Review Date: Friday, March 21, 2014

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we select for our reviews a variety of comic book genres this week. So let's check-out this eclectic mix of new comic book titles and see how they stack-up against each other:
Fantastic Four #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
James Robinson: Writer
Leonard Kirk: Art
Karl Kesel: Inks
Jesus Aburtov: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently released issue #1 of yet another re-boot of its Fantastic Four comic book line.  This latest series is scripted by James Robinson with art by Leonard Kirk, inks by Karl Kesel and colors by Jesus Aburtov.

     This comic book is Part One of a multi-issue story arc entitled "The Fall Of The Fantastic Four."  The tale begins with a flashback narrative by Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, in which she first describes the team in a present-day total crisis with Reed Richards having an emotional breakdown, Ben Grimm jailed on murder charges and Johnny Storm running amok as a burnt-out New York social scene party animal.  The flashback then kicks into high gear with an extended action sequence in which the team battles and overcomes their old dragon nemesis Fin Fang Foom.

     After the battle, each Fantastic Four member gets a personal life scene: Ben Grimm reunites with his old blind flame Alicia, Reed and Sue have a quiet romantic evening together and Johnny Storm embarks upon a personal life career as a rock star.  But its all just the-calm-before-the-proverbial-storm, as in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #2, a portal located in Reed's lab that leads to another dimension mysteriously unlocks and an endless horde of reptilian demon creatures use it to invade Manhattan.

      This is a pretty solid first issue re-boot of the iconic franchise of the Fantastic Four.  The team has been around for so long and has endured so many make-overs, that any new success mandates some very fresh re-boot elements.  Here, the creative team gives us a mix of major and minor re-boot makeovers that combine into a fresh and entertaining new series.  The premise of the team completely shattered gives us an entertaining new story concept and the story lay-out approach of presenting a positive flashback sequence nicely foreshadows the impending total doom hinted at by Sue's early narration.  While we still have no idea of the catastrophic detail's events, there's a nice sense of dread that hooks the reader into wanting to read next month's story segment for further enlightenment.

     Among the minor makeover touches, I liked the redesign of the team's uniforms to a red-colored skintight mode (Sue Storm looks better than most women half her age in her sexy makeover design!), and the new soap opera elements of the Ben-Alicia romance rekindling and Johnny heading toward rock star fame add some nice detail elements of the team's personal life in counterbalance to the expected superheroing of the plotline.

     So all in all, a thumbs-up positive review recommendation is well-deserved for the creative team managing to pull-off a fresh and very entertaining kick-off story segment of the latest new and improved version of everyone's favorite Manhattan-based Marvel Comics foursome of The Fantastic Four!

Brain Boy #3
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Fred Van Lente: Writer
R.B. Silva: Pencils
Rob Lean: Inks

     Dark Horse Comics is up to issue #3 of a series entitled Brain Boy.  The "Brain Boy" in question is Matt Price, the world's most powerful telepath who has espionage action-adventures as a consultant to the U.S. Secret Service on behalf of his corporate employer Albright Industries. Matt also deals with a murder mystery regarding the unsolved deaths of his parents back in his childhood. The series is written by Fred Van Lente with pencils by R.B. Silva and inks by Rob Lean.

     Issue #3 is the concluding segment of a kick-off multi-issue story arc entitled "Psy Vs. Psy." The plot features a lot of action-adventure as Matt's ongoing cat-and-mouse game with evil telepath Emil Ricorta comes to a head. Interestingly, Ricota is the president of a South American country and is visting the U.S. for a few evil reasons.  Without spoiling any fun details, Matt confronts Ricota as well as a mob of telepathically-controlled innocent people manipulated by the bad guy. After some fantastic action among the warring sides, Matt seemingly defeats Ricota and in a stunning reveal we learn that there is actually an alien science fiction element behind Ricota's ultra-powerful psychic abilities.

     This is one very fresh and unique comic book take on the fiction genre of psychic abilities.  Writer Fred Van Lente does a masterful job of blending the concept of telepathy with espionage adventure.  The dialogue is also a pitch perfect blend of drama and humor.  Yet perhaps the best element of this series is a weaving of intrigue throughout both the plot and the general concept of Brain Boy. As in many quality espionage series, we learn that nothing is at it seems. By issue's end, there are strong telltales that Matt's trusted boss Georgina at Albright Industries knows the answer and may actually be responsible for Matt's parent's deaths.  There's also a really neat fantasy element to Georgina which is reason enough on its own to check-out this comic book.

     I say it every once in awhile regarding a reviewed comic book and I'll say it again for Brain Boy: this is one comic book series that would make a fantastic television show, either on network t.v. or on cable.  So by all means, enjoy it now in comic book form so if and when it does hit the small screen, you'll be able to tell all of your friends that you were a fan of Brain Boy from the get-go! And by the way, Matt hates to be called "Brain Boy"!

Lords Of Mars #6
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Arvid Nelson: Writer
Roberto Castro: Art
Alex Guimaraes: Colors

     Another Dynamite Comics title that's currently up to issue #6 is Lords Of Mars, one of several Dynamite titles published within the John Carter, Warlord of Mars franchise. This is the final issue of a limited, six-issue mini-series.  I've reviewed a few of Dynamite's other John Carter Of Mars titles, which are spin-offs on famed writer Edgar Rice Burrough's famous and popular early-to-mid 20th century series of novels that feature Western adventurer John Carter transported to a Pulp-Era fictional Martian society for many action-adventures.  Lords Of Mars explores a new premise of Tarzan and his wife Jane subsequently also transported to Mars for adventures with John Carter and the several different Martian alien races. The series is scripted by Arvid Nelson with art by Roberto Castro and colors by Alex Guimaraes.

     Issue #6 concludes a six-issue multi-story arc entitled "The Eye Of The Goddess," in which John Carter, Tarzan and Jane struggle against the evil intentions of Jagati Kehn, a fat Jabba The Hut-type evil leader of the Martian race of Holy Therns.  This issue focuses on climactic action, as its revealed that Jagati Kehn and his army plan to use a weapons technology that will destroy half of the inhabitants of Mars.  Again without spoiling any details, various action sub-plots come together in this issue, with the result that in standard Golden Age pulp fiction style, our good guys win the day.  The key here is an end-of-story unexpected plot twist, in which Tarzan and Jayne reveal that via Martian transported technology, there's a secret Martian presence established back on Earth.

     This is a series that deserves a positive review recommendation albeit in the average decent-quality category.  On the plus side, the weird mash-up concept of Tarzan and Jane on Mars, of all places, hanging-out with John Carter and fighting multiple Martian races actually works pretty well as an entertaining storyline.  The threesome are all Victorian/Pulp Era heroic characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and have a compatible feel to their personalities and mannerisms.  So it is a pretty creative and neat addition to the wide-rannging John Carter On Mars story franchise.

      On the negative side, the artwork is disappointingly uneven, primitive and sketchy at times and very good at other points in the issue.  Its an annoying pattern akin to trying to keep a t.v. picture in tune as it phases in and out.  In addition, the plot details at times are also too simple and crude, also incorporating overly-graphic killing/gore scenes that don't fit with the original writing style of Burroughs.  The issue does carry a mature reading warning on the cover because of the violence, but it could have been toned-down to allow readers of all ages to enjoy this neat and fun spin-off mash-up of John Carter and me Tarzan, you Jane.

     But these issue flaws aren't serious enough to lower the good stuff in this issue below the positive review radar.  So a positive review recommendation is well deserved for this unique and kind of funky combination of the well-known storyverses of John Carter, Tarzan and Jane.  If the positve quality of issue #6 is any indication, the overall six-issue mini-series is a worthwhile and enjoyable read.

The Twilight Zone #2
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
J. Michael Straczynski: Writer
Guiu Vilanova: Art
Vinicius Andrade: Colors

     Our second Dynamite Comics-published comic book reviewed this week is issue #2 of the new Twilight Zone comic book series.  Last month, I gave a positive review recommendation to issue #1. Unlike the television series's stand-alone one-episode storylines, the comic book format presents an ongoing multi-issue story arc, so I decided to also review issue #2 to see how that structure does or doesn't meet the science fiction stylings of The Twilight Zone. The series is written by A-list writer J. Michael Straczynski with art by Guiu Vilanova and colors by Vinicius Andrade.

     The multi-issue storyline is entitled "Lost." In the issue #1 plot, Wall Street sleazeball Trevor Richmond is shown as a trainwreck in all aspects of his sordid life, from embezzling from his Wall Street employer to being emotionally-abusive to his beautiful girlfriend.  As the law closes in on his corporate theft, he uses the services of a mysterious company to completely alter his physical looks and entire lifestyle, emerging as a new person among the lower working class in New York. The issue ended in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as Trevor watches a t.v. press conference in which a person appear in his old identity and confesses to his crimes.

      Issue #2 expands that development and Trevor's reaction to it. Early in the plot, we witness the new Trevor repenting, gaining public sympathy and gaining back the love of his beautiful girlfriend.  Old sleazeball Trevor returns to the mysterious identity company and learns that they've plugged another customer into his old identity. Powerless to stop it, dirtbag Trevor tries to confront his replacement.  Without spoiling any details, the effort goes badly and old Trevor is on the run from the law through the underbelly of Manhattan.  The issue ends in another bridge to next month's story segment, as Trevor begins stalking the new guy and the girlfriend as he plots a yet-to-be-disclosed revenge.

     I have mixed review feelings about issue #2 of this series.  On the positive side, its an excellent and absorbing thriller fictional tale scripted by one of the best comic book writers in today's business. I definitely want to see where this crumbling bizarre identity switch storyline takes both the story characters and readers.  But on the other hand, the story fails as a Twilight Zone-style script, for at least two key reasons.  First, its just not that Twilight Zone-style spooky in today's world for a person to pull-off an identity change in the manner presented. Given today's technology and social structure, it actually feels kind of real world and routine. 

     Secondly, my fear expressed in my issue #1 review is confirmed in issue #2: a multi-issue story arc format doesn't work for the Twilight Zone-style of storytelling.  Zone tales need to be compact, fast-moving and most importantly, need to hit us hard with a surprise reveal that makes the reader/t.v. viewer say "wow, I never saw that coming!" The multi-issue story arc concept completely kills that rush as the story proceeds at a routine pace through issue-after-issue.  This story is very interesting, but it lacks that zing and pacing required for the Twilight Zone storyverse to be present and effective.

     The creative team is still giving us a very high quality comic book series that's well-worth reading for its mystery/thriller style of entertainment.  But if you're looking for a standard Twilight Zone style of entertainment, I think that like me, you'll be left feeling unsatisfied.  So bottom line: by all means check-out and enjoy this comic book, but a title such as "Tales Of Mystery" would be more appropriate to the actual story in between the covers.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest came on the heels of the recent annual Oscar awards for the movies, and challenged you to tell us what was the shortest acceptance speech in Oscar history.  And our contest winner is (drumroll, please)...Chris Begley, who correctly identified actress Patty Duke who simply said "Thank You" and then walked off the stage after winning her Best Actress Oscar for her role as Helen Keller in the 1963 movie "The Miracle Worker."  Congratulations to Chris who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has an unusual trivia contest challenge for you this week.  We're all familiar with plastic gift cards, with over 50% of all Americans stating in surveys that they give at least one gift card annually.  But where did they originate?  So your contest challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, April 2 and correctly tell us which company offered the very first gift card in the U.S. and why did they start using plastic gift cards instead of the traditional paper gift certificates? Hint: the year was 1994.  As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment 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 red-hot winning Boston Bruins watching (Go Broons!!!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 4 Here In Bongo Congo!

-   -

© 2011 - 2018, 2019 All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.