Review Date: Friday, June 17, 2011

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review the kick-off issues of two new mini-series that just debut, one from Marvel Comics and one from D.C. Comics, along with a fun, new satire title of a well-known science fiction franchise. So let's get right to it and see how these three new titles fare:

Mystery Men #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Liss: Writer
Patrick Zircher: Art
Andy Troy: Colors
Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a new five-issue limited series entitled Mystery Men. Set in 1930's Depression-era America, the story concept introduces some brand-new Pulp-era costumed heroes to the Marvel comic book universe, while eventually having these characters interact with the Golden Age versions of well-known, established Marvel superheroes. The series is scripted by writer David Liss with art by Patrick Zircher and colors by Andy Troy.

Issue #1 has two interweaving sub-plots. The first storyline kicks-off the origins of the Mystery Men team of pulp-era new superheroes. When cat burgler Dennis Piper's Broadway star girlfriend is murdered and he's falsely blamed for the crime, he becomes "The Operative," trading-in his cat burgler persona to try and solve the crime. By the end of this first issue, he's begun to assemble the Mystery Men, as two additional people get pulled-into the mystery: his girlfriend's twin sister pilot adventurer and "The Revenant," a mysterious African American superhero whose powers seem to be a combination of those of DC's The Flash and The Spectre. Our second sub-plot follows the actions of the murderer himself, a deformed evil humanoid known as "The General," who operates in two directions. One is the management from his lair in the brand-new Empire State Building of an evil secret corporate board of directors. His second area of activity is within the occult, as he clearly has dealings with the demonic world in exchange for wielding the power to cloud people's minds to hide his deformity and his evil actions. By the end of issue #1, its clear that the next two steps in this series are the further assembly of the Mystery Men team and further advancement of The General's plans for occult murder and world dominance.

Its incredibly difficult for any comic book creative team to introduce brand-new hero characters that comfortably fit into the publisher's existing superhero story universe. As such, Marvel Comics has achieved the very rare feat of successfully jumping this creative hurdle. The three good-guy characters here very comfortably and credibly fit nicely into the Golden Age Marvel Comics universe. Writer David Liss explains in a back-of-the-book letter that he had two goals with this title-first, to add such credible new characters to the Marvel comic book world and secondly, to use the plot to address some gritty historical themes of Depression-era America, such as racism and societal inequalities in general. He progresses very well out-of-the-gate with these goals in issue #1. Blend-in Patrick Zircher and Andy Troy's highly skilled artistic style and we've got a very significant and entertaining new conceptual branch added to the wider tree that is the Marvel universe.

I couldn't help but compare this new series to DC's ongoing First Wave event series, which also takes a pulp-era approach to comic book storytelling. While I've enjoyed much of what I've read in the First Wave titles, Mystery Men clearly raises the bar in terms of delivering high-quality Pulp Era comic book action and adventure within the framework of a major comic book publisher's existing story universe. It should be a lot of fun to see how Marvel weaves its established stable of superheroes into this new spin on Marvel storytelling. So whether you're a Pulp-era story fan and just a standard Marvel Comics fan, by all means don't miss-out on the premier of this new and worthwhile Marvel Comics story world!

Batman: Gates Of Gotham #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins: Writer
Trevor McCarthy: Art
Guy Major: Colors
DC Comics has also just published issue #1 of a new five-issue Batman mini-series entitled "Batman: Gates Of Gotham." The series adds a new spin on the many Batman story universe concepts by proposing to blend a "secret history of Gotham City" into the world of all things Batman. The series is scripted by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins, with art by Trevor McCarthy and colors by Guy Major. Scott Snyder is also known among us Batman fanatics as the writer of a very popular multi-issue story arc currently unfolding in monthly issues of Detective Comics.

Issue #1 is sub-titled "A Bridge To The Past" and literally takes the title to heart, providing us with a tale that flashes between past and present as it focuses on three famous bridges in Gotham City. The past segment of the tale focuses on the 19th century origins of the bridges, as Bruce Wayne/Batman's grandfather Alan Wayne creates the three river spans in partnership with the Elliotts and the Cobblepots, ancestors of Batman's archfoes Thomas Elliot/Hush and Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. In the present-day plotline, a mysterious foe blows-up the three bridges and threatens "the founder's families," leading to an unlikely alliance between Batman/Dick Grayson and The Penguin against the attacker-with-an-historic-agenda.

Its always fun to come across a new mini-series that adds a fresh perspective to the well-known elements of a popular hero's world. Add this new title to the list of series that succeed on that count. The historic element is very creative, allying the grandfathers of today's trio of adversaries; I particularly got a kick out of The Penguin's willingness to grudgingly cooperate with Batman, valuing their joint family history over today's situation. A hats-off is also due to the artistic team for presenting a unique artistic format that's perfect for conveying the mix of Victorian Gotham that co-exists in both the past and present sides of the storyline. So by all means get in on the ground floor with issue #1 of this new and very entertaining Batman mini-series.

Space Warped #1
Publisher: Kaboom!
Herve Bourhis: Writer
Rudy Spiessert: Art
Mathilda: Colors
Dan Heching: Translation
Kevin Church: Americanization
Kaboom! comics, the children's division of Boom! Entertainmnet, has just published issue #1 of an American edition of an overseas-produced parody of Star Wars entitled "Space Warped". The creative team includes writer Herve Bourhis with art by Rudy Spiessert and colors by Mathilda. The Kaboom! version of this title was assisted in production by translater Dan Heching and with "Americanization" by Kevin Church.

This Stars Wars spoof faithfully follows the main events of the very first Star Wars movie. The idea here is to re-present the plotline in a low tech satiric manner. Instead of robot droids we have two human "druids," instead of hover cars we have ox-drawn carts, instead of a death star we have a bad guy's castle, etc. Names have been changed also, so Princess Leia is now Lady Leica, Darth Vador is Lord Salvador, Obi Wan Kenobi is Bernard The Mad Monk (you get the picture). By the end of issue #1, the story has progressed to the point equal in the original tale at which our friends link-up with Harrison Ford and Chewbacca to begin the outer space segment of the first movie adventure.

While the first few pages of this storyline unfolded a bit slow and in a somewhat confusing manner, by page four I was hooked on this extremely funny and original retake of the classic Star Wars movie #1 tale. It was a brilliant and just plain fun move to place the well-known story in a primitive low tech setting. The result is a series of hilarious riffs on the well-known movie scenes. Without being a detail spoiler, my favorite touches in this retelling include this comic's version of "The Force." as well as the bust-a-gut retelling of the original scene in which Luke and Obi Wan find that the Imperial Stormtroopers have killed Luke's aunt and uncle back at the ranch on Tatooine (sounds potentially unfunny, but it really does work).

The satire here is sharp and funny, but without coming close to the edge of snarkiness or staleness abyss that some Mad Magazine-style satires sometimes fall into. So by all means, grab at copy of Space Warped at That's Entertainment, and "May The Farce Be With You!"

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to tell us what upcoming comic or superhero movie you most anticipate seeing. And our winner is (drumroll, please),,,Mike Dooley. While Mike tells us that he's a big fan of such heroes as Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America and The X-Men, he's being non-traditional this summer and most looking forward to the upcoming film "Cowboys and Aliens," the science fiction western starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's 2006 graphic novel.

Mike writes that while the comic book has never appealed to him, he feels that the premise could be perfectly suited for the big screen. A bold and cutting-edge choice, Mike-we'll all know whether we agree with you or not after the movie hits the theatres on July 29! Congrats to Mike for winning our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's try another trivia contest for this week. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the answer to the following question: What is the one letter of the alphabet that is not included in the names of any of the 50 states in the U.S.? As always, in the event of multiple correct submissions, the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainmnet will be chosen via a roll of the dice.

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


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