Review Date: Friday, November 15, 2013

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has found four interesting-looking and eclectic new comic books on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves, so let's get right to it and see how these latest titles stack-up against each other:

Pretty Deadly #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Writer
Emma Rios: Art
Jordie Bellaire: Colors

     Image Comics recently published issue #1 of a new comic book series entitled Pretty Deadly.  The title is scripted by Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble author Kelly Sue DeConnick with art by Emma Rios and colors by Jordie Bellaire.

       The storyline has a Western genre setting that plays-out in three acts. Act One introduces us to the young girl Sissy and her elderly blind companion Fox, who travel among small Western towns staging small outdoor plays and grifting the locals.  The action picks-up in Act Two, in which Sissy pickpockets a cowboy with deadly results, as it turns-out that the papers she stole are being hunted-for by a deadly female gunslinger named Alice.  The tension ratchets-up further in Act Three, as Fox and Sissy flee to an ally named Sarah, to plan their stand against the inevitable arrival of the extremely dangerous and seemingly unstoppable Alice.

     I'm giving issue #1 of Pretty Deadly an average quality positive review, albeit one that barely avoids a negative review recommendation.  On the plus side, we have some pretty interesting mystery elements woven into this dystopian Western genre setting.  I liked writer Kelly Sue DeConnick's approach of keeping the tension high with a strong dose of mystery.  Particularly intriguing is the yet-to-be-explained nature of the stolen notes as well as the mysterious background of Alice the deadly gunslinger.  I also enjoyed the dialogue repartee between our core main characters of Sissy and Fox.  Third, I enjoyed the visual style of this comic book, which suited its Western fiction theme very well.

     On the negative side, I couldn't stand McConnick's strategy of presenting a large portion of the story dialogue in the form of song.  Two important and lengthy chunks of the plot consist of Sissy belting-out the narrative, once during one of her plays and secondly as a song to soothe the fear of a scared child.  It both annoyed me to no end and was difficult to understand in relation to whatever the heck was supposed to be happening plot-wise in both scenes.  This "movie musical" style results in an overall plot that requires a lot of doubling-back to re-read scenes for better understanding.  I wasn't a fan of what I saw as poor quality scripting by McConnick in her previous Avengers Assemble outing and I'm even less of a fan of hers after reading this weird musical number of a plot.

      So the end result is a muddled kick-off issue of Pretty Deadly, one that presents some interesting mystery elements within a Wild West tale but gets dragged-down to the very edge of a potential dud by a poor style choice by the writer for story presentation.  I'm personally willing to check-out another issue or two of this new title, but I'm also fearful that writer McConnick just doesn't have the writing chops to keep this intriguing story concept from ultimately crashing and burning-out within a few more issues.

Half Past Danger #1
Publisher: IDW
Stephen Mooney: Writer and Artist

     IDW is up to issue #5 of a thriller/adventure-themed comic book entitled Half Past Danger.  The noir mystery title and the very beautiful art deco-style front cover looked intriguing enough for me to backtrack to issue #1 to get a review feel for this new series from its very beginning.  The comic book is both written and drawn by creator Stephen Mooney.

     Issue #1 introduces the storyline with a Chapter One tale entitled "Bite The Bullet." The first half of the story unfolds a science fiction plot set in the World War II Pacific Theatre.  Our main character is U.S. Army Sergeant Tom Flynn, who makes two unexpected discoveries as he leads his small recon patrol into the deep jungle of a Pacific Island.  The first is a secret Nazi air base with sci-fi style aircraft, while the second surprise are various rampaging dinosaurs.  This sub-plot features fast action, concluding with Flynn as the only U.S. soldier surviving the dino attack.  Sub-plot Number Two is set back in New York City a few months later. As Flynn tries to cope on-leave with the trauma of his weird adventure, he's confronted by a secretive military trio consisting of a sexy female British Agent, a Steve Rodgers-like U.S. super soldier and a mysterious Japanese ninja expert.  The issue ends in a bridge to issue #2, as the group coerces Flynn to join their cause for further wartime adventuring.

     The most positive aspect of this title is writer Stephen Mooney's strong skill in taking some often-presented comic book story themes and successfully mxing them together into a fresh and very entertaining new comic book series.  Sure, we've all read a gazillion comic books that feature dinosaurs running amok either in in modern-day society or in wartime, but Mooney gives us such beautiful artwork, interesting characters and crisp dialogue that its all very fresh and new.  There's also an very nice sense of mystery, here.  By the end of issue #1, I was hooked on wanting see where this plot line is heading in future issues.  If the quality of issue #1 is any indication, Mooney will no doubt nicely balance the mystery of the Pacific Island dinos, sci-fi style Nazis and the mysterious team of Flynn and his new buddies into some wide-ranging and interesting mixed-genre comic book storytelling.

      So a very positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this interesting and entertaining new comic title that mixes thriller, adventure and science fiction storytelling themes into one successful art deco-styled comic book title.  And the best part is, copies of issues #1 through #5 of this new series are all still available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves for your reading pleasure!

Buck Rodgers #1
Publisher: Hermes Press
Howard Chaykin: Writer & Artist
Jesus Aburto: Colors

     The accomplished veteran comic book creator Howard Chaykin is currently reinterpreting Buck Rodgers for publisher Hermes Press.  Most dedicated comics fans are at least somewhat familiar with the iconic Buck Rodgers character, created in 1928 by Philip Francis Nowlan as a popular newspaper comic strip, and eventually evolving into a wildly popular movie serial.  This latest Buck Rodgers comic book is up to issue #2, so I backtracked to last month's issue #1 in order to get a good feel for this series from its beginning.  Howard Chaykin is both writer and artist for the title, with colors provided by Jesus Aburto.

     Issue #1 alternates between two interweaving sub-plots.  In one storythread, Buck recounts via flashback his well-known origin story, as a 20th-century American who was knocked unconscious in a mineshaft accident by a mysterious natural gas, sleeping for 500 years until his awakening in the 25th century.  The origin portrays the world of the 25th century the same as in the previous Buck Rodgers comic strip, that of a planet ruled by China, with what's left of America populated by struggling factions of rocket jetpack-flying pirate-like factions.

     The second sub-plot focuses on Buck and Colonel Wilma Deering, as together they lead Buck's newly-adopted pack of heroes in a conflict with a nearby warring faction.  Without being a detail spoiler, we're introduced to several secondary characters very familiar from the famed comic strip.  After a lengthy airborne battle Buck and his allies win the day.  In a dramatic bridge to issue #2, Buck discovers a strange book left on the battlefield with the intriguing title of "Americaland."

     I enjoyed reading this new take on the classic Buck Rodgers science fiction character and was particularly impressed with Howard Chaykin's success in evenly balancing his plot with equal portions of traditional and new Buck Rodgers story elements.  In the traditional category, the basic storyverse which made this series so popular is faithfully replicated, from specific story characters to the political world of the 25th century, with the Chinese Han government, scattered U.S. factions and the well-known bad guy "Ming The Merciless" either featured in this tale or referenced for future issues.

     The new story elements are particularly interesting.  Chaykin is known for using his storytelling as a platform to present in a visual format his own views on life, society and politics.  In that vein, here he recasts Buck as a 20th century political activist, leading blue collar workers in early 20th-century populist union activities.  He then carries this personality trait into the 25th century, as Buck tries throughout this tale to convince his allies to stop squabbling with their fellow American factions and instead unite against their common oppression by the conquering Han Chinese.  Its a clear metaphor for unions uniting for their rights versus corporate management.  Whether you support one side or another on this issue, it all makes for a credible and entertaining plot addition to the well-known backstory of Buck Rodgers.

     In addition to the well-crafted script, its worth giving a shout-out to two additional successful elements of this comic book: the excellent-as-usual graphics of Chaykin's artwork, which is a perfect visual style for this storyline, and an interesting back-of-the-issue question-and-answer interview of Chaykin by the publisher.  So whether you're an old-school Buck Rodgers fan or a newcomer to this particular science fiction comic book character, its well-worth checking-out this latest version of all things Buck Rodgers!

Kings Watch
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Jeff Parker: Writer
Marc Laming: Art
Jordan Boyd: Colors

      Dynamite Entertainment recently introduced a new comic book entitled "Kings Watch," featuring a team-up of the Pulp-era heroes The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake The Magician.  The series is up to issue #2, so once again I took a short step back to last month's issue #1 to get a good feel for the title from its kick-off issue.  The series is scripted by Jeff Parker with art by Marc Laming and colors by Jordan Boyd.

      The issue #1 storyline alternates among four interweaving sub-plots, all with the interconnected theme that strange lights have appeared world-wide in the night sky, triggering creepy nightmares among most of humanity consisting of vivid visions of an impending demon monster invasion.  Without being a detail spoiler, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake The Magician star in three of these plotthreads, as they individually cope with circumstances of the phenomena in their separate settings. 

     The fourth vignette stars Flash Gordon's girlfriend Eve Arden, who is cast in this title as a Lois Lane-style journalist trying to cope with her own nightmares from the situation.  A major highlight of the issue is an extended action sequence in which The Phantom fights and defeats a dinosaur-like creature in Africa, no doubt also linked to the strange doings. The issue ends in a dramatic action scene, as Flash Gordon rockets into Earth orbit to investigate the light phenomena.  We also learn that a demonic cult is seeking to open the mysterious "Kings Watch" to trigger the demonic invasion.

     I couldn't help but compare this comic book to the Buck Rodgers issue reviewed above, given that they're both new titles featuring the return of some of the most popular pulp-era comic strip and comic book action heroes.  And in that regard, this comic book also scores high on the scales of both high quality and worthwhile entertainment.  Similar to Chaykin's scripting style in Buck Rodgers, Kings Watch writer Jeff Parker provides an equal blend of old and new elements in this script.  I was particularly impressed with his decision to place the setting of the story in the current world of 2013.  While his characters all maintain their early 20th-century personality traits, they still manage to blend well into the structure of our high tech, instant communication world.  The result is a very entertaining fresh take on these iconic Pulp-era action heroes, presented with some very appropriate and enjoyable artwork.

     So another thumbs-up positive review recommendation for All Good Readers to take advantage of the rare treat this week of two excellent pre-Golden Age-themed action comic books available for your reading pleasure on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to identify the only capital of a foreign country named after a U.S. President.  We received several correct entries, so via a roll-of-the-dice, our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Christopher Begley, who identified the capital city and country as Monrovia, Liberia.  Liberia was colonized beginning in 1820 by African-American freed slaves, resulting in an eventual naming of the capital city after U.S. President James Monroe.  Congratulations to Chris who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenges you with a trivia question with the answer available right here in the Park Avenue neighborhood of That's Entertainment.  All good customers of our favorite pop culture emporium are aware that across the street from the store is the Park View Tower office building, the tallest building along the Park Avenue commercial corridor.  Your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, November 27 with the correct answer to the following question: how many stories tall is the Park View Tower?  The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges bets that most readers have never bothered to count the number of floors in the building height.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be selected via a roll-of-the-dice.  Please note that our $10.00 first prize 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 holiday season (Happy Thanksgiving!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, November 29 Here In Bongo Congo!

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