Review Date: Friday, October 1, 2010

Good King Leonardo offers no particular theme for our selected comics for review this week, just four interesting-looking
comics that he saw on display this past week on the new issues shelves at That's Entertainment:

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? #15
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Philip K. Dick: Writer
Tony Parker: Art

BOOM! Studios is up to issue #15 in its 24-issue adaptation of writer Philip K. Dick's classic science fiction novel, "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?". The effort is not a graphic reinterpretation, but instead is a faithful word-for-word graphic adaptation of the entire original novel in 24 parts. Science fiction fans are no doubt aware that the classic novel was the basis for Director Ridley Scott's 1982 movie "Bladerunner," starring Harrison Ford as futuristic Los Angeles bounty hunter Rick Decker, assigned by the L.A. Police Dept. to search for and destroy human-seeming androids who have illegally returned to Earth in a desperate attempt to establish normal lives on a depopulated planet. I've reviewed a few early issues in this series and wanted to check-in with issue #15 to see how the series is progressing at this later stage in the storyline.

This latest issue gives us a 22-page installment in the ongoing adaptation of the novel. In previous issues, Decker has successfully discovered and killed many of the group of android returnees. This latest issue focuses on three of the surviving androids, Pris, Roy Batty and Roy's wife Irmgard, who are hiding-out in an abandoned L.A. apartment complex with one human neighbor, Isadore, who is unaware of their android origins. The storyline at this point is low on action, focusing more on an extended narrative in which the three fugitives plan an intricate defense of the building for the expected eventual arrival of Decker. There's also a cat-and-mouse intellectual thread to this issue's narrative, in which the threesome talk quite a bit about their dilemma in front of their human neighbor Isadore, teasing him with clues to their origin, none of which the good-hearted but dim-witted human picks-up on.

Artist Tony Parker continues in this latest issue to maintain the exceptional quality of the earlier issues in the series of faithfully presenting a major classic novel in graphic format. The beauty of this novel is writer Dick's ability to utilize a science fiction-based plot to transcend that genre of entertainment, giving us a modern American classic that addresses wider philosophical issues of what it means to be human and lead a worthwhiole life. The sci-fi plot and action are there, of course, but at certain points in the plot the more literate side of the story takes center stage. Issue #15 is one of those points in the tale; the three "replicants" discussing and worrying about their fate could be any real humans trying to deal with life situations. Ironically, at times they seen to be emotionally more human than many of the real people in the story.

While it all sounds like a story weighed-down by pretty heavy philosophy, its actually a lot more entertaining and enjoyable a read than that. On a final review note, its also a lot of fun to read this series and see what portions of the novel were either included or excluded from Ridley Scott's partial movie adaptation of the novel. So whether you're a hard-core Philip K. Dick fan, a general science fiction fan or just a comic book reader looking for something different to check out, this current issue and the rest of the series is a high quality and entertaining read, and continues to deserve a well-earned thumbs-up review recommendation.

Daken: Dark Wolverine #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Dan Way & Marjorie Liu: Writers
Giuseppe Camuncoli: Pencils
Onofrio Catacchio: Inks
Frank D'Armata: Colors

After last week's review of the Wolverine-themed X-23 #1, my interest was piqued to read and review another of the several new titles that Marvel Comics has just started publishing under its new multi-title Wolverine event. So this week, we're reviewing Daken: Dark Wolverine #1. The new title is scripted by Dan Way and Marjorie Liu, with pencils by Giuseppe Camiuncoli, inks by Onofrio Catacchio and colors by Frank D'Armata. For the uninitiated, Daken is the son of Wolverine. A lengthy background narrative in the back of this issue details his personal history as a bad guy within the Marvel comic book universe.

Issue #1 is the kick-off installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Empire." The main purpose of this first story segment is to introduce the reader to Daken's place in the unfolding multi-story "Wolverine Goes To Hell" event. Daken is presented here in his civilian identity as a person who hangs-out in Milan, Italy within the world of high fashion. While his personaility simmers with evil, folks seem to not catch-on while he manipulates them for fun and other as yet undisclosed reasons. By issue's end, bad guy Daken's mind games have led to him murdering at least one person in the fashion world. Without being a story spoiler, the plot then reveals exactly why Daken was spending time for awhile in the world of high fashion. The issue #1 story segment concludes with a bridge to next month's issue, with Daken arriving in San Francisco and donning his bad guy costume in preparation for future mayhem.

I'm neither a regular reader of Marvel's Wolverine comics nor a big fan of comics that heavily feature blood and gutting a la Wolverine claw-style. So I'm personally not very entertained by this issue. But looking objectively at the quality of this effort for this type of comic, the issue is extremely well-done and deserves a postive thumbs-up as a successful effort within the genre of hack-and-slash comic-telling. The art team does a perfect job in conveying through Daken's facial expressions both his purely evil intent and his ability to mask it from folks at key moments. I also think it was a good idea to focus the entire first issue's plot on unfolding in painstaking detail the evil personality of Daken, in anticipation of whatever really bad stuff he initiates starting in next month's issue. So a deserved thumbs-up recommendation for this darkly-themed comic that holds some very interesting storyline potential within the Wolverine event series.

Darkstar & The Winter Guard #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Gallaher: Writer
Steve Ellis: Pencils
Scott Hanna: Inks
Val Staples: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #3 in a three-issue mini-series entitled "Darkstar & The Winter Guard." Since there are available copies of all three issues on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, I decided to review issue #1 to see if its worth reading this series from the beginning. The title is written by David Gallaher, with pencils by Steve Ellis, inks by Scott Hanna and colors by Val Staples. By way of background, Darkstar is a mutant superheroine created by Marvel back in the mid-1970's as a second-tier character. She was a mutant from the former Soviet Union who's appeared here and there in Marvel titles, including various X-Men and Champions storylines.

This new mini-series introduces a new young woman, Reena Stancioff, picking-up the Darkstar mantle as she joins a Russian-based superhero team called The Winter Guard. The plot starts with high action, as The Winter Guard teams-up with the American-based Agents Of Atlas superhero team in a battle against Atlantean bad guys. After winning the day, the story shifts to more personal issues, as two other members of The Winter Guard, Red Guardian and Crimson Dynamo, try to work-out their respective style and personality differences as team members. The story literally takes flight in the final third of the issue, as the team members jump into a crisis caused by an interdimensional rift in the space-time fabric. The main story is followed by a secondary story entitled "A Plague Among Us," featuring the X-Men visiting Russia.

I'm giving the lead Winter Guard story in this issue a mixed review, as an average to slightly below average tale. While the art style is a bit cartoony and the plot is light, it is interesting for a change of pace to read a story featuring a Russian team of heroes that echo the style of the more familiar American-based Marvel superhero team-ups. What really shines in this issue, however, is the back-up second story. The pencilling artwork by Brett Booth and Ron Lim is of very high quality, and the storyline, in which writer Joe Pruett puts the X-Men in Russia interacting with Darkstar, is actually much more engrossing than the lead storyline. Its unusual, in my experience at least, for a back-up story in a comic book to be of such higher quality than the main tale. But that is the unusual case here, to the point where I'd recommend reading this comic book, but suggest that you flip to the back and start with the second story and then read story number one as a follow-up.

Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton #2
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Cary Bates: Writer
Renato Arlem: Art
Allen Passalaqua: Colors

Issue #2 has been released in DC's three-issue "Superman: The Last Family Of Krypton" mini-series. I reviewed issue #1 last month of this intriguing alternate/what if? version of the standard Superman tale, in which baby Kal-El actually arrives on Earth with his parents Jor-El and Lara. Veteran DC writer Cary Bates is scripting the series, with art by Renato Arlem and colors by Allen Passalaqua.

There's a lot of story advancement in this extra-sized, 48-page second installment in the tale. The twin younger brother and sister of Kal-El are growing-up fast, while Kal-El struggles to decide what his role in life on Earth should be. Parents Jor-El and Lara have settled into their decided roles in life, Jor-El as the head of an advanced scientific corporation (assisted by faithful employee and young genius Lex Luthor!) and Lara as the spiritual advocate for the Kryptonian lifestyle philosophy of Raoism. There's action aplenty mixed into the latest installment of this alternate history tale, including conflicts with an anti-El Family human terrorist group, the kidnapping by the group of the younger twin daughter and the family's struggle in dealing with a newfound element called kryptonite. By the end of this story segment, Kal-El as a young adult first dons the Superman hero costume and role as savior of Metropolis, a life decision which angers his father and distances himself from the rest of the close-knit El family.

By the time I finished reading this wonderfully creative what if? take on the classic elements of the Superman story, I felt as if I'd just read at least three issue's worth of high quality story material. Veteran writer Cary Bates and the art team are juggling several story themes and sub-plots beautifully, giving us a wide range of entertaining storylines. So much of the alternate storyline here is amazingly fresh and brand-new to the DC universe. I have two particular favorite new elements that are explored in this title. First is the alternate role of Bruce Wayne. In this tale, without giving spoiler details, the El family prevents the murder of Wayne's parents. As such, Batman never exists, while Bruce Wayne follows a different lifepath connected to the El family. The second element I enjoyed was the manner by which Kal-El still eventually becomes Superman. While he never undergoes the Superboy experience, fate still leads him to become the savior of Metropolis.

There's so much just plain good, entertaining alternate storyline stuff going-on in this title concept that my only review criticism is that I wish the title was scheduled for more than three issues. But that's all we readers have (for now, at least!), so enjoy the brief ride and if you haven't done so yet, get onboard and start reading this excellent addiition to the wide range of Superman Family titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to offer a suggestion for one of the free comics that are distributed nation-wide the first Saturday in May in celebration of national Free Comic Book Day. And our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gordon Dupuis, with his entry for a Muppet Show comic book free giveaway. Gordon writes that "with at least two titles, going on at one time, hooking new readers would be a smart move. Boom! Kids does the Muppets properly, its perfectly suited for kids but with layers of puns, word-play and references that more than suffice to keep the interest of even the most sophisticated adult." A well-pitched case for this comic, Gordon, one that coincidentally mirrors my review of the Muppets comic book awhile ago. So congrats to our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

This week's contest winner, Gordon Dupuis, has also suggested our new contest challenge for you. Let's play the "Cast A Comic Movie" game! Your challenge is to think of yourself as a casting director, and e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your suggested cast for a movie based on a comic book of your choice. As an example, Gordon suggests casting in a movie based on the comic "The Infinite Gauntlet" Michael Chicklis as Thanos, Gary Oldman as Mephisto and Leonardo DiCaprio as Adam Warlock. As for me, I still think Brad Pitt would be perfectly cast in a Green Lantern movie. So e-mail us soon with your great comic book movie casting ideas! Our selected contest winner will win a first prize $10.00 gift certificate to your favorite home-away-from-home, 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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