Friday, September 19, 2014

Comic Reviews 9/20/14

Here In Bongo Congo

     Now that Fall is upon us, Good King Leonardo has decreed that we kick-off the cooler season with reviews of three new comic books, all published by D.C. Comics. Just a quick note that due to some non-comic book review commitments, for the next few months I'll be reviewing only three comic books per column instead of the usual four titles.  Our four issues per column format will return in early December.  So let's get right to it and see how this trio of DC publications stack-up against each other:
Batman '66 #14
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jeff Parker: Writer
Paul Rivoche & Craig Rousseau: Art
Paul Rivoche & Tony Avina: Colors

     DC Comics's Batman '66 title is currently up to issue #14.  I gave a positive review to an early issue in the series, which presents a comic book version of the campy, ever-popular smash 1960's Batman television show, which ran on ABC in the 1960's and starred Adam West as Batman with Burt Ward as Robin.  The current issue of this title is written by Jeff Parker with art by Paul Rivoche and Craig Rousseau, with colors by Paul Rivoche and Tony Avina.

     Issue #14 presents a stand-alone story in the campy style of the television series, entitled "The Batrobot Takes Flight!"  The title is very accurate, as the plot centers on Batman building a giant robot version of himself to fill-in on his patrols around Gotham City.  The gigantic mechanized caped crusader proves so adept at nabbing crazy costumed criminals that Batman and Robin take a break, literally going fishing in the countryside while the robot keeps Gotham safe from crime. Without being a detail spoiler, eventually The Joker and The Riddler team-up to defeat the robot...or so it seems, as in a plot twist we learn that the Bat Duo  were merely using the robot as bait to personally capture the criminal pair in the act of robot destruction.  So by issue's end, all's well in Gotham once again.

     Similar to the earlier issue of this title that I previously reviewed, this is a fun and very entertaining print version of ye olde Batman television series.  The  creative team does a wonderful job of duplicating down to the finer points both the campy plot dialogue and the 1960's pop art-style visuals.  While there are a slew of positive elements in this comic book, three particularly stand-out for enjoyment. The first is the inclusion of a wacky-style Batman '66 villain, in this case a supercriminal named Clock King who is obsessed with timepieces, of course. I can't recall if he was a featured t.v. series villain, but whether new or old, he's the perfect fit for the stylings of this series.  Secondly, the basic idea of a superrobot Batman also blends perfectly into the campy 1960's style of this series.

     And third but hardly least, writer Jeff Parker deserves a tip-of-the-review hat for ending the story in the same style as many of the television episodes, with a tongue-in-check mini-lecture lesson to the reader from Batman. In this instance, he gives a stern statement about machines and computers adding enormous value to our lives, combined with a warning that they aren't a substitute for actual people.  This final story panel actually serves as dual purpose as a modern-day social commentary on All Good DC Reader's potential overreliance on modern technology and social networking in place of real human interactions, etc.

     So all-in-all, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for the latest issue of Batman '66, a series which continues to provide a very funny and entertaining read for old-school fans of the 1960's-era television series, as well as the younger generations of Batman fandom.

Harley Quinn #10
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner: Writers
Marco Failla: Art
Brett Smith: Colors

     DC's Harley Quinn comic book series is currently up to issue #10.  Most fanboys and fangirls are familiar with the title character, the sometimes violent, usually wacky and always oddball off-and-on girlfriend of The Joker, whom she affectionately refers to as her  "Puddin'." The series is scripted by the duo of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, with art by Marco Failla and colors by Brett Smith.

     The issue #10 storyline is entitled "There Are No Rules!" and is the latest installment in an ongoing multi-issue storyline.  The plot unfolds in two scenes. Scene One is action-packed, as Harley and her gang of girlfriends attend an underground fight club event, in the vein of the movie "Fight Club." Naturally, Harley is featured on the evening's battle-to-the-death schedule. All sorts of wackiness ensues around Harley's featured fight including attempts by the gang to cash-in big with a bet on our heroine's battle.  Scene Two details the after-Fight Club actions of the group, in the early post-dawn hours of the evening.  While the girls go late-night ocean swimming, they bond and talk about their lives.  The issue ends on a dramatic bridge to next month's story segment; alone seaside after everyone else has called it a night, Harley witnesses the nearby crash of an unconscious Power Girl, straight from defeat in an interstellar adventure.

     This is a very solid, average-quality comic book read that I liked very much for a few reasons. First, I really enjoyed the tone and style of the storyline.  The well-known A-list writing duo of Palmiotti and Conner have crafted a plot that avoids the complexity and pretension of so many ongoing DC storyverse mega-events and series, and instead just gives us a worthwhile and interesting mix of action-adventure. The story could have been published anytime in the past 20 years of DC Comics publishing and that's meant as a compliment, that its just a good superhero-oriented and funny read.  Secondly, I liked the mix of Harley's supporting cast of characters, which include four female friends who resemble more of a roller derby team than a team of potential baddies, as well as Sy Borgman, a wheelchair-bound and partly-mechanized elderly guy who handles Harley's fighting bets and advises her through all sorts of wacky mayhem.

     Third but hardly least, I enjoyed this particular personality take on Harley Quinn. While she's often portrayed as a darker, villain-style character, here the creative team gives us more of the fun-loving, good-hearted nutjob version of Harley, which is always the best version of her for reading laughs. The result is a successful mix of storytelling humor, action, female bonding and just an overall worthwhile read, well-worth the price of admission.  On a final review note, I thought it was interesting that Palmiotti and Conner are writing this series without Conner contributing her well-known artwork.  The art team does a very credible job of replacing the always-busy Conner in that respect. So by all means, include this latest issue of Harley Quinn in your ever-growing pile of new issue comic books!

Action Comics: Future's End #1 (One-Shot)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Sholly Fisch: Story
Pascal Alixe & Vicente Cifuentes: Art
Pete Pantazis: Colors

     DC recently included a one-shot issue of Action Comics within its wide-ranging "Future's End" new mega-event.  This is the first comic book that I'm reviewing in the Future's End series (I'm sure I'll review at least a few more), which apparently has a time travel theme of Terry from Batman Beyond time-hopping from 35 years in the future back to 5 years from now, in an attempt to prevent a world-wide disaster of the Batman-created Brother Eye from OMAC from being created and dominating mankind.  This Action Comics story segment is scripted by Sholly Fisch with art by the duo of Pascal Alixe and Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Pete Pantazis.

     Our story is aptly entitled "Crossroads" and alternates between two sub-plots set in the Future's End reality of five years from now.  In the first, we witness Clark Kent working as a Peace Corps-style volunteer in rural Ethiopia, having abandoned his Superman identity due to a crisis of personal faith in superheroing.  An alternate sub-plot focuses on several ordinary Americans in various walks of life who suddenly each gain one of Superman's powers, with various resulting consequences.  The eventually-revealed explanation is that a mysterious Superman-like being made of sand has arisen in the missing Superman's place, who visits everyone in the story and explains that he's given each the temporary power to try and turn their troubled lives around.  The issue ends with the sand-being visiting our hero in his Ethiopian exile and having an extended discussion about responsibility, before ending the story with a creative twist on helping the Ethiopian folks in need.

      This is an oddball tale that deserves a thumbs-up positive review recommendation but with some mixed review comments.  On the plus side, I enjoyed it very much as a stand-alone Superman storyverse comic book.  The artwork is unique and creative, the storyline is entertaining and most impressively, the plot delivers an old-school Superman story that focuses on values and responsibilities, both on the part of a conflicted Superman/Clark Kent and on the part of the ordinary folks in the story. There's an important life lesson here offered to readers on the subject of responsibility and living one's life not solely for the sake of personal happiness and enjoyment.

     On the negative side, the entire issue just doesn't seem to relate very much to the Future's End mega-event that DC is hyping so much at the moment.  Frankly, if the words "Future's End" weren't stenciled across the top of the front cover, this story could easily stand-alone as just a decent new Superman tale, with the opening panel reference that the timeframe is five years from now. So given that this issue is supposed to have a role in the bigger Future's End picture, its overly-muted and should have a bit more  visual and/or plot connection to that emerging storyverse.  I also would have liked a front-of-the-book explanation about Clark's self-imposed abandonment of his Superman persona. Its confusing as to whether this is an ongoing Action Comics plotthread that I haven't been following or a new development for the sake of Future's End.

     But irregardless of these two construction criticisms, the positives as detailed above greatly outweigh the concerns in this one-shot Action Comics title. As such, a positive thumbs-up review recommendation is well-deserved for this initial Action Comics introductory issue to the emerging Future's End DC Comics mega-event. I'll reserve my overall reviewer's impression on the quality of the Future's End series for a future column, by which time I've hopefully reviewed a cross-section of Future's End comic book issues and story titles.

Contest Winner Announcement!!!

     Our latest contest challenged you to come-up with a creative caption for a photo of That's Entertainment Assistant Manager Sierra standing in front of a herd of cows on a farm.  By way of example, my own caption was "Go, my pretty-prettys, and ravage the countryside in the name of That's Entertainment!" And my fellow reviewer Dave LeBlanc's caption was "Bossy Cow: What are we going to do tonight, Sierra? Sierra: The same we do every night, Bossy, try to take over the world!" Notice the trend in both captions of cows running amok? And our caption winner is (drumroll, please...) Christopher Begley, who supplied said photo with the following caption: "Alright, guys, I know one of you is Phoney and Smiley. Fess up now before I'm forced to milk all of you."  Congratulations to Christopher, who wins our first prize $10.00 gift certificate to That's Entertainment!

New Contest Challenge Announcement!!!

     The Bongo Congo Panel Of Contest Judges has decreed that its time to offer-up a new geography trivia contest challenge.  So your challenge this week is to e-mail us at no later than Wednesday, October 1 and submit to us the name of any American city of town whose name begins and ends with the same letter of the alphabet (i.e., Amana, Iowa).  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 Red Sox and Patriots-watching (Go Sox And Pats!) and comic book reading weeks and see you again on Friday, October 3 Here In Bongo Congo!

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