Review Date: Friday, February 11, 2011

Good King Leonardo has again selected a wide variety of comics for us to review this week, from the well-known Uncle Scrooge and Batman to a pair of lesser-known titles, so let's see how they all stack-up against each other:

Uncle Scrooge #400
Publisher: BOOM Kids!
Multiple Writers and Artists
Disney's iconic Uncle Scrooge McDuck comic book is up to its #400 anniversary issue with this past week's issue. The comic book features two new stories along with three one-page reprint tales. The main, longer new story is written by Rudy Salvagnini with art by Giorgio Cavazzano. The theme of this anniversary issue is a tribute to iconic Disney duck family artist Carl Barks. Fans of Donald Duck comics know that Barks is renowned for both classic issues of Donald Duck family comics as well as original Duck family oil paintings that are highly collectible.

The main story is entitled "Uncle Scrooge And The Man Who Drew Ducks." The plot consists of an interview of Barks and his wife by a journalist researching his long association with Uncle Scrooge. As an alternate reality plot theme, the idea here is that its all real, with Barks detailing the history of how he approached the infamous duck miser, convinced him to allow the licensing of comic books produced by Barks of his "real life duck adventures," and the rest is history. The back-up story is entitled "Obsession." Written by Byron Erickson with art by Daan Jippes, its the latest installment on a long-running Scrooge comic title theme, in which duck witch Magica DeSpell plots to steal Scrooge's "original dime," the very first coin he ever earned, which contains potent magical powers.

It was unexpected yet interesting to find that this anniversary issue focuses more on Scrooge's famous primary artist as opposed to the character himself. But that makes a lot of sense, given how inseparable the character and artist have become over the decades. The Barks tribute story is both cute for kids and entertaining for adults, as is the back-up Magica DeSpell story, which balances the main tale with a plot focusing on Scrooge and his foe moreso than Barks. And the three one-page reprint tales provide a nice sampling of the quality that Barks brought to his beloved characters back in his heyday.

So a definite thumbs-up for this latest Uncle Scrooge issue, both as a decent monthly issue of the title as well as a worthy and well-produced tribute to both the Uncle Scrooge character and the beloved creator so connected to his life's artistic work.

Batman Confidential #53
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marc Guddenheim: Writer
Jerry Bingham: Art
David Baron & Jerry Bingham: Colors
The Batman Confidential title is up to issue #53 this month. Time flies since I reviewed one or two issues of this popular Batman universe title back in its early publication days. The current story run is written by Marc Guggenheim with art by Jerry Bingham and colors by David Baron and Jerry Bingham.

Issue #53 is entitled "Altered States" and is Chapter 4 in a multi-issue storyline entitled "Super Powers." The front cover also refers to the name of the current plotline as "The First League!," which accurately sums up the story focus. Without having to read the previous three story installments, its clear from the start that Batman is in a confrontation with the original Justice League members (Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, etc.), a group that in this version of the DC Universe he's never met before. The story interweaves two plot threads. In the first, the Caped Crusader has an initial unintended battle with the group, after which he reveals that they've crossed paths in joint pursuit of an alien villain. A second plotline is a flashback experience, of Bruce Wayne training with a Far Eastern band of mystical warriors. The dialogue and issues of the dual storyline parallel and overlap at times, culminating in a dramatic reveal at the end of this story segment regarding the actual nature of the supposed alien foe, bridging to a wider threat to be explored in next month's issue.

Writer Marc Guggenheim has scripted several recent DC titles that I've read and/or reviewed in which he delivers both high quality and highly entertaining scripts, and this issue deserves to be added to that list. Its a fresh and interesting story concept to structure this version of Batman's world with our hero neither part of nor familiar with the Justice Leaguers. Guggenheim is clearly exploring the Lone Wolf side of the Batman persona, as the flashback narrative also focuses on Bruce Wayne's conflicted feelings regarding the alternate paths of either joining the mystical warrior group or choosing the go-it-alone hero route. There are also some small plot touches here that add some nice color and depth to the story, such as a new totem-like explanation of the Bat Symbol and some personality and experience similarities between Batman and the bad guy.

The many well-produced but "cutting edge/big event" Batman titles out there these days often lead Batman fanatics like me to seek-out a solid, standard Batman storyline for a bit of balance. This is one of those titles, currently providing us with a successful blend of old-school Batman with some fun and entertaining new twists. So for a dose of the best of both Bat-worlds, combining our old Bat-buddy with some excellent new twists and turns, I'd recommend this well-produced comic book for both heavy-duty and casual Bat-fans alike.

Locke And Key: Keys To The Kingdom #3
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Joe Hill: Writer
Gabriel Rodriguez: Art
Jay Fotos: Colors
Our good friend Pete at That's Entertainment recommended that we review this new comic book title from IDW Publishing, scripted by Joe Hill with art by Gabriel Rodriguez and colors by Jay Fotos. This is a horror /mystery thriller in the atmospheric vein of Stephen King's storytelling gothic horror universe. This is hardly surprising, as writer Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. A brief but effective inside front cover narrative explains that the three Locke siblings, two teens and a preteen, live together in a gothic mansion in a Maine coast-type setting. After their father is murdered, the Locke kids have direct access to a set of mystical keys in the home, which allow them certain supernatural abilities including selectively removing emotions, trading direct memories and past experiences with people and battling horror threats. Unbenownst to the trio, their best friend is their enemy, trying to access the one key which will connect him with evil.

The creative team has structured each issue as a month's narrative sets of panels moving the storyline through listed days of the month. Naturally, the current issue #3 progresses the storyline through the current month of February. The story is complex and very rich in details and layers, so for the purpose of this review, as well as the desire not to be a story spoiler, I'll summarize the plot by keeping it very general. Day-by-day, our trio both interact with friends and foes, some with whom they share their key-using practices and some who they keep completely in the dark. They face a wide variety of supernatural threats from using the keys, while balancing a lot of personal relationship angst as they make-up and break-up with girlfriends, boyfriends and best friends. There's one plotline from start to finish throughout the issue focusing on one pair of young lovers, as their relationship starts with the beginning of February and seemingly ends along with the end of the month.

My first taste of Joe Hill's writing unfortunately was bitter, as I reviewed last month his comic book title "The Cape" and found it to be once of the worst comic books that I've ever read and definitely the worst that I've ever reviewed for this column. So its both a relief and a wonderful surprise to find this comic at the polar opposite extreme of that unfortunate reading experience. This comic is frankly stunning in many ways, blending horror, thriller mystery and teen relationship/soap opera storytelling in an addictive narrative and graphic style. To his credit, Joe Hill keeps the horror low-key, never taking it all too grossly bloody and over-the-top. The personalities of the many teen characters in this title are both realistic and intriguing, laying-out a high quality dialogue that immerses the reader deep into the storytelling of this very original fictional world.

I say it once in awhile in certain reviews and I'll say it again, here; this is one of those titles that clearly have " Television Series Smash-Hit" emblazoned on every page and panel of the storyline. I can't picture this gem not making it onto the small screen sooner or later, so have some fun and discover it right now in graphic form, before its all over in the next 16 issues, as mentioned on the front cover. And a quick thumbs-up thank-you to Pete, who was right on target with his opinion that this is a not-to-be-missed comic book title.

R.P.M. #1
Publisher: 12-Gauge Comics
Mick Foley and Shane Riches: Writers
Jose Holder: Art
Michael Wiggam: Colors
12-Gauge Comics has a new comic book entitled R.P.M. The title is scripted by Mick Foley and Shane Riches with art by Jose Holder and Michael Wiggam.

The setting of this comic is close-to-Worcester out in Revere, Massachusetts. Our main character is Revere Windsor, a direct descendent of Paul Revere, He's an independent courier, delivering sensitive material and information for the federal government. The plot kicks-off with Revere taking an outside job, guaranteeing to deliver via high-tech security automobile a synthetic diamond formula to Florida for a diamond company, along with two key company employees. The action kicks-off as the trio are attacked just south of Boston by Angolan nationals, who want to sabotage the synthetic diamond effort to protect their country's natural diamond mining industry. Issue #1 ends in a twist as one of Revere's companion's turns-out to be a traitor to the company.

This is a very original espionage/thriller comic book. It was fun to stumble upon a comic with a very local setting; I also liked very much the idea of Windsor being a descendent of Paul Revere, thereby updating the Revere-as-Colonial-courier idea to a modern-day high tech setting. While the action starts late in this issue, that's appropriate in order for the creative team to spend most of issue #1 establishing the basic premise of the high tech security courier idea as well as the character's basic personalities.

My only constructive criticism is that the art work is pretty weak, of a style that's very sketchy and rough, and just not pleasing to the eye. That could be a major stumbling block in keeping fans committed to reading monthly this strong story concept. So my advice to the publisher is to shift to a new artistic team and give this decent new comic title with the local Massachusetts setting a chance to put down some roots and thrive on a monthly basis.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

ur latest contest challenge was a tribute to those many bit players on our favorite animated television shows, as we asked you to identify who Eleanor Abernathy is and on what show she appears. And our contest winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Keith Martin, who correctly identified her as the well-known crazy cat lady of The Simpsons. Congratulations to Keith, who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

he Bongo Congo panel of contest judges realized this past week that while we've held many contests featuring comic book-related media such as animated movies and television shows, we've never held a contest on newspaper comic strips themselves. So let's try to make amends this week with a comic strip contest!

Your challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and tell us about one or more of your favorite newspaper comic strips. Feel free to elaborate on why you like the strip, where you read it, can it be accessed on-line, etc. There's still a great variety of comic strips out there these days, from our old favorite Peanuts to new stuff like Pearls Before Swine and Rhymes With Orange (even Hi & Lois is still out there!), so e-mail us now with your entry! As always, our first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

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

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