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Tony's Online Tips
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 #1496 (09/07/02)

"So, then, to every man his chance--to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining golden opportunity--to every man his right to live, to work, to be himself, to become whatever his manhood and his vision can combine to make him--this, seeker, is the promise of America."

--Thomas Wolfe

"No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life

are made. Destiny is made known silently."


--Agnes De Mille, Dancer

"What single ability do we all have? The ability to change."

--Leonard Andrews

"With great power must also come great responsibility."

--Stan Lee

No, there wasn't a sale at the Quotations store. It's that I knew what I wanted to write about before we got to the reviews, but couldn't decide on which of the above best fit my opening remarks. You see, it being summer and all, I've been spending a lot of time with my children, the promise of America, and those days are always among the happiest of my life. However, in the midst of my joy, I am made keenly aware of other fathers and other children and days which are filled more with dread than bliss.

Two days ago, as I write these words--it's several weeks for those of you reading them--a suicide murderer blew up a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing seven people and injuring another three dozen. This was no attack on a military target; it was the premeditated murder of innocent civilians.

Later that night, on a mailing list, I learned that the wife and young daughter of a friend of mine had been waiting for their bus at that very place about an hour before the attack. His relief that they had escaped harm was great, as was his pain and sorrow over those who did not.

The next day, my friend sent another note to the mailing list. The woman who started the kindergarten in his town, who played an important part in the lives of the 500 families living there, who taught his five children, was killed in the attack. She had been waiting for the bus with her family: her daughter and son-in-law, both badly wounded, and her five-year-old granddaughter, who also died in the attack.

If we have the power to change, and we do, we must, above all else, change this irrational hatred of those who are not us. The Middle East violence, the violence that has touched innocents in so many other parts of the world, is only the most visible example of this disease. It lurks and thrives even in this glorious country of ours, accommodated by those who discriminate and legislate and preach against those who are somehow different from them. And, if we are to prevent their like from breaking the promise of America, we must accept the responsibility that comes with power. Don't let them dress up hate and call it "justice" or "morality" or "values." It is none of those things.

Fight the lies. Change the world.

******

Scion

CrossGen's titles include a good many sprawling epics. I tend to favor more personal stories, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the well-told "bigger" tales, especially when, as is the case with SCION, both approaches are in play.

Scion #22-24 (each #2.95) focus on Prince Ethan of the Heron Dynasty as he comes to grips with his sigil (the mysterious mark of power which is the catalyst for most CrossGen titles), deals with the consequences of its use, and grows towards an understanding of his personal goals and values. He is a reluctant hero, but no less a hero for that.

Ethan's quest is defined by the world around him. His family has gone to war against the rival Raven Dynasty. The war has taken the life of one brother and threatens his other siblings. He has allied himself with Ashleigh, estranged princess of the Ravens, in the cause of freedom for the so-called Lesser Races. Her brother Bron has been gifted with power by an outsider, slain their father, and seized the Raven throne for himself.

Writer Ron Marz has done a fine job capturing both the large and small of these events. More than any other CrossGen writer, he has come into his own at the company. A few years back, his name in the credits would relegate comic books to an eternity of sitting in storage boxes unread. Today, his name in the credits engenders confidence of an entertaining effort.

Fill-in artists Karl Moline and John Dell did a terrific job on Scion #22, but the visual stars of the book are the regular team of penciler Jim Cheung, inker Don Hillsman II, and colorist Justin Ponsor. Cheung and company move with ease from emotional moments to moody scenes to sprawling vistas. When the story calls for it, they can load on the detail work. When less is more, they suggest more than show. They've made Scion one of the best-drawn comics at CrossGen...and that means it's one of the best-drawn comics in the world. Remarkable is the word for their artistry.

Scion #22 gets four out of a possible five Tonys. Scion #23 and #24 get the full five.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

Sigil

Sometimes you read a comic and, as you turn the pages, you can feel the weight of your disappointment bowing your head. For me, that was the case with SIGIL #23 and #24. Over a hundred thousand people died on the third page of issue #23, and writer Chuck Dixon could not make it anything other than a statistic. Billions more died before the end of the issue and, again, Dixon could not wring any emotion from the tragedy. It was the comics equivalent of the special effects burying the humanity that is at the heart and soul of every good story.

In Sigil, ex-soldier Samandahl Rey is the guy with the sigil. I don't recall why he's an ex-soldier in the midst of a centuries-old, still ongoing war between humans and the lizardlike Saurians, but that ongoing conflict drives this title.

It's been quite a while since I've read an issue of Sigil, but it was a much better book when Barbara Kesel was writing it. Rey was a much more sympathetic character back then. In these current issues, he struck me as more concerned that his girlfriend survived the devastating Saurian attack than with the billions who died in the resultant devastation. In truth, I was never able to warm up to the recurring characters in these issues and no attempt was made to imbue those who perished with any individuality. Big explosions can't overcome a lack of substance.

I can't come down heavily on the artists. Penciler Scot Eaton and inker Andrew Hennessy weren't given anything to work with here. They did a professional job, but the artwork in these issues wasn't up to CrossGen's usual high standards. Still, their efforts, along with CrossGen's always top-notch production values, earn Sigil #23 and #24 the solitary Tonys - one each - I can, in good conscience, award them. If you can't afford to buy all the CrossGen books, this is the one you can definitely do without.

Tony

******

Sojourn

The only CrossGen title which can challenge Scion as the best-drawn offering from the publisher is SOJOURN, a medieval adventure replete with brave-if-flawed heroes, fearsome dragons, and glorious backgrounds. "Stunning" only begins to describe what penciler Greg Land, inker Drew Geraci, and colorist Caesar Rodriguez accomplish on a monthly basis in this comic.

In Sojourn, a nasty warlock by the name of Mordath has risen from the dead, acquired a sigil, and conquered the world. In his bloody wake, he has left cities in rumble and whole families slain, amongst them the home, husband, and daughter of the archer Arwyn. She has sworn vengeance and seeks the five fragments of the weapon which killed Mordath three centuries earlier, but she's not above interrupting that quest when she thinks she has a good shot at her not-quite-immortal enemy.

Sojourn #10 and #11 finds Arwyn traveling with the adventurer Gareth, her dog Kreeg, and a dragon whose seeks Mordath's death for her own reasons. Writer Ron Marz does his usual fine job bringing these characters to life and this particular chapter of their lives to an exciting close.

With first-rate writing and incredible artwork, Sojourn #10 and #11 each pick up five Tonys. Look for any trade collections of the title; they would make excellent gifts for the medieval fantasy fans in your circle of friends.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

Way of the Rat Chuck Dixon gets one more time at bat as I conclude my look at recent CrossGen comics and, thankfully, this time he hits for extra bases. This is the inside front cover introduction to WAY OF THE RAT #1 ($2.95):
The years of peace are at an end for the August Empire of Shinacea. From within, dark forces threaten the serenity of the Imperial City. From without, enemies from the steppes gather beyond the walls of civilization.

In these turbulent times, lost amidst events far larger than himself, lives a common thief of uncertain parentage named Boon Sai Hong. His home is the city of Zhumar, a walled fortress on the Empire's frontier.

The story of this humblest of lives would be as a single grain lost in a windstorm but for a series of events that lead Bron to the possession of ancient objects with the power to change the world.

And so, our tale begins...
Despite his larcenous ways, Bron is a thoroughly sympathetic character. He's an entertaining protagonist in a Jackie Chan vein as he contends with evil men, lovely ladies, and perilous magicks. More than most CrossGen titles, I could see Way of the Rat on the silver screen, a delightful blend of Harry Potter and Rush Hour II. I'd buy a ticket for that one.

Penciler Jeff Johnson delivers clear storytelling, an exciting sense of movement, and engaging visual characterization in telling the story. Inker Tom Ryder and colorist Chuck Garcia do their part as well. It's another great-looking book, which is pretty much the norm with CrossGen.

Adding to this first-issue fun is a feature combining creator biographies of a frivolous nature with a step-by-step look at the production of one page of this issue. I was amused by this bonus feature and I'm sure readers found it educational.

It may be premature for me to do this after reading only one issue, but I'm giving Way of the Rat four-and-a-half Tonys...and I wouldn't be surprised to see Dixon and company hit one out of the park within the next few issues.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Half Tony

I hope you enjoyed this three-week focus on CrossGen Comics.

Stay well and I'll see you next Tuesday.

******

ADDENDUM

The above first saw publication in CBG #1496 [July 19, 2002], which shipped on July 1. By request of my editors there, I don't post these "reprints" for at least three weeks after that shipping date. As you can see, we're still in catch-up mode from my summer hiatus, which is why you're getting three reprints a week. Once we get back on schedule, we'll back to just every Saturday.

This week's opening, with its call for tolerance, resulted in a whole lot of positive e-mail and *one* hate-filled rant. I was amazed by the bigotry and venom expressed in that singular e-mail and it took me a while to figure out how to deal with it. This is a subject I'll be returning to soon.

******

CONGRATULATIONS...

...to long-time Tips reader Jeff Polier and his wife Jenn on the birth of their son, ALEXANDER RICHARD POLIER. Alex was born at 10:27 on Tuesday morning, September 3. He entered the world at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and he was 20 inches tall. Welcome to the party that never ends, youngster!

Congratulations are also to SHI creator Billy Tucci and wife Deborah. William Alexander Tucci was born Sunday, July 28. Young Tucci also weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and 20 inches tall. I sense a pattern.

Some Trouble of a Serrious Nature While I'm at it, I'd also like to congratulate my pal Billy on another achievement. As reported by THE SCOOP:
Comic-book creator and independent publisher Billy Tucci can add the title "award-winning director: to his list of achievements. Tucci told SCOOP that the rough cut of his first short film, SOME TROUBLE OF A SERRIOUS NATURE, won First Place in the Best Short Film (Video) category at the Long Island International Film Expo. Sponsored by the Long Island Film/TV Foundation, the Expo ran July 12-18. SOME TROUBLE beat out more than 30 other films to win its category.
THE SCOOP is a free e-newsletter from by Gemstone Publishing. It started showing up in my e-mailbox a while ago and I couldn't be happier. It's entertaining and informative, a combination of which I've always been fond.

To be added to the Scoop list, e-mail Jaime Bramble at:

bjaime@gemstonepub.com

******

IN THE NEWS

Let's start with a quote that points out the real-and-present danger of having the Dubya mob in the White House:

"Democracies die behind closed doors."

So wrote JUDGE DAMON J. KEITH, in a ruling declaring the Bush administration acted unlawfully in holding deportation hearings in secret. Here's hoping a lot more of those closed doors get kicked open in the weeks to come.

Moving to Ohio politics...

Several readers have asked for my thoughts on the governor's race between Republican incumbent BOB TAFT and Democrat challenger TIM HAGAN. Specifically, most want to know what I think of Hagan, who is married to actress Kate Mulgrew, using Star Trek luminaries on the campaign trail. Mulgrew played Captain Janeway on STAR TREK VOYAGER and recruited several other Trek actors, including William Shatner, to appear at a combination fundraiser/Star Trek convention to benefit her husband.

Several things are worth mentioning here.

First and foremost, Ohio is completely controlled by the GOP. They control the governor's office, the state senate, and the state House of Representatives. Under their watch, Ohio hit the skids in a big way and now trails neighboring states in virtually every area of public interest and service.

Corporations run rampant due to state policies that favor them over the electorate and, as a byproduct, the corporations are very generous in contributing to the GOP. Taft's campaign "war chest" holds millions; I'm not sure Hagan has raised even half-a-million since getting into the race.

Getting back to the question, outside of Mulgrew, the above-mentioned fundraiser is the only time Star Trek actors have come to the state on Hagan's behalf. However, I fully expect the GOP will make a huge deal out of this during the campaign, probably trying to link Hagan to the "immorality" of Hollywood. When it comes to dirty politics, Ohio Republicans rank high.

Truth be told, though I'll be voting for Hagan, I'm not sure he can turn Ohio around. The damage the GOP has done to the state is severe. However, I do believe he will, at least, try to improve the lot of the citizens, which is far, far more than we can expect from the ineffectual Taft. Oh, the stories I could tell you about the benighted Bob! And may yet.

But I'd rather end today's column on a somewhat lighter note. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently posed several less-than-serious questions to the two candidates. I'd like to share a few of those, along with the candidate responses, with you...

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

TAFT: "I don't think I really focused on a long-term goal at a young age."

HAGAN: Center fielder for the Cleveland Indians.

If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?

TAFT: The Cookie Monster.

HAGAN: Beetle Bailey. "That's how I acted in the Army."

If your opponent were a cartoon character, who would he be?

TAFT: "The guy who's always in a foul mood, Oscar the Grouch."

HAGAN: Dagwood Bumstead.

Who's your favorite Star Trek captain?

TAFT: Capt. Kirk.

HAGAN: Capt. Janeway.

Who is funnier: Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, Jay Leno, or Ted Koppel?

TAFT: He first said "Jay Letterman," then Jay Leno.

HAGAN: Conan O'Brien.

What's a gallon of latex paint cost at Home Depot?

TAFT: Refused to guess.

HAGAN: $13.50 if you buy a good one.

If you could tour with any musician or band, who would it be?

TAFT: The Kingston Trio. "I'm dating myself."

HAGAN: Van Morrison. "I've met him, and he's crazier than me."

Have a happy and safe weekend, my friends. I'll be back here on Tuesday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 09/05/2002 | 09/07/2002 | 09/10/2002 >>

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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