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Review Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good King Leonardo offers up a mix of comic themes for review for this week, ranging from a standard DC Comics title to a classic science fiction theme and ending with an alternative European-published comic title:

Teen Titans: Cold Case #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Mark Sable: Writer
Sean Murphy: Art
Brad Anderson: Colors
DC currently has a Teen Titans one-shot special comic book on the new issues shelves entitled "Teen Titans: Cold Case #1." The issue is written by Mark Sable with art by Sean Murphy and colors by Brad Anderson. The story is entitled "Father's Day" and the setting is actually a sort of throwback, set approximately one year after the "Identity Crisis" DC mega-event published back in 2004. For the uninitiated, Identity Crisis was a popular mystery series scripted by well-known writer Brad Meltzer, which revolved around the question as to who murdered Sue Dibny, wife of DC superhero The Elongated Man. Part of the plot involved Robin/Tim Drake's father being murdered.

This Teen Titans one-shot storyline picks-up on the "death-of-Robin's-father" theme, opening with Robin struggling with two parallel issues: coping with internal guilt for having failed to prevent his father's murder while at nthe same time trying to coalesce a new membership of Teen Titans, consisting of himself, Rose Wilson/Ravager, Wonder Girl, Cyborg and Kid Devil. There's a lot of mistrust here, particularly regarding Ravager, the supposedly reformed daughter of bad guy Deathstroke. An intricate story thread proceeds, as Deathstroke lures his daughter into a trap with the bait of a mysterious briefcase, the contents of which supposedly will help Robin address his father's death. Said trap consists of the entire Teen Titans stumbling into a major confrontation with The Rogues, the large and well-known group of villains from the Flash comic book universe, led by old Flash foe Captain Cold. The second half of the issue details and interconnects three plotthreads: a major battle among the players, a reveal of the briefcase contents and the Teen Titans attempting to resolve conflicts and teen angst issues within the group.

I've shyed away for a few years from reviewing any comic book starring The Teen Titans, after consistent disappointment with the Titan comics that I picked to read each time back then. As such, it was very enjoyable to give these well-known young DC team members another read and find this latest one-shot title a major improvement on those earlier issues. Its very creative and entertaining of writer Mark Sable to take us back a few years within the chronology of the DC universe with a postscript storyline from the Identity Crisis era. The strength of this effort lies in Sable's weaving of three major themes into one cogent plot: the struggle of the new Teen Titans to coalesce as a functional group, their conflict with the group of bad guys and Robin's struggle within the "Father's Day" title theme to come to terms with the circumstances of his father's death. Graphically laid-out with strong effect, the tale is entertaining, emotionally moving and satisfying from start to finish.

I have no idea whether this one-shot storyline serves to establish a new direction within the ongoing monthly Teen Titans title, but I suspect it does; either way, it's a worthy high quality comic to check-out and its definitely pushed me into checking-out the regular Teen Titans series in the near future for hopefully some more installments of this particular make-up of Teen Titan characters and their ongoing adventures.

Formic Wars: Burning Earth #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Aaron Johnston: Writer
Giancarlo Caracuzzo: Art
Jim Charalampidis: Colors
Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 in a new five-issue limited series of a science fiction comic book entitled "Formic Wars: Burning Earth". The series is a prequel story to well-known science fiction writer Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" series of science fiction novels. Marvel published a comic book adaptation of Ender's Game last year, for which I wrote a positive review of issue #1. This current series is scripted by Aaron Johnston with art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and colors by Jim Charalampidis.

A page one narrative tells us that this prequel is set during the First Formic War, which was a smaller-scale outer space war in which a ragtag group of outer space asteroid miners fought-off the first appearance of the insect-like alien invaders. The first issue story segment introduces us to two warring asteroid mining factions-the large Juke Limited Corporation and the independent mining ship El Cavador, crewed by a large extended family of Venezuelan miners. The plotline unfolds as the two groups literally war against each other over rare asteroid stakes. A nasty attack by the corporate big bad guys leaves the El Cavador no choice but to try and stake-out a very remote asteroid claim. By issue's end, the El Cavador has picked-up a remote signal of an approaching alien vessel, obviously the invaders who will arrive on the scene in issue #2.

I was very impressed with the creative team's graphic production of this slice of Orson Scott Card's grand and impressive Ender's Game space opera universe. There's a richness of dialogue detail that's missing in most science fiction comic book adaptations, as page-by-page we're introduced to the warring asteroid miner factions. Its obvious that as the invasion proceeds, these human rivals are going to have to put aside their differences and unite to save humanity, so its both interesting and very effective to have an issue #1 story segment that delves deeply into the background of their internal human rivalry.

Even the best graphic adaptations of good science fiction generalizes the tale that is being adapted to comic book form. As such, its a rare treat to find a series that manages to overcome that obstacle and project a sense that one is reading the full storyline of the fictional version of the tale. So a definite positive thumbs-up review recommendation for fans of writer Orson Scott Card, general science fiction fans and even generic comic book fans to check-out this high quality new limited edition series from Marvel Comics.

Meditterranea #1
Publisher: GG Studio
Alessandro Cenni: Writer
Gjianluca Maconi: Pencils
Alessia Nocera & Barbara Ciardo: Colors
The first two issues are available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves of an imported comic from the Italian comic book publisher GG Studio, entitled Meditterranea. I decided to review issue #1, written by Alessandro Cenni with pencils by Gjianluca Maconi and colors by Alessia Nocera and Barbara Ciardo.

This is a high fantasy genre tale, set in the fantasy world of Meditteranea. The plot centers on a trio of travelers, the elderly Master Auraki and his two young and sexy female assistants, Eleni and Alonisso. Apparently, the inhabitants of this world consist of a few different humanoid races. The first half of the issue details the trio traveling to and arriving in a coastal city with the purpose of Master Auraki getting set to negotiate a revision to the treaty that keeps the peace among these varied beings. Action and suspense kick-in for the remainder of the issue, as a mysterious female assailant tries to disrupt the effort and a just-as-mysterious savior arrives to protect the travelers. Its clear by issue's end that the fast action and political maneuvering will progress in the next issue.

I reviewed GG Studio's "The One" comic not too long ago and liked it, although it was a bit confusing to follow at times. No similar problem is at-hand, here; this is an excellent high fantasy premise, reminding me of the best short story and novel fantasy fiction of classic fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin. I loved the story setting that blends both old and new, the old being a geographical setting resembling Earth's coastal Meditteranean society and the new being the obviously alien location inhabited by a futuristic population of fantastical people. The European graphic style of presenting the many young women in the story as sexy and bikini-clad isn't overdone and actually makes sense, given the beachside story setting.

So try something different for a change, and add this interesting Italian import to your ever-growing pile of domestically-produced new comic books. A little variety will do you some good and you won't be disappointed with this unusual and intriguing fatnasy storyline.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

In honor of Major League Baseball spring training, our current contest challenged you to name at least one of two famous former Red Sox pitchers who pitched early in their careers for the Pan-Alaska Goldpanners, a collegiate team in the summer Alaskan Baseball League. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please),,,David McBarron, who correctly identified Bill "Spaceman" Lee as a former Goldpanner. Our second player was former pitching great Tom Seaver, who did a brief stint with the Red Sox late in his career. Congratulations to David, who is the winner of the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment.

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's put our comic book thinking caps back on for this week's contest. Your challenge for this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and pitch to us a comic book title that you think we should review in an upcoming edition of this column. It can be a comic title that we've reviewed before and you think we should review once again, or you can offer-up a title that we haven't taken a look at yet. Either way, make your case on why your submittal is "review-worthy." Our contest winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment and, of course, we will review the winning contest entry!

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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