Review Date: Thursday, July 28, 2011

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has an eclectic mix of comics in his new issues reading pile for this week, so let's review a variety of three of them-one DC Comics, one Bongo Comics and one Marvel Comics title apiece:

DC Retroactive: Flash-The 70's #1 (One-Shot)
Cary Bates: Writer
Benito Gallego: Pencils
Sal Buscema: Inks
Kevin Colden: Colors
DC Comics has a new series out this week entitled DC Retroactive, with the intriguing goal of producing one-shot issues that are throwbacks/tributes to a particular comic book era. The first group of comics out of the publication gate focuses on the decade of the 1970's, with veteran creative teams who worked in that era paying tribute to the style and content of that decade's comic books with brand new stories. George at That's Entertainment tells me that after the 70's are addressed in this series, DC will issue retroactive tributes to the 1980's and 1990's styles of comic book-producing. I chose to review this week The Flash one-shot in this series, scripted by veteran writer Cary Bates with pencils by Benito Gallego, inks by veteran artist Sal Buscema and colors by Kevin Colden.

The brand new throwback tale in this issue is entitled "Son Of Grodd" and naturally gives us a tale focusing on the historic conflict between Barry Allen/The Flash and his well-known super-intelligent gorilla foe Gorilla Grodd. The story interweaves two plotthreads. In the main storyline, Grodd hatches a bizarre plan to disrupt Barry Allen's marriage to Iris by cloning a human-looking son from a combination of his own DNA and DNA stolen from Iris. Without being a detail spoiler, the story proceeds with complicated developments involving Iris being subconsciously manipulated into helping to raise the rapidly aging clone, who goes rogue on Grodd and attacks him. By issue's end a temporary team-up between Grodd and The Flash, with the help of the clone's maternal figure Iris, resolve the situation. A secondary plotthread focuses on domestic issues between Barry and Iris, as they cope with the discovery that at least for now, The Flash's superpowers have made him unable to father children.

This was a very interesting and entertaining comic book for a few reasons. First and foremost is the high level of satiric campiness/cheesiness/kitschiness of this story. I don't think I've ever read a mainstream superhero comic book with this level of heavy-duty campiness in it; certain snippets of dialogue, storyline and facial expressions are beyond hilariously nutty. I'm assuming that the creative team wanted to pay tribute to some of the wacky story premises of the more innocent 1970's era of comic book publishing. There's just no way this level of campiness isn't a very deliberate creation. And it works very well here, for a lot of laughs and fun entertainment. Secondly, the artistic style is a perfect recreation of one standard type of 1970's-era artwork, thanks to veteran Sal Buscema's timeless quality inking skills. And third, the heavy campiness of the tale is somewhat balanced with a nicely constructed serious subplot focusing on the personal relationship issues of Barry and Iris, which concludes in a nice way.

As an added treat, there's a really fun, 25-page 1970's tale reprinted from "DC Comics Presents" issue #2 as a second story in this issue, republishing an excellent timetravel tale starring Flash, Superman and Flash's archenemy Professor Zoom. So a definite thumbs-up recommendation to enjoy this oversized one-shot comic that gives us a mix of a new and a reprint story, each well-representing the comic book style of the bygone 1970's comic book publishing era. If this Flash issue in the "Retroactive 1970's" series is an indication, fans young and old won't be disappointed with this excellent tribute series!

Sergio Aragones Funnies #1
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Sergio Aragones: Writer & Artist
Tom Luth: Colors
Bongo Comics (Good King Leonardo's favorite name for a comic book publisher!), best known for its Simpsons and Futurama titles, has just published issue #1 of Sergio Aragones Funnies. For decades, Aragones has been acclaimed as a very funny cartoonist on the staff of Mad Magazine and is also known for such comic book titles as Groo The Wanderer, Plop! and my personal favorite, the Fanboy six-issue mini-series published by DC Comics back in 1999 as a fun parody of comic book fandom. Aragones is assisted in this new title by colorist Tom Luth.

The 26-page issue #1 provides all-new comedy material in an eclectic mix of of narrative styles and graphic presentations, ranging from one-page gag cartoons to multi-page stories. Page one presents a 7-panel hello to the reader from Sergio himself. There's a very well-presented retelling of the Trojan Horse story with an unexpected and funny punchline, along with a very entertaining and hilarious true autobiographical tale, in which the college-aged Sergio and his friends served as Indian extras in a Western movie shot by a Hollywood studio near his college in Mexico. The issue also has two fun "find what's wrong with this picture" games, including one set in a comic book shop not unlike our favorite home-away-from-home, That's Entertainment!

Needless to say, this new comic book is a gem of a title, offering up a fresh and well-stocked mix of all that is part of Sergio Aragones extensive, decades-long world of cartoon magazine humor. I love the variety in this funnies-oriented comic book, from a few traditional, multi-page stories to one-page cartoon gags to those two interactive puzzle challenges. The depth and detail of Sergio's wonderfully-complex panels are on full display here, just jam-packed with crowds of people and things, showing us once again that Aragones pioneered the fun "find that person or thing in the crowd" style that has become even more well-known these past few years with the advent of the "Where's Waldo?" puzzle challenges. The hilarious two-page Letters To The Editor page also deserves a loud shout-out, as its full of hilarious letters from real-life comedians and comic industry folk, mixed with a few serious, heartfelt congratulations to this pioneer of comic book humor on his latest comic book endeavor.

You're missing-out if you don't read this funny offering from one of the giants of cartoon/comic book comedy, a man who's work is as fresh, timeless and relevant today as the day he drew his first gag. So don't miss out and get yourself over to That's Entertainment for your very own copy of Sergio Aragones Funnies #1!

Daredevil #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Mark Waid: Writer
Paolo Rivera: Pencils
Joe Rivera: Inks
Javier Rodriguez: Colors
Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a brand new Daredevil series. There are two separate stories in the premier issue. The main tale is scripted by veteran writer Mark Waid with pencils by Paolo Rivera, inks by Joe Rivera and colors by Javier Rodriguez. The bonus story is also written by Mark Waid with art by Marcos Martin and colors by Muntsa Vicente.

The main story interweaves three storythreads. In the initial pages, Daredevil intervenes at an organized crime family wedding to stop a kidnapping by a bizarre supervillain, resulting in much action and bedlam at the wedding, amongst guests armed to the teeth. A second plotline focuses on Matt Murdock trying to function as a New York attorney, all-the-while fending off constant attention on him from both the general public and his fellow lawyers, in the wake of his being outed as Daredevil in previous Marvel Comics Daredevil titles. The third plotline commences toward the end of the story, as Daredevil is attacked by a foe who seems to know a lot about his weaknesses. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue as the attacker is revealed to be a certain good guy fellow Marvel superhero.

There have been so many Daredevil comic book titles and issues over the years that I was curious to see how A-list writer Mark Waid would attempt to provide a fresh perspective on our hero in this new series. To his credit, Waid doesn't try to reinvent the basics of the Murdock/Daredevil stroy universe. Instead, he injects a layer of levity and light humor into Murdock's personality that has been sorely lacking over the years. Its both entertaining and refreshing to read in both of these stories a version of Murdock who isn't burdened with multiple layers of guilt and angst over the particulars of his situation. The second story in this issue particularly succeeds on that account, giving us a wonderful tale in which Matt and his sidekick Foggy take a stroll around New York. The art is wonderful, giving the reader a feel of cinematic-like mobility as the blind Murdock effortlessly leads Foggy around the city, all the while espousing an update and positive philosophy about both New York City and life itself.

So whether you're a long-time Daredevil fan like me or a newcomer to all things Daredevil, you'll be highly entertained by this new Daredevil title. And a well-deserved tip-of-the-review-hat to the creative team for giving us two separate stories in this issue, which given their high quality make it seem as if we're getting two full-length comic stories combined into one excellent and affordable monthly issue. I plan on continuing to read this title, at least for awhile, on a monthly basis to see how Mark Waid's infusion of a more positive outlook within Murdock's personality plays-out in the monthly storylines.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenge was a historic trivia question, asking you to tell us just how many millions of postcards were mailed in the U.S. in 1913, the peak year for use of postcards back in the pre-internet/e-mail/twitter days of personal communication. And our winner selected via a roll of the dice from among several correct entries is (drumroll, please...) Jeremy Mower, who correctly answered that over 968 million (almost a billion!) postcards were mailed in the U.S. that year. Jeremy adds that the number calculates-out to almost ten cards mailed for every man, woman and child alive in the country at the time. Jeremy also signs his entry as "Jeremy From The Paris Of The Eighties," which any local native knows is Worcester! Congrats to our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

Last week's history trivia contest was so popular that the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges has decided to offer another history challenge for this week. Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following question: which northeastern state was actually entirely part of Massachusetts until it gained its independence as a separate state in 1820? As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, our winner of the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.

We'll be on vacation next week, but we'll return with new comic book reviews, our current contest challenge winner announcement and a new contest challenge on Friday, August 12. So have two great comic book reading weeks and see you again then Here In Bongo Congo!

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