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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Monday, April 17, 2006

Spider-Sense... Tingling!

I'm dispensing with the usual opening themes this week...for a change of pace and to give me that much more room for the non-DCU reviews and the column departments I so woefully neglected during my seemingly never-ending Infinite Crisis coverage. If you *must* have a theme, though, I supposed JUST ANOTHER MARVEL MONDAY will do as well as any.



Whereas DC's INFINITE CRISIS is little more than a repeat of an earlier universe-changing event, Marvel's CIVIL WAR is heading into new and uncharted territory. The Super-Hero Registration Act will require all heroes to register with the government and accept a job with a new SHIELD security force. Not all heroes will agree to this and the ranks of the Marvel Universe heroes will be split as never before. I find this infinitely more interesting than the DC "do-over" and will be reviewing these comics every month for the foreseeable future.

Oh, yeah, and while I'll try to avoid them when possible, you should expect SPOILER WARNINGS in the reviews. Sometimes I can't do an issue justice without them.

Amazing Spider-Man 529

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #529 [$2.50] is the first "official" CIVIL WAR issue...and also the first of a three-issue "Mr. Parker Goes to Washington" story arc. Written by J. Michael Straczynski with art by Ron Garney (pencils) and Bill Reinhold (inks), it introduces our wall-crawling hero's new Tony Stark-designed costume and focuses on the family-like bond between Stark and the Parkers. Understand I am naturally suspicious of wealthy industrialists/politicians, but Stark's regard for Peter, MJ, and May seems genuine. On the other hand, my spider-sense was tingling when Stark asked Peter to agree to the equivalent of a "blood oath" to support him in the difficult days to come. The issue ends with Parker, now installed as Stark's "second, [his] protege," learning that he and his new boss will be heading to our nation's capital to meet with the Senate Metahuman Investigation Committee.

Straczynski's writing and pacing is superb. All his players sound right, the story flows beautifully, and there are moments of humor to alleviate the tension. The Garney/Reinhold art is "big" when the action calls for it, "intimate" when the super-suits are put aside. I'm not loving the new Spider-Man costume much, but I surely did love this issue.

It earns the full five our of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #529 was a February release. In tomorrow's TOT, I'll be looking at the CIVIL WAR issues from March.



Generation M 4

When we start talking about best super-hero comic of the year, GENERATION M [Marvel, $2.99 each] must be given due consideration. In this five-issue series, Paul Jenkins takes us into the world of Sally Floyd, an award-winning columnist whose beat had been real-life stories about mutants. But that was before the death of her child, the end of her marriage, and a quest for solace in a bottle. Then comes M-Day, the day when almost all the world's mutants lost their powers and the day when Sally decided she had to tell those stories as well.

Sally is as fully-realized a character as I've seen in modern comics, yet Jenkins manages to tell us something new about her in each of these five issues. We see Sally struggle with her demons as she strives to tell the stories of the ex-mutants with honesty and dignity. We are reintroduced to characters we came to know in different circumstances - Chamber, Jubilee, the Blob, and others - and see what's become of them in this frightening post-M-Day world. We fear for Sally's life and her sanity as a vicious killer stalks the mutants she wrote about. GENERATION M is an emotional thriller that mixes heart and horror in equal measure.

This series has some of the best writing I've ever seen from Jenkins. Penciller Ramon Bachs and inker John Lucas hold up their end of the story terrifically. Forget what I said about GENERATION M being a contender for best super-hero comic of the year; it's a contender for best comic of the year. A trade paperback collection is due in July.

GENERATION M earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

P.S. Sally will return in CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE, a ten-issue, biweekly series which will debut in June. Each issue will feature 32 pages of story for $2.99.



New Excalibur 1

I've read NEW EXCALIBUR #1-5 [$2.99 each] and I'm still on the fence. Here's what I know I like about this series:

A British super-team is a reasonable precaution given what's going on in other books. Of the current membership, I know I like Dazzler and Juggernaut. Chris Claremont's writing is almost always good, even when his extended storylines drag. The art isn't great, but it's perfectly acceptable. And how can I not get a kick out of She-Hulk wearing a powdered wig and acting as Juggernaut's defense attorney?

Here's what I know I don't like about this series:

The "dark" X-Men and Lionheart. There are too many parallel versions of the X-Men as it is. As for Lionheart, she has to have more going for her than being an angry pawn before she can become an asset to the book. I haven't seen enough of pawn-meister Albion to dislike him yet, but I'm leaning in that direction.

I'm still making up my mind on Captain Britain, Nocturne, Pete Wisdom, Psylocke, Courtney Ross, Sage, and the Warwolves.

The first five issues of NEW EXCALIBUR haven't been awful, but they haven't been very good either. For now, the best I can do is give them two Tonys apiece.

Tony Tony



Pulse 14

THE PULSE #14 [$2.99] delivers a quiet, heartwarming finale to the series. Leading lady Jessica Jones has quit the magazine that gave this book its title after publisher J. Jonah Jameson done her man (Luke Cage) and the new Avengers dirty. She also gave birth to her and Luke's daughter. Jessica had a full plate even before Luke proposed to her.

In this issue, she ponders that proposal and flashes back to the night she met Cage. Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue that is simultaneously real, snappy, and smooth-as-silk. A reader can't not like Jessica and Luke, which is increasingly rare with today's sullen super-heroes. Artist Michael Gaydos keeps it real with the visuals. I'm gonna miss this series.

But...Bendis is right when, in a farewell text page, he writes that it was time for THE PULSE to conclude. Jessica's story - and Luke's - will continue in THE NEW AVENGERS. Those of us who love the quirky mix of reporters and super-heroes will have CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE to enjoy. Besides, I expect Jameson will run the Pulse into the ground soon enough and either cancel it outright or sell it off to another publisher. Maybe I should update my resume just in case.

Coming soon from Marvel will be THE ALIAS OMNIBUS, a hardcover collection of Jessica's earlier series. I hope THE PULSE OMNIBUS is close behind.

THE PULSE #14 earns the full five Tonys. This has been a real good day for Marvel comic books.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK is in the CITC spotlight today. First up is this panel from November 2, 2005:

Reality Check

Amusingly, Whamond uses virtually the same layout for a bit of self-referential humor from January 28:

Reality Check

If you'd like to read REALITY CHECK online, you'll find it at the United Media website:



Sugar and Spike 28

In my April 11 TOT, discussing how I voted in a poll question on what DC Comics title from early 1970 I would like to see return, I wrote:

"If I didn't know Sheldon Mayer never wanted anyone else to write and draw SUGAR & SPIKE, I would've voted for that."

To which ANTHONY TOLLIN responded:

Well, actually, I did vote for that title...because I recall that Shelly Mayer wrote and drew around a hundred new SUGAR & SPIKE tales in his later years for the overseas market. Of these, only a few were ever printed in the US, some in DC digests and a couple in the SUGAR & SPIKE #99 one-shot issued as part of the "Silver Age Classics" World Color specials. I assume there are still probably enough unpublished-in-America SUGAR & SPIKE stories fill maybe 25 more issues of the title.

In a follow-up note, Tollin added:

There was quite a market for SUGAR & SPIKE stories overseas. For many years, since DC had kept Shelly on permanently as a staff writer/artist, we just had him turning out new S&S stories. Because of Shelly's eyesight, I believe they were generally inked by Tony Hensen. In the late 1970s, Shelly also created two weeks of sample strips for a proposed S&S newspaper strip.

Needless to say, I'd love to see these SUGAR & SPIKE stories published in this country. With DC revamping and reviving so many defunct characters and titles, I can't fathom why they haven't been willing to give "Tomorrow's Teenagers" another chance.



CBG 1618

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1618 [$5.99] hit my mailbox on Friday. Subscribers should be receiving it this week and maybe even comics shops. My contributions to this issue are my regular "Tony's Tips" column and a "Tony's Back Page" sidebar. The former announces my being a guest at the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia (May 20) and has my reviews of LOVE AND CAPES #1, the MARVEL ROMANCE trade paperback, two non-fiction guides to the best graphic novels, SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY VOL. 1, and the first two ULTRA MANIAC books. The sidebar is the second part of a three-part reminiscence of my work on Marvel's CHAMPIONS.

I'll be talking more about the EAST COAST BLACK AGE OF COMICS CONVENTION this week, but, for now, you can check out the event's website at:

Besides my stuff, this issue of CBG also features articles on Wonder Woman by Ray Sidman and Craig Shutt, a preview of WOLVERINE: ORIGINS from Marvel, articles on Katy Keene by Michelle Nolan and Maggie Thompson, dueling discussion by Jim Johnson and John Petty on INFINITE CRISIS and CHAMPIONS CLASSICS, Tim Truman's 10 favorite comic-book covers, and so much more. The issue is just under 200 pages of entertainment and information and, naturally, I recommend it to the loyal legions of TOT readers.

Want even more Tony?

Every weekend, I post a new and exclusive edition of TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS on the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. This week's review...Marvel's ESSENTIAL GODZILLA.

You can read the column at:



Doctor Who

Each and every weekend, I post new questions on our TONY POLLS page for your balloting entertainment. Last month, we asked you a quartet of DOCTOR WHO questions suggested by our good friend Steve Pyskoty-Olle.

Here are the results of the votes you cast.

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?

Never watched it.....8.16%

Have you watched the new (2005) DOCTOR WHO series starring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor? The show airs on the Sci-Fi Channel.


If you have watched the new (2005) DOCTOR WHO series, how would you rate it?

Very Good....15.32%

Who is your favorite Doctor?

TOM BAKER.....43.75%
Christopher Eccleston.....15.62%
Jon Pertwee.....11.72%
Peter Davison.....8.59%
Sylvester McCoy.....7.81%
Patrick Troughton.....5.47%
Colin Baker.....4.69%
William Hartnell.....2.34%
Paul McGann.....0%

How did I vote? I consider myself a DOCTOR WHO fan, albeit a somewhat moderate one. Of the previous incarnations, I've watched pretty much all the episodes that have aired on American TV, and I read the British Doctor Who comics magazine back in the days when I owned a comics shop.

I have seen the first two episodes of the new series and like it well enough to rate it "Near-Mint." Indeed, though I have great fondness for the Doctor as portrayed by the wonderful Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston's performances in the two episodes of the new series I watched were so compelling that he's currently my favorite Doctor. I'm looking forward to the rest of his episodes.

This week, by request, our TONY POLLS page presents the first of four weeks' worth of questions in which you're asked to vote on who should win this year's Eisner Awards. There are 28 categories and we'll be bringing them to you seven at a time. This week, it's best short story, best single issue or one-shot, best serialized story, best comics-related periodical, best comics-related book, best publication design, and the Hall of Fame. You can cast your votes by going to:


TONY'S BACK PAGES "My Movie Moment"

Marvel Chiller 3


It was the old joke being told once again at a gathering of comic-book writers, the one about the Hollywood actress who wanted to be a star and was so dumb that she slept with all the writers. I said I could top that...with a true story.

It was the 1970s. I was writing Tigra for Marvel and had just moved back to Cleveland. I got a phone call from the agent of a well-known actress, though her acting wasn't what she was best known for and her career was less than successful.

Would I talk to her about a project? Out of curiosity, I said yes. Before she called me, she sent me a huge box of clipping and photos to "introduce" every inch of herself to me.

She called a day later. She "adored" Tigra and thought she could play her in a movie, which she wanted me to write.

I explained that I didn't own Tigra; she'd have to buy movie rights from Marvel, etc. She felt sure we could get backing for that once I wrote the script.

She called almost every day for the next week. If I asked how much money I'd get for writing the movie script, she would deflect the question. Boy howdy, did she lay it on thick. What a great writer I was. How sexy I had made Tigra. How she knew I could write an incredibly sexy script for her.

She suggested I come out to Los Angeles and move in with her. Her home was small, but that would make it ever so cozy for us. And we would really get to know each other.

I suspect the sex would have been educational, but I was dating my future wife Barb and I also had this odd little quirk about wanting to get paid for my writing. I declined the actress' generous offer and returned her photos. dumb did she have to be to offer to sleep with a comic-book writer, especially a comic-book writer who didn't even own the character she wanted to play?



Jughead 79

Today's e-mail comes from PAUL CASTIGLIA, who did such great work on ARCHIE'S MYSTERIES a few years back. He writes:

I read your April 10 column and have to chime in re: the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Back when I was working full-time on Archie staff as (among other things) company archivist, I recall seeing black and white proofs of early '60s covers featuring the Creature. Doing some quick Google research, sure enough, there were at least two. Besides the cover of ARCHIE'S PAL JUGHEAD #79, which you ran in the column, the Creature appeared on the cover of LAUGH COMICS #130 (1962).

I seem to recall the Creature likenesses on these covers were pretty much on-target reflections of the movie monster as well. I recall a very Lon Chaney-esque Phantom of the Opera from around this period, too, but that could just be my memory playing tricks on me. At any rate, I thought you'd find this of interest. Hope you are well.

Thanks for the additional information, Paul. I was unable to find the cover of LAUGH COMICS #130 online, so here's a request to the loyal legions of TOT readers to find it for me. If I do get a scan of the cover, I'll run it in a future column.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 04/13/2006 | 04/17/2006 | 04/18/2006 >>

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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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