Review Date: Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review for this holiday week a wide-ranging variety of comic book titles, so let's see how these different genre tales stack-up against each other:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #3
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Andrew Chambliss: Writer
Georges Jeanty: Pencils
Dexter Vines: Inks
Michelle Madsen: Colors
     Dark Horse Comics is up to issue #3 of its comic book title based upon the very popular former Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, which starred Sarah Michelle Geller as "The Slayer," that once-in-a-generation teenaged expert in killing all things vampire.  The comic is listed as "Season 9," which I assume means that there have been eight previous published series of this title.  The current series is scripted by Andrew Chambliss with pencils by George Jeanty, inks by Dexter Vines and colors by Michelle Madsen.
     The current issue features part three of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Freefall."  An inside-the-front-cover narrative summarizes the story to-date: Buffy and friends are living post-high school in San Francisco.  Apparently, while the destruction of something called "the seed" has ceased the introduction of new magic on Earth, there are still plenty of vampires and other weirdies already in existence to battle and slay.  The main plot of issue #3 centers on Buffy trying to help a young man who exhibits mysterious electrical powers that slay vampires.  Via flashback, we learn how his powers came to be as an accidental offshoot of being involved with some local vampires.  Without being a detail spoiler, the plot builds to a very dramatic twist at issue's end, as Buffy's newfound friend turns-out to be a very dangerous enemy rather than a supposed ally.

     Fortunately, this latest Buffy series avoids the double pitfalls of clunky script and wooden, television charicature artwork that I always worry about whenever a t.v. series-based comic book hits the new issues shelves.  The art team makes the wise choice here of developing their own unique visual style that balances some basic facial resemblance from the television characters with a stand-alone, alternate comic book art style.  Writer Andrew Chambliss takes advantage of this clean approach with a fresh story that doesn't just re-hash the t.v. show in comic book format.  The plot is new, interesting and all-around entertaining, with a nice blend of action and talking head strategizing about the supernatural situation that Buffy and friends are dealing with.  The result is a fun new production of this young adult vampire series that is updated enough to successfully entertain fans of the modern-day Twilight series vampire craze, while still hanging on to its own worthwhile identity.
So whether you're a fan of All-That-Is-Buffy or a more Twilight-oriented supernatural fan reader, there's plenty of worthwhile comic book entertainment for you in this fresh and enjoyable iconic supernatural series!

Justice League Dark #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Peter Milligan: Writer
Mikel Janin: Art
Ulises Arreola: Colors
     In addition to a re-booting of the main Justice League title, DC has added a "Justice League Dark" title under the umbrella of its "The New 52" remodeling-of-the-company event.  The concept here is to create an additional Justice League team consisting of some of the more dark magic and occult-oriented DC superheros, including Deadman, Madame Xanadu, Zatanna, John Constantine and Shade, The Changing Man.  The new series is scripted by writer Peter Milligan with art by Mikel Janin and colors by Ulises Arreola.  Although the first three issues are currently on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, I decided to read and review issue #1 to get a good idea of this new series from the start.
      Issue#1 kicks-off a multi-issue story arc entitled "In The Dark" with a Part One installment titled "Imaginary Women."  Two sub-plots interweave within our premier tale.  A very brief storythread introduces June Moone, a dazed and confused wanderer who quickly discovers that dozens of replicas of herself are being killed as they wander around on a nearby city highway.  The story quickly turns to the main plothread of the new Justice League Dark members slowly assembling as each reacts in-kind to a growing threat from the evil Enchantress.  By issue's end, the story has progressed to the point where the mysterious June Moone has connected with Deadman, while the Enchantress's magical powers have overwhelmed the mainstream DC universe superheroes to the point where Madame Xanadu realizes its up to her dark magic/occult DC universe colleagues to save the world in a war against the seemingly invincible Enchantress.
      I enjoyed this new comic book title for a few reasons.  First and foremost, I loved the idea of a new Justice League team that doesn't just rotate-in some new faces, but instead builds the team based upon the fresh idea (for DC, at least) of an occult-oriented team of heroes.  It makes for an interesting premise of only magic being able to save the world from evil, versus the traditional superhero talent of brawn (Superman, etc.) combined with brains (our old friend Batman).  Secondly, this concept allows Madame Xanadu to quickly return to the forefront of a monthly DC title after the wrap-up last year of the very popular and high quality Matt Wagner-created Madame Xanadu stand-alone series.  And finally, the creative team gives us both high quality artwork and a strong story concept; I'm looking forward to learning more about the mysterious young woman whose multiple copies are all getting killed on that nearby highway.  No doubt, that storythread will somehow prove crucial to the upcoming Justice League Dark versus Enchantress battle that's shaping-up with the fate of the human race at stake.
     So a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation to check-out this fresh take on all good things Justice League, featuring a very original and entertaining line-up of alternative dark magic and occult DC superheros!

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jonathan Hickman: Writer
Dustin Weaver: Art
Sonia Oback: Colors
     Marvel Comics is up to issue #3 of a new SHIELD comic book title.  The comic book is written by A-lister Jonathan Hickman, renowned for his stellar run that's been ongoing for a few years now on Marvel's Fantastic Four title, with art by Dustin Weaver and colors by Sonia Oback.

     Issue #3 is the latest installment of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Fall."  A page one narrative sums-up the tale to-date, detaling a power struggle that's ongoing for the leadership of SHIELD, which is described as an ancient secret organization that's been protecting humankind since ancient days.  The power struggle seems to be occuring amongst famous figures from various historical eras who were involved in SHIELD and are somehow co-existing in the present day, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Michelangelo. Somehow these folk are interacting with familiar Marvel characters such as Shield agents Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards.  Beyond that page one story summary, we're exposed to 18 full pages of a wordless, silent battle within a city setting among all types of exotic characters, followed by two pages in which a few of the folk finally (and very briefly) speak, deciding to follow a few of the combatants who have fled into the future.

     I know that it sounds like a dramatic exaggeration, but its the honest review truth: this is the most confusing issue of a comic book that I have ever read in my entire life.  The creative team's well-meaning decision to roll the creative dice and give us a silent movie of a comic book comes-up snake eyes, here, in two respects.  First, there's just no way to incorporate any plot progression into 18 pages of buildings blowing-up around a bunch of unnamed characters.  And secondly, its an insult to all faithful comic book readers to give us absolutely no story plot to read, either with or without dialogue; the full-length "buildings are silently blowing up" panel-after-panel lay-out is purely meaningless and empty filler, for which Marvel should be ashamed of taking hard-earned money from its loyal fanbase. 

     So a disappointing thumbs-down review recommendation for this empty-between-the-covers monthly comic book issue.  But if you're a blindly loyal SHIELD fan or Marvel fan and insist on giving this comic a read, my advice is to read only the last page as a set-up to next month's presumably normal dialogue-driven story segment.  Riffling through the 18 silent pages will only result in you expending 45 seconds of your life which could be put to more worthwhile reading use.

Speed Racer #1
Publisher: Allegory Media
Tommy Yune: Writer
Robby Musso: Art
Lee Kohse: Inks
James Rochelle: Colors
     Allegory Media has recently released issue #1 of a 4-issue limited series title that pays homage to the 1960's television cartoon series Speed Racer.  The Japanese manga-style series starred (naturally) young racecar driver Speed Racer, who had many adventures on and off the racetrack along with his many support characters who included Speed's mechanic father Pops, girlfriend Trixie, younger brother Spritle, Sparky the mechanic and of course, Chim-Chim the monkey!  The new comic book is scripted by Tommy Yune with art by Robby Musso, inks by Lee Kohse and colors by James Rochelle.

     The multi-issue story arc is entitled "Circle Of Vengeance" and throws our hero Speed smack in the midst of the professional racing world's cutthroat competition and intrigue.  Prior to a major upcoming race in St. Moritz, Switerland, Speed is challenged to a personal dual race by Snake Oiler, star of a world-famous acrobatic car team.  After wrecking his famous Mach 5 racer in the challenge and nearly getting himself killed, its up to Speed and his friends and family to race the clock to repair the Mach 5, upgrade it to have a fighting chance of beating his high tech challengers and finally making it on-time to the starting line of the big race.  Issue #1 ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's installment as a supervillain-style bad guy racer prepares to cause havoc at the start of the race.

     The fun of the baby boom-era Speed Racer cartoon television series was its well-balanced mix of high quality adventure tales offset with an entertaining dose of campiness and humor.  I'm pleased to report that the same successful blend of story elements is front and center in this new comic book title, combined with a few new storytelling elements.  The first is a sense of intrigue added to the tale beyond the racetrack action, in the form of a mystery regarding Speed's girlfriend Trixie.  In this new comic, she apparently has access to mysterious wealth, infusing an interesting air of mystery into her storyline.  Secondly, writer Tommy Yune adds some comic book narrative depth to the world of Speed Racer, via an extended flashback in mid-issue that fills-in for Speed Racer fans Pop Racer's personal life a generation earlier, well before his marriage and Speed's birth.  It all adds extra layers of storytelling to the fictional world of Speed Racer, well-beyond the limited structure of the old television series.

     So whether you're a fan of the old cartoon show like me or a newcomer to the world of Speed Racer's action-adventures, I think you'll have a very entertaining time reading this excellent new comic book series.   So a positive thumbs-up recommendation for this comic book and in the words of the television show's well-known theme song, Go Speed Racer, Go!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our current contest has a holiday season theme, challenging you to tell us your favorite way of celebrating that holiday-of-holidays from the Seinfeld show, not Christmas, Hannukah or Kwanzaa, but Frank Costanza's wacky self-invented holiday of Festivus, or as Frank called it "Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us!"  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who informs us that her favorite Festivus tradition is the well-known Festivus "airing of personal grievances."  In Erin's own words, she describes her own Festivus celebration as she throws on some Cee Lo Green background music and everyone has "a jolly time telling the family how they disappointed us over the year.  Just like Frank Costanza, everyone has to start with: I've got a lot of problems with you people, and now you're going to hear about it!" A memorable (yeesh!) Festivus gathering indeed, that would warm Frank Costanza's wacky heart!  Congratulations to Erin who wins the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     Our new contest challenges you to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with the correct answer to the following movie trivia question:  Who is the only top votegetter/winner of the Oscar for Best Actor who was denied the award, which was subsequently awarded to the second place votegetter?  Here's a hint:  there's a best-selling biography out right now about this winner who was unjustly denied his Best Actor Oscar.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our winner of the contest first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.    

That's all for now, so have two great comic book reading weeks along with a Very Happy New Year and see you again on Friday, January 6, 2012 Here In Bongo Congo!

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