Review Date: Friday, May 10, 2013

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has declared that its Eclectic Comic Books Week once again in Bongo Congo, so let's review a wide-ranging variety of comic book titles and see what our eclectic batch is all about:

Thor: God Of Thunder #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jason Aaron: Writer
Esad Ribic: Art
Dean White: Colors

     One of the more popular and critically-acclaimed new issue comic titles out at the moment from Marvel Comics is Thor: God Of Thunder.  As with a few titles reviewed in our last column, I decided to double-back from this title's current issue #7 to issue #1 in order to get a solid feel for this Thor interpretation from its kick-off issue.  All of this series's monthly issues are available on the That's Entertainmnet new issues shelves.  The comic book is scripted by Jason Aaron with art by Esad Ribic and colors by Dean White.

     The issue #1 story is entitled "A World Without Gods" and is the first part of a wider five-issue storyline entitled "The God Butcher."  The tale accurately reflects the multi-issue story title, as some unrevealed omnipotent power is very capably slaughtering mythological Gods.  The plot alternates between three storythreads, as in three separate timeperiods Thor comes-up against the mysterious assailant.  In 893 A.D., our hero is based in Iceland and encounters the dead body of a Native American shaman god.  In the present day, Thor assists an alien race on their homeplanet and stumbles across the bloodied carnage that used to be the Asgard-like home of the alien's own supposedly immortal gods.  And in a brief but climactic far future setting of Asgard, an aged and solitary Thor prepares to do lone battle against a seemingly endless demon horde controlled by the unseen god butcher.

      Its clear why this new Thor series is so popular among readers, as at least four story elements succeed in propelling this title to the very top of the most-recommended reading list.  First-off is the creative team's structuring of three story settings; its a very fresh approach to alternate, yet connect three very different historical Thor timeperiods in one issue's story segment, and in the hands of this creative team it succeeds as top-notch entertainment.  Secondly, the story premise itself is fresh and intriguing.  There's something just plain fascinating about the Marvel storyverse gods being reduced to mere weak mortals by their version of an unseen serial killer, and the drama of it all as Thor inches closer to eventually encountering the evil one himself makes for great reading.

     The third outstanding element of this issue is the creative team's success in portraying Thor's varied personalities in each historical period, each as a reflection of his age at the time.  In the 893 A.D. timeframe, he's young, brash and semi-comically wacky.  In the present-day alien world segment, he's the familiar Thor of most Marvel titles and in the far-future setting he's come full circle, actually becoming his father Odin in looks, personality and behavior.  Its a fresh and enjoyable character interpretation of this standard A-list Marvel hero and its not to be missed.  And our fourth strong story element is the artwork itself.  Artist Esad Ribic and colorist Dean White present a lush and detailed visual style that resembles moreso formal portrait and scenery painting than standard comic book fare, with a beautiful layer of shadowing that wordlessly and effectively heralds the growing danger and terror of the approaching god butcher.

    So all-in-all, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is very well-deserved for this fantastic new addition to the wide world of Thor comic books.  And if you like this issue as much as I do, there are already those follow-up story segments out on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves available for your non-stop reading enjoyment!

Threshold #4
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Keith Giffen: Writer
Phil Winslade & Tom Raney: Art
Chris Sotomayor & Andrew Dalhouse: Colors

     DC Comics is currently up to issue #4 of Threshold, one of the new titles emerging from The New 52 event series.  Threshold occupies an insterstellar science fiction niche within the current DC storyverse.  The series features a range of characters apparently forced to compete against their will in an intergalactic reality t.v. show as they struggle to stay alive against alien bounty hunters.  A key character in this title is disgraced Green Lantern Jediah Caul, who's been stripped of both his powers and his Green Lantern as part of the game.  There's also a back-up story in each issue starring Larfleeze , the Orange Lantern.  Threshold is scripted by veteran DC writer Keith Giffen with art by Phil Winslade & Tom Raney, and colors by Chris Sotomayor and Andrew Dalhouse.

     The issue #4 story segment is entitled "Small Wonder," and presents two alternating story threads.  In the main sub-plot, Jediah Caul plans and executes an attempt to steal back his missing Green Lantern from a slug-like alien collector who obtained the power source from the controllers of the reality t.v. show.  Along the way, he interacts with the bumbling Rabbit-like character K'Rot and reluctantly teams-up with him in the attempt.  A less-detailed secondary sub-plot features DC universe bad guy Brainiac going about his usual business of shrinking and bottling alien cities.  Both storylines come together in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue, as in mid-struggle for the Green Lantern, all of our main characters are caught in Brainiac's shrink ray and bottled-up along with the alien city in which they're playing-out their game.

     I'm giving this comic book a mixed review, albeit with an average-quality thumbs-up positive recommendation.  On the plus side, veteran writer Keith Giffen hits two big home runs here, first by providing a plot that's chock-full of his unique, humor-laced dialogue and secondly by presenting a very fresh and enjoyable sci-fi based story concept with just a hint of the usual DC superhero universe blended into this fictional reality.  The art is also excellent and worth noting for both quality and choice of visual style.

     On the downside, this comic book desperately needs an up-front narrative summary that quickly and simply briefs new readers such as myself with the concept of this sci-fi reality show battle-to-the-death plotline.  While I enjoyed the action and story details of issue #4, there's no reference at all to the bigger multi-issue plotline here, just well-constructed scenes of characters who scheme and fight among themselves.  I needed to research DC marketing sources just to learn about the reality t.v. show concept of this series.  It's a disservice to readers when a comic book gives no inkling throughout an entire issue of just what the heck the characters are involved in as a plot.  I can't think of another comic book that I've ever read which kept me in the dark as much as Threshold #4 about what the series is about, which can't bode well for building a devoted fan base for this new series.

      So in sum, while there's some really intriguing and fun stuff going on in issue #4 of Threshold, this series is dragged-down to merely average quality by the frustrating vagueness and lack of enlightenment regarding the overall story concept.  As a final review comment, the secondary tale starring Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern is much more kitchsy and wacky humor-oriented and works very well to balance the confusion of the main story.  So my review advice is to give this comic a shot if you're willing to backtrack to the first three issues in order to gain a clear understanding of the multi-issue story concept.

Five Weapons #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Jimmie Robinson: Writer and Artist
Paul Little: Colors

     Image Comics is currently publishing a 5-issue limited series entitled "Five Weapons."  The series follows the experiences of grade school kids at "The School Of Five Weapons," a secret private academy where the children of secret assassins are educated in both standard school subjects and the weaponry-handling ways of their ninja/hitman/assassin parents.  The series is scripted and drawn by creator Jimmie Robinson with colors by Paul Little.

     Issue #1 centers on main character Tyler Shainline on his first day as the new kid in the academy.  We quickly learn that the school is organized into five "weaponry clubs," called Knives, Staves, Archery, Exotic Weapons and Guns.  As Tyler gets to know the ropes and rules of this assassin training Academy, the storyline introduces various school members as Tyler's potential allies and/or foes.  These include the mysterious Principal O, the equally mysterious School Nurse, the weird faculty members who head each of the five weapons clubs and the hot-tempered Jade, Tyler's fellow student and president of the Knife Club.

    The plot portrays Tyler as using a Sherlock Holmes-style of analysis and deduction to verbally weave his way in-and-out of sticky situations, as even his slightest action or decision triggers some ritual or unexpected reaction from students and faculty in this rigid and extremely regimented society of little future assassins.  By issue's end, the story segment peaks in a dramatic double reveal: we learn that Tyler is actually using an assumed identity for a false background and he challenges Jade to a knife confrontation for the presidency of the Knife Club.

     This comic book series is a highly entertaining mix of familiar and new school-oriented fiction themes.  On the familiar side, we have a private academy set-up similar to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books, with the weaponry clubs serving in the role of the Hogwarts founders schools.  On the fresh and creative side, we have a young school for assassins with some very fun and humorous characters driving the story.  Creator Jimmie Robinson does a top-notch job of presenting some very unique student and faculty personalities within the short space of one comic book issue.

     The overall result of this series is a very enjoyable mash-up of light humor, compelling mystery, action-adventure and grade school angst that's a fun read for young and older readers, alike.  I was particularly impressed with the unexpected reveal of Tyler as a stand-in for the real Tyler Shainline.  Without being a detail spoiler, there's a very intriguing plot reveal of what's happening in the Shainline family of assassins that's led to Tyler volunteering for this risky cover, which should add even more interesting plot possibilities for the remaining four issues of this title.

     So a definite and very positive thumbs-up review recommendation to check-out this well-crafted, unique and just-plain-interesting youth adventure series from Image Comics and creator Jimmie Robinson.

Bravest Warriors #7
Publisher: Kaboom! Comics
Pendleton Ward: Creator
Joey Comeau: Writer
Mike Holmes: Art
Lisa Moore: Colors

     BOOM! Comics's Kaboom! division of children's comics is currently up to issue #7 of its Bravest Warriors title.  For the uninitiated, the comic book is based on the award-winning animated web series created by Pendleton Ward.  The storyverse is set in the year 3085 and follows the adventures of a group of teenaged heroes-for-hire as they have outer space adventures, helping aliens and their worlds by using the power of their emotions.  The comic book is scripted by Joey Comeau with art by Mike Holmes and colors by Lisa Moore.

     Issue #7 is the latest installment of a multi-issue story arc in which the kids deal with conflict at the Miss Teen Multiverse Pageant.  It seems that some outer space bad guy has placed the kidnapped brains of contestants in giant killer robots, who then alternate in behavior between rampaging death machines and insecure teen beauty pageant contestants.  Most of the plotline consists of the Bravest Warriors team of Beth, Danny, Chris, Wallow and Plum trading quips with each other and with the giant robots as they try to resolve the situation.  By issue's end, the robot's massive insecurities threaten to turn them toward self-mutilation, thus setting-up next month's story segment in which our heroes ironically have to try and restore the robot's self-esteem to keep them from harming themselves.

    This is a fun and fresh youth-oriented science fiction title that has a lot going for it.  The humor dominates in a light and positive way, without things getting too sarcastic or snarky.  There's a nice mix of one-liners and quips alternating between jokes for kids and sly remarks that older readers would find very entertaining.  I particularly liked the unique idea of including a brief but effective one-liner narrator quip at the bottom of each story page.  It adds a comic commentary element to the story that reminds me of the comic barbs throughout the old Mystery Science Theatre 3000 television series.

       I really expected this title to be geared toward a young child's level of storytelling and as such was delighted to discover a level of sophisticated humor, strong storytelling and uniquely entertaining artwork that actually elevates Bravest Warriors to the top of the quality humor comic book titles list, on a par with such titles as Atomic Robo.  If you're already a Bravest Warriors fan, then you're most likely saying "I told you so!" right about now.  But if you're a Bravest Warriors newbie reader like me, then by all means latch onto this gem of a comic book title that offers fun and funny outer space adventuring for readers of all ages.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to correctly answer the following riddle: If A equals Boston, B equals New York and C equals Philadelphia, then what major American cities does D, E and F equal?  Our fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc was the first to correctly answer that each letter corresponds to the Federal Reserve Branch code on U.S. dollar bills, with each letter standing for the city in which that particular Federal Reserve Dranch is located.  Thus, D equals Cleveland, E equals Richmond and F equals Atlanta.  As Dave is only eligible for No-Prize Awards, our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Gregory Goding.  While Gregory didn't get all three cities right, he came closest to the correct answer from among our entries.  Congratulations to Gregory on winning our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges offers-up a Massachusetts trivia question for this week's contest.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, May 22 with the correct answer to the following question:  what do the four Massachusetts towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott have in common that will always keep them linked-together in Massachusetts history?  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be selected via a roll of the dice from among the correct entries.  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 Boston Bruins NHL Play-offs watching (Go, Bruins!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, May 24 Here In Bongo Congo!

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