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for Sunday, August 29, 2004

Sailor Moon Live Action

PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILOR MOON is the live-action version of the Sailor Moon manga and anime. My daughter Kelly and I watched the first five episodes this week and, while the shows didn't exactly set bright new standards for television drama, they were certainly good for more than a few giggles.

The overall storyline is pretty much the same as the animated series. Evil Queen Beryl is stealing human energy while seeking a crystal of enormous power. Luna - a living "plushie" in this show - is activating "sailor soldiers" to fight Beryl. Tsukino Usagi, played by an overly earnest Sawai Miyuu, is Sailor Moon, the first of five magical warrior-girls. Tuxedo Mask is on hand, both as a rival for the crystal and a romantic interest for Sailor Moon. The energy-sucking monsters look even sillier in live action than they do in the cartoons.

In these five episodes, we saw Usagi meet Tuxedo Mask in both of his identities...and the arrivals of Sailors Mercury and Mars. We also got a quick glimpse of Sailor Venus, who, as in the manga and the anime, has been operating solo for some time prior to the coming of Sailor Moon and the others.

I wouldn't go out of my way to get and watch more episodes of this series. On the other hand, if they fell into my lap as these episodes did, I'd likely watch them. Even as goofy as they are, I got a kick out of them.


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



All Star Comics 10

Back in the 1960s, I envied Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas having complete sets of ALL STAR COMICS, the "home base" of the legendary Justice Society of America. Now, with the publication of ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOLUME 10 [DC Comics; $49.95], I myself am but two books away from having all the original JSA stories. This is such a great time to be a comics fan!

This volume reprints the JSA adventures from ALL-STAR COMICS #44-49. John Broome was the writer with the artwork split between pencillers Irwin Hasen and Arthur Peddy and inkers Bob Oksner and Bernard Sachs, all working under the guidance of Julius Schwartz, one of comicdom's greatest editors. Yet, even in the hands of such stellar talents, the JSA was showing its age in these 1949 stories. Their roster was down to seven heroes; of them, only Wonder Woman would continue adventuring past the book's 1951 transformation into All Star Western.

Even their foes - with the exception of alien fire creatures who had destroyed an earlier human civilization - were a remarkably unimpressive lot. A Hollywood mobster. Larcenous sad sacks used by a mad scientist to test his cosmic weapons. Crooks who tricked wanna-be detectives into planning their crimes. The "ghost" of an infamous outlaw. Almost any single member should have been able to take down these losers by themselves, had they not suffered from TIS (Temporary Incompetence Syndrome) whenever these stories needed to be stretched to fill the issues.

However, there are a pair of gems in this book: "The Strange Lives of Edmund Blake" (a heartrending saga of a young boy who has lost his will to live) and "The Invasion of the Fire People" (an honestly scary thriller). These tales and the historic importance of the material make the volume worth the asking price.

On our scale of zero to five, ALL STAR COMICS ARCHIVES VOLUME 10 picks up four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Supernatural Law 101

Batton Lash celebrates several anniversaries with SUPERNATURAL LAW 101 [Exhibit A Press; $3.50]. The special issue, which reveals the law school meeting of Alanna Wolff and Jeff Byrd, the counselors of the macabre, marks 25 years since the 1979 debut of the original comic strip in THE BROOKLYN PAPER, ten years since the lawyers had their comic-book premiere, and ten years since Lash and publisher Jackie Estrada were wed. Celebrating three such joyous occasions is a heavy load for a single comic book, but this one carries that load magnificently.

The flashback is narrated by Professor Whittaker Bainbridge, who is openly disdainful of Wolff's interest in "supernatural law" until her arcane knowledge becomes useful to him. The innovative Wolff finds a friend in the equally socially inept Byrd and, just as importantly, an ally who shares her sense of ethics and justice. We've come to know these lawyers very well, but this story gives us a fresh look at them.

Lash's storytelling and art - with assists on the latter from Trevor Nielson and Melissa Uran - is superb throughout the story's 31 pages. He delivers a satisfying tale while leaving intriguing questions unanswered. I hope that means he's planning more tales of Wolff and Byrd's pasts. If he's not, well, I might have to file a class action suit on behalf of my fellow readers.

SUPERNATURAL LAW 101 is an outstanding comic book. It picks up the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



X-Men Unlimited 4

Full disclosure. I only purchased X-MEN UNLIMITED #4 [Marvel; $2.99] because my friend Lee "Budgie" Barnett wrote the lead story in the issue. Marvel should take note of this and buy many more stories from my friends and - in case anyone up there was wondering - I buy around 50-100 copies of any comic books I write, especially when the checks clear before the books ship.

Barnett's story is "Testing Times" wherein Cain Marko, better known as the Juggernaut, applies for a job teaching at the Xavier Academy For Gifted Students or whatever the heck Marvel calls the place these days. I don't know how this is possible because there was about a decade when I not only wasn't reading X-Men comics, but would run and hide when they approached me on the street and tried to make me get into their hovercrafts.

Here's the thing. Barnett, aided by penciller Travel Foreman, convinces me that Marko is sincere, makes me feel sympathy for the guy without ignoring his past or the victims of his past misdeeds, and delivers an immensely satisfying story in just a dozen pages. This is a skill which should be nurtured.

Ted Naifeh's "Mutual Secrets" centers on a similar moment of truth for Emma Frost as, accompanied by Wolverine, she attends the wedding of two of her old schoolmates. It's a good story, though not as tight as Barnett's, with an ending that adds to my growing interest in Frost in her new role as a member of the X-Men. Sadly, the story is marred by the artwork. Emma and Wolverine don't quite look like themselves and are often drawn in awkward poses. I also didn't find the panel-to-panel storytelling as effective as I would have liked.

Nevertheless, X-MEN UNLIMITED still rated high enough with me to pick up four out of five Tonys. I might even check out earlier issues of the title.

Tony Tony Tony Tony



Computer go bye-bye.

I'm experiencing some computer woes that will take a few days to sort out. Because of this, you won't see a new column until the first of September earliest.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 08/28/2004 | 08/29/2004 | 09/06/2004 >>

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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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