Review Date: 09/04/2011

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has proclaimed that we celebrate the passing of Hurricane Irene with an eclectic mix of new comic books to review. So let's see how these three titles from DC, Dynamite and Marvel Comics stack-up against each other:

Superman Beyond #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz: Story & Pencils
Sal Buscema: Finished Art
Chris Beckett: Colors

DC Comics has just published a one-shot issue #0 entitled Superman Beyond. The plot is set in the same futuristic world of the very popular Batman Beyond series, in which a young Terry McGinnis pairs with an elderly Bruce Wayne to fight crime about a generation from now in "Neo-Gotham." This futuristic Superman companion to that series is scripted and penciled by the team of Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, with finished art by veteran artist Sal Buscema and colors by Chris Beckett.

The issue #0 story is entitled "Home Is The Hero!" and stars a slightly gray-haired version of Superman aged into late middle-age. The early plotline establishes Superman's current life situation: his wife Lois Lane having passed away and his powers diminishing with age, Clark Kent/Superman struggles with a late middle-aged life crisis. Our hero is shaken out of his funk when an everyday Metropolis convict is accidentally doused with the Meta-Human chemical featured often in the Batman Beyond series, transforming him into a dangerous Hulk-like being. When the future Justice League is knocked out of action by the villain, its Superman to the rescue. Two sub-plots dominate the action portion of the story; the main superfight and a subtle storyline, in which Superman tries to help the villain deal with the horror that his transformation has brought to his wife and daughter. The issue wraps-up with a nice final page that brings Superman and the aged Bruce Wayne together with a hint that we'll see this "World's Finest Beyond" pair again in some future DC Comics publications.

While I expected an obvious futuristic Superman tale in this issue, I was surprised and happy to read how far the creative team went to incorporate Superman into the preexisting world of the Batman Beyond series. Its a very entertaining treat to read the blend of old and new in this high quality comic book. The old includes a cameo by Terry McGinnis along with major storytime for Bruce Wayne and that futuristic JLA. The new includes Superman/Clark Kent himself, along with our old pal Jimmy Olson, who has evolved into an international media conglomerate head, sort of a kind-hearted version of Rupert Murdoch, if you can believe it. Beyond the action adventure entertainment of this tale, the real success of this story is the quiet message built into the plotline, one that's really brought home in the final Bruce Wayne/Superman scene, a message that as our heroes age and somewhat decline, they still have a valuable and worthwhile role to play in their respected lives as aging heroes. Its a positive life lesson for the story characters and readers alike, one that's special both as pure comic book reading entertainment and as a philosophy-of-life affirmation.

So a very positive thumbs-up recommendation for the good DC reader to check-out this excellent comic book, which succeeds both as a very satisfying conclusion to the recent Batman Beyond series and as a stand-alone enjoyable one-shot interpretation of an older version of Superman who still has a lot to contribute to and enjoy regarding his DC universe world.

Warehouse 13 #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Ben Raab & Deric A. Hughes: Writers
Ben Morse: Art
Jonathan Cooper: Colors

Dynamite Entertainment has just expanded its inventory of eclectic comic book titles with the publication of Warehouse 13 #1. The comic book is based upon the hit SYFY cable network television series of the same name. For the uninitiated, the t.v. show is a comedy-drama mix that follows the adventures of a team of secret service agents who "bag and tag" mystical artifacts and store them in Warehouse 13, a vast secret installation in the wilds of South Dakota that resembles the secret government mega-warehouse in the final scene of the first Indiana Jones movie. Issue #1 of the new comic book title is scripted by Ben Raab and Deric A Hughes with art by Ben Morse and colors by Jonathan Cooper.

The issue #1 storyline sends lead agents Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering off to Rio De Janeiro to investigate the latest in a series of earthquakes which lead investigator Artie Nielsen believes are artifact-related. Our adventurers follow a trail of clues to a shady Brazilian mining conglomerate, which has a habit of finding major gold discoveries in the earthquake zones. Eventually, we learn that the company is using an ancient Chinese mystical hammer artifact which creates the diasters as its wielded in search of treasure (Thor never had this problem with his hammer, did he?). The second half of the storyline turns to action-adventure, as Pete and Myka evade corrupt Brazilian police, identify which company excecutive is wielding the artifact and nab the gizmo for safekeeping back at Warehouse 13.

I've mentioned in previous reviews that I'm always expecting the worst in t.v. show or movie-related comic books, as so many of them combine clunky graphic styles with wooden attempts to recreate the success of the visual medium on which they're based. Thankfully, we don't have that problem with this new title. The comic book succeeds in avoiding both traps, providing excellent artwork combined with a storyline that is fresh and entertaining, both as a stand-alone comic book and as a representation of the t.v. show. A creative tip-of-the-hat is deservedly due to the writing team, who do a great job of providing the little personality traits of the various characters which have gone over so well among fans of the show. These range from team leader Artie's grumpy-bear personality, to twenty-something member Claudia Donovan's creatively witty remarks, and finally to the fun and funny repartee between partners Pete and Myka which make the show such a pleasure to watch.

A blurb at issue's end announces that next month's issue is written by two of the television show's writers. Given the quality start that writers Raab and Hughes have provided in their issue #1 debut, I'd say the newcomers have big creative shoes to fill in next month's issue. So another positive review recommendation for a new comic book title that strongly stands on its own two feet as an entertaining science fiction comic book while also successfully transferring the quality of a hit t.v. show to comic book format.

Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Paul Tobin: Writer
Pepe Larraz: Art
Andres Mossa: Colors

As part of its wider "Spider-Island" publishing event, Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 of a three-issue mini-series entitled "Spider-Island: The Amazing Spider-Girl." The premise of the event series is that for various reasons, which I'll leave for readers to discover for themselves, random civilians around the Island of Manhattan start to exhibit Spider-Man type powers. This title stars Spider-Girl/Anya Corazon, who according to a page one introduction used to be just a costumed nonpowered crimefighter but is now among the many who actually have Spider-Man's special powers. The mini-series is scripted by Paul Tobin with art by Pepe Larraz and colors by Andres Mossa.

In the extremely fast-paced issue #1 storyline, all hell is breaking loose in New York City as the "Spider-Person Epidemic" expands. The plot kicks-off with Anya and her roommate attacked at their high school by an army of "Society Of The Wasp" humanoid wasp creatures, whose mindless goal is to kill as many Spider-People as possible. Various Marvel universe players enter the fray in unexpected ways, including the ninja assassin society The Hand and Hobgoblin. Without being a detail spoiler, its worth noting that the battlers either ally themselves with or oppose Spider-Girl in unexpected ways. The issue ends in a very dramatic bridge as a major Marvel universe villain reveals him/her/itself as one of the infected Spider-Persons and offers a surprise alliance with our heroine.

This is an excellent comic book issue to read as a first-time exposure to the wider Spider-Island event series. The concept of a city-wide Spider-Man type of superpower epidemic is so fresh and well-presented that I couldn't help but wonder why someone at Marvel had never thought of this event concept before. A major shout-out is deserved for the art team, who give us a graphic style perfectly suited to the very fast pace of battle action in this series, with the panels just leaping off of the printed page. My only constructive criticism is that given the complexity of the mix of sub-plots and constantly-shifting action details, there is a bit of a feeling here that the plot details are somewhat too compressed, in order to jam all of the interesting story details into three short issues. This series and its readers might be better served with a five or six-issue publication schedule that would allow the creative team more room to explore all of the wonderful things happening in this title. But perhaps issue #3 will segue into one of the other Spider-Island event comic titles.

So that one question aside, I highly recommend not missing a moment of the fun of this very creative new Spider-Man universe mega-event. If you haven't started reading the series yet, I'd recommend jumping-into it with this issue and if you're already reading some of the other Spider-Island titles, definitely prioritize this three-issue mini-series at the top of your ever-growing new issues comic book reading pile!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you to pitch to us your favorite comic book villain, also explaining why you rank he/she/it as number one on your list of baddies. And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who tells us that his favorite bad guy is James Gordon, Jr. Kevin tells us that Detective Comics writer Scott Snyder has revealed Police Commissioner Gordon's son to be a major Batman universe villain, one who Kevin feels serves as an excellent "dark mirror" to Batman Dick Grayson's goodness. An interesting choice-it should be fun to see where Detective Comics and any other Batman comic book titles take this villain in future Batman stories. Congratulations to Kevin who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We're heading into the final stretch of baseball season, as our Red Sox and the Yankees battle neck-and-neck for first place in the American League East Division. In recognition of all of the home runs that the Red Sox have been belting lately, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges offers-up the following Red Sox home run trivia contest challenge. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following question: Which Red Sox player has hit the longest home run at Fenway Park, and how has the team commemorated that home run in a permanent way at Fenway Park? This is a fun Red Sox fact that many fans cherish as a piece of Sox historical trivia, so e-mail us asap! As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.

E-Book Announcement!!!

Just a quick announcement that my science fiction & fantasy short story collection "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country" has just been re-released by Xlibris Press (www.xlibris.com) as an e-book for only $9.99! Feel free to check-out a very positive book review posted on my webpage (www.alaniragordon.com) or go to the xlibris page or anywhere else where e-books are sold for a copy today!

Finally, just a reminder that we're temporarily on a bi-weekly new comic book reviewing schedule. So have two great comic book reading weeks and see you again on September 16 Here In Bongo Congo!

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