Review Date: Friday, July 11, 2014

Here in Bongo Congo

Good King Leonardo's wrist injury is healing nicely enough to let him type comfortably again, so we can get back to our usual review load of four comic book reviews this week!  So let's get right to it and see how the following four new-issue comic books stack-up against each other:

Tomb Raider #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Gail Simone: Writer
Nicolas Daniel Selma: Pencils
Juan Gedeon: Inks
Michael Atiyeh: Colors

     Dark Horse Comics is currently publishing a new Tomb Raider comic book title, starring the well-known and very popular Lara Croft adventurer character from the well-known video game series and movie franchise.  The movies starred Angelina Jolie in the title role and remains the highest-grossing movie series based on a video game.  The new comic series is scripted by A-list veteran Gail Simone with pencils by Nicolas Daniel Selma, inks by Juan Gedeon and colors by Michael Atiyeh.

     Issue #1 centers on Lara and some adventure team colleagues struggling with the emotional aftermath of a disastrous island adventure (I assume featured in the latest video game series), in which most of her team died before rescue or escape.  While coping with her own nightmares as well as her female colleague Sam's post-island trauma, Lara receives a desperate plea for help from team member Jonah, a stoic Maori tribesman.  Lara travels to the southwest desert and confronts a terrified and seemingly delusional Jonah, who cryptically warns of a pending apocalyptic disaster which the team has supposedly unwittingly unleashed on the human race with its return from the island.  The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to issue #2, as part of the prophecy seems to come true when a nearby dam bursts, drowning Jonah with Lara barely surviving the flood.

     I greatly enjoyed the first two Town Raider movies back in the day and wanted to see how this comic book version compared to the movie interpretation.  The comic book is very different both in plotline and storyverse structure, but it does stand on its own as a solid and entertaining comic book read. Writer Gail Simone was charged with providing a plot with a very different personality style for Lara.  The omnipotent, seemingly superhero-like adventuress is replaced here with a Lara who's more real-world human, basically a 21-year-old young woman with the decision-making flaws and personal conflicts of a normal human being. This is more of a Peter Parker-style Lara Croft, with the same human-side relatability for the reader, thus drawing us more into empathizing with the story situation and identifying with the characters.

     A few key positive elements further add to the quality of this new series.  First and foremost is A-list writer Gail Simone's top-notch script, brimming with her signature style of providing quality dramatic dialogue and believable emotional situations.  The scenes in which Jonah sacrifices himself to the floodwaters over Lara's protests in order to save her life are classic Gail Simone at her scriptwriting best and as such alone are worth reading issue #1.  A hats-off is also due to the art team, which provides an effective minimalist style of penciling and colors reminiscent of popular comic artist Phil Noto.

     My one constructive criticism is that this premier issue could use a brief introductory narrative to orient the newbie reader (like myself) to the current world of the Tomb Raider franchise. I wasn't able to determine on my own whether or not the traumatic island misadventure referenced throughout the issue is based either on the current video game or a previous limited-edition comic book series, and Wikipedia was no help in clarifying the matter.  But the storytelling and visual presentation are so strong and entertaining that this lack of backstory clarity doesn't diminish the reading enjoyment.

     So all-in-all, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this new addition to the wide inventory of previously-published Lara Croft/Tomb Raider comic book titles.  The new Tomb Raider series is definitely an enjoyable keeper for both newcomers and dedicated Lara Croft/Tomb Raider fans alike!

Bravest Warriors (Impossibear Special) #1
Publisher: Kaboom!
 Various Writers & Artists

     The Kaboom! kids-oriented imprint of Boom! Studios has published a Bravest Warriors over-sized one-shot special issue starring the character Impossibear in five new stories.  For the uninitiated, Bravest Warriors is based on the animated television series that features a team of four teenaged heroes-for-hire who, along with semi-cuddly friends such as Impossibear and Catbug,  zip around the universe saving adorable, cuddly aliens from harm. The series is the creation of acclaimed Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward.  The five tales in this one-shot special are the creation of various writers and artists.

     This special issue kicks-off with a story entitled "Drop The Beat," in which Impossibear strives to overcome numerous interruptions from the Bravest Warriors cast in order to listen to his latest music purchase in peace.  "Impossi-Bagel" revolves around a bagel-oriented beach picnic gone awry, while "Save Us" portrays Impossibear and Catbug sending the Bravest Warriors off on a fake adventure so that the pair can indulge in some sleazy partying.  The plottheme of "Night Trap" is roommates filching each other's food from their shared refrigerator, while "Whiz Biz" centers on Impossibear interacting with an alien fish culture that abhors peeing in their own ocean (I kid you not!).

     Going into this read, I was marginally aware of many critics praising this storyverse, along with its companion title Adventure Time, for its surprisingly effective literary quality. A New Yorker Magazine article this past year positively analyzed Adventure Time as if it was an American literary classic. After reading these five stories, I can see why the praise is well-deserved.  Each tale is constructed with a balanced blend of kid-reader entertainment and adult-level inside humor and social commentary.  The result is a very fresh and original cast of characters and story situations that carve-out a high quality and very unique niche in the current comic book and animated television industries.

     Two particular positive elements deserve a review shout-out. The first is the personality of Impossibear himself, constructed as a grouchy aging teddy-bear-with-a-hidden-warm-heart.  Picture character actor Wilfred Brimley as an animated bear and you get the picture.  Secondly, an acknowledgement is well-deserved for the guts of the various creative teams to feature some very adult issues and themes in a tasteful and positive manner.  I won't be a spoiler and identify any in particular, suffice to say that I can see why the animated series has received several prestigious award nominations for this storytelling approach.

     So in sum, a positive review recommendation is well-deserved for this very unique and entertaining comic book series that works for readers of all ages.  And if you're a Bravest Warriors newbie like me, this particular one-shot Impossibear Special is a great place to initially dip your reading toe into the Bravest Warriors publishing storyverse.

Figment #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jim Zub: Writer
Filipe Andrade: Art
Jean-Francois Beaulieu: Colors

     Marvel Comics recently published issue #1 of a new comic book series entitled Figment.  The series is apparently a crossover from a Disney theme park experience.  The new title is scripted by Jim Zub with art by Filipe Andrade and colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.  Four "Walt Disney Imagineers" are also listed in the creative team credits.

      The series seems to be a storyverse mash-up between Steampunk fiction and a Disney tiny flying cartoon dragon character named Figment. Issue #1 is the kick-off installment of a multi-issue storyarc entitled "Journey Into Imagination."  The year and setting are 1910 London, where we're quickly introduced to Victorian scientist Blarion Mercurial, who labors unappreciated at The Academy Scientifica-Lucidus.  While his assignment is cheap energy research, Blarion's pet project/passion is a big steampunk device he's created, with which he hopes to "harness the mind's energy." Long story short, the machine taps into a childhood memory and voila, a tiny Disney-style talking dragon appears from said memory.  The issue ends in a dramatic bridge to next month's issue #2, as the experiment also creates a space/time rift, which appears to toss Blarion and Figment into a far-off, wondrous magical land.

     I'm giving this comic book a mixed, albeit thumbs-up average quality review.  For younger readers, its a fun new series featuring a Disney talking dragon who will no doubt have many entertaining adventures in upcoming issues within that strange faraway land. But for adult readers, I doubt if this comic book series can hold the attention of, or provide reading satisfaction for the average full-grown fanboy or fangirl.  It just feels too cutesy-Disney with the tiny talking dragon.  Secondly, the Steampunk/Disney mash-up just doesn't work for me as a baby boomer reader.  The two styles of storyverse feel much too incompatible and jarring as a fictional combination.

     Third, this series badly needs a brief front-page narrative that explains just where the heck in the Disney theme park culture this dragon fits. I had no idea if the steampunk story element is also a Disney product or an addition to the Figment franchise for this comic book series. It would add a lot to the reading experience to provide a full understanding of the nature of this comic book series.  So all-in-all, a mixed recommendation: by all means, this comic book is a fun and interesting read for young and teen readers, but adults most likely would find it a bit too childish and kiddy-oriented for the average adult reading palate.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Galaxy's Most Wanted #1
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Will Corona Pilgrim: Writer
Andrea Di Vito: Art
Laura Villari: Colors

     In coordination with this summer's anticipated Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, Marvel Comics recently published issue #1 of a comic book entitled Guardians Of The Galaxy: Galaxy's Most Wanted. For the uninitiated, the title refers to a group of space-faring adventurers. The team was originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in the 1960's and revived/revised by Marvel in 2008.  The current comic book is written by Will Corona Pilgrim with art by Andrea Di Vito and colors by Laura Villari.

     The issue #1 tale features two of the current team members, the sentient, trigger-happy raccoon named Rocket Raccoon and the large, tree-like team member known as Groot.  The plot is very simple and fast-moving: when the pair try their hands at bounty-hunting at a spaceport, the table is turned when a hunted criminal puts-out a fake bounty on Rocket Raccoon.  Hijinks ensue as our duo deal with the immense manhunt of Rocket Raccoon, before eventually everything is straightened out and our boys get on with their lives.

     This comic book deserves an average-quality positive review recommendation.  On the plus side, its a decent introduction for new readers to meet two of the Guardians members, and the shoot'em up Spaceport antics have a fun and entertaining action quality.  However, I was surprised with the overly simplistic and thin plotline. And I quickly tired of Groot endlessly repeating his only uttered line, "I am Groot!" every time that he was required to speak.  With the summer movie in the offing, I did expect a storyline that featured the entire team. And its also unclear as to whether or not this comic book is a one-shot title or the start of a new monthly series (I suspect its a one-shot). But for all I know, there are other Guardians titles out there that promote the wider team and connect more to the upcoming film.

     As a final review comment, the main feature story is followed by two reprint tales from old issues of Thor, featuring traditional Guardians players from their first 1960's-onward formation. So all-in-all, readers will certainly get their money's worth in checking out this very affordable three-story issue featuring Marvel's latest heroes to hit the silver screen!

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     For the first time in a very long time, we didn't have a winner for our latest contest, which challenged readers to tell us in the running gag on The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson, what does Craig claim his show is called when broadcast in Japan.  The correct answer is "Super Happy Fun Time Hour With Robot And Old Man!"  Perhaps it was just too obscure a question for readers to find.  But it was worth a try!

New Contest Challenge!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges realize that all good Boston sports fans are in the summer doldrums right now with our Red Sox dwelling in the cellar of the American League East Division standings.  Our other three major sports teams are also in the midst of annual off-season re-building efforts.  So your contest challenge this week is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com no later than Wednesday, July 23 and give us a suggestion of a personnel move that you think any one of our four Boston teams-the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics or Bruins-should make to improve their team. You could recommend one or more trades, acquisitions, etc. Just pitch to us a player or players that you'd like to see added to one of the teams or traded away to strengthen the team's chances .  Who knows, maybe the team will use your idea!  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 a great two mid-summer humidity and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, July 25 Here In Bongo Congo!

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