Review Date: Friday, February 3, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its time once again for a Women In Comic Books week here in Bongo Congo, so let's get right to it and see how the four following comics featuring lead female characters stack-up against each other:

Danger Girl #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Andy Harnell: Writer
Chris Madden: Art
Jeromy Cox: Colors
IDW Publishing has added to its lengthy Danger Girl title inventory by just releasing issue #1 of a new 5-issue Danger Girl mini-series entitled "Danger Girl: Revolver."  For the uninitiated, this series is a combination of James Bond/Charlie's Angels-type spy thriller storytelling, as the drop-dead gorgeous Danger Girl team of Abbey Chase, Sydney Savage and Silicon Valerie, led by elder male mentor Deuce, have mostly comical Bond-style spy thriller adventures.  The team is often assisted by Johnny Barracuda, a well-meaning but hugely egotistical CIA agent.  The new mini-series is scripted by Andy Harnell with art by Chris Madden and colors by Jeromy Cox.

     Just like the opening scene of your typical Bond movie, Revolver throws the reader right into extremely fast action from the start, as Abbey Chase and Johnny Barracuda infiltrate a criminal's wedding in Venice, Italy to retrieve a stolen antigue ring.  The operation leads to a lengthy chase through the canals of Venice, a complicated and intense escape adventure that takes-up the first half of the issue.  When the entire team meets after the mission, Deuce reveals the next team assignment, which is to travel to Peru and investigate a mystery surrounding some tribal skeletal remains.  The issue ends in a dramatic soap opera-like bridge to issue #2, as a shady con man recruited to assist the team is revealed to be Abbey's ex-fiance, shocking the rest of the team with this surprise information.

     Similar to the Danger Girl comic book that I reviewed awhile ago in this column, this latest Danger Girl comic is harmless and decently-entertaining fun, short on story depth and detail but long on lots of gorgeous spygirl artwork, strong story characters and most importantly, well-written and well-drawn comical action-adventure.  In the hands of a less-capable creative team, the half-an-issue-long action chase scene through the Venice canals would have been overdone and tiresome.  But the creative folks here are on their A-game in giving us a fun and funny extended scene that works well for that length, throwing-in all sorts of fun and sharp details, including a horse that plays a major part throughout the adventure.  Issue #1 also nicely balances the task of introducing and explaining for new readers the story universe of Danger Girl and the role of each regular character, while progressing the plot nicely for veteran Danger Girl readers who don't need to get bogged-down in reintroductions to the team.

     So overall, a positive and well-deserved thumbs-up review recommendation to kick-back and have some light, semi-mindless hot chick spy adventure fun within the covers of this latest title edition of the comic book world that is Danger Girl.

Lady Mechanika #3
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Joe Benitez: Creator, Writer & Artist
Peter Steigerwald: Colors
A new Steampunk genre comic from Aspen Comics entitled Lady Mechanika is up to issue #3 this month.  Lady Mechanika is a mostly human, partly machine woman in steampunk fantasy 19th century Victorian-style Mechanika City, who has many detective adventures.  Our heroine also has amnesia and is challenged by the mystery of discovering her hybrid origins.  Think Sherlock Holmes meets steampunk science fiction/fantasy and you get an accurate picture of this comic's premise.  This new title has gotten off on a very popular footing, receiving the prestigious Airship Award for visual presentation at the 2011 Steamcon III this past October.  The series is produced by creator/writer/artist Joe Benitez with colors by Peter Steigerwald.

     Issue #3 is the latest chapter in an ongoing mystery, presented in this issue in two story segments.  In part one, Lady M investigates the murder of an unknown teenage girl who is partly mechanical like herself.  A trail of clues leads her to the Cirque du Romani, a traveling circus of Romanian gypsies.  While at first Lady Mechanika believes that the circus performers may have committed the murder, she quickly discovers that the girl in fact was a cherished member of the circus.  The mystery deepens as its proven that before the girl recently disappeared, she was wholly human.  Part two of this issue follows Lady M as she brainstorms Sherlock Holmes-style potential murder suspects.  By issue's end, there's strong evidence to believe that Mechanika City's leading inventor/industrialist Lord Blackpool and his female enforcer Commander Winter are behind the mystery.

     This is one gem of a comic book series that stands well-above several other noteworthy comics published these days in the steampunk comics genre.  The art is exceptionally exquisite in the style of the late Michael Turner and well-deserving of its recent Airship Award.  Creator Joe Benitez doesn't rest for one moment on his artistic laurels, weaving a sci-fi/fantasy tale rich in murder-mystery story elements and inumerable colorful touches that just mesmerize the reader on every page.  I most loved the various small mysteries that weave into one big Holmes-style Victorian whodunit.  My favorite mystery thread was the interaction between Lady M and Alexandra Marie Littleton, a wise-and-cocky-beyond-her-years young girl who furthers the mystery of our heroine's origins by claiming that she knows who the real Lady Mechanika is while claiming that our Lady M is an imposter.

     I could go on-and-on for a very long time about the many wonders of this new comic book title.  But enough already; the resulting blend of artwork, script and comic book universe concept is simply a beautiful thing to behold in this fantastic new entertainment.  So hats-off to creator Joe Benitez, his creative team and Aspen Comics, and get yourself down to That's Entertainment to experience for yourself the enjoyment of all things Lady Mechanika!

Wonder Woman #5
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Brian Azzarello: Writer
Tony Akins: Art
Matthew Wilson: Colors
The re-booting of Wonder Woman within DC's "New 52" concept" is up to issue #5 this month.  I did a review of the kick-off issue #1 and gave it positive marks for revitalizing the esteemed Wonder Woman franchise with a strong storyline, fresh art and an entertaining new story universe for our favorite DC heroine.  So let's see how the title is holding up as the kick-off story arc progresses.  The title is scripted by veteran comic book writer Brian Azzarello with art by Tony Akins and colors by Matthew Wilson.

     The issue #5 story segment is entitled "Lourdes" and is set in London.  As established in issue #1, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and the Greek God Hermes are still in the process of protecting Zola, a young mortal woman who was impregnated by a human manifestation of Zeus, as such incurring the wrath of Zeus's jealous wife Hera.  Things are getting very complicated here in issue #5, with three interweaving storythreads.  The first continues the efforts of our threesome to protect young Zola from an enraged Hera.  Our second plotthread introduces the Englishman Lennox, who mysteriously knows everything about our heroes and also claims to be a half-human son of Zeus.  And a third storyline introduces conflict among the gods as they vie for power and control of Earth in the wake of the referred to supposed death of Zeus.  This storythread is presented in an 8-page conclusion to the issue, as Diana has a dramatic confrontation in London's River Thames with a very dangerous version of the sea god Poseidon.

     This is one very entertaining and solid comic book that continues to be one of the flagship sucessful efforts coming out of DC's New 52 restructuring of the company's comic book inventory.  You can't ask for a more skilled writer than A-lister Brian Azzarello, who does a wonderful job here of balancing the Greek mythology elements of Wonder Woman with the human and everyday world that she functions in.  There's a nice, gentle style here of the creative team inserting Greek mythology elements into everyday moments of life in London that I found very entertaining, such as normal horse-sized seahorses galloping through the River Thames like everyday dolphins, or Hera's Centaur guards nonchallantly strolling across a river bridge in the heart of London.  I also can't say enough good things about the epic Wonder Woman/Poseidon confrontation, in which the sea god is presented as a blue whale-sized sea monster with an ego that matches his gargantuan size.

    While I was a fan of the previous several years worth of Wonder Woman comics before the New 52, I'm really happy to see this fresh take on her adventures in the modern world, which gives us a nice blend of pleasing, cartoony-style art, excellent choice of color tones and a Brian Azzarello multi-issue script that's second-to-none in delivering worthwhile reading entertainment.  So if you're not already on-board with the new Wonder Woman, by all means get on down to That's Entertainment and check-out issue #5, as well as the previous four issues, copies of which are still available on the new issues shelves.

Catwoman #5
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Judd Winick: Writer
Guillem March: Art
Tomeu Morey: Colors
 Rounding-out our selected Women In Comics Week comics for review is issue #5 of DC's re-booted Catwoman comic book title.  The series is scripted by veteran writer Judd Winick with art by Guillem March and colors by Tomeu Morey.

     The issue #5 story is entitled "This Has Got To Be Dirty" and is the latest segment of an ongoing multi-issue story arc.  The story kicks-off by literally throwing the reader into the action, as Catwoman struggles to find a way to safely survive having been tossed half a mile into the air over Gotham by a meta-human who calls herself The Reach.  Without spoiling any details, our favorite kitty-hero survives and overcomes her attacker.  The story then shifts to Gotham noir drama.  After pulling off a major cash heist, Catwoman determines that the money is criminally dirty and someone will be coming after it soon.  After making a few uncharacteristic poor decisions, Selina/Catwoman stumbles into a trap, discovering at issue's end that the money belonged to some very dangerous corrupt Gotham cops, setting the scene for some major threats to Catwoman's personal safety in next month's issue #6.

While Judd Winick's script is both solid and entertaining, the gem in this issue is the unusual artwork.  There's a lot of mobility in this storyline of the type expected of a hero who is as acrobatic as Catwoman.  Taking advantage of that abiltiy, artist Guillem March presents panel-after-page of breathtaking action, sending Catwoman soaring through scenes in a cinematic style.  The opening pages in which Selina drops from high over Gotham are second-to-none, actually giving me a sinking feeling in my stomach as the panels played-out her freefall and amazing survival.  Artist March and colorist Tomeu Morey keep this level of quality consistent throughout the issue, painting Selina with the perfect range of facial expressions and culminating in a final motorcycle chase scene that's visually as cringe-worthy as the opening parachuteless drop over Gotham.

     So bundle it all together and what we have here is one high-action comic book adventure that provides an entertaining adreneline rush on par with the best of television and movie screen action/adventure.  This level of action impact doesn't come along too often in comic book tales, so by all means don't miss-out on the fun experience of what's happening in this current multi-issue story arc of Catwoman.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest was the first of three contests in which we challenge you to correctly answer a trivia question regarding one of the 50 states in the USA.  Our first contest question asked is which is the only state in America in which coffee is grown as a commercial crop.  And our winner selected via a roll of the dice form among several correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Ray Loughlin III, who correctly identified the fine state of Hawaii as the only location of the U.S. for the commercial coffee-growing industry.  Congratulations to Ray on winning the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     And now for our second of three state-related trivia contests.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, February 15 with the correct answer to the following question: what is the only state in the U.S. that does not have either a National Park or a National Monument within its boundaries?  Yes, 49 states have National Parks and/or National Monuments but one does not!  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries our winner of the first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.   Please note that the gift certificate is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

That's all for now, so have a great Super Bowl watching (Go Pats!) and comic book reading week and see you again on Friday, February 17 Here In Bongo Congo!

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