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

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Monday, January 30, 2006

All-Select 11

The Blonde Phantom, the fabulous female crime-fighter from the '40s, is the official pin-up of "Tony's Online Tips." If you visit the column archives, you'll find I ran five of her covers in August and September of last year. But her first cover appearance was in the title that introduced her to comics readers: ALL SELECT COMICS #11 [Fall, 1946]. Syd Shores pencilled and inked the cover, and he also worked on her two interior stories.

The Blonde Phantom was Louise Grant, secretary to private eye Mark Mason. Unbeknownst to Mason, she would don evening gown and mask to assist him on cases. Clearly, Mason needed all the help he could get; he never figured out that the glamourous crime-fighter was his secretary.

It's hard to explain my fascination with the Blonde Phantom, especially since I've never read even one of her solo adventures. Maybe it's because she's my pick for the masked crime-fighter with the second-most unlikely costume ever, first place going to Madame Fatal, a dude who fought crime dressed as an old woman. Is it any wonder we call that time the Golden Age of Comics?

Whatever the reason, the Blonde Phantom does captivate me and I'm happy to see her rejoin our cover rotation. ALL SELECT COMICS was re-titled BLONDE PHANTOM with its very next issue and continued under the title for a total of eleven issues. Keep reading TOT and you'll eventually see all those covers.

Here are the contents of ALL SELECT #11:

The Blonde Phantom in "The Atom Spells Doom," an 18-page story by Stan Lee (editor/script), Shores (pencils), and Charles Nicholas (inks);

Mister Wu in "Murder at Midnight" (8 pages), drawn by Shores and Nicholas;

Miss America in "Unlucky Seven" (7 pages), drawn by Ken Bald (pencils) and Jack Binder (inks); and,

The Blonde Phantom in "The Scarlet Scorpion" (8 pages), drawn by Shores (pencils) and Ed Winiarski (pencils and inks).

The OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE figures a near-mint condition copy of the issue would sell for $3,500. The COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS prices it at $1,650. Two weeks ago, bidding on a CGC-rated 9.2 near-mint copy closed at $2,800, though it had been estimated that the issue would sell for $4,000-$6,000. Adjusted for inflation, that's also the yearly cost of dry-cleaning the Blonde Phantom's evening gown after night after night of crime-fighting.

As I said above, Blonde Phantom is our "official pin-up girl." Don't hesitate to feed my madness by sending me your Blonde Phantom drawings or cosplay photos of people dressed as the lady. Because, when it comes to criminal-catching, the world desperately needs her fabulous sense of style!

******


IDENTITY CRISIS COUNSELING

Thirteen DC Universe books were released the week of November 9, 2005. I reviewed the Manhunter trade paperback on Friday, which leaves us with a dozen items for today.

Infinite Crisis 2

Let's start with INFINITE CRISIS #2 [$3.99]. On the days when Gail Simone isn't my favorite DCU writer, Geoff Jones is. In this issue, he gave a crisp summation of the original CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and a concise explanation of what happened at the end of it. Even working with a DCU-spanning story, Johns provided good moments for supporting characters like Animal Man and Air Wave...and great ones for Power Girl and the Earth-2 Superman.

Penciller Phil Jimenez matched Johns beat for beat, bringing dozens of characters to life. If anyone wanted to call Jimenez the best artist currently working the DCU, I would be hard-pressed to argue against that. He's terrific.

I was going to deduct points from INFINITE CRISIS #2 because the terminally overused Joker appears for a page, but two elements of this issue - one minor, one major - overcame that flaw. Despite myself, I smiled at the notion that Lex Luthor's secret society of super-villains doesn't want the Joker for a member; he's too nuts even for them. That was the minor gem.

The award-winning moment was the chill that ran down my spine when the Earth-2 Superman proclaimed his intent:

"This corrupted and darkened Earth must be forgotten as ours was...so that the right Earth can return!"

That intended tampering with things is as monstrous and maybe even more monstrous than anything we've seen since the Earths were merged in COIE. Imagine my surprise to abruptly find myself on the opposite side from the "good old days."

INFINITE CRISIS #2 earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Action Comics 833

The Queen of Fables returns in ACTION COMICS #833 [$2.50] and she has the hots for Superman. The Man of Steel hates magic and, truth be told, I'm getting sort of bored with it, too. Lois Lane wears sensible shoes in this title, but continues to dress like a high-priced hooker in other Superman titles. The world's dumbest politician sends hitmen after Lois, this despite the fact that (a) she just exposed him as crooked, (b) this is Metropolis, the home of Superman, and (c) Lois is a friend of Superman's. How did Bush miss hiring this guy for his cabinet?

Simone is always good for good moments, even when the overall story doesn't overly excite me. This time out, those moments are Lois getting up the grill of a people smuggler, Superman's rescue of two scientists, Daily Planet reporter Josef Schuman inviting the Man of Steel to a family dinner, and the Queen's plan to use dark and deadly fables from Krypton against Supes. A last-page surprise is ineffective because the supporting character who shows up for it wasn't seen earlier in the issue.

The art? John Byrne's pencils are solid as ever, but this is yet another "multiple inkers" book from DC. Many inkers have done credible work on Byrne's pencils in the past; couldn't one of them have been called in to ink the entire issue?

ACTION COMICS #833 gets three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Aquaman 36

Nothing happens in AQUAMAN #36 [$2.50]. Nothing interesting, that is. A dead body floats to the surface. Mera learns Aquaman's been sleeping around. It's only a matter of time before Aquaman and Green Arrow, the DCU's other resident tramp, run out of DCU ladies dumb enough to have sex with them and go full Brokeback Mountain on each other. Manta escapes, an event duly reported to a generically evil guy in an expensive suit. Aqualad/Tempest calls together some underwater wizards to cure Mera of not being able to breathe water. All ending with - Boo! - the Spectre noticing them doing magic and vowing to open up a can of wrath-ass on them.

Dumb as I think it is to keep replacing classic DC heroes with temporary replacements, I can't see why anyone would want to read AQUAMAN until the new Aquaman and new writer Kurt Busiek show up. No Tonys for this dead-in-the-water issue.

No Tonys

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 197

BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #197 [$2.50] seems to take place a little over seven years into the Batman's career, but where that puts Will Pfeifer's "Blaze of Glory" in current continuity is a mystery to me. Regardless of when it occurs, it's the first part of a swell story about a Gotham criminal who actually served seven whole years in prison after being caught by Bats and who now seeks revenge. What makes this more than just another vengeance tale is that the criminal isn't even on Batman's radar. Pfeifer's writing is of the usual high quality I've come to expect from him and it's well complemented by the sensational Chris Weston art. I'm hoping the story stays this good all the way to its finish and that's why I'm awarding it five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Breach 11

BREACH #11 [$2.50] is the first issue of the title I've read and also the last issue of the series. As you can imagine, I was lost. On the other hand, the title hero looked interesting and the bit about his powers costing him his memories was genuinely moving. Let's skip the grade on this one, though I hope writer Bob Harras gets an opportunity to explore the powers/memories disconnect in a future venue.

Day of Vengeance TPB

DAY OF VENGEANCE [$12.99] collects the Superman/Captain Marvel battle against Eclipso and each other, as well as all six issues of the DAY OF VENGEANCE mini-series. The former tale is a forgettable punch-up, the latter an exciting story of outgunned heroes fighting a desperate holding action against the Spectre gone mad. If I have any complaint about the DOV mini-series, which I liked when I read it ish by ish and which I like even more reading it at one sitting, it's that, like all the other warm-ups to IC, it doesn't deliver a completely satisfying conclusion. Such is the curse of mega-event continuity.

Kudos to DVO writer Bill Willingham and pencillers Justiniano and Ron Randall, as well as to trade editor Bob Greenberger and his team for the fun, informative extras. Despite the boring punch-up at the start of the trade, DAY OF VENGEANCE still rates four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Gotham Central 37

GOTHAM CENTRAL #37 [$2.50] made me wish I'd been reading this series all along and, heading for cancellation or not, I'm planning to do so in the near future. Greg Rucka's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" features the Captain Marvel/Spectre battle from the perspective of the citizens of Gotham City, including the police officers charged with their protection. Rucka painlessly put enough back story into his script that I never once felt lost. Instead, I felt I knew all the characters well; their emotional and physical reactions to the peril they faced were real to me. Kudos also to Steve Lieber, the perfect artist to keep even a story featuring costumed titans down-to-earth and very believable.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #37 picks up the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Hawkman 46

Hawkman is little more than a supporting character in HAWKMAN #46 [$2.50]. "Sins of the Past, Present, and Future" ties into THE OMAC PROJECT, IDENTITY CRISIS, and THE RANN-THANAGAR WAR. In his own book, Carter Hall doesn't take the lead. The issue's solitary saving grace is a meeting between Carter and Ray "the Atom" Palmer, a four-page sequence that brings their through good times and bad friendship to life.

HAWKMAN #46 earns two Tonys.

Tony Tony

JLA 122

I finally figured out the villain of JLA #122 [$2.50] and the previous issue is the Key, though he is only named in the "next in" box on the DC promo page. The issue has lots of large well-drawn panels by Tom Derenick and Dan Green, but the story is screamingly bad. The Key kills some folks. People who should know better make excuses for Green Arrow. Supergirl arrives and the Arrow openly lusts after her in front of another sweet young thing he defiled. Some guy I don't know makes off with the other sweet young thing. Flash gets all antsy and runs off. Donna Troy pops up in the last panel, like that's really supposed to be a surprise at this point. It hurts to give this issue even one Tony, but Derenick and Green deserve something for their suffering in having to draw this issue and I'm not in a position to give them hardship pay.

Tony

Nightwing 114

In NIGHTWING #114 [$2.50], Dick Grayson continues to train the daughter of Deathstroke, apparently to protect the life of someone he cares about. He's calling himself "Renegade" these days as he sics a street gang on his student, crashes a Lex Luthor party with her to get some information, steals a shipment of "Bane-juice" for Deathstroke, and beats up on Arsenal/Speedy. I'm not sure whether Dick is making it up as he goes or pulling off some master plan to bring down Deathstroke. I hope it's the latter because Deathstroke needs to have his ticket out of the DCU punched. He's a dumb and vile character who, like the Joker, suffers from terminal overuse. My foolish hope that Deathstroke will go bye-bye, this ish's solid Phil Hester/Ande Parks art and some decent scripting by Devin Grayson, earn NIGHTWING #114 two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Son of Vulcan 6

Deja vu. SON OF VULCAN #6 [$2.99] is the last issue of this six-issue mini-series and the first issue I've read. It what seems to be a rushed finale, SOV battles a white Martian and the alien's hybrid children. Beyond that, I'm not sure what's happening or has happened in the series. The issue ends with the title hero outside what I assume is Teen Titans headquarters. Smart move. With the INFINITE CRISIS gearing up, the Titans could probably use another ensign to go down to the planet with Captain Kirk. In the interest of fairness, and as with BREACH #11, I'm not giving SON OF VULCAN #6 a rating. I can be a merciful reviewer.

Teen Titans 29

TEEN TITANS #29 [$2.50] struck me as an issue designed to mark time and various DCU events. The Red Hood, who may or may not be Jason Todd, breaks into Titans HQ to beat up Tim "Robin" Drake out of either spite or low self-esteem. There are nods to Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord and the Spectre being that crazy avenger-ghost without a soul. Donna Troy shows up and so do some other deceased Titans. Raven says "death and life have lost their meaning" in the sudden realization that she lives in a comic book. Your snarky - but still beloved, yes? - reviewer rolls his eyes at the mediocre art and bows his head in disappointment at the writing. He expects better from Geoff Johns. No Tonys here.

No Tonys

Thus ends this session of INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING. We'll pick this up again on Wednesday, assuming my inner OMAC stays put. However, should it be activated, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Deathstroke, and the Joker can kiss their butts good-bye.

******


GET MORE TONY

I have a MySpace page. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it at this early stage, but I may end up using its blog feature for political or spiritual commentary. I've been thinking of starting a church or a political movement.

Then again, I may just keep it going so all those young women who are tired of dating boys can keep sending me messages about how cute I am and how they want to meet me. Because - who knows? - one day I might get hit on the head real hard and become addled enough to fall for that. Whenever I get such messages, one thought leaps into my mind. Are there really guys out there who believe a sweet young thing is contacting them out of nowhere wanting to jump their aging bones?

Anyway, if you have a MySpace account of your own, you're most welcome to sign on as one of my friends, albeit not a friend with privileges. The URL is:

http://www.myspace.com/12423186

Turning to comics, in March, Gemstone will be publishing two more of the stories I've worked on for them.

MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #287 has a short Donald Duck story - just three pages - called "That Darn Hat!"

UNCLE SCROOGE #352 has Donald in "The Bunny Song," a 12-page Easter-themed tale.

Gemstone's books are quality comics that are suitable for all ages...and I'm having a blast doing my "script doctor" thing on the stories they send me. If you've been buying their books all along, thanks for the support. If you haven't, please give them a try at your earliest convenience.

Because I think fans who buy Gemstone comics are really cute.

******


TONY POLLS

You know the drill. Most every Monday, we post new questions on our TONY POLLS page. This week, I'm looking towards a distant future when I've actually caught up on the DCU/IC stuff and maybe even the Marvel/Decimation stuff.

There are comics titles that I haven't read in several years for one reason or another. Some of them are old favorites and some come highly recommended by readers. Off the top of my head, these would include DAREDEVIL, JSA, and STRANGERS IN PARADISE. For this week's questions, I'm asking you to vote on the Marvel, DC, and not Marvel or DC titles you think I should read.

You can cast your votes on these questions at:

http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

Look for some TONY POLLS results from earlier questions later this week.

******


TONY'S MAILBOX

This note from WILLIAM ASHLEY VAUGHAN is a few weeks old, but when has that ever stopped me from running a letter I thought would be of interest to my readers? He writes:

Something I thought might interest you. The Ohio Green Party seems to be building its strength. It is an interesting phenomenon that no matter how much the Green Party is ignored by the media and dismissed by the two pro-corporate parties we continue to gain members and put people in office.

Not even our own infighting has been able to prevent the Green Party from growing. I believe that this is because, for all our problems, we are the only political party with a consistent, coherent anti-corporate, pro-democracy stance that our candidates back with action when they take office. When we get that message to the people through our positions and through Green Party candidates who carry through on those positions once in office, the people respond with their votes and our numbers grow.

William also sent me information on the Green Party candidates who won in recent Ohio elections:

Brian Cummins, elected to Cleveland City Council from Ward 15, and Dennis Spisak, elected to the Struthers Board of Education in Northeast Ohio.

Yes, these are modest gains. Some might justifiably describe them as incredibly modest gains. Nonetheless, gains they are and, though I'm not a member of the Green Party, I applaud them as such. My own hope for our country goes like this:

The Republican Party gets crushed in 2006 and 2008. The neo-cons and religious fanatics have turned the GOP into the party of bigotry, corruption, profiteering, and unjustifiable, unsustainable wars. Ultimately, anyone who supported Bush in these matters, be they Democrat or Republican, deserves to go down.

Following those elections, I want to see the Democratic Party lose a good chunk of its powers to third and fourth and even fifth parties. The two-party system has failed the American people; it needs to be done away with.

And on the seventh day...

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

Tony Isabella

<< 01/27/2006 | 01/30/2006 | 01/31/2006 >>

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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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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