It's a RIVERDALE day at TOT Central. Normally, that means I open the column with a classic cover featuring Archie Andrews and his friends. However, today, I'm kicking things off with ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST #100 [March, 2006], a more recent issue which could've been featured on one of our CENTENNIAL COMICS days. To celebrate this landmark occasion, editors Nelson Ribeiro and Victor Gorelick took an Archie cartoon from the 1970s and adapted it into a comic-book story.
"Kid's Day In Riverdale" (18 pages) has Archie, his pals, and his gals taking over key positions in the city. Archie is mayor, Jughead is chief of police, Betty is Archie's secretary, Veronica is treasurer, and Hot Dog, Jughead's pet, is the dog catcher for a day. Though the animation art isn't in the same league as the art of Dan DeCarlo, Stan Goldberg, and others, the story itself is very funny. I wouldn't mind seeing more of these.
As usual, the digest is packed with amusing reprints featuring Archie, the Riverdale High kids, Li'l Jinx, That Wilkin Boy, Josie, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. For $3.59, Archie double digests deliver 196 full-color pages of fun and features. That's terrific bang for your comics bucks.
Special mention must be made of the all-new story at the end of this issue. "Unsung Heroes" by Mike Pellowski, Pat Kennedy, and Al Milgrom opens with Archie and friends discussing the super-hero movie they've just seen. The movie is called "The Phenom 4," but it's clearly a take-off of the Fantastic Four. The kids fantasize about having super-powers. When Archie prevents a poor kid from sneaking into the theater, and then gives the youngster money for a ticket and popcorn, they realize they already have super-powers. Or as Jughead and Veronica put it:
"Some heroes make the world a better place without using any powers other than kindness and understanding."
"And they do it by helping people one person at a time."
Call me old school if you must, but I love to see that kind of positive message in a comic book.
You might have do some hunting to find a copy of ARCHIE'S PALS 'N' GALS DOUBLE DIGEST #100, but it would be effort well spent. I don't usually "rate" the comics featured in these opening segments, but this one earns the full five Tonys.
INFINITE CRISIS CALLIOPE
Full disclosure. I have no idea what the above header means. It bubbled up from my crisis-crushed consciousness and I went with it. Someone is punching reality and reality is just sitting there and taking it, not unlike the Democrats.
There were 15 DCU or DCU-related titles released the week of February 8. I declined to read or review WONDER WOMAN: LAND OF THE DEAD because I haven't much enjoyed the Wonder Woman title during my months-long marathon of DCU reviews. The other reviews follow. You should probably expect some SPOILERS as we make our way through them.
THE BATMAN STRIKES #18 [$2.25] isn't part of the DCU proper; it's the comics version of the current animated series. This time out, it offers little more than a comic-book rerun of the episodes that introduced Batgirl. It might be a sequel to those episodes - Poison Ivy escapes from Arkham Asylum and once again tries to turn Gotham into her personal plant kingdom - but it feels like a replay of the originals, much like movie sequels that do little more than copy their antecedents beat for beat. This has some good moments with Batgirl, but not enough to earn more than two Tonys.
As much as I loathe the overused Joker, I have to admit he was a good fit for BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #200 [$4.99] by co-writers Eddie Campbell and Darren White, and artist Bart Sears. The 44-page "Gotham Emergency" is narrated by Natalie Koslowski, an intern at the hospital. It's her first night, the Joker is blowing up buildings, and, if the injured villain dies, no one will be able to find out where he put his next bomb.
Batman, Natalie, and the cops are shown as sane and competent. The Joker is there to create the peril and nothing else. We don't need to know anything more than he's crazy *and* murderous, sparing us cheesy psychology profiles like the one we got from Jason Todd in a recent issue of BATMAN. The story moves briskly and delivers a satisfying ending. The comic is a little pricey, but, surprising even myself, I'm giving it four out of five Tonys.
CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON #5 [$2.99] gets us just over halfway through this nine-issue series and the story is feeling more padded by the issue. Captain Atom has been blasted from the DCU into the Wildstorm Universe where his presence, live or dead, will destroy the latter. The Captain is trying to work out how to prevent this. The Wildcats are also trying to prevent this, apparently by picking fights with Atom at every opportunity. And the Authority is trying to prevent this by being their usual arrogant, duplicitous selves. This takes five issues? Wouldn't it be hilarious if this is really a six-issue series and next issue ends with the Wildstorm universe going all boom?
CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON #5 gets two Tonys.
GREEN ARROW #59 [$2.50] is symptomatic of what has bothered me about the DCU in general. The villains have gotten so murderous, so powerful, that the believable ending is for them to beat or even kill the heroes. So Doctor Light and Merlyn get to blow up large parts of Star City, killing hundreds and maybe thousands of average folks. Green Arrow and his super-hero "family" get banged around real good, though we don't know for sure if any of them have died. Arrow has arrows in his chest, his son has a concussion and maybe worse, Speedy is under an exploded building, and Black Lighting has a punctured lung. Though the heroes do act bravely, their heroism and self-sacrifice is undone by all this misery being nothing more than a set-up for ONE YEAR LATER. We read too many issues of this title to be left this unsatisfied.
Since you always ask, yes, Black Lightning has a good moment in this ish. It hardly makes up for writer Judd Winick screwing up my creation previously, but it'd be churlish of me not to recognize the moment. Just don't ask me to accept a loser like Merlyn taking down Green Arrow...and I don't even like Ollie these days.
GREEN ARROW #59 gets two Tonys.
HAWKMAN #49 [$2.50], the third and final part of "Coalition in Crisis," has a nice melancholy "inevitable tragedies of war" vibe to it. The heroes know the battle they are fighting is little more than a holding action to the larger war to come and yet they don't hesitate to advance into the fray. The villains don't seem capable of grasping the enormity of the situation. It's not a happy issue, though it does not lack gentle moments of love and laughter, but it's a well-written one. Kudos to Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti for the script, and to Chris Batista and Cam Smith for the visuals. Like many DCU comic books, this issue doesn't have a true ending. It leads into INFINITE CRISIS and ONE YEAR LATER (when this series will be re-titled HAWKGIRL). Unlike many of the DCU comic books, the lack of a true ending works for HAWKMAN #49. Which is why I'm giving it four out of five Tonys.
Just to make sure JLA #125 [$2.50] was, indeed, the last issue of this wretched book, I drove a stake through its staples, cut off the logo, and spread garlic on every page. However, I was mildly amused by the Super Friends' Hall of Justice floating around on the last page, though not enough to give the issue any Tonys.
JONAH HEX #4 [$2.99] is another terrific issue of a title in the running for my favorite DCU comic. "The Time I Almost Died" is another gem of a story from writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with equally top-notch art by Luke Ross. All I'm going to tell you about this issue is that it earns the full five Tonys.
JSA #82 [$2.50] marks the return of Paul Levitz to comic-book writing after much too long an absence, teamed with artists George Pérez and Bob Wiacek. We get Power Girl and Ma Hunkle (the Golden Age Red Tornado) realizing the Earth-2 Lois Lane's journal doesn't match up to Ma's memories. We see the Golden Age Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash in action once more. We get the Gentleman Ghost, one of my favorite villains of Earth-1 or Earth-2, though I have long contended it was the same villain who fought the Hawkmen of both worlds. It's a fine comic that ends with Power Girl facing a terrible decision. It earns four Tonys.
In NIGHTWING #117 [$2.50], writer Devin Grayson wraps up her run on the title in grand fashion. "Fix You" starts off with Dick Grayson having a nightmare - yawn - and Batman being a jerk about it, then moves to Nightwing magnificently taking care of business in Bludhaven. I was even okay with the appearance of the overused Deathstroke in this issue, establishing as it did that when Slade gets taken down - soon, I hope - it should be Grayson who takes him down. This issue presents a perhaps too quick fix to the chemical and radiation hazards left from Chemo's being dropped on Bludhaven, but I can overlook that in the midst of this issue's many wonderful moments. The last page was a perfect ending to the Devin Grayson NIGHTWING, though it will undoubtedly be undone between this issue and the one-year-later next issue. Savor the moment while you can. I know I will. NIGHTWING #117 earns four Tonys.
ROBIN #147 [$2.50] wraps up the two-issue story in which Tim Drake and a handful of Teen Titans seek a cure for the damage done to Superboy during his battle with the murderous Superboy of Earth-Prime. Writer Bill Willingham provides good character moments and snappy dialogue for the young heroes, but this issue was just sort of there. It didn't move me. Next issue will takes place one year later and find Robin wanted for the murder of a member of the "Bat-family." DC Comics should have let us vote on which member would die, turnabout being fair play and all that.
ROBIN #147 gets two Tonys.
SUPERGIRL #4 [$2.99] is basically one long fight scene and it follows three issues in which Supergirl fought the Justice Society, the Outsiders, and Teen Titans. This issue, her evil self fights Lex Luthor and the Justice League. Next issue, her evil self and her good self will duke it out. I'm well and truly bored, though I did get a kick out of this alternate cover:
SUPERGIRL #4 gets one Tony.
SUPERMAN #226 [$2.50] is an interesting issue. Mostly written by Joe Kelly with a "Lois Lane photo album" written by Jeph Loeb, "This Is Your Life" is a retelling/revamp of the Earth-2 Superman's origin and career with art by Howard Chaykin, Tim Sale, Ed Benes, Renato Guedes, and Jerry Ordway. I'm not sure what to make of it, beyond that I did enjoy it. This story continues in ACTION COMICS #836, so I'm going to hold off rating this issue until I see if it all comes together in a satisfying manner.
SUPERMAN "ends" with this issue, taking over the numbering of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. That's gonna drive the indexers nuts, but I'm happy to see the longer numbering continue.
TEEN TITANS #32 [$2.50] is an extended version of the Superboy vs. Superboy slugfest from INFINITE CRISIS #4. Writer Geoff Johns spends some time highlighting the confusing continuities of Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol - I'm very interested in how that all works out post-IC - and gives us a scene in which the murderous Superboy of Earth-Prime punches his way out of the Phantom Zone. It makes as much sense as anything else in IC.
TEEN TITANS seems to be lagging behind the rest of the DCU a bit, though not as much behind as SUPERGIRL. Next issue will have Superboy - the non-murderous one - rejoining the team for another IC tie-in. This issue earns two Tonys.
TEEN TITANS/OUTSIDERS: THE DEATH AND RETURN OF DONNA TROY [$14.99] reprints material from several one-shots and mini-series. Donna Troy is a one-woman continuity crisis. This trade paperback starts with TITANS/YOUNG JUSTICE mini-series that marked the end of thee teams and set the stage for the new Teen Titans and Outsiders. It wasn't even uninspired storytelling, it was marketing pure and simple. Big yawns all around.
It's followed by writer Phil Jimenez's valiant attempt to put all of Donna Troy's conflicting continuities into some semblance of sense and order, and reintroduce her into the DCU. I can't say anything bad about Jimenez's writing on that mini-series or the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/George Pérez art that went along with it...save that it wasn't my cup of tea. More often than not, stories about gods, even pseudo-gods, and massive continuity discussions bore the snot out of me. DC SPECIAL: THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY was better than most tales of that type, but it was still a tale of that type. Coupled with GRADUATION DAY, it made for a reading experience that was downright laborious.
Rip the trade paperback in half. The GRADUATION DAY half gets no Tonys and THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY gets three. Collected into one volume, the best I can do is a generous two Tonys.
That's it for the week of February 8. I'll have more DCU/IC reviews for you later this week.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
Beloved comics characters are so instantly recognizable they allow editorial cartoonists to get their points across clearly and quickly. Mike Luckovich did it with his October 12, 2005 comment on the Bush response to Hurricane Katrina:
Walt Handlesman of Newsday used a comic-strip character as a visual aid in depicting Bush's pandering to the far right, though I think the character he chose would be offended to be compared to the likes of Karl Rove and James Dobson.
I think this Jim Borgman cartoon from February 9 is hilarious, but I have to ask...
...were Osama and al Qaida involved in the madness and mayhem following the publication of the Danish cartoons? I don't recall reading about any connection. Or have Osama and his murderous mob achieved the same level of instantaneous recognition as cartoon and comic-strip characters?
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
The LOST SHEEP comic strip that ran in Friday's TOT was sent to me by TOM DUFFY. Tom sends me comic strips frequently and, in the chaos that is my life and poor working habits, I often neglect to thank him for them. So...thanks, Tom and I'll try to do better in the future.
It's Monday and that means a new batch of TONY POLLS for your voting entertainment.
DOCTOR WHO is the subject of this week's questions:
Are you a fan of the original British sci-fi series DOCTOR WHO, which aired on the BBC from 1963-1989 and in the U.S. during the 1980s, primarily on PBS stations?
Have you seen the new (2005) DOCTOR WHO series starring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor? The show has just started airing on the Sci-Fi Channel.
If you have seen the new (2005) DOCTOR WHO series with Christopher Eccleston, how would you rate it?
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: