Review Date: Friday, June 13, 2014

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review this week an eclectic mix of new comic books, so let's get right to it and see how this nice mixed-variety of titles stack-up against each other:

Scooby-Doo! Team-Up #4
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Sholly Fisch: Writer
Dario Brizuela: Art
Franco Riesco: Colors

     After our last trivia contest offered a Scooby-Doo question that generated a large number of contest entries, I thought this week we'd include a Scooby-Doo comic list among our comic book reviews.  DC Comics is currently up to issue #4 of its Scooby-Doo Team-Up title, which apparently pairs the well-known Scooby-Doo teen sleuthing gang with a different partner or team of partners in each issue.  The series is written by Sholly Fisch with art by Dario Brizuela and colors by Franco Riesco.

     This month's storyline partners the Scooby-Doo friends with the television cartoon version of the Teen Titans.  When ghosts and ghouls invade the Titans headquarters, the call goes out for the Scooby-Dooers to arrive and solve the mystery.  Without spoiling any of the fun details, the usual Scooby-style hijinks ensue until our players, as Scooby traditional storytelling warrants, solve the mystery which includes proving that there's a very non-supernatural origin to the spooky mystery.

     This is a fun, Saturday morning cartoon-style comic book that delivers worthwhile entertainment for several reasons.  First, it remains true to the stylings of the ever-popular Scooby-Doo storyverse, nicely balancing involvement of Scooby, his sidekick Shaggy and the other Scooby players throughout the plot. Secondly, the personalities and behavior of the various cartoony-style young Teen Titans is very funny and entertaining. I'm not familiar with this animation-based version of the Teen Titans, but got a kick out of their antics nonetheless.  Third, writer Sholly Fischer provides a high-quality script that works as reading entertainment for fans of all ages, from kids to older fans.

     Fourth and finally, a tip-of-the-review-hat is due to the really neat decision of the creative team to shift the storyline in mid-issue; when the spooky mystery is solved midway through the tale, we're unexpectedly treated to a very funny plot shift that involves a humorous unwanted visitor to the Teen Titans headquarters, one that requires the continued partnering-up of the Scoobies and Titans to deal with this overstaying guest.  The result is literally two interconnected but separate storylines offered-up in this issue for the price of only one, and you can't beat that!

     So in sum, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this current title of Scooby-Doo, which as mentioned above, is well-worth the entertainment time and effort for readers of all ages to check-out and enjoy!

Indestructible #6
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Ken Kristensen: Writer
Giancarlo Caracuzzo: Pencils & Inks
Flavia Carracuzzo: Colors

     IDW Publishing is up to issue #6 of a comic book series entitled "Indestructible."  An inside-the-front-cover summary explains that the series stars Greg Pincus, a mild-mannered ordinary person who is mistakenly identified as a superhero who wields the power of invulnerability.  Greg's roommate Barry cons him into using the false identity for them both to enjoy the resulting media attention and pseudo-celebrity lifestyle, resulting in comedy and misadventures as the con gets crazy complicated.  The series was created by Jeff Kline with scripting by Ken Kristensen, pencils and inks by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and colors by Flavia Caracuzzo.

     The issue #6 story segment advances the complexities and interconnected wackiness resulting from the ongoing fake superhero con, via three alternating sub-plots.  In the lengthier storythread, Greg continues the shaky version of the con when visited in his apartment by "Frank The Mighty," the short, business-suited leader of an Avengers-style group that Greg is seeking to join.  A second plotline focuses on an argument between Greg's parents and older brother Fred, in which the folks are all starry-eyed about their suddenly-super youngest son, ignoring all of Fred's arguments that he sees it all as a con.  Our third segment provides a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #7; when Greg cons his way into a superheroes-only fashion magazine shoot, the photographer's desire to test his invulnerability in front of the camera puts Greg's life in immediate peril.

     This comic book title essentially features a great story premise produced very poorly, for three reasons.  First, the artwork is terrible.  While the inside front cover provides an acclaimed promo for artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo, his product doesn't live-up to the hype. Instead, we're mistreated to a very sketchy, poor style of comic drawing that no paying reader should be subjected to.  Writer Ken Kristensen's script provides two further duds. On the one hand, the story scenes drag-on with a ridiculous focus on minor, trivial actions and concerns that are just plain boring.  On the other hand, Kristensen embodies Greg, Barry, "Frank The Mighty" and just about every other character with snarky, immature and at-times creepy personalities to the point where I couldn't root for a single character to prevail through the story progression.  Everyone's such a self-centered jerk that I would prefer to see each of them trip-up on their plotline efforts and desires.

      Its a shame that this comic book product is overwhelmed by these three glaring defects, because as I stated above, this title puts forth a very intriguing story concept and theme, that of exploring the pop culture celebrity trials and tribulations of a fake superhero.  It has a lot of relevancy to our real-world pop culture phenomenon of talentless folks such as the Kardashians being lauded by the media and their fans without demonstrating any tangible  talents.  But again, good intentions alone don't produce a worthwhile and entertaining comic book read.

     So unfortunately, Indestructible deserves a negative, thumbs-down review recommendation.  Hopefully, another creative team will eventually enter the new issues publishing scene with a much better take on this storyline concept.  But for now, spend your hard-earned comic book reading dough on the many other fine reading products available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season Six
Publisher: Dynamite Comics #1
Jim Kuhoric: Writer
Juan Antonio Ramirez: Art
Fran Gamboa: Colors

     Dynamite Comics recently published issue #1 of a new Six Million Dollar Man comic. In the tradition of many comic book continuations of and homages to popular television series (The X-Files, Buffy, Firefly, etc.), the title picks-up from the conclusion of the very popular five-season t.v. show (as well as a handful of made-for-television movies) from the 1970's, which starred Lee Majors as Steve Austin, the bionically-enhanced government agent. The series also spun-off the t.v. series The Bionic Woman, which starred Lindsay Wagner in the title role for three equally-popular seasons.  The comic book series is scripted by Jim Kuhoric with art by Juan Antonio Ramirez and colors by Fran Gamboa.

     The premier issue kicks-off a multi-issue story arc entitled "It Came From Deep Space."  Two sub-plots interweave throughout issue #1.  In the main storythread, Steve and his well-known government spy boss Oscar Goldman get involved in a science fiction adventure, as an unmanned U.S. space probe, which had been lost on Venus, is tracked to a mysterious return splashdown off the Florida coast.  In the alternating subplot, a rival government scientist pitches to the Feds his latest invention, a robot that not only has Steve Austin's abilities but is deliberately designed as Steve's look-alike.  High action kicks-in as off the Florida coast, the salvage team is mysteriously attacked and Steve has to use his abilities to save the divers, fight off killer sharks and retrieve the space probe. The issue ends in a bridge to issue #2 as government scientists begin to work toward unlocking the probe's secrets.

     I've said it before and I'll say it again right now: the key to success for any comic series based on a popular t.v. show or movie is the degree to which it emulates the special and unique elements that made the show a success.  And once again, I'm very happy to report that this latest comic series gets a very high rating in that crucial category.  First, the art team does a great job translating the well-known physical features of both Steve Austin and Oscar Goldman to the comic book page.  Secondly, writer Jim Kuhoric provides a script that's well-balanced between duplicating the style and atmosphere of the 1970's television series, while not getting stuck in the past.  There's a nice 70's-style of storytelling simplicity here, yet the setting also doesn't feel stale or dated.  I did feel as if I was reading an action-adventure story set in the modern world of 2014, which added some freshness to the mix of well-known 1970's Six Million Dollar Man storyverse elements.

     A third key element in this story is the successful blending of a neat science fiction element into the tale.  There's a hint of extraterrestrial alien mystery to the unexplained return of the Venus probe to Earth, further heightened by an issue #2 preview narrative in the back of issue #1, that frankly talks about an alien presence arriving on Earth with the returned probe.  I would have preferred to learn of such a major story development within the tale itself, but that doesn't detract at all from the entertainment and high quality of the issue #1 story segment.  So if you're a baby boomer like me who loved watching those five special seasons of the 1970's television series, or if instead you're too young to have remembered the show (or to have watched it in syndicated re-runs), either way I think you'll be impressed with and entertained by the quality of this "Season Six" comic book continuation of everyone's favorite bionic man t.v. show, The Six Million Dollar Man!  Oh, and a final review thought: I wonder how much the famed re-building of Steve Austen would cost in today's economy?!

Smallville: Lantern #1
 Publisher: D.C. Comics
Bryan Q. Miller: Writer
Marcio Takara: Art
Carrie Strachan: Colors

     DC Comics recently released issue #1 of a Smallville: Lantern comic book series.  Similar to the "Season Six" concept of the Six Million Dollar Man comic book reviewed above, DC Comics has a "Season 11" comic book series that continues the concept of the Smallville television series beyond the tenth and final season of that t.v. show.  Smallville: Lantern appears to be an offshoot story concept of the main Smallville: Season 11 comic book.  This title is written by Bryan Q. Miller with art by Marcio Takara and colors by Carrie Strachan.

     The untitled issue #1 story segment kicks-off a multi-issue storyline with the plot centering on a young Superman becoming the latest Earth-based Green Lantern.  For reasons which I won't spoiler-reveal in this review, the Green Lantern ring of Krypton's long-deceased Green Lantern is activated in today's timeframe and goes off on its own to search for a new Kryptonian-blooded wearer. Naturally, it arrives on Earth and bonds itself to Clark Kent/Superman.  The plotline then splits into a few alternating sub-plots, including the ring explaining the situation to Clark and Lois Lane, Clark trying to get a feel for his new-found ring abilities and current Earth Green Lantern John Stewart catching-up Clark on the whole green power ring concept.  The issue ends in a bridge to issue #2 as a villain appears on the scene to pose the first criminal challenge to Clark/Superman in his new guise.

     This is an interesting sidebar Superman story concept that provides an interesting mash-up of the dual storyverses of Superman and Green Lantern.  While it definitely deserves a thumbs-up positive review recommendation, it does come with a few constructive criticisms.  On the plus side, writer Bryan Q. Miller succeeds on two counts: providing us with a decent plotline and filling-in the Green Lantern melding with Superman's persona by offering-up a lot of fun and entertaining details.  Much scripting thought and effort went into such key elements as Superman's bewilderment with his newfound, uncontrollable powers, resulting in some engrossing storytelling.  A host of secondary story characters also nicely anchor this storyline to the wider DC storyverse, including Green Arrow, Lois Lane, John Stewart and the hologram of the now-deceased former Krypton-sector Green Lantern.  The result is a fun, essentially alternate universe interpretation of these two key DC universe superhero concepts.

     While I was very entertained by this high quality title, it could use a front page narrative to get the reader off to a clearer understanding of the story's place in the wider DC publishing storyverse.  The first few pages provide a flashback to Superman-related publishing events of a few years ago, none of which I was personally familiar with.  Add the fact that I'm also not a reader of the main Smallville comic book title, and the result is a combination of confusion with an uneasy sense that I didn't have a clear understanding of the events of this issue in the context of the bigger Smallville and Superman comic book goings-on.

     Granted, the issue is of strong enough quality that it stands on its own feet as a very entertaining comic book read, but I still would have enjoyed it more if there was a narrative clarifying and connecting it to the wider ongoing Smallville series events.  So in sum, this is a worthwhile and enjoyable "what if?"-style blend of Superman and Green Lantern elements as a new addition to the Smallville comic book inventory.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to tell us what previously popular television series led to the current popular CBS drama NCIS being created as a spin-off of the original series.  We received several correct entries, so via a roll-of-the-dice our contest winner is (drumroll, please...) Chris Begley, who correctly identified JAG as the show. JAG, which ran for ten seasons, followed the military thriller adventures of a team of naval lawyers and also led to the equally popular series NCIS as a spin-off. Congratulations to Chris, who wins our first prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges offer-up a Red Sox trivia question for this week's contest.  While we're all worrying about our Red Sox's weak won-loss record so far this season, there's hope in the increasingly improving hitting performance of two younger Sox players, Xander Bogarts and Jackie Bradley, Jr., leading some fans to start referring to the pair as "the golddust twins."  This nickname inspired our latest question. So your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, June 25 with the correct answer to the following question: what are the names of the two very popular 1970'- era former Red Sox players who broke-out in their successful rookie years together, leading to their being nicknamed "the golddust twins?"  Hint: one of the pair went on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  As always, in the event of multiple correct entries, our contest winner will be chosen 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 Sox-watching and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, June 27 Here In Bongo Congo!

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