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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1513 (11/28/02)

"The greatest test of courage is to bear defeat without losing heart."

--Robert Green Ingersoll, American lawyer and orator

Here's the digest version:

I had some health problems this year, but am past the worst of them. Thanks for all the prayers and kind thoughts you would have sent my way had you known, but everything is getting good and none of us needs dwell on it beyond this next bit.

As the poster child for side effects, I don't do particularly well with medication. I don't do well taking it. I don't do well when I stop taking it, at least not until it works its way out of my system. During the "withdrawal" stage of this charming circle of life, I have a functional attention span of some short period of time I can't remember.

This week's column is being written in short bits to adjust to my more-than-usual diminished capacity. If it makes any sense at all, you should thank my editors here at CBG, whoever the heck they are and whatever the heck those initials stand for.

******

Before I proceed, I should mention that the lawyer and orator quoted at the top of this column is not Robert Mason Ingersoll, the author of the informative and witty "The Law Is A Ass." It's easy to tell them apart. Our Bob has a tattoo of the Powerpuff Girls, though I won't let him tell me where.

******

Peter and May Parker are in Los Angeles, Mary Jane is filming a movie about a super-hero called Lobster-Man, and Doctor Octopus is battling the corporate crook who stole his technology to become a new and theoretically improved Ock. Although still exceptionally entertaining, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #45 (Marvel; $2.25) struck me as the slightest bit self-indulgent. I can easily forgive writer J. Michael Straczynski's doing his own version of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee's classic "Spidey trapped under several tons of debris" scene - many Spider-writers, myself included, have tried to recreate and recapture the drama of that scene, and JMS did deliver a nice twist on it - but I could've done without the scene in which the producer of the Lobster-Man movie debates changes in the hero's origin with the film's traditionalist writer. This jest at the expense of the fans who complained about the "changes" Straczynski maybe made in Spidey's origin came off too cutesy and in-jokey to get a laugh out of me. Truth be told, this Lobster-Man sub-plot hasn't worked for me from the get-go.

However, there remains much wonderfulness to be found in this issue. The cover and interior art of John Romita, Jr., easily rank among the best ever to grace ASM. The action scenes are terrific, the character play even better. I'm even digging the upper/lower case lettering, a break from tradition which has steadily grown on me since it started showing up in some Marvel titles.

I had to lop off a head for the Lobster-Man stuff, but AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #45 still earns a respectable four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

Speaking of our favorite wall-crawler, did you see the Reuters story about the 3000 Spider-Men left stranded by the now-ended dock strike? These life-sized replicas were stuck on freighters off the California coast until a federal judge issued an order ending the 10-day lockout of union longshoremen. A photo showing row upon row of seemingly ready-for-action Spideys added a surreal atmosphere to the report.

Spider-Men

Blockbuster Video ordered the 3000 Spider-statuettes as part of its sweepstakes for the November 1 release of the SPIDER-MAN DVD and video. Each was handcrafted in China from 70 pounds of rubber, fabric, steel, and plaster.

Because of the delay, these Spider-Men won't be swinging into Blockbuster until about the time that this issue of CBG is mailed. That's not a problem; strike or no, winners wouldn't have been able to claim their prizes until December 2.

By December 3, I'm thinking we'll start seeing these statues up for auction on eBay. One of these would make a dandy Christmas present for someone you love. Like me.

******

CITIZEN V AND THE V-BATTALION: THE EVERLASTING (Marvel; $2.99) is a four-issue series which came out earlier this year. The "who" and "what" of the V-Battalion is concisely expressed in each issue: Indifferent to borders or politics, the heroes of the Golden Age and their descendants have waged a covert battle for peace and justice since World War II.

Written by Fabian Nicieza, the concept has considerable appeal for continuity wonks and for those readers who like their super-heroics on the dark side. Each issue opens with a prologue set in the past (ranging from 950 A.D. to 1981) that sheds some light on the current story and offers a slice of hitherto-unrevealed Marvel Universe history. The "heroes" are as obscure as they come and not above making questionable compromises for what they perceive as the greater good. It's a heady mix.

This series out, Citizen V and company are contending with a group called "the Everlasting," whose origins stem from an ancient "god" who battled Thor a thousand years ago. Included in Nicieza's sprawling story are the Collective Man, Amahl Farouk, Flag-Smasher, and the original Human Torch. Inexplicably, I remember who each of these characters are, but not where I left my car keys.

Did I mention CITIZEN V AND THE VERY LONG TITLE #1 has a text page outlining the V-Battalion's key members and organization? Is it obvious I'm just throwing that in here because my clouded brain is...ah...clouded?

Nicieza carries this series. Though the grey-toned covers by Mike Deodato, Jr., are nice, the interior art and coloring can most kindly be described as uneven. Given the dense subject matter and less-than-enticing art, I doubt the story will ever be collected in trade paperback. However, I do think it's worth looking for in the back-issue bins.

CITIZEN V AND THE V-BATTALION: THE EVERLASTING picks up three Tonys with a special commendation for outstanding comic-book trivia in the face of impending peril.

Tony Tony Tony

******

Love Romance 84 I've wandered eBay of late, searching for 1959's LOVE ROMANCES #84. For some reason, the cover copy sings to me. Along my path, I've impulsively bid on other comics that catch my eye. These tend to be from the genres I didn't read as a youngster: crime, romance, teen humor, western, war and...hold on where I try to recall where I was going with this. Okay, I got it.

One of my most recent acquisitions, as yet unread, is an issue of TESSIE THE TYPIST, one of a variety of humor comics published by whatever Marvel was calling itself in the late 1940s/early 1950s, and featuring a comely heroine. I found myself wondering how many decades it has been since anyone, comely or not, could list TYPIST as their occupation, and how many other ancient comics have titles which would be meaningless to a modern reader.

Thank heaven I have that whole low attention span going for me or I'd be hung up on that question for days.

Is there a "Mr. Golden Age" in the audience?

******

MORLOCKS (Marvel; $2.50) is a four-issue mini-series that does not seem to take place in the Marvel Universe proper. I could be wrong about that - I've fallen behind on my X-Men reading - but I wouldn't think the United States government would be openly hunting and murdering mutants without it being mentioned in the handful of Marvel titles with which I'm more or less current. Then again, as noted in previous columns, I've no problem considering each Marvel title as a "universe" unto itself as long as the characters remain consistent from title to title.

These "Morlocks" are new-to-me mutants who have made a pact. Though they live underground to avoid detection by the government's robotic Sentinels, each of them has something he wants/needs to do on the surface. They have banded together to accomplish those last "wishes" before they abandon the outside world for the comparative safety of their underground tunnels.

Writer Geoff Johns conjures up a nightmarish America in which it's always open season on mutants. Sadly, such "ethnic cleansing" is not without historical precedent, though I confess to being more than a little uncomfortable with what seems to be a fairly casual acceptance of this government policy, at least among the policemen and federal agents who appear in this series. Call me an optimist, but I don't think my fellow Americans would stand by and allow such a slaughter to continue. Such opposition would have added a touch of reality to this dark tale.

Credit where due, Johns tells an engaging story. I liked his less-than-perfect heroes, a couple of whom I wouldn't mind seeing introduced into the "real" Marvel Universe. I liked the twists and turns; the lack of established "icons" gave the series an "anything can happen" attitude. Add the energetic and moody artwork of Shawn Martinbrough to the mix and you've got yourself a much-better-than-average comic book.

I don't know if Marvel is planning a MORLOCKS trade paperback, but this is another series worth tracking down. I'm giving it four out of a possible five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

Last week's mail included a legal-size envelope from Comicraft which contained nothing but a piece of cardboard obviously intended to protect what I assume was a comic book or magazine. My initial demented notion was to review this as either good light reading or lacking in substance. Then I started wondering if it was some sort of secret message. Then, yesterday, I received a Comicraft CD-Rom purporting to be their HIP FLASK comic. Or maybe that's just what they *want* me to think. I mean, I could put this into my computer and it could take over the space station. No, HAL, don't open that airlock. Nooooooooooooooooooo...

******

Marc Hempel's NAKED BRAIN (Insight Studios Group; $2.95) is a three-issue anthology showcasing the "myriad weird and funny stuff" that Hempel claims he often inadvertently comes up with. I should probably have checked him out for possible links to Comicraft and HAL, but I was too busy chuckling at the gags and stripes in NAKED BRAIN #1 and #2 to nurture my inner paranoid.

(Noted CBG columnist R.C. Harvey deems Hempel's sense of humor "antic and irreverent," adding "his drawings are designs, hilarious and ingeniously concocted abstractions." I wish I'd written that. It'd almost be worth being named after a third-rate cola to be that erudite. By comparison, even on my best days, I'm more of a "funny Marc make Tony laugh" commentator.)

The issues contain Hempel's profound and wacky "Naked Brain" strips from the www.sunnyfundays.com website, backed by new tales of legendary pals Tug and Buster, sketchbook pages, and, in NAKED BRAIN #2, a lively discussion on cartooning between Hempel and Evan Dorkin. With the exception of an inside back cover ad in issue #1, we're talking 36 pages of cover-to-cover delight at but three bucks a pop. That, my friends, is entertainment value.

Marc Hempel's NAKED BRAIN #1 and #2 each earn four Tonys with a special "boy buddies" ribbon for the return of two of my favorite comic-book characters. Tug and Buster rule!

Tony Tony Tony Tony

[World Famous Comics also carries the NAKED BRAIN online strip. - Justin =)]

******

One more for the road, although someone in my condition should avoid roads entirely, if only for the sake of everyone else on said roads. Dave Barry's TRICKY BUSINESS (Putnam; $24.95) is the second novel from the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and the author of a boatload of bestsellers, an apt turn-of-phrase considering most of this book takes place on the Extravaganza of the Seas, "a 5,000-ton tub whose function is to carry gamblers three miles from the Florida coast, take their money, then bring them back so that they can find more money." Less obvious is the ship's other business: exchanging large bags of money for large bags of illegal substances under cover of darkness and distance.

The Extravaganza is owned by a nasty businessman, unwillingly partnered with an even nastier gangster. Besides assorted unsavory characters, the cast includes ship band Johnny and the Contusions, a single mom working as a cocktail waitress, two escapees from the Beaux Arts Senior Center, an individual dressed as a giant conch, and an all-you-can-eat buffet that may be the single scariest thing on board.

The opening chapters of TRICKY BUSINESS are hilarious, but the story takes a turn towards the disturbing and dark several chapters into the novel. There are humorous lines and scenes throughout the book, but they have more of an edge to them once this novel starts barreling towards its conclusion.

Readers of Barry's syndicate column may be taken aback by the harsh language and violence of TRICKY BUSINESS, but if they make that leap of expectations, I think they'll enjoy this book. I give it four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

It's not too late to make plans to attend Mid-Ohio-Con, which takes place on November 30 and December 1 in the Hilton Columbus at Easton Town Center. This will be my only convention appearance of the year and it would be cool to see bunches of my devoted readers there. For the latest news on guests and panels, visit the show's website at:

www.midohiocon.com

I'll be back next week to thrill you anew.

******

ADDENDUM

The above column first appeared in COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1513 [November 15], which shipped October 28. One more column and we're back on schedule here at the WORLD FAMOUS COMICS edition of TONY'S TIPS. I hope you've been enjoying the barrage.

******

TONY'S MAILBOX

I have two quick notes to share with you today. The first is from BOB INGERSOLL:
Although, truth to tell, that Robert Ingersoll IS the man I was named after. He's also my 13th cousin three times removed -- according to my brother Jon the genealogist.
The second is from GEOFF JOHNS:
Wow! That's really nice, Tony. Thanks. I hope you've been checking out HAWKMAN -- I've got a cop named after you! Your work's been quite an inspiration to me.
Thanks right back at you, Geoff. I confess I haven't yet read HAWKMAN in its latest incarnation, but I'm looking forward to doing so in the very near future.

I'll be back on Saturday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/26/2002 | 11/28/2002 | 12/07/2002 >>

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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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