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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Sunday, July 4, 2004

Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos

Independence Day.

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOES #13 [December, 1964] was the first cover that came to mind when I started thinking about an opining illustration for today's column. I couldn't get it out of mind, so I went with it.

I considered "Fighting Side-By-Side With Captain America and Bucky" quite the event when it was published. Reed Richards (the future Mister Fantastic) had made a cameo appearance in an earlier issue of FURY and Fury himself had been a guest-star in FANTASTIC FOUR #21, but those were issues I had not yet acquired. It was a lot harder to find old comic books, even comic books only a couple years old, in those days. So, for me, this was the first time the cohesion of the Marvel universe truly struck home.

Captain America was appearing in a war comic. Anything could happen...though, sadly, Marvel never got around to doing the Human Torch/Rawhide Kid meeting my youthful self envisioned.

(Thinking back, I'm happily surprised that I didn't envision a Spider-Man/Rawhide Kid team-up, even though I liked Spidey better than the Torch. Even then, my authorial instincts knew, even on an unconscious level, that the wall-crawler was better suited to his relatively more realistic adventures than traveling time and space as the Fantastic Four did.)

The above cover was pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Chic Stone...and they also teamed on the interior art. Stan Lee was the editor of the issue and scripted the story. Artie Simek lettered it and I read it with great delight.

I'm not going to get into how much that comic book would cost today. I'm just going to once again request that Marvel get around to publishing THE ESSENTIAL SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOES, volumes which would feature stories of far more merit than those to be found in the already-announced ESSENTIAL IRON FIST and ESSENTIAL SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP. Sigh.

******

WHAT WOULD TONY DO?

This day seems like a good time to reflect on where the United States of America are and where we're going. It also seems like an excellent time to explain why I don't write about political issues as often as I once did.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm not pleased with where my country is. To put it as mildly as possible, I think the current administration is the worst of my lifetime and that the unelected president and his cronies more properly belong in prison than in positions of authority. I pray the November elections will give us the regime change we so desperately need.

The coming election will unquestionably be the most rancourous election in the history of the United States. I claim no immunity in this regard. It would be fair to say that I despise, even hate, the current administration and feel disgust and pity for those who would support them. I'm frustrated by the inability of many fellow Americans to look at the reality - even the reality as presented by a national media that has abdicated its responsibility to ask the tough questions and demand answers - and stand against the radical right-wingers who threaten our lives and liberties.

And that's why I'm not writing about politics.

If I could be as fair-minded as my good friend Mark Evanier in his NEWS FROM ME weblog [www.newsfromme.com], I might write about politics and social issues. I can't.

Because I have a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter whose lives and future happiness have been imperiled by the current administration. I exist in a state of constant dread for what the next day/week/month/year will bring.

However, while I think anyone who doesn't feel that same sense of dread is delusional, I don't think I can provide any insights or information that aren't already out there for anyone willing to do his or her homework. It's not that I no longer care about fairness and security for all Americans and, indeed, all the peoples of the world. It's only that I don't think I have anything new to say in this regard. At least not at present.

What I think I can do is provide something of a respite from the acrimony of this election year.

No doubt my political views and social concerns will continue to be reflected in my columns in some manner. How could they not be reflected? They are a part of who I am.

Nor can I guarantee that, at some point during these troubling times, I won't be compelled to speak out on this or that matter of concern. It could happen.

But...my intent is to focus on comics and entertainment. The upcoming elections will have serious consequences for the United States and for the world. That doesn't mean you have to tune into the debate 24/7. I can't give you a month's vacation on a ranch in Texas, but I think I can - at the very least - give you a pleasant coffee break every day.

Let me know how I'm doing.

******

TALES OF THE VAMPIRES

Tales of the Vampires 5

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL have concluded their TV runs, but their fans can still enjoy their adventures in original comic books from Dark Horse. Unfortunately, TALES OF THE VAMPIRES #5 [$2.99] brings this mini-series to a close with less drama and heart than earlier issues, most of which were excellent.

Buffy creator Joss Whedon's "Tales of the Vampires" serial ran in all five issues and focused on young Watchers in training. It ends on a satisfying note for those of us with misgivings about the organization and a fondness for Watchers who exhibit the capacity for independent thought.

Sam Loeb's "Some Like It Hot" has terrific art by Tim Sale and serves as an introduction to a vampire who could conceivably play a major role in future "Buffy-verse" tales. The last panel did get a grin out of me.

In "Numb," Brett Matthews gives a glimpse into the nightmares of vampire-with-a-soul Angel. He strives for poignancy, but fails to say anything new about the character. The Cliff Richards pencil art is excellent in some panels, wildly uneven in others.

Look for a trade paperback collection of TALES OF THE VAMPIRES in November.

That's it for today's holiday edition. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/03/2004 | 07/04/2004 | 07/05/2004 >>

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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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