Review Date: Friday, January 7, 2011

Good King Leonardo wishes everyone a very Happy New Year and has decreed that we begin the 2011 comic book review year with a review of a new Batman title followed by two Marvel Comics reviews:

Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
David Finch: Writer and Pencils
Scott Williams: Inks
Alex Sinclair: Colors

DC Comics has just published issue #1 of a new Batman comic book entitled Batman: The Dark Knight, starring the returned Bruce Wayne as The Caped Crusader. The series is both written and penciled by David Finch with inks by Scott Williams and colors by Alex Sinclair.

This premier issue kicks-off a multi-issue storyline entitled "Golden Dawn." The plot centers on missing Gotham socialite Dawn Golden, the subject of a massive search-and-rescue manhunt by the Gotham police. Two plotlines interweave throughout the story. The first is a flashback storyline, as we learn both that she was Bruce Wayne's best childhood friend and that she had a very emotionally-troubled childhood. Our second modern-day plotline unfolds as Bruce Wayne/Batman takes her supposed kidnapping very seriously, as his emotional buttons are pushed by fear for his old friend's well-being. Batman's search for clues pays off step-by-step, leading him from an initial confrontation with Killer Croc to a dramatic bridge to issue #2 as he's captured by another well-known Gotham super-villain.

I was very entertained and also intrigued by the details of this premier issue, for a few reasons. First, although I'm a huge Batman fan, I've never come across this person Dawn Golden in the wide Batman universe, so it was a lot of fun to be introduced to another Gotham player, albeit one with whom Bruce Wayne has very strong emotional ties. Secondly, writer David Finch has structured his plot to include a strong element of doubt as to what is really happening to the missing Dawn Golden. Without being a detail spoiler, there are enough false clues, too-easy clues and traps for Batman here that all lead to the question of whether Dawn Golden is an actual innocent missing victim or whether instead she's possibly involved in something villainous, herself. And third, its just great to have the original Caped Crusadar back on the Gotham nighttime beat, after the lengthy "Death Of Batman" event, which was interesting but went on long enough, thank you.

So a very positive thumbs-up recommendation and a happy welcome back to Bruce Wayne/Batman, along with a well-deserved tip-of-the-review-hat to writer/penciller David Finch for giving us an excellent return tale in issue #1 of this new series. I for one am really looking forward to upcoming monthly issues of this new series, as this well-crafted Batman tale of Gotham-noir mystery continues to entertainingly unfold.

What If? #200
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Marc Guggenheim: Writer
Dave Wilkins: Art

Marvel Comics's long-running What If? title has reached its 200th anniversary issue this month. The special issue has three stories in it, with the lead story written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Dave Wilkins. For the uninitiated, the popular What If? title has been around since 1977, and gives us an alternate universe-type storyline with each issue, asking a what if? question and answering it with the particular story plot. For example, the premier issue #1 in 1977 asked "What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?"

The lead 22-page story in issue #200 asks the question "What if Norman Osborn won the Siege of Asgard?" In last year's Marvel mega-event, the good guys obviously beat-back the evil Norman and all was well again in the good old Marvel Universe. Here the opposite happens; the body count piles-up page-by-page, as Osborn and his allies kill all of the well-known Marvel heroes. Finally, The Sentry goes nuts and kills Osborn, unleashing the demon within The Sentry which proceeds to destroy all of mankind.

I was very disappointed in this tale. For the 200th anniversary issue, I expected a plot that fit the long-time character of the What If? title, giving us a story that entertained with an intriguing and thought-provoking alternative idea for the Marvel Universe. Instead, we're presented with a bleak, plotless and simple-minded slaughterfest of the entire Marvel universe, concluding with the destruction of the entire human race and Earth. I felt as if I was reading the graphic lay-out for a very bloody video game as opposed to a Marvel comic book.

Given that our general culture and mass media has become more jaded and violent in the current generation, I suppose its inevitable that some comics fall into that same devolution category. But its a shame that the fun and entertainment that this title has been known for is replaced in its iconic 200th issue with a bleak slaughterfest. So if you like that stuff, feel free to read this comic, but I can honestly only recommend that this issue be skipped. While the second story, a Watcher/Silver Surfer tale, and the third story, a reprint of an classic Daredevil/Electra tale, are both o.k., they don't provide enough quality balance to give this issue a thumbs-up recommendation.

Thor, The Mighty Avenger #7
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Roger Langridge: Writer
Chris Samnee: Art
Matthew Wilson: Colors
Marvel's Thor, The Mighty Avenger title is up to issue #7 this month. I gave a very positive review to last year's premier issue #1, so let's take a look at this month's issue to see how this series is holding-up. The title is scripted by Roger Langridge, with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matthew Wilson. As I mentioned in my issue #1 review, this series is a reinterpretation of the standard Thor comic book universe, presenting Thor as a young, personable and inexperienced superhero adjusting to life in small-town America.

The issue #7 story is entitled "Robot," and interweaves two plot threads. One storyline focuses on the personal relationship between the young Thor and Jayne Foster, the single and available Town Library antiquities expert in the Town of Bergin, Oklahoma. In the standard Thor story universe, Jane Foster is Thor's alter ego Dr. Don Blake's nurse and Thor/Blake's love interest. The second storyline seems to be a continuation of a previous storythread, in which two local scientists are tasked by a mysterious financier to invent a bunch of killer robots to attack and capture Thor. Issue #7 ends in a dramatic battle between Thor and said robots, in which he's captured and being taken to the scientist's lair for further action in next month's issue #8.

I loved issue #1 of this series and the latest issue #7 didn't disappoint at all. This is just a very fresh and fun reinterpretation of Thor, taking all of "The Mighty Thor" mythic starch out of the big guy, and replacing him with a charming, lanky, naive farm-boy-type Thor, who is embraced by this small Oklahoma Town as one of their own "boys." The relationship between Thor and local girl Jane is sweet and charning, and you just root page-by-page for their romance to thrive and grow, as the two balance trying to have a relationship while dealing with the superhero/bad guy/robot stuff that just keeps getting in the way of their plans.

As in my issue #1 review, a well-deserved hats-off is due to artist Chris Samnee, whose artistic style perfectly conveys the emotion and charm of this series, leading me again to complement his graphic product as being on equal par with Tim Sale's work a few years ago within D.C.'s iconic four-issue "Superman For All Seasons" mini-series. My brother Dave tells me that next month's issue #8 wraps-up up this wonderful series, which is a real shame. But Marvel has just released a softcover compilation reprint of issues #1 through #4, so my recommendation is to pick-up a copy of that book and also catch-up at That's Entertainment with the remaining issues #5 through #7 in anticipation of next month's concluding issue #8.

Books Available At That's Entertainment!!!

Our favorite pop culture emporium has just restocked with post-holiday shopping season copies of three short story anthologies that include several of my stories. So if you're in the mood for reading some fun science fiction, fantasy and/or horror short stories, pick-up a copy at That's Entertainmnet of either "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country," "Strange Stories Of Sand & Sea" and/or "Strange Tales #2." They make great gifts, too!

Ongoing Contest Reminder!!!

As of this writing, we don't have any entries yet to our current New Year's contest, which challenges you to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and tell us what your favorite and least favorite comics were of 2010. There's a $10.00 prize gift certificate just waiting to be spent by the winner, people, so get those entries e-mailed to us no later than noon on Wednesday, January 12!

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


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