Review Date: Friday, August 10, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo was on vacation last week so he only has two new comics to review this week, so let's see what's up with this pair of new offerings:

Publisher: Big Dog Ink
Tom Hutchison: Writer/Creator
Fico Ossio: Art & Colors

     Big Dog Ink has just published issue #1 of a new comic book entitled Critter.  This is the start of a follow-up series to a previous Critter title.  Teenager Cassie Crawford is "Critter," a legacy superhero whose mother was a telekinetic-powered hero.  Now Cassie dons her Mom's ears, tail and homemade costume to help people in need.  The series is created and scripted by Tom Hutchison with art and colors by Fico Ossio.

     This new series progresses Cassie's adventures by moving her to Los Angeles for two purposes: to begin her college freshman year and to join a new team of superpowered women called Purrrfection.  Issue #1 focuses on introducing the series characters as well as establishing some initial plot tension.  Among the main characters we meet are Cassie/Critter herself and the four other feline-costumed members of Purrrfection, along with newspaper photographer Jason and a pair of superpowered bad guys.  The plot conflict focuses on tension between Cassie wanting to balance the college experience and superhero sides of her life while the Purrrfection team tries to woo her into abandoning college and immersing herself into the L.A. pseudo-celebrity superhero scene.  By issue's end, the superpowered baddies arrive on the scene, adding further complications to Cassie's efforts to figure-out the path of her new life in the big city.

     This is a fun and refreshing new series that provides the reader with an entertaining mix of both old and new comic book storytelling elements.  Regarding old, the whole superchicks-in-kittycat-costumes schtick is a neat update of the old Josie & The Pussycats comic/animated t.v. series.  This new team is much more evolved for 2012 reader sensibilities, with modern character personalities and story structure.  Two new story elements particularly worked for me.  First, I liked the dynamic of the superhero team living the reality t.v.-style L.A. media life, balancing their traditional superhero role with the lure of the Hollywood celebrity glamorous lifestyle.  So far, it looks like Purrrfection is too unbalanced toward the media glitz side of their world; by the end of issue #1, the girls haven't done any superheroing as they focus on the media marketing of their new member Cassie/Critter.

     Secondly, writer Hutchison's portrayal of the tensions in Cassie's life is well-presented.  I was reminded of the similar college/superheroing tension presented by DC in the recent Stephanie Brown/Batgirl series; it will be interesting to see how the same tension plays-out over time in Critter and whether Cassie's experiences are similar and/or different from Stephanie's in the previous Batgirl series. And a final review shout-out is deserved for Fico Ossio's artwork, which provides a high quality graphic and coloring style for this type of comic book tale.  So a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation to add this entertaining new comic book title to your ever-growing summertime new comic book reading pile!

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Writer
Dexter Soy: Art

     Marvel Comics has unveiled a significant make-over of the well-known Carol Danvers/Ms. Marvel superhero character.  As indicated in the title of this new series, with the previous death of the well-known male Captain Marvel, in addition to costume and hairstyle changes, our heroine is taking-on the name Captain Marvel.  The new comic book title is scripted by Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by Dexter Soy.

     The premier issue can be divided into two story sections.  The first subsection presents a lengthy fast action battle sequence, as Carol a.k.a Marvel pairs-up with Captain America to battle a superstrong villain.  The plot segues into a second sub-plot focusing on narrative angst, as post-battle Carol ruminates on whether or not she's worthy of taking-up the mantle of her deceased co-Marvel by accepting his name.  By issue's end, after progressing through a mix of flashback scenes and further interaction with Captain America and an aged female fighter pilot mentor, Carol comes to terms with accepting her identity changes and progressing into the next phase of her superhero life.

     I'm giving this re-boot of Ms. Marvel/Carol Danvers a thumbs-down negative recommendation for a few reasons.  The specifics of the character redeisgn don't work for me; while it is routine for most superheros to get a design makeover at some point, three details tank this particular effort.  One is the radical shift away from the fanboy's fantasy of the previous design of Ms. Marvel's look and costume.  I'll take the risk of political incorrectness and admit that the fanbase for most female superheros are males who are seeking a certain degree and style of character sexiness.  The full body length conservative new costume and "practical" new hairstyle of this character just screams unsexy drab and is sure to send the average male fanboy crowd away in search of more entertaining female comic book characters. It's worth noting that the Comic Buyer's Guide has ranked the traditional Ms. Marvel design as 29th among the top 100 sexiest women in comics.

     A second flaw is the dark and dreary art style of Dexter Soy.  A back-of-the-issue narrative reveals the artist as a wannabe plucked-out of the freelance fan crowd at a recent comic con for his first professional assignment; this just might also be his last gig if his dark and depressing visual style doesn't evolve into something more palatable for a fun comic book read. The third defect here centers on the renaming of Carol's superhero character.  Plain and simple, Ms. Marvel has been an A-list fixture for too long in the Marvel Universe to undergo any sort of name change without it feeling just uncomfortably wrong.  This is the equivalant of renaming Captain America as "Colonel America."  The change may get some initial upfront marketing notice, but in the long run its an adjustment that just feels like a grammatical error.

     Had Marvel created a brand-new female Captain Marvel character as a new complement to the Marvel Family universe, I think the fan base would be more comfortable and I personally would view this new effort more positively, albeit still in need of a different artist's interpretation.  And that might be a secret twist in this effort for Marvel to implement when the inevitable sales plummet kicks-in for this title.  But in its current format, the whole effort feels like the start of an experiment doomed to sooner-or-later failure and deserved of a recommendation to avoid the title for the sake of the so many much better female hero comic books on the new issues shelves right now. So to get your fix of decent Ms. Marvel comics, just check-out the extensive back issue bins or graphic compilation re-prints available at That's Entertainment.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to list as many current and former Red Sox players as you can whose last name is the same as a Massachusetts city or town.  And our winner is (drumroll, please)...David McBarron, who compiled an impressive list of 37 players in that category.  Four players on David's list have last names of Central Massachusetts communities including Mike Paxton, Lenny Webster, Ray Webster and my personal favorite name, Tubby Spencer!  Congratulations to David who wins our first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges have decreed that this week we have a contest challenge about our contest challenge!  As you know, our contest winners receive a $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment.  Your assignment for this contest is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, August 22 and tell us what specifically you would purchase at That's Entertainment if you were the selected prize winner.  The entrant with the most worthy purchase proposal will receive first prize and be able to fulfill his or her purchase dreams!  Please note that our first prize $10.00 girft certificate to That's Entertainment is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

That's all for now, so have two great August dogs days of summer comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, August 24 Here In Bongo Congo!

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