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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 Thursday, February 23, 2006

Vampirella 100

Today's CENTENNIAL COMIC is one of the few American comics mags - as in magazine-size comics - to reach its hundredth issue. Off the top of my head, I could only think of six such titles to reach that mark. I'll give you some time to test your own memories as we look at VAMPIRELLA #100 [October, 1981].

Published by Jim Warren from 1969 to 1983, VAMPIRELLA's title heroine was an exotic beauty from an alien planet who, if I recall her origin correctly, had much the same abilities and needs as our world's legendary vampires. Vampirella was created by Forrest J. Ackerman, equally legendary editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, but, following Ackerman's only story, Archie Goodwin developed the character and her supporting cast. The earliest Vampirella tales were drawn by Tom Sutton.

The cover of VAMPIRELLA #100 was a painting college of works by Enrich, Jose Gonzales, and Sanjulian. Inside the 84-page issue were four Vampirella stories:

"Call It Chaos!", a 21-page new story by Archie Goodwin and Anton Caravana);

"The Origin of Vampirella" by Budd Lewis and Jose Gonzales (15 pages), reprinted from VAMPIRELLA 1972 ANNUAL, a revamped origin of Vampirella which was completely re-dialoged;

"Shadow of Dracula!" by T. Casey Brennan and Jose Gonzalez (10 pages), reprinted from VAMPIRELLA #19; and,

"When Wakes the Dead" by T. Casey Brennan and Jose Gonzales (13 pages), reprinted from VAMPIRELLA #20, but missing the opening page of its original appearance.

Warren Publications, an outfit which had published some truly exceptional comics and magazines, would close operations within a year or two of this issue. Some of the titles would be revived by other publishers for limited runs, but only Vampirella continues to be published today, albeit in standard comic books and crossovers with characters from other publishers.

What's Vampirella been up to lately? I'm told she has a new origin, one far more complicated than the goofy-yet-simple one of her debut run. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you. It's been ages since I read a Vampirella comic and her current publisher has never sent me review copies. TOT readers who are also Vampirella readers are invited to enlighten me on her post-Warren career.

What were the six magazine-sized comics which made it to their 100th issues? They were: MAD, CRACKED, CREEPY, EERIE, VAMPIRELLA, and THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. Did I miss any?

Look for more CENTENNIAL COMICS in future TOTs.

******

INFINITE CRISIS COUNSELING

It's good to see you again. I think we've been making great progress in these sessions, don't you? Let's pick up where we left off yesterday.

The comics shops received 16 DCU or DCU-related titles for the week of December 21. I put aside three of them for later reading and reviewing: CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS: THE TEAM-UPS, VOLUME 1 (a collection of Silver Age classics), PLASTIC MAN VOLUME 2: RUBBER BANDITS, and SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE BULLETEER #2. I plan to read the Seven Soldiers books in the trade paperbacks editions. That leaves us with 13 comics for today's session.

Infinite Crisis 3

INFINITE CRISIS #3 [$3.99] is like a condensed version of the current DCU events and that makes for confusing reading. From what I can tell, it has bits of AQUAMAN, WONDER WOMAN, and others, none of them very clear or satisfying. Quick questions: Who was that who got bitten in half by King Shark? Is this the same "Shark" as the one in recent issues of GREEN LANTERN?

The issue improves when writer Geoff Johns focuses on events not found in other DCU titles, though the Earth-2 Superman's visit to the Earth-1 Batman was marred by "our" Batman going all whiny on us for a few panels. The scenes with the various Luthors are good villainous fun and I likewise enjoyed Power Girl's personal crisis of conscience. It appears Kara realizes that the Earth-2 Superman is murderously insane which, to his credit, Batman figured out in less than two pages. I confess I'm looking forward to seeing how Johns and DC sort all this stuff out.

The writing is good throughout this issue and Phil Jimenez's art is scary impressive. Who would have thought there was another artist as brilliantly mad as George Perez out there, an artist who combines clear storytelling with mind-boggling detail?

INFINITE CRISIS #3 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Adventures of Superman 647

Now *this* is a Superman comic book! ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #647 [$2.50] brings the "Ruin" storyline to a conclusion...for now, at least. The Superman in this story is a hero with an inspiring reverence for life, a hero who does amazing things without making them look easy. Plotter Greg Rucka sweetens the story by reminding us that super-powers aren't a requisite for heroic deeds; ordinary human beings can be as courageous, effective, and selfless as even the world's greatest super-hero. Kudos by the bushel must also be given scripters Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir, as well as to artist/colorist Renato Guedes. I don't know what other comic books Guedes has drawn in the past, but I'm certainly going to watch for any he draws in the future. Man, what a talent!

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #647 picks up the full five out of five Tonys. It's my pick for DCU issue of the week!

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Batgirl 71

BATGIRL #71 [$2.50] has Batgirl trying to lead some assassins-in-training to safety. Writer Andersen Gabrych includes a welcome flashback to the young heroine's origins, sequences which increased my interest in Batgirl. Still, at the end of the day and/or issue, I don't have a strong connection to any of the heroes or villains in this series. It feels like what it is: a series that is on its way out and with good cause.

BATGIRL #71 gets two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Batman: Gotham Knights 72

BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #72 [$2.50] has something we don't see often enough: a Bruce Wayne story. The dominant theory around the Batman offices for the past couple decades has been that Wayne is only a mask for the Batman. That theory does tremendous disservice to the humanity the character used to have before the same offices decided he was insane.

A.J. Lieberman's "The Letter" reconnects Bruce to his past and puts him on the trail of a mystery woman who may have been involved with his father. It's Bruce's story all the way; Batman appears on but a single page and never in full figure. Lieberman grabs both our attention and our heart early on and doesn't let go until the done-in-one tale's satisfying ending.

Whatever changes are coming for Batman in the wake of INFINITE CRISIS, I hope they include more Bruce Wayne. He's a very good man unfairly maligned by writers who put more faith in cheap psychology than in the human spirit.

BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #72 gets four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Batman: Journey Into Knight 5

BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT #5 [$2.50] continues this "early days of Batman" serial. Batman continues to pursue the Carrier, a luckless, murderous soldier of fortune infected by a disease that kills others on contact. Others are also seeking this "weapon of mass destruction" and Batman must also contend with them. Writer Andy Helfer keeps the plot-twists coming, side by side with action and character bits. The Tan Eng Huat art and storytelling is solid throughout the issue.

BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT #4 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Birds of Prey 89

BIRDS OF PREY #89 [$2.50] is another fine issue of what may be DC's best super-hero comic. Gail Simone writes a far more chilling Calculator than any of the other DCU writers. The evident love and respect Barbara and James Gordon have for one another shines like a beacon, as do the relationships between Barbara and her BOP team. When one of those teammates crosses the line, it hurts the reader as much as it does Barbara...though, in all fairness, any defense attorney could make a good case for extenuating circumstances and diminished capacity in this instances.

Simone, on the other hand, is clearly guilty of annoying Tony by featuring the DCU's most overused character and not killing him dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead...

Sorry about that.

The writing combines with terrific art by new penciller Paulo Siqueira and inker Robin Riggs to earn BIRDS OF PREY #89 four out of five Tonys. Any comic book that features Deathstroke incurs an automatic one-Tony penalty.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Flash 229

After two disappointing issues, THE FLASH #229 [$2.50] picks up speed, mostly because Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick gets to show how smart, tough, and skilled he is. Actually, all the good guys (Wally, Bart, Linda) acquit themselves well. Not so with Vandal Savage, who makes the dumb villain mistakes of not killing the heroes when he has the chance and leaving them captive under the watchful eyes of his even dumber henchmen.

Vandal's master plan is pretty dumb, too. Having been super- evolved and made immortal by a meteor back in his caveman years, he plans to bring the asteroid that meteor came from crashing to the Earth and gain greater intellect or power or something. Which I guess would make him the most evolved and immortal man on a totally messed-up planet. If you think about it for five minutes, and take into consideration all the space travelers and super-scientists of the DCU, I bet you could think of a better way to get that asteroid without setting yourself up as the king of bupkis.

FLASH #229 gets two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Green Lantern 6

GREEN LANTERN #6 [$2.99] was disappointing. The story is my major concern when I read and review a comic book, but, here, I was immediately stuck by how wrong the Simone Bianchi art was for this story and this title. Beyond that, I thought Hal Jordan was a bit too bloodthirsty, Black Hand too crazy, and the alien geneticists were defeated too easily. I'm still enjoying writer Geoff Johns' handling of Hector Hammond, even if it was a little over the top in this issue. In the future, it might be fun to treat Hammond less as a voyeuristic stalker and more fawning fanboy. As if assisting Green Lantern was his personal video game.

GREEN LANTERN #6 gets two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge 3

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #3 [$2.99] didn't work as well for me as the previous issues. With me, a little of the Corps goes a long way. It's okay to visit them now and then, but, whenever I spend too much time with them, I start thinking along the lines of "We have Green Lantern, three or four of them on Earth even; do we really need 3000 more of them?"

I have no big complaints about RECHARGE. It makes good sense to rebuild the Corps. The writing and art are okay. But I can't help but think the ground covered in this five-issue series might have been covered better in one of those ONE YEAR LATER specials. Maybe it's just me.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #3 gets three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

JSA Classifieds 6

JSA CLASSIFIED #6 [$2.50] is the middle chapter of the three-issue "Honor Among Thieves," and I remain mightily pleased by what writer Jen Van Meter is doing here. The Injustice Society members are cast as the "heroes" of the story and, though they are, indeed, villains, I'm kind of sort of rooting for them. Most of them have, at one point or another in these issues, shown qualities we usually associate with actual heroes. Without being clunky about it, Van Meter's script includes all the back story and introduction that a reader needs to be in the game. The visuals are also quite good; points to penciller Pat Olliffe, inkers Ruy Jose and Drew Geraci, and colorist Nathan Eyring.

JSA CLASSIFIED #6 earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Justice 3

JUSTICE #3 [$3.50] is yet another outstanding issue of what I have been calling ULTIMATE SUPER FRIENDS. Jim Krueger (story and script), Alex Ross (story and art), and Doug Braithwaite (art) are weaving an epic, suspenseful, and beautifully-illustrated adventure of a kinder, gentler Justice League. The heroes are being hunted by, for lack of a better name, the Legion of Doom, but the Legion's motives may not be entirely malevolent. This is such a big story that I think a "what has gone before" page should start off every issue, but that's my only complaint.

JUSTICE #3 earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Manhunter 17

The cover of MANHUNTER #17 is very misleading, so much so that it constitutes false advertisement. That said, this second chapter of "Who's Your Daddy?" has some edge-of-your-chair stuff going for it as Kate Spencer's son and ex-husband are kidnapped by the father the prosecutor-slash-vigilante never knew. That edge-of-your-chair stuff earns this issue three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Robin 145

ROBIN #145 [$2.50] is just plain fun comics. Sixty villains are loose in Bludhaven. Robin and about a dozen allies are trying to recapture them. Writer Bill Willingham manages to introduce all of the vital players and even pokes a little fun at himself on the few occasions when the exposition gets a little obvious. Usually, when heroes are so outnumbered by the villains, the result is that the villains are defeated easily and thus rendered less fearsome on their next appearance. Here, though, Willingham has avoided using any truly heavy hitters and given the villains the disadvantage of getting each other's way. It works and works well.

Quick queries: was that Granny Goodness in one of the villain crowd scenes? How did she end up in a Earth prison?

ROBIN #145 gets points for the fun, points for being a smart comic book, points for the Veteran. (I don't know who that guy is, but I like him.) Math-challenged reviewer that I am, that adds up to four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

That's all for this session. Come back tomorrow for another week's worth of DCU reviews.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/22/2006 | 02/23/2006 | 02/24/2006 >>

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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