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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Monday, January 16, 2006

CBLDF  card

I received the above COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND card in the mail last week, making me once again a card-carrying member of that fine organization which protects the First Amendment rights of the comics community. There isn't much I can say about the CBLDF that isn't said better on the organization's website [], so I'll just extend my thanks to the Fund for all its tireless work on our community's behalf and my recommendation that TOT readers also become CBLDF members. It's what Jesus would do.


2000 AD

2000 AD 1463

It's been some time since we've checked in with 2000 AD, the legendary British weekly which has been published continuously for over 28 years. If you're buying 2000 AD on this side of the ocean - it's distributed by Diamond - each 32-page issue is costing you $4.10, less whatever discount your friendly comics retailer offers. Some of the stories are in black-and-white, some in color, and some fully-painted.

2000 AD #1467 [November 30, 2005] is the latest issue for me, but I'll be writing about other recent issues. Judge Dredd, he who represents the law in Mega-City-One, is still the main attraction of this title. That's a good thing because the Dredd feature has been outstanding in recent months.

The above cover is from 2000 AD #1463 [November 2], chosen to represent "Mandroid," a 12-issue Dredd serial by Dredd co-creator John Wagner and artist Kev Walker. Dredd was a supporting player in this story, the main role going to mandroid Nate Slaughterhouse, a soldier who survived battle injuries by being rebuilt, returned to civilian life with his family, and found Mega-City-One to be the most dangerous and heartbreaking war zone of all. If and when this story is ever collected, it'll rate five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

"Mandroid" was concluded in #1464. The following issues had done-in-one Dredds by Wagner, Gordon Rennie, and Robbie Morrison, drawn by Arthur Ransom, Henry Flint, and Richard Elson. Wagner's clever tale involved a virtual gardening competition. In Rennie's story, likely a prologue to a future serial, a murderous enemy cut an info-for-protection deal with the Judges. Morrison's tale was a decent-but-unfortunate echo of "Mandroid."

There are some weeks when Dredd is the only good thing about 2000 AD, but I generally find about half of the other strips worth reading. Of late...

"The Red Seas" by Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowill continues to be a delightful adventure wherein courageous and likeable pirates crosses cutlass with supernatural menaces.

"Leatherjack" was a sleep-inducing serial which ran 18 weeks and which usually left me moaning words to the effect of "It's not over yet?" It was something about nasty old biddies destroying all books, a nasty "Jabba" of a man trying to gain knowledge and power, and some bionic/psionic creature/man programmed to do the bidding of the latter. The harder I tried to glean some quality or sense from it all, the more I disliked it.

On the plus side, writer Dan Abnett has been telling one heck of a "Sinister Dexter" story for nine weeks and counting. Hitmen Finnigan Sinister and Ramone Dexter are the best the crime-ridden city of Downlode has to offer, but they've made some questionable choices and are finding themselves in very dangerous and unfamiliar circumstances. The series usually features shorter stories, but I am definitely digging this longer one.

2000 AD #1467 has a decent Dredd lead, an intense chapter of "Sinister Dexter," a fun episode of "The Red Seas," and the thank-you-Jesus conclusion of "Leatherjack." That earns it a respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony



2000 AD Winter Special

The 2000 AD WINTER SPECIAL [$5.99] is a 64-page "new talent" issue cover-promising "cutting-edge stories from the Nerve Centre's latest creators." There hadn't been a winter special for a decade or so, but the editorial impetus was to showcase the up-and-coming creators. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot to get excited about in said showcase: a decent Rogue Trooper story by veteran creators Gordon Rennie and Richard Elson and a good "Terror Tales" one-off by Al Ewing, Duane Redhead, and Lee Townsend, all of whom have been in 2000 AD previously. The "Terror Tales" one-off represented yet another editorial lapse; it had a premise which could have made for an interesting serial. With so little to show for six bucks, 2000 AD WINTER SPECIAL gets but a single Tony.




Judge Dredd Megazine 239

JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #239 [$11.99] is indicative of the mag's current slump. The price has gone up a buck for readers who order the title via Diamond, the page count has dropped from 100 to 84, and the content is getting weaker.

This December 13 issue has the concluding half of a mediocre Judge Dredd story and the second chapter of a slow-to-start Shimura serial. Shimura is a former judge turned rogue crimefighter in the Tokyo-like Hondo City. From there we go to the latest installment of a deadly dull history of the magazine.

Judge Anderson of the PSI Division is also in the second part of her latest story, yet another "monsters striking from my mind" adventure. She's a character who has outlived her usefulness and won't be viable again unless someone comes up with something very new and different to do with her.

The second half of the magazine fares slightly better. There is still life in "The Simpering Detective" - an undercover judge in a seedy part of town - by Simon Spurrier and Frazier Irving. The "Charley's War" reprints are still terrific. I like "Cursed Earth Koburn," though it looks like writer Gordon Rennie is dragging out yet another overused Dredd villain for this serial. An article on the Tomorrow People TV series and a handful of opinion column were good enough to hold my interest. That's damn faint praise for what had been one of my favorite comics magazines.

JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE #239 gets what may be a overly generous two Tonys, but the title is in serious need of an overhaul.

Tony Tony



One of the cleverest new comic strips around is TRIPLE TAKE by Todd Clark and Scott Nickel. Every episodes offers three different punch lines. So, naturally, I'm sharing three different episodes with you today.

This one is from October 23, 2005:

Triple Take

This one is from October 26, 2005:

Triple Take

And this one is from November 29, 2005:

Triple Take

I enjoy TRIPLE TAKE three times as much as I enjoy many other strips and I read it daily at:



This year's FREE COMIC BOOK DAY is Saturday, May 6. I don't have any store appearances planned for that day, but I'd be open to any invitations. I've never actually been in a store on FCBD and it might be fun to experience that.

What I am thinking of doing is something I've done before in various columns and that's review the comics which will be handed out that day. I would be delighted to give some ad space on this page to the first two stores which offer to send me these comics. I'm big on back-up plans.

Naturally, publishers are more than welcome to send me advance copies of their FCBD stuff. As I did previously, I'll be reviewing these with an eye towards how good they are as comics, how friendly they are to new readers, and how well they succeed in getting those new readers to buy their comics in the future.

Interested parties can contact me at:



CBG 1615

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1615 [April; $5.99] should be arriving at bookstores, comics shops, and newsstands any day now. As usual, the issue features an all-new "Tony's Tips" column and an equally new (if nostalgic) "Tony's Back Page" sidebar.

What's coming in comics for Conan and Red Sonja is the cover feature this month, but you'll also find terrific columns by Peter David, Heidi McDonald, John Jackson Miller, Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt, and Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith, not to mention a plethora of other articles, columns, and price guide information. For more information on the world's longest-running magazine about comics, and thirty friendly forums, check out CBG's website at:

Uncle Scrooge 349

Want more Tony? The highlight of WALT DISNEY'S UNCLE SCROOGE #349 [Gemstone; $6.95] is a reprinting of "The Doom Diamond," the last Scrooge story written and drawn by Carl Barks. But the issue also has "Smarter Than the Toughies," wherein Scrooge and Donald go ax-to-ax against Uncle Douglas and Cousin Whitewash in a Klondike sourdough competition. I did my "script doctor" thing on this fine story by Lars Jensen and artist Daniel Branca. I had a lot of fun with this one and I think you will, too.

Walt Disney's Comics 661

Going back a few months, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #661 [$6.95] has Donald Duck turning ghostbuster in "The Haunted Houses" by Gitte Zimmerman and Marco Rota with re-dialoguing by your very own Tipster. Watch for the "Easter egg" I put into the script as a nod to those who remember the days when teenage Tony had letters published in more comic books than I can remember.

I'm working on a checklist of all my Gemstone stuff and, once it's up to date, I'll post it on this website. I love working with these legendary Disney characters and with so many terrific writers and artists from all over the world. My thanks to Gemstone editors John Clark and Sue Kolberg for the work...and to those of you who buy these terrific comic books.



Catwoman 51

The January 16-22 edition of TV GUIDE gave a shout-out to DC Comics for the cover of CATWOMAN #51. If you're a fan of the show LOST, you doubtless noticed Selina Kyle's booking number contains the same supposedly "bad luck" numbers with which castaway Hurley won the lottery. Dan DiDio, DC's vice president/executive editor, is quoted saying the numbers don't tie into the issue's story, but "we keep trying to put Easter eggs on our covers regardless of whether it has anything to do with our characters. It's one story kicking off a big mystery giving a nod to a series that's all about mysteries."

Some comic-book character names were dropped in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for January 20, often in strange places. There's a sidebar about casting Will Toale as AQUAMAN in the WB pilot based on that DC Comics characters. Jeff Jensen mentions Galactus in espousing his latest LOST theories.

The really odd reference is in a review of JIM AND DAVE DEFEAT THE MASKED MAN, a "verse novel" by James Cummins and David Lehman [Soft Skull; $14.95]. The authors used "sestinas - the strictly structured, 39-line, 12th-century poetic form - as chapters for a shaggy-dog story of romantic love, shenanigans in the writer's trade, and volunteering to kill Osama bin Laden...newcomers will groove on how much fun writers can have juggling the formal challenge of sestina writing while making good jokes about everything from Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman to the Green Lantern of comic-book fame."



My pal HOY MURPHY was quick to make a recommendation for this TOT feature. He wrote:

I'm sure you are aware or others will make you aware of DIAL B FOR BLOG by Robby Reed himself []. I check this daily and it's always a hoot. There are more than 200 entries, each as entertaining as the last, and that adds up to hours of fun. It's especially a must for Silver Age fans.

I'll second Hoy's recommendation. I visit DIAL B FOR BLOG as often as I can. Last week's fun included Herbie Popnecker throwing down against Magicman and Nemesis, the Spectre doing battle with a ghost who haunted money, classic DC Comics pin-ups, and the start of an extended look at the live-action Batman TV show of the 1960s. "Robby" brings the big fun from Monday through Friday. You should come to the party.



Darn near every Monday, I post new questions on our hopefully amusing and entertaining TONY POLLS page. There are probably some new ones there right now, there being:

However, I can't tell you what these new questions are because I haven't come up with them yet. This TOT is the first thing on my "to do" list and the poll questions are the third. My management skills are clearly lacking.

On the bright side, I do know what questions I asked you back in November of last year, just before TOT went on its way-too-long hiatus. I even have the results of those questions, which I'm both thrilled and delighted to share with you...

Different versions of classic super-heroes are common in today's comics and other entertainments. Which current version of Superman do you prefer?

Superman (current DC Universe).....34.81%
Smallville (television).....11.85%

I voted for the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED version of the Man of Steel. It's not that the DCU version is really awful or anything, just that the animated version is better.

Which version of Batman do you prefer?

Batman (current live-action movie).....21.32%
Batman (current DC Universe).....14.71%
Batman (current solo cartoon series).....7.35%

On the other hand, the DCU version of the Batman is awful and that made it real easy to vote for the JLU version.

Which version of Justice League do you prefer?

JLA (current DC Universe).....19.23%

I voted with the vast majority here, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's been reading my columns for the past few years. The heroes of the JLU may be flawed, but they are far more likely than their comic-book counterparts to do the right thing and not merely the expedient thing.

Which version of Fantastic Four do you prefer?

Ultimate Fantastic Four.....15.62%
Fantastic Four (current movie).....12.50%

Thanks to writer Mark Waid's outstanding run on the current MU comic book, followed by a creditable run by J. Michael Straczynski, I had no trouble making up my mind on this one. I like both of the other choices as well, but the current Marvel Universe title is far and away my favorite.

Digression. When I posted this FF question back in November, I completely and utterly forgot that there is also a Marvel Knights version of the Fantastic Four. Given that no one mentioned it to me while the poll was running, I'm guessing its inclusion would not have changed the results significantly.

Which version of Spider-Man do you prefer?

Ultimate Spider-Man.....26.72%
Spider-Man (current Marvel Universe).....23.66%

I voted for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, but this was a really tough call. Save for Straczynski's unfortunate blip with the icky "Gwen and Norman" stuff, I've been enjoying his run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and even many of the ancillary titles. The Sam Raimi movies have been great fun as well. But writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley ultimately - sorry - won me over with their take on the web-slinger created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko so very many years ago. Their stories make me feel like a teenager again.

Which version of the Avengers do you prefer?


I voted for NEW AVENGERS. There are times when I think that ULTIMATES is a better book, but those moments are outweighed by the fact that I don't much like the heroes who appear in that title and especially not as much as I like their MU counterparts. Sometimes nice, or, at least, nicer guys do finish first.

More poll results coming soon.



Black Lightning HeroClix

Since I mentioned the Black Lightning HeroClix figure in last week's TONY POLLS and my January 11 TOT, there's a question over a dozen of you have asked me. My buddy MARK DOOLEY was the first, so his e-mail is the one that gets used:

Question: Are you going to get any kind of royalty for this? By the way, I voted for the original costume. Afro and all. There's no school like old school.

The most accurate answer I can give you is:

I don't know.

My contracts with DC certainly seem to call for me to get paid whenever Black Lightning appears outside an actual DC Comics comic book. Historically, that hasn't always been the case, though, on at least one occasion, I did get paid after the company originally claimed I wasn't entitled to said payment. I can't really predict what DC will do in this case.

However, whether I get paid or not, the good people at WizKids who make the HeroClix figures are fans of Black Lightning and fans of my work. I'm delighted they are including my creation in their very popular game. I wish them all the best.

That's a wrap. Thanks to all of you who spent a part of your day here with me.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/12/2006 | 01/16/2006 | 01/17/2006 >>

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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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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