Review Date: Friday, June 10, 2011

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its "Science Fiction Theme Week" Here In Bongo Congo, so let's review two new science fiction-themed comic book titles along with a classic Batman title:

Strange Adventures #1
Publisher: D.C. Vertigo Comics
Various Artists & Writers
DC Comics has recently restarted through its Vertigo imprint of comics its Strange Adventures title. Aging fanboys and fangirls will recall DC's long-running Silver Age version of this comic book, which featured science fiction tales in comic book form and is renowned among Silver Age collectors for having some of the most interesting and fun classic science fiction front covers. The over-sized issue #1 in the new series features a whopping nine stories encompassing a broad variety of science fiction storylines, with each tale presented by a different writer-artist team. The issue also features a fun science fiction cover by popular comic book artist Paul Pope.

While I expected a wide range of story quality from strong to weak, I was blown-away by the excellent quality of the three tales that lead in the issue. The first story is entitled "Case 21" and gives us a taut thriller set in a Bladerunner-type future mega-city with a shocking ending. Our second tale is entitled "The White Room." To avoid any spoiler details, I'll just comment that its an engrossing tale on the nature of reaility as well as a subtle comment on our real-world addiction to video-related technology. The third story is entitled "Partners," and has an entertaining Twilight Zone feel to it. Again, without spoiling any details, the plot centers on two male friends, each of whom has convinced the other that one of them is real and the other an imaginary sidekick, and neither one knows which-is-which. Overall, the credited writer-artist teams consistently deliver in this trio of stories with taut cutting-edge storylines and appropriate graphic styles for each of the varied story themes.

Of the additional tales, three are average and decent, one tale is a cliched re-hashing of an old science fiction story theme and two are just outright gory in graphic style and stupid in plotline. Any mix of nine stories in a comic book is going to have a range of story quality, so three excellent stories and three decent tales give us a higher-than-expected batting average for quality in this premier issue. So in sum, a very well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation for the return of this classic standard Silver Age science fiction-themed comic book title. Here's hoping that DC Vertigo keeps this new title going for awhile and keeps publishing it in the multi-story, over-sized format of issue #1.

Science Dog #2
Publisher: Image Comics
Robert Kirkman: Writer
Cory Walker: Pencils & Inks
Dave Stewart & Chris Chuckry: Colors
Image Comics is up to issue #2 of a new science fiction series entitled "Science Dog," featuring a humanoid dog scientist and his human sidekicks Rachel and Daniel. The series is written by Robert Kirkman, known among many projects for his work on The Walking Dead and Invincible comic book series. Pencils and inks are provided by Cory Walker with colors provided by Dave Stewart and Chris Chuckry.

The issue #2 plot is a very fast-paced tale of timetravel and alternate versions of reality. After being detained by aliens onboard an Earth-orbiting spaceship, Science Dog returns to Earth to find immense death and disaster caused by his arch-enemy Walter. Our hero attempts to make things right by using his timemachine several times, each time altering reality in some unexpected way. Obviously, by issue's end things are set right. But the kicker at the conclusion is very emotional and heart-rending, regarding the fate of Science Dog as he makes a particular personal sacrifice to reset reality in a particular way to assure that his friends Rachel and Daniel are protected from harm in the original disaster.

I was very impressed with this new comic book title for a few reasons. First, in a good way it reminded me of a Fantagraphics comic book title from the 1980's entitled "Dalgoda," (A Dog Lad spelled backwards). That very entertaining limited issue title featured an almost identical humanoid dog character's adventures in space, leading me to speculate that perhaps Kirkman wrote that title, also, or at the very least is paying homage to Dalgoda with this title. Secondly, while bleak and dark at times, the issue #2 plotline is beautifully presented, mixing traditional time travel/alternate reality story themes with some striking emotional content. And third, its fair to conclude that this comic book, in story style and graphic presentation, has many of the good elements that make the very popular "Atomic Robo" such a pleasure to read.

So whether you're a fan of talking dogs, science fiction themes or just plain entertaining comic book storytelling, by all means give this new Image Comics title a read.

Detective Comics #877
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Jock: Art
David Baron: Colors
DC's flagship Batman title, Detective Comics, is up to issue #877. There's been a lot of enthusiastic talk among Batman fans of late regarding the current creative team at the helm of this title, which includes popular writer Scott Snyder, renowned for his accomplished work on American Vampire. An artist named Jock pencils this issue with colors provided by David Baron.

This issue is the second installment of a three-part story arc entitled "Hungry City." Its a Dick Grayson-As-Batman tale, with The Caped Crusader smack in the middle of fast action as he tries to protect Sonia Branch, the good daughter of a mob boss, from threats by two modern-day Gotham crime kingpins called The Roadrunner and Tiger Shark. The plotline unfolds in three segments, starting with a battle between Batman and The Roadrunner, proceeding to an extended brainstorming session between Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Sonia Branch, and progressing into an undersea hunt through Gotham Harbor which ends in Batman's dramatic arrival at Tiger Shark's underwater criminal lair.

This is an excellent Batman story which stands solidly on its own two feet as an independent tale as well as the second segment of a three-part multi-issue story. This creative team goes betond refreshing Detective Comics, literally CPRing new life into the flagship DC Comics title. Jock and David Baron's graphic product is on equal par with past Batman A-list artists including Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, with the mid-story meeting of Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Sonia Branch in a driving Gotham evening rain the quintessential depiction of a Dark Knight Gotham noir setting. The combination of this well-written and beautifully-rendered story left me breathless and feeling rainsoaked myself.

So a well-deserved thumbs-up positive recommendation this week for this very high quality Batman tale in Detective Comics, which successfully doubles as a single story segment as well as the latest installment in this entertaining ongoing storyline.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Out latest contest challenge was for you to answer a simple trivia question as to what is the most popular fruit eaten annually in the U.S. these days. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges were astounded by the flood of e-mail submissions to this question-we received the most contest submittals that we've ever received for a contest! I guess its the simple questions that get readers attention, after all. And the winner of our contest chosen at random from among our many correct submittals is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly answered that the banana is the most popular fruit in the U.S. Other folks made logical guesses that the orange and the tomato (yes, the tomato is technically a fruit!) are most popular, but the banana rules! Congratulations to Gregory for winning the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

As all good fanboys and fangirls know, this summer will see the release of more than the usual number of summer blockbuster superhero movies. So far, we've seen the Thor movie and can't wait to check-out as many of the other great movies as possible (X-Men rule!).
So your challange this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com and pitch to us either the best summer superhero movie that you've seen so far, or tell us which one you're most looking forward to seeing and why. As always, our contest winner will receive a $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

That's all for now, so keep enjoying the recent early summer sunshine and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!

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