Here In Bongo Congo
There's lots of good reading stuff out this week from the "Big Two" publishers, so Good King Leonardo has decreed that we review two new Marvel comics and two new D.C. Comics:
Ultimate New Ultimates #3
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Jeph Loeb: Writer
Frank Cho: Art
Jason Keith: Colors
As most Marvel fans know, since 2000 Marvel has been publishing its Ultimate series of titles, which gives us somewhat revised versions of the Marvel superheroes, as an alternate universe from the mainstream Marvel universe. I've never read one of the Ultimate titles, so I thought I'd jump-into the Ultimate universe with the current issue #3 of New Ultimates. The title is written by the esteemed Jeph Loeb with art by Frank Cho and colors by Jason Keith.
This Ultimates title gives us a reworked version of the Avengers. A brief page one update tells the reader that Thor's evil half-brother Loki has put Valkyrie, SHIELD's Carol Danvers and Zarda under a spell, making them foes of the Avengers. There are three interweaving storythreads in this issue. One is a brief bio detailing how an average American woman named Barbara Norriss eventually became Valkyrie. The main storyline features the struggle between the Avengers and the trio of Loki-controlled heroines, and the third storyline details Thor's efforts to somehow escape from the Norse afterlife of Valhalla to return to our world. Without giving away any spoiler details, the story climaxes in a battle beween the freed Avengers and their Loki-controlled foes, concluding with a major character's supposed death, thereby allowing Thor to switch places with the killed character and come roaring back into the battle just in time for next month's issue #4.
I'm a huge fan of both writer Jeph Loeb and artist Frank Cho, and expected only a very high quality effort from the pairing of these two comic creative stars. My expectations were met with this tale. Loeb's dialogue is credible, engrossing and entertaining in a tale that gives us enough story progression and details to fill three comic issues produced by any lesser talent. Cho's art as always provides his trademark high quality style combined with his rare talent in providing almost photographic emotional expressions on the story character's faces. As a newcomer to the Ultimate universe, I also enjoyed immensely the alternate details of the superhero's backstories and identities.
I particularly got a kick out of Loeb's rewriting of Valkyrie, altering her backstory from the traditional Norse legend to that of an American small-town loser girl with a huge crush on Thor, who through dumb luck stumbles her way from wannabe superhero fangirl into a deal-with-the-devil in which Loki transforms her into Valkyrie. This Ultimates biography adds a very human and emotional dimension to the Norse goddess character that's always been lacking in the traditional Marvel universe stories in which she's been featured over the years. I really liked this backstory as the emotional motivation for Valkyrie's current actions, both good and bad, in this comic book title.
Two quick final review comments. First, I have to mention a fun trivia item in this issue; at one point in the story, Hawkeye states that Tony Stark/Iron Man's one weakness is his attraction to women, whom Hawkeye says are "his kryptonite." I could be wrong, but this might be the only time in the history of Marvel Comics in which a Marvel character refers to the well-known weakness of our friend Superman from the DC universe. Secondly, while I love Frank Cho's artistic style, it did seem a bit weird to me how he drew Valkyrie and Carol Danvers as literal clones of each other in this issue. It just seemed annoying at times, so here's hoping that Cho might add some slight facial feature nuances to the two characters in future issues to give each some distinction.
But all-in-all, this latest issue of New Ultimates #3 delivers its money's worth of storytelling entertainment along with a very intriguing glimpse into a Marvel universe different from the mainstream Marvel world that's so well-entrenched within the general American popular culture.
Avengers: The Origin #4
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Joe Casey: Writer
Phil Noto: Artist
Marvel is up to issue #4 in its five-issue Avengers: The Origin mini-series. The series is written by Joe Casey with art by Phil Noto. I had reviewed issue #1 in this title, which re-tells the origin of the original Avengers team, retaining the basic facts but updating the storytelling into today's 2010 American culture.
Issue #4 gives us two sub-plots. In the main storyline, Iron Man, Ant-Man and The Wasp have tracked The Hulk to a circus in Colorado where he's been hiding-out as a super-strength clown. Most of this storyline is a high action battle amongst the players, with the scene shifting from the circus to a Colorado military research facility. The second sub-plot advances a major confrontation between Thor and his evil half-brother Loki. This story section is less action-oriented and more dialogue-driven as the pair carry-out their usual grand posturing with each other, but it leads to a set-up for a final confrontation between the pair in next month's concluding issue #5 of this mini-series.
I've enjoyed reading the three previous issues of this mini-series very much and was glad to see that the quality holds-up again in this latest issue. The creative team is taking a very interesting approach of re-presenting a classic Silver Age tale by updating the setting to our world, but maintaining the superhero's original 1960's personas. Thus we get old-school costumes and the original Iron Man bulky technology functioning in a story world surrounded by the internet, twitter and the 24-hour-a-day cable news networks. Add-in Phil Noto's very distinctive artistic style and we've got one very unique and fresh reinterpretation of a classic slice of the Marvel universe.
While issue #4 is very enjoyable and understandable as a stand-alone single-issue read, I'd also recommend quickly catching-up with the previous three issues in this brief series, all still available on our favorite newly-carpeted new issue boardwalk at That's Entertainment.
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Dan Jurgens: Writer
Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund: Art
DC Comics has just released issue #1 in a planned six-issue mini-series entitled "Time Masters: Vanishing Point." The series stars a team-up of Rip Hunter Time Master, Booster Gold, Superman and Green Lantern as they undertake a time-traveling adventure in search of the missing Batman/Bruce Wayne. The title is written by veteran Dan Jurgens with art by Jurgens and Norm Rapmund.
This kick-off issue is entitled "Passageway," and interweaves two sub-plots. The main storyline introduces us to the effort of the four starring superheros in their time-traveling search for Bruce Wayne. The action shifts back and forth between the heroes debating time-travel paradox as they seacrh for Wayne on a 15th century Pacific island, and the efforts of the foursome to use Rip Hunter's time-traveling technology to overcome something that is blocking their efforts to return to the present day. The second sub-plot reveals the details of the time-traveling block, resulting from events in the present-day as Booster's sister Goldstar and Supernova, his present-day ancestor, battle two bad guys back here in Rip Hunter's lab.
This is a very entertaining comic book for several reasons. While veteran Dan Jurgens comes to the plate with his usual high quality writing and artistic effort, there are three additional and unexpected reasons that elevate this comic above the ranks of an average decent read. First, there's a lot of credible dialogue here that focuses on the intricacies and paradoxes of taking actions in the past which could drastically change the future. This subject is presented within a very interesting dialogue on the subject as the other heroes try to convince Superman not to make any well-meaning interfering changes in the 15th century. Secondly, without giving away spoiler details, there's a subtle but interesting clue to the very intriguing answer as to the mysterious family origins of Rip Hunter.
Third and finally, credit must be given to Dan Jurgens for the narrative pacing that he establishes in this kick-off issue of the mini-series. Jurgens takes his story-telling time establishing the many facets of this tale throughout the first issue. The lack of Batman's presence isn't even missed in the first issue, while the team of searchers unearth tantalizing clues, argue strategy and figure-out the best approach to the daunting task of sifting through the uncountable grains of time for the time-lost Bruce Wayne. It establishes the whole adventure within the grander scheme of universal time-travel storytelling and is sure to lead to an exciting and intriguing science fiction adventure as the storyline unfolds throughout the six-issue mini-series.
Publisher: D.C. Vertigo Comics
Chris Roberson: Writer
Michael Allred: Art
Laura Allred: Colors
DC Vertigo Comics is up to issue #3 in its new and very popular I, Zombie comic book title. The series is scripted by Chris Roberson, who's also known as the creator of this past year's "Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love" mini-series. Michael Allred provides the art with colors by Laura Allred.
I had previously reviewed the premier issue of this series, which stars twenty-something Gwen Dylan as a Eugene, Oregon-based zombie who eats a dead person's brain once a month in order to function as a normal human being. As a side effect, Gwen also absorbs the dead person's memories. The story so far is a murder mystery, as Gwen and her sidekicks are following the memory clues of her latest brain donor to solve the poor guy's murder.
Issue #3 advances two ongoing storylines in this plot. In the main plot thread, Gwen and her sidekick, the 1960's pop mod ghost Ellie, follow the dead guy's memory clues to a creepy mansion that we know from issue #2 is inhabited by the likely murderer. This guy has a supernatural secret of his own, which I won't spoil in this review. Issue #3 ends in a cliffhanger in which Gwen and Ellie confront the mansion dweller along with his supernatural sidekick. A parallel plotline follows the activities of a gang of sexy female local vampires, who run a paintball tournament business in order to prey on geek guys who show-up to play paintball. Issue #3 follows the activities of a pair of vampire hunters who are trailing the lead vampire as she pursues her latest computer geek target.
Issue #3 maintains the fresh and very fun approach that the creative team established right out of the gate in the premier issue of this series. The creative team has emphasized an engrossing mix of humor and 1960's pop mod style, through both stylish comic panel lay-outs and cultural references, which results in a unique and very entertaining addition to the traditional supernatural zombie genre. There's also a well-balanced mix of storytelling attention here to the supernatural support characters in Gwen's world, including the 1960's Pop Mod ghost Ellie, Spot The Were-Terrier and those sexy vampire paintball tournament chicks.
I said it in my previous review and I'll say it again; there's a great HBO or Showtime t.v. series just waiting to bust out of this comic title. Think pop art icon Roy Lichtenstein doing a light-hearted horror comic and you get the picture. With three strong issues now under their collective belts, the creative team is clearly in their groove to keep giving us some very original and fun entertainment with this title. All three issues of I, Zombie are still available on the That's Entertainment new issues shelves.
Contest Winner Announcement!!!
We received many entries to our current contest, which challenged you to answer the following question: How many footballs does the NFL use every season and how many cows are sacrificed to make those footballs? A quick shout-out to Lincoln Waterhouse, who didn't come up with the correct answer, but followed a very logical and interesting strategy and formula in calculating a logical guess. And the winner from among the correct entries via a roll of the dice is Ron Rucci, who correctly answered that 22,000 footballs are used in the NFL each season and 3000 cows are needed to provide that much cowhide. Congratulations to Ron for winning the $10.00 prize gift certificate to That's Entertainment!
New Contest Announcement!!!
The Bongo Congo panel of contest judges thought we'd try a slightly diffferent form of a trivia contest for this week. Your challenge is to e-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com with your answers as to whether each of the following trivia fact statements are true or false. The person with the most correct answers will win the $10.00 That's Entertainment prize gift certificate. In the event of multiple correct entries, the winner will be chosen via a roll of the dice. So e-mail us asap with your true or false answers to the following five (5) trivia questions:
1. The can opener was invented 48 years after cans were introduced.
2. Until he was 18 years old, Woody Allen read virtually nothing but comic books.
3. Since 2008, movie DVDs have outsold video games.
4. 18 of the 47 U.S. Vice-Presidents have gone on to become President.
5. Ice tea was introduced in 1904 at the World's Fair in Saint Louis.
That's all for now, so have a great comic book reading week and see you again next week Here In Bongo Congo!