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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 Monday, November 1, 2004

I'm writing today's column less than 48 hours before the polls open in the great swing state of Ohio. Lawsuits are everywhere and I haven't a clue how they will be resolved.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a politician whose far-right-wing views I do not share, has been all over the map on this election. He seemed to be following the Republican Party strategy of trying to disenfranchise as many voters as possible, then did an abrupt about-face by declaring challengers would not be allowed at the polling places on Election Day.

I happen to think Blackwell's declaration, which he claims to have made with the intent of making sure voting proceeds smoothly, makes a great deal of sense. His fellow Republicans don't agree. The Department of Justice has written to the presiding judge trying to influence the decision. It's crazy time.

The challengers continue to be trained by their parties in the event that they are allowed in the polling places. The Democrats made training sessions open to the press. Their stated aim is to maximize the legal note.

The Republicans did not make their training sessions open to the press. This quote from Mark Weaver, legal counsel for the Ohio Republican Party is telling:

"Our main goal is to ensure that the president and the Republican candidates are elected, and we have to begin shifting our attention to making sure that happens."

That's been the trend all along. The Democrats were far more successful registering voters, so the Republicans strategy is to do all it can to keep those voters from voting.

It seems to me that the news hasn't been breaking Bush's way in these final days. Evidence is mounting that those tons of high explosives in Iraq went missing on his watch. An AP report reveals a chemical-weapons bunker was looted as well:

The weapons involved would be pre-1991 artillery rockets filled with sarin, or their damaged remnants - weapons that were declared openly by Iraq and were under U.N. control until security fell apart with the U.S. attack. They are not concealed arms of the kind President Bush claimed Iraq had, but which were never found.

Some seem to believe Osama bin Laden's latest video will help Bush and some that it will help Kerry. Save from reminding voters that Bush did not accomplish the mission of capturing bin Laden and bringing him to justice, I think it's a non-issue. The terrorist obviously sees the candidates as essentially the same. Perhaps the video was Ralph Nader's October surprise.

There were, however, signs of normalcy in my beloved hometown of Medina. The high school seniors held their annual competition to see which physics teams could launch their pumpkins the furthest and the most accurately...while a woman in a gorilla mask tried to rob a local grocery store.

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

******


IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS

No Towers

Art Spiegelman's IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS [Pantheon; $19.95] is as ground-breaking as the artist's Pulitzer Prize-winning MAUS. In ten amazing comic-strip segments, done in the style reminiscent of the grand and glorious full-color/full-page Sunday comics of the 1930s and 1940s, he draws on his experience as an artist and family man who lives in downtown Manhattan, to related the realities and the fears of 9-11 and the days afterwards. These startling pages are sometimes difficult to read, but they reveal the state of mind of their creator and his native New Yorkers. Each of the strips runs across two pages of "heavy board stock." The heaviness of the 42-page book is perhaps intentionally reflective of how heavily 9-11 weighs on Spiegelman.

In addition to the title strips, NO TOWERS has an introduction by Spiegelman, eight examples of the early comic strip pages he's referenced in creating his work, and a text piece offering a bit of background on those classic strips. Twenty bucks is a hefty price for under 50 pages of material, but the book is so handsomely-made that I can't hold the cost against it.

I think MAUS is the far superior work, one which has stood and will continue to stand the test of time, but I believe this book is an important work for the here and now. IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS picks up four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******


PREDICTION

I think John Kerry will be elected President within a month or so of Election Day. As others have predicted, I think "undecided" voters will turn away from the incumbent. I also believe that many Republicans will take a courageous stand for their nation - and for the future of their party - and vote against George Bush. If they do, we will owe them a debt of gratitude.

My only fear is that the margin of victory will be far closer than I would like. If the Bush bunch can throw the election into the Supreme Court again - and they will almost certainly try to do just that - there is no reason to believe that the five judges who violated their oaths of office in 2000 to select Bush won't repeat their detestable performance in 2004.

Where's the leftover Halloween candy? I may need some comfort food very soon.

******


TEAM AMERICA

Team America

From the creators of SOUTH PARK comes the evil delight which is TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE [2004]. Rated "R" for absolutely foul language, grotesque gore and violence, and hot marionette sex, it is as wrong a film as there could be...and the funniest movie since BLAZING SADDLES.

Team America is a squad of supremely capable agents who fight terrorists around the world, often blowing up large chunks of the world in the process. After a member is killed foiling a terrorist plot and an even bigger plan is discovered to be underway, the team recruits actor Gary Johnston to infiltrate the bad guys and put a stop to the scheme.

The team thinks they've won, but they have underestimated the brilliance of North Korean dictator Kim Jong II and the persuasive power of his dupes, the Film Actors Guild. Issues of the heart and issues of trust tear Team America apart and...

Geez, will you *listen* to me?

I'm talking freaking *puppets* here. Puppets blowing away bad guys and hacking activist actors to kibble. Puppets using language that would make Dick Cheney melt. Puppets having hot puppet sex. I was laughing so hard that I nearly wet myself.

Will TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE be able to save the world? I very much doubt it. But, for me, it sure took the edge off these final days of the election.

It gets the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

******


TONY'S MAILBOX

Once again, I have a thoughtful letter from JOHN PETTY, this time on the election:

I've been reading some of the material you've been posting on your message boards, and am overcome with a great sense of sadness. I'm sad because the Republican party, which is trying its best to disenfranchise voters in several states, are finally demonstrating their out-and-out contempt for the ability of the American voter to make an informed choice about this country's leaders. Clearly, this "win-at-all-costs" attitude is in clear opposition to the ideals and freedoms that made this country great.

I'm also sad because I'm less and less convinced the American people are going to be able to see through the veil of lies and untruths spread by Bush and his cronies by the time Election Day rolls around. With the blind support the GOP seems to be counting on, we're faced with, not only four more years of Bush, but four more years of the even scarier duo of Cheney and Ashcroft.

I'm sad because I can actually foresee the dismantling of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights - seminal documents in human history - should Bush and Co. be re-elected. The so-called Patriot Act was the first step in the dismantling process; with the mandate a second term would give him, Bush would have little to stand in the way of his further trampling of our civil rights and freedoms.

I'm sad because I see the gulf between the "haves" and "have nots" growing deeper and wider with each passing day. Historically, when this has happened before, revolution has been quick to follow. Just ask Marie Antoinette.

I'm sad because I live in Texas, and thanks to an outdated and outmoded Electoral College system, my vote won't count one bit at the end of the day when all of our EC votes are awarded to Bush. Talk about disenfranchisement!

Mostly I'm sad because the Presidential Race, which is *the* most important election in which we participate, has turned into nothing more than a football game: it's all about which team wins. Forget about what's good for the people. Forget about guiding the nation in a positive direction.

It's all about winning, baby.

I don't care which party gets to put an "x" in the win column. I want US, as the American People, to win. Clearly, that's not a choice anymore.

Sorry about the rant. I figured you'd understand.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican party has ever been the perfect fit for me. The third parties have all seemed to me to be more about ego and smugness than actually challenging the major parties; they should work their way up to a run at the Presidency by first establishing their credibility on local and state levels before going for the big job.

The neo-cons who seized control of the Republican party have robbed me of any viable choice to the Democrats. They have turned the GOP into the party of the mean-spirited, leaders who relish the power more than the good they could do with it, leaders who stop at nothing to retain and increase their power.

I long for a return to the days when I could consider voting for a Republican candidate I didn't know personally. The party, as a party, has lost the trust I once had that, even though I might be in disagreement with their policies, they truly believed they were acting in the nation's best interests.

Give me a strong Democratic party. Give me a sane Republican party. Give me a third party with some grasp of reality. Make me work harder to decide for whom I going to vote.

I'm not asking for too much, am I?

******


WHAT WOULD TONY DO?

Once more for this piece from the October 11 edition of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS:

My children and my family are what I care about most in this world. I want them to have a better tomorrow or, at the least, a tomorrow no worse than today. Nothing I've seen in the last four years convinces me that four more years of the Bush administration will result in anything other than a worse tomorrow.

I wish I could focus my remarks here on why I think John Kerry will be a better president than George Bush. I believe he will be, but I already know he won't be as good a president as I would like him to be. He won't be able to pull us out of Iraq without further loss of life or put that country on a proper path of independence as swiftly as I would like. He won't be able to create sufficient new (and good) jobs as quickly as they are needed. He won't have the cash - thanks to Bush's Brobdingnagian deficit - to finance the necessary programs for all those Bush knowingly and willfully left behind. He won't be able to turn the hearts of corporate criminals from their greed to an acceptance of their responsibility to their fellow citizens. He won't be able to turn the hearts of the bigots from their opposition to equal rights for all; he's already failed to fully stand against such opposition. But I believe Kerry is a better man than Bush, a more compassionate, a more decent, a more honest, a more intelligent man than Bush. That's the best we can hope for in this election.

There has been a stink on the Bush administration from before it officially took office. Before the end of this century, history will record that theft of the 2000 election as one of the darkest deeds in American politics. It will condemn Bush for ignoring that his "victory" was tainted. It will denounce him for ignoring the extraordinary circumstances of his ascension to the presidency and proceeding as if he had some mandate for dragging the United States so absurdly and terribly to the extreme right. It will revile him for using the murderous attacks of 9-11 as a club against political opponents and as a heartless means of pursuing his arrogant agenda. History may even wonder why the American people, given proof of his incompetence and lies, did not drive him from the White House long before this election. It has long been my belief that, if half the money and time expended to investigate and prosecute President Bill Clinton were spent on investigating and prosecuting Bush, then Bush and many of his fellows would end up behind bars.

If you have already made up your mind, nothing I say here will convince you how to vote. If you are undecided, as incredible as that seems to me, there are far better and less emotional places to go for all the information you need on why you should vote for John Kerry tomorrow.

Today I speak from my heart.

My children and my family are what's most important to me in this election. I don't want my children to pay, perhaps with their very lives, for Bush's wars. I don't want their freedoms and their futures coopted for the benefit of the wealthy and the powerful and the ideologically pure. I don't want my parents and my siblings, none of us getting any younger, to be unable to afford health care. I don't want public schools to be underfunded and their curriculums shackled to the narrow viewpoints of the right. I don't want the world of hopelessness and want which is the inevitable consequence of Bush's policies. I want something better.

Maybe it won't be a lot better with John Kerry as President. Maybe it will only be a little better.

But it would be a start.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/30/2004 | 11/01/2004 | 11/02/2004 >>

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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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