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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
TONY'S TIPS! (01/03/03)

How was your New Year celebration?

Mine was absolutely delightful. I finished my New Year's Day column early enough on Tuesday that my son Eddie was able to teach me how to use the DVD player I received for my birthday *and* watch GODZILLA 2000 with me. I haven't checked out the special features yet--I wanted to sneak in a quick nap before Sainted Wife Barb got home--but I already know I want to replace *all* my VHS movies with their DVD counterparts.

Barb came home and made her traditional "hanky panky" treats of cheese-and-ground-sausage on rye bread. I can't eat as many of these as I used to, but a half-dozen of them make for a tasty meal. It was a good start to the evening.

Barb was "on call," but no calls came in that required her to go back into work. Eddie and Kelly went to spend part of the night with their neighborhood friends, leaving us free to go to a movie with our friends/relatives, Terry and Nora Fairbanks.

Maid in Manhattan We saw MAID IN MANHATTAN and, yes, it is one of those sappy, warm-and-cuddly romantic comedies, and, yes, I loved it. I wasn't looking for high cinematic art, just a few enjoyable hours with my wife and friends. That said, I must note a wonderfully bitchy and funny scene between Jennifer Lopez and Amy Sedaris; someone needs to write a starring vehicle for these two.

Three more MAID IN MANHATTAN notes:

One. The story is by John Hughes who is responsible for two of my favorite movies, WEIRD SCIENCE and HOME ALONE 3. He's been involved with lots of fun movies besides, but those are the two I can watch again and again.

Two. The screenplay is by Kevin Wade, who wrote another one of my favorite movies, MR. BASEBALL. He also wrote WORKING GIRL, another movie I recall fondly.

Three. Stanley Tucci plays a political advisor named...JERRY SIEGEL. I wonder if Hughes/Wade were aware of "our" Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, and named the character for him. Probably not, but I still have to ask.

One of the trailers which ran before the feature was for a UK movie called THE GURU. The trailer had me laughing out loud, so I checked out the movie on the Internet Movie Database. There's one review of THE GURU on the site and it's unforgiving in its dislike of the movie. Here's the plot summary:
Dance teacher Ramu [Jimi Mistry] leaves India to go to America to join a cousin he thinks is rich and successful. When he arrives, he finds his cousin has lied and lives in a flat above a shop with illegal aliens.

Ramu sets out to be a film star and auditions for a role that he gets. When he finds it's in a porno film with actress Sharonna [Heather Graham], he can't go through with it...despite her good advice on how to do it. Later, he caters at a party for a wise old guru who gets drunk and passes out. Ramu stands in for the guru and repeats the wisdom of Sharonna, freeing the mind of the posh guests and attracting Lexi [Marisa Tomei] to him. To keep the image of him as a sex guru going, he has to get more lessons from Sharonna whom he begins to fall for despite using her.
Okay, maybe *every* funny scene in THE GURU is in the trailer. Maybe it is as bad as the online reviewer says. But what I saw was enough to get me to see it when it comes out. If the movie *is* as funny as I think/hope it will be, it could be one of the surprise, word-of-mouth hits of the year.

Driving back home from the theater, Barb and I had a "Medina Moment." There was a family of deer on the side of Reagan Parkway. It was a pleasantly quiet night, so the beautiful critters must've felt safe enough to venture from the nearby woods. It was sights like this that sold me on Medina in the first place. A pox on the developers who would crowd such natural beauty from our community, especially when other land is available.

The entire Isabella family, plus Terry and Nora, were at Casa Isabella in time to watch Dick Clark count down to the New Year. After that, we watched the VH-1 "one-hit wonders" special, hosted by Captain Bill Shatner, and chatted during the frequent commercial breaks. A enjoyable time was had by all.

I was the first one up on Wednesday...and I spent most of the day doing this and that. I addressed and added brief notes to long overdue Christmas cards. I read the rest of the DC Comics from the December shipment; there were 81 items in the box, but, by the time I added earlier issues, I had read 143 comic books, graphic novels, and collections. I also finished reading Roger Stern's SMALLVILLE: STRANGE VISITOR prose novel. It was a good day.

Barb is back to work as I write this column (on Thursday) and the kids are playing at a neighbor's house. Tomorrow will be sort of a crunch day as I help the kids finish the projects they should have finished days ago. They go back to school on Monday and that is when my year moves into overdrive. It should be an exciting one and I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Let's see what else I have for you today.

******

HELLBLAZER

It's been ages since I've read an issue of HELLBLAZER, so I'll start with a word of congratulations for the writers, artists, and editors who have apparently done a terrific job of keeping the book interesting. I read HELLBLAZER #177 and #178 (Vertigo/DC; $2.75), and did a bit of a double-take when I realized how long this title has been running. Good show all around.

Mike Carey's "Red Sepulchre" was well-written with just enough background information for a reader like myself, who, though he has not followed John Constantine's adventures religiously, knows the character and the twilight neighborhoods in which those adventures take place. I didn't know John had such a gorgeous niece, or that he'd been presumed dead, but it doesn't appear that I need to know all the details of either to enjoy this story.

Constantine is caught between two factions vying for a mystic artifact. The only thing of which he can be certain is that both sides have considerable blood on their hands...and that neither has any regard for him beyond his usefulness to them. I can't wait to see how he gets the better of both of them.

As noted above, Carey's writing is quite good. I kinda know his name from 2000 AD and elsewhere, but this is the first work of his that has fixed him in my brain. I'm sure I will be pleasantly surprised when I come across his work in the future. If I have a problem with these scripts, it's the same problem I have with many Vertigo and "mature readers" titles, the habit of using profanity so casually that it annoys rather than reveals.

Art? The Tim Bradstreet covers are wonderful. Although there are places where interior artist Marcelo Frusin's characters look stiff to me, I think the overall drawing and storytelling is quite good. High marks also go to colorist Lee Loughridge and letterer Clem Robins. In short, the visuals for these two issues are every bit as good as the writing.

The Vertigo imprint has been around long enough that you don't need me to tell you if HELLBLAZER will be to your taste or not. On my end, I hope I can find the time to stay current on the title and catch up on the previous issues.

******

HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC

The haunting Chris Bachalo cover for HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC #18 (Vertigo; $2.75) caught my attention and was definitely worth a few moments of appreciation. Inside the issue, Dylan Horrocks' "The Garden" was equally demanding, but, again, worth the effort to sort out the who/what/why of it...though I certainly wouldn't have objected to some "what has gone before" text.

Arthur Lily has followed the path of good intentions almost to the gates of Hell itself, obsessed with remaking the world for the better and confident that the accomplishment of that end forgives all sins. He is holding Tim Hunter's girlfriend hostage and naked against Tim's performing a task for him. I'm not sure why she had to be (tastefully) naked, but, given a choice, I'll vote for nudity over profanity every time.

Penciler Richard Case and inker Steve Bird provide some fine drawing and solid storytelling. I find it amusing that so many of these "mature readers" titles are so much easier to follow from a visual standpoint than their clumsy "manga" and "old Image" style, allegedly "all ages" counterparts. Let's also give deserved praise to letterer John Costanza and colorist Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh. This is another great-looking Vertigo book.

I don't want to make a sweeping pronouncement here, but this month's Vertigo titles are more than holding their own with the DCU books. I'm seeing better and more inviting writing than in many of the DCU titles...and also clearer and more story-conscious artwork. Maybe Vertigo should loan out their editors to the DCU for a couple months at a time. The DCU books could use the help.

HUNTER: THE AGE OF MAGIC is a good series. I think HELLBLAZER may be more to my taste, but I'd still recommend HUNTER to readers looking for fantasy-oriented reading.

******

JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES

I got a kick out of JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES #14 (DC; $2.25). It was good-but-not-great entertainment for readers young and old, from the exciting Butch Lukic cover filling nearly every millimeter of the available space...to the action-packed and done-in-one story by Matthew K. Manning...to the expressive and thrilling artwork by penciler John Delaney and inker John K. Snyder...and even to the bonus VERB insert. A reader would get his money's worth from this comic book and that's to be commended.

The story? "An Angry Tide" finds an angry Aquaman waging war on the surface world. The Justice League is on the defense...and there's a not-really-a-mystery villain behind it. Maybe I'm being too easy on this issue...there's nothing new here...but I guess I liked the cut of its jib or something. It's not as good as those SUPER FRIENDS comics Nelson Bridwell wrote in the 1980s, but that's true of many current comics.

Hey, even critics have their soft sides.

******

IN THE NEWS

My January 1 newspapers had a few items that caught my eye and I share them with you here with the recommendation that you follow up on them. My comments are in italics.

From an Associated Press story by H. Josef Herbert:

"WASHINGTON: The Bush administration issues rules Tuesday to make it easier for industrial plants and refineries to modernize without having to buy expensive pollution controls--and immediately was sued by nine states charging that the changes undermine their efforts to protect public health."

Dubya risking public health and the environment to line the pockets of his wealthy supporters. Is there anyone in this nation who is surprised by this? I mean, besides those of you who live in caves and/or support this creep?

Some good news out of South Carolina:

A federal judge declared unconstitutional the state's license plates with the anti-abortion slogan "Choose Life." He ruled the specialty plates violated the First Amendment because they provided a forum abortion supporters do not have.

I happen to oppose abortion in most cases, but I absolutely agree with this ruling. Now...can the lawyers in the audience tell me if the state offering license plates representing both sides of the issue would have passed the First Amendment test? Or is that just too crazy to work?

Finally, some Democrats are starting to show some backbone in matters concerning faux-President Bush's lust for war. They are questioning the way the White House is cooking the books to claim the feasibility of financing the way and handing out more tax cuts to the wealthy. To quote David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee:

"The fat cats in the White House are showing a despicable willingness to play accounting games with national security in order to finance huge tax breaks for their rich friends."

Could I possibly express my feelings any more clearly than to repeat my fervent plea that Hell take Bush and his evil bunch right NOW?

More IN THE NEWS to come.

******

TONY STUFF

This is the second of two all-new "bonus" columns which were made possible by the donations received through the TIP THE TIPSTER link below. The way it works is: for every $100 donated, I write a bonus column for this site. As of this writing, we're $90 from the next "bonus" column. Trust me; it's more entertaining when you pay for it.

The year has started with some good news and some bad news for yours truly. The good news is that JULIO "Dynamo" DIAZ has set up the official TONY ISABELLA STORE at Cafe Press. We're selling TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR shirts in a variety of styles for starters, but new products will be added. Check out the store at:

http://www.cafeshops.com/tonystips

The bad news? At Mid-Ohio-Con, one of the guests offered to print a special TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR comic for me to sell on the tour and online. I accepted the offer and started working on some short scripts for the book. Unfortunately, the printer this guest had in mind has backed out of the project.

If I had the money to publish my own comics, I would have been doing that for years. I still think this comic book would be a neat thing to do, so I am going to explore that possibility. However, if any publishers out there are interested in the project, get in touch with me.

In the meantime, I could use a bit of help figuring out which conventions I want to attend on this tour. If anyone has some free time on their hands and would be willing to help me chart dates and contact (and follow up with) convention promoters, that would be of enormous assistance to me. My priorities are to avoid doing more than one convention in the same state...and to find events willing to pick up some of the expenses. In exchange, the convention would benefit from my copious advance publicity for their events AND my services as a panel host and participant.

The TONY ISABELLA FAREWELL TOUR launches at MEGACON, February 28 thru March 2, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. For more information, go to:

http://www.megaconvention.com

I'll be back here tomorrow with our regularly-scheduled TONY'S TIPS reprint from Comics Buyer's Guide and the usual thousand words or so of new material. See you then.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/01/2003 | 01/03/2003 | 01/04/2003 >>

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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