TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1470 (02/02/02)
"I really hope we've now learned a very valuable lesson about pontificating in the middle of a fight!"
Randy O'Donnell, RANDY O'DONNELL IS THE M@N #3
If I had been paying more attention to the calendar last week and less to how my ailing hard drive was making my life miserable, I'm sure I would have wished you a "Happy New Year" in my previous column. Fortunately, since I'm writing this in 2001, I can delude myself into believe I didn't *really* forget.
My timing notwithstanding, I do hope 2002 is a great year for all my friends in the comicdom and, for that matter, even those few individuals who don't precisely fit that "friend" designation. I try to give everyone a clean slate with each new year; one of these years, I'll actually live up to that resolution.
This week, I'm reviewing the remaining 10 of 22 Image Comics titles sent to me by Image's outgoing Director of Marketing Anthony Bozzi. I wish my pal Anthony well in his future endeavors and bid welcome to new Director of Marketing Eric Stephenson. Here be the introductory drill on these reviews
With two exceptions, I have never read an issue of these mags. I expect creators to make their comics accessible to new readers, no matter if it's the first issue of a title or the last. I expect art and coloring and lettering and writing to be in service of the story. When it comes to letters columns, if the designer gets all into being design-y to the point where I can't read the darn pages, the comic book loses valuable points.
These comics will be rated on a scale of one to five "I"s with the Image "I" being used as the visual depiction of their ratings. However, since that wouldn't be funny all by itself, I'm asking you to say "I" with a Cuban inflection. So, a really good comic would earn an "ie-ie-ie-ie-ie!" That's right; this week's comics will be rated on the following Ricky Ricardo scale.
Ie-ie-ie-ie-ie: "I love Lucy!"
Ie-ie-ie-ie: "I like Lucy!"
Ie-ie-ie: "Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!"
Ie-ie: "No, Lucy, you can't be in the show!"
Ie: "I loathe Lucy!"
I'm not sure WHY I find this ratings systems amusing. Maybe, deep down inside, I, too, am a crazy redhead who just longs to be in the show. Maybe we all are.
RANDY O'DONNELL IS THE MAN #3 ($2.95) is my favorite comic of this batch. To quote the helpful copy on the inside front cover of this issue
Randy O'Donnell, typical American teenager, has been recruited by Edrice the Wizard to drive the Malok, a race of alien invaders, from the medieval world of Bollucidar. With the aid of the axe-wielding Tesca and Gemel, barbarian swordsman-plus the superhuman strength he magically gains when he's transported to this amazing planet-Randy must now try to be the hero of his dreams.
Creators Tom DeFalco and Ron Lim are consummate pros; their work here could be used as a guidebook for a "how to make comics" class. Their title hero is a believable, likeable young man with supporting players who seamlessly fit into their roles. The story in this issue is self-contained, wholesome fun for readers of all ages. Unlike many stories, this one has a point and everything in the story illuminates that point.
RANDY O'DONNELL rates high on my "bang for your bucks" scale. In addition to the 22-page story, readers get a three-page "How To Write Comics" feature by DeFalco and a friendly three-page letters column. I give this issue an: ie-ie-ie-ie-ie!
THE RED STAR #7 ($2.95) looked interesting, but this issue was fundamentally inaccessible to a first-time reader like myself. I was intrigued by the writing and the images, but I couldn't process them into a clear story. Information on "who these characters are" and "what has gone before" was completely lacking.
Before reading this issue, I knew that THE RED STAR had been nominated for an award or two and so was looking forward to reading it. But the creators left me outside looking in, unsure of what I was seeing. Heck, outside of someone named Christian Gossett, who I'm assuming is the primary creator because STAR is trademarked and copyright in his/her name, I don't even know who the creators are. The cover credits are ciphers to me.
I'm bumping THE RED STAR up a notch based strictly on how much I wanted to enjoy it. However, the best rating I can give it is a disappointing: ie-ie-ie!
SHIDIMA #0A ($2.25) started losing points from its cover. The logo is obscured by a badly-drawn figure, some sort of ninja maybe, leaping in front of it. The rest of the cover was equally murky. Inside, readers got a 12-page story with barely adequate writing, insufficient background to understand the story, mostly uninspired layouts and drawing, and coloring so dark the comic looks as if it had been dipped in chocolate.
The story is followed by six pages of lackluster filler pages on the creation of this comic book. I tried to be charitable, but I did giggle cruelly when the comic's penciler explained how a page of this less-than-masterful work is produced. Weighing the lack of quality of the material AND the meagerness of the portions, SHIDIMA gets an overly-generous: ie!
SPAWN #112 ($2.50) isn't to my tastes, but it deserves credit for the things it does right. The inside front cover gives enough of a recap to get a reader started, with the story itself including some additional background. The writing is a bit overdone, but not so much as to rate this critic's umbrage. The artwork is exciting, sometimes at the expense of storytelling, but penciler Angel Medina delivers solid drawing throughout the tale. I also give high marks to the coloring and lettering...and a nod to Spawn's relatively low price, almost half-a-buck below other Image titles.
Where SPAWN fails is with a generic cover which doesn't catch the potential customer's eye, a script which never manages to rise above readable, and with editorial pages that are little more than a Todd McFarlane catalog. It gets an: ie-ie-ie!
Reading SPAWN: THE DARK AGES #28 ($2.50) is what I imagine it would be like to drag an anchor through a field of mud. You can do it you set your mind to it, but it is a wearying task and you feel unclean for days afterwards.
This issue's story concludes the tale of Covenant, an earlier avatar of Spawn. It is an unrelentingly brutal story told with the most leaden of captions and dialogue. The artistic storytelling is as weak as the writing, distinguished mostly by a reliance on gore galore. I think this is the title's last issue, which is the only reason it gets even a puny: ie!
TELLOS: THE LAST HEIST ($5.95) was a good introduction to the magical "Patchwork World" of Tellos. The inside front cover gives you the basics (magical realms, creatures of legend, adventure and danger around every corner) and the back cover sets up the stories featured within. I would have liked a bit more background--there were scenes where I didn't have as much information as I needed to fully appreciate the stories-but, overall, I thought this was an entertaining comic book.
The lead story is about a thief pulling one last heist in the name of his deceased partner and friend; the back-up story concerns another character's quest to find others of his kind. Todd Dezago is a fine writer and, if his work here is even slightly flawed, it is likely due to his familiarity with his co-creations. This is a common shortcoming; creators know their babies so well they forget the readers DON'T know them as well. Still, I give Dezago and the artists (Craig Rousseau, Norman Lee, Dave Tata, and Derek Fridolfs) high marks for this comic book.
TELLOS: THE LAS HEIST makes me want to read the earlier issues of the title. It rates an: ie-ie-ie-ie!
TOMB RAIDER: THE SERIES #17 ($2.50) is a solid comic book on every level. The clever Dan Jurgens story has Lara Croft called in to find missing cast members of a reality TV show. I enjoy it when comics based in fantasy have such nods to the real world; it makes the fantastic more believable.
Even though this is the second chapter of a four-issue story, Jurgens and the inside front cover "what has gone before" copy had me up to speed from the start. The art was a little distracting in places, but there's no denying the talent of penciler Andy Park and inker Jonathan Sibal. The coloring and lettering were also first-rate. I give this one an: ie-ie-ie-ie!
VIOLENT MESSIAHS #7 ($2.95) is another Image book I might have liked if it were reader-friendly. Without sufficient background, I couldn't appreciate whatever emotions and rationale were behind this issue's relentlessly brutal events. I'm guessing these events involve some sort of human experimentation gone horribly awry, and vengeance for crimes against man and nature, and maybe a soupcon of government intrigue, but those are just that: guesses. I shouldn't have to make up the story as I read it, so the best I can give this comic book is an: ie-ie-ie!
WARLANDS: THE AGE OF ICE #3 ($2.95) hails from the same studio which produced SHIDIMA #0A and shares many of the same flaws. The muddy artwork and coloring do nothing to draw me into this issue's story and, left to its own devices, that story doesn't capture my interest. I raised an eyebrow at the concept of a palace so large it takes hours to travel from one place in to another because that is an idea worth playing with it, but that was the only time I felt even remotely engaged by this comic book.
What is WARLANDS about? If I could answer that, I could give this comic a higher rating than: ie!
All I know about WITCHBLADE is what I know from the handful of episodes I've seen of the television series which is based on the comic. All I know about LADY DEATH is that its star has often been drawn with breasts the size of soccer balls. I kinda sort of enjoy the Witchblade TV show and I've never read an issue of LADY DEATH. Clearly, I'm not the target audience for WITCHBLADE/LADY DEATH #1 ($4.95). Go figure.
However, David Wohl's story teaming the feisty detective Sara Pezzini, she who wields the ancient mystical Witchblade, and Lady Death, she I don't quite have a handle on, was well-written, sort of a cross between the better Batman team-ups in DC's THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and the heroes-fight-first-bond-later tales we see in many super-hero mags of the 1960s and beyond. Neither heroine comes off badly, the story flows well, the artwork is good, and the coloring and lettering work in service of the story. This comic book won't win any awards, but it's a solid job all around.
I do have to take away points on the basis of WITCHBLADE/LADY DEATH not providing enough bang for your bucks. The story is only 33 pages with the rest of the issue being filled out by, depending on your level of cynicism, exciting previews of upcoming projects or self-serving promotion. But I'll give some of those points back because Lady Death's breasts aren't hideously out of proportion to the rest of her. This comic earns an: ie-ie-ie-ie!
That wraps up my Image reviews. I'll be back next week with the start of a month's worth of DC Comics reviews.
I have some tidbits culled from recent issues of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY to share, starting with the magazine's January 4 tribute to cartoonists Hank Ketchum (Dennis the Menace), William Hanna (Hanna-Barbera), George Gately (Heathcliff), Herbert Block (the editorial cartoonist), and Fred Lasswell (Snuffy Smith), all of whom passed in 2001. I was more familiar with the works of some of these men than the others, but each of them was an amazing comics/cartooning talent who brightened our lives with their gifts.
The same issue's "Television" section had some amusing "Sound Bites" worth repeating
"After a year of speculation, inventor Dean Kamen unveiled his mysterious IT,' which is a battery-powered, two-wheeled people mover. Many believe it will completely revolutionize the way people get hit by cars."
Tina Fey on SNL
"Puff Daddy is planning an ice-skating party for his friends. Here's my question: How do you draw a chalk outline on ice?"
Craig Kilborn on THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN
In EW's "Books" section, critic Ken Tucker gave a "B+" to DC's THE ATOM ARCHIVES' VOLUME 1. He wrote
The premise-physicist Ray Palmer shrinks at will to become a teeny super-hero-was cornily unpromising (his nickname was the Mighty Mite, for Pete's sake). But in the 60s, artist Gil Kane literally drew the beauty out of the precisely proportioned figures that made THE ATOM a visual triumph, as this collection of stories proves.
EW's January 11 edition cover-featured an article on "The 100 Must-See DVDs." A number of fantasy, horror, and science fiction films made this list...and a few of them comics-related. Here are the ones I spotted
Melies the Magician (1898-1997)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Superman Cartoons of Max & Dave Fleischer (1941-43) It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (1973/2000) Jaws (1975)
Halloween: Extended Version (1978)
Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (1982/1992) The Terminator: Special Edition (1984)
Akira: Special Edition (1988)
Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box (1995-99) The Matrix (1999)
The Sixth Sense: Collector's Edition Series (1999)
Did EW leave out your favorite DVD? Feel free to supplement the magazine's list on our message board
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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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