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

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for Monday, August 28, 2006

David Gabriel, Marvel's Vice President of Sales, kindly sent me an e-mail explaining what the publisher is doing to compensate retailers affected by the shipping delays of CIVIL WAR and several major tie-in titles. He wrote:

Here's what we are doing for retailers...and everyone seems happy about them.

CIVIL WAR updates: Marvel's response to help retailers out through the next weeks:

1. Free CIVIL WAR updated checklist postcards coming your way on 9/13;

2. Free sketch variants on new titles, one per week for the next six weeks (with the option to order limited quantity);

3. CIVIL WAR titles are being kept in stock;

4. More PR coming up/more surprises in store;

5. New CW titles added to the schedule;

6. New CW tie-ins added to the schedule;

7. Balanced and complete 5-month schedule; and,

8. Any retailer who feels their discount dropped as a result of CIVIL WAR shifts should contact their Diamond Distributors rep. Discounts will not be adversely affected by these moves. Discounts will be analyzed on a case by case basis. Retailers must supply with evidence that the CIVIL WAR bumps forced them into a lower discount tier.

I am absolutely bowled over by the magnitude and swiftness of Marvel's actions in this manner. I have been saying for some time now that the current Marvel super-hero comics are the best in the industry...and I'm delighted the quality of their dealings with the retailer community is as high. Well done.

As promised, I have more CIVIL WAR reviews for you today. I haven't yet received/read CABLE & DEADPOOL #30, but, once it does arrive, I'll read and review it. Onward...

Black Panther 18

BLACK PANTHER #18 [$3.99] concludes the "Bride of the Panther" arc, but it's also cover-labeled as a "CIVIL WAR CEASE-FIRE" issue in which, theoretically, that conflict can be put aside long enough for heroes on both sides of the divide to celebrate the wedding of Storm and T'Challa. Writer Reginald Hudlin has done an incredible job with this story, making me believe the two heroes were and are right for one another. I don't have much experience with royalty, or, for that matter, need for it, but Hudlin's Panther is as much the servant of his people as he is their ruler. We could do with some real-world leaders like that.

The CIVIL WAR connections are letter-perfect. Though Wakanda is mostly neutral on the registration act - an invitation to remain in the country was made to Luke Cage and other black heroes - there are guests from both sides of the conflict in attendance. T'Challa tries to initiate a dialogue between Captain America and Iron Man. Some guests discuss the issue while others try to put it aside for the moment. It's so real it hurts.

As for the wedding itself, it just goes from wonderful scene to wonderful scene. If there is an off-note in the issue, it comes from Spider-Man being something of a jerk in a chat with the Man-Ape. I only mention this because it must absolutely be noted that Hudlin actually made the Man-Ape interesting, albeit in a humorous way. Lord help me, I now want to see the Man-Ape play a recurring role in this title.

Hudlin's writing combines with the gorgeous art of Scot Eaton, Klaus Janson, and Kaare Andrews for a spectacular issue. Backing up the story is a text feature on the designing of Storm's wedding dress. As with virtually every issue of this series, BLACK PANTHER #18 earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Front Line 4

CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE #4 [$2.99] didn't quite bowl me over as the previous issues have done, but it's still one of the very best comics being published today. Writer Paul Jenkins moves the three ongoing serials forward in fine fashion. In "Embedded," Ben Urich and Sally Floyd chat about journalism, Iron Man leads yet another raid on unregistered superhumans, and a surprising character enters the tale. In "The Accused," Speedball has some more bad moments in prison, one of them involving his mother. In "Sleeper Cell," two cops ponder the cause of an explosion. At the back of the book, Jenkins uses Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon" to evoke an emotional response to Iron Man's raid. If I were nominating for 2006's "best writer" awards, Jenkins would get my vote.

CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE #4 earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Young Avengers and Runaways 1

I never really got into CIVIL WAR: YOUNG AVENGERS & RUNAWAYS #1 [$2.99], due primarily to my unfamiliarity with the latter team, but with some of the "blame" also going to a script that failed to bring any of the young heroes from either team to life. I do give points to Zeb Wells for the very cool panel in which a SHIELD agent whose life was just saved by one of the Runaways expresses remorse that SHIELD is coming to arrest the kids anyway. They might follow orders, as do our troops in Iraq, but I can't believe every SHIELD agent agrees with the Registration Act.

CIVIL WAR: YOUNG AVENGERS & RUNAWAYS #1 is further weakened by its less-than-impressive Stefan Casselli art. With so little going for it, the issue earns but a single Tony.


New Avengers 22

Simply put, THE NEW AVENGERS #22 [$2.99] is the best Luke Cage story ever written. On the night the Registration Act becomes law, Cage makes his decision to resist or support that law in an issue that is hard-hitting, impassioned, powerful, and nothing short of brilliant. What writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Leinil Yu have crafted here is arguably the finest and most important super-hero tale of the year. Even if you haven't been reading CIVIL WAR, I urge you to read this issue.

THE NEW AVENGERS #22 earns the full five Tonys. That doesn't seem like nearly enough.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Wolverine 44

WOLVERINE #44 [$2.99] is pretty much cover-to-cover violence as Wolvie beats on Nitro, gets beaten on by the mysterious Janus, beats Janus right back, and so forth. We learn Nitro was employed as a "rainmaker" by some corporation, we learn who and what Janus really is, and, in a pretty cool last-page reveal, we meet the guy Janus has been working for. The writing is okay, but could/should have been tighter. The art is okay, albeit not to my taste. The reveal earns the issue three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Fantastic Four 539

You couldn't have four better writers than Mark Millar, Paul Jenkins, Brian Michael Bendis, and J. Michael Straczynski to anchor CIVIL WAR. In FANTASTIC FOUR #539 [$2.99], Straczynski once again earns his place in that quartet with yet another view of Iron Man and the feds transporting their recent captures through the streets of New York City. From this perspective, we see the role played in the events by hostile outside parties, the heroism of the citizens who oppose the Registration Act, a very human tragedy, and a last-page decision that will rock the super-hero community. Mike McKone does his usual outstanding job on the penciling, a trio of inkers keeps the final art as consistent as possible, Paul Mounts does a solid job with the coloring, and, of course, Tom Brevoort and his editorial team pull it all together.

FANTASTIC FOUR #539 earns the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

With the exception of the yet-to-be-received CABLE & DEADPOOL #30, that wraps up my reviews of the July-released CIVIL WAR comic books. Look for more CW reviews sometime next week.




I remain confused about many things, including the exact name of what I currently call the SUPERHUMAN REGISTRATION ACT, but which is listed as the SUPER-HUMAN REGISTRATION ACT on Wikipedia and has also been referred to as the SUPER-HERO REGISTRATION ACT in some of Marvel's CIVIL WAR comics. Can anybody out there in TOT-Land give me the definitive title of the legislation?

Going off on a related tangent, don't all of the above seem to lack the spin we usually get from President Bush and the GOP? We have a so-called "Patriot Act" that diminished civil liberties and dangerously increased the power of the President at the expense of the legislative branch and local/state governments. The right wing refers to the estate tax as a "death tax," and advocates "family values" extremely detrimental to families unlike their concept of proper families. They submit legislation to protect marriage from people who want to get married. Even "spin" is really just another word for "lying."

Why didn't the Bush/GOP analogues in the Marvel Universe come up with something *better* than "Super-Human Registration Act" for this legislation? Something either more terrifying like "Defense Against Super-Human Weapons of Mass Destruction Act" or something more soothing like "Super-Human Resources Management Act"? Because, in our world -- and Marvel does claim its comics take place in, more or less, our world -- I have to figure that anything with "registration" in its title would raise the ire of the National Rifle Association. And perhaps rightfully so.

I'd love to read what my readers have to say about the Marvel Universe as it relates to the real world. Don't be shy; e-mail me or post your thoughts on my message board:



I have more Marvel-centric COMICS IN THE COMICS for you today, starting with an X-Men appearance in Mike Peters' MOTHER GOOSE AND GRIMM from July 14 of this year:

Mother Goose

Spider-Man goes to the doctor in Gary and Glenn McCoy's FLYING MCCOYS panel from July 26:

Flying McCoys

Sluggo does his impression of Thor, God of Thunder, in Guy and Brad Gilchrist's NANCY strip from August 15:


One more for today. Iron Man reveals his secret other life in Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK from August 19:

Reality Check

Look for more COMICS IN THE COMICS in future editions of this column. If you think you have one I missed, feel free to send it to me at:



911 Report

Best known for their work on such classic kids comics as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich, writer Sid Jacobson and artist Ernie Colon have teamed for a new and different comic. THE 9/11 REPORT: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION [Hill and Wang; $16.99, paperback; $30, hardcover, release date August 31] is attracting considerable attention. Here's what ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY reviewer Jennifer Reese had to say about it in the magazine's August 25 edition:

Two comics veterans condense the dry, 600-page 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT - blam! - into a dry, 133-page comic book. Target Audience: Nonreaders who want a quick refresher course in what went down that day - and the government's dismal response to the commission's recommendations. Worth it? A straightforward graphic re-creation of a dense bureaucratic document. B.

A middle-finger salute to Reese for her obvious contempt for the comics art form and its readers - yes, readers. I have asked my local library to obtain a copy of the book for me. Once I've had a chance to read it, I'll review it here.

Two more comics mentions in EW for September 1. The DC Comics super-hero stamps rated a place on EW's "The Must List" while Major Victory, would-be costumed crusader from STAN LEE'S WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? on the Sci-Fi Channel made the "Sound Bites" sidebar with this explanation of his nickname from his male stripper days: "I used to wear flip-flops and that's why they called me Thong Boy. Nothing to do with wearing something inside my butt crack."



X-Men: Last Stand

Back in June, we asked you a series of questions on the third X-Men movie. Here's how you voted:

Have you seen X-MEN: THE LAST STAND?


I hadn't seen it when these questions were posted, but I did see it last month while on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. The movie was finishing its run there and I was one of only three people in the audience. They left as the credits were running and so missed the post-credits surprise.

If you have seen X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, how would you rate it?

Very Good.....19.70%

I would rate it FINE. We got to see lots of characters from the comic books; most (if not all) were treated well by the script and the actors portraying them. The story moved at a good clip and the action sequences were all important to the story. There were some truly shocking surprises, none of which I'm going to reveal at this time. I liked this well enough that I plan to purchase it on DVD when it becomes available.

If you haven't seen X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, do you plan on seeing it while it's still in the movie theaters?


I planned to see it and I did.

Which of these X-MEN movies is your favorite?

X-Men: The Last Stand.....20.59%

Now that I've seen all three, I would vote for X-MEN: THE LAST a hair over X2.

Which of these actors/characters/performances from X-MEN: THE LAST STAND was your favorite?

Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast)...36.36%
Ian McKellen (Eric Lensherr/Magneto)...19.70%
Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine)...13.64%
Halle Berry...Ororo Munroe/Storm)...6.06%
Famke Janssen (Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix)...6.06%
Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde)...4.55%
Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier)...4.55%
Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Iceman)...3.03%
Rebecca Romijn (Raven Darkholme/Mystique)...3.03%
Ben Foster (Warren Worthington III/Angel)...1.52%
James Marsden (Scott Summers/Cyclops)...1.52%
Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dr. Kavita Rao)...0%
Daniel Cudmore (Peter Rasputin/Colossus)...0%
Bill Duke (Trask)...0%
Vinnie Jones (Cain Marko/Juggernaut)...0%
Michael Murphy (Warren Worthington II)...0%
Anna Paquin (Marie/Rogue)...0%
Dania Ramirez (Callisto)...0%
Josef Sommer (The President)...0%
Aaron Stanford (John Allerdyce/Pyro)...0%

This was the toughest of the five questions. I thought Halle Berry's performance was greatly improved over the first two movies. Kelsey Grammer is always great. But, for me, the final choice was between HUGH JACKMAN and IAN McKELLEN, and, since it's my poll, I'm not going to make that choice. They both get my vote.

The current TONY POLLS questions are on Civil War, Spider-Man revealing his identity to the world, DC's weekly 52 series, and the new DCU series or mini-series released in the wake of the company's INFINITE CRISIS, but they will only remain active until sometime after midnight be replaced by brand-new poll questions on Tuesday.

You can cast your votes by going to:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 08/25/2006 | 08/28/2006 | 08/30/2006 >>

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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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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