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Review Date: 10/14/2011

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review three brand new Marvel and DC Comics titles that had their respective premiers recently, so let's see how these issues stack-up against each other:

Avengers 1959 #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Howard Chaykin: Writer & Artist
Jesus Aburtov: Colors

Marvel Comics has just published issue #1 of a 5-part limited edition series entitled "Avengers 1959." Earlier this year, I reviewed a one-shot comic title of this concept, which presents a 1959 retro version of The Avengers with Nick Fury as teamleader along with team members Kraven The Hunter, Namora, Bloodstone, Sabretooth, Silver Sable and Dominick Fortune. Picture a cross between James Bond-style dapper tuxedoed sleuthing and 1950's superheroes, and you get a feel for the setting of this title. Both the earlier one-shot and this new series are the product of iconic veteran writer-artist Howard Chaykin with colors by Jesus Aburtov.

Issue #1 establishes a multi-issue plotline which centers upon the return of the previous decade's World War II defeated Nazis to try and establish international domination. The story unfolds in several quick two to three-page sub-plots, in which each member of the Avengers undergoes their first encounter with or attack from representatives of the new Nazi threat. Some are outright assaults such as a failed assassination attempt on Nick Fury, while other encounters consist of more subtle espionage maneuvers. A few non-Avenger Marvel elements are also drawn into the conflict, including Black Panther's Wakanda Kingdom and the retro Marvel heroine Blonde Phantom. The issue #1 story segment concludes in a dramatic bridge as Nick Fury is confronted by a mysterious stranger who announces that he's not a foe but a friend who wants to assist the Avengers.

I liked very much the previous one-shot of this retro Avengers concept, with its addition to the wide world of Avengers lore of a Marvel universe reality consisting of Golden Age pulp adventurer-style characterization and plot action-adventure. And Howard Chaykin's definitely the creator meant to explore this concept in this new five-issue mini-series, given his impressive track record with such pulp-style concepts as DC's Blackhawks and his retro style American Flagg! series. This first issue is a very entertaining read, chock full of alternative Avengers history and concepts. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere of the tale, with our heroes living a New Yoprk upper-crust lifetsyle and adventuring in topcoats and formal clothing, versus traditional superhero costumed adventuring.

My one constructive criticism is that Chaykin needs to settle the plot down very quickly within the upcoming issue #2 into one main, focused plotthread with very little meandering into side plotlines. There are only four issues left in this series and worthwhile story advancement needs to replace the issue #1 lay-out of eight separate sub-plots each taking their storytelling turn for two or three pages. But while the sudden scene shifts make for a somewhat jarring read for issue #1, it does serve the initial storytelling purpose to get this intriguing new Avengers universe out of the gate for what looks to be a very interesting read of this new five-issue Marvel title. So give this month's premier issue a shot and by all means check-out next month's issue #2 to see where veteran storyteller Howard Chaykin takes this interesting tale.

Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
David Liss: Writer
Jefte Palo: Art
Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colors

Marvel Comics has also just published issue #1 of a new Black Panther title. A page one narrative informs the reader that in previous Marvel comic book issues, our hero T'Challa/Black Panther is no longer king of the African nation of Wakanda. Stripped of his powers and wealth, he's moved to Daredevil's old Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York City to run a diner by day and serve at night as the new Daredevil-like guardian of the neighborhood. This new series is scripted by David Liss with art by Jefte Palo and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

The kick-off issue presents a stand-alone one-issue tale entitled "True Sons." The plot begins as a murder mystery, as someone is stalking and killing women who were recently helped in some way by Black Panther. Teaming-up with his new sidekick Sofija and the NYPD, our hero sets a trap which quickly snares a old foe from T'Challa's days back in Wakanda. Without being a detail spoiler, the foe is a very close and long-time archrival. By story's end, T'Challa prevails and wins the day, but not without some end-of-the-story philosophical musing addressing his guilt that the victims were killed because he initially entered their lives to try and help each of them.

I really got a kick out of reading this issue. I haven't been reading many Marvel Comics of late, so the concept of Daredevil being replaced (most likely for the time being, only) in Hell's Kitchen by Black Panther was a fun and unexpected surprise. For this concept to work, the creative team needs to add some fresh story universe elements to the title beyond just dropping T'Challa into Daredevil's old superhero timeslot. Writer David Liss succeeds on this point by adding two well-constructed characters. The first is the aforementioned Sofija, a Serbian immigrant to New York with strong martial arts/action skills, who functions by day as a young waitress in T'Challa's daytime diner while serving as his action sidekick at night. The second sidekick is Police Detective Alex Kurtz, who serves as Black Panther's main contact with the NYPD. While he physically resembles Batman friend Commissioner Gordon, his role is unique here as he walks a tight and delicate line in trying to keep the angry, shoot-from-the-hip T'Challa from crossing the violence line and alienating the police department.

There's a very nice mix in this premier issue of entertaining storyline, action/adventure and subtle emotional themes. I was very drawn-in to this particular portrayal of Black Panther as barely able to control his personal rage as he struggles to bring a Dark Knight sense of personal justice to the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen. It should be very interesting to see how this theme evolves in future issues of this new title. So a definite thumbs-up positive recommendation to check-out this fresh and very entertaining new spin on the world of Black Panther.

DC Universe Presents: Deadman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Paul Jenkins & Bernard Chang: Creators
Blond: Colors

DC Comics has just released its Deadman title re-boot as part of the "New 52" publishing event that revamps all DC comics titles with renumbering along with some restructuring of the DC universe superhero reality. I've reviewed a few of the other New 52 titles in my past two review columns. The Deadman series is co-created by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang with colors by Blond.

The issue #1 story segment is entitled "Twenty Questions" and is part one of a multi-issue story arc. Its essentially a revised re-telling of the well-known Deadman origin story, in which an unknown assassin kills circus trapeze artist Boston Brand. At the moment of death, the Hindu deity Rama gives Brand the chance to remain on Earth as the ghostly Deadman, able to enter living folk's bodies and help them with their problems, thereby advancing Brand/Deadman along the road of selflessness toward an eventual afterlife enlightenment. The first half of the issue effectively repeats the well-known Deadman origin facts. The second half of the story focuses on Deadman's philosophical musings on the unexplained purpose of much of this experience, combined with his frustrations with Rama leaving him in the dark regarding motivations for establishing the odd post-life situation he's stuck-in. The issue ends in a dramatic bridge in which Deadman puts the life of his latest possessed "client" in peril in an attempt to gain an upper hand on Rama as a means toward finally getting some situational answers.

I'm happy to report that after reading and reviewing a few below-average-to-average "New 52" titles, in this issue I've finally found a "New 52" title that's blown me away with exceptional high quality. Finally, loyal Deadman fans have a story concept regarding Brand's supernatural situation that the character has always deserved but never been provided with. From the Silver Age onward, Deadman titles have always focused on action/adventure and the mystery of our hero's mysterious killer, giving little focus on the nature of the Rama-Deadman relationship. Issue #1 puts the supernatural side of the tale front and center at last, with Deadman and Rama seemingly established as the co-main characters in the situation, vying with and against each other for their own respective purposes. The scenes in which Deadman as narrator muses on his relationships with various living "clients" add an emotional and very effective element to this unique retelling of the familiar origin story.

This is a gem of a comic book that has the potential, if the quality of issue #1 continues for awhile on a monthly basis, to become the break-out hit of the entire "New 52" series. So hurry on down to That's Entertainment and get-in on the ground floor with issue #1 of this new Deadman comic book series!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

Our latest contest challenged you with a piece of Worcester historical trivia, asking you to tell us which well-known Worcester arterial roadway has been nicknamed by generations of drivers as "The Speedway." We had several correct entries, so via the roll of the dice our winner is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly tells us that Mill Street, with its 4-lane and grassed median design connecting from Tatnuck Square to Webster Square, has been known since the horse and buggy days as "The Speedway." Congratulations to Gregory who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to (you guessed it) That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

We had such a good reaction to our Worcester historical trivia contest above that The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has decreed that we announce yet another Worcester trivia contest. This one might be a bit more of a difficult challenge-your assignment is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following question: Which current park or field in the Worcester Parks system historically was known as "Peat Meadow" by Worcester residents? As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of our first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.

E-Book Announcement!!!

Just a quick shout-out to all e-book readers that the recent e-book conversion of my short story collection "Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country," which I mention on my webpage (www.alaniragordon.com) as available from all e-book sources at $9.99, is currently on sale from the Barnes & Noble webpage (www.barnesandnoble.com) for only $7.99!

That's all for now, so have two great comic book reading and leaf raking weeks and see you again on October 28 Here In Bongo Congo!

 
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