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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1431 (04/20/01)

"The trouble with super-heroes is they don't take time out to flutter."

Edda Burber, 9 CHICKWEED LANE

I'm taking my cue from one of the stars of Brooke McEldowney's wonderful comic strip. I have a big stack of recently read comics and magazines over which I'll be fluttering for the edification and entertainment of my readers. We begin.

ARCHIE'S DOUBLE DIGEST #123 (Archie; $3.29): In the reprinted "Meet the New Coach," Riverdale High hires girls gym teacher Robin Gantner, whom one of the male coaches describes as "about the best basketball player I ever saw...before an accident put her in that (wheel)chair." By the end of this six-page story, which never gets preachy, she has overcome any doubts about her abilities and even managed to teach the hard-headed Reggie Mantle a thing or two. So, I ask myself, why haven't we seen her since?

It's true that the Archie comics already have a large cast of characters. However, given that each of their comic-sized titles usually features four stories, they have the room to focus on some of the briefly-seen characters who have appeared in this story or that. It's time to bring greater diversity, and I mean that in the broadest possible sense, to Riverdale, U.S.A.

It's also time for Archie Comics to make things right with Dan DeCarlo, the creator of Josie and the Pussycats and the co-creator of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. That way, columnists like moi won't feel honor-bound to mention it every time we review their comic books.

BATMAN: HOLLYWOOD KNIGHT #1 (DC; $2.50): This is the first of a three-issue "Elseworlds" tale in which movie maker and socialite Bruce Wayne is the target of rival studio head Jack Napier. Wayne is starring as Batman in a serial being produced by his own studio. Though Wayne is courageous and honest, he's a pale imitation of the comic-book hero he's licensed from National Comics...until a brutal assault on his film crew starts blurring the lines between real and reel life.

The "Elseworlds" concept has been fraying around the edges for some time now, especially in the case of the Batman entries. Must some version of the Joker appear in virtually each and every one of them? I'm beginning to think we already have one too many Jokers in the DC Universe itself.

The appearance of Jack "the Joker" Napier aside, Bob Layton (writer) and Dick Giordano (artist) have a spiffy little tale going on here. I dig both the setting (Hollywood, 1948) and the retro-melodrama of the setting. The storytelling is skilled and straight forward; Layton and Giordano know how to make comics. At the end of the day, this isn't an award-winner, but it is most certainly an enjoyable and suitable-for-all-ages diversion.

However, if you plan on giving this series to youngsters, be prepared to explain the concept of movie serials to them. I won't have that problem with my kids, of course, what with the fan-force being so strong within them and all, but I may need to bring in a rocket scientist to explain "Elseworlds" to them.

CARTOON CARTOONS #1 and #2 (DC; $1.99): I am clearly not the audience for these books. I've seen maybe one episode each of the cartoon features which appear within and, outside of chuckling over some of the voice performances in "I.M. Weasel" and "Johnny Bravo," the cartoons themselves didn't do much for me. On the other hand, although I was never a big fan of the Donald Duck cartoons, I love the Donald Duck comic books. The same holds true, to a much lesser extent, for Casper the Friendly Ghost and Mickey Mouse.

Perhaps the fans of "Ed, Edd, and Eddy" and the other cartoons find the stories in CARTOON CARTOONS to be every bit as hilarious as they find the cartoons themselves. Judging the stories from my perspective, I find them to be, at their best, journeyman efforts, and, at their worst, boring and labored works. I applaud DC Comics for publishing comics like CARTOON CARTOONS, comics which featurepopular characters and which should appeal to the young readers our industry needs to regain, but I think these comic books could be a whole lot better.

DC hasn't been shy about going after talent in the past, often at the expense of creators who served them well and faithfully for many decades. I respectfully submit that they should devote that same level of effort to improving CARTOON CARTOONS and other like titles. Some of the names that leap immediately to mind would be Craig Boldman, George Broderick, Mark Crilley, Mark Evanier, Batton Lash, and Scott Roberts. Give me another minute and I bet I could triple that list.

DOUBLE IMAGE #1 (Image; $2.95): I like the concept of a two- series title, not as much as I like several-story anthology titles, but a lot. I think writers Larry Young and Joe Casey put a decent amount of story in their 12-page episodes, making for a satisfying reading experience. That said, let's run down the good and the bad of this initial issue.

The bad: DOUBLE IMAGE is a real yawner of a title. It sounds like a horror comic for optometrists. Even my aged heart could've stood a bit more excitement.

The bad: The artsy covers didn't attract my attention at all, even with that white background. Repeating the ugly design on the inside covers compounded the error, sort of like drawing attention to one's ugly shirt by holding up a sign that reads,"Hey, is this one ugly shirt or what?"

The good: Young's opening chapter of "The Bod" was terrific. He did a fine job introducing his likeable characters while moving the story to a good "can't wait to see the next issue" cliffhanger of an ending.

The bad: The ending would have had far more punch if it hadn't been given away in the promotional blitz.

The good: I love the Hollywood setting. True, neither this or any other comic book has ever done it better than Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle did in CROSSFIRE, but that doesn't mean that creators shouldn't keep trying.

The good: Penciler John Heebink did an equally terrific job on his end, delivering solid drawing and storytelling. He reinforced my good vibes about the heroine.

The bad: Colorist Heebink let penciler Heebink down badly with way too dark of a palette.

The good: Casey and artist Charlie Adlard did a fine job on the first installment of "Codeflesh," a hard-boiled series about a hard-boiled bounty hunter.

The bad: Guess how bored I am with hard-boiled comics about hard-boiled whatevers. I admit it's a personal bias, but there are times when I think the comics industry should declare a moratorium on publishing stories by writers and artists who have ever seen a Quentin Tarantino movie...and I'm fast developing the same reaction to stories by creators who watch Asian action films.

Even given the "bad," I think DOUBLE IMAGE is worth checking out. It is good work honestly made.

THE FASHION POLICE #1 and #2 (Bryce Alan Publishing; $2.95): The title is brilliant. The high concept of supermodel detectives is good campy fun. If I were a Hollywood producer, I'd snap up the rights to this property up in a minute...and then change everything else about it. Because, sad to say, nothing else about these comic books is worth the cover price or the time it took me to read them. I've seen the characters, or characters very much like them, in any number of mediocre comics and television shows. The writing never sparks my interest and the art is nowhere near professional enough for a company listing an art director in its credits. If you *are* a Hollywood producer with option money to spare, buy these comics. Otherwise, give them a pass.

GOOD GIRL ART QUARTERLY #19 (AC Comics; $6.95): It's the 30th anniversary of publisher Bill Black's "Synn" and "Tara" characters, who share the cover of this pricey anthology with Sheena, legendary queen of the jungle. I'll give Black credit for this: he captures the spirit and style of Fiction House covers of the 1940s and does so with obvious affection for the source material.

The mostly-reprinted contents of the issue reflect this same infatuation: Sheena (art by Robert Webb), Sky Girl (Matt Baker), Torchy (Bill Ward), a new Tara/Synn adventure (Black, Mark Heike, Stephanie Sanderson), Senorita Rio (Ken Battlefield), and Camilla by Ralph Mayo. The stories aren't well-written, though I somewhat guiltily confess to enjoying the light-hearted Sky Girl and Torchy efforts.

Seven bucks is a bit steep for this comic, but not so much so when you start checking out the prices on the "good girl art" which inspired it. If you could find them, the least expensive issues of Jumbo Comics, which is where Sheena got her start, would likely run you from anywhere from $15 to $100. If you've an interest in this kind of material, you should sample this title.

******

ADDENDUM

I usually add 1000-1500 words to these columns when I reprint them online, but I'm knocking off early this week to catch up on my household errands. If you must have more of me, I remind you that you'll find an all-new TONY'S ONLINE TIPS every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Norman Barth's PERPETUAL COMICS website.

http://www.PerpetualComics.com


This week's topics have included the plethora of JLA titles being published by DC Comics; the Pulitzer Prize going to Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY; comics-related stuff from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and NEWSWEEK; the dissing of comics retailers by Marvel's Bill Jemas; Marvel picking up some awards for tales dealing with addiction; comic books as two-dimensional snuff films; and the controversial B.C. comic strip published on Easter. And, as always, I welcome your thoughts on all of the above. You can write to me at

tony@wfcomics.com


I'll be back next week with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 04/13/2001 | 04/20/2001 | 04/27/2001 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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THE "TONY" SCALE

Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

Tony
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TonyTony
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

TonyTonyTony
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

TonyTonyTonyTony
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.



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