Review Date: Friday, March 2, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

 Good King Leonardo has decreed that its "Traditional-Superheroes-In-Comic-Books-Week" Here In Bongo Congo, so let's see how these four new comics that star traditional heroes stack-up against each other:

Star Trek/Legion Of Super-Heroes #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Chris Roberson: Writer
Jeffrey Moy: Pencils
Philip Moy: Inks
Romulo Fajardo, Jr.: Colors
IDW Publishing is up to issue #5 of its well-publicized new title that combines the original series Star Trek crew with DC's Legion Of Super-Heroes into one giant cross-over adventure series.  Once again, since there are copies of the first five issues available at That's Entertainment, I decided to backpedal and review issue #1 to get the best feel for what this series is all about. This feature event is scripted by A-list writer Chris Roberson with pencils by Jeffrey Moy, inks by Philip Moy and colors by Romulo Fajardon, Jr.

     The untitled kick-off issue #1 story segment is set in the 23rd century world of both teams of futuristic story characters, and consists of three story segments.  In our first 6-page story sequence, we're clearly learning of an alternate reality version of the Star Trek universe's Intergalactic Federation, one in which the Federation is a bloodthirsty military empire that wipes-out peaceful alien races to further its brutal imperial goals.  The mid-section of the tale shifts to the normal timelines of both featured hero teams; without being a detail spoiler, events happen to both groups that throw them out of their normal realities into the oppressive alternate reality timeline.  The third and final story segment alternates panels between the two teams, as both groups upon arrival begin respective battles against attacking imperial bad guys.  By issue's end, the two teams haven't yet joined-up with each other, but both have realized that clearly they're not in Kansas anymore.

     This is an entertaining and interesting crossover event for the two iconic comic book teams of heroes.  Three particular elements give this new series both quality and storytelling staying power.  The first is the commonality of the two teams; both the Trek and Legion folk have long histories of comic book action-adventure storytelling on a grand scale, and as such are very well-suited to being blended-together into the epic adventure of this science fiction series.  Secondly, unlike many crossover event characters, we have the unusual situation of the super-powered Legion team partnering-up with a team of Star Trek characters who are non-superpowered.  It should make for an interesting mix of story details with this powers-versus-human skills partnership.  I can't help but compare this scenario to a Superman-Batman team-up, representing the same superhuman/regular person team mix.  And our third positive element in this new title is the artwork, which does equal justice to both hero teams, giving us both a high quality visual style and succeeding in capturing the facial resemblance of the real-world, original group of Star Trek actors in excellent comic book form.

     So a definite and well-deserved positive thumbs-up recommendation to check-out this new series which nicely combines the two different fictional worlds of DC's Legion Of Super-Heroes and the well-known original Star Trek universe into one enjoyable cross-over adventure series.

Blackhawks #5
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Mike Costa: Writer
Cafu: Pencils
Bit: Inks
Guy Major: Colors
Yet another of the new comic book titles in DC's The New 52 universe is Blackhawks, which is up to issue #5 this month.  When I selected this comic for review, I assumed that it was the latest version of the traditional Blackhawks action-adventure series, but quickly discovered that its a completely different series based on a new cast of military adventurers led by a female commander named Lady Blackhawk.  But since the group can be seen as inheriting the mantle of the traditional Blackhawk team, let's review it anyhow for our traditional heroes review week series.  The title is scripted by Mike Costa with pencils by Cafu, inks by Bit and colors by Guy Major.

     The issue #5 story segment is entitled Burial but is best described by a blurb on the front cover that announces "Rescue Mission In The Stratosphere!"  This is the latest segment of a multi-issue story arc in which the Blackhawk team are battling a mysterious computer-based nemesis who threaten's all of humankind.  The plot in this month's issue focuses on team members Canada and Wildman, who have crashlanded on an Earth-orbiting space station controlled by the enemy.  Without being a detail spoiler, the duo juggles three plotthreads throughout the issue: sparring via computer simulation with the malignant computer villainess, trying to keep her from destroying mankind and crashing the orbiting station, and ultimately finding a way to somehow get back to Earth since their original vehicle was damaged upon arrival.  Naturally, all goals are somehow achieved, with the last few pages of the issue reserved for a very creative and unique effort for getting back to Earth.

     While I was at first disappointed that I wasn't reading a traditional Blackhawk team comic book, I quickly warmed to the quality and entertainment of this new team.  The action-adventure here is non-stop and fun to read, as our two heroes have a very interesting and at times nail-biting outer space adventure.  Lady Blackhawk is also featured prominently in this tale, as she strategizes long-distance to assist her two stranded team members and ultimately gets heavily involved in the big rescue gamble to save these guys from being stranded in Earth orbit.  There's also lots of high quality artwork in a visual style that's very effective for portraying outer space adventure.

     Word from DC's marketing efforts is that the publisher is pulling the plug on this title with next month's issue #6 to make way for a "second wave" of new 52 titles.  To me, that translates to an admission that sales are low on this title.  That's a shame, because the quality of this new title is top notch.  So I'd recommend living in the moment, enjoying this month's issue #5 of Blackhawks as well as next month's finale issue and if you haven't checked them out yet, I'd recommend backtracking to read the first 4 issues in this limited series.

Action Comics #6
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Grant Morrison: Writer
Andy Kubert: Pencils
John Dell: Inks
Brad Anderson: Colors
After last column's positive review experience with issue #6 of DC's main Superman title, I was eager to see if the good review news continues with this month's "The New 52" make-over issue of the other iconic Superman title, the esteemed Action Comics title.  The current Action Comics storyline is scripted by A-list writer Grant Morrison who teams-up with penciler Andy Kubert, inker John Dell and colorist Brad Anderson.

     The issue #6 story is entitled "When Superman Learned To Fly" and is the latest installment in an on-going multi-issue story arc.  There's a strong science fiction theme to this tale, in which Superman and adult versions of Legion of Superheroes members Saturn Woman, Lightning Man and Cosmic Man team-up to hunt-down super bad guys who've stolen the kryptonite power source from the original rocket in which baby Kal-El/Superman originally arrived on Earth.  There are three interconnected crises linked to the missing K-power source:  the power source is needed to keep the artificial intelligence of the old rocket alive, lack of the source will cause the rocket to infect and destroy Earth's computer network, and last but hardly least, the power source is an especially lethal form of kryptonite that can be used against our hero.  There's a ton of action-adventure here, as Superman and his trio of futuristic friends have an all-out adventure on an Earth orbiting space station culminating in a satisyfying resolution to this multi-issue tale.

     This is the most entertaining mainstream Superman tale that I've read over the past few years, which shouldn't be that surprising given that the creative team is led by A-list writer Grant Morrison and just as A-list artist Adam Kubert.  Three story elements in particular combine to make this issue a special reading treat.  The first is the premier quality artwork by the Kubert-led visual team.  Secondly are various combined small Superman universe touches that add-up to a fresh and entertaining mix of new fictional detail additions to the wide and well-known Superman universe.  My three favorites are the use of adult versions of the well-known teen members of the Legion, the concept of Kal-El's escape rocket having an advanced artificial intelligence persona and the discovery by our heroes of the very unique place where the bad guys are hiding out and directing their brand of evil against the good guys.  Last but hardly least, there's also a nice heartwarming homage in the final panels that very effectively connects the current story to the well-known Silver Age tale of how Superman and the Legion members originally met back in Clark Kent's childhood Smallville years.

     As a quick final review comment, a worthy shout-out is also deserved for a second, eight-page tale in this issue entitled "Last Day," which centers on young adult Clark Kent's final day on the family farm in Smallville before striking-out for the big city of Metropolis.  Its a bit sappy at points, but the exquisite visuals of artist Chris Cross and colorist Jose Villarrubia, combined with the quality of the general plotline give us an emotionally moving and worthy addition to the inumerable story versions published over the years of this emotional stage in our hero's well-known life.  So by all means, add this current issue of Action Comics to the top of the list of successful New 52 titles right now, and get down to That's Entertainment as soon as possible for a copy of your very own!

The Mighty Thor #11
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Matt Fraction: Writer
Pasqual Ferry & Pepe Larraz: Art
Frank D'Armata: Colors
Our final traditional hero comic book review for this week stars the venerable Norse God himself in this month's issue #11 of The Mighty Thor title.  The current Thor storyline is part of the ongoing "Shattered Heroes" Marvel Comics event series, which is a follow-up to last year's "Fear Itself" event line.  The Shattered Heroes concept unfolding in The Mighty Thor has so far seen the death of Thor, his replacement by a new Thunder God named Tanarus and Thor's subsequent (naturally) resurrection.  In addition, no one but Thor's mischievous half-brother Loki has any memory of Thor.  The series is scripted by Matt Fraction with art by Pasqual Ferry and Pepe Larraz, and colors by Frank D'Armata.

     A very useful page one narrative brings new readers like me up-to-date on the Shattered Heroes events so far in The Mighty Thor.  Issue #11 is the fourth issue in the current multi-issue story arc and centers upon the returned Thor gathering a handful of allies and proceeding to move against his enemies in this bad new Asgardian world.  The action is fast and shifts rapidly between multiple scenes and sub-plots.  Among key story elements are a successful effort by Loki to restore The Silver Surfer's memory of Thor and Tony Stark/Iron Man innocently assisting Thor's enemies in restoring a damaged Asgard to technological efficiency.  But the main storythread centers on Thor and two helpful allies entering the giant maw of Demogorge; similar to the Biblical whale that swallowed Jonah, this giant beast swallows Norse god-beings and entraps them supposedly forever.  By issue's end the various sub-plots all build to a mutual dramatic climax, as Thor and allies reach the heart of Demogorge and the main baddies of the Shattered Heroes storyline simultaneously spring their attacks across the Asgardian realm.

     I don't read Thor titles very often and when I do, I hope for the type of grand Norse space opera tales that I enjoyed as a baby boomer Thor reader back in the Silver Age.  I'm pleased to report that this current issue #11 is on par with the quality as well as the style of those classic Thor comic books.  The creative team is superb in balancing the various subplots and their respective story characters into one connected action-adventure tale.  While there's tons of fast action here, there's also a nice balance of story dialogue and narrative development that makes for an absorbing read.  I also particularly enjoyed the art team's unique reinterpretation of Loki; rather than go the heavy evil/horn-helmeted bad guy route, Loki is portrayed here as a young teenager, who in this instance is working really hard with the good guys to restore the traditional Thor world order.  Obviously, its all to his own selfish advantage due to his reduced stature in the Shattered Heroes world order, but like the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

     So a well-deserved positive review recommendation for issue #11 of The Mighty Thor, which is thumbs-up worthy in two ways: as a stand-alone issue within the current Thor multi-issue story arc and as an excellent introduction for readers into the brave new world of Marvel Comics's current Shattered Heroes mega-event.
Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenge was the third and final question in our series based on U.S. States.  We challenged you to tell us the name of the independent state that was formed after the American Revolution, failed to gain Congressional approval by 2 votes to formally enter the Union and was ultimately absorbed by two nearby states.  This question generated a lot of interest as well as correct entries, so via a roll of the dice the selected winner from among the correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Gregory Goding, who correctly identified the state as Franklin, named after Benjamin Franklin, himself.  Ultimately absorbed by Tennessee and North Carolina, after failing to gain acceptance into the Union, the state declared itself a free republic until North Carolina sent-in troops and the state was carved up by the two nearby states sometime after 1790.  Congrats to Gregory, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges offers this week a very interesting pop culture contest challenge.  E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, March 14 with the answer to the following question:  What is the one episode of a television series that has been rebroadcasted more than any other t.v. show episode in U.S. television history?  This one could be tough to find, so here's a hint: it's not an episode of The Monkees, but it was referred to in the ABC National Nightly News broadcast on February 29, 2012 during that evening's news tribute to the passing of The Monkees lead singer Davey Jones.  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, for have two great Red Sox Spring Training and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, March 16 here In Bongo Congo!

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