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Review Date: 09/17/2010

Two weeks ago, we reviewed four Marvel Comics, so in the spirit of equal opportunity, this week
let's review three D.C. Comics along with a fourth comic published by DC's Wildstorm imprint:

Weird War Tales #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Artists and Writers

DC Comics is in the process of publishing a series of one-shot comics honoring their well-known Silver Age line-up of war comics. Last week, I reviewed the Our Army At War one-shot, starring Sargent Rock. This week, I'm reviewing the one-shot of Weird War Tales, DC's well-known title that presented war-themed stories with science fiction, fantasy or horror themes, mixed with mainstream war stories that often featured surprising and unexpected twists in the plot. This commemorative issue includes three new tales, each presented by a different creative team.

The first story is entitled "Armistice Night" and is from the well-known creative team of Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart. It's a humorous and brief four-page horror story in which once a year the uniform-clad skeletons of famous figures from military history gather both to party and fight each other in tribute to their varied military pasts. The second tale is entitled "The Hell Above Us." Scripted by Ivan Brandon with art by Nic Klein, its a horror tale of a World War II American submarine crew trapped in their disabled sub at the ocean's bottom. Without giving away any spoiler details, the story has a mix of Stephen King-style horror and a surprise science fiction twist ending. The seven-page third story is entitled "Private Parker Sees Thunder Lizards" and is written by Jan Strnad with art by Gabriel Hardman and colors by Daniel Vozzo. Again, without revealing any important spoiler details, the plot centers on two U.S. soldiers in World War II Europe who were childhood friends, awaiting an expected overwhelming defeat at the hands of the advancing German Army.

DC's Silver Age war comics were renowned for delivering high quality stories that mixed entertaining military plots with often touching and always socially relevant life lessons that the everyday reader could identify with. As with last week's Our Army At War one-shot, this latest Weird War Tales one-shot delivers that old-school magic formula once again. Both the lead-off Darwyn Cooke-Dave Stewart tale and Ivan Brandon's submarine thriller effectively mix horror and military action storylines with a clear "Make War No More" message. The third story by Jan Strnad is the clear stand-out from the trio of tales. The creative team presents a touching tale in which the two Amercian GI's, trapped and awaiting certain death, react to their situation by reaching back to their childhood to reminisce about their childhood days playing with imaginary dinosaurs. The story is equal to any by fantasy grandmaster Ray Bradbury in evoking childhood Americana as a means for the adult story characters to cope with the horrors of war.

While this comic is a one-shot production, the success of reviving the high quality of the Weird War Tales title in this issue supports the suggestion that DC consider at the least a mini-series or limited multi-issue run of this iconic Silver Age comic title. Both aging fans and newcomers alike will get their money's worth of comic book entertainment in this commemorative issue of weird but wonderful war tales presented in a mix of science fiction, fantasy and horror storytelling styles.

Batgirl #14
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Bryan Q. Miller: Writer
Lee Garbett: Penciller
Trevor Scott: Inker
Guy Major: Colorist

The current Batgirl series is up to issue #14, presenting a pre-Halloween tale co-starring Batgirl, Supergirl and (surprise!) Dracula. The ongoing series is scripted by Bryan Q. Miller with pencils by Lee Garbett, inks by Trevor Scott and colors by Guy Major. For newcomers to this series, the current Batgirl is Stephanie Brown, a college student at Gotham University who is mentored and guided in her Batgirl adventures via electronic communication with The Oracle, the wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, daughter of Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon and herself the former and very first Batgirl.

The issue #14 story is entitled "Terror In The Third Dimension!" The plot is a flat-out comedy, in which Supergirl in her secret identity comes to Gotham to visit Stephanie. When the two take-in a campy Dracula movie being shown on-campus, a nearby college physics lab experiment goes awry, leading to 24 frames of the film being transformed into 24 3-D, real-world Draculas. Its up to the girls to don their costumes and disperse of the two dozen Draculas via the driving of physics lab light sticks as stakes through each of the vampire's hearts. Each of the very cheesey, B-movie Draculas is caught in an endless loop of repeatedly acting-out the terribly-acted scene from which they emerged out of the movie, wandering about Gotham and stumbling into everyday city situations while performing the grating scene in public. By tales end, our heroic duo have completed the task of dispensing with the two dozen vampires, with Stephanie's mom none-the-wiser that the pair were either superheros or did anything out-of-the-ordinary on their Friday night out and about the campus.

Writer Bryan Q. Miller has been scripting this title for a long time now, and has skillfully included a sharp, edgy and very funny dialogue into every plot of the series. In this single-issue, stand-alone Halloween story, he ratchets-up the humor into full-blown comedy in this plot. The dialogue between Batgirl/Stephanie and Supergirl/Kara is superb, as the girls seamlessly complete each other's comedic observations and zingers. The destroying of the 24 Draculas is also kept on the light side (no pun intended), as they're literally constructed as 3-D light manifestations from the film and thus not really creatures being killed. The result is light-hearted and extremely entertaining, completely lacking in the pretentiousness or snarkiness that unfortunately can sometimes result in many humor-themed comics these days. It also succeeds very well in cementing a strong and obvious bond of friendship between the two young superheroines, one that is very believable and hopefully will be repeated in a future repeat visit by Supergirl to her Gotham counterpart in this Batgirl comic book title.

So for an early, pre-Halloween treat, give a well-deserved read to this funny and very entertaining comic book. It will serve as a nice balance to the heavier, more blood-and-gore styled comics that are sure to be published in the next month as we get closer to Halloween.

Batman #703
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Fabian Nicieza: Writer
Cliff Richards: Art
Ian Hannin: Colors

This month's issue #703 of the main Batman title is scripted by Fabian Nicieza with art by Cliff Richards and colors by Ian Hannin. The title currently stars Dick Grayson as Batman in place of the missing Bruce Wayne, with Damien, the young son of Bruce Wayne and Ras Al Ghul's daughter, featured as the current version of Robin. This issue is sub-titled on the front cover as "A Prelude To Bruce Wayne: The Road Home," and as such lays some preliminary story groundwork for D.C.'s upcoming and long-expected return of the original Batman, Bruce Wayne.

Entitled "The Great Escape," this tale features two interweaving sub-plots. The first is a traditional "hunt down the supervillain" storyline, as Batman and Robin struggle to try and capture a high tech-costumed and powered thief. Tim Drake/Red Robin joins the effort, as clues seem to identify the foe as an old nemesis of Bruce Wayne. The plot is further complicated with the involvement of investigative newspaper reporter Vicki Vale. Without being a spoiler, the group eventually captures said high tech crook and reveals the villain as having a surprise identity. Our second storyline is more introspective, as throughout the adventure Dick Grayson and Damien pause at times and reflect on how they miss Bruce Wayne and what he means to them. Each helps the other come to grips with problems in their respective relationships with the missing Batman, thus laying the groundwork for both heroes to work things out with Wayne upon his upcoming return to Gotham.

I enjoyed this Batman issue for two basic reasons. Regarding the first storyline, the catch-the-villain sub-plot was well-constructed and interesting. It was very enjoyable following the team-up of the three Batman family members in both pursuing their skilled opponent and ultimately learning the crook's secret identity and motivation for the crimes committed. Even more effective was the second plotline. I've been waiting for a few years now for someone at DC to finally present a story that gives the little psychopath Damien/Robin a shred of humanity within his warped personality. Writer Fabian Nicieza finally takes a decent first step into humanizing the kid, via a very realistic and well-written scene in which Damien finally expresses some human feelings to Dick Grayson about his hopes and fears regarding the fate of Bruce Wayne. The behavior is just at the right level of emotion to provide some crediblity that the current Robin has a long way to go, but has a speck of human empathy in him that could flourish with the return of his father, Bruce Wayne.

So a positive thumbs-up recommendation for this Batman issue, which succeeds both as a stand-alone, well-presented Batman Family tale and as an excellent and entertaining preview step into the upcoming world of The Return Of Bruce Wayne.

Welcome To Tranquility #3
Publisher: Wildstorm
Gail Simone: Writer
Horacio Domingues: Art
Jonny Rench: Colors

DC's Wildstorm imprint has a new comic entitled "Welcome To Tranquility" that is up to a current issue #3. The comic book is written by veteran writer Gail Simone, known among other titles for her work on Birds Of Prey and Wonder Woman, with art by Horacio Domingues amd colors by Jonny Rench. Simone created this series in an earlier numbered sequence started in 2006, establishing a retired set of Wildstorm Universe heroes and villains living in the fictional California town of (you guessed it) Tranquility.

Issue #3 is part 3 of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Homecoming-An Armor Of History". The story begins with a brief flashback to twenty years earlier, in which a hero who resembles The Spirit and his wife are forced to commit their violently dangerous son to a mental institution. Flash-forward to the present-day, and the kid is all grown-up and has returned to Town to exact a violent revenge on his family and their friends. The tension builds thriller-style throughout this issue as certain town heroes search for the son, while on a parallel track he makes his way about Town laying the groundwork for his revenge. The issue ends in a cliffhanger, as the son commits his first act of bloody violence leading to more action in next month's issue.

The creative team does a credible job on two counts here, first in giving us a fresh and interesting world of new superheros and villains in an interesting small town setting, and secondly in presenting a thriller-style story that steadily builds page-by-page to the climax of the issue-ending violent act and cliffhanger. The main problem here is for the brand-new reader, such as myself, to this series. There's no page one-narrative either briefly explaining the concept of this comic title or highlights of the plot to-date. The lack of this information really leaves the new reader hanging as to who these characters are, the concept of Tranquility and what exactly is going-on in this issue, to the point where in many important ways, this isn't an understandable story as a stand-alone, single issue read.

So a mixed review for this alternative superhero universe concept. The quality of this title is solid, but as presented in issue #3, I wouldn't recommend reading this issue first. Instead, check-out the back issue inventory at That's Entertainment for some copies of the first, 2006 run of this title, or at least first read issue #1 and #2 of the current title run, before jumping-into this month's current issue #3.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us who your favorite writer or writers are on today's comic scene, and what qualities make him/her/them such stand-outs for your comic book reading enjoyment. And our winner is (drumroll, please)...David Ruiz, who tells us that his current favorite writer is Claudio Sanchez of the band Coheed and Cambria and the comic "The Amory Wars." David adds that "buying his books to see how the story unfolds as related to the music is really what has got me into comics. While The Amory Wars and Kill Audio still make up most of my comic collection, I am slowly branching out into other sci-fi, hero and other comics because of it."

Congrats to David for his entry for a very creative writer and explanation of both why he enjoys his writing and how its expanding his comic book reading interests into other aspects of our favorite hobby. David receives a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet for his first prize contest entry.

New Contest Announcement!!!

As we head for the home stretch of our current baseball season, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges just can't resist announcing at least one more baseball trivia contest. Your challenge for this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the answer to the following trivia challenge: What two current Major League Baseball teams are the current versions of the old, historic Saint Louis Browns and Washington Senators changing their respective team names and moving to new cities? Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. As always, in the event of multiple correct contest entries, the winner will be chosen from among the correct entries by a roll of the dice.

That's all for this week, so have a great comic book reading (and baseball watching!) week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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