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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Thursday, October 21, 2004

Our exciting VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF MY DESK continues as we once again dive into the various books, comics, notes, and sundries which tower over your columnist and his keyboard. Today's journey begins across the Atlantic Ocean...

******

2000 AD

2000 AD #1393

Time flies when you're reading a weekly comics magazine, so I find myself looking at 2000 AD #1393-1406 [Rebellion; $3.75 each]. Future lawman Judge Dredd is the star of 2000 AD and the legendary title often succeeds or fails based on the quality of his stories. The good news is that "Terror," the serial which runs through issue #1399, is a terrific Dredd tale, an action-packed and suspenseful parable about the excesses of government and the futility of terror tactics. Kudos to writer John Wagner and artist Colin MacNeil for their fine work here.

Sadly, Dredd goes straight into the crapper for the remaining issues of this run. From #1400-1405, he leads a team of trainees into the Cursed Earth to bust up a high-stakes poker game. To help Dredd, the young judges disobey a direct order and get one of their number killed...and Dredd is cool with this, admitting to himself that he's worth more than the lot of them. This is followed by two mediocre done-in-one stories. Presenting substandard Dredd tales for eight weeks in a row is no way to run a magazine.

In the other features:

The return of resistence fighter Bill Savage, who appeared in the very first issue of 2000 AD, concludes on a chilling note that makes me eager for the continuation of his story. Written by Pat Mills and drawn by Charlie Adlard, "Savage" managed to capture and update the raw excitement of the old strip. Book Two of the serial can't come soon enough for me.

"A.H.A.B." concluded as well. I tired quickly of the strip's vengeful captain seeking to destroy the space-whale which held the only hope of curing a deadly plague on Earth. The best thing about it is that it doesn't seem to leave any room for a sequel.

"Low Life" stars undercover judge Aimee Nixon. Her first case ended in issue #1396 and a second one ran from #1397-1399. Written by Rob Williams and drawn by Henry Flint, the series overcame a few cliches to emerge as an entertaining addition to the 2000 AD line-up. I'd like to see Nixon return soon.

"Chopper" - another spin-off from the Dredd strip - wrapped up a solo adventure in #1394. The sky-surfing rebel had the advantage of fine writing by Wagner, equally fine art by Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague, and a satisfying conclusion to his latest serial. He isn't a strong enough protagonist to carry a regular series, but a serial every few years would be okay by me.

2000 AD #1395

Some returning series didn't fare well during this summer of 2000 A.D. Former artist/nun/mercenary "Tyranny Rex" was revived in issue #1395, but her story plodded through five issues before the plug was mercifully pulled.

Dan Abnett's "Sinister Dexter" - best hitmen in the "swollen city of Downlode" - appeared in issues #1397-1399. The serial had good art by Cam Smith, but it read more like a prologue to a story than an actual story.

2000 AD #1400 debuted three new serials. The venerable A.B.C. Warriors - mercenary robots - were on the job through issue #1405, but this second book of "The Shadow Warriors" was a plodding affair from start to finish. It's taken two "books" to get to the title protagonists, a team of evil mercenary robots. I'm thinking more of a human element might get this series back on track, but it may be too far gone for any save.

"Strontium Dog" - starring bounty-hunting mutant Johnny Alpha and his Viking partner Wulf Sternhammer - is always fun and rarely exceptional. This new story by Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra fit those parameters, but, exceptional or not, I still enjoyed it. Johnny and Wulf are always welcome around here.

"Caballistics, Inc." is a series that I want to like more than I actually like. Written by Gordon Rennie, drawn by Dom Reardon, it's got elements of just about every ghost-busting team a reader could imagine. This particular serial, which is still running as of issue #1406, has a terrific premise involving a sinister movie studio of the past - think Hammer - and is framed by wonderfully clever snippets of mock cinema history. Unfortunately, it suffers from horrible visual storytelling...and the writing isn't up to the task of carrying the inadequate art. It really needs a Gene Colan or a Dick Giordano to bring the characters to life and to bring the horror home.

"Bec & Kawl" is becoming a favorite of mine. Aspiring artist Beccy Niller is a goth-chick with a death-obsession. Jarrod Kawl's is a movie-geek film student and, as we learn in this serial, the heir of Satan. Writer Simon Spurrier has a knack for adventure-comedy, as does artist Steve Roberts. "Hell to Pay" ran just four issues (#1401-1404) and left me wanting more.

2000 AD #1406

Perhaps the most interesting "old school" revival is that of "Robo-Hunter" by writer Alan Grant and artist Ian Gibson. Back in the day, the series starred Sam Slade, reputed to be the greatest robot-hunting detective of all. Apparently, he didn't quit until he was a head, a still-living head. His granddaughter Samantha has taken up the family business and, with robot sidekicks Hoagy and Carlos Sanchez, is working cases while trying to locate Sam's body. The stories are fun, the Gibson art is delightful, and Samantha is sexy without being salacious.

2000 AD #1406 also saw the start of "Asylum II," in which the Earth is a safe haven for aliens. Or not. I recall enjoying the first "Asylum" serial, but it's going to take me more than a single chapter to form an opinion on the sequel.

The page-filling "Future Shocks" and "Terror Tales" continue to appear in between the rotating serials. Their quality is often uneven, but there are gems from time to time. Worth seeking out in these issues are:

"The Mainstream" (#1396-1397), but solely for the remarkable Andy Clarke art;

"Red Moon" (#1398) by Andy Diggle and Kev Walker;

"The Shape of Things to Come" (#1404), a familiar story with nice art by Steve Parkhouse; and,

"Opiate of the Masses" (#1405), an amusing and thoughtful tale by writer Chris Blythe and artist Steve Yeowell.

Rating an anthology title, especially a weekly anthology title like 2000 AD, involves far more math than I'd like. After various computations, and, using my usual scale, I'm giving 2000 AD #1393-1406 an average per-issue score of three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Quick show of electronic hands. How many of you reading this are interested in my 2000 AD reviews? Should I keep them coming or should I enjoy/suffer the magazine in silence?

I await your responses.

******

BIRTHDAY BOY

Paul Levitz

Here's wishing a happy birthday to long-time pal PAUL LEVITZ. Man, do he and I go back!

I first met Paul when he was the teenage publisher of ETCETERA and THE COMIC READER back in the 1970s. About the time I moved to New York City to work for Marvel, he was starting to do editorial odd jobs for Joe Orlando at DC Comics. Paul and his parents were great about helping this Ohio boy settle into the rigors of living in the Big Apple.

I always knew Paul was one of the smartest and most talented people in comics. He wrote some of my favorite DCs of the 1970s: ALL STAR COMICS, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, and the short-lived-but-still-choice STALKER. He also moved up along the management track to his current position as DC president and publisher.

Paul and I don't always see eye-to-eye on things, but I think he's been one of the steadiest hands in the comics industry for a whole lot of years. He's also been a good friend on more occasions than I can count. So, regardless of our differences, which neither one of us lets get in the way of our friendship, let's have a cheer or three for the esteemed Levitz.

In fact, why don't the loyal legions of TOT readers head over to the DC Comics website [www.dccomics.com], head to their message boards, and wish Paul Levitz on the appropriate boards? He's done a lot for comicdom over the years and that would be a spiffy way to show our gratitude.

Happy birthday, Paul, and many more to come.

******

BIRTHDAY GIRL

Johanna Draper Carlson

Leave us also wish a happy birthday to JOHANNA DRAPER CARLSON, one of the coolest kittens in comics fandom.

"Coolest kittens?"

I have the strangest feeling I've been transported back to the Silver Age of Comics.

Seriously, Johanna is one of the best commentators/reviewers online, holding court at her COMICS WORTH READING website and also in her daily COGNITIVE DISSONANCE blog. She's also a good egg and always ready to lend a helping hand, such as when she played "Vanna White" for handsome host Joe Edkin's COMIC BOOK SQUARES at the 1998 Mid-Ohio-Con, as seen in the above photo.

You can visit COMICS WORTH READING at:

www.comicsworthreading.com

You can read COGNITIVE DISSONANCE at:

www.comicsworthreading.com/blog/cwr.html

There's even a real good chance you'll be able to enjoy COMIC BOOK SQUARES at this year's MID-OHIO-CON, albeit sans - choke - the always charming company of Johanna and husband KC Carlson. Check out the Mid-Ohio-Con website at:

www.midohiocon.com

Getting back on track...

Happy birthday, Johanna, and many more to come.

******

PAPERBACK WRITERS

I have not been shy about promoting my work past and present. So it amazes me whenever a newcomer to the wonder that is TOT sends me an e-mail requesting information on my other efforts. While I would dearly love to respond to such inquiries with a long list of "now on sale" and "coming soon" items, I don't expect to be able to do that anytime soon.

What I *can* do is steer folks to some of the comics and other things I've written over the years...some of which you might still be able to find in comics shops and mainstream bookstores or from online vendors. Let's start with the two paperback novels I wrote with Bob Ingersoll...

Captain America: Liberty's Torch

CAPTAIN AMERICA: LIBERTY'S TORCH [Berkley Boulevard; $6.50], published in December, 1998, boasted a swell cover painting by Jim Steranko and interior illustrations by Mike Zeck. Here's what the back cover had to say about the book:
THE TRIAL OF CAPTAIN AMERICA

Liberty's Torch is a militia group that feels America has fallen from its position of strength by selling out to foreign influence and allowing its moral fiber to erode. When they murder an old friend of Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty teams up with his friend and partner the Falcon to bring them to justice. But the tables are turned when Liberty's Torch kidnaps Cap - and puts him on trial for the imagined crimes of the United States! Forced to defend himself in a hostile courtroom with no hope of a fair trial, Captain America faces his greatest challenge, as his ideals are put to the test!
We're proud of this book. I think Captain America as written by Bob and me is much closer to the heroic and noble ideal created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby - and continued by Stan Lee and the better Marvel writers and artists of the past four decades - than the current interpretations. The book is paced somewhat like a Doc Savage pulp novel, not surprisingly considering how much I enjoyed those books as a teen. It's a novel that leaves the reader feeling hopeful our country can and will achieve the ideals on which it was founded. Of all the things I've written or co-written, this is one of my favorites.

LIBERTY'S TORCH is - sadly - out of print and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. However, there are a couple dozen new and used copies available through our ACTION IS OUR REWARD link. If you buy the book through that link, this website makes a few cents on the deal.

Star Trek: The Case of the Colonist's Corpse

Copies of STAR TREK: THE CASE OF THE COLONIST'S CORPSE [Pocket Books; $6.99] can still be found in bookstores. It was published in January, 2004. Here's the sales pitch:
When Captain Kirk faced court-martial, he chose the best lawyer in the Federation - Samuel T. Cogley, a cranky old man who prefers books to padds and people to computers. Now, once again, it's SAM COGLEY FOR THE DEFENSE!

The planet Aneher II sits in the middle of the Neutral Zone, and neither the Klingon Empire nor the Federation can claim it. Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, any such contested world will go to the party - Federation or Klingon - which shows it can best develop the planet.

At first the two colonies live in peace, but it's a fragile peace, one shattered when Administrator Daniel Latham, the head of the Federation colony, is found murdered, and Commander Mak'Tor, the head of the Klingon colony, is found crouched over Latham's body, a discharged phaser still hot in his hand.

When Lieutenant Areel Shaw of Starfleet is assigned to prosecute Mak'Tor, Sam Cogley volunteers to defend the accused Klingon. But when Cogley's own investigation provides the prosecution with its key piece of evidence and his courtroom tactics unexpectedly backfire, can even the galaxy's most brilliant defense attorney win the day?
If you're thinking "Perry Mason in Space" here, you wouldn't be far off the mark. Bob and I had a ball working out the murder and the clues, not to mention working out the murder and the clues for the separate mini-mystery that starts the book. Again, it's an entertaining book of which we are very proud. Buy enough copies of the book - through the ACTION IS MY REWARD link, of course - and we might get to write another Cogley novel for you.

I'm not going to turn TOT into a self-promotional column, or, at least, no more of a self-promotional column than it already is. However, from time to time, as readers keep asking, I'll steer them and you towards other things I've written. If it gets out of hand, feel free to send me a chastising e-mail.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'm taking a day off from the column, but will be back Saturday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 10/20/2004 | 10/21/2004 | 10/23/2004 >>

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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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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