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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 Friday, February 24, 2006

Konga

Today is a GIANT MONSTERS day at TOT Central as we celebrate a collecting goal I recently achieved. Thanks to an eBay seller in Great Britain, I now own KONGA by Dean Owen. This completes my set of the three giant monster movie novelizations published by Monarch Books in 1960 and 1961.

The INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE [www.imdb.com] lists GORGO, KONGA, and REPTILICUS as being released in 1961, though the novelizations of the first two are dated 1960. Monarch was part of the Charlton printing and publishing empire located in Derby, Connecticut. All three of these movies were adapted into comic books and published by Charlton Comics. GORGO and KONGA ran for about two dozen issues apiece while REPTILICUS (renamed REPTISAURUS with its third issue) ran less than ten issues.

Gorgo

GORGO was the first of the novelizations I acquired. It was written by Bruce Cassidy under his Carson Bingham pseudonym. The author also wrote under the name Max Day.

Monarch published many movie novelizations in its day, among them THE BRIDES OF DRACULA. The formula was to get them out fast and add sex where needed to spice up the stories. The writers of these books were the same guys who filled the mystery and science-fiction magazines of the day.

Retilicus

REPTILICUS was also credited to Dean Owen, the eventual legal name of a writer born Dudley Dean McCaughy. Besides this book and KONGA, Owen also wrote the novelization of THE BRIDES OF DRACULA mentioned above. The GORGO novelization has been misplaced in the chaos which is my life, but, once it turns up, I plan to take a day off to read all three of these books.

In the meantime, I'm doing some online research on Cassidy and Owen. For example, I've come across Usenet posts stating that they are actually the same author.

There was also a post stating the REPTILICUS novelization was apparently contracted without the approval of the movie's producer. This is said to have delayed the movie's release in the U.S., and would explain why the comics series changed its name to REPTISAURUS after two issues.

I'll let you know what's what as I learn more. Look for more GIANT MONSTERS fun in future TOTs.

******

INFINITE CRISIS CANOODLING

It was a moment of epiphany; I came to realize that everybody and his brother was using the phrase "infinite crisis counseling" in writing about events currently sweeping across the DC Universe. What I thought was a clever notion - comparing my reviews of these comics to a session with a psychiatrist - turns out to be the most obvious gag of the year. It had to go.

These weeks of reviewing every DCU comic book have brought us closer, I think. I...have feelings for you. So why don't you just sit next to me as we look at the items which arrived in comic shops during the last week of 2005?

Come a little closer. I know we have other commitments, but how can we fight this...bond between us? Let the rest of the world fade away for a time. Don't be concerned. Whatever happens in the DCU stays in the DCU. That's better.

There were 11 DCU or DCU-related titles released the week of December 28. I continue to lack the courage to read Frank Miller's ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, so I put that one aside to check it out at some future date. The LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL trade likely has more to do with the DCU, but, given that I loathe Brian Azzarello's work on anything even remotely involving super-heroes, I put that aside forever. Two other books didn't have anything to do with the DCU proper, but I include them anyway.

Batman 648

BATMAN #648 [$2.50] offers up the first chapter of "All They Do Is Watch Us Kill." I can't comment on this issue without giving away some key events of the plot, so...

SPOILER WARNING!

SPOILER WARNING!

Sometime between this issue and last issue, Black Mask and the Red Hood (allegedly the no-longer-dead Jason Todd) cut some sort of deal to make their peace. Black Mask slaughters his lieutenants to make room for the Red Hood. Jason goes back on the deal and the two of them fight. Batman arrives too late to stop Black Mask from apparently delivering a fatal stab wound to Jason. Oh, no, Batman let Jason die again.

DC dumps on Batman so often that it's possible the whole point of this is to dump on him yet again. Or maybe some foe who knows who Batman is and knows his history set this all up to drive Bats over the edge, though that would take a criminal and psychological mastermind more competent and powerful than the ones we've seen in the Bat-titles of late. Hey, maybe Batman's personality has split and he himself is the mastermind behind this.

Not at all in doubt is how little I care about Batman as he is currently written or this storyline. Go ahead, DC, do your worst. Just make it end.

SPOILERS END

BATMAN #648 does have the neat revelation that Bruce Wayne and Alfred collect first editions. That solitary speck of humanity is worth one Tony.

Tony

Catwoman 50

CATWOMAN #50 [$2.50] is another one of those books that demand a spoiler warning before I review it.

SPOILER WARNING!

SPOILER WARNING!

Zatanna chats with Catwoman. The conversation goes something like this:

"Well, ah, me and some other Justice League members, we sort of messed with your mind and changed you from a villain to a hero. Like, I am so sorry."

Zatanna lets Selina remember what she did to her. That's when Selina tapes Zee's mouth shut and throws her out a window. I think readers are supposed to think Selina knew Zatanna would land in a relatively soft trash, but that stretches my willing suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.

My reaction: "What the hell?!"

Was this something shown in a previous issue? Or did DC just pull it out of its company ass for shock value? If it did happen, why was Catwoman chosen? We know Batman wouldn't have been in on it because Zatanna and the League messed with his mind, too. Did the JLA do this to any other villains? And, by the way, I really hate those boots Zatanna's wearing.

SPOILERS END

I literally don't know what to make of this issue. I do know I hated it a lot. It gets no Tonys whatsoever.

No Tonys

JLA Classifieds 15

JLA: CLASSIFIED #15 [$2.99] wraps up Warren Ellis' six-issue "New Maps of Hell" tale wherein the super-heroes are "tested" by an alien machine that despises organic life. There are great scenes for Superman and J'onn J'onzz, decent scenes for Green Lantern and the Flash, and nothing for Batman and Wonder Woman. As this story was obviously "written for the trade," I recommend waiting for the trade to read it. I plan to read the chapters I missed and re-read the ones I've read in that format, and that's when I'll decide how many Tonys it deserves.

Rann-Thanagar War

I enjoyed THE RANN-THANAGAR WAR [$12.99] more in this edition than I did in the six issues of the original series. It's easier to keep track of all the factions and follow the various battles. Yet, despite fine work by writer Dave Gibbons, penciller Ivan Reis, and inker Marc Campos, this collection suffers from the same major flaw of the original series. It doesn't end.

DC's handling of these various series leading up to INFINITE CRISIS stinks. To my mind, it is just plain dishonest to market a mini-series and then - surprise - end it with a "to be continued." It disrespects the customer and it's not like the comics industry has customers to spare these days.

THE RANN-THANAGAR WAR loses some points for this affront. I'm kicking it down to three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Solo 8

SOLO #8 [$4.99] has five new stories by Eisner Award recipient Teddy Kristiansen, but only one is connected to the DCU. Written by Neil Gaiman, "On the Stairs" is a six-page Deadman and, sad to say, a minor effort from one of comicdom's best.

"The Good Book" - written by Steven Seagle - has a Christian missionary in peril in the jungles of New Guinea. The tale has a genuine sense of dread to it, but lacks logic in so many areas that it didn't succeed with me.

Kristiansen did much better with the next two stories, both of which he also wrote. "Love Story" and "Ruins" are haunting tales of isolation, but very different beyond that general observation. One is set in a great city during a terrible heat wave, the other in a lonely English countryside. These are excellent stories, the strongest in the issue.

The fifth and final story - "Ruins" - follows desperate men as they try to survive an icy wasteland. Avoiding the obvious pun, it simply didn't do much for me. It was a gloomy tale that offered no surprises in its telling.

SOLO #8 earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Superman/Batman 23

Although I've enjoyed past issues of the book, SUPERMAN/BATMAN #23 [$2.99] left me utterly baffled. It's the fourth chapter of an extended tale that seems to involve characters not unlike Marvel's ULTIMATES. It also has a Bizarro-Batman, a Bizarro-Superman, what looks like the Batman of Batman Beyond, female versions of Superman and Batman, and late-issue appearances of three major DC villains. Sans any "what has gone before" information, I don't have anything to get me into this issue. I'll likely give the completed story a try when it's collected, but the best score I can give this issue is a single Tony.

Tony

Teen Titans Go! 26

TEEN TITANS GO! #26 [$2.25] finds Beast Boy taking a leave of absence from the team to make a movie. "Call of the Wild" has some fun moments, but it's predictable from start to finish. Pleasant, but predictable. Even comic books aimed at a young audience should have a bit more - sorry, Gar - meat to them.

TEEN TITANS GO! #26 gets two out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony

Vigilante 4

VIGILANTE #4 [$2.99] takes us into the second half of the six-issue series. Psychiatrist Simon Powell plays less of a role this time as writer Bruce Jones focuses on other characters. Like the pedophile and mass murderer released from prison to serve as bait for this new incarnation of the Vigilante.

Edward Culkins is a seriously scary man. Without remorse for his victims. Smarter than the cops who think they are using him. Smarter than the Vigilante. For the first time in this series, an issue ends with the title character in serious jeopardy. Kudos to Jones and artist Ben Oliver for keeping the suspense high and the story tight.

VIGILANTE #4 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Wonder Woman 224

The main thing to be learned from WONDER WOMAN #224 [$2.50] is that Maxwell Lord was much smarter than the Princess Diana and her super-hero buddies. The second part of "Marathon" has the Amazons of Themyscira in a lose-lose situation. Lord and Brother Eye have already beaten them.

Story-wise, the important details of this issue can be found in INFINITE CRISIS #3. The rest is padding, maybe well-intentioned padding to truly drive home the hopelessness of the situation, but padding nonetheless.

WONDER WOMAN #224 picks up two Tonys.

Tony Tony

That's it for this batch of DCU reviews...and, no, you can't spend the night. I'll call you soon. I promise.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/23/2006 | 02/24/2006 | 02/27/2006 >>

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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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