Review Date: Friday, July 5, 2013

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo is hip-deep in some fun summertime comic book reading.  But first, a quick summertime book reading announcement:

Ray Bradbury Tribute Story Collection Just Published!!!

    Whortleberry Press has just published "Dandelions Of Mars," its eagerly-anticipated short story anthology in tribute to the late Science Fiction/Fantasy writer Ray Bradbury.  The collection features 24 short stories including my own short story entitled "Almost Home."  Summertime was one of Bradbury's favorite settings for his well-known tales and is the perfect time to read this new and entertaining collection.  Copies are available at www.lulu.com and directly from the publisher at www.whortleberrypress.com, so order your copy today!
Now let's get right to it and see how our new comic book issues stack-up against each other:

Batman #21
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Scott Snyder: Writer
Greg Capullo: Pencils
Danny Miki: Inks
Fco Plascencia: Colors

     Issue #21 of Batman premieres a new multi-issue storyarc from acclaimed Batman writer Scott Snyder, kicking-off the much-anticipated "Zero Year" re-telling of Batman's origin story.  Snyder's script is visualized by penciler Greg Capullo with inks by Danny Miki and colors by Fco Plascencia.  The issue also includes a 6-page second story starring Batman in his Bruce Wayne civilian identity.  That story is co-written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with art by Rafael Albuquerque and colors by Dave McCaig.

     The new storyline is entitled "Secret City: Part One," reinterprets the well-known Batman origin details by setting them in a modern-day Gotham.  In this version of the events, its 2013 and the adult Bruce has yet to become The Batman.  We learn via flashbacks and present-day scenes that he's newly-returned to Gotham, having left Town after the childhood trauma of witnessing his parent's murder.  Two sub-plots alternate with the progression of the basic origin facts.  In one, an anonymous villain named The Red Hood is terrorizing the city with growing effectiveness, using blackmailed ordinary citizens as the shock-troops who make-up his Red Hood Gang.

     The second sub-plot centers on Bruce's uncle Philip Kane; as head of Wayne Enterprises, he attempts throughout the issue to pressure Bruce into succeeding him as head of the family business empire.  As Bruce is struggling to find a new personal identity (a search which we know will eventually lead him to become The Caped Crusader), he resists his uncle's pressure.  The story segment concludes in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #2, as in a surprise reveal we learn that Uncle Philip's key business adviser is a very youthful version of one of the best-known Batman storyverse super-villains, prior to his eventual life of costumed badness.

     In Scott Snyder's skilled scripting hands, the result is a shining gem of a fresh update for some overly-familiar Batman story facts and themes.  His unique mix of multiple timeframe flash-arounds and quickly alternating story segments tightly come together into an intriguing mix of very old and very new Batman story elements for the alternate-history version of Batman's origins.  There are too many specific examples to list or spoil in this review, but as one typical example, my favorite small updated item is the revision to the well-known supervillain working for Uncle Phillip.  He's unexpectedly presented as a youthful and eccentric mad-genius of a management consultant; picture Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory starting to slip into super-villain mode and you have a good picture of the re-tailoring of this very familiar character.  And no, it's not The Joker, that would be too easy for Snyder!  To his credit, he gives us a villain both familiar and unfamiliar in the new clothing of his altered identity.

     As a final review comment, the secondary six-page Bruce Wayne tale is average in quality compared to the lead story, but serves as a nice, more traditional storytelling balance to the major Batman storyverse revisions presented in the main tale.  In sum, our trust in A-list writer Scott Snyder is well-rewarded with this excellent kick-off to the "New 52" make-over of the Batman origin storyline.  So get-on down to That's Entertainment and get-onboard the latest Batman make-over with issue #21 of Batman!

The X-Files-Season 10 #1
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Joe Harris: Writer
Michael Walsh: Art
Jordie Bellaire: Colors

     IDW Publishing has just published issue #1 of a new X-Files comic book title.  Just about every pop-culture fanboy and fangirl on the planet is already familiar with the popular  1993-2001 t.v. series and two movies, which starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who had paranormal adventures as they investigated the FBI's spooky "X-Files."  This new comic book series is overseen by original television series creator Chris Carter and is scripted by Joe Harris with art by Michael Walsh and colors by Jordie Bellaire.

     Issue #1 kicks-off a five-part multi-issue story arc entitled "Believers," with a plotline that continues the character's lives after the end of the television series.  The story interweaves two sub-plots. One storythread lays-out Mulder and Scully's present-day lives.  In follow-up to the concluding events of the t.v. show, they're living post-FBI lives with new identities, which allows Scully to practice medicine in Virginia as "Dr. Blake."  The second storyline dominates the issue, as a robed cult of occult-powered folk work to hunt-down Scully.  Without being a detail spoiler, the cult's pursuit of Scully pulls their old ally FBI Assistant Director Skinner back into their lives.  The drama is ratcheted-up as the creepy group mind-manipulates a young girl patient of Scully's to lead them to her.  It all ends in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as Scully is severely wounded and captured by the cult, just as Mulder and Skinner comprehend exactly what's going-on.

     This new X-Files series is a huge improvement over the previous Topps Comics series, which was published while the old T.V, show was still airing. That series featured very wooden artwork and dull scripts which mimicked the style of the show without any significant story continuity over time.  The new series succeeds by taking the exact opposite approach, on four counts.  First, creator Chris Carter and writer Joe Harris actually continue the evolution of the character's lives into a new, comic book-based Season 10 of the show, evolving the post-FBI lives of our two heroes.  Secondly, the plotline is fresh and entertaining, mixing the old X-Files spooky-adventuring back into Mulder and Sculley's new lives in a believable manner.  Third, the artwork is fresh and high quality, with the visual team providing an animation-like style that works very well for the theme of this series. 

     Fourth and most importantly, the creative team does a fantastic job infusing the story with the old personality quirks and characteristics of our favorite X-Files characters.  In the short span of issue #1, we're treated to the familiar elements of Mulder's eccentricities (evoking the neighborhood kids into referencing his old "Spooky Mulder" nickname), Dana's dogged faithfulness to current and lost people in her life, and Skinner's Eagle Scout-like devotion to both "the greater good" and the needs of his two old friends/comrades-in-arms.  The result is a wonderfully entertaining return in comic book form of the flavor and familiarity of the television-series X-Files, one that's not to be missed.

     My one constructive criticism is the confusion over the personal relationship between Mulder and Scully.  It's very grey as to whether or not these two are a married couple in this new series. They are undercover as "Dr. and Mr. Blake," but still have the cool detachment toward each other of FBI working partners, even calling each other Mulder and Scully.  The creators either have to clarify that their new identities are just a convenient false-front, or alternately show some real, couples-like affection between the pair.  Once that issue is cleared-up one way or the other, the series can then be 100% focused on the new and continuing adventures of our favorite FBI para-normal sleuths.  So don't miss-out on reading this fresh and fun new X-Files comic book series from its very start!

Danger Girl: Trinity #3
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Andy Hartnell: Writer
Stephen Molnar, Harvey Tolibao & John Royle: Art
Philip Moy & Andrew Pepoy: Inks
Romulo Fajardo: Colors

     IDW Publishing's latest Danger Girl comic book title is currently up to issue #3.  For the uninitiated, the series follows the James Bond-style, globe-spanning espionage adventures of the femme fatale threesome of American Abbey Chase, Australian Sydney Savage and Brit Silicon Valerie, along with their Charlie's Angels-like handler, a former British Secret Service Agent named Deuce.  This new Danger Girl: Trinity title is scripted by series creator Andy Hartnell, with the visual gimmick that the script's adventure sub-plots is illustrated by a different set of artists.

     A brief inside-the-front-cover narrative informs us that in the previous two issues, Sydney has been pursued through the streets of London, a new team member named Sonya is being chased through a jungle setting and Abbey has been abducted and dropped into an adventure in Egypt.  The current issue #3 picks-up on two of those three storythreads. In the first half of the issue, we're tossed into the extremely fast-action of Sonya's Congo jungle adventure, as she's pursued through said jungle by horse-riding bounty hunters hot on her heels as she flees with a fugitive.  Without spoiling any details, the sub-plot peaks with an attempt by the fleeing pair to pull-off a wild jungle airport take-off.  Sub-plot number two reveals that Abbey has been captured by a bad guy and forced to utilize her field skills in obtaining an ancient buried Egyptian royal artifact.  Again, without spoiling any of the fun details, the underground adventure climaxes with an Indiana Jones-style cliffhanger bridge to next month's issue #4 story segment.

     I'm a big fan of IDW's multiple Danger Girl titles, having given a positive review a few years ago to one of the early issues from the original storyline.  As such, I'm happy to report that the current title and storyline has lost none of the positive elements that have made this comic book series such an entertaining read.  Danger Girl: Trinity nicely balances the three key elements essential to the spy-sleuth genre of fast-paced action-adventure, credible plot narrative and a sexy artistic style that makes this female spy-sleuthing team concept succeed as an enjoyable comic book read.  The gimmick of alternating art teams presenting each of the team member's separate story segments is interesting, but artist Stephen Molnar's eight-page opening segment depicting Sonya's Congo adventure outshines the rest of the issue; Molnar utilizes more of a television animation cartoony-style that seems best-suited to this title and in my opinion should be adopted for all further upcoming issues of this series.

     Similar to the X-Files review above, I have only one minor constructive criticism of this story, and that's the lack of explanation of just who the heck is Danger Girl team member Sonya. While I can't find any on-line IDW explanation identifying this addition to the original team, both her personality-style and Molnar's wonderful visual technique of emphasizing her various comic facial expressions quickly made her my favorite member of the Danger Girl action team.  So whether you're already a fan of this series like me or a newbie just looking for some fun,  good-looking female espionage agent summertime reading entertainment, Danger Girl: Trinity #3 fits the bill!

Daredevil: Dark Knights #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Lee Weeks: Writer & Artist
Lee Loughridge: Colors

     Marvel Comics has recently published issue #1 of a new, eight-issue limited series entitled "Daredevil: Dark Knights."  The game plan is to present three stories over the span of the series that explore blind attorney Matt Murdock/Daredevil's roles as both a crusading attorney for the downtrodden and as a vigilante of his beloved Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in New York City.  All three tales will take place outside of the ongoing storyverse within the main Daredevil comic book title.  This new series is scripted and drawn by veteran Daredevil creator Lee Weeks with colors by Lee Loughridge.

     Issue #1 kicks-off the first, three-issue tale entitled "Angels Unaware,"  consisting of two alternating sub-plots that unfold during a East Coast mega-blizzard.  In the briefer storyline, a little girl awaits a life-saving organ tansplant while a medivac helicopter crew bravely battles the storm to try and complete the delivery.  The longer, dominating plothread focuses on Daredevil himself; after being knocked unconscious in a street mugging, Matt awakens in a semi-amnesiatic state in the same hospital as the little girl.  Most of the issue portrays Matt trying to clear his head and regain his short-term memory while while the hospital staff tries to figure-out his identity and help him with the sensory overload resulting from his proximity to hundreds of people within the hospital.

     Without revealing too much as a detail spoiler, suffice to say that on a parallel track to Matt regaining control over his super-senses, two good-hearted hospital employees stumble across his true identity as Daredevil. In a very dramatic bridge to issue #2, the storythreads combine as the helicopter crashes in the storm and Matt/Daredevl is assisted by his two new confidants in beginning a brave solo trek to the crashsite in a race-against-time to try and save the little girl's life.

     It's not an exaggeration to state that this new Daredevil series is an instant classic in the making.  Writer/artist Lee Weeks is one of the most acclaimed of Daredevil creators, best known for his exemplary "Last Rites" Daredevil storyline of the early 1990's.  Weeks is considered by many Daredevil fans as the successor to Frank Miller among Daredevil creators and rightly so: he brings a very strong "Milleresque" feel to this new series, regarding the particular style of the story narrative, visuals and theme of the tale.  Weeks successfully returns Murdock/Daredevil to his classic storyverse roots in this tale, with an plot emphasis on personal honor, sacrifice and traditional superhero commitment to the greater good of the community and the downtrodden.

     The result of this creative effort is a comic book that strongly represents the heritage of the Daredevil comic book world while offering a fresh storyline and interpretation of this long-running Marvel superhero character.  I think the best final complement for this new title is simply that in the best of ways, this comic is an entertaining and high-quality throwback to both Miller's 1980's run and Weeks's own early-1990's run on Daredevil.  So an obvious thumbs-up positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this excellent and high quality new Daredevil series.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to correctly tell us which one of the 50 U.S. state flags is the only two-sided state flag in the country.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Erin O'Connor, who correctly tells us that Oregon is the state with the two-sided flag.  We also asked if anyone could identify the t.v. series that this fact was featured in.  The answer is an episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which Shelton Cooper presented this factoid in his podcast documentary "Fun With Flags"!  Congratulations to Erin, who wins our $10.00 first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges offers-up a new contest this week featuring our favorite home-away-from-home pop culture emporium itself, That's Entertainment!  As you know, many businesses such as bookstores, for example, and even public libraries often have a house cat that lives on the premises.  We recently wondered if in theory (and only in theory!) That's Entertainment had an official store cat to patrol the store premises, what would be an appropriate name for the "That's Entertainment" housecat!  For example, we think that one good name might be "Robin," given that the cat would be the faithful sidekick to the store staff.  So your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, July 17 with your proposal to name that hypothetical store cat!  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 mid-season Red Sox watching (go first-place Red Sox!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, July 19 Here In Bongo Congo!

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