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

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for Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blonde Phantom 21

The Blonde Phantom, the official pin-up queen of this column, is back. Alas, she may not be back for long.

BLONDE PHANTOM COMICS #21 [January, 1949] was the next-to-last issue of the fabulous crime-fighter's title. By way of background, our heroine was Louise Grant, "mousy" secretary to private eye Mark Mason. Unbeknownst to Mason, she would don evening gown and mask to assist him on cases. Clearly, Mason needed as much help as she could give him. In all their years together, he never figured out her true identity.

The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [] credits the cover art to Charles Nicholas. The editor was Stan Lee, so I'm assuming he wrote the cover copy as well and, boy howdy, was there a lot of copy, something typical of the Timely covers of the era. Five word balloons and a sound effect.

Here are the contents of this issue:

Blonde Phantom in "Kidnapped Into the Future!" (13 pages) with pencil art by Al Gabriele and inks by Harry Sahle;

"Tougher Than Most," a 2-page text feature;

"A Letter To Our Readers and Their Parents," a one-page anti-Wertham editorial, Fredric Wertham, of course, being among the most strident anti-comics voices of the day;

Blonde Phantom in "The Thing That Haunted Hawkins Lake!", a 9-page story with pencil art credited to Al Bellman and inks credited to Nicholas; and,

Sub-Mariner in "The Metal Men of the Moon," a 4-page tale with art credited to Bellman and inker Gabriele. However, it should be noted that Bellman does not recall pencilling either this story or the previous one.

Some quick Blonde Phantom notes:

Though I am fascinated by this character, I never read one of her Golden Age adventures. Which hasn't stopped me from publically expressing my desire to write new Blonde Phantom stories. Am I a wacky guy or what?

Blonde Phantom will be leading off two more TOTs. Besides the last cover of her title, I also have a BP drawing sent to me by one of my loyal legions of readers. You can extend her reign as TOT's official pin-up queen by sending me:

original drawings of the character,

photocopies of her 1940s stories,

photos of cosplayers dressed as her.

The Blonde Phantom will lead off the next two installments of this column. If she has to go, at least we can help her go out in style. Which is exactly what I'd expect from her.



Annihilation: Nova 4

There be SPOILERS ahead.

July brought readers the final issues of the four ANNIHILATION mini-series. ANNIHILATION: NOVA #4 [$2.99] was set 11 days after Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave left their native Negative Zone to lay waste to unsuspecting planets and the billions who lived on those planets. Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, this issue features Nova and Quasar battling for the precious minutes needed for a world-full of refugee to evacuate before the Wave blows them to eternity. It's a heroic struggle that witnesses the death of a hero and a new accord between Nova and the Xandarian Worldmind that shares his consciousness. It's an exciting and well-written story with terrific art by Kev Walker and Rick Magyar. It earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Annihilation: Silver Surfer 4

More powerful than ever, the Silver Surfer is again the herald of Galactus in ANNIHILATION: SILVER SURFER #4 [$2.99]. He delivers a major clobbering to Ravenous and the Seekers, but I'm afraid our hero's moral compass is a little off. Since Galactus is apparently a key part of existence as we know it, I can understand the Surfer re-upping. But, if he's going to be delivering planetary meals to the Big G, he shouldn't be so squeamish about finishing off enemy soldier Ravenous. After all, the Surfer is at war with Annihilus, and it's not like Ravenous renounced his master. Troubling logic aside, this was still a pretty good issue. Kudos to writer Keith Giffen and artist Renato Arlem. They earn a perfectly respectable three Tonys for their work on this issue.

Tony Tony Tony

Annihilation: Super-Skrull 4

Writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach keeps the shocks and surprises coming in ANNIHILATION: SUPER-SKRULL #4 [$2.99]. The Super-Skrull has been betrayed by an ally, captured by the hordes of Annihilus, and his mission to destroy the Harvester of Sorrow has failed on a grand scale. What happens next is just too good for me to tell you about, spoiler warning or not. Just trust me that Grillo-Marxuach has delivered the best ANNIHILATION script to date and that artist Greg Titus has done it justice. This issue earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Annihilation: Ronan 4

ANNIHILATION: RONAN #4 [$2.99] is another weak issue of this series. Ronan flip-flops on last issue's decision to return to the Kree Empire and assist in the defense on said empire, but finally proclaims that his business on the planet is concluded - what with the witness he believed could clear him dead and all - and that he will return to the Kree to seek redemption. This gets but one Tony and my hope that Ronan's participation in the coming ANNIHILATION series will be more productive.


More ANNIHILATION reviews coming soon.



Justice League Unlimited 27

Black Lightning will be appearing in JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #27 [DC; $2.25] in a tale written by Adam Beechen with art by Carlos Barberi and Bob Petrecca. The above cover is by Ty Templeton. The issue was solicited in the September PREVIEWS and here's what the catalog had to say about the story:

The Parasite is on a rampage in Metropolis! With Superman out of town on Justice League business, can Black Lightning, Steel and the rest of the Leaguers hold their own?

DC would not allow my creation to appear in the actual Justice League Unlimited, but I'm delighted to see that prohibition doesn't apply to the comic based on the show. Especially since this story is by Beechen who, with John Semper Jr., wrote the excellent "Blast From the Past" episode of STATIC SHOCK.

As I understand it, "Blast From the Past" was to have featured an older Black Lightning. However, as with the JLU appearances, DC refused to allow Lightning to be used. The episode was reworked to star Soul Power, an original character, but it still felt very much like a respectful homage to my own creation. I loved that episode and am looking forward to reading what Beechen does with the real deal. The issue goes on sale November 1.



Daryl Cagle Popeye cartoon

With the recent E. coli outbreak traced to tainted spinach, it was inevitable that editorial cartoonists would make use of a very recognizable comics icon for their commentaries. Daryl Cagle did the cartoon that leads off this section, but he's also collected over a dozen other "Popeye" cartoons at his PROFESSIONAL CARTOONIST INDEX website:

Cagle has six pages of "Popeye" cartoons at his site, but here are two he seems to have missed. The first is by Jim Borgman of the Cincinnati Enquirer...and the second is by William Bramhall of the New York Daily News.

Jim Brogman Popeye cartoon

William Bramhall Popeye cartoon

If you come across any of these Popeye editorial cartoons that aren't here or on Cagle's site, please send them my way. I'll run an update early next week.



Justice League Unlimited 22

Every week, I post a brand-new and exclusive edition of TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS on the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. This time around, I review JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED #22-24.

You can read the column at:

Uncle Scrooge 360

UNCLE SCROOGE #360 [Gemstone; $6.95] has another of my "script doctor" jobs. "Operation Vesuvius" is a holiday story with a twist by Stefan Printz-Påhlson and Daniel Branca, the twist being Scrooge and the boys launching a sort of pre-emptive strike against Magica DeSpell. The 64-page issue also features Romano Scarpa's "Good For Goodness' Sake" and other fun tales. It was solicited in PREVIEWS for September and goes on sale November 29.

Monster Unleashed 5

From Marvel, look for ESSENTIAL MAN-THING VOL. 1 [$16.99]. It reprints my "All the Faces of Fear" from MONSTERS UNLEASHED #5 and with terrific art by Vincente Alcazar. The book also reprints the Man-Thing stories from SAVAGE TALES #1, ASTONISHING TALES #12-13, ADVENTURES INTO FEAR #10-19, MAN-THING #1-14, GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #1-2, and MONSTERS UNLEASHED #8-9. I'm fond of my story, but it's the Steve Gerber stories that make this a must-have collection. It goes on sale November 29.



Chicken With Plums

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for September 29 had a quartet of comic-book mini-reviews. Marjane Satrapi's CHICKEN WITH PLUMS [Jonathan Cape; $16.05] tells the story of the final days in the life of her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, a revered Iranian musician who took to his bed on realizing he could never find an instrument to replace his beloved, broken tar. He died eight days later. The hardcover book should be in bookstores by October 12, but, having received an advance copy, I'll be reviewing it before then. In the meantime, EW gives it an "A-" grade.

Also reviewed are:

CANCER VIXEN by Marisa Acocella Marchetto [Knopf; $22], which also received an "A-" grade;

LOST GIRLS by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie [Top Shelf; $75], which received a "B"; and,

GROUNDED VOLUME 1: POWERLESS by Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta [Image; $14.99], which got a "C" grade.

I also plan to review all of the above...just as soon as I can score copies of all of the above.



Fantastic Four

Each and every week, we give you new TONY POLLS questions for your amusement. Earlier this month, we asked you these questions. Here's how you voted:

Did you watch the new FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, which debuted on Cartoon Network this month?


If you watched the FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, how would you rate it?

Very Good.....9.68%

If you watched the FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, do you plan to continue watching it?


I think it's accurate to characterize the reaction to the new Fantastic Four cartoon as largely negative. I watched that first episode and rated it POOR. I gave it three more episodes and only thought one of those - "Doomsday" - was good. At the time of these polls, I didn't plan to continue watching it, but I may check out an episode here and there.

Manhunter 20

How would you rate DC's MANHUNTER?

Very Good.....20.93%

I enjoy MANHUNTER, so I rated it VERY GOOD. I reviewed issues #20-25 for the September 4 edition of my "Tony's Other Online Tips" column for the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. To read that review, head over to...

...go to the "Tony Isabella" folder and scroll down until you hit the Manhunter review.

New TONY POLLS questions were posted on Tuesday. We're asking you to weigh in on the new Legion of Super-Heroes animated series, Marvel's current Black Panther title, DC's Justice League Unlimited comic book, and the new CBS series Jericho.

You can cast your votes here:

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

Tony Isabella

<< 09/25/2006 | 09/28/2006 | 10/02/2006 >>

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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