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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dennis the Menace 56

The Owen Fitzgerald cover from DENNIS THE MENACE #56 [January, 1962] speaks to me today. I'm in a state of mild shock as I think about all the things I have to accomplish before Thanksgiving and Mid-Ohio-Con []. I feel like I'm the wild turkey being ridden by that mischievous Mitchell boy.

The phrase "riding the wild turkey" popped into my head when I first saw this cover. Is that an existing phrase or did I make it up on the spot? If it's an existing phrase, what does it mean? Is it a drug reference? A sexual reference?

If I did make it up on the spot, I'm going to define it as the panic one feels as one prepares for Thanksgiving. By extension, we can use similar phrases for other major events.

Halloween: riding the wild pumpkin.

Election Day: riding the wild pundit.

Christmas: riding the wild reindeer.

I'm still working on the phrase for conventions. "Riding the wild fanboy" seems like something you would write about in a letter to PENTHOUSE FORUM. Not at all in keeping with the generally high moral tone of the work I do here.

While I deliberate on such vital matters, let's see what else I have for you today.



Last week, I set myself the goal of reading/reviewing every item which arrived at Casa Isabella. Excepting weighty tomes like THE SUPERHERO BOOK (see Sunday's column), I came within one-and-a-half items of accomplishing that goal. It's a good start, so I'm going to continue to pursue this goal.

Archie Digest 211

First up today is ARCHIE DIGEST #211 [Archie Comics; $2.39]. The 100-page digest features two new stories, a bunch of reprinted stories, and an assortment of fan and gag pages. The stories that caught my attention did so for different reasons.

"The Big Break" had Jughead committing assault, clobbering a romantic rival of Archie's with a board. I don't know how old this reprint was, but I doubt you'd see any of the Riverdale gang doing something like that today.

"Sofa So Good" had one of Reggie's better gags on Archie. I laughed out loud at the punch line. "Tossed Fruit Salad" was well-orchestrated slapstick humor.

"Strange Change" was a nice character play on Hiram Lodge and made it clear he earned his money by hard work and smarts. I think he and Scrooge McDuck could be pals.

"Prowling Peril" was a werewolf story with Archie characters playing the various roles as if they were actors in a horror movie. It's a familiar gimmick that rarely succeeds, but it worked in this amusing tale.

"The Pumpkin Head" - one of the two new stories - was a good seasonal story by writer George Gladir, penciller Pat Kennedy, and inker Ken Selig. I dig such "holiday" outings; even though Archie exists in a sanitized world, tying stories to the seasons gives his comics a sense of reality.

ARCHIE DIGEST #211 gets a respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Archie's Pals n Gals Double Digest 89

ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST #89 [$3.59] gives readers twice as many pages with a price increase of only 50% over Archie's "single" digests. There were several exceptional stories in this issue, including two starring teen cartoonist Chuck Clayton and one starring Coach Kleats.

"Balanced Diet" - one of the digest's two new stories - worked a message about good nutrition into the laughs. It was written by Greg Crosby with art by Pat Kennedy and Jon D'Agostino.

I especially got a kick out of a 26-page section that seemed to be a riff on the wall sequences from the old LAUGH-IN show which aired in the 1960s. The jokes are really corny - I'm guessing this "story" was originally published in the 1960s or early 1970s - but there were so many that the sheer audaciousness quantity eventually won me over. I confess I now have a hankering to attempt something like this myself. It might be a fun project for the new year and one which could involve several artists.

ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST #89 picks up four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Jughead with Archie Digest 197

JUGHEAD WITH ARCHIE DIGEST #197 [$2.39] was one of the weakest digests I've seen from Archie. When I read these digests, I make note of any above-average stories. There were only three in this issue: a slapstick tale about a barrel on the loose in the halls of Riverdale High, the clever "Book Shnook" in which Jughead attends a book club meeting for the snacks, and a "Juggy plays mind games on his friends" yarn. The best score I can give this disappointing digest is a measly one Tony.




B.A.B.E. Force

I read the two issue of B.A.B.E. FORCE: JURASSIC TRAILER PARK [Forceworks; $2.50 each] and the series is starting to grow on me. The title heroines still don't do much for me, but the storytelling is improving and two of the supporting characters are delightful. I see some potential here.

The two supporting players worth noting are reluctant sidekick Edison Jones and Dr. Chaos, the brilliant but perpetually confused entrepreneur. Jones is a courageous Everyman who doesn't quite fit into the high-tech heroics around him. He almost comes off as the voice of reality/reason in the series, but the creators pull back from taking him that far. They shouldn't.

Doc Chaos is a hoot. His father was a super-villain and his sister Helga is continuing in that line of work, forever twisting her brother's inventions - all intended to benefit the families who shop at his ChaosCo stores - to her own evil and mercenary desires. Chaos doesn't realize he's being used in this way and the good guys don't realize he's not a bad guy. Hilarity ensues.

Let's call B.A.B.E. FORCE a title worth watching and give this mini-series a respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



American Flagg! Hardcover "The 50 Best TV Shows on DVD" have the cover of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for November 26, but if you make it to the "Books" section of the magazine you'll find props for a couple of comics creators: Howard Chaykin and Max Allan Collins.

In a "5 Reasons to Love...American Flagg!" sidebar, EW's Jeff Jensen is effusive in his praise for Chaykin's "dystopian satire," calling each page "a piece of art." He also writes:

Chaykin's vision of a politically polarized, media-saturated future was prophetic--right down to America's current fixation with reality TV.

His saga follows Reuben Flagg, an oversexed, self-righteous actor-turned-cop who polices The Plex, a heavily fortified (and heavily retailed) citadel that shelters citizens from gangs, militants, and terrorists.

The trigger for Jensen's sidebar was the recent publication by Dynamic Forces of AMERICAN FLAGG! [$49.95], a 376-page hardcover collection of the earliest issues of the series.

Road to Purgatory Elsewhere in the section, ROAD TO PURGATORY [Morrow; $24.95], the new novel by Max Allan Collins, is reviewed by Marc Bernardin. The book continues the story of Michael O' Sullivan, Jr., the son of the Irish enforcer protagonist of ROAD TO PERDITION. Bernardin gives the book an "A-" and writes:

Collins thrillingly revisits the impeccably researched "pulp-faction" world he created - and director Sam Mendes adapted - in the graphic novel ROAD TO PERDITION, telling parallel prose tales of father and son, each wrestling with issues of duty and destiny. Except for a ham-fisted recap of previous events, PURGATORY succeeds in putting us inside the head of an honorable man descending into a hell of his own creation.

That's all for now. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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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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