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

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for Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Time, time, time, look what's become of me.

In real time, World Famous Comics web-wizard Justin should be back from San Diego. In Tony-time, which is when I'm writing this column, he hasn't left yet.

This is the last of the seven columns I had to write in a day-and-a-half so that Justin could get them all lined up and ready to roll before the convention. I must admit I'm starting to feel the pain from so many hours at the keyboard.

Most of the reviews which have appeared this week were already written for COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE...and that certainly made my job easier. The reviews aren't exactly as they appeared or will appear in that magazine. I had to fiddle with them to work with my online format as opposed to the CBG Reading Room format. I went through all of them for content as well, sometimes even changing my opinion of the review items ever so slightly.

For example:

My online review of AC's MEN OF MYSTERY #46 was more positive than my print review. My online review of DC's IDENTITY CRISIS #1 was more negative. I guess you can consider the online versions as the reviewing equivalent of a director's cut.

Justin and I realized shorter TOTs were the way to go in these circumstances, but I am chomping at the bit to do a longer column for tomorrow's edition...and to resume the MY FIRST MARVELS series at the earliest opportunity after that. For today, though, you get another pair of my CBG reviews.

Batman Adventures: Shadows & Masks - Volume 2

Count me among those Batman fans who, for several years now, have considered the comic books featuring the animated versions of the Bat-cast more enjoyable than their DC Universe counterparts. BATMAN ADVENTURES VOL. 2: SHADOWS & MASKS [DC; $6.95] collects the stories from BATMAN ADVENTURES #5-9, and reenforces my high regard for this brand of storytelling.

The main story, running through several chapters, has Batman going undercover as a member of Black Mask's False Face Society. Written by Dan Slott with equally fine side tales by Ty Templeton, this adventure also features Batgirl, Robin, Phantasm (the assassin who was Bruce Wayne's first serious romance), and a nice selection of villains, including a pre-Plastic Man Eel O'Brien. The end (for now) of the story took me completely by surprise.

The unconnected stories by Vito Deisante and Gabe Soria aren't quite as spiffy, but the art in this digest remained top-notch from cover to cover. Praise a'plenty is due Templeton, Terry Beatty, Rick Burchett, and Dean Haspiel, as well as colorist Lee Loughridge for their outstanding efforts here.

Clear and clever storytelling makes BATMAN ADVENTURES, whether in digest or standard comic-book format, terrific entertainment for readers of all ages. I never miss an issue.


So why did I buy DEAD@17: THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES [Viper; $14.95]? Because comics fans whose views I respect were praising it. Will I continue to buy the series? You'll have to mark me undecided on that one.

Nara Leigh Kilday - writer/artist Josh Howard loves names like this - gets whacked on page five, but comes back to life shortly after her funeral. She's now immortal - reference HIGHLANDER - and also destined to play a pivotal role - reference BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER - in the battle between supernatural good and evil. One of her allies is a mystery man named Noel Raddemer who is clearly not an ordinary mystery man. The villains plan to use Nara as a host body to bring their inhuman master to our world. In short, I've seen all of this before, many times before.

Still, there's much of merit in DEAD@17. Howard writes well; his teens sound real, unlike the pseudo-teens of Hollywood and most comic books. His storytelling is impressive; he's willing to take chances with his many-paneled pages to pace the action as his tale requires. His drawing is also quite good, though I think he needs to make his male characters as distinctive as he makes his female players. He's a talent well worth watching; if I do buy the next DEAD@17 volume, it will be for that reason.

In addition to reprinting the original four issues, DEAD@17: THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES includes over a dozen pages of sketches and other items. Even if it doesn't quite live up to its notices, it's still a satisfying package.

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

...after I sleep for about twelve hours.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/26/2004 | 07/27/2004 | 07/28/2004 >>

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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