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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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for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Batman 654

When BATMAN rolls around in our regular rotation, we usually spend a pleasant several paragraphs reminiscing about a classic or not-so-classic tale of the 1940s through 1960s. Breaking with that tradition, today we take a look at James Robinson's "Face to Face," the first Batman ONE YEAR LATER arc.

Of the OYL stories I've read to date, "Face to Face," which ran in DETECTIVE COMICS #817-820, and BATMAN #651-654, is the most successful. Right from the start, Robinson established that a year had passed, but, unlike less successful titles, he didn't overwhelm readers with confusing mysteries. He established the new status quo almost immediately.

Batman and Robin have been gone for a year. Harvey Dent has been Gotham City's protector during that time. Jim Gordon is once again the police commissioner and Harvey Bullock is back on the job as well. Sure, there are things we don't learn in this story arc, notably how Gordon and Bullock returned to the Gotham City police department, but everything we really need to know is here. Would that all OYL books were so inviting.

In "Face to Face," several villains have been murdered and the evidence seems to point to Dent. While Batman seeks the truth of these killings, he and Robin also contend with a new and improved Poison Ivy, Croc, Killer Moth, the Scarecrow, the Mad Hatter, and, ultimately Two-Face. Add the murdered criminals, a couple more who appear in a flashback scene, and some Arkham Asylum residents and you get a lot of villainous bang for your bucks.

We see a Batman working hard to undo past wrongs; if he comes off as a bit of an over-achiever in this regard, it's still a most refreshing exhibition of humanity. He's a more forgiving and less unyielding man, ready to give Bullock a second chance and extend a sincere welcome to a young policewoman. He forges a new and smart alliance with private eye Jason Bard. There's also an encouraging development in his relationship with Robin. This is a Batman that, for the first time in years, I think I can enjoy month after month, issue after issue.

Other quick comments:

The art is outstanding throughout. The Simone Bianchi covers are compelling and evocative. On DETECTIVE COMICS, the pairing of Leonard Kirk (layouts) and Andy Clarke (finishes) is inspired. On BATMAN, Don Kramer (penciller) and Keith Champagne (inker) are just as sensational.

Were I Batman, I don't know that I would have recruited Harvey Dent as my temporary replacement, despite assurances from an army of psychiatrists. However, Robinson makes a decent case for this and, when it goes tragically awry, doesn't allow Batman wallow in irrational anger and guilt.

I'm a bad person. I actually applauded the murder of the Bat-villain with the single most annoying speech pattern in the history of super-hero comics.

Kudos to editor Peter Tomasi, who, with these issues, had made a great start to his guardianship of one of the truly iconic super-heroes. Well done, sir.

Very soon, an amazingly inexpensive BATMAN: FACE TO FACE trade edition ($14.99) should be arriving in comic shops and bookstores. Given that's seven bucks less than the original issues cost...and that you can almost certainly get it for a few dollars cheaper with judicious shopping...and that this is one heck of a terrific Batman thriller, I recommend it highly.

BATMAN: FACE TO FACE gets the full five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony



Annihihlation: Silver Surfer 2

Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave have invaded our universe and, in their wake, whole planets have been destroyed and billions of lives snuffed out. Marvel has been telling this epic tale in a quartet of four-issue series...and yours truly has fallen behind in his reading of those books. So, while I gear up for more CIVIL WAR reviews, I'm playing catch-up with this galactic event.

In ANNIHILATION: SILVER SURFER #2 [$2.99], Annihilus' Seekers are hunting all former heralds of Galactus. One has already been killed, one captured, and the others are joining forces. Can even their combined power turn back this unstoppable enemy? And what is the death-worshiping Thanos plotting via his truce with Annihilus? Written by Keith Giffen with art by Renato Arlem, this is a solid, albeit not spectacular chapter of the saga. On our scale of zero to five, it earns three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

ANNIHILATION: SUPER-SKRULL is my favorite of the four series. In this second issue [$2.99], writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach does a masterful job portraying a truly heroic and villainous protagonist. The Super-Skrull will do what it takes to save the Skrull Empire, even if his actions make an enemy of the empire. This is one wild ride as the Super-Skrull and R'Kin, the young mechanic who travels with him, enter the Negative Zone in search of the weakness of the planet-destroying Harvester of Souls. Drawn by Greg Titus, who is doing terrific work here, this issue earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

ANNIHILATION: NOVA is picking up steam with its second issue. Richard Ryder, last surviving member of the Nova Corps, interfaces with the Xandarian Worldmind, to save the Xandarian culture. But the incredible power is difficult for him to control and he fears he will become a menace himself. Desperate times call for equally desperate measures as Ryder takes Drax the Destroyer as an ally and starts thinking outside the box. Written by the team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and with superlative art by Kev Walker (pencils) and Rick Magyar (inks), this issue earns an impressive four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

That brings us to ANNIHILATION: RONAN, the least connected to the main event. Convicted of sedition against the Kree Empire, the Accuser escapes, vowing to track down those who bore false witness against him and thus clear his name. This one isn't quite working for me, despite the creditable efforts of writer Simon Furman and artist Jorge Lucas. It gets two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Editor Andy Schmidt deserves a round of applause for keeping these comic books accessible. Each issue begins with a text recap of the story-to-date. Each issue has fact pages from the Worldmind Nova Corps database with helpful information on the major players and the universe around them. I needed some help from Wikipedia, but not much.

Time and space permitting, expect to see ANNIHILATION updates in the next few TOTs.



CBG 1623

COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1623 [$5.99] should be arriving in your mail boxes this week and, shortly thereafter, at your comics shops and newsstands. The cover feature is an interview with new JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA writer Brad Meltzer, backed up by the usual fine pieces by CBG's cadre of columnists.

My own contributions to the issue are my regular "Tony's Tips" column - which focuses on SUPERMAN RETURNS and its related comics spin-offs - and a short "Tony's Back Page" feature. In the latter, I announce my intention to cede my exalted position as "America's most-beloved comic-book writer and columnist" to a columnist to be named later. Read the feature and then let the nominations begin. Lo, the torch shall be passed.

Every week, I also post a brand-new and exclusive edition of "Tony's Other Online Tips" on the CBG forums. This week, I review SUPERGIRL #6-9. You can read the column at:

From Mark Arnold, the editor and publisher of THE HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES, comes...THE BEST OF THE HARVEYVILLE FUN TIMES [$29.95]! It's 400 pages of fascinating facts about and fond memories of the comics outfit that brought us Casper the Friendly Ghost, Hot Stuff, Richie Rich, Sad Sack, and so many other classic characters. With covers by Shelley Pleger and Ernie Colon, the book also features an new foreword by yours truly. This landmark book should delight the hardcore Harvey buff and also comics fans interested in the history of American comics. You can buy the book here:

Keep watching TOT for the latest news on other Isabella items. I'm working towards making sure there are lots of them.



Alien Baby

WEEKLY WORLD NEWS had added a new comic-strip to its line-up. "Alien-Baby" made its debut in the September 11 edition. The strip by Peter Browngardt and Stephen DeStefano joins "Matthew Daemon" by Mike Collins, "Spycat" by Ernie Colon, "The New Adventures of Bat Boy" by Danielle Corsetto, and the full-page "Weird Picture Search" by Sergio Aragones. You'll find some familiar-to-comicdom names in the editorial credits as well: Editor-In-Chief Jeff Rovin, Senior Editor Paul Kupperberg, Production Manager Robert Greenberger, and Editorial Assistant Jennifer Plastino, niece of Silver Age Superman artist Al Plastino.

You can check out the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS online at:



Civil War 1

Every Tuesday, I post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. Here's how you voted on the questions I asked you in several weeks back.

In Marvel's CIVIL WAR, the Superhuman Registration Act has pitted heroes against the United States government and each other. Which side are you on?


If you've been reading my CIVIL WAR reviews, you already know I voted ANTI-REGISTRATION.

Each side has a clear leader, Captain America opposing the act, Iron Man supporting it. Which of them has acted in a more heroic and honorable manner?

Captain America.....78.57%
Iron Man.....7.14%

I'm with CAPTAIN AMERICA. Poor Tony Stark! His poll numbers are lower than President Bush's.

Spider-Man has revealed his secret identity to the world. Do you think this should be undone somehow?


I voted NO on this one. I don't like take-backs. The future writers and editors of Spider-Man should deal with what's happened and use it to take the character and his fans into new and exciting territory. Much as I hate what DC's done with Black Lightning, if the company asked me to write my creation again, I'd find some way to turn that sow's ear into the most thrilling silk purse you could imagine. Bet on it.

How would you rate 52, DC's weekly series?

Very Good.....17.12%

Since I hadn't yet read 52 when I posed this question, I did not cast a vote on it. Now that I'm some 17 or so issues into it, I'd probably give it a GOOD.

After Infinite Crisis, DC has launched or retooled several series/mini-series. Which of these is your favorite?

Secret Six.....12.84%
Wonder Woman.....12.84%
All-New Atom.....9.17%
Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.....8.26%
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis.....4.59%
Blue Beetle.....4.59%
Green Lantern Corps.....3.67%
Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.....3.67%
Martian Manhunter.....0%

I didn't vote on this one because I hadn't yet read any of the comics at the time I posted it. Since then, I've learned that the Deadman book is actually a Vertigo title...and that Man-Bat takes place before Infinite Crisis. My bad.

This week's questions have been posted. We're asking you to cast your votes on...

Supergirl (One Year Later)
James Robinson's 'Face To Face" arc (Batman/Detective)
Firestorm (One Year Later)
Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo

You can cast your ballots here:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 09/18/2006 | 09/21/2006 | 09/25/2006 >>

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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