Review Date: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we check-out a wide variety of new issue comic books this week, so let's get right to it and see what these new stories are all about:

Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray: Writers
Amanda Conner & Tony Akins: Pencils
Amanda Conner & Walden Wong: Inks
Paul Mounts: Colors

     DC Comics has just published a new comic book entitled Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1.  For the uninitiated, the new series reinterprets traditional female DC heroes in the anime/manga style of a popular series of collectible statuettes called Ame-Comi Girls.  The kick-off issue stars a younger-than-usual teenaged version of Wonder Woman in an anime-style reinterpretation of her traditional origin story.  The new title is scripted by the well-known writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with pencils by Amanda Conner and Tony Akins, inks by Amanda Conner and Walden Wong, and colors by Paul Mounts.

     This re-telling of Wonder Woman's origin story mixes both traditional and new story plot elements. In the traditional camp, we have the world's discovery of the hidden Amazon island of Themysceria, followed by Queen Hippolyta dispatching her daughter Wonder Woman/Princess Diana as her ambassador to ally the Amazon nation with the U.S.  Diana also meets-up in her visit with Colonel Steve Trevor who plays the role of her boyfriend in most Wonder Woman storylines.  The main new plot element added to this Ame-Comi retelling of the very familiar tale is recasting Diana as a headstrong young teenager.  In addition, the issue adds two new Ame-Comi bad guy elements to this series.  In the first, while giving a speech at the U.N., Diana is attacked and ultimately captures an Ame-Comi Girls version of DC villainess The Cheetah.  In the second new development, the incident attracts the attention of the three Gotham City Sirens female baddies, who begin to plan their own scheme against Diana that will continue in the serie's next issue, Ame-Comi Batgirl #1.

     This is a fun and light comic book series that deserves a positive thumbs-up review recommendation, albeit with some qualifications.  Its definitely a high quality and entertaining read as a comic book title geared toward younger fans of the Ame-Comi Girls comic storyverse concept.  What this issue is missing is a front-of-the-book explanation of the Ame-Comi concept, so aging fanboys (and fangirls, too!) like me who aren't familiar with this wing of the DC collectibles line have at least an inkling of this nitch in the DC line-up.  My initial read of this book took place prior to learning of the existence of the Ani-Comi Girls and as such I couldn't figure-out where the heck this storyverse fit in the brave new world of DC publishing.  However, now that I know what the goal is here, I can get onboard and recommend the comic for what it truly is: an excellent example of an interpretation of DC's female heroes geared toward the younger side of the readership pool.

     There are two additional strongpoints of this effort also worth mentioning.  The first is the high quality writing and artwork by one of the better A-list creative teams in the current DC line-up.  And the second is the success in meeting the main goal of this Ame-Comi concept, that of recasting DC characters in roles that teen readers can personally identify with.  The creative team hits the bulleye of that goal not just once but twice, successfully portraying Wonder Woman as a young, headstrong teen who is as impulsive and brash as any other kid would be who wields superpowers, then portraying the four teen villainesses notsomuch as evil but moreso as bratty juvenile delinquents.  It should be fun to see how this headstrong-good-versus-bratty-bad dynamic plays-out in upcoming issues.  But don't just take my word for it: if you're a younger reader, get on down to That's Entertainment and see for yourself how this fresh and new take on the DC universe is playing-out in the all-new Ame-Comi Girls series!

He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Keith Giffen: Writer
Philip Tan: Pencils
Ruy Jose, Norman Lee, Ray Snyder & Walden Wong: Inks
Lee Loughridge: Colors

     DC Comics is up to issue #3 of a new comic book series starring He-Man.  For the uninitiated, He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe was a very popular 1980's television cartoon series based upon the He-Man line of figurines.  The show maintains a popular cult following to this day.  The He-Man storyverse is set on the mythical fantasy planet of Eternia, where young Prince Adam wields a power sword that transforms him Shazam-like into the powerful Conan-style warrior He-Man.  Our hero's main nemesis is Skeletor, whose goal is to conquer Castle Greyskull, the source of He-Man's power.  The new comic book series is scripted by veteran A-list writer Keith Giffen with pencils by Philip Tan, inks by four contributing inkers (see credits above) and colors by Lee Loughridge.

     Issue #3 presents a segment of a multi-issue storyarc entitled Blood Tide.  The plotline begins with He-Man deciding to ally himself with a female warrior named Teela as they begin a quest to discover why they suffer from an enchantment that causes them both amnesia.  The bulk of the issue subsequently alternates between two sub-plots.  In a brief storythread, we learn that baddie Skeletor has breached Castle Grayskull, imprisoning the resident sorceress and torturing her in his quest to discover what aspect of the Castle embodies He-Man's power source.  The lengthier additional sub-plot features action on the high seas; as He-Man and Teela take passage on a ship, the vessel is attacked by a Merman and his band of sea monsters on behalf of Skeletor.  The issue #3 story segment ends on a cliffhanger as the Merman and gang destroy the ship, leaving He-Man, Teela and the crew literally in a sink-or-swim situation.

     Given that this comic book is based on a line of kid's toys and figurines, I expected a storyline written to either a kid's level of reading perception or at least a degree of campiness that would bring the story down to that level.  As such, I was pleasantly surprised to find a tale that transforms the kiddie world of He-Man to an adult-level of story quality.  I actually found it absorbing to be pulled-into a high fantasy adventure series on a par with the best of the other well-known similar fantasy titles.  While the storytelling here is mature enough for readers of all ages, there's a wonderful blending-in of the light humor that Keith Giffen excels at producing in his varied scripts.  Giffen actually tones it down somewhat from his well-known wacky level of humor that's evident in such previous Giffen-scripted titles as Ambush Bug and Not The Justice League.  To his credit, the result is the perfect blend of humor, serious adventure and colorful artwork resulting in a worthy homage to the fantasy world of all things He-Man.

     So an enthusiastic positive review recommendation is earned by this fantasy adventure series.  If you're newcomer like me to He-Man you'll enjoy this take on the storyverse and if you're a old-school He-Man fan, you'll also be highly entertained by the new "adult swim" spin that the creative team puts on their reinterpretation of this popular animated series/comic book hero.

A Fine & Private Place #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Peter S. Beagle: Writer
Peter Gillis: Story Adaptor
Eduardo Francisco: Art
Priscilla Tramontano: Colors

     IDW Publishing has just published issue #1 of an adaptation of writer Peter S. Beagle's acclaimed fantasy novel "A Fine & Private Place."  The story is a fantasy love story involving both ghosts and living people set in fictional Yorkchester Cemetary.  Published in 1960, the novel is considered by many readers and reviewers as a fantasy masterpiece.  The book/comic book title is an excerpt from a well-known Andrew Marvell poem: "The grave's a fine and private place/But none, I think, do there embrace."  The premise of the plot is that contrary to that poetic verse, love can blossom among both the living and deceased in a cemetery setting.  The comic book is adapted by writer Peter Gillis (chosen for the assignment by Peter Beagle himself) with art by Eduardo Francisco and colors by Priscilla Tramontano.

     Issue #1 introduces the reader to several main characters and begins the multi-issue plotline.  We meet four key players; Jonathan Rebeck is a homeless former pharmacist who is a squatter in the cemetery and can both see and speak to the ghosts of the deceased.  He's befriended by a talking raven who protectively scrounges for and supplies Jonathan with food.  The widowed Mrs. Klapper is a cemetery visiter who befriends Jonathan.  And finally we meet the ghost of dead history teacher Michael Morgan, who has been both recently buried and may or may not have been murdered by his wife.  The confused new ghost of Michael is briefed by Jonathan that he is in a transition phase and that over the next few weeks he will slowly lose his Earthly memories and his personality as he transitions from our reality to whatever awaits his soul.  By issue's end, two plot situations have been established for upcoming story issues: Michael's resistance to his dilemma and the potential of romance between the living beings Jonathan and Mrs. Klapper.

     While I've read of and heard very good things about Peter Beagle's novel I've never read it.  But even without that prior knowledge, its clear that issue #1 is a high quality adaptation of the story.  The creative team does a wonderful job giving us an enjoyable visual and narrative presentation of the story.  Its a very absorbing tale, presented much in the manner of a stage play, with quality dialogue and intriguing story situations that move the story along and entertain the reader. Future issues will center more on the romantic side of the tale, as the relationship between Jonathan and Mrs. Klapper grows while romance blossoms between Michael and the ghost of a woman also recently buried in the cemetery.  Interspersed with that romantic element are three interesting mysteries, the first being why Jonathan is living and/or hiding-out in the cemetary, the second relating to why he can see and speak to the dead and of course, the third centering on the cause of Michael's death.

     This very well-crafted comic book adaptation also successfully crosses genre lines to encompass the fictional worlds of fantasy, romance and mid-20th century mainstream literature.  Its a rare comic book that presents this style of story, never mind succeeds as well as this one does in conveying the classic storytelling quality of the original novel.  So a definite positive review recommendation is well-deserved for A Fine And Private Place.  Stretch yourselves out of the traditional superhero comic book universe and expand your reading range with this excellent new series.  I plan on reading this entire series and then backtracking to read the original novel.  When time permits, I'll report back in a future review column with a comparison between the novel and comic book versions of this high quality tale.

DC Universe Presents #0
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers & Artists
    DC comics has included in its "Before-The-New-52" inventory of #0 issues an oversized issue that presents prequel tales for five of the various New 52 heroes or action teams: OMAC, Mister Terrific, Hawk & Dove, Blackhawks and Deadman.  The idea of these issue #0's is to flashback to a few years prior to the current-day ongoings within various New 52 titles, providing the reader with a new perspective on current-day story developments and/or filling-in some background details on character development and story situations.  The five tales in this DC Universe Presents #0 issue are each created by a different team of writers and artists.

     The OMAC tale is set in Metropolis two years ago and presents story and art by veteran creators Keith Giffen and Dan Didio.  The 11-page story blends together two sub-plots; a thriller tale detailing the origin of the OMAC virus and its effect on transforming Kevin Kho into the current Hulk-like OMAC, alongside the struggle between Maxwell Lord and the orbiting artificial intelligence satellite Brother Eye which ultimately led to the current-day OMAC storyline issues.  Writer James Robinson and artist Tom Derenick present a before-the-new-52 feature starring Mr. Terrific. Its a very abstract story, in which our hero enters an alternate dimension in which he ruminates about his issues with people past and present in his life, as an origin/prequel  summation of his New 52 storyverse. 

     The Hawk and Dove tale, scripted by Rob Liefeld and drawn by Marat Mychaels, gives us an origin story of the New 52 version of this well-known Silver Age duo.  Here we learn the origin details of the team's New 52 transformation, as the original Dove steps out of the picture and is replaced by a woman named Dawn Granger.  Our fourth story is a Blackhawk tale written by Tony Bedard and penciled by Carlos Rodriguez.  Its a high action adventure in which a battle between the Blackhawks and invaders from Apokolips results in the transformation of a Blackhawk character into the New 52 superpowered being known as Mother Machine.  The final tale is a Deadman prequel also written by Tony Bedard with art by Scott McDaniel, in which Deadman interacts with the infamous one-armed man who shot and killed him back in his circus acrobat days.

     I very much enjoyed this DC Universe Presents issue for three reasons.  First, it succeeded very well in providing storyverse background on these varied DC universe characters to readers unfamiliar with their New 52 incarnations.  I personally haven't been following any of these five New 52 titles but now have a solid understanding of their current storylines as well as a desire to definitely check-out some of their ongoing issues.  Secondly, the OMAC and Blackhawk stories succeed very well in blending the Jack Kirby-created Fourth World society into DC's mainstream reality.  I was blown away by the artwork in the OMAC tale, which is frankly the best replication of Jack Kirby's unique art style that I've ever seen. 

     Third, in any multi-story oversized comic book, one can only expect that some of the stories shine and carry the issue for quality.  Happily here, the first four tales all hit the mark for story quality, artwork and filling in the blanks regarding their respective New 52 titles.  The final tale starring Deadman did fail for me; while the artwork was o.k. and the story adequately explained Deadman's New 52 worldview, the idea of Deadman interacting with his assassin was a complete dud.  Any true blue Deadman fan (myself included, or course!) will be very disappointed and let-down with the dullness of the plot.  It was also kind of weird to have Deadman interact in such a low-key way with the assasin, who was the source of his decades-long, dramatic search through the DC Comics world since the Silver Age.

     So with the exception of the Deadman dud, this DC Universe jumbo edition is well-worth the $5.99 price as an entertaining and valuable source of knowledge for understanding the goings-on in five of the titles currently available among DC's The New 52 comic book inventory.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to name the only two NFL stadiums in which New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady hasn't played yet.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) David McBarron, who correctly answered that after the recent Patriots game at Seattle the only two stadiums left for Tom Brady to play in are the home venue for the San Francisco 49ers (Brady's hometown, by the way) and the new stadium occupied by the Dallas Cowboys.  Congratulations to David who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenges you to e-mail us no later than Wednesday, November 14 with the correct answer to the following question:  What is the most filmed fiction story of all time?  Here's a hint: it falls somewhere within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and/or horror (our favorite That's Entertainment genres, of course!).  As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, 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 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 two great post-Halloween candy-eating weeks and see you again on Friday, November 16 Here In Bongo Congo!

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