Review Date: Friday, March 30, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we celebrate this month's early and very warm arrival of Spring with reviews of a wide variety of newly-arrived comic books.  So let's get right to it and see how this variety of new issues fare:

Avengers Assemble #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mark Bagley: Pencils
Danny Miki: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors
Marvel has added to its wide range of Avengers titles with the recent issue #1 release of the new Avengers Assemble title.  While the storyline and concept most certainly stand alone from the plot of the Avengers motion picture scheduled for release on May 4, the timing of the new comic book is obviously tied to the marketing of the movie, particularly since a movie advertisement is splashed across the top of the issue #1 cover.  The new series is scripted by A-list writer Brian Michael Bendis with pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Danny Miki and colors by Paul Mounts.

     The issue #1 plotline kicks off with a new beginning for the Avengers, as the current 14-member team both celebrates and settles-into their brand new skyscraper headquarters built for them by Tony Stark/Iron Man and located in the heart of New York City.  On a parallel track, we witness a new group of international supervillains named Zodiac forming to take-on the reconstituted Avengers.  The plot further splits into two parallel storythreads.  The first sub-plot centers on The Hulk, who stumbles across a U.S. Army convoy under attack in the Southwest desert by an unknown assailant.  The attack unleashes a captive with odd water-based superpowers who quickly flees the scene, leaving the Hulk (of course!) to be blamed for the entire mess.  Our second sub-plot features Hawkeye and Natasha Romanov/The Black Widow, who are dispatched as Avengers members to Latvia to stop the anticipated theft of an artifact.  Heavy battle action erupts as Iron Man and Thor join the pitched battle and its revealed that Zodiac is behind the ongoing theft.

     This is a decent quality and entertaining issue #1 kick-off to the new Avengers Assemble title.  There's no grand Marvel Universe event series unfolding here, just a well-presented story produced by a veteran writer and skilled art team.  I liked the balance of sub-plots that Bendis weaves into one overall story arc, starting with a new team assembly effort/beginning for both the Avengers and the group of bad guys, splitting-off into two parallel smaller sub-plots and signaling by issue's end that the battle will widen in next month's issue to pull everyone on both sides into the fray.  It's also nice to see that an entertaining new storyline can be produced within the basic storyverse of The Avengers, without having to manufacture a huge, new publishing mega-event in order to capture the attention of readers.

     As a final review comment, its worth noting that the 22-page main story is followed by an 8-page preview from issue #1 of the well-publicized new Avengers Vs. X-men title, scheduled for sale in April.  The preview is very entertaining and piqued my interest enough to recommend that all good Marvel readers get in line early to grab a copy of this upcoming new "battle of the A-list Marvel superhero teams" comic book event.

Buckaroo Banzai: Tears Of A Clone #1
Publisher: Moonstone Books
Earl Mac Rauch: Writer
David Daza: Art
Patrick J. Williams: Colors
Moonstone has just released issue #1 of a 2-issue mini-series entitled Buckaroo Banzai: Tears Of A Clone.  For those too young to remember, "The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension!" was one of the leading cult hit sci-fi genre B-movies of the 1980's.  The film starred Peter Weller as good scientist/Renaissance Man Buckeroo Banzai, who led his merry band of eclectic sidekicks called "The Hong Kong Cavaliers" in a movie adventure to save the world from the alien reptile race the Red Lectroids.  The movie featured several well-known 1980's-era actors including John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Ellen Barkin.  Apparently, Moonstone has been publishing various Buckeroo Banzai comic titles off-and-on since 2006, with this being the latest two-issue edition.

     The issue #1 storyline kicks-off by introducing various members of The Hong Kong Cavaliers as they attend a rock concert performed by Buckeroo.  The gang quickly learns that a clone of deceased group member Penny Priddy exists and is performing as a stripper at a nearby club.  The mid-section of the story focuses on Buckeroo and the gang pulling her out of the club while confronting the club owner regarding the origins of the clone.  The final third of the tale consists of a battle scene between the heroes and the mysterious cloners, who turn-out to be disguised Red Lectroids.

     I've summarized the plot of this issue as briefly as possible in order to focus my review energies on warning all good readers to stay as far away from this comic book as possible.  The issue's a disappointing failure for two reasons, the first being a very disjointed plot presentation.  The story is just so garbled that I had to backtrack three or four times through various story sections just to summarize the basic story concept in the brief paragraph above.  But the biggest failure here is the writer's decision to present this tale as loaded-down with raunchiness; every scene is brimming with pornograhic references, heavy sexual themes and adult humor that isn't even a bit funny.  I knew we were in for trouble when a lame joke about Buckeroo playing his concert to raise money for a "juvenile herpes" charity is beaten to death repeatedly for the first four pages of the story.

     I can't understand why someone would warp the cult-hit kitchiness of the 1980's movie version of Buckeroo Banzai by wringing-out all of the fun and porning-it-up with this comic.  I've got nothing against adult story elements; the same story strategy in the hands of a quality writer such as Howard Chaykin can result in a comic book masterpiece.  Unfortunately, this failed attempt is so lame that its actually more boring and weird than offensive reading, although it is definitely a double insult: both to the original fanbase of the Buckeroo Banzai cult film hit and to the sensibilities of modern-day comic fans, who certainly could enjoy a well-crafted tale of this B-movie franchise without the need to inject such creepy jadedness into the story.  But we've wasted enough seconds of our lives musing over this comic.  Run fast and far away from this comic and enjoy all of the other good stuff recommended this week by myself and my fellow reviewers.

Angel & Faith #7
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Christos Gage: Writer
Rebekah Isaacs: Art
Dan Jackson: Colors
Among several comics published within the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" franchise by Dark Horse Comics is an Angel & Faith title, currently up to issue #7.  For those few fanboys and fangirls unfamiliar with the various Buffy characters, Angel is the over 200-year-old vampire who still has a soul and as such fights on the side of good against demonic evil, while Faith is a vampire slayer on par with Buffy herself.  Actor David Boreanaz played Angel both in Buffy and in the popular Angel spin-off television series, while actress Eliza Dushku played the emotionally-troubled Faith in both t.v. series.  An inside-the-front-cover narrative explains that both of our heroes have left the California setting of all things Buffy and currently live and work in London.

     Issue #7 is part two of a multi-issue story arc entitled "Daddy Issues"  and alternates between two sub-plots.  In one storyline, Angel confronts his old vampire sidekick Drusilla, who is living in London and has seemingly shed her very evil ways.  Having linked-up with an odd demon, Drusilla channels the demon's powers to ease the troubles of emotionally-damaged London residents. Naturally, Angel mistrusts this seemingly positive enterprise, resulting in much conflict and mayhem playing-out between the pair in issue #7.  The alternating subplot is more germaine to the story title, as Faith's alcoholic father unexpectedly arrives from Boston for a visit.  Given Faith's troubled family past, the expected trust issues play-out panel-by-panel; its inevitable by issue's end that while Faith begins to accept and trust her father, readers are exposed to the beginnings of an obvious betrayal by the visiting Dad which will likely take center stage in next month's issue #8.

     I'm on a personal all-things-Buffy roll at the moment, having watched over the past three months the first 4 seasons of Buffy and the first season of Angel on dvd.  As I'm smack in the middle of the Season 2 Angel dvd, I'm expecting only the highest quality of entertainment from any and all of the Dark Horse Buffy universe comics.  I'm happy to report that this comic book didn't disappoint in meeting my expectations.  Worcester native Christos Gage brings his usual A-game scripting to the title, providing us with a story that entertains both for hardcore Buffy fans and those readers unfamiliar with the structural details of the story franchise.  Most effective is Gage's decision to utilize the t.v. show's structure of effective flashbacks within story segments.  As such, we have an issue #7 storyline that advances the present-day plot by flashing-back to 19th century details of the relationship between Angel and Drusilla, adding both understanding and richness to the consequences of Angel's behavior in the present-day story scenes.

     A final review shout-out is also due to the art team, which does a solid job in conveying the facial resemblances of the story characters to the well-known actors from the television series.  And I just can't resist a quick tip-of-the-review-hat to writer Gage for staying true to his Worcester roots and sneaking-in brief Red Sox and Patriots remarks from Faith's visiting Dad!  So an all-around positive thumbs-up review recommendation to add this entertaining Angel and Faith comic book to your ever-expanding new comic book issues reading pile.

Super Crooks #1
Publisher: Millarworld Limited/Marvel Entertainment
Mark Millar: Writer
Leinil Yu: Art
Gerry Alanguilan: Inks
Sunny Gho: Colors
Millarworld Limited has recently added to the new comic book shelves issue #1 of a new series entitled Super Crooks.  Already well-known for titles such as Kick-Ass and Nemesis, Mark Millar scripts this new title himself, with art by the team of artist Leinil Yu, inker Gerry Alanguilan and colorist Sunny Gho.

     The concept of this new series is that after getting fed-up with constantly losing every encounter with the multitudes of heroes patrolling the New York City region, electrical-powered bad guy Johnny Bolt has an epiphany: why not assemble a team of super crooks, get out of Dodge and set-up business in a place outside of the normal patrolling area of the superhero elite?  Issue #1 details the futility of the New York City situation, portraying the consistently losing efforts of Johnny and his criminal allies including his psychic fiance Kasey.  When their small-time elderly crook buddy Angel gets in trouble with the Vegas mob and comes to the pair for help, Johnny cooks-up the scheme to gather-up the old crew and hightail it to Spain as a potential Superhero free zone.  As Johnny utters in a very memorable line, Spain should work for their plan because "I've never heard of a Captain Spain, have you?"  By issue's end, the trio begins to execute their plan by calling their old villain buddies and heading for Spain in next month's issue.

     I just plain loved the originality of this new comic book.  This is one of those concepts that's both fresh and so obvious as a story idea that you have to ask yourself why someone didn't come-up with the idea before: why keep wacking your head against the crimefighting wall of several hundred New York superheros; in the real world, some supervillains would have the brains to go somewhere else, be it Indiana, the south of France or yes, Spain, and only worry about the local human-powered cops! 

     There are at least three additional strengths to this series beyond the fresh story concept.  First is the very high quality of the artwork, including Leinil Yu's art (on par with the likes of such luminaries as Neal Adams and Adam Kubert) and Sunny Gho's always wonderful color scheme.  Secondly is writer Mark Millar's talent in bringing us a first rate story with credible, real-world dialogue.  And third is the decision by Millar to make these guys sympathetic to the reader.  These aren't supervillains out to harm mankind; instead, we're presented with characters who are small-time crooks looking to burgle and rob for money, who just happen to have a few psychic or superpowered abilities to help them make a buck along the way.  These are just everyday crooks with the word "super" thrown into their name for good measure.  I suspect we'll be rooting for these folk to make some bucks as their adventures unfold in Spain.

     Two quick final review comments.  First, Millar's credible and effective use of adult themes and language in this comic book only further emphasizes the ineptness of the creative team in the Buckeroo Banzai comic reviewed above, who only deepen their title's mess of a story by inappropriately mixing adult topics into a failure of a storyline.  And secondly, after reading Super Crooks, I now have to e-mail my cousin Michael in Spain and ask whether Spain is as superhero-free as Millar proposes.  Perhaps our anti-hero Johnny Bolt is wrong and there really is a Captain Spain fighting crime for Truth, Justice and The Spanish Way!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest challenged you to identify which U.S. President is credited as being the inventor of the coathanger.  And our winner selected via a roll of the contest dice from among a handful of correct entries is (drumroll, please)...Kevin Browne, who correctly identified President Thomas Jefferson as our jack-of-all-trades presidential inventor.  While the mass-produced wire hanger that we're most familiar with today was patented in 1903 by Albert J. Parkhouse, Jefferson invented the original wooden version coathanger.  In my own humble opinion, while Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon sheparded ongoing funding of our successful space program to the moon, Jefferson's effort is the most useful achievement of any President on behalf of everyday American life!  Congrats to Kevin who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     This week's contest is our second consecutive challenge featuring a presidential trivia question.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, April 11 with the correct answer to the following question: Which U.S. President is famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for having gotten himself stuck in the White House bathtub?  Supposedly, it took four White House staffers and a gallon of butter to dislodge this Commander-In-Chief from his captivity.  And no, the answer is not Bill Clinton back in his overweight, junk food-binging days!  As always, in the event of more than one correct entry, 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 two great early Spring yardwork and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 13 Here In Bongo Congo!

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