Review Date: Friday, December 24, 2010

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review an eclectic mix of comics this holiday week, so let's start with the unfamiliar supernatural and then move on into the familiar world of superheroes:

Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called #3
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Patricia Briggs and David Lawrence: Writers
Amelia Woo: Art

Issue #3 of this supernatural-themed comic book title is currently on the new issues shelves. The series is based on author Patricia Briggs's popular fiction novel series starring (who else) Mercy Thompson. For the uninitiated, Mercy is a car mechanic living in Washington state in a town full of supernatural beings (i.e.,werewolves, vampires, the usual lot). She's apparently a "walker," a last-of-her-kind magical being with the power to shapeshift at will into a coyote. So she's not exactly a "were-coyote," having more of a higher, independent control over her abilities/talents.

This latest issue is part three of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Moon Called." The plot begins with fast action, as a shotgun-toting Mercy races to a werewolf neighbor's house after she finds a murdered teen on her doorstep, only to stumble into a fight to the death between her transformed neighbor and an attacking werewolf. Mercy kills the attacker, but not before her neighbor Adam is badly wounded. The bulk of the remaining storyline follows with Mercy racing against time to get her wolf-neighbor help at another town full of enchanted characters. Without giving away any spoiler details, Marcy's arrival at the safehaven town sets off a host of soap opera-like conflicted feelings in her regarding painful past relationships with some townfolk, including an old werewolf boyfriend. The issue ends in a bridge to next month's story segment, as after ignoring a friend's warning to just sit tight for awhile, Mercy gets impulsive and transforms to coyote form, in order to seek-out her ex-boyfriend who's off in the wild in his own wolf form.

My fear going into reading and reviewing this title was that it might turn out to be a wannabe Twilight series, given the immense popularity of that supernatural teen heartthrob franchise. Happily my fears were unwarranted, as the series stands very strongly on its own unique legs as an entertaining supernatural storyline. Patricia Briggs collaborates in this comic book series with co-writer David Lawrence, and the pair structure a very well-crafted graphic tale mixing supernatural elements, mystery thriller plot details and standard relationship fiction. I was unfamiliar with the Mercy Thompson fiction character and enjoyed learning about her unique walker/coyote power, which makes for a fresh approach to the standard werewolf story structure. While there's a lot of good stuff in this comic for fans of supernatural fiction, there's also a nice mainstream fiction plotline threaded throughout the tale, of a fiercely independent loner woman struggling to maintain her cherished independence while being pulled against her will back into difficult past relationships. My only review criticism of this comic is about the lettering, of all things. There are several major lettering misspellings in the dialogue that actually garble the narrative at times, so here's hoping that the good editors at Dynamite double-check the letterer in upcoming issues of this title.

So a definite positive thumbs-up recommendation for Mercy Thompson. If you're a fan of the supernatural, this is an excellent addition to the many new comics titles available in that genre. And even if the supernatural isn't your reading preference, that genre is balanced in this comic with enough mystery and mainstream fiction story elements to give any comic book fan their money's worth of an entertaining read.

Green Lantern/Plastic Man: Weapons Of Mass Deception (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marv Wolfman: Writer:
Brent Anderson: Art

DC Comics has just issued an oversized one-shot special comic book teaming-up Green Lantern and Plastic Man in a story entitled "Weapons Of Mass Deception." The issue is written by veteran scripter Marv Wolfman with art by Brent Anderson. Older fanboys and fangirls will remember Wolfman as one of the leading comic book writers at both DC and Marvel back in the day, known among his many outstanding efforts as the 1970's creator of the Marvel character Nova and co-creator of Black Cat, as well as the creator behind the resurgance of DC's Teen Titans in the 1980's. Brent Anderson is also very accomplished, including his groundbreaking work in partnership with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross on Astro City.

The plotline of Weapons Of Mass Deception focuses on an alien conspiracy against Earth. The story breaks-down into three plot segments. Section one details Plastic Man's effort to explain and convince Hal Jordan/Green Lantern that he's stumbled upon an alien conspiracy against Earth involving alien weaponry. The mid-section of the tale unfolds with the pair discovering that a duck-like alien group of bad guys are out to conquer Earth by duping American Earth criminals into doing their dirty work for them. And the third segment of the tale advances the action by alternating between our two heroes fighting the aliens in outer space and turning the tables against them on Earth by convincing the duped criminals to place Earth's well-being above their criminal instincts. Obviously, by issue's end, the good guys prevail.

I'm very conflicted about this comic book, ultimately giving it a lukewarm, middle-of-the-road positive recommendation. The basic plotline concept is o.k., effectively mixing together Green Lantern's world of aliens and space adventure with Plastic Man's world of ordinary, Earth-bound crimefighting. The problem is that Marv Wolfman's plot details and narrative dialogue is out-of-date for today's 2010 comic book reading-public. The slang and behavior of the characters are so "1980's" that after awhile its actually uncomfortable reading these story details. Its like watching an over-the-hill lounge act in Vegas desperately trying to be hip and relevant. The duck-aliens particularly don't work for me; they're either a flat insiders joke on Wolfman's iconic Howard The Duck work in the 1980's, or just a very stale and creaky idea for outer space villains.

These weighty negatives aside, three elements save the story from a thumbs-down recommendation. The first is a decent general underlying story concept, of combined space and Earth-bound superhero adventure to save Earth from alien dominance. The second is a quality sub-plot woven throughout the tale, in which Green Lantern is continually exasperated by Plastic Man's goofiness, to the point where he questions the guy's value as a crimefighter. There's a nice resolution by story's end to this sub-plot, in which Green Lantern learns of Plastic Man's worth and gains a valuable lesson about prejudging friends and colleagues. And the thrid redeeming element is Brent Anderson's always top-notch artwork, including some fun Plastic Man stretched-out graphics.

So a real mixed-bag review reaction to this one-shot, which ultimately deserves an average rating positive recommendation, based on the basic story idea, an interesting sub-plot between the two heroes and finally, some really nice artwork by Brent Anderson. And who knows, maybe there's a worthy place in today's fandom base for stories that feel a bit too retro but still serve as a well-meaning homage to an earlier, simpler time of comic book story-telling.

Widowmaker #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jim McCann: Writer
David Lopez: Pencils
Alvaro Lopez: Inks
Nathan Fairbairn: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 in a new 4-issue mini-series entitled Widowmaker, starring the superheroes Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Mockingbird and the Black Widow. The title is scripted by Jim McCann with pencils by David Lopez, inks by Alvaro Lopez and colors by Nathan Fairbairn.

The plot in this series is an international thriller. An anonymous tip leads Hawkeye and Mockingbird to Japan, where they discover that an American spy has been murdered on the eve of sensitive diplomatic talks scheduled between Japan and Russia over disputed border islands. It turns out that the murder is part of a much wider ongoing bloodbath instigated by an old, World War II era shadowy ninja group called Dark Ocean. The body count rises heavily as the duo head for Siberia, unexpectedly linking-up with the Black Widow/Natasha Romanov who also received an unknown tip. The trio discovers that Dark Ocean has set them up, as by issue's end they're mistakenly captured by Marvel's Russian superheroes, clearing the path for Dark Ocean to go after Russia's president in issue #2.

This is a very entertaining mini-series, mixing fast-paced action in multiple settings as the story moves forward very quickly in this first issue. Writer Jim McCann gives us an intriguing and complex tale, full of spy thriller false leads, mindgames and backstabbing worthy of a spy thriller novel on the par of fiction novelists such as David Baldacci. Be prepared to really focus and even dounble-back on a few pages worth of dialogue as you follow this complex but very worthwhile international spy thriller as it kicks-off its multi-issue storyline in issue #1. And a final review shout-out is warranted to the art team, which gives us both a high-grade graphic style and some wonderful large panel and full-page action sequences throughout this adventure.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had three correct entries to our current contest, which challenged you to identify just what product is being sold in that Christmas-themed Acura car commercial in which the spokesman quotes "the chestnut, she is a fickle beast." And our winner via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Thomas Courchaine, who correctly identified the frivolous product as a "double-vented, quad-chambered chestnut roaster." Congrats to Thomas who wins our $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment, and a note to the good staff at That's Entertainment to consider stocking the deluxe chestnut roaster on the store shelves!

New Contest Announcement!!!

The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges challenge you this week with a sports riddle contest. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with an answer to the following question: What is the one game in which the defense has control of the ball during play? Its a simple sports trivia question but it has stumped some people at times, so let's see whether or not our good comic review readers easily get this one. Our winner will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the (hopefully) correct entries and will receive the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to (you guessed it!) That's Entertainment.

That's all for now, so have a great holiday week and a just-as-great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!


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