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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, March 13, 2006

Blonde Phantom 18

"Put down that gun, Joan! It's--it's not what you think!"

It's a BLONDE PHANTOM day at TOT Central and our gowned cover girl finds herself in a predicament which might well be common for glamorous super-heroines.

"So! I've caught him at last! And I think you're the woman! Well, it makes no difference now--you'll pay for stealing my man!"

The cover of BLONDE PHANTOM #18 [July, 1948] was drawn by Ken Bald, perhaps better known for writing and drawn the DOCTOR KILDARE and DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips. Stan Lee was the editor of the comic book and, for a brief time in the late 1940s, he and Bald set up a studio to do outside work.

The same old story--jealousy, hate, and cruelty...with the Blonde Phantom's very life at stake!

Going back to my earlier comment, I would think cover scenes like this would have been common for comic-book super-heroines in the 1940s through the 1960s. It strikes me as a natural attention-grabber. But, to be honest, I can't recall another "other woman" cover. Your assignment, should you accept, is to find other super-heroine covers with this theme.

BLONDE PHANTOM #18 was a 36-page issue:

The Blonde Phantom in "The Last Man" (13 pages, pencilled by Vince Alascia, inked by Bald);

Sub-Mariner in "The Terror of the Tattler" (8 pages, drawn by John Fagaly); and,

The Blonde Phantom in "Murder in Print" (4 pages, pencilled by Bald, inked by Mike Sekowsky).

The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] is the source for those credits. As always, it remains an indispensable treasure for the serious comics historian and the goofy comics columnist alike. I couldn't write TOT without it.

The OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE opines a near-mint condition copy of BLONDE PHANTOM #18 would cost a BP collector a cool grand. The COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS has it at $500. There were no current or recently completed auctions for this issue on eBay.

The Blonde Phantom is TOT's official pin-up queen. Look for another of her covers before the end of the month.

******

NFINITE CRISIS CATERWAULING

There were 14 DCU or DCU-related comics shipped for the week of January 25. I haven't yet received the second GOLDEN AGE FLASH ARCHIVES, but here are my thoughts on the rest.

Adventures of Superman 648

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #648 [$2.50] is a direct IC crossover with Superman doing what he can to help the Chemo-bombed citizens of Bludhaven. "Look...up in the sky" is told in the form of a news story written by Lois Lane (with "additional reporting" from Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, and Jami Bernard). That seems like "too many writers" at first glance, but the story holds together very well, and continues the theme of Superman as heroic inspiration that's been running through the Superman titles for the past two months. It's as if the Superman writers and artists took personal offense at Batman's recent comment that the last time the Man of Steel inspired anybody was when he died. That might be the rare case of good coming from Batman being a dick because the issue is terrific. The "photos" by Jimmy Olsen, Karl Kerschl, and Renato Guedes were pretty swell, too.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #648 earns five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Batman 649

BATMAN #649 [$2.50] appears to be the penultimate chapter of the "Jason Todd is back from the dead and he's a killer" storyline. It almost makes one glad that the world and/or worlds are ending. Time for the alert.

SPOILERS START HERE

SPOILERS START HERE

It wasn't Jason Todd who the Black Mask stabbed to death last issue; it was some guy with a handlebar mustache and a receiver in his red hood who, somehow, fought almost as well as the younger and better-trained Jason. The long-distance Jason makes it known that he's holding the Joker, so Batman, instead of arresting Black Mask, leaves him in a circle of explosives and goes off to prevent Jason from killing the madman who, with the assistance of a suspicious phone poll, killed Jason several years ago.

While waiting for Batman, Jason tortures the Joker and makes him stop laughing by telling the mad clown he's not as crazy as he wants folks to think he is or as he wants to be. You say po-tate-o and I say po-tot-o. Batman arrives at the place where he first met Jason. He and Jason prepare to fight when, in the distance, Chemo drops on Bludhaven. Jason thinks it's funny Nightwing may be dead. He's a dick and Batman's a wimp.

SPOILERS END HERE

SPOILERS END HERE

I gave you the blow-by-blow of this issue because I hope you are smarter than I am. I hope you aren't still reading this dismal title. BATMAN #649 gets no Tonys.

No Tonys

Batman: Journey Into Knight 6

BATMAN: JOURNEY INTO KNIGHT #6 [$2.50] confirms my hunch the Carrier story had run its course. Writer Andy Helfer brings that early case of the Batman's to a close in a very satisfying manner. Still unresolved: the back-stage scheming at Wayne Industries and Bruce's romance with the enchanting Skye, with the latter taking an ominous turn. I don't know what Helfer and artist Tan Eng Huat are planning for the second half of this series, but I'm staying around to find out. This issue earns a solid four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Catwoman 51

If you read my review of CATWOMAN #50, which revealed Zatanna and the JLA mentally assaulted Selina Kyle to turn her from villain to hero, you know I hated that idea a lot. That review ran in the February 24 edition of this column.

I still hate the idea, but CATWOMAN #51 [$2.50] did a decent job of following up on it. Selina is angry, unsure of who she is, and more prone to violence. Should this issue's cover scene really come to pass, a good defense attorney would have much to work with. In the meantime, I'll give props to writer Will Pfeifer and artist Pete Woods for their good work here. But I'm still not giving this issue more than three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge 4

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #4 [$2.99] read like an old-time war movie with the vets and the rookies trying to survive against overwhelming enemy forces. This time around, I got into that. The personalities of the rookies are more developed. The threat to the Corps and the universe is more solid. I'm bumping this issue up to four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

JLA: Classified 16

JLA: CLASSIFIED #16 [$2.99] starts with the Big Six - Aquaman couldn't come out to play - taking down a dictator at the behest of the United Nations. He cuts a deal for asylum in other country and uses his freedom to hatch a plot against the League with the aid of a dozen other governments. That makes me wonder what the UN voting was like prior to the JLA removing him from power.

Writer Gail Simone does a good job with the heroes, especially with the Flash's outrage over the murderous dictator being allowed freedom-in-exile. The dictator's plans are scary, though I think the last-page cliffhanger needed more punch. The art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Klaus Janson, and David Baron is spectacular. This issue earns a respectable three Tonys, but that could go up as the story develops.

Tony Tony Tony

JLA: Crisis of Conscience

JLA: CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE [$12.99] is a "countdown to Infinite Crisis" collection, reprinting JLA #115-118. Its starting point is a story arc from Gerry Conway's lackluster run on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA in the 1970s/1980s/whenever. The Secret Society of Super-Villains - if I were running a secret society of anything, I don't think I'd give it a name - traded bodies with several League heroes and thus learned their civilian identities and what not. Zatanna or Green Lantern or somebody removed the knowledge from their minds at the end of the arc. That was the extent of the mind-tampering. Unlike using such magical abilities to alter personality, I don't consider that an excessive precaution.

This is an unpleasant story and was clearly meant to be just that. Our heroes act badly, even towards each other. It's painful - though reassuring - to see Zatanna suffer a difficult time over her past and present actions. She is one of the few characters who appears to have learned something from this crisis. With most of her fellow JLAers, well, let's just say I would probably do my best to avoid them at parties and crime scenes.

JLA: CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE has good writing and excellent art. It doesn't have a satisfying ending, leading into yet another trade paperback. Comics readers are pretty much used to that kind of mistreatment; I'm not sure it flies well with the bookstore crowd. I'm giving this book three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Plastic Man 20

PLASTIC MAN #20 [$2.99] is bitingly, sarcastically hilarious. I don't know and care less how/if this Kyle Baker wonderment fits into the DCU. I just know and care that I loved it and am looking forward to the back issues I haven't read yet. This earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Robin 146

ROBIN #146 [$2.50] reads like another Infinite Crisis space-filler. Superboy is dying from what looks like some sort of zombie acne, having darned near burnt himself out fighting the murderously psychotic Superboy of Earth-Prime. Robin and the Teen Titans break into one of Luthor's secret lairs looking for a cure. It's an okay issue with good interaction between the Titans, and an intriguing conversation between Batman and the General, but it didn't excite me. Let's give it a respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Teen Titans Go 27

TEEN TITANS GO! #27 [$2.25] had a nice Valentine's Day theme running through it, but never delivered a satisfying resolution to its various romantic misadventures. The stripped-to-the-bone style of storytelling doesn't work as well in TTG has it has in other DC titles based on cartoon shows. In this series, it feels and reads like shorthand versions of stories and not actual stories. Maybe it's time to challenge the perceived readership with more dialogue and more depth. This issue gets two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Vigilante 5

VIGILANTE #5 [$2.99] opens with intense action as Vigilante's plan to pass judgment on pedophile and mass murderer Edward Culkins goes awry. The tension mounts as Vigilante comes to psychiatrist Justin Powell's office and agrees to be hypnotized to release the memories of his childhood trauma. It closes with a shock ending I saw coming a few issues back, but which still retains its impact. This limited series ends next issue; I expect writer Bruce Jones and artist Ben Oliver will deliver a finale on a par with the fine work they've done so far. This earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Wonder Woman 225

WONDER WOMAN #225 [$2.50] spares us 22 pages of Diana duking it out with OMACs and, for that, I'm grateful. The Amazon gets a summons from her gods who try to convince Diana she hasn't failed her mission while simultaneously abandoning her. She closes up the now-unnecessary Themyscira embassy and has some good moments with her staff and supporters. It's a surprisingly quiet issue that would have made for a decent finish to this series. However, for some reason, there's one more issue to come and, judging from the "Next in..." blurb, it's mostly flashback at that. I've been tough on WONDER WOMAN - with justification, I think - but this issue earns three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghoul

YEAR ONE: BATMAN/RA'S AL GHUL [$9.99] reprints the two-issue series from last year. Writer Devin Grayson reveals the history of Ra's in combination with a plan triggered by the villain's death. With artists Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti, Grayson delivers many chilling and exciting moments. What keeps me from being much more enthusiastic about this book is the plan itself.

Ra's has unleashed a plague of anti-death on Gotham City. No one is dying and those who have died are coming back. His two-fold aim is to get Batman to reconstruct the destroyed Lazarus pit which has restored him to life many times before, and, of somewhat lesser import, use this "object lesson" to convert Bats to agreeing with him about saving the planet by killing off around 80% of its human population. The limited explanations for how Ra's manages this and how reconstructing the Lazarus Pit will undo it are way too mumbo-jumbo for my Batman tastes.

There's good writing and art in this book, and a really good ending. That earns YEAR ONE: BATMAN/RA'S AL GHUL an only slightly generous four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Watch for more DCU/IC reviews soon.

******

COMICS IN THE COMICS

Dan Piraro's BIZARRO from October 9 had an unusual take on Bil Keane's FAMILY CIRCUS:

Bizarro

Is any wonder I love "comics in the comics"? Watch for more of them in upcoming TOTs.

******

CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS

In last Friday's TOT, I misidentified the artist who drew the alternate cover to SGT. ROCK: THE PROPHECY #1. Several of you sent me corrections, but ED was first:

I've been reading and enjoying your DCU reviews. In today's TOT, you questioned the need for an Art Adams cover on a Sgt. Rock comic. It's time to face facts and dig out the reading glasses. The signature you're misreading is that of Adam Kubert, who is not a totally inappropriate choice for a Sgt. Rock cover. What you have also missed is that there is yet a third cover for the book by Andy Kubert, who also is not yadda yadda yadda...

It's kind of a nice family moment, though I'm thinking it was done more to remind people the Kubert brothers are now exclusive with DC. I couldn't swear to it, but I'm thinking this is their first published DC work.

Thanks for the correction and additional information, Ed. I do know the Kubert brothers have been published by DC previously. If memory serves, as it doesn't always, both Adam and Andy worked on DOC SAVAGE when DC held the license.

In my February 23 column, while reviewing INFINITE CRISIS #3, I asked who was bitten in half by King Shark. Thanks to Newsarama [www.newsarama.com] and its Crisis Casualty Count, I now know that it was Neptune Perkins of the Young All-Stars.

In the same TOT, I asked if "King Shark" was the same creature as the evolved shark who has been fighting Green Lantern since the Silver Age. He's not.

******

TONY POLLS

Every Monday, we post new questions on the TONY POLLS page for your and our amusement. There will be new questions there today. But, for the second week in a row, I have no idea what they are at the time I'm writing this column.

I recommend you go to...

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

...to see what I've come up with. Man, I hope I come up with some funny questions before you get there.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 03/10/2006 | 03/13/2006 | 03/14/2006 >>

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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