TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1472 (02/16/02)
"Run for your lives, everyone! It's a giant arrow!"
-An observant gent warns of possible danger in "The Mystery of the Giant Arrows," originally published ADVENTURE COMICS #252 (September, 1958) and most recently reprinted in THE GREEN ARROW BY JACK KIRBY.
This is the second in my series of columns reviewing a month's worth of DC Comics and I have a confession to make. I am cheating ever so slightly this week. As I sat down to read the second and third issues of FOUR WOMEN and GREYSHIRT: INDIGO SUNSET, I realized I had the first issues of those titles at hand. So, I added those issues to the 90-plus other DC/Vertigo/Wildstorm/etcetera comics I hope to review in the course of this series. I plead the "foolish consistency" defense and ask your forgiveness.
I'm rating these comics on the "Jimmy Olsen" scale of quality or lack thereof. Superman's pal is the glue holding the sometimes fragile DC Universe together. There can be no loftier recognition for any comic mag than to be awarded the highest "Jimmy" available. For those of you who weren't with us last week, here's the official "Jimmy" scale from top to bottom
GIANT TURTLE MAN (the best of the best)
WOLF-BOY OF METROPOLIS (howling good)
ELASTIC LAD (a heroic effort)
LESLIE LOWE, GIRL REPORTER (kind of a drag)
HUMAN PORCUPINE (a cold prickly)
Here come the reviews.
THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #1 (DC; $7.95) reunites writer-artist Frank Miller with the Batman who, though non-canonical, had a powerful influence on how DC management and talent have portrayed the character in the fifteen years since the publication of BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. This new series is set three years after the first, continuing and building upon its protagonists, settings, and themes. Where it remains truest to these things, it succeeds.
Where it strays too far, it fails. The book deserves a full-scale review, but what you get here are the bare bones.
The political and sociological forces which forced Batman into retirement in the first story take a wrong turn when Lex Luthor and Brainiac are revealed to be masterminding those forces. It was far less comforting (and far more satisfying) when the "enemy" was "us" and what we had allowed our leaders to make of our world. Now that is a subject worth exploring...especially today.
In the first story, Superman is cooperative with those forces, but only to a point. A reader could see his position as something akin to STAR TREK's "Prime Directive," in that he seemed unwilling to interfere...beyond a point...with the right of mankind to govern itself, even when he might take issue with the results. However, in this series, the Man of Steel is reduced to a comics equivalent of the Vichy puppets which "governed" France during World War II. It's a disrespectful treatment of the Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster creation that didn't sit well with me.
It's a tribute to the power of Miller's story and storytelling abilities that, even with two such major failings, I still thought DK2 was one of the best and most exciting comic books of the year. It was a thrill to see the Atom and the Flash added to the mix and given the Miller twist. I was intrigued by the Question's fleeting appearance. I was delighted to see a mature Jimmy Olsen opposing them what has the power. And, just as I was the first time around,
I'm eager for the next issue. I give THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES BACK #1 a conditional: Giant Turtle Man!
Sam Keith's FOUR WOMEN #1-3 (of 5; $2.95) struck me as fairly odd offerings for the Homage Comics imprint, but this series would also have been misfit as a Vertigo title. It combines elements of "women in jeopardy" exploitation films with intriguing personality and psychological studies of its characters, four somewhat unlikely friends on their way to another friend's wedding reception. Their trip takes a turn for the worst and they suddenly find themselves in serious peril.
Writer and artist Keith gets high marks on almost every level. His storytelling is excellent throughout the issues with the pacing keeping the suspense high. His characters--the women, at least--are believable. By contrast, the men who threaten them are completely two-dimensional. Even so, I liked FOUR WOMEN enough to give it an unequivocal: Wolf-Boy of Metropolis!
THE GREEN ARROW BY JACK KIRBY (DC; $5.95) collects 11 stories of the battling bowman, originally published in 1958 and 1959, and featuring art and sometimes more by the temporarily-deposed king of the comics. As Mark Evanier relates in his introduction to these short tales, the comics industry had fallen on tough times and even a once-and-future star like Kirby was looking for work. With his partner Joe Simon, he had launched such major properties as Captain America, Boy Commandoes, and Young Romance, but, at the time Kirby drew these tales, his comics work had been reduced to the brilliant (albeit bimonthly) Challengers of the Unknown, and one-off stories for House of Mystery and Tales of the Unexpected.
DC wasn't interested in any new titles and all their existing features had artists. Only when George Papp was assigned to draw Superboy did an opening appear: drawing six-page Green Arrow tales for the back pages of Adventure Comics and World's Finest. Kirby leaped at the assignment, convinced he could build the feature into a true contender.
What we see in these 11 stories are Kirby, working with editor Jack Schiff and writers like Bill Finger, Dave Wood, Ed Herron, and Robert Bernstein-Kirby wrote one story himself, co-plotted others, and often punched up the scripts as he drew them-doing his best to breathe excitement into a character which was then little more than a cheap Batman knock-off. Replace the arrows with Batman's gadgets and most of these stories could have starred Batman.
Despite so many things working against Kirby, including open hostility to his efforts from various DC editors, these Green Arrow stories stood out from everything else in the titles in which they appeared and are still fun to read today on any number of levels. Finger's "The Green Arrows of the World," a rehash of a Batman tale from the same era, made me giggle uncomfortably at such nonsense as the Green Arrow of Japan driving a motorized rickshaw and firing a "Jiujitsu arrow" to trip up a fleeing felon. On the other end of the scale, "The Green Arrow's First Case" is a masterful retelling of the archer's origin in less than seven pages.
THE GREEN ARROW isn't prime Kirby, but these stories are both entertaining and historically important. This terrific collection definitely deserves a: Wolf-Boy of Metropolis!
GREEN LANTERN #144 and #145 (DC; $2.25 each) took me smack dab into the midst of a whopping big and complicated storyline in which Kyle Rayner is battling a psychotic opposite number with the power to alter reality being the victor's prize. That's big and I'm not surprised writer Judd Winick couldn't squeeze in a whole lot of the back story. This story demanded the full-page, mostly text recaps Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox used for the second halves of their Justice League/Justice Society thrillers. However, even without such convenient "what has gone before" pages, Winick did a far better job bringing this long-absent reader into the game than many DC scribes. I'm not completely sure of all the who/what/why elements of the story, but I got enough to be able to read and enjoy these comics.
Winick also succeeded in making me care about Kyle by devoting scenes to supporting characters who cared about him. Their concern became my concern. It was an effective storytelling technique that barely drew attention to itself. The writing, coupled with decent artwork and storytelling by artists Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos earns GREEN LANTERN an: Elastic Lad.
I'm not certain the casual or younger comics reader will enjoy GREYSHIRT: INDIGO SUNSET #1-3 (America's Best Comics; $3.50 each) as much as a long-time reader like myself did, but, if they gave it a chance, I would hope they were, at the very least, entertained by Rick Veitch's intertwined tales and impressed by the obvious effort which went into this series. These are some of the most gloriously mad comics I've read in ages.
These are the first Greyshirt stories I've read, but whatever I needed to know about the character and the concepts behind this series were evident from the first ish. The title hero is cut from the basic mold of Will Eisner's Spirit, but his world is the lurid, shoot-em-up world of the crime comics which delighted youngsters and horrified their parents in the 1950s. In fact, even the horror and romance comics of the 1950s had their obvious influence on the tales presented in GREYSHIRT.
Each issue has three features: a "Young Greyshirt" flashback story, a modern-day adventure of the crime-fighter, and a facsimile of the Indigo City Sunset newspaper. That last feature is as good as the actual comics, brilliantly and humorously adding new layers to the overall story. Veitch does all the writing and most of the art. Guest contributors have included Russ Heath, Al Williamson, and David Lloyd.
Greyshirt's civilian identity isn't revealed in these issues and I don't know if it was revealed in his earlier appearances in Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, which you can bet I'll be reading as soon as I locate them in my "unread comics" boxes. Either way, I'm excitedly awaiting the next issue of this series.
GREYSHIRT: INDIGO SUNSET #1-3 are great comics and, since they offer 36 pages of story and art--cover to cover, no ads--they also deliver good value for your bucks. It's an easy call to give these books an Olsen-rating of: Giant Turtle Man!
This review of HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC #2-6 (Vertigo; $2.50) again represents my bending my own rules for these columns. The DC shipment had the latest two issues--and I'd previously reviewed the first issue--so I figured I'd include those middle issues as well. The five comics were well worth my time.
When I reviewed HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC #1, I commented that writer Dylan Horrocks had made it difficult for a new reader to get into the swing of the story. Tim Hunter, the young wizard of the title, was something of a mystery, even though I had several of his earlier appearances. The setting and situations of this new series were equally confusing to me.
What a difference a couple of panels can make. In just that many panels in the second issue, Horrocks tells us enough about Tim to get the reader going and then proceeds, over the course of that issue and those which follow it, to expand upon Hunter and develop this current story. The pertinent dialogue, a discussion between students at a school for magic, is worth repeating here, if only to demonstrate how easily characters can be introduced without slowing the flow of a story in the slightest
FIRST STUDENT: That's Timothy Hunter. They say he's from another world.
SECOND STUDENT: He comes and goes as he pleases...sometimes he disappears for months.
FIRST: Berim Altor says there's more power in Hunter's little finger than in all of Renfrew and Bernardi put together.
The reader doesn't need to know who Berim and the others are. Just from this exchange, he learn that Tim is well-known, a bit of a mystery to his fellow students, and rumored to be a very powerful wizard. We also know that this school for magic is not on our own world, another intriguing bit of information.
The overall title for these issues is "The Lake of Fire." The story finds Tim getting involved with a people who are being wiped out by an unknown enemy. Tim is a most admirable hero; it's almost a shame the title carries a "suggested for mature readers" advisory because I think Harry Potter's young fans would enjoy Tim Hunter's adventures. That's sadly ironic, since Tim, created by Neil Gaiman for the 1990 series, THE BOOKS OF MAGIC, predated Harry by several years. Who could have known?
"The Lake of Fire" is an excellent story and the Richard Case artwork is exceptional throughout the issues. Individual chapters will be confusing to a reader coming into the middle of the story, which is a common failing in these days of writers writing for the trade paperback collections. I think both groups of readers can be served with the simple expedient of what has gone before" pages in the individual issues, pages which can easily be expunged from any trades. My complaint notwithstanding, HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC is great fun for all but the youngest readers and it rates a: Wolf-Boy of Metropolis!
I'll be back next week with more DC reviews!
Every Sunday, I post ten new questions at the TONY POLLS page and ask you to respond to them. The currently active questions are designed to help me determine what kind of questions you're having the most fun with or would like to see in the future. If you want to vote before these polls close, go to
Starting on Tuesday, February 26, I'll be presenting a special weekly edition of TONY'S TIPS which will give the results of polls concluded the previous Sunday. In addition to the results, I'll be giving my take on these questions and running the best poll-related e-mails I receive on the questions. If you've been keeping score, this means I will now be providing online content six days a week. We'll talk more about that in a bit.
Here are the results for our February 3-9 polls...
Which of these is your favorite Batman or Batman-related title?
Detective Comics.....42 votes (32.81%)
Batman: Gotham Adventures.....19 (14.84%)
Birds of Prey.....13 (10.16%)
Batman: Gotham Knights.....7 (5.47%)
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.....6 (4.09%)
Harley Quinn.....6 (4.69%)
Azrael: Agent of the Bat.....0
I haven't been reading all of the Bat-titles, but I cast my vote for DETECTIVE COMICS based on Judd Winick's "Josie Mac" back-ups and my appreciation of Greg Rucka's Batman scripts. Naturally, it's just been announced that Rucka is leaving the book. Don't you just hate it when that happens?
Which of these is your favorite X-Men or X-Men-related title?
New X-Men.....25 votes (27.47%)
Ultimate X-Men.....12 (13.19%)
Uncanny X-Men.....8 (8.79%)
X-Treme X-Men.....6 (6.59%)
X-Men Evolution.....4 (4.40%)
X-Men Unlimited.....2 (2.20%)
I haven't been reading the X-Men titles, so I didn't vote on this one. For what it's worth, the concept of two people voting for WOLVERINE does horrify me.
Which of these is your favorite Archie character?
Jughead.....40 votes (36.70%)
Pop Tate.....3 (2.75%)
Mr. Weatherbee.....2 (1.83%)
I voted for Jughead, who became my favorite character due to Craig Boldman's scripts. Without sacrificing humor, Boldman has added humanity to Jughead's personality and made him an incredibly well-rounded character.
Of all the Archie titles, JUGHEAD is the one I would recommend even to those readers who aren't fond of the Riverdale gang. Naturally...and, yes, I am beginning to hate that word, JUGHEAD is the poorest selling of the Archie books. Give it a chance while you still can.
Which of these is your favorite CrossGen title?
Ruse.....42 votes (59.15%)
I've fallen about a year behind on my CrossGen reading, so I passed on this question. However, since I enjoyed what I read of these titles up to that point, let's add catching up on them to my copious list of things to do.
Which of these is your favorite Viz Comics title?
Ranma .....18 (39.13%)
Dragonball Z.....3 (6.52%)
Silent Mobius.....2 (4.35%)
Bastard!! Wizard.....1 (2.17%)
Magical Pokemon Journey.....1 (2.17%)
No Need For Tenchi.....1 (2.17%)
Ceres: Celestial Legend.....0
I'm further behind on my Viz Comics reading, so I passed on this question, too. If EAGLE hadn't concluded its run, it would've gotten my vote. It was the best comic book of 2001.
Now let's find out a little bit more about you via couple questions asked on my message board. What geographical area do you live in? Pick the one closest to your concept of where you live?
USA: Northeast.....31 votes (24.22%)
USA: Midwest.....28 (21.88%)
USA: South.....19 (14.84%)
USA: Mid-Atlantic.....13 (10.16%)
USA: Southwest.....9 (8.03%)
United Kingdom.....4 (3.12%)
USA: Northwest.....4 (3.12%)
USA: Pacific.....4 (3.12%)
USA: West.....4 (3.12%)
I live in Ohio, which places me in the Midwest. Clearly, we have considerable missionary work to do in most other parts of the USA and several foreign countries. To apply for any available missionary positions, just send me your resume and a $25 processing fee. In lieu of cash, I can also accept comics, fanzines, original artwork, and video tapes.
Have you learned to play a musical instrument?
Yes.....75 votes (68.18%)
No.....35 votes (31.82%)
I came up with a dozen different jokes for this one, none of them fit for print. So I'll just admit that I never learned to play an instrument. Considering how good I am at singing karaoke, this is, without a doubt, a good thing.
If you answered "yes" to the previous question, what kind of musical instrument did you learn to play? Pick the one with which you are most skilled.
wind instruments.....26 votes (36.11%)
stringed instruments.....24 (33.33%)
Two TV questions, compiled with Bob Ingersoll's most welcome assistance. Which of these old science-fiction shows is your favorite?
Babylon 5.....33 votes (25.38%)
Star Trek.....23 (17.69%)
Star Trek: The Next Generation.....15 (11.54%)
Twilight Zone.....15 (11.54%)
Quantum Leap.....11 (8.46%)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.....9 (6.92%)
Time Tunnel.....4 (3.08%)
Buck Rogers.....3 (2.31%)
Lost in Space.....3 (2.31%)
Planet of the Apes.....1 (.77%)
Star Trek: Voyager.....1 (.77%)
I voted for BABYLON 5.
Which of these live-action super-hero shows is your favorite?
Flash.....28 votes (22.58%)
Adventures of Superman.....19 (15.32%)
Lois and Clark.....17 (13.71%)
Wonder Woman.....8 (6.45%)
Greatest American Hero.....7 (5.65%)
Incredible Hulk.....7 (5.65%)
Now and Again.....6 (4.84%)
Green Hornet.....4 (3.23%)
Misfits of Science.....2 (1.61%)
My Secret Identity.....2 (1.61%)
Black Scorpion.....1 (.81%)
Man From Atlantis.....1 (.81%)
I voted for NOW AND AGAIN, but that wasn't an easy choice. I could've just as easily voted for ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, BATMAN, THE FLASH, or THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO.
If you have suggestions for future poll questions, I'd love to hear them. It's part of a new "plays well with others" lifestyle I'm trying out. I give it a week.
TONY'S WORLD WIDE WEB
I'm now providing online content six days a week, not counting my visits to the TONY ISABELLA MESSAGE BOARD. Here's the schedule for those of you with way too much time on your hands...
Three times a week, I write an exclusive-to-the-web column of news, reviews, and views. Although comic books are the primary focus, I spout off on whatever catches my fancy. You'll never know what I'll write about.
You're reading it now. This is where I reprint my COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE columns, to which I add another thousand words or so of new material just because I love you.
Sunday: TONY POLLS
I know what you're thinking. Why has Tony left you bereft of online entertainment on Thursdays?
It's because I haven't quite figured out WHAT I want to bring you on Thursdays, WHERE I want to do it, and HOW I can make it work without losing what precious little sanity I still have. But, hey, if it were easy, it wouldn't be fun.
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.
Please send material you would like me to review to: