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Review Date: Thursday, November 4, 2010


Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review an eclectic mix of comic books this week, including the return of two classic titles, the latest issue of a Marvel title and the premier issue of a new Top Cow title:


Warlord Of Mars #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Arvid Nelson: Writer
Stephen Sadowski: Art
Adriano Lucas :Colors

Dynamite Entertainment has recently issued the latest comic book presentation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic science fiction novel series Warlord Of Mars. The title is scripted by Arvid Nelson with art by Stephen Sadowski and colors by Adriano Lucas. I was a fan of the 1970's "John Carter, Warlord Of Mars" comic book version of the series, as published by Marvel Comics, and was interested in reviewing this latest incarnation of the story to see how it compares to earlier versions as well as to the original tale in novel form.

Issue #1 is the first installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "A Tale Of Two Planets." The story introduces two of the main characters by alternating between an Earth-based and a Mars-based sub-plot, both of which will lead in future monthly installments to American John Carter's Mars-based adventure. In the first storythread, we're introduced to Confederate war veteran John Carter as he experiences a violent and deadly shoot-out in an 1866 Arizona saloon, as he and his gold-prospecting partner face-down Federal soldiers. The second storythread introduces us to Martian warrior Tars Tarkas, as he and a fellow warrior have a high action battle with wild Martian white apes in rescuing captured Martians from near-death at the hands of the savage apes. While both stories are very battle-oriented, they also portray the respective subtle personality traits of John Carter and his future Martian friend Tars Tarkas.

While the art and storytelling are both strong and entertaining in this premier issue, I was most impressed with the decision by writer Arvid Nelson to approach this retelling of the well-known science fiction classic tale by literally presenting a prequel to the main storyline. I fully expected a kick-off Martian adventure in which John Carter arrives on Mars and begins the well-known warlord tale. Instead, writer Nelson evenly paces us with a first issue in which the Mars adventure is a mere foreshadow. The strategy is very effective, in that the reader gains much worthwhile knowledge about the respective backgrounds and circumstances of Carter and Tarkas, all of which should add a lot more depth to upcoming adventure segments of the unfolding storyline. While John and Tars experience two very different respective adventures in issue #1, both sub-plots are linked with the theme that both men have the same character trait of standing-up for the innocent in the name of justice. This issue #1 portrayal will strengthen the partnership between the pair as they meet-up on Mars in future issues that no doubt will be filled with exotic pulp-style action and adventure.

While hardcore fans may be disappointed that the Mars-based adventure doesn't kick-in in issue #1, I think they'll also be highly entertained by the separate but parallel backstory tales of these two interplanetary adventurers, as will new readers who are unfamiliar with this classic science fiction tale. So my positive thumbs-up review is for readers who enjoy both the classic science fiction and general action-adventure storytelling genres to consider giving a read to this worthy new interpretation of a well-known classic story series.


Conan #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Kurt Busiek: Writer
Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates: Art
Dave Stewart: Colors

Dark Horse Comics is reprinting its 2004 reinterpretation of the classic Conan The Barbarian series, with issue #1 on the new issues comic book shelves at an introductory $1.00 price. The series is a reinterpretation of the barbarian warrior series best known in both its original form by novelist Robert E. Howard, as well as from the award-winning and long-lasting Marvel Comics series. The Dark Horse Comics series is written by A-list veteran writer Kurt Busiek with art by Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates, and colors by Dave Stewart.

Issue #1 is entitled "Out Of The Darksome Hills," a title which literally kicks-off the story as Conan emerges out of the hills to rescue a woman whose village is savagely attacked by her tribe's enemies. Conan quickly gets pulled-into village intrigue in three ways. First, the menfolk of the village who return home after the attack are untrusting and ungrateful toward our hero. Secondly, the fair blond maiden whom Conan rescued has eyes for him, thereby leading to animosity from her spurned village suitor. And finally, Conan makes a seemingly bad choice in agreeing to join the village men in a counterattack against their enemies. The issue ends with hints that the village chief is setting Conan up for trouble, as is the jealous spurned boyfriend of the blond fair maiden.

I'm not a huge fan of the sword and chainmail genre of action adventure, and admit that I've never read more than a handful of the iconic Marvel Comics run of this hero. That said, I was highly entertained as a relative outsider to the ancient storytelling world of Conan. The art here is exquisite, with the art team combining formal, oil-painting style visuals with a strong talent for a range of facial emotions for the various characters. A-list veteran writer Kurt Busiek brings a nice blended balance to his script between old-school sword adventure and soap opera-like intrigue amongst the players in this ancient tale. I also enjoyed the element of Conan's bigger adventure in this series, as he tells his tale to the village chieftan of why he left his native land of Cimmeria and what his ultimate goal is in undertaking his travel adventure.

My only constructive criticism is that the plot establishes this version of Conan as being a 16-year-old teenager, a point that the artistic team seems to ignore when in certain scenes he's drawn to look as old or older than the well-known Marvel Comics adult version of Conan. That point aside, for the price of a buck its a nice bargain to give this reissuance a shot and add it to your ever-growing pile of new issues comic book reading.


Secret Avengers #6
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker: Writer
Mike Deodato: Art
Rain Beredo: Colors

Among the many Avengers titles being published these days, Marvel Comics is up to issue #6 of the Secret Avengers title. The series stars a version of the Avengers in which the team functions as a secret black ops unit, led by Captain America and including Moon Knight, War Machine, Beast, Ant-Man, Black Widow, Valkyrie and Sharon Carter. The series is scripted by veteran writer Ed Brubaker with art by Mike Deodato and colors by Rain Beredo.

Issue #6 is part one of a five-issue story arc entitled "Eyes Of The Dragon." The issue begins in Hong Kong with high action, as Shang-Chi, Master Of Kung Fu is attacked by assassins from a martial arts order that is loyal to his dead father. The Avengers soon arrive on the scene, and inform Shang-Chi that the order is seeking a pair of mystical ancient gems, the Eyes Of The Dragon, which they intend to use to resurrect Shang-Chi's evil dead dad. By issue's end, the threesome of Shang-Chi, Captain America and Black Widow have followed a lead on the location of the gems to a Hong Kong museum exhibit, thereby triggering a trap. The story segment ends in a dramatic bridge revealing that the dead bad guy has already been partially resurrected and is seeking the gems to fully restore his human form.

This is a solid average comic tale that delivers a nice mix of constant action, thriller-style plot mystery and effective dialogue to move the multi-issue plot forward. It was interesting to read a story featuring this particular blend of Avengers team members. While all of the team members couldn't be prominently featured in this one issue story segment, the mix of Captain America, Black Widow, Sharon Carter and guest character Shang-Chi worked very well together to provide both entertaining story action and plot progression. It's also mentioned in a page-one narrative that an evil lifelike model decoy of Nick Fury is in the story mix, and he's briefly present in one story panel late in the issue. It should be interesting to see how the evil Nick Fury duplicate fits into future segments of this ongoing storyline.

So another positive thumbs-up recommendation for you to add this interesting alternative Avengers team to your reading schedule if you haven't done so already. And if you have been reading this title, I'd recommend that you stick with it if issue #6 is any indication of the ongoing quality of this series.


Pilot Season: Crosshair #1
Publisher: Image Comics & Top Cow Productions
Jeff Katz: Writer
Allan Jefferson: Pencils
Jordi Terragona: Inks
Michael Atiyeh: Colors

Image Comics/Top Cow Productions is currently publishing an interesting contest concept called "Pilot Season." The idea is to publish five very different single-issue comics as experimental "pilot" issues and have readers vote for their favorite, with the highest vote-getter moving into monthly production. Of the five comic books in the contest, I chose to read and review an action hero espionage-themed comic book entitled Crosshair. The comic book is written by Jeff Katz, with pencils by Allan Jefferson, inks by Jordi Terragona and colors by Michael Atiyeh.

Crosshair stars Justin Weller, a former U.S. government black ops assassin who retired ten years ago and now lives a peaceful suburban life with his wife and young daughter. That life is quickly shattered when "Mother," Weller's old female team leader, inexplicably sends his old teammates in to kill him. The bulk of the issue consists of the firefight between Weller and his old buddies, as it ranges throughout his suburban neighborhood. After killing the entire hit squad, Weller heads for Washingon, D.C. to find Mother and get some answers. The issue ends on a very dramatic note, as its revealed that Mother is actually now the first female U.S. President and that she actually wants Weller to access the White House and confront her.

This is a pretty good entry to this "Pilot" contest. The story moves at a fast but clearly-understood pace, with lots of thriller espionage action. As a very entertaining plot element, writer Katz reveals how Weller anticipated an eventual attack and designed many neighborhood amenities (kid's treehouse, etc.) as tools to help him in such an attack. I also really liked the surprise ending revealing Mother's true present role in the U.S. government. The creative team reveals this end-of-story unexpected twist very effectively, leaving the reader to definitely want to read another issue to find out exactly why "President Mother" has set this sequence of events into action. My only criticism is that many of the neighborhood battle panels are ridiculously gory, i.e., with eyeballs being shot out of people's faces. If this comic book wins the contest, I'd recommend toning-down some of the stupid blood and gore.

So while I haven't read the other four titles in this Pilot Season contest, I'd recommend both reading this contest entry as a stand-alone action-espionage thriller and consider checking-out the other four entries in this interesting contest (and voting for a winner, too!).

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We ended the baseball season this past week (congrats to the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants!) with a baseball trivia contest, asking you to tell us what are the only two teams left in all of Major League Baseball who haven't had an appearance yet in the World Series. And our contest winner via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please...) Tom Courchaine, who correctly identified the two teams as the former Montreal Expos-now Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners. Congratulations to Tom for winning the $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's a fun contest challenge for all fans of our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment. You may think that the store parking lot is just a run-of-the-mill parking lot, but if you're observant, you'll notice a sign right next to the store proclaiming that the pavement is actually a private city street named Marmon Place. You're contest challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and suggest a name change for said private street that would be more compatible with That's Entertainment. It could be a comic book-related name suggestion, a popular-culture or gaming theme, etc. Use your imagination and come-up with a street name that all fans of our favorite pop culture emporium would be proud of!!!

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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