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

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for Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nothing Sacred

Of NOTHING'S SACRED [Simon & Schuster; $22.95], Jon Stewart says, "Lewis Black is the only person I know who can actually yell in print form. Very entertaining read." Far be it from me to take issue with the brilliant host of THE DAILY SHOW, but he sells Black short with that bit of praise.

Black is one of my favorite comedians/commentators on all the madness around us. His "Back in Black" segments on TDS are always among the program's finest and funniest moments. The "angry comic" of those pieces does take center stage in various chapters of this book. However, what makes NOTHING'S SACRED worthy of our attention is the more thoughtful Lewis Black, the Lewis Black who tells who he is, where he comes from, where he's been, and, in doing so, also tells us who we are and how we all got here.

NOTHING'S SACRED was a present from one of my online friends. When I received it, I flipped through it, noted the short chapters, and decided it would be good "sitting and waiting" reading. After reading the first several chapters, I kept finding more reasons to sit and wait. It wasn't so much that Black's life mirrored my own because it didn't. But he and I have lived through the same times and I recognize and understand his reactions to the events of those times...from Eisenhower through Bush.

It should be noted that Black skips much of his post-college life, devoting only three chapters to his career and today's world. Maybe he's saving those recollections for his next book, maybe he wants more distance and perspective before he writes about those years, maybe his goal was to relate how he became the Lewis Black he is and no more. Whatever his reasons, his book is satisfying as is, a beam of personal history which illuminates the decades of his youth and mine.

NOTHING'S SACRED gets the full five out of five Tonys. It's an important book from an important voice. Oh, yeah, and it's also incredibly funny. Buy it already.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Because you demanded it, or, at least, asked real nice, here's another batch of book-by-book reviews of DCU titles. These issues are from the week of October 19.

Batgirl 69

BATGIRL #69 [$2.50] is the fourth part of a five-issue story involving Batgirl, Mr. Freeze, the late Mrs. Freeze, Shiva (who may be Batgirl's mother), Nyssa (the other daughter of the Demon), and many other unsavory Nyssa allies. I was never completely certain of what was going down here, but writer Andersen Gabrych included sufficient background that I didn't feel lost either. He also gets points for revealing every character's motivation without being obvious about it, for the surprising-but-logical alliance between a helpless Batgirl and one of her captors, and for actually doing something new with Freeze. Add solid art by penciller Pop Mhan and inkers Jesse Delperdang and Robin Riggs and BATGIRL #69 picks up an easy three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony


Is Batgirl really illiterate? Does the Batman really know this? If he does know this, has he actually kept her from learning how to read?

Batman 646

BATMAN #646 [$2.50] was...intriguing. It appears Jason Todd, the second Robin, is back from the dead, operating as the criminal Red Hood, and engaged in a war with Black Mask. Batman's opposing both of them, but Black Mask thinks Bats is going easy on the Hood. "Franchise" is the first part of a story arc which may or may not resolve this three-way war as it raises the stakes - the Hood tries to kill Black Mask while the disfigured crime-lord meets with some deadly allies - considerably.

The Judd Winick script is good, but both Bats and the Red Hood act illogically when it suits the story's "need" for big explosions or melodrama. Penciller Shane Davis does well with the drawing and storytelling, though his characters do get a little pose-y here and there. There are three inkers on the issue, the first of the story arc, and that strikes this former editor as cause for concern. All the same, BATMAN #646 is another solid three out of Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony


This issue intrigued me enough that I did some online research and learned there exists a possibility that this Jason Todd is from some alternate reality. I'm not wild about the idea that Jason is back from the dead, but the "Jason of Earth-2" bit would be just as and possibly even more lame a development.

Batman: Gotham Knights 70

The week's third book is BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #70 [$2.50], wherein no one, not Batman, the cops, Hush, Clayface, is competent. For reasons not explained in this issue, Hush wants to give himself the Clayface powers. He's infected Alfred with the Clayface virus as an experiment. Alfred is also the only suspect in the murder of some criminal.

I hate to be so negative, but nothing on the creative side of the book is any better than what happens in the story. The script is boring, the art is lackluster, the coloring is muddy. Even this issue's cover is awful; Batman looks like he has also been injected with the Clayface virus and Hush looks like he's trying to dislodge a piece of food from between his teeth.

BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #70 gets no Tonys whatsoever.

No Tonys

Batman: Journey Into Knight 3

When I reviewed the first two issues of BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT on November 1, I gave an "undecided" to this 12-issue series set during Bruce Wayne's early months as a costumed crime-fighter. Here's what I wrote then:

JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT gives us Bruce Wayne at the very near the dawn of his Batman career. He doesn't know everything as he deals with a new designer drug hitting Gotham's club and an airplane full of plague victims. On the run is the "Carrier" of that contagious plague. Infected with same is our boy Bruce. Along with the good writing we get good art by Tan Eng Hunt and color by David Baron. As I said, I'm not sure we needed this series, but, thus far, it's holding my interest. Its ultimate success or failure - with me, at least - depends on how it develops and if it delivers a satisfying ending. Hence, my rating of...undecided.

With this third issue, I'm off the fence. The story continues to develop nicely and there's solid police work by our hero as he tracks the carrier. There is also solid characterization as Bruce and Alfred learn how to work with the former's new occupation and as Bruce is introduced to Wayne Industries. This doesn't feel like a 12-issue story to me at the moment, but, based on these issues, JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Birds of Prey 87

BIRDS OF PREY #87 [$2.50] is a prologue to what looks to be an extended story that will shake things up for Barbara Gordon and her team. The Calculator has set his sights on Oracle, Gordon's other identity. The Huntress is having a great time playing "mob queen," manipulating crime organizations, and kicking evil butts with the Black Canary. Writer Gail Simone also serves up a wonderful scene between Barbara and Dr. Mid-Nite. I'm not wild about there being two pencillers and two inkers on the issue - it's that old editor in me - but BIRDS OF PREY #87 still earns four Tonys. More months than not, BOP is the best series in the DCU.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Robin 143

If you've been counting, ROBIN #143 [$2.50] is the sixth Bat-comic released this particular week. It's an OMAC PROJECT tie-in and darn near impenetrable for someone who hasn't been reading the title. I got more solid background from the "next in" box on the "DC in Demand" page than I did from the actual story.

Amidst dull writing and distorted drawing, it's raining OMACs in Bludhaven. They're hunting down laughable super-villains while getting their digitized butts kicked by Robin, a bunch of G.I. Joe wannabes, and two loaner supernatural heroes from DAY OF VENGEANCE. I was given no reason to care about any protagonist. My happiest moment came when I finished reading the issue.

When a company like DC publishes an issue this bad, it needs to think a lot more about quality control. The talent has clearly been stretched too thin.

ROBIN #143 gets no Tonys.

No Tonys

There are six more DCU issues from the week of October 19 to go, but, when I come across a comic this unsatisfying, it's time to take the rest of the day off.

Thanks for spending a 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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