Review Date: Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we kick-off the holiday season with a review of a holiday-themed DC comic, followed by reviews of two standard superhero comic books:

DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers and Artists

DC Comics kicks-off the holiday season with a holiday-themed one-shot entitled DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1. The issue includes six stories written by various teams of writers and artists, starring an eclectic mix of well-known DC Universe heroes, both super-powered and otherwise. The six stories star, in order, DC's old caveman adventurer Anthro, Western anti-hero Jonah Hex, Green Lantern John Stewart, Superman, The Spectre and The Legion Of Super-Heroes.

As a brief summary of the plotlines, each tale focuses on a different holiday that occurs during this holiday season. Since Anthro pre-dates our modern religions, Anthro and his caveman family have a hunting adventure as they consider celebrating "the winter solstice."¯ The Jonah Hex tale is a Hanukkah story set in the Old West, as Hex helps a young Jewish boy avenge his Rabbi father who was murdered by a pair of Old West thieves. The Green Lantern story features a holiday observance on another planet with parallels to Muslim festivities, while the Superman tale focuses on Thanksgiving. The Spectre tale centers on the Persian New Year, while the Legion story is set in 31st century Metropolis on "Holiday,"¯ a generic future holiday that combines all of our 2010 holidays into one generic observance.

While I'm sure every reader will have their own particular preferences among the six titles, in my review opinion, I found four of the tales to be both entertaining and high quality, while two didn't make the grade for me. The Jonah Hex tale was very strong, lending a Wild West atmosphere to the celebration of Hannukah. I really liked the Green Lantern tale, with its drawn parallels between the alien's religion and the Muslim holiday as a nice comment on the universality of belief. The Superman tale was a very moving comment on the true nature of heroism and The Spectre tale was also a very moving comment on the current Iraq war situation and faith in human decency.

The Anthro and Legion tales didn't work for me. It was too much of a stretch to try to fold the caveman hunting adventure into this holiday-themed comic book with the occasional story dialogue about the winter solstice; it just doesn't hold-up with the modern holiday focus of the rest of this issue. While the Legion tale was a decent mystery-themed story, it was on very thin ice with the just plain stupid concept that in the future, the world government for the sake of harmony has ordered that all of today's various celebration holidays are bundled into a generic one-stop observance officially called "Holiday"¯ (yeesh!!!)

But the two weaker stories aside, the four better tales are very enjoyable and well-crafted, both in script and in the various artistic styles. And who knows, there are likely readers out there who like the Anthro and Legion tales more than I did. So a definite and worthy holiday-season thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this interesting and eclectic 2010 holiday season one-shot comic book from DC.

I Am An Avenger #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Various Writers and Artists

This comic book is the latest installment in a five-issue mini-series from Marvel Comics, similar in format to the DC holiday issue reviewed above in that it contains four separate stories related in some manner to the Avengers. The first two tales are the lengthiest, respectively starring Ben Grimm/The Thing and Firestar and Justice, followed by a two-page short featuring Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel. The fourth and final story is a one-page wonder starring Iron Man and Stature.

The Ben Grimm story is the concluding segment of a multi-issue tale, in which Ben joins a new assemblage of the Avengers led by Luke Cage. The plotline centers on the effect on the Fantastic Four/Richards family as Ben works to balance belonging to both groups. The tale resolves with a nice message on what it means to be part of a team (Avengers) as well as a family ( the FF, of course). The Firestar/Justice tale is the final segment of a very high action story. I won't spoil the details, beyond saying it centers on time travel, bad guy/Norse God Loki and emotional issues between the pair of heroes. The remaining two stories are short little vignettes that I won't summarize for fear of giving away their very brief plots.

This is a fun and variety-packed issue with a nice mix of both featured characters and styles of storytelling. I was very impressed with the two main tales. The Ben Grimm story is a nice comment regarding superheroes trying to balance job with family and the Firestar/Justice tale's time travel plot is very intriguing, as several Marvel heroes pair-up with the older/younger versions of themselves to battle Loki. The story ends on a very well-presented, albeit melancholy note that adds a lot of emotional punch to the tale.

I did find the Spider-Woman/Ms. Marvel tale a waste of two good pages of comic book print; there's absolutely no plot in this brief story, as the pair beat-up a few bad guys all the while proclaiming how happy they are fighting crime. And finally, the one-page Iron Man/Stature story is the icing on the cake, a perfectly adorable ending to the issue. Created by Lucy Kinsley, it's just a funny riff on the pair of heroes that's most likely produced for kids but is entertaining for all ages, nonetheless.

So its nice to see in this week's reviews so far two comics featuring multiple short tales in each issue, offering both quality and variety for fans of all reading tastes and preferences. Some nice reading variety from DC and Marvel for your holiday season reading pile!

Doorways #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
George R.R. Martin: Writer
Stefano Martino: Art

IDW Publishing has released two issues so far in its new science fiction title Doorways, so I decided to review last month's issue #1 to get a feel for the title from the beginning of the story. The comic book is the brainchild of well-known science fiction writer George R.R. Martin, with art by Stefano Martino.

The plot of this science fiction adventure centers on Cat, a young female warrior who materializes one evening in our world and immediately lands herself in an emergency ward, where she's befriended by the young emergency room doctor, Thomas Mason. Unable to speak English and loaded with hand-held alien-like technology and weaponry, the authorities lock-up Cat to try and figure out just what the heck is going on here. The sci-fi adventure gets ratcheted-up real quickly here, as three demon-like pursuers materialize in our world and ready themselves to enter the big city and catch the interdimensional fleeing Cat. The first issue ends in a dramatic bridge as the good Doctor Mason helps Cat escape custody so together they can begin fleeing the demonic pursuers.

My initial reaction as I started to read this comic book was that the general concept didn't seem that original: exotic girl jumps worlds, meets ordinary American boy and they team-up to either flee or fight alien pursuers. But in the talented hands of veteran writer George R.R. Martin, this is a very original and entertaining graphic science fiction adventure. Martin elevates this title above the ordinary with intriguing details regarding Cat's technology and the mystery of exactly who she is and what her alternate reality is really all about. Comic book readers of all interests should get a kick out of reading this well-crafted graphic science fiction adventure tale.

On a final review note, its worth mentioning that the 22-page story is followed by a four-page column written by George R.R. Martin, which chronicles in detail the history of his efforts in the early 1990's to get this story concept on the air at ABC as a weekly television series. It's a fascinating account of the television production process, as he came within a breath of getting the show on the air, before it was bumped by the network for another science fiction t.v. show entitled "Lois And Clark"¯-sound familiar?!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was for you to tell us what work of fiction you believe would make a good transition to publication in comic book form in the Classics Illustrated comic book series. And our winner is (drumroll, please)"¦Kevin Browne who suggests that J.K. Rowland's Harry Potter books would make a good Classics Illustrated series. Kevin mentions that he assumed that somewhere out in the wide world of comic book publishing, Harry Potter had already made the transition but he did a bit of research and nothing popped-up. It's probably just a matter of time before we do see Harry Potter comics, though. Congrats to Kevin who wins our $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

With the holiday season in full swing, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges want to challenge you with a holiday season-related trivia contest that fits right into our pop culture emporium world. So here's your couch potato, television-watching contest challenge. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following question: What product is being sold in the Christmas-themed Acura automobile commercial currently being aired on t.v., in which the character in the commercial makes the statement "The Chestnut, she is a fickle beast"¦"¯ Our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment. As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner will be chosen from among the correct entries by the roll of the dice.

That's all now for, so have another great holiday season shopping and comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!


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