001 Arabian Nights fables genre. The story opens with a traveling adventurer displeasing a Sultan with his tale of his travels. As the Sultan disbelieves the authenticity of the tale, its up to the traveler's companions to convince him otherwise, by telling their own versions of the story as well as further stories of their own personal experiences. The result are two separate tales, each told by separate members of the traveling party. The first story is a mix of adventure and comedy, as a freed African slave tells of his adventures that led him to freedom as a member of the traveling group. The second story is more dramatic, as a woman tells a love story she learned as a little girl. By issue's end, the love story builds to a major climax of adventure, which will be continued in next month's issue #3 of this title.

I haven't seen the Prince Of Persia movie nor played the video game, so I can't compare the comic to either product. But on its own as a comic book, this issue is very well-crafted for an entertaining comic read. The details of the plot are of high quaility writing, the characters have a lot of depth, personality and charm, and the story moves along with a well-paced mix of adventure, comedy and tragedy. There's no guarantee that the movie succeeds as well as the comic book, but this issue did motivate me to both want to read next month's issue and check-out the movie when its available on DVD. As a final comment, there's a lot of story detail here that made this comic a longer read than a standard comic of the same size, but in a good way, as the more detailed-than-average dialogue and story activity still moved at a nice pace and didn't make the story feel overloaded and bogged-down.

Ongoing Contest Announcement!!!

We don't have any entries so far for our latest contest, in which we challenge you to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your entry for your favorite current comic book writer or writers, telling us also why you think he/she/they are at the top of your must-read list. So we'll keep the contest going by extending the submittal deadline to noontime next Wednesday, September 15, at which time we'll either select a winner from any upcoming entries or move-on to a new contest challenge. Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, so enter now!

So there you have it for this week, four comics reviewed which each provide high quality and just-plain-fun entertainment within four different comic book fiction genres. 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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