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Review Date: Friday, April 29, 2011

Good King Leonardo has declared that its another eclectic week here in Bongo Congo, with a wide-ranging variety of comics to review, from an obscure import title to the premiere issue of a major new Marvel series event to a DC one-shot. So let's see how these comic books stack-up against each other:

Cyclops #4
Publisher: Archaia
Matz: Writer
Luc Jacamon: Art
Archaia Entertainment is currently up to issue #4 of a comic book series entitled "Cyclops." The comic is an English language reprint of a series originally published in France and Belgium by Casterman. The series is the product of a writer who goes by the one-word name Matz, with art by Luc Jacamon. An inside-the-front-cover narrative explains the story so far. The setting is the year 2054, in which a hot war rages between Argentina and Chile. In this brave new world, a private military corporation named Multicorps has been hired to fight in the war, using their Cyclops brigade of soldiers as infantrymen. The spin here is that the brigade's military experience is broadcast live to the world as a hit reality television series! The term "Cyclops" is applied to the brigade due to the high-tech television camera units mounted within each soldier's helmet, broadcasting the "show" live to the television network.

Three sub-plots advance in the current issue #4. In the main military plot thread, the unit goes "off-script" when attacked in an ambush, fleeing through a nearby forest and stumbling across an unknown massacre location. The second storyline focuses on the soap opera-like personal life of Cyclops Commanding Officer Doug Pistoia, who's having an affair behind his wife's back with Lizbeth, one of the show's executives. And our third plotline focuses on intrigue, as Doug interacts via I-phone with investigative journalist Jeremy Fuentes, as the pair gather evidence to support their mutual belief that there's a conspiracy behind both the war and the use of the Cyclops unit, most likely to generate television ratings.

This obscure comic book title is a fresh new spin on the concept of the war comic book, creatively blending the military fiction element with the concept of our evergrowing world-wide addiction to reality television. The creative team hits a home run here with the very realistic and believable details of the mash-up of the two concepts. One of my favorite elements here is the play-by-play commentary of the battle scene, provided back in the t.v. network studio by a retired military general. But the big kicker here are the off-duty scenes of the Cyclops soldiers; as they relax in a nightclub and rank on each other, the conversation is beamed live onto t.v. screens worldwide. The creative team alternates these panels with scenes of fan viewers world-wide enjoying the soldier's friendly arguments and taking sides, similar to real-world reality television show fans everywhere rooting for their favorite reality t.v. stars.

As such, I highly recommend checking-out this very entertaining and high quality comic book, which succeeds on three counts: as a military comic, as a conspiracy thriller tale and as a sharp and very witty commentary on the continued evolution (or de-evolution, depending on your opinion!) and dominance of reality television in our society. As a final review comment, just a heads-up that there's strong sexual content here regarding Doug's affair with Lizbeth, so this definitely isn't a comic book for kids. But its worth checking-out for appropriately-aged readers for all of the reasons outlined above.

Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Ed Brubaker: Writer
Scot Eaton: Pencils
Mark Morales: Inks
Sunny Gho: Colors
Marvel Comics has kicked-off its "Fear Itself" mega-event with a prologue one-shot comic book entitled "Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull." The issue is scripted by Ed Brubaker with pencils by Scot Eaton, inks by Mark Morales and colors by Sunny Gho. This prologue issue is followed by a core seven issue mini-series and a wider multi-issue tie-in similar in format to the Civil War mega-event. The series focuses on the concept of the Marvel universe superheroes contending with the God of Fear, a supervillain who uses each hero's personal fears against them.

The prologue one-shot comic book begins the tale by alternating between the present-day and World War II-era Marvel universes. In the current storyline, bad guys Baron Zemo and Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, explore a secret underground desert lair in search of an unnamed super weapon left behind by the Red Skull. The 1942 storyline is set in Germany and depicts Cap, Bucky and Namor pursuing the Red Skull as he seeks via mystical enchantment to obtain a secret black magic weapon of mass power. The two storylines converge by issue's end, as its clear that the Red Skull obtained the weapon, with the means to obtain it today falling into his daughter Sin's hands. Thus the basic backstory premise of the upcoming Fear Series is established for further action and adventure.

While everyone has their own comic story tastes and preferences, I personally have been very disappointed by the storytelling quality of certain past mega-event comic series, such as DC's "52." I'm pleased to report here that this kick-off issue of the "Fear Itself" event doesn't give me a sense of that problem here, at all. Writer Ed Brubaker kicks it all off with a very high quality script, presented in perfect visual style by the art team. There's a nice, steady blend of fast action and talking head narrative explanation that establishes a very solid Marvel universe premise for this whole concept. Most importantly, the issue delivers that key requirement of a Prologue issue, leaving the reader wanting to know much more about the interesting story events that have been jumpstarted in this premier story edition.

So an enthusiastic thumbs-up recommendation to enjoy this comic book both on its own merits as a fun Marvel Comics read, as well as a successful introduction to what seems at this point to be a well-crafted concept for the comics industry's latest mega-event series.

Jimmy Olsen #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Nick Spencer: Writer
RB Silva & Amilcar Pinna: Pencils
Dym & Rob Lean: Inks
DC Comics has just published an over-sized one-shot Jimmy Olsen comic book. The book is a reprint compilation of a multi-issue Jimmy Olsen story arc that was featured monthly in 2010 as a second story in issues of Action Comics. AOL's Comics Alliance rated it one of the top ten best comic book storylines of 2010. The series is scripted by Nick Spencer with pencils by RB Silva and Amilcar Pinna, and inks by Dym and Rob Lean. I had reviewed one of the stories last year and was interested in reading the entire story arc for a more comprehensive review.

The story is entitled "Jimmy Olsen's Big Week," and follows Jimmy day-by-day through seven day's worth of action and adventure. The plot actually follows the adventures of Jimmy and his journalist girlfriend Chloe. Chloe dumps Jimmy at the beginning of the tale, but the two constantly interact with each other through a fast-paced tale that involves an invasion of Metropolis by alien Lindsay Lohan wannabes, Jimmy experiencing a sorceress-induced alternate "what-if" version of his life as a Superman-like hero, and finally, Jimmy and Chloe together foiling a plot by an employee of Lex Luthor to take over the world. By stories end, Jimmy and Chloe are beyond all the action and deciding whether or not to get back together again, the outcome of which I won't spoil for potential readers.

I enjoyed very much the one segment of this story arc that I read last year and enjoyed even more reading the entire story arc as reprinted in this one-shot comic book. Writer Nick Spencer does a first-rate job on three counts: first, skillfully combining the successful Jimmy Olsen formula of presenting him as half-nerd, half-hero. Secondly, giving us a fun plotline that moves quickly and entertainingly through a sampling of typical Jimmy Olsen story situations (alien invasion, threats from Lex Luthor, girlfriend trouble, etc.). And third, infusing the story with lots of relevant humor, from the invasion of the alien Lindsey Lohan party girl and her clubbing entourage through very sharp one-liners and dialogue. I also liked the romantic subplot between Jimmy and Chloe, with a conclusion that provided a more realistic situation than your average comic book relationship.

On a final review note, there's also a really funny brief cameo by Supergirl dropped unexpectedly into the middle of the storyline, that's in the vein of writer-artist Amanda Conner's fun style of comic book humor. So a positive thumbs-up recommendation to not miss the opportunity to purchase and read this entire story arc conveniently published within this oversized one-shot Jimmy Olsen comic book.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

We received several correct entries to our latest contest, which challenged you to tell us which state after Alaska is the biggest U.S. state not to serve as home to a major league baseball team. And our winner via a roll of the dice is (drumroll, please)...Jeremy Mower, who correctly identified Montana as lacking an MLB team. Jeremy comments that while Alaska's lack of population and harsh climate make it baseball-less, possibly Montana's in the same boat for being the contiguous 48 states's version of Alaska! Congratulations to Jeremy for winning the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We'll try another comic book-based contest again in the near future, but in honor of our Red Sox getting back on their feet with a hot winning streak lately, let's do another baseball contest this week. So your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following question: which retired switch-hitting Major League Baseball Hall of Famer completed his career with exactly 50% of his hits coming as a lefty and exactly 50% coming as a righty? This one might be a challenge to find, so here's one hint: his total hits were 3,630, with 1,815 compiled from each side of the plate.

As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be chosen via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

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