Starman/Congorilla #1 review

DC finally gives us a Blue & Gold book

Having to fit in with DC’s Iconic Cover month is a bit of a bugger when you’ve never had a comic book before. So well done to whoever designed the Starman / Congorilla cover around Gene Ha’s excellent visual for coming up with not just something, but something nice.

The one-shot serves to fill us in on what the heroes are up to while their JLA colleagues are trapped in a dome in current issues of Justice League of America. It also fixes one of the most unpopular moves in recent DC history.

No, I don’t mean that a dead cat in Star City comes back to life and crawls out of a quiver.

But there is a revival in this book, a spoilerific moment that comes after a rip-roaring quest by Congo Bill and Mikaal Tomas to find the former’s super-intelligent gorilla pal, Malavar, who was kidnapped by the scumbag Prometheus in last year’s JLA: Cry For Justice mini-series. Bill reckons he’ll be able to help tear down the dome and get super-powered aid to their team-mates. And find him they do, but not without the aid of Rex the Wonder Dog and Bill’s Forgotten Hero pal Animal Man (there’s a line of dialogue referencing their friendship, but the balloon points to Mikaal rather than Buddy – oops!).

‘Now and Then’ is so titled because it’s flashing backwards and forwards in time, starting and ending with the ‘now’. I’ve stated previously that I’m no fan of this gimmick, and after this issue I’m sticking with that opinion. It doesn’t add tension, it simply gets on my nerves.

Happily, the story’s so packed with personality and incident that the structure doesn’t harm it. Congorilla’s narration grants perspective to proceedings, enabling a lot of information to be shared without clunking up the dialogue unduly. One or two of the spoken lines are a little corny, but I’m putting that down to Mikaal being a bit of a drama queen, And besides, it’s one or two lines – most of the dialogue is perfectly fine, some of it very good. One moment to treasure sees a DC hero finally admit that they don’t have encyclopaedic knowledge of every last crisis. And this panel, for one, I’ll love for always. Click to enlarge!

… said the size-changing golden gorilla to the Space Tart

Robinson is on terrific form here, crafting a story that fits neatly with all kinds of previous and current DC lore. Heck, he even sows the seeds of another story or two, and I hope he chooses to write them.

That lovely art is the work of penciller Brett Booth and inker Norm Rapmund, a formidable team. The illustrations are lively throughout, the storytelling splendid, with terrific character work – I can’t recall Rex the Wonder Dog looking so good this side of Gil Kane. 
Adorable or what? But watch those teeth!
And there’s a smart page in which four talky panels form one splash. It all bodes well for the coming teaming of Robinson and Booth on the JLA book … with luck, Rapmund, colourist Andrew Dalhouse and letterer Travis Lanham will join them.

With even more luck, we’ll get another one-shot or two starring Bill, Mikaal and whichever pals (and maybe even gals) Robinson cares to include. For one thing, Mikaal deserves his turn at narration. For another, I love it when DC finds a place to gather a few homeless heroes for a random mission.

Maybe Robinson will even include the hero brought back to life here, although it sounds as if Tasmanian Devil is set for the JLA. Yes, the Global Guardian and former JLA member last seen as a rug in Prometheus’s secret base is back, and there’s no cheating. His restoration – slimmer, fitter and with that great daft chest ‘T’ actually looking good – fits in with what we know of the DC universe. And I couldn’t be happier: Robinson took a lot of stick (including from me) for various plot turns, many likely editorially mandated, in Cry For Justice, and with this book he sets something right while sorting out a loose end. It’s easy to forget that a writer as intelligent as Robinson, and a fan of DC’s more obscure heroes, isn’t going to kill one of them without having an escape hatch. But it’s good to finally have it opened.

8 thoughts on “Starman/Congorilla #1 review

  1. Wait, Tasmanian Devil is back? But Steel is dead. That's weird. If Tasmanian Devil returns to the JLA, it would be weird. Still looking for Blue Jay to join the JLA though.


  2. I may have to buy this when I see it cheap as I am a bit of a fan of Rex the Wonderdog. No, seriously. Liked him ever since that Messner-Loebs arc in Flash…

    I'm not a particular fan of this Starman or Congorilla, they are very much the weakest element of Robinsons otherwise top notch JLA book, but I am a quiet fan of Robinsons. When he's left to get on with it he delivers some good character based arcs and his Mon-el arc in Superman is a good example as initially I hated the treatment he gave to Mon but by the end loved the growth he'd imbued the character with.
    That's maybe Robinsons great strength, along with some very solid plotting ability – his JLA is slowly building up a good strong identity for itself and I wish people on the net would shut up with the griping just because it isn't the 'Big 7', in my view this team is about as good as it gets and as the direct heirs to the 'Big 7' Troia, Supergirl etc fully deserve this membership – In real terms they are the League's natural evolution thanks to that lineage.


  3. And a big 'hear hear!' from me, Dave, James Robinson, when playing to his strengths, produces some superb scripts. And his JLA is getting better all the time.

    I hope you do get Starman/Congorilla, I reckon you'll enjoy it. Rex isn't chatty, but he's still great.


  4. I always found it strange that one of the things people hated about Cry For Justice (a series I rather liked) was that Tasmanian Devil was killed off. I enjoy 2nd and 3rd tier characters but I honestly forgot that T-Devil existed and when I saw he had been turned into a rug, I laughed at the dark-humor. I mean, kudos for Robinson for bringing him back (I guess) but why was he so darn popular in the first place?


  5. Very good question, Johnny. I think his having come out of Super Friends layers Taz with a certain affection. Then he has the cachet of being one of DC's few gay superheroes. And he has a great big 'T' on his chest – how fab is that?


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