Review Date: Friday, July 1, 2011

Here In Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its Back To The Future Week here in Bongo Congo, so let's review two new DC comics and one new Marvel comic that star some of the more historical, long-term A-list superheroes from the respective publishers:

Superman #712
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Kurt Busiek: Writer
Rick Leonardi: Pencils
Jonathan Sibal: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors

DC's flagship original Superman title is up to issue #712 this month. A page one Editor's Note explains that due to a production delay, the scheduled start of a new multi-issue story arc is replaced in this month's issue with the publication of a "lost classic" story starring Krypto the Superdog. The storyline is set shortly after Superboy died in the Infinite Crisis event and Superman went missing. This one-issue tale is scripted by A-list writer Kurt Busiek with pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Jonathan Sibal and colors by Brad Anderson.

The story weaves together two interconnected sub-plots, one set in the past and one in the present-day. The past storyline updates the reader on the events of Infinite Crisis that led to the demise/disappearance of members of Krpto's extended Superman Family. The present-day pages detail Krypto's actions in two respects, patiently waiting for his family members to return all the while searching across the Earth and in outer space for his missing human buddies. Without being a detail spoiler, the story concludes by coming full circle from the opening flashback panels, with Krypto settling-in for a long, continued wait nestled by a favorite toy that he shared in play with Superboy at the start of the tale. There's a hopeful note at the conclusion, as the last panel marks the story close as "Not The End..."

This one-shot filler tale succeeds as an entertaining issue of Superman in several respects. First, its provides a nice, simple mid-summer breather from the multitudes of multi-issue "event" story arcs that prevail in most of the new comic production out there these days. Secondly, veteran writer Kurt Busiek succeeds in adding another quality story to the inventory of occasional Krypto stories existing in the DC comic universe. Busiek does an admirable job of balancing the flashback sub-plot as a strong support to the present-day Krypto storyline, helping to make the narrative-free dog-centric scenes make sense due to the past tense human narrative. And third, Busiek gives us doglover's a treat by effectively portraying that wonderful trait of all dogs, that of unconditional love for their family, as Krypto patiently searches and waits for all to be right again in his world.

At times emotional and almost heartbreaking, at times just a fun and entertaining read, all-in-all this issue well deserves a positive thumbs-up recommendation as a mid-summer treat starring everyone's favorite DC universe superpup!

Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jonathan Vankin: Writer
Marco Castiello: Pencils
Vincenzo Acunzo: Inks
Barb Ciardo: Colors

DC has also just published issue #1 in a three-issue mini-series that follows-up with DC universe events in the aftermath of the Brightest Day series events. This particular title focuses on the search for Swamp Thing and stars everyone's favorite demon world-connected sleuth John Constantine, along with Batman and Zatanna. The issue #1 cover also implies that Superman will be joining the plot in upcoming issues of the title. The comic book is scripted by Jonathan Vankin with pencils by Marco Castiello, inks by Vincenzo Acunzo and colors by Barb Ciardo.

The kick-off story segment begins with Constantine being ambushed in London after receiving a false message from his old friend Swamp Thing, resulting in his being infected with a swamp-based life-threatening malady. John travels to Gotham to enlist The Batman both in search of Swamp Thing and in search of a cure for the increasingly-viral infection. Most of the issue #1 storyline progresses a detailed confrontation between Constantine and Batman, in which the pair verbally joust as Costantine works hard to establish credibility and trust with the Caped Crusader. By issue's end, Zatanna enters the picture and joins the newly-formed team. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as a surprise development regarding Swamp Thing's identity is revealed which hints of a possible answer to both Swamp Thing's disappearance and John Constantine's strange malady.

This new title is a decent and entertaining addition to the varied Brightest Day and post-Brightest Day events unfolding in the DC comic book universe. The combination of Constantine, Batman and Zatanna provide a unique and fresh mix of characters as a hero team. I particularly enjoyed the extended verbal duel between Constantine and Batman, with the demonic detective more than holding his own with witty remarks and sharp dialogue, resulting in Constantine at times actually getting the better of Batman and ultimately succeeding in adding the Caped Crusadar to his team. Writer Jonathan Vankin structures the story with just the right sense of mystery that makes the reader want to stick with this tale to see where the plot takes us over the course of three issues. It should also be fun to see how Superman fits into this story beginning in next month's issue #2.

So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to add this fresh and interesting limited series title to your mid-summer pile of beach-reading new comic books!

Ultimate Spider-Man #160
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mark Bagley: Pencils
Andy Lanning & Andrew Hennessy: Inks
Justin Ponsor: Colors

The latest "death of our favorite superhero" storyline wraps-up its five-part story presentation with "Death Of Spider-Man: Part 5" in issue #160 of Ultimate Spider-Man. For the uninitiated, the many "Ultimate" titles published by Marvel provide very interesting alternative character histories of some of the most well-known Marvel heroes. Significant alternate Spider-Man elements in this title include re-booting Peter Parker/Spidey and friends back to their original high school-aged roots, along with the key premise revision that everyone near and dear to Parker, from Aunt May to Mary Jane and back again, share in the knowledge of Parker's superhero identity. The Death Of Spider-Man event series is scripted by veteran writer Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks shared by Andy Lanning and Andrew Hennessy, and colors by Justin Ponsor.

This concluding story segment consists of a single issue-long mega-battle scene. Having been seriously wounded by a crazed Green Goblin in last month's issue, Parker must now confront the killer supervillain literally in his home neighborhood in front of Aunt May's house. As the action unfolds, Spider-Man is forced to desperately juggle two efforts with split-second precision: trying to fend-off the Goblin's fianl push to kill our hero, while also attempting to protect his various friends and loved ones who stand smack in the path of harm's way. Various fellow teen heros and Spidey family members try and fail to help our hero. In the end, as expected, Spidey/young Parker seemingly stops the villain while also seemingly bleeding-out and expiring from his Goblin-inflicted wounds.

I say "seemingly" in the story summary because as all good fanboys and fangirls know, no hero is ever permanently expired in any of the periodical "death of our favorite hero" comic book publishing events. But that's o.k., because none of us really want to lose our heroes; the fun of these situations is seeing how the creative team that's assigned the task eventually resurrects our hero and explains the supposed demise in the first place. In that respect, this part five conclusion is both entertaining in its own right and provides a nice first act to the second and third acts of the play, the respective "coping with Spidey's death" and "hooray, our hero's back" segments of the story. A particular hats-off in issue #160 is deserved for A-list writer Bendis, who stretches out of his writing comfort zone with a tale light on his usual detailed dialogue and philosophical character rambling and heavier on old-fashioned Marvel Comics battle action. The result is a nice throwback style of storytelling that fits perfectly with entire "back to the future" teen years reboot of Spidey in this particular Ultimate comic book title.

So we're three-for-three this week, with another positive thumbs-up recommendation to add this entertaining and just-plain-fun issue of Ultimate Spider-Man to our growing pile of new comic books to read on that beach blanket!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest asked you to correctly identify what the initial "S" stands for as President Harry S. Truman's middle name. We had quite a few correct entries, so via a roll of the dice our selected winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who correctly tells us that the S stands for just that, the letter S! Truman's parents chose the letter S to honor both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. Single initial middle names were a common historical practice among Scot-Irish immigrant families to America. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have also decided to award a second, honorary contest prize to Christian P. Mock, who is the only contest entrant who has the same name situation; Christian tells us that his folks also couldn't decide which grandparent to honor, thus giving him the middle name of the letter P! Congrats to both of our winners, who each receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

Let's take a break from trivia this week and have a comic/animation-related contest challenge. The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges was recently watching an episode of this past season's The Simpsons and was impressed how the writing quality of the show has maintained its strength over the many years of the show. As such, your challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com telling us which episode of The Simpsons is your very favorite episode, and why. As always, our selected first prize winner will receive a $10.00 gift certificate to our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment!

That's all for now, so great a great Fourth Of July comic book reading week and see you again next week here In Bongo Congo!


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