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

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for Saturday, July 24, 2004

Readers who have been following this column for way too long might recall that TONY'S ONLINE TIPS actually began life as a daily feature on the old CompuServe Comics and Animation Forum (as a test run) and then moved to World Famous Comics. It ran daily (with the occasional day off) for about a thousand installments before I had a brief lapse into sanity.

My pal Gail Simone once wrote a hilarious parody of TOT with the premise that yours truly had gone from daily columns to HOURLY columns. "My" degeneration into greater than usual madness brought tears to my eyes. You should buy Gail's BIRDS OF PREY as her reward for making me laugh so hard.


I am writing seven columns in a day and change so that Justin, our wondrous web-wizard, can have them ready to run while he enjoys Comic-Con International in San Diego. As I bounce back and forth between writing TOTs, grabbing quick meals, watching GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH while eating, reading COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE during my occasional breaks, and napping for an hour here and there, Gail's parody has become alarmingly prophetic.

If I were smarter, I'd be very afraid.

Today, I'm bringing you a pair of my comics reviews from CBG. One review is of a comic book I didn't like at all. The other is of a comic book I like less the more I think about it and the more I learn of how it came to be and the crass machinations that went into determining its "hit list" of characters. I'm reasonably sure you'll be able to tell which is which.

Felix's Totally Wacky News 1

FELIX'S TOTALLY WACKY NEWS #1 [$2.50] is aimed squarely at the avid fans of the legendary cartoon cat. From its opening pages, this comic book/tabloid spoof hybrid presupposes that its readers know Felix, his friends, his foes, and all their shared histories. Less enthusiastic readers, such as myself, may well feel a little lost as they make their way from cover to cover.

The concept of the issue is clever and even refreshing. But the execution leaves virtually everything to be desired. Neither the comics stories, which account for a piddling ten pages, nor the tabloid spoofs are the least bit funny.

The comics tales are drawn in a generic "humor" style that is, with exceedingly rare exception, as stiff as the most limited of limited animation. The prose pieces lack the maniac urgency of the tabloids they mock. I did crack a smile at the "photo" cover - CAT RUNS FOR PRESIDENT AND WINS - but that was the only enjoyment I got from this issue.

Felix the Cat is one of the most popular and recognizable cartoon characters of all time. He deserves a much better comic book than this.

Identity Crisis 1


Here's what I hate about IDENTITY CRISIS #1 [DC; $3.95] and too many other recent super-hero comics. And I'm not kidding about that warning in the slightest.

I hate what some comics fans and professionals call the "Woman In Refrigerator Syndrome." The super-heroes can come back from the dead. Their supporting characters usually don't. The writer kills the hero's girlfriend, often as brutally as his publisher allows - and, yes, it's almost always male writers doing this - to get the readers' emotions churning.

It's a cheap come-on. I've done it myself, though, in my own defense, the lady died saving the hero and from a single ray-blast. In IDENTITY CRISIS, the victim is Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man. She's beaten to death, burned and, to truly get us going, she was pregnant with what would have been her and Ralph's first child. How lovely.

I'll give Brad Meltzer props for excellent writing throughout this issue and for mostly excellent characterization of the dozens of heroes who appear. You can probably guess which ones I thought he got wrong. Some plot bits are nothing short of brilliant, such as the super-heroes having planned in advance for such tragedy and then implementing the plan nigh-instantaneously. And, as there are six issues to go, I'm sure there will be other brilliant moments to come. Just as I'm sure penciller Rags Morales and inker Mike Bair will continue to produce outstanding art for this series.

It's the cheap and nasty come-on that costs IDENTITY CRISIS my support. It's a brand new millennium, past time for super-hero writers to retire certain old tricks.

The online comics forums have been discussing IDENTITY CRISIS #1 and #2 - I haven't read the second issue yet - and speculating on possible atrocities to come. In all fairness, there have also been positive reviews of the issues. Loathe as I am to discuss a comics series which EVERYBODY is discussing, it seems likely I'll be returning to IDENTITY CRISIS in a future TOT.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/23/2004 | 07/24/2004 | 07/25/2004 >>

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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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.

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.

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