THE BLONDE PHANTOM, that crime-fighting glamour girl from the Fashionable Forties, is the official pin-up queen of TONY'S ONLINE TIPS. Her reign may end sooner than I would like - I have but one cover remaining from her comics career - but we can keep her around with a little help from our friends...like KURT WILCKEN, who drew the snazzy picture that opens this edition of TOT.
This is how Kurt describes himself on his MySpace page:
I am a ninja cartoonist from the Enchanted Land-O-Cheese. I am married to an avatar of chaos and live with two daughters, a cat and a hatful of ferrets. I write a monthly column about RPGs and various other things at:
Tomorrow's TOT will lead off with the cover of the final issue of BLONDE PHANTOM from 1949. After that, her further appearances depend on whether or not my readers send me:
original drawings of the character,
photocopies of her 1940s stories, or,
photos of cosplayers dressed as her.
Now let's see what else I have for you today.
I'm going to try to keep (get) as current as possible on the big events at DC and Marvel. However, as I don't make those weekly trips to the comic-book store, I'll probably always be a few weeks behind those of you who do make the trip. If you are more current than I, then you won't need the big honking...
...I'm putting up for the rest of our fellow fans.
Sometimes DC's 52 works for me, sometimes it doesn't, and, most weeks, it falls in between. 52 WEEK EIGHTEEN [$2.50] pleased me more than most issues.
The "crazy Ralph Dibny trying to bring back his dead wife" and "who will be the new Doctor Fate" storylines converge this issue. It seems to me DC editorial has been taking a cruel, sick delight in bashing the former Elongated Man - he stopped taking the Gingold substance that allows him to imitate Plastic Man - but, this time around, the writers have taken Ralph into interesting, unfamiliar territory. I'm not wild about the suggestion that detective Ralph might be the new Doctor Fate, but I'm intrigued by it. That notion and the revelation that Detective Chimp belongs to the Republican Party - odd bedfellows, indeed, - has me giving a thumbs up to that part of the issue.
Back in Kahndaq, we get the odd alliance of Black Adam, Isis, the Question, and a self-destructive Renee Montoya. Adam's trying to reign in his dark side, Renee is distraught over killing one kid to save thousands of innocent people; their struggles make them two of the most interesting members of the 52 cast.
The funeral of Booster Gold drags out a bunch of super-heroes most DC readers never heard of. I'm surprised and horrified at how many of them I recognized. We get teased with the possibility of a new Booster Gold and the online fans have been speculating as to Booster returning to our time from a future-time before he done got blown up, but I suspect the "Gang of Writers" (Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid) have something a bit more clever up their keyboards.
The issue wraps up with a concise "Origin of the Question" by Waid and Joe Bennett. This issue was one of the better issues of 52. It earns four out of five Tonys.
52 WEEK NINETEEN [$2.50] was an issue that didn't work for me. I was mildly intrigued by Skeets (Booster Gold's little robot pal) apparently doing major evil. I was less interested in what's going on with the "lost in space" Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire, and the meeting of Supernova and Wonder Girl. There's another hint that Supernova is somehow the Kon-El Superboy back from the dead, but I'm still hoping the writers have something better in mind for the character. The issue ends with a two-page Animal Man origin by Waid and Brian Bolland. It's damn spiffy, but it doesn't convince me to give this issue more than two Tonys.
ANNIHILATION FOR AUGUST
ANNIHILATION #1 [Marvel; $2.99] takes place six months after Annihilus and his hordes blasted their way from the Negative Zone to "our" universe. Richard Ryder, the last surviving member of the Nova Corps, is leading the resistence to the seemingly unstoppable Annihilation Wave. His allies include former Starlord Peter Quill, Gamora, Ronan the Accuser, Drax the Destroyer, and a trio of once and present heralds of Galactus: Firelord, Red Shift, and Stardust. Ryder's first-person narration gives no indication that he remains joined with the Xandarian Worldmind.
Writer Keith Giffen and artist Andrea DiVito give this first of six issues a genuine sense of the chaos and carnage that is war. Ryder's matter-of-fact narration is unsettling, with the weariness of his months of never-ending combat clearly heard in his "voice." The only time that voice cracks is when he learns that two of his most powerful allies have fallen to allies of Annihilus.
Longtime readers of my columns know I like my comics to have a connection to our world and reality; a distant conflict like this one is a tough sell to me. ANNIHILATION overcomes that reservation by making Ryder our guide to the unfolding events. As much as he has experienced among the stars, he remains one of us and so brings the conflict home to us.
With kudos to editor Andy Schmidt for wrangling this galactic melee, ANNIHILATION #1 earns four Tonys.
The Superhuman Registration Act, enacted into U.S. law after hundreds of people, many of them children, died in a battle between super-heroes and super-villains, requires super-humans to register with the government, be trained in the use of their powers by the government, and be conscripted into law-enforcement service. Those who refuse to registered are deemed criminals, hunted down, and, if caught, incarcerated.
The super-hero community is divided. Captain America opposes this act and has gathered a team of "secret Avengers" to continue fighting crime and injustice without government sanction. Iron Man has championed the act and, with his allies, has been hunting those who oppose the act, even to recruiting super-villains to aid in his increasingly brutal efforts.
Whose side are you on?
CABLE & DEADPOOL #30 [Marvel; $2.99] came out in mid-July, but it took me a while to find a copy of the issue. "The Hero Hunter" is an amusing CIVIL WAR tie-in by writer Fabian Nicieza, penciller Staz Johnson, and inker Klaus Janson. To answer the question of whose side each of the title characters is on:
Cable, president pro tem of the European nation of Rumekistan, is on Captain America's side, has offered aid and sanctuary to the unregistered heroes. Deadpool has signed on as a government bounty hunter and is eager to bring down those heroes.
The humor in the issue derives from Deadpool's insane/snappy caption narration, which, more often than not, can be heard by the people around him, and from his wacky battle with the Great Lakes Champions, who he erroneously believes are unregistered. Deadpool manages to get laughs without undermining the serious events that are unfolding around him and, despite his manner, he is a threat to the unregistered heroes.
The creative team - Nicole Boose is the editor - did a pretty good job balancing the action and humor with the seriousness of the CIVIL WAR storyline...and making me eager to see what happens next in this title. That earns CABLE & DEADPOOL #30 a respectable three out of five Tonys.
CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE #5 [$2.99] continues to examine the war on several fronts. Writer Paul Jenkins is doing some of the best super-hero stories of the year in this title.
In this issue's chapter of "Embedded" - drawn by Ramon Bachs and John Lucas - Ben Urich's having a tough time convincing Jonah Jameson that they were both threatened by the Green Goblin, mostly because Norman Osborn is still in prison. Urich's career takes an unexpected turn here, as does that of ALTERNATIVE columnist Sally Floyd. She and her editor are arrested by the federal government on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and harboring the identity of an unregistered combatant.
In "The Accused" - drawn by Steve Lieber - Robbie Baldwin (Speedball) is transferred to a prison facility unlike any other in the country...because it's located in the Negative Zone! Whenever I think the government's actions can't get more shocking, Jenkins and the other CIVIL WAR writers horrify me anew.
In "Sleeper Cell" - drawn by Lee Weeks and Sandu Florea - the government recruits (blackmails) Wonder Man to hunt the mysterious "Joe," who we readers known to be an Atlantean sleeper agent. It looks to be like Wonder Man might be rethinking his choice to side with Iron Man.
Each issue of FRONT LINE ends with a poignant juxtaposition between what's happening in CIVIL WAR and something from real-world history. This time, Jenkins and artist Roy Allen Martinez bring us lines from letters written by two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the American Civil War of the 1860s.
Jenkins, the artists, and editor Tom Brevoort knock it solidly out of the park with CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE. The title should be a frontrunner for next year's awards...and this issue earns the full five out of five Tonys.
MS. MARVEL #6 [$2.99] brings the title heroine into the Civil War as she battles and captures the unregistered Hobie Brown, aka the Prowler, and turns him over to the government for interrogation which includes threatening Brown's wife. The government goons want Hobie to give up the name of the double agent who has been tipping off him and other unregistered heroes.
Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, isn't impressing me much in her series or in this Civil War storyline. She's a government stooge who can't even begin to question the rightness or wrongness of her actions on the government behalf, which puts me in the position of rooting against the title heroine. But I'd be willing to grant her some sort of consideration if she testifies against war criminals Tony Stark and Reed Richards.
The best part of this issue, indeed, the only good part of the issue, is a scene between the double agent and the hero with whom she is romantically involved. They show more courage and integrity than either Ms. Marvel or guest-star Wonder Man, who, apparently, appears here before his FRONT LINE appearance.
Truth be told, very little about MS. MARVEL appeals to me of late. I'm not enjoying the stories and neither the writing nor the art is exceptional. The best score I can give this issue is a mere two Tonys...and that's on behalf of the double agent Spider-Woman and her boyfriend, the Shroud.
With FRONT LINE #5 and MS. MARVEL #6, I'm two weeks into the Civil War issues for August. Look for more Civil War reviews later this week.
Every week, we post new TONY POLLS questions for your voting entertainment. For last week's questions, we asked 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.
New questions will be posted sometime after midnight tonight, but, until they are, you can still vote on last week's questions by going to...
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.
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