Review Date: Friday, October 19, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has declared that its once again Women In Comic Books Week here in Bongo Congo.  So let's get right to it and see how our four selected femme fatale comic book titles fare in this week's review process:

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents Robyn Hood #1
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment, Inc.
Pat Shand: Writer
Dan Glasl: Pencils
Tom Mullin & Jason Embury: Colors

     Zenescope Entertainment has just published issue #1 of a 5-issue Robyn Hood mini-series as part of its multi-titled Grimm Fairy Tales storyverse.  This series began publication in 2005 and is similar to the well-known Fables series published by DC's Vertigo Imprint, in that it presents stories based on well-known fairy tales albeit with a modern twist.  As an inside-the-front-cover narrative explains, the stories and characters from the main title and its spin-off series interconnect our modern-day society with four fictional realms: Oz, Wonderland, Neverland and Myst.  The new mini-series presents the adventures of a modern-day, teenaged female Robyn Hood.  The comic book is scripted by Pat Shand with pencils by Dan Glasl and colors by Tom Mullin and Jason Embury.

     Issue #1 presents an origin tale for our young teenaged Robyn Hood, consisting of two sub-plots that alternate between both location and past versus present.  Without being a detail spoiler, we learn that Robyn was born in the mystical realm of Myst; when threatened by evil forces as a baby, her protectors hid her in our modern-day American society.  Our second plotline initially presents her rough inner-city upbringing, then details her modern-day problems as a high school student. Ultimately, her conflicts with the high school son of a wealthy local businessman erupt into a bloody, lifethreatening assault on Robyn.  Falsely accused as the instigator and facing serious jailtime, Robyn is suddenly whisked back to the realm of Myst.  The issue ends on a dramatic bridge to next month's story segment, as our dazed and confused young heroine immediately faces danger in her new enchanted environment.

     This new series is an interesting addition to the wide-ranging comic book genre of fairy tale fiction recast in a modern-world setting.  I'm giving issue #1 a mixed review, definitely a positive and worthwhile read, but with some constructive criticism mixed-into the works.  On the plus side, the general concept is an entertaining blend of old and new story elements.  I love the idea of taking the traditional Robin Hood fictional character and updating it into a modern American female teenager, one who's had a really rough inner-city American upbringing, then unleashing that hardened character back into the fairy tale world.  Robyn is so hard-core street tough in her American experience that I almost feel sorry for the old school baddies that she'll be confronting in the realm of Myst.

     On the minus side, I feel that the midpoint of the tale drifted too far away from the main plot focus into an over-emphasis on blood and gore.  The story segment of the rich kid assaulting Robyn to within an inch of her life is just too long and too violent.  You don't have to be squeamish to react to it as ridiculously over-the-top and setting a really bad visual example for both youngster and teenaged comic book readers.  And while it may ultimately provide the background motivation for Robyn's attitude and actions in upcoming story segments, its also somewhat illogical and ill-fitting for some of the story details within issue #1's tale.

     At the end of the day, when the various review points detailed above are weighed together, the review scale deservedly tips toward the positive side.  So by all means, take the time to check-out this entertaining remix and reimagining of the traditional tale of Robin/Robyn Hood in a new storyverse setting.  You won't be disappointed with the action and events of issue #1 and I think you'll want to stick-around for mini-series issues 2 through 5 to see the story direction taken by this interesting fantasy genre comic book title.

Womanthology: Space #1
 Publisher: IDW Publishing
Various Writers & Artists

     IDW Publishing has just released issue #1 in a new science fiction series entitled Womanthology: Space.  Each monthly issue will feature four or five science fiction genre tales scripted and drawn by women, ranging from well-known creators to newcomers.  The series is a follow-up to a successful 300-page hardcover anthology from IDW Publishing entitled Heroic: A Womanthology.

     Issue #1 presents five tales.  "Waiting For Mr. Roboto" is a humorous story set in a "space diner" in which both alien and robotic waitresses interact with the spaceship-faring clientele.  "Dead Again" is written by science fiction movie director John Carpenter's wife Sandy King Carpenter and centers on an abandoned space station demolition effort that's haunted by a female ghost.  "Scaling Heaven" is set in the year 2040 and features a space race between America and China in which female astronauts prepare for a return to the moon.  "The Adventures Of Princess Plutonia" is a female-based spoof on the old Buck Rodgers galactic adventure series newspaper comic strip and "Space Girls" is a primitive art/comic strip format riff on Star Trek-style outer space adventuring.

     Wether its intentional or not, it seems to me that the stories are presented in descending order from strong to weak quality.  "Waiting For Mr. Roboto" is a funny and high quality blend of 1950's Happy Days-diner and outer space jokes and humor.  In "Dead Again," writer Sandy King Carpenter presents a tale straight-out of husband John Carpenter's storybook, presenting a story that's cinematic in visual style and full of Carpenter-style "in space no one can hear you scream" creepiness.  While I enjoyed the space race concept of "Scaling Heaven," the story is inexplicably half a tale, abruptly ending in mid-telling with no plot conclusion.  "The Adventures Of Princess Plutonia" is a cute female-centric homage to all things Buck Rodgers that's strong on brief action but weak on plot.  Finally, while "Space Girls" is a cute femalecentric Star Trek concept, its primitive scibbling artwork and comic strip style limit both its storytelling ability and entertainment value.

     I really like the idea of this type of woman-power comic book anthology storytelling.  The mix of seasoned veterans and newcomers offers a nice variety of creative team storytelling approaches and the variety of outer space fiction themes also provides a nice contrast of reading selections.  Most importantly, the very strong quality of the first two stories outweighs the limitations and lack of plot detail mixed-into tales three through five.  On a final review note, a back-of-the-book ad promotes next month's issue #2 as featuring an entirely fresh group of story creators, thus setting-up this series as an opportunity for regular readers to check-out a wide variety of the genre's female creative talent.  So a definite thumbs-up recommendation for readers to check-out this entertaining new anthology comic book from IDW Publishing.

Fairest #8
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Lauren Beukes: Writer
Inaki Miranda: Art
Eva De La Cruz: Colors

      I referenced in the Grimm Fairy Tales review above that the other popular flagship in the Fairy Tale fantasy comic book genre is the Fables storyverse, published by DC's Vertigo imprint.  As most readers know by now, the Fables series follows the adventures of the traditional European fables characters (Snow White, etc.) as refugees who've fled to our world from an evil takeover of their traditional kingdom.  Some characters live incognito in New York City while those who can't visually pass in society (the three little pigs, etc.) live on a Fables Farm in upstate New York.  One of the newer Fables spin-off titles is Fairest, which introduces the long-haired character Rapunzel into our modern society.  The series is currently written by well-known science fiction author Lauren Buekes with art by Inaki Miranda and colors by Eva De La Cruz.

     Issue #8 kicks-off a new multi-issue story arc entitled "The Hidden Kingdom."  Set in 2002 prior to events since unfolded in the main Fables storyline, the story segment interweaves two sub-plots.  In the first we're introduced to Rapunzel's modern New York lifestyle and basic living situation.  Residing in the Fables's New York luxury apartment complex, she lives a secluded life with her hairstylist friend Joel Crow, who needs to continuously style her famous blond hair which grows at a rate of four inches an hour (even faster when she's upset!).  Our second sub-plot introduces mystery and adventure; without being a detail spoiler, Rapunzel receives a magical clue indicating that her supposedly deceased children are alive and well among those Fables who live in Japan.  So its off to Japan for our duo, accompanied by well-known Fables character Jack Horner.  The issue climaxes with a very unusual mystical attack on the traveling trio that occurs in the heart of Tokyo, setting-up next month's story segment for further Fables action-adventure in Japan.

     I've been a big fan of the Fables comic book franchise from its very beginning, one reason being that I'm continually amazed how DC Vertigo manages to keep this long-running series so fresh and entertaining.  Fairest adds another impressive accomplishment to that lineage, for several reasons.  I love the idea of Rapunzel making her way in our modern world yet still trapped in her fairytale world dilemma;  due to her rapid hair growth problem, she's literally still stuck in her famous fantasy world tower, unable to move freely in our world.  The temporary solution that allows her to hit the road for a Japanese adventure is ingenious and fun.  Secondly, I enjoyed the mix of story elements in this tale.  Accomplished science fiction writer Lauren Beukes creates a wonderful mash-up of European and Japanese fantasy elements, all of which further mix with both modern-day and old fable story details, resulting in an absorbing and entertaining fresh Fables storyline.  Last but hardly least, a positive review shout-out is well-deserved to the art team for presenting this tale in a strong visual style.  I particularly liked a two-page, single scene mid-issue spread in which Rapunzel and Jack move through the well-known neon-lit evening crowds of Tokyo.

     If you're a devoted Fables fan, you're going to be happy with this latest addition to the wide inventory of Fables comic book titles and if you're a Fables newbie, issue #8 of Fairest is a great launching pad for entering the Fables storyverse waters and beginning to enjoy this renowned fantasy comic book franchise.  So get on down to That's Entertainment and start enjoying Fairest right now!

Catwoman #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Ann Nocenti: Writer
Adriana Melo: Penciler
Julio Ferreria: Inks

     Yet another entry into DC's "Before The New 52" inventory is Catwoman#0.  The comic book is scripted by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Adriana Melo and inks by Julio Ferreria.

     The storyline is entitled "Zip Me Up" and alternates various past and present-day scenes in presenting a reinterpretation of the traditional Selina Kyle/Catwoman persona.  In the flashback scenes, we learn of Selina's tough, inner-city homeless childhood.  In the present-day segements, Selina is a young rising administrative assistant working the city hall bureaucracy of Gotham's mayor.  Mixed-into this scenario are scenes from one year earlier, in which a mysterious benefactor rescues Selina from her street life and installs her into the City Hall staff structure.  Its pretty clear that this benefactor will make Selina pay a price for his supposed helpfulness and sure enough, in the latter half of the tale the benefactor turns baddie, tossing Selina off a rooftop and triggering her metamorphosis into badgirl Catwoman.  The issue ends on a dramatic note as a rampaging Catwoman discovers that her civilian identity has been mysteriously erased from all computer databases, setting-up a mystery to pursue in upcoming Catwoman installments.

     I had a mixed reaction to this comic book that ultimately weighed my review recommendation into the negative review column.  On the plus side, its always fun to find a reboot of Catwoman; DC's come-up with some high quality and entertaining reinterpretations of Selina Kyle/Catwoman over the years.  Maybe existing in the shadow of those efforts, this current rewrite fell flat.  The art is kinda creepy, with a steady succession of panels that present a manic/nutso look on Selina's face that weirded me out after awhile.  But the major flaw here is the panel progression.  The present-day and various flashback periods are mashed together in a jarring way that makes it very difficult to follow the story progression.  Given that the tale alternates between at least three previous timeperiods plus the present-day, the herky-jerky story lay-out just makes for a jumbled mess of a tale.  The result is a heavy dose of confusion topped by a very thin layer of enjoyment.

     So unfortunately, a negative review recommendation is deserved to skip this particular Catwoman comic book effort.  If you're a casual fan willing to take a purchase risk then give this comic a risk and test-read it, but for true blue Catwoman/Batman storyverse fans will be very disappointed.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to complete the following sentence: "I like to visit That's Entertainment because..."  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Keith Martin who submits the following answer:  "I like to visit That's Entertainment because the awesome goodness awaiting never ceases to amaze me."  An excellent submittal that emphasizes both the fun and the continual new surprises and enjoyment found at our favorite home-away-from-home pop culture emporium.  Congratulations to Keith who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to (where else) That's Entertainment!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     Prior to last Sunday's frustrating New England Patriots loss to the Seattle Seahawks (arghh!), the sportscasters mentioned quite a bit that Seattle's hometown Stadium was one of only three away game stadiums that our quarterback Tom Brady has not played in during his illustrious career.  Your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later Wednesday, October 31 and correctly tell us what are now the last two NFL teams that Tom Brady has not played against in their home stadiums.  Please note that our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment is redeemable for regular retail merchandise or in-store ongoing specials, only.

That's all for now, so have another two great Major League Baseball play-off/World Series-watching and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, November 2 Here In Bongo Congo!

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