Review Date: Friday, May 24, 2013

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that its time to review some comic books with a "dark side" theme, so whether the plots feature voodoo, magic, detective noir or The Dark Knight himself, let's see how these latest mysterious comics stack-up against each other:

Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics Vertigo Imprint
Selwyn Seyfu Hinds: Writer
Denys Cowan: Pencils
John Floyd: Inks
Dave McCaig: Colors

     That's Entertainment has all seven issues on its new issues shelves of the DC Comics/Vertigo Imprint title "Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child," so naturally I backtracked to issue #1 to get a feel for this occult comic book title from its kick-off issue.  The comic book is written by Selwyn Seyfu Hinds with pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by John Floyd and colors by Dave McCaig.

      The series is a New Orleans-based occult thriller starring hometown college student Dominique Laveau.  The premier issue unfolds in three story segments.  Act One begins with action-adventure, as Dominique and a group of her fellow Tulane University college students are attacked by a rampaging werewolf. When her friends are killed by the monster, Dominique manifests an unexpected occult power that repels the attacker and saves her own life.  The mid-section sub-plot unfolds the larger picture of occult doings in modern-day New Orleans.  We're introduced to the mysterious Chancellor Malenfant, a voodoo priest who is involved in local politics and is in the service of a demonic being who is searching for Dominique.

     The third segment of the issue follows Dominique as she reviews her family history to try and understand her newfound occult power.  We learn that she's descended from a long line of New Orleans voodoo priestesses and its revealed that her aunt has been sheltering her from the truth about herself and her family history.  The issue concludes in a dramatic bridge to issue #2 as Dominique discovers that her aunt has been murdered by the demonic forces gathering against her, while at the same time she's confronted by an anonymous demon hunter who's been stalking her throughout the story.

     Its tough to stake-out some new storytelling ground within the genre of voodoo fiction; its almost mandatory to use New Orleans as the storysetting, and a lot of plot ideas have already been done to death (pun intended) in this narrow fictional genre.  That said, a tip-of-the-review hat is due to this title's creative team for finding some fresh elements to mix into their own New Orleans voodoo comic book tale.  Several small plot touches add-up to a fresh perspective in this storyline, including Dominique's innocence regarding her family history, her unexpected manifested power and a cop boyfriend who at this point doesn't buy into any of the voodoo shenaigans brewing in his girlfriend's life. 

     Of particular interest is the mysterious demon hunter trailing Dominique.  He's presented as an old-school Wild West gunman, which offers some interesting future potential reveals about his identity.  It seems in the issue #1 story segment that he's actually on the hunt for Dominique herself instead of her demonic pursuers, so it should be interesting to see how he ends up as friend or foe in her further adventures.

     Top it all off with an approriate artistic style for a voodoo-themed comic book and we have one well-constructed and entertaining new addition to this creepy-spooky comic book storytelling genre.  It looks like DC/Vertigo is ending this title with the most recent issue #7, so my review advice is to get onboard now and enjoy the seven issues of this interesting comic book title while they're all still available on the That's Entertainment new issues comic book shelves.

Batman #19
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Greg Capullo: Pencils
Danny Miki: Inks
Fco Plascencia: Colors

     The main Batman title at DC Comics is currently up to issue #20 with the second installment of a multi-issue story arc.  So I've backtracked to issue #19 to get a review feel for this tale from the kick-off.  The series is currently scripted by A-list writer Scott Snyder with pencils by Greg Capullo, inks by Danny Miki and colors by Fco Plascencia.

     This new storyline is entitled "Nowhere Man" and features Batman and his allies in conflict with traditional Batman storyverse villain Clayface.  Three plothreads takes turns front-and-center in the story.  In the first story segment,  we're witness to a lengthy and violent bank robbery/hostage-taking with the villain, who's obviously Clayface in disguise as Bruce Wayne, in a deadly cat-and-mouse stand-off with Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon.  The mid-section of the tale flashes back to a few days earlier, as Batman alternates between dealing with the grief of Robin's recent death and following a trail of forensic clues from recent crimes, leading him to the conclusion that Clayface is back on the Gotham crime scene.  And the final few pages of the story segment reveal the details of Clayface stepping-into the Bruce Wayne persona, with more trouble to brew in issue #20.

      It's a no-brainer these days to expect that any Scott Snyder-penned comic book tale is of exceptional quality and so that's what we're fortunate to have in this comic book.  It's interesting to me that there's no particular style to expect from a Snyder story; unlike a tale from Brian Michael Bendis or Jonathan Hickman, Snyder's various comic book scripts differ in approach and structure, but all have the same consistency of in-depth dialogue and just a very strong and highly entertaining plot that's well-worth the price of admission.

     As a final review note, this 20-page Batman-Clayface tale is followed by a second 8-page story entitled "Ghost Lights," starring Batman and Superman as they encounter some deadly black magic goings-on in Gotham.  This two-part storyline deserves its own mention for exceptional high quality and frankly could hold its own as a main storyline in any issue of Batman.  So a quick, well-deserved shout-out also to the creative team of writer James Tynion IV, well-known artist Alex Maleev and colorist Brad Anderson for this second story which is also not to be missed.

     So all-in-all, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this comic book, which serves-up two excellent stories, both well-worth following as they continue in issue #20 of Batman!

The Black Bat #1
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Brian Buccellato: Writer
Ronan Cliquet: Art
Mat Lopes: Colors

     Dynamite Comics recently launched a new comic book entitled "The Black Bat."  The title character originally appeared in a few 1930's pulp magazines as a masked crimefighter vigilante.  Due to character similarities to Batman, the pulp-era publisher kept this character firmly in its pulp magazine inventory without a 1930's-era crossover into the world of comic book publishing.  Dynamite included The Black Bat in its 2012 Masks comic book, with the ensuing popularity leading to the launch of the new comic book title.

     Issue #1 partially retells the origin story of The Black Bat with two alternating sub-plots.  In the first storythread, via alternating flashback and current scenes, we learn that our hero is Tony Quinn, a former lawyer for organized crime.  When Tony resists further mob pressure, he's tortured and blinded for his resistance.  A mysterious covert agency restores his eyesight to an uncoventional form of vision similar to Daredevil's bat sonar sight, enabling him to don a 1930's masked vigilante persona and fight crime as the anonymous Black Bat.

     The second sub-plot focuses on The Black Bat's current investigation of disappearing local city cops.  Tony follows clues through the city's underbelly, leading him to a Hulk-like mob enforcer.  The issue ends in an action bridge to next month's issue, as Tony fights and defeats the enforcer but still has no clue where his adversary has hidden the kidnapped policemen. We also learn at issue's end that Tony is being secretly monitored by the covert agency that restored his sight.

     This is an interesting modern-day comic adaptation of a 1930's pulp magazine crimefighter that deserves a positive review recommendation, although the comic has one noticeable weakness mixed-in with the good elements.  On the plus side, the art is strong and evocative of the detective/noir thriller atmosphere appropriate for this tale.  There are also a few entertaining mystery elements in the story, including the unknown nature of the covert agency that gave Tony his bat-sight and the main plot mystery regarding the location and fate of the kidnap victims.  The creative team also gives Tony his own fresh personality and plot issues that lessen as much as possible any potential traps of being labelled as a retread of either Batman or Daredevil.

     The main constructive criticism centers on the story setting.  Its an odd mix of a modern-day version of Gotham City-at-night and a 1930's urban pulp setting reminiscent of The Spirit.  It just feels like a confusing mash-up of two vastly different urban timeperiods and lends the story an unfinished and at times confusing quality.  The creative team really needs to flip a coin here, and pick either one of the two timeperiods within which to firmly and clearly set their storytelling.  In addition, the anonymous city in which the story takes place really needs an identity, either a real world city name or a fictional one.  Once that confusion is cleared-up, we'll have a more solid comic book title to add to the lengthy list of detective/noir comic books.  Until then, we have an entertaining read with future potential, saddled with some vagueness that allows for fun reading, but nothing to place near the very top of your new issues reading pile.

The Movement #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Gail Simone: Writer
Freddie Williams II: Art
Chris Sotomayor: Colors

     Among the latest new comic book titles released under DC's "The New 52" series is "The Movement."  The storyline centers upon a gathering group of seemingly occult or mutant-powered troubled teenagers.  The series is scripted by Gail Simone with art by Freddie Williams II and colors by Chris Sotomayor.

     The premier story segment is entitled "Eaten from The Inside Out."   Set in Coral City, the plot is structured as three interweaving storythreads.  One sub-plot focuses on corruption in the local police force, as an inner-city police captain tries to address a sexual assault by two of his officers on a transient teenaged girl.  The second sub-plot introduces us to varied troubled street teens, including the assault victim, as many of them are revealed to have various forms of occult power.  The third storyline introduces an odd street cult growing in "The Tweens," the inner-city neighborhood inhabited by the story characters.  Dressed in flowing robes and high tech masks, the street cult members livestream to the internet much of the corruption and odd action happening among the story characters. 

     All three groups of story characters clash in an inner-city church confrontation with one of the troubled street teens, who appears to be demonically possessed.  Without being a detail spoiler, the plot peaks in a dramatic scene as a bridge to issue #2, as the street cult members draw the line with the police captain, declaring The Tweens as their own territory and demanding that the cops leave the neighborhood.

    This title presents one oddly tossed-together mish-mash of a comic book plot.  We're presented with a large number of genre themes that really don't mesh well together in one standard storyline, including occultism, teenaged angst, some traditional superhero elements and police thriller/corruption plot elements.  The result is a lot of story confusion, sketchy and unexplained plot elements/story characters, and jarring scene transitions.  The unnamed police captain is presented in a confusing manner, alternating between behaving as an honest crusader against corruption, an oppressor of the supposed good-natured street cult and a victim of his wife's infidelity.

     I know that writer Gail Simone has a strong fan following, but few of her comic books that I've reviewed present a solid and well-constructed storyline.  This latest example is her worst yet in pasting-together plot bits and pieces that ultimately don't result in a credible, logical or just-plain-entertaining storyline.  I'll give Simone another review chance with her upcoming writing stint in Dynamite Comics's Red Sonya title.  But until then, I'd recommend that all Good DC Readers skip reading this confusing, patchworked and frankly dull attempt at teenaged comic book storytelling in The Movement.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest offered-up a bit of Massachusetts history trivia, asking you to tell us what historical event forever ties-together the four Massachusetts towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott.  We had several correct entires, so by a roll-of-the-dice the winner from among those entries is (drumroll, please...) Erin O'Connor, who correctly answered that the four Towns were disincorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during the 1930's and flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir, the largest inland body of water in the State and the primary water source for Boston and about 40 other communities.  Congratulations to Erin for winning the $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     As our Boston Bruins are currently in the thick of the NHL Stanley Cup play-offs, the Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has decreed that we cheer them on with a National Hockey League (NHL) contest question.  The Bruins are one of the "Original Six" teams that made-up the League when the NHL restructured and modernized in 1942.  Your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, June 5 and correctly name those original six NHL teams.  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, on-going specials, only.

That's all for now, so have two great Stanley Cup Play-Offs-watching (Go Bruins!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, June 7 Here In Bongo Congo!

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