Review Date: Friday, April 4, 2014

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo is thrilled and relieved that Spring has finally sprung after our long, cold Central Mass. Winter, and has decreed that in celebration we review a nice range of new comic book titles.  So let's get right to it and see how these new issues stack-up against each other:

Daredevil #36
Mark Waid: Writer
Chris Samnee: Art
Javier Rodriquez: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently concluded its current Daredevil title run with issue #36. As all good Daredevil fans know, the Daredevil storyverse was just rebooted with a new run starting with a new issue #1, in which Daredevil/Matt Murdock and his supporting cast of characters all relocate from his New York City Hell's Kitchen neighborhood to San Francisco. Given the acclaimed high quality work of the creative team on the recent 36-issue run, I thought it worthwhile to review the recent wrap-up issue before we move on to future reviews of the succeeding Daredevil series.  Issue #36 is scripted by A-lister Mark Waid wirth art by Chris Samnee and colors by Javier Rodriquez.

     Issue #36 brings together several sub-plots into a high drama series conclusion.  One key sub-plot features Matt's law partner and best buddy Foggy struggling through chemotherapy as he fights for his life from cancer, while a second sub-plot involves romance for Matt.  But the key drama centers upon a courtroom battle, in which Matt is being blackmailed by a crime boss and the corrupt judge as they threaten to reveal his Daredevil identity to the world.  In a very dramatic turn of events, Matt turns the table on them by revealing his superhero persona to the world.  I won't spoil any of the amazing story details resulting from this superhero outing, other than to comment that a battle literally breaks out in the courtroom over the reveal. By issue's end, the consequences of the situation lead Matt and friends to start life afresh with a new law practice in San Francisco.

     I loved all of the previous issues of this excellent run of Daredevil and I'm happy to report that the creative team ends the series on a perfect note. The various sub-plots seamlessly come together into one final perfect episode of the multi-issue story arc.  I like several little touches that have major impacts upon the storyline and its ultimate conclusion.  Perhaps the best is a multi-panel, detailed conversation between the ill Foggy and Matt, in which their discussion regarding the ongoing identity reveal becomes a talk about the deep and lasting bonds of their friendship.

     Major kudos are also due writer Mark Waid for a very entertaining and moving speech that he writes for Matt, in which he informs the court why he is going public with his superhero persona.  Without overphilosophizing, its actually a pretty good bigger picture explanation as to why superheros in our comic book reality of 2014 may have outgrown the need to hide the dual sides of their identities from the world. On a final review note, I also liked very much the decision of Marvel to keep this storyverse world of Murdock/Daredevil structurally intact and just move everyone to another city for further adventuring.  There's a lot of good emotional connectivity among these folks, and as such the new Daredevil title should be able to give us a successful balance between the familiar/fun old and new, refreshing elements of Daredevil in San Francisco.

     So a major complimentary tip-of-the-review-hat is due to both this excellent creative team and Marvel Comics itself for hitting the trifecta of a great 36-issue Daredevil run, providing a wonderful issue #36 wrap-up story segment and heading us into what looks like an upcoming fun continuation of Daredevil with some fresh story opportunities. And if you haven't been a regular Daredevil reader of late, by all means catch-up on this current title run with back issues available at That's Entertainment, while at the same time heading into the new Daredevil title run.  We'll be sure to give the upcoming issues a review or two in upcoming installments of this column.

Serenity #2
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Zack Whedon: Writer
Georges Jeanty: Pencils
Karl Story: Inks
Laura Martin: Colors

      Dark Horse Comics is up to issue #2 of its latest Serenity comic book mini-series run.  As all good science fiction fans know, this series is an outer space adventuring comic book based upon Josh Whedon's acclaimed "Firefly" television show, which followed the outer space adventures of the spaceship Serenity, captained by Malcolm Reynolds (played by Nathan Fillion in the series and movie) and manned by his tightknit band of smuggler/adventurers. The comic book extends the plot presented in the "Serenity" movie that followed the t.v. series.  The comic book is scripted by Josh Whedon's brother Zack Whedon with pencils by Georges Jeanty, inks by Karl Story and colors by Laura Martin.

     As I mentioned above, the comic book continues the movie plot, in which an interstellar government bounty hunter is trying to capture crewmember Willow and return her to the clutches of the Alliance, the "evil empire" style of galactic government.  We learn two elements of this plan in interweaving sub-plots: first, former crewmember Jayne is part of the hunt for the ship, while the bounty hunter makes his own search for the fleeing ship.  The plot becomes more tense as crewmember Zoe needs medical care after giving birth to her baby; most of the plot centers on the crew's efforts to admit Zoe to an interstellar hospital ship without getting caught by their pursuers.  Without being a detail spoiler, by issue's end, Captain Reynolds and crew have managed to get Zoe on-board the hospital ship and then escape, but not before the Alliance begins to spring a trap to possibly recapture everyone in next month's issue #3.

     As I've mentioned in previous reviews, the key to the success of a comic book series that's based on a movie or television series is the degree to which it manages to duplicate all the good stuff from the original show or series.  In this case, the creative team pulls-off that feat in two successful ways.  First, they do a great job of duplicating the personalities and behavior of the various Serenity characters, to the point where the comic book has a strong feel for the t.v. show and movie.  Secondly, writer Zack Whedon does a great job providing a script that credibly continues the Serenity movie plot. I could easily see this storyline someday becoming a decent sequel to the Serenity movie.

     My only constructive criticism is that the artwork only sporadically resembles the familiar facial features of the very popular actors from the t.v. series and movie.  But the plot is entertaining enough and the general tone of the comic book is so similar to Firefly that its a minor point in this case and does little or nothing to diminish the fun and entertainment value of this title.  So whether you're already a Firefly/Serenity fan or a newbie to this science fiction series, either way by all means check-out and enjoy the latest Serenity mini-series comic book from Dark Horse Comics!

Superman: Lois Lane (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Marguerite Bennett: Writer
Various Artists

     DC Comics recently published a slightly oversized, one-shot Lois Lane comic book within its wide-ranging "The New 52!" publishing event.  The title is scripted by Marguerite Bennett with a total of eight different artists taking turns penciling and inking various portions of this 38-page comic book.

     The storyline is entitled "Nostalgia," and can best be summed-up with the marketing blurb on the front cover which proclaims "Metropolis, Mayhem and Monsters!" The plot stars Lois and her younger sister Lucy, alternating between a present-day main plotline and a flashback storythread.  In the flashback, we witness the period in the sisters' childhood when they lived with their parents on a U.S. Army base in Germany.  This subplot is layered with subtle emotion, as the girls bond tightly together while their mother is slowly dying and their father copes with his powerlessness in dealing with the situation.  The present-day storythread dominates the issue and features equal parts mystery and fast action.  When Lucy's roommate is kidnapped by a mysterious military unit, Lois investigates and stumbles upon a conspiracy in which a mysterious new Metropolis street drug is turning people into monsters.

     Without revealing any important detail or plot-twist spoilers, its fair to reveal that Lucy's roommate has been unwittingly prescribed the drug when recently ill, leading to the military unit rounding her up along with other Metropolis citizen-victims.  Action-adventure kicks-in in the second half of the storyline, as Lois infiltrates the secret harbor location where the round-up is located.  As she investigates, she's unexpectedly aided by the anonymous leader of the military unit, who sympathizes with the monster victims and just wants to secretly restore them to their human lives and sweep the existence of the incident under the rug.  When all hell does break loose in the midst of Lois's clandestine visit, she escapes with her sister's roommate. Returning to the safety of home, Lois learns in a very dramatic and unexpected plot twist of her sister's own victimization by the secret project, whereupon the story concludes with the siblings re-bonding emotionally in a manner similar to their childhood flashback experience.

     I had to think awhile about a final review recommendation for this comic book, given the equal mix of strongpoints and glaring flaws within this issue.  I finally decided to give it a borderline average thumbs-up positive review recommendation, several reasons.  On the plus side, there's a lot of well-crafted storytelling emotion and characterization between Lois Lane and her sister Lucy throughout this storyline.  It falls more into the "Chick Lit" genre of fiction-telling rather than a traditional Superman Family comic book telling, but it is well-presented and entertaining as a unique storytelling style that adds to the wide-ranging inventory of Lois Lane comic book tales.  And the story concept itself is interesting, that of a secret drug research program that's turning people into monsters.  Third, there's an interesting storythread in the back half of this tale between Lois and the mysterious military unit leader, as they debate the pros and cons between going public with the conspiracy versus allowing the military to quietly clean-up the mess and restore people to their normal lives.

     On the con side, these good story features are heavily weighed down by the dialogue detail within writer Marguerite Bennett's script, much of which is incredibly amateurish and sloppy, in two respects. The first is her peppering the story with annoyingly illogical small points that all add-up to one glaring annoyance. Secondly, Bennett's writing style for demonstrating folks emotionally bonding together is poor.  The initial scenes of the two girls bonding in childhood are plodding and drag-on for too many pages, while a present-day scene illustrating the friendship bond between Lois and Jimmy Olson is amateurish and cringe-worthy.  By issue's end, I felt that a better writer would have provided readers with a much more entertaining and higher quality product for this comic book.

     So bottom line: this one-shot comic book is an interesting effort that deserves an average-quality thumbs-up positive review recommendation for fans of the extended Superman Family to add to the wide range of their collections.  But the sloppiness of the writing as detailed above does leave one feeling that a better quality product could have been produced by DC Comics for the worthy story concept embodying the storyline premise.  Hopefully, a future one-shot edition of Superman: Lois Lane might improve upon the current effort.  And one last final review comment: its really time for DC Comics to cancel the whole "The New 52!" publishing event. This marketing effort has been around for a few years now and has run out of gas. There's nothing new about the storyverse concept and we're well beyond the original 52 week-period of this tired publishing concept.

Loki: Agent Of Asgard #2
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Al Ewing: Writer
Lee Garbett: Art
Nolan Woodard: Colors

     Marvel Comics is up to issue #2 of a new title starring Loki, Thor's well-known at-tmes evil, at-times just mischievious younger brother.  The concept in this title is that previously, Loki didn't want to remain evil so he died and was reborn as a good teen Loki.  Then the remaining spirit of his dead self killed-off the young good Loki and secretly replaced him.  This secret new Loki is now an agent as Asgard's powerful All-Mother, conducting secret missions on her behalf.  The series is scripted by Al Ewing with art by Lee Garbett and colors by Nolan Woodard.

     Issue #2 is entitled "Loki and Lorelei, Sitting in a Tree..." and centers on Loki's latest secret mission, that of seeking-out in human society the Asgardian enchantress (and Loki's ex-girlfriend) Lorelei and returning her to Asgard.  The plot begins with humor, as Loki tracks Lorelei to a speed dating event and connects emotionally with Verity Willis, a human woman who has the power to sense when she's being lied to.  From there, most of the issue presents a series of flashbacks  by which Loki tells Verity about Loreliei's various catburgler adventures as well as the details of his past romance with Lorelei.  By issue's end, Loki connects with Lorelei but begins his own scheming partnership with her rather than return her to Asgard, for now at least.

     Marvel Comics has put a lot of energy and creative talent to bear these past few years in presenting a wide range of Thor storyverse titles that present fresh takes on these well-known Asgardian characters.  That said, this latest version of Loki adds some additional freshness and decent entertainment to that inventory, for a few reasons.  First and foremost is the fun element of humor throughout this storyline.  Writer Al Ewing nicely balances the drama story elements with a fun satire on the drawbacks to speed dating, as well as a nice layer of humor in the flashback sequences.  Secondly, the artwork is very appropriate for the storyline, with some effective and enjoyable facial sequences of the characters that support the humor and light elements of the tale.

     Third, the story bridge at the conclusion of this story segment to next month's issue #3 is solid and intriguing in two respects: the first being the unexpected twist of Loki seeming to turn the tables on the All-Mother by recruiting Lorelei for his own grifting purposes and secondly, the potential for a growing relationship (possibly romantic) between Loki and Verity Willis. Regarding one note of constructive review criticism, the whole concept of bad Loki becoming good Loki then becoming secret agent Loki is a bit confusing.  Its not that clear whether this current version is good, secretly bad or a mix of both. While its not a quality dealbreaker for this series, hopefully future issues will clarfy Loki's personality traits for a better understanding of his actions and motives.

     So all-in-all a thumbs-up positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this solid and entertaining addition to the always-expanding Marvel inventory of new-issue Thor comic book titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

      Our latest contest challenged you to tell us which U.S. company offered the first plastic gift cards back in the 1990's and why they decided to shift away from paper gift certificates. We had several correct entries, so via a roll of the dice our winner is (drumroll, pelase...) Erin O'Connor, who correctly tells us that Blockbuster Video was the first to offer gift cards, the reason being that some customers were starting to xerox and counterfeit the paper gift certificates. Congratulations to Erin who winds our first prize $10.00 gift certificate (not a gift card!) to That's Entertainment!!!

New Contest Announcement!!!

     With the start of the Major League Baseball season this week, the Bongo Congo panel of contest judges turn their thoughts to a sports trivia question.  Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, April 16 with the answer to the following sports question: Which U.S. city has the unfortunate distinction of having three professional sports teams in three major U.S. sports who each own the worst consecutive game losing streaks in their respective sports? Unfortunately, one poor city has this distinction!  As always, in the event of multiple correct answers, the winner of our $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment will be selected via a roll of the dice.  Please note that our $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 Boston sports-watching (go Broons and Red Sox!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, April 18 Here In Bongo Congo!

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