Review Date: Friday, June 21, 2013

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo found lots of good month-of-June stuff on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, so we'll get right to it in a moment and see how this week's four picks stack-up against each other.

Adventures Of Superman #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Various Writers and Artists

     DC Comics has just added a new Superman comic book to its large Man Of Steel title inventory.  Entitled "Adventures Of Superman," three short Superman tales are featured in the premier issue, each produced by a different creative team.  This is an anthology-style title featuring monthly short stories that each take place in their own right, outside of the ongoing continuity of "The New 52" DC storyverse events.

     The lead tale is entitled "Violent Minds" and is scripted by Jeff Parker with art by A-lister Chris Samnee.  Its a fast-action tale in which Superman responds to the crime scene of a known Metropolis drug addict who's running amok, high on a new street drug which gives him super-strength powers.  After our hero confronts the addict with mixed-successful results, the well-known Superman Family villain who is responsible for the situation is revealed to the reader.  "Fortress" is the second tale, both written and drawn by Jeff Lemire.  It's a Middle America tale of two boys who creatively use their imagination to play various versions of "Superman versus the Supervillain," with warm-hearted and cute portrayals as a commentary on the power of imagination.  The third and final tale is entitled "Bizzaro's Worst Day," and naturally stars the opposite-world Superman clone Bizarro.  It follows the standard Bizarro story concept of the real and Bizarro Supermen confronting each other, until the Man of Steel uses the expected reverse psychology to get his damaged counterpart to behave appropriately.

     I enjoyed this variety-pack of short Superman tales very much.  The stories are presented in descending order of quality.  "Violent Minds" is a high-quality and very entertaining tale that meets the high expectations for a Chris Samnee story.  It has the same understated plot charm that Samnee has brought to such previous gems as "Thor, The Mighty Avenger," and beautifully mixes-up fast action, character charm and a neat surprise reveal of the villain's identity.  "Fortress" is a cute story reminiscent of writer Ray Bradbury's well-known tales of kids growing-up in small-town mid-20th century America.  The art is crude but the plot balances-out for some fine entertainment.  The Bizarro tale didn't work for me.  Its not a bad attempt at storytelling; it's just that the convoluted, "speak everything in reverse logic" plot details that are necessary for any Bizarro storyline became so detailed that I practically got a headache and ultimately gave-up trying to follow the logical specifics of what Superman was trying to pitch to his oddball copy.  The story just reinforced my opinion that Bizarro has run his course in the DC pantheon and should be either permanently retired or only wheeled-out to join a new story on very, very rare occasions.

      As a final review comment, while this issue is a lot of fun, DC might want to cut the story inventory back to two tales per issue, in order to give a pair of stories a bit more room to breath with enjoyable script and artwork details.  But whether we see two or three tales per issue, a definite thumbs-up positive review recommendation is deserved for the new Adventures Of Superman comic book title.

Avengers: The Enemy Within #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Writer
Scott Hepburn: Art
Jordie Bellaire: Colors

     Yet another new addition to Marvel's wide-ranging inventory of Avengers comic books is issue #1 of Avengers: The Enemy Within.  The kick-off issue is part one of a five-issue story arc, the rest of which will continue in upcoming issues #16 and #17 of Avengers Assemble and issues #13 and #14 of Captain Marvel.   The story is scripted by Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by Scott Hepburn and colors by Jordie Bellaire.

     The plot continues an apparently on-going storyline from another title in which Captain Marvel (the former Ms. Marvel) deals with two issues: first, a growing brain lesion which worsens whenever she uses her powers and secondly, her search through the streets of New York, assisted by Spider-Woman, for an elderly missing friend named Rose.  The two plotthreads come together quickly, as our two heroines discover that Rose has been abducted by an unnamed super-villain; by issue's end, Captain Marvel has damaged herself some more by using her powers to free Rose, while the anonymous bad guy has further advanced his long-term plotting against Captain Marvel.

     I'm giving this issue a negative review recommendation for three reasons.  First-up is the poor scripting.  While the basic story concept is fine, the dialogue is horrendous, with an amateurish feel to the narrative and the character's various behaviors.  I felt as if I was reading the product of a high school kid trying to figure-out how to write a comic book script.  This failure is furthered by a plainly lousy artistic style, with everyone drawn in an annoyingly elongated, funhouse-mirror manner.  Third, this simply isn't an Avengers tale.  Its a Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel story with Spider-Woman thrown-in as a support character, along with a very brief Thor appearance.  While it makes sense that the next four issues leave this Avengers title, none of them should be anywhere near an Avengers-themed comic book title in the first place.  The comic book fails to establish a deserved Avengers identity for this new title, rather than merely serving as a stop along the way for a Captain Marvel tale that's continuing in other titles.  The reader is left with no sense of what this particular take on the Avengers team is all about, as well as no reason to stick around for whatever Marvel Comics chooses to present in next month's issue #2.

     So bottom line, avoid this mish-mash of a poorly-produced new comic book title that's saddled with an identity crisis, and instead check-out one of the many fine other Avengers titles, both old and new, available on the new issues comic book shelves.

Miss Fury #1
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Rob Williams: Writer
Jack Herbert: Art
Ivan Nunes: Colors

     Dynamite Comics recently published issue #1 of the latest incarnation of costumed feline Miss Fury.  The Catwoman-like character began life in a 1940's Golden Age newspaper comic strip and evolved through many versions over the decades.  Paralleling Bruce Wayne/Batman, Miss Fury's secret identity is that of wealthy New York socialite Marla Drake.  Two of the most noteworthy takes on the character were the 1950's Charlton Comics title drawn by veteran artist Dick Giordano and a brief cameo appearance by Miss Fury in Marvel's acclaimed 2008 title "The Twelve."  The latest Miss Fury title is scripted by Rob Williams with art by Jack Herbert and colors by Ivan Nunes.

      Issue #1 interweaves two storylines.  The first sub-plot neatly re-introduces Miss Fury's origin tale.  Via flashback, we learn that on a 1940's African vacation, 21-year-old socialite Marla Drake befriends a native tribe that provides her with a supernatural potion that gives her heightened, cat-like reflexes.  Given her spoiled-rich-girl personality, upon her return to New York our heroine follows the Catwoman route and amuses herself by becoming a costumed cat burgler, prowling the City at night and conducting upscale heists such as diamond thefts.  Our second plothread introduces a science fiction element to the title.  Stumbling upon a pre-World War II Nazi domestic spy cell during her New York nighttime prowling, Miss Fury becomes the victim of a secret Nazi technology that repeatedly richochets her back-and forth between the New York City timeframes of 1943 and 2013.  The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as its revealed to a bewildered Miss Fury that World War II is still being fought in 2013 in the air over the New York City skyline.

     This new comic book title hits a solid homerun in terms of both quality storytelling and entertainment value, in several respects.  A common tough challenge in reviving any Golden Age comic book character is finding the proper balance in the new series between preserving the original character elements and introducing modern-day plotlines and story atmosphere.  The creative team does a fantastic job here of finding the perfect blend of both.  There's a wonderful Art Deco, pre-WWII New York cultural feel to the characters and setting that's infused with just the right amount of 2013-style action-adventure, sex and violence that makes this comic book a must-have read for serious comic readers.

     I'm very intrigued by two elements of the issue #1 story.  The first is the edginess of Marla Drake/Miss Fury's personality.  "Miss Fury" is the perfect name for Marla's secret identity, as by day she's a snotty rich bitch and by night she's a hot-tempered costumed thief with major anger management/violence issues.  It will be fascinating to see how her time-traveling adventure most likely redeems her by rechannelling her anger in the direction of use toward a greater good.  The second tantalizing plot tidbit is the mysterious nature of her ping-ponging visits to the year 2013.  Issue #1 gives clues as to three possible explanations for her 2013 experiences: time-travel to a somehow revised actual future, a visit to an alternate reality timeline or possibly it's all just a hallucination brought-on by anger and stress.  Again, it will be fun to see how these possibilities sort-out into one reveal as the title's issues unfold.

     My only minor criticism of this new title is that it definitely needs to add a missing "Mature Readers, Only" warning onto the front cover, due to a fair mix of sex within the storyline.  But that item aside, this is the most fun, fresh and entertaining reintroduction of a classic Golden Age comic book figure that I've read in many a year.  So for a wild ride of traditional costumed comic character storytelling, science fiction adventuring and all the good stuff that we all want in our comic book storytelling, by all means don't miss this excellent new series!

Superman Unchained #1
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Jim Lee: Pencils
Scott Williams: Inks

     DC Comics has released to great fanfare issue #1 of its new "Superman Unchained" title.  The series brings acclaimed Batman writer Scott Snyder into the Superman storyverse, accompanied by veteran A-list penciller Jim Lee and inker Scott Williams.

     Issue #1 kicks-off a multi-issue storyarc with a segment entitled "The Leap,"  consisting of three separate storythreads.  In the brief introductory sub-plot, we flashback to the April, 1945 atomic bomb drop over Nagasaki, in which a young boy witnesses a previously-unknown superpowered being who was apparently linked to the event.  Our second storythread flash- forwards us into a typical Superman-Lex Luthor confrontation, in which Luthor challenges Superman by crashlanding various orbiting satellites around the Earth.  And our third sub-plot shifts the story focus to General Lane, Lois Lane's infamous Army General Dad.  Without being a detail spoiler, Superman unwittingly crosses paths in his satellite retrieval with a secret military project run by General Lane.  Two end-of-the-issue dramatic bridges lead us to next month's issue:  its revealed that General Lane has a connection to the mysterious Nagasaki superbeing, and a brief two-page Epilogue scene reconnects the 2013 storyline back to the young boy who witnessed the unknown superpower activity in 1945.

     This is an entertaining new Superman title that brings some freshness to the Superman storyverse in a few ways.  First, its just plain exciting to read Scott Snyder's entry into this wing of DC's publishing inventory.  He brings to this issue the same style of introspective, absorbing story narrative that made his many Batman issues such great entertainment.  I also liked very much the intriguing story element of the WWII mysterious Superbeing, who's obviously on a plot collision course in 2013 with Superman.  Third, I liked the way that Snyder comfortably fits our modern hi-tech social media elements into the daily lives and behavior of Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson.  All three have left behind the stodgy, old-style trappings of The Daily Planet and now Tweet, text and blog all of their journalistic activities, adding some neat real-world credibility to their profession in this comic book world.

     Two final minor but noteworthy review items:  First, I really loved the way that Snyder presents Superman as identifying more with the Clark Kent side of his persona than the Kal-El side; throughout the story, in his inner dialogue with himself, Superman refers to himself as Clark, giving him more of a connection with his civilian identity than is usually seen in DC's stories.  Its a small but noticeable touch that goes a long way toward making Clark Kent a real person as opposed to just a costumed persona for The Man of Steel.  Secondly, there's a nice poster-size pull-out for pages four and five of this issue that presents a panoramic outer space action scene, the fold-out size of which enhances the major impact of this epic scene to the story.

     All-in-all, DC has hit a grand slam home with this excellent new addition to the many Superman titles on those new issues shelves.  So what are you waiting for, stop reading this review already and get down to That's Entertainment to pick-up your very own copy of Superman Unchained #1!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest is our annual Summer Movie Challenge, in which we asked you to tell us what summer movie or movies you're looking forward to seeing, and why we should all also get in line with you to see your choice!  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Nessa Shields, who tells us that she's really looking forward to seeing two movies.  First, she wants to see the new "Superman" movie because "it looks very different from what we have been used to, for example, the new suit, and it has a great cast."  Secondly, she wants to see "After Earth," starring Will Smith and his son Jadin, because "we've seen Will Smith grow into an amazing actor, I can't wait to see the next generation!"  Two great choices for summer movie-going fare: congratulations to Nessa, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has decreed that we offer-up a civics trivia question for this week's contest.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, July 3 with the correct answer to the following question:  which U.S. State is the only one among the 50 states that has a two-sided state flag instead of a one-sided flag?  For extra credit (but no extra prize), can you also name the currently very popular television sitcom that also mentioned this trivia fact in an episode?  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, the winner of our $10.00 first prize 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, on-going specials, only.

That's all for now, so have two great Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Finals (Go Broons!!!) and comic book-reading weeks and see you again on Friday, July 5 Here In Bongo Congo!

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