Review Date: Thursday, October 7, 2010

This week we're reviewing three new comic books that represent different genres but all have action/adventure as a common theme:

Star-Spangled War Stories #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Billy Tucci: Writer
Justiniano and Tom Derenick: Pencillers
Andrew Mangum: Inker
Tom Chu: Colors

DC Comics is in the midst of releasing a series of one-shot comics both reviving and honoring DC's series of Silver Age war comics titles. I've recently reviewed the one-shot return of both Our Army At War starring Sgt. Rock and Weird War Tales. This week, I'm taking a review look at the Star-Spangled War Stories one-shot, starring Mademoiselle Marie, the World War II French Resistance Fighter. The comic book is written by Billy Tucci, creator of last year's acclaimed Sgt. Rock mini-series, with pencils by Justiniano and Tom Derenick, inks by Andrew Mangum and colors by Tom Chu.

The story in this comic is entitled "Vivre Libre Ou Mourir!" and begins with Marie parachuting into the German-occupied French countryside in the Spring of 1944. Trouble begins when she teams-up with a group of resistance fighters. The story features several plot threads of conflict, both among the group members and between the group and Marie, including disagreement on their assigned mission, problems trusting each other and fear of a traitor in their midst. The group's fears become real when they actually are betrayed by one of their own members and almost completely wiped-out by attacking German soldiers. In the second half of the issue, its up to Marie to track-down the traitor, avenge the massacred freedom fighters and complete her original mission.

In the previous two issues reviewed in DC's new series of one-shot war comics, the creative teams managed to provide a quality balance between honoring the Silver Age heritage of the title's characters while providing a story that entertains modern-day readers. Writer Tucci and the art team successfully complete the trifecta of success here with this latest installment in the series. The plot gives us a traditional comic book action-adventure war story, with Tucci layering the narrative and story action with several modern themes, including duty and responsibility to the war mission, honor and trust among strangers and revenge against those who have caused betrayal. Its both ironic and moving that after being in serious conflict throughout the tale with the local freedom fighters, to the point where her life was in danger from disagreeing with them regarding mission issues, Marie dedicates herself to avenging their wrongful deaths.

So a positive review recommendation for this high quality war story comic book which offers the reader an entertaining wartime tale with a plot that also provides some quality life lessons about duty, honor and decency.

Stargate: Vala Mal Doran #3
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Brandon Jerwa: Writer
Cezar Razek: Art
Salvatore Aiala: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment is up to issue #3 of one of its Stargate titles, Stargate: Vala Mal Doran. The series is based on the popular syndicated science fiction television series Stargate SG-1, in which a team of American military folk and scientists use alien Stargate teleportation technology to jump around the universe and have adventures fighting good and evil with alien races. For the uninitiated, the character of Vala Mal Doran was added to the television series during the eighth season, as a new member of the Stargate team and love interest of team member Dr. Daniel Jackson. This comic book title is scripted by Brandon Jerwa with art by Cezar Razek and colors Salvatore Aiala.

The untitled issue #3 gives us the latest installment in a multi-issue story arc. The first two-thirds of the plot focus on Vala conducting an elaborate sting operation; after deliberately being imprisoned in an alien jail, Vala and her alien and robot sidekicks manage to steal from the jail a form of alien plant life that supposedly holds a very dangerous power that could destroy the universe. The plot shifts in the final third of the tale, revealing that the sting operation is actually a flashback to several years earlier. Now in the present, the plant is in danger of being stolen from the safe planet where Vala and her team hid it. So its up to the Stargate team to jump to the planet and avoid the abduction. The issue ends with the team in full battle against aliens on the planet as they try to reach the plant in time to avoid the disaster.

I was a fan of the first few seasons of the Stargate television show, so before reading this comic book I wasn't aware of the additon of the character Vala Mal Doran in later years to the Stargate fictional universe. So it was both fresh and interesting to read of a new major character in this science fiction franchise. Writer Brandon Jerwa succeeds in two main ways in creating the issue #3 story segment. First, the extended flashback segment adds a wider dimension to the tale, as it gets the story away from solely focusing on Stargate teleportation issues, adding an element of basic science fiction action and adventure. Secondly, Jerwa does a nice job in the last third of the story of balancing the plot focus equally among Vala and the other members of the Stargate team that the show was originally based on. The art team also does a very credible job of visually presenting the well-known t.v. show characters in graphic form, avoiding the woodenness trap that so many comic book adaptations of t.v. shows unfortunately fall into.

So a positive recommendation to read this interesting spin-off of the well-known Stargate SG-1 science fiction televisions series, which gives us a nice mix of faithful adaptation of the t.v. show's basic elements with a fresh and entertaining new tale in comic book reading format.

Action Comics #893
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Cornell: Writer
Sean Chen: Pencils
Wayne Faucher: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors

DC's flagship Action Comics title is up to issue #893 this month (just 7 months away from the #900 anniversary issue!) with a story starring Lex Luthor and our favorite super-intelligent bad guy gorilla, Gorilla Grodd. The issue is written by Paul Cornell with pencils by Sean Chen, inks by Wayne Faucher and colors by Brad Anderson. The comic book also includes a second story starring Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, scripted by Nick Spencer with pencils by R.B. Silva and colors by Dave McCaig.

The main story in this current issue is part four of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Black Ring." The setting is a wildlife refuge in Uganda, where Lex Luthor and his team have arrived to infiltrate the high tech lair of Grodd and his gorilla sidekicks to obtain the power of the black ring. Most of the tale unfolds as a very elaborate strategy on the part of Luthor involving himself, Lois Lane and several other team members utilizing android replicas of themselves to ultimately get Grodd to let his guard down so that the group obtains their objective. The story takes a very unusual twist toward the end, as the fleeing group are attacked by Grodd; in a cliffhanger ending, Luthor unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a well-known comic book character from the Sandman comic book world of esteemed writer Neil Gaimen.

The second story is entitled "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week," and follows the trials and tribulations of Jimmy dealing with his break-up with girlfriend Chloe Sullivan, a local internet news reporter. Jimmy has a lengthy and awkward confrontation in a nightclub with Chloe after finding her out on the town with an obnoxious executive who works for Lex Luthor. After focusing on relationship soap opera drama for the length of the story, the tale ends on a cliffhanger as aliens arrive to invade Metropolis in next month's issue.

There's a lot to like in this latest Action Comics issue. Most of all, I enjoyed the format of the comic book, which is a throwback to DC's silver and bronze age policy of using Action, Adventure and other old school titles as books to feature two stories that star the secondary characters from the main superhero universe of DC. Its a lot of fun to see Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen starring on their own in the variety of comic book situations featured in this issue. While I'm not a fan of how bloodthirsty and nuts DC characterizes Gorilla Grodd these days, the Lex Luthor story was extremely clever in featuring a very complicated and fascinating scheme involving unexpected role-switching among androids and humans. And the surprise Neil Gaimen-themed end-of-story cliffhanger is not to be missed!

So not only a positive thumbs-up for this issue, but also a heads-up for all good DC readers to look forward to next month's issue #894 of Action Comics, which will continue the Neil Gaimen surprise cliffhanger into the next segment of this multi-issue story arc, along with the alien invasion of Metropolis in the second story starring Jimmy Olson and his crumbling love-life.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to "Cast A Comic Movie," e-mailing us with your suggestions for which real-life actors and actresses should be cast in a movie version of your suggested comic book. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Christian Mock. Christian writes "I am going to go with the Alan Davis, 1980's Batman-less Outsiders (specifically looking at the cover for Adventures Of The Outsiders #36). Here are my choices, which, I admit, suffer from age or physical stature issues:

Geo-Force: Kenneth Branagh
Black Lightning: Donald Glover
Looker: Jessica Biel
Katana: Jamie Chung
Halo: Anna Sophia Robb
Metamorpho: Vin Diesel

I put my choices (with the photos I like best) on my blog here:

A very interesting entry from Christian, reflecting a lot of effort and thought. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges are particularly impressed with the Metamorpho/Vin Diesel casting; just picture Vin Diesel in the Neil Gaimen-scripted Metamorpho adventure in last year's Wednesday Comics! Congratulations to Christian, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. And do yourself a favor and check-out Christian's excellent posting of the comic characters side-by-side with his casting choices, at his blog address listed above.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Heres an easy trivia challenge for a rainy week: e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your answer identifying the author of the following quote: "If the Golden Age Green Lantern's weakness is wood, and the Silver Age Green Lantern's weakness is the color yellow, then I could take the both of them out with a number two pencil!" As a clue to the answer, I made passing reference to this quote in one of my columns a few years ago. In the event of our receiving more than one correct answer, the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen by a roll of the dice.

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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