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

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for Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Hot Stuff 82

When I saw the above cover of HOT STUFF, THE LITTLE DEVIL #82 [February, 1968] at the Grand Comics Database [], it immediately put me in mind of a Jack Kirby-drawn scene of the Human Torch blazing through a similar obstacle course during a training session. Of course, that was back when comics were light enough on back story that an artist and a writer could spare a page or two to show readers not only a super-hero's powers but also his dedication to his calling. Good times.

The training sequences can be overdone. I think I've seen all the X-Men Danger Room exercises I ever need to see. But I wouldn't mind seeing today's writers and artists coming up with better ways to give us that small leg-up on characters featuring in the comics they're presenting to us. Just a thought.

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



Crisis on Infinite Earths

Marv Wolfman revisits DC's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS [ibooks; $22.95] in the form of a novel based on the original comic books he did with artist George Perez. I have mixed feelings about CRISIS, which may make for a somewhat schizophrenic review as I review it from the viewpoints of two very different audiences.

A casual reader of DC super-hero comics won't get as much from the novel as the avid comics reader who was around for the original comics series. As in the comics, CRISIS is a huge undertaking and Wolfman quite rightly knocked it down to size by telling the story via Barry Allen, the second Flash. Yet despite Wolfman's efforts, and they're considerable, characters move through the story without sufficient description or introduction. If you didn't know who and what they were, they're no more than colorful names.

Doubtless to lend additional speed and urgency to his story, Wolfman kept individual chapters short, most of them one to three pages. While this did move the book at a rapid pace, it also made for extremely choppy reading. Despite the universes-altering scope of CRISIS, the novel often seemed thin.

There are things I love about this novel. Wolfman did a great job with Barry. I would go so far as to say he wrote him as well or better than anyone else ever has. While too many of Barry's quips and observations landed with dull, painful thumps - perhaps the writer should've killed more of his darlings or, failing that, the editor should've done it for him - overall, I found myself wishing Wolfman had written THE FLASH back in the day.

There are other choice moments. Wolfman handled the Superman of Earth-1 and his Earth-2 counterpart brilliantly and repeated the success with their respective Lois Lanes. I also liked what he did with Batgirl, Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl. As poignant as the death of Supergirl was in the original CRISIS comics, it was even more so in this novel.

Trying to rate CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS on our usual scale of zero to five Tonys makes my head hurt. Strictly from the view of a casual reader, I couldn't justify giving it more than two Tonys. Reading it as someone better versed in the DC Universe of the pre-Crisis era, I could go as high as four. Let's call it a perfectly respectable three Tonys...

Tony Tony Tony

...and wonder out loud what the heck is wrong with DC Comics that Wolfman isn't writing a DCU title for them.



My message board was smoking with visitor comments on the TONY POLLS whose results ran in yesterday's TOT. I received about two dozen e-mails as well.


Here are some of those e-mails, starting with one from my pal JON KNUTSON, the same guy who suggested the questions in the first place. He writes:

The only problem I have when I send Tony Polls suggestions to you is that I always want to choose more than one of the answers available! By now, I should know better and skew the choices so I already know how I'm going to vote.

In the category of comics event that angered or annoyed me the added excellent choices that didn't occur to me because I don't read the books in which they appeared. The only Spider-Man books I buy are the Marvel Age ones, though I'll definitely get the new Peter David-written series when it starts.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis

While many of the events did annoy me, the one I went for was the death of the Blue Beetle. The Beetle has long been a favorite character of mine, and the killing of him in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS struck me as really being unnecessary. I think it would've been more interesting and opened up many more possibilities if he'd escaped Maxwell Lord's clutches and was on the run from that point, trying to get the word to the super-hero community as to what's happening, even though nobody tends to believe him, while using his wits to evade Checkmate.

I'd have chosen Hawkeye's death...except that, upon re-reading AVENGERS FOREVER recently, I realized Songbird and Captain Marvel, who appear as Avengers from the future, don't even blink an eye at the idea of seeing Hawkeye reaction to that whatsoever! A clever writer can come up with an explanation why Clint is still among the living. One could say it's predestined.

From what was in COUNTDOWN, the Beetle's death is pretty much impossible to tweak to allow him to come back...unless the Scarab the first BB used somehow revives him from the grave. Events in BB's short-lived DC series make me believe that wouldn't be a good thing, although most of that series seems to have been wiped out of continuity. All the same, the events of the JLA/AVENGERS crossover and recent developments in JLA, seem to provide ample excuses for continuity reworking.

I was likewise less than thrilled at the Scarlet Witch going to the dark side. But since I buy fewer new Marvel titles of late, I won't have to deal with that.

My most-wanted DC revival series is ALL-STAR SQUADRON, which won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me! My Marvel revival pick was MIGHTY MARVEL WESTERN...because I love those funky stories of Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, and the rest!

The non-DC or non-Marvel revival selection was another tough choice for me. So many of those were titles I'd love to see done again...if they were done well. However, when it came down to it, I went with MIGHTY CRUSADERS.

I also heard from TOMMY RAIKO:

Like more than a few longtime comics fans, I was conflicted by some events of IDENTITY CRISIS, many of which made your list of anger/annoyance-causing events. However, thinking it over, I think your selections sidestep the event many would find most troubling. When you get to it, what elicits my strongest reaction to IDENTITY CRISIS was not that Sue Dibny died - it was a murder mystery after all; someone was going to be killed...and not that Dr. Light was revealed as a rapist. That a villain does horrible things, or is retroactively revealed to have done things more horrible than we'd expected from him, should come as no surprise. It's that it was Sue Dibny was raped.

Identity Crisis 1

It was the rape of Sue Dibny I found most angering/annoying of the recent comics events. I suspect if "The Rape of Sue Dibny" had been one of the selections, it would garner more votes than almost anything. I'm just thankful there's a tiny bit of room in the story, a sliver of ambiguity, that can allow me to think Dr. Light didn't rape Sue, but just viciously attacked her. That's not much better, but it makes the story easier to bear.

On less controversial topics, I voted for "Other" for the DC series I'd most like to see revived. I think it'd be cool to see a revival of something like Primal Force or the Global Guardians, something with some well thought-out international scope.

I also voted for "Other" for the "Non-DC/Non-Marvel" series I'd like to see revived. What I really want is to see Ms. Tree in new comics again. Or Mike Barr's Maze Agency. I'd take either of them, but, today, I'm in a Ms. Tree kind of mood.


I love POE. I want POE to come back.

Creator Jason Asala is pretty well booked up these days with the splendidly quirky NANTUCKET BROWN ROASTERS comic, and I believe he's also working on a sequel to his children's novel, THE GREAT WORMWOOD, but, man, I'd love to see him back writing and drawing his outstanding POE series.

Poe 1

The story of Edgar and pals trying to capture demons in order to save his dead wife Lenore and gaining inspiration for his tales of the macabre along the way was last published by Sirius, but it's been on hiatus for years. I'd love to see it return.

That's it for today. I'll have more TONY POLLS e-mails on the morrow. Thanks for stopping by.

Tony Isabella

<< 05/17/2005 | 05/18/2005 | 05/19/2005 >>

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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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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