Review Date: Friday, April 1, 2011

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three new comics this week that star some classic superhero characters, two from Marvel Comics and one from DC Comics, so let's see how they stack-up against each other:

FF #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Steve Epting: Pencils
Steve Epting & Rick Magyar: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors
Marvel's current change of direction for its Fantastic Four franchise has officially kicked-off with the publication of FF #1. The new series is scripted by Jonathan Hickman with pencils by Steve Epting, inks by Steve Epting and Rick Magyar, and colors by Paul Mounts. As all good fanboys and fangirls know, Marvel recently supposedly killed-off Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, opening-up new opportunities for plot development and emotional angst for the surviving members of the team as well as their friends and colleagues.

The issue #1 storyline is entitled "The Club," and begins several interweaving sub-plots in this post-Human Torch FF story universe. Per Johnny's video recorded wishes, the group has recruited Spider-Man/Peter Parker to join them as their new fourth member. In a second storythread, a breakaway group of former HYDRA bad guys take-on our heroes by rescuing a famous FF foe from prison, thereby setting-up some major conflicts with our heroes in upcoming issues. And a third plot thread continues the past year's developments in this title as the Fantastic Four continue to establish their Future Foundation, a major effort with the assistance of their assembled team of young alien creatures to set-up a thinktank to radically change the direction of mankind. The issue #1 story segment ends dramatically as young Valeria Richards succeeds in her recent effort of bringing Doctor Doom into the fold of this grand plan.

I mentioned in last week's review of Secret Warriors #25 that no one's better right now than writer Jonathan Hickman in providing hard science fiction stories for our favorite Marvel comic heroes. He continues his hot streak here with the debut of the new Fantastic Four universe direction. I liked very much the continuation of his long-range plot direction established over the past few years in the Fantastic Four, of grand science fiction events unfolding on multiple stages, mixed with an entertaining sense of both mystery and feeling that all of this alien-tinged stuff is unfolding beyond the control of mere mortals. Its a real kick to see page-by-page and issue-by-issue where its all heading. Besides the strong writing, there's a nice mix of characterization touches here, including that pack of alien kids at the Future Foundation, the return of Reed Richards's time-traveling dad, and of course, that old pesky adversary/sometimes reluctant ally Dr. Victor Von Doom.

Call me jaded, but after so many "death of our hero" event comics from Marvel and DC over the past several years, you know its just a matter of time before this post-Human Torch version of the FF is fully explored by Marvel, resulting in the inevitable "Johnny Storm Is Alive And Kicking!" mega marketing event. So we might as well all have some comic book reading fun with it and go along for the reading ride. At least we're in the capable hands of a high quality writing and graphic creative team, which so far, as evidenced by issue #1 of FF, is giving us our money's worth of entertainment and quality.

Silver Surfer #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Greg Pak: Writer
Harvey Tolibao & Stephen Segovia: Pencils
Wil Quintana: Colors
Marvel is up to issue #2 of a new four-issue mini-series starring our favorite intergalactic surfboard-riding herald, the Silver Surfer. The limited edition series is scripted by Greg Pak with pencils by Harvey Tolibao and Stephen Segovia, and colors by Wil Quintana. A page-one summary of last month's issue #1 explains that the Surfer had landed in the Mexican desert, where he was attacked by Marvel universe super bad guy The High Evolutionary. The villain has drained the Surfer of his cosmic power, as such reverting him back to his original form of alien mortal Norrin Radd.

The issue #2 story segment starts with a brief flashback to Norrin's pre-Surfer life with his sweetheart Shalla-Bal, then fast forwards to the present-day, in which the government has captured the now powerless Surfer and confined him in a desert scientific facility. The plot moves forward as Shalla-Bal look-alike Dr. Endo sympathizes with our injured hero and helps him escape confinement. Without being a detail spoiler, lots of escape/pursuit action and adventure unfold, as the pair travel through the desert to confront The High Evolutionary, hoping to retreive Norrin's cosmic power. The issue ends in a cliffhanger confrontation with the bad guy that includes an interesting and unexpected plot twist.

The Silver Surfer is one of Marvel's most popular Silver Age characters not only for the uniqueness of his character but also for his popular romantic backstory, that of a hero who chooses permanent separation from his soulmate in order to save her life and that of his entire race. All post-Silver Age high quality Surfer stories have mixed this romantic element into the latest storytelling. Writer Greg Pak does a top-notch job here of following this standard formula for Silver Surfer storytelling success, filling us in quickly on the well-known backstory then bringing it into the modern-day tale by introducing a human look-alike of Shalla Bal. Its an effective plot element, adding effective romantic tension to the high action as Norrin struggles to deal with his obvious attraction to this newcomer.

My only constructive criticism of this title is the artwork. While the penciling is excellent, the coloring is too dark and dreary for this detailed and fun adventure series. So while my advice to Marvel is to lighten-up on the coloring in the remaining two issues of this mini-series, in the meantime, here's a well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation to squint your way through the dark tones of this well-written and entertaining latest interpretation of our solar wind-surfing hero.

Giant-Size Atom (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jeff Lemire: Writer
Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman & Robson Rocha: Pencils
Pete Pantazis: Colors
DC Comics has just published an oversized one-shot comic starring the Atom. The issue is scripted by Jeff Lemire with pencils by Mahmud Asrar, Allan Goldman and Robson Rocha, and colors by Pete Pantazis. The story is the conclusion of the multi-issue tale entitled "Nucleus" featured as the second story this past year in issues of Adventure Comics. In the story to-date, a group of rogue scientists called The Colony have kidnapped scientist Ray Palmer/the Atom's father and uncle and want our hero's supply of white dwarf matter, which provides his shrinking power, in exchange for their freedom.

The plot begins with a hostage-freeing ploy partnered by the Atom and his traditional sidekick Hawkman which goes awry. A detailed, high action sequence unfolds in which the Atom literally battles atom-sized members of The Colony within Hawkman's bloodstream to save his life. The second half of the story shifts to a pair of sub-plots. In the first storythread, our pair of heroes plan and execute another elaborate strategy, aided by The Oracle and Dr. Fate, to gain the hostages freedom. The concluding plot thread addresses and resolves family tensions and issues between Ray Palmer, his father and his uncle.

I enjoyed the Adventure Comics installment of this series that I reviewed this past January and was glad to see DC Comics give it an opportunity to conclude in this oversized one-shot issue. We have about two standard comic books worth of material in this issue, the length of which gives the creative team ample room to explore both the main storyline of the Atom versus The Colony and the ongoing side plot in which Ray Palmer comes to terms with his brother's previous death and resolves family issues with his dad and uncle. A well-deserved shout-out also goes to the art team, which gives us several great, poster-worthy two-page spreads of action scenes throughout this issue.

So another positive thumbs-up for our third comic book reviewed this week. You'll definitely get your money's worth of quality and extra-length entertainment in this special issue starring the pint-sized and popular Silver Age-oriented DC universe hero the Atom.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We had three correct entries to our Worcester trivia contest, which challenged you to tell us how many pies are baked weekly at our famous local pie factory, the Table Talk Pie Company located at Kelley Square. And our winner selected via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly answered that they make a million (yes, that's right, a million!) pies a week at the factory, as recently reported on an episode of the Chronicle television show.

We also accepted as correct any answer submitted over a million, as some internet sources report that they often bake up to 1.5 million pies during peak sales weeks. So thanks to all of our entrants and congrats to Gregory, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Here's an interesting trivia contest for you. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and tell us what interesting distinction the town of Plato, Missouri received in the past week that's receiving national media attention. As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet will be selected via a roll of the dice.

That's all for this week, so have a great one more spring snowstorm shoveling week (arrgh!!!) and comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

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