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

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for Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Ghosts 1

It's ALPHA/OMEGA DAY and our featured series is DC's GHOSTS. Initially edited by Murray Boltinoff and subtitled "True Tales of the Supernatural," GHOSTS #1 [September/October, 1971] debuted as a 52-page mix of new material and reprints. The first issue line-up was fairly impressive:

"We Challenge You To Read On" (a contents page drawn by Tony DeZuniga);

"Death's Bridegroom" (9 pages, written by Leo Dorfman, drawn by Jim Aparo);

"Ghost in the Iron Coffin" (7 pages, written by Dorfman, drawn by Sam Glanzman);

"That Tattooed Terror" (7.67 pages, reprinted from Sensation Mystery #112, pencilled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Sy Barry);

"The Last Dream" (7.67 pages, reprinted from Sensation Comics #107, pencilled by Infantino, inked by Barry);

"The Cadaver Comes Home" (1 page text feature, written by Dorfman); and,

"The Spectral Coachman" (5 pages, written by Dorfman, drawn by DeZuniga).

Nick Cardy was the cover artist. He would draw dozens of DC covers, including many striking horror/supernatural covers, during the 1960s and 1970s.

GHOSTS never quite worked for me. Those "true" stories of the supernatural were clearly not true. Most of them were written by Dorfman and, while he was a competent writer, there was a sameness to them. Editor Boltinoff took more chances with THE UNEXPECTED, his other "mystery" book. That made for a better book.

Thanks to a typo in the indicia of the issue, the GRAND COMICS DATABASE [] catalogs it under GHOST. I do understand the reasoning, but I still mumbled "foolish consistency" under my breath when I researched the issue.

I might not have been a fan of GHOSTS, but it was successful to run over a hundred issues. GHOSTS #112 [May, 1982] brought an end to the title. Edited by Dave Manak, who also drew its cover, the issue featured:

"Pirate's Skull" (8 pages, written by Jack Harris, pencilled by Mark Texeira, inked by DeZuniga);

"Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" (8 pages, written by Robert Kanigher, pencilled by Howard Bender, inked by Ken Landgraf); and,

"A Little Knowledge" (8 pages, written by Stan Timmons, drawn by Arthur Geroche).

I'd stopped reading GHOSTS years earlier. Oh, I might read an occasional story written or drawn by a friend, but that was about it. Somewhere along the line, the "true tales" bit was deep-sixed. It didn't make a difference to me.

Still, there is a lesson to be learned from GHOSTS. I might not have cared for the title, but enough readers liked it to give it a healthy 11-year run. It's something I tried to impress upon my employees when I owned a comics shop:

No matter how awful you might think some comic book is, it's somebody's favorite. Sell it to them with a smile.

Look for more ALPHA/OMEGA covers in future editions of what I certainly hope is many somebody's favorite column.



The week of January 11 was somewhat quiet. There were 10 DCU releases plus THE BATMAN STRIKES! #17 (based on the current Batman animated series). I didn't get a review copy of BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOL. 3. I reviewed DC UNIVERSE: THE STORIES OF ALAN MOORE in the exclusive column I write for the Comics Buyer's Guide forums [], so you'll have to go there for that one. I reviewed SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY VOLUME 1 in my "Tony's Tips" for CBG #1618. That left seven DCU titles plus the cartoon tie-in I'm reviewing just because I can.

Batman Strike 17

THE BATMAN STRIKES! #17 [$2.25] is a rematch between the young Batman of the current cartoon series and the Riddler. The stakes in "A Question of Identity" by Bill Matheny, Christopher Jones, and Terry Beatty are fairly high. If the Batman can't solve all of his foe's riddles in time, his secret identity will be revealed to the good citizens of Gotham. This story has more meat to it than most of the "cartoon" comics. Despite my lack of fondness for the show on which it's based, I quite enjoyed this issue. It earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Batman: Hush

BATMAN: HUSH RETURNS [$12.99] reprints several issues of the BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS title by writer A.J. Lieberman and artists Al Barrionuevo and Javier Pina. I'll cut right to the chase here; it was a chore to read this collection.

Hush was the main villain of a very successful run of BATMAN. He's not much of a character, but, rather than accept the success as the lucky break it was, DC seems to determined to bring us more Hush stories. Are they trying to convince us or themselves that he is a one-note character whose tune is over?

Besides Hush, we get the Joker, the Riddler, Prometheus (the anti-Batman reduced to just another stooge henchman), Green Arrow, a clumsy rewrite of the Joker's origin from THE KILLING JOKE, Hush beating up on the Joker with ease, and Talia. The only characters I cared about in this volume were a Star City policeman murdered by Prometheus and Green Arrow, who conducted himself better here than in his other recent DCU appearances.

When you start with an overused nothing villain, your stories aren't going to excite or intrigue readers. BATMAN: HUSH RETURNS reflects that. It gets one Tony.


Batman: Legends 199

BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #199 [$2.50] concludes Will Pfeifer and Chris Weston's "Blaze of Glory" story in which a dying criminal seeks revenge on Batman for, allegedly, causing the injury from which said criminals is dying. Sadly, the story arc runs out of steam in its final pages, relying on a dream sequence to supply some misdirected bang to the resolution. For me, that triggered my disbelief that the criminal really had the skills or resources to pull off his grandiose scheme. Left unanswered is the question of whether or not Batman did cause the criminal's death. By the time Batman pays his "final respects" to the criminal, my disappointment was keen. Ending a story well is paramount to a story's success. Despite the obvious talents of Pfeifer and Weston, the best score I can give this issue is two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Captain Atom: Arageddon 4

CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON #4 [$2.99] is an issue-long slugfest between the title hero and the Wildcats. It eats up pages without moving the plot forward any further than setting up Atom's meeting with the Authority in the next issue. An attempt at adding levity to the gratuitous super-hero fight via absurd repartee made my head hurt. My interest in this nine-issue series had been on the rise, but this issue knocks it down to one Tony.


Green Arrow 58

GREEN ARROW #58 [$2.50] feels like padding for the trade. We get more of Doctor Light taunting Green Arrow to lead him into the battle with Merlyn which won't really start until the next issue. We don't learn the fates of all the heroes caught in the explosion that ended the previous issue. This story is running very low on substance.

On the plus side, Black Lightning wasn't handled badly in this issue, though I could still do without the open-to-the-waist shirt he wears. It was a DC editorial decision back in the 1970s to have the shirt as open as it was - honest to God, the guy who made that decision said he wanted to show more of the character's black skin - and it seems kind of silly to go that decision one "better" some three decades later.

The padding notwithstanding, GREEN ARROW #58 had pretty decent scripting by Jim Calafiore. I also liked what penciller Paul Lee, inker Dan Davis, and colorist Guy Major did with the visual end of things. That earns the issue three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Hawkman 48

HAWKMAN #48 [$2.50] brings us the immediate aftermath of the Rann-Thanagar War, but, even though hostilities between those two planets appear to be winding down, there are other forces ready to kick them while they are down. It's a gloomy tale writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are telling here, but it conveys a genuine sense of loss and tragedy and even resignation to the further loss and tragedy to come. I found it moving and that's why I'm awarding it four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

JLA 124

JLA #124 [$2.50] has a "World Without a Justice League" blurb above the logo. Having reviewed the most recent several issues of the book and found them wanting - How's that for an understatement, kids? - I take that as a sign that our long DCU nightmare is almost over. JLA will soon end, not with a bang or even a semi-dignified whimper, but with an annoying whine from the once great super-hero team abused by bad writing and what seemed an editorial commitment to making its members as unlikeable as possible. I doubt it will surprise the TOT faithful to read that I am giving no Tonys to this issue. Better luck next series.

No Tonys

JLA Classified: Cold Steel 2

JLA CLASSIFIED: COLD STEEL #2 [$5.99] wraps up Chris Moeller's interesting take on the team. While the wonder of seeing the JLA members fighting in giant robots that look like them is lost on me, I give Moeller considerable credit for coming up with truly alien aliens and a riveting storyline. Twelve bucks for two issues is a bit pricey, but not so much that I won't give the story a perfectly respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Watch for more DCU/IC reviews later this week.



Comic Chair

The first furniture we moved into the new family room at Casa Isabella was a 45-year-old rocking chair which, if truth be told, doesn't have as much rock as it once did. Its original habitat was the living room in my parents' house. When they got new furniture, they asked if I wanted it. To my Sainted Wife Barbara's dismay, I said "yes" immediately. My defense...sentimental attachment.

This was my "comics chair," though I don't think it was ever called that until after I had moved to New York City and a job with Marvel Comics. Between my abortive stab at college and my comics career, I worked for The Cleveland Plain Dealer on the night shift. During the week, noon would generally find me sitting on the chair, eating a sandwich, watching old, badly-edited movies on TV.

Once a week, on my way to work, I would take a detour to pick up the new comics from Vicki's Delicatessen. The always friendly Vicki would carefully put aside for me one copy of every new issue. EVERY issue. I wanted to write comic books and, being a young man of no other vices, could afford to buy each and every one of them. My defense...research.

Chair with Chimp

I never read comics at work. I'd grab a few hours sleep when I got home, wake, make myself a sandwich, open a Pepsi, and settle into "the chair" to read until it was time to head for work again. I read everything from ACTION COMICS to YOUNG ROMANCE.

Chair with Garfield

The comics chair went from my parents' house to our old family room, back porch, and garage. My neighbor's cat used it more than I did. But, seeing our new and then-empty family room, I brought "the chair" back inside for a last hurrah. It felt good to sit in it, eat a sandwich, drink some Pepsi, and read comics.

The comics chair will remain with me, but in a different room. I'm happy about that. It still has a lot of sandwiches and comic books left in it.



This week's TONY POLLS questions are on DC's SHOWCASE PRESENTS collections, Marvel's CIVIL WAR event, and the New York Comic-Con. If you haven't voted on them yet, go to:

With the 78th Annual Academy Awards winners entered into the record books, tomorrow's TOT will feature the results of our three weeks of questions on the awards. How did the nominees favored by TONY POLLS voters fare in their quests for the shining Oscars? How close were you when it came to predicting the winners? We'll find out tomorrow.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. If it weren't for you, I'd be talking to myself.

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.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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Medina, OH 44256

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