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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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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lassie 51

Today is our special RADIOACTIVE LASSIE DAY, an off-the-cuff, once-in-a-lifetime celebration I came up with after getting a copy of LASSIE #51 [October-December, 1960] on eBay. I bought the issue because it had a photo cover of my pal Jon Provost, who was "Timmy" in the Lassie TV series, and I figured I'd have him sign it somewhere down the line. On reading the issue, I found I had a genuinely strange Silver Age gem on my hands.

The cover copy reads:

An unseen danger follows Lassie and Timmy, becoming more deadly with each passing minute!

The Hot Car

We find out what that danger is in "The Hot Car," the issue's 14-page lead story. Lassie, Timmy, and his pal Waldo are exploring a mountainous area near the farm where Timmy lives. They find an overturned car and an injured, pistol-packing thug. The pooch puts the bite on the man before he can use his gun. The guy faints from his injuries. Timmy and Waldo figure out the guy is a crook, which is pretty near the last intelligent thought either of them have in this tale.

They open the man's case and find lead containers. They open one and find a glowing tube. They pick up another and it's leaking white powder. They repack the case and bring it to Timmy's house, where they overhear a TV newscast:

...stolen along with the car that "Dutch" Karg got away in after escaping from the sheriff who was taking him to prison. I repeat...a quantity of RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES packed in the suitcase, were in the car which "Dutch" Karg stole...they were being taken to the university medical center...each small tube encased in a lead container...the police warn that the results of handling any of the lead-encased tubes...particularly if one were broken...could be EXTREMELY SERIOUS! The handler, as well as the suitcase, would be DANGEROUSLY HOT! These isotopes...

Waldo decides "hot" means he and Timmy could be arrested for having stolen goods, convincing Timmy they must return the suitcase to where they found it and play dumb. He also doesn't want Timmy to summon a doctor for the unconscious Dutch, but that's where our Timmy draws the line.

Hot Car

The police are called, an ambulance meets them at the scene of the car crash, and university technicians come to pick up the "hot" stuff. They discover that Lassie, Timmy, Timmy's mom and dad, and their clothes are contaminated by exposure to the radioactive dust. Timmy gains the abilities and proportionate strength of a collie, his parents die horrible lingering deaths.

Just kidding.

Timmy, his family, Lassie, and Waldo are all scrubbed down and their clothes burned. The technicians say that, since they got to the decontamination center quickly, they shouldn't suffer any ill effects from their exposure. Yeah, right.

Hot Car

The family does lose Mom's beautiful living room rug and Dad's easy chair, but Timmy learns a valuable lesson about life, that it is a terrible thing to hide the truth. He says:

Lassie protected me from that gunman...but she couldn't protect me from RADIATION! Only the truth could do that for me and Waldo!

Lassie responds:

Rowff! Rarrk!

False Evidence

The other lesson Timmy should have learned is that his taste in friends is for crap. In the 13-page "False Evidence," two of his schoolmates - "Stump" Wilson and "Rocky" Boyd - are jealous of Timmy having such a loyal dog as Lassie. So they make the false claim that the collie is a sheep-killer and plant phony evidence to that effect. Fearing the worst, Timmy and his dog go on the lam. Sneaking on to a trailer with out-of-state plates, they get a good 200 miles away before disembarking.

Three states from home, Lassie saves a flock of sheep and its guardian dogs from a pair of wolves. Meanwhile, Timmy's dad finds out the evidence against Lassie is bogus. Stump and Rocky fess up, Timmy and Lassie return home, and more important lessons about life are learned.

Timmy: The only unhappy thing is when I think of how you and Dad worried, Mom!

Mom: Yes, it was pretty awful for us, Timmy...and it needn't have happened if you'd trusted your father more!

Dad: It's taught you that, son! And it's taught your friends Stump and Rocky what terrible things a lie can do!

Rounding out this very special issue:

Blaze

Blaze in "The Bunch Quitter," a four-page comics tale in which a horse rounds up a wild heifer, and,

"The Outcast," a single-page text story about a growling dog that redeems itself by saving a baby from a fire.

That adds up to 32 pages of story and art for a dime, a great bargain even for 1960. There are no credits in this issue, but a visit to Jerry Bails' WHO'S WHO OF AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS 1928-1999 has Mo Gollub for the cover, Gaylord Du Bois and Robert Schaefer (the head writer of the Lassie TV show) writing the stories; and Bob Fujitani drawing them.

Watch for more reports on my random eBay purchases in future editions of this column.

******

ADDENDUM

I bought LASSIE #51 from RANDY GIPSON. I've bought a lot of comics from Randy over the years and he's one of my very favorite eBay sellers. His comic books are always accurately graded and he always provides terrific service. His eBay handle is "rgipson05" and he gets my highest recommendation.

******

52

52 Week 22

Three more issues of 52 [$2.50] have arrived at Casa Isabella since last I wrote of this weekly series from DC Comics. Reminding you that there are almost certainly...

...SPOILERS AHEAD...

...let us proceed.

In 52 WEEK TWENTY, the ever-so-mysterious Supernova secretly visits the Bat Cave. I know, I know...he's the Jason Todd of yet another parallel Earth and he's back from the dead! Or not.

Steel teams up with the Metropolis Fire Department and figures out - for the second or third time - that Luthor is up to no good with the turning of people into super-people and all.

We spend the remainder of the ish with the lost-in-space-and-forced-to-team-up-with-Lobo trio of Adam Strange, Animal Man, and Starfire. They get attacked. Lobo dies and pulls himself together from a puddle of his own blood. Except for Animal Man, I can't say I care what happens to any of them.

Mark Waid and Kevin Nowlan do a nice job on the 2-page origin of Adam Strange at the back of the issue. That and the Steel pages earn the issue one Tony.

Tony

52 WEEK TWENTY-ONE was much better. Luthor turns his super-hero team - Infinity, Inc. - loose on a super-villain for a battle that, unbeknown to them, has been pre-planned by him. He murders one of his heroes for dramatic effect. The Teen Titans join Steel in recognizing something's not right here. I chuckled at Luthor's insidious reason for naming his new heroes after old heroes. He's got a future as a DC Comics executive if this whole conquering the world thing doesn't work out for him.

A side sequence shows Ralph Dibny and the Doc Fate helmet in Hell, searching for a way to bring Sue Dibny back to life. I'm not enamored of this portrayal of the former Elongated Man, but I admit his story intrigues me.

No origin this time out, but the Red Tornado makes a "whoa!" appearance at the end of the issue. This comic book earns four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

52 WEEK TWENTY-TWO has more Luthor, more Steel, a disgruntled parent, Supernova, and Super-Chief. It also has a barely-clinging-to-sanity Doc Will Magnus trying not to get kidnapped by soulless (soulless?) duplicates of his beloved Metal Men...and the origin of Green Lantern by Waid and Ivan Reis. It's not as good an issue as its previous number, but it's still a solid comic book worthy of a perfectly respectable three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

More 52 reviews to come.

******

ANNIHILATION

Annihilation 2

It may be in a science fiction/super-hero setting, but I don't think any comic-book series has captured the sheer chaos of warfare better than ANNIHILATION [Marvel, six issues, $2.99 each]. Writer Keith Giffen and artist Andrea DiVito are telling a galaxy-spanning thriller here.

If you have somehow missed my previous ANNIHILATION reviews, here's a quick summary: our universe is in deep do-do. Annihilus, more fearful and powerful than ever, has breeched the Negative Zone and is destroying planets by the millions. Rich Ryder, the last of the Nova Corps, is leading an United Front against the Annihilation Wave and, at best, he's holding them back a bit. Oh, yeah, and the invaders have Thanos for an ally and have already taken down both the Silver Surfer and freaking Galactus!

In this second issue, the battle continues with Ryder having to contend with both the enemy and his fraying coalition of former moral enemies. The defenders take a few more hits and it seems the invaders get stronger each day. Oh, yes, and the Annihilation Wave will be coming for Earth pretty damn soon.

Keeping in mind that no one at Marvel gives me advance info on what the company is planning, I want to share with you a "hunch" I have about where ANNIHILATION is heading.

Besides Earth, that is.

I don't think it's a coincidence that CIVIL WAR criminals Tony Stark and Reed Richards constructed their immoral, probably illegal superhuman prison in the Negative Zone. I think it will be those prisoners who turn the tide against Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave. I think Stark will do whatever he can to prevent knowledge of their heroism from becoming public knowledge, but that it *will* become public knowledge and lead to the modification or even repeal of the Superhuman Registration Act. And that everyone will have to deal with the choices they made when it was enacted.

Time and coming comic books will tell if my hunch is correct. Until then, I'm awarding ANNIHILATION #2 an impressive four out of five Tonys. Keep them coming, Marvel!

Tony Tony Tony Tony

******

GET MORE TONY

Crisis Aftermath: Spectre

While you're waiting for the next TOT, why not check out the exclusive reviews I write for the COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE forums every Monday? My "Tony's Other Online Tips" column for October 9 had my thoughts on the three-issue CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE series, while my October 16 TOOT covers the first two issues of the eight-issue MARTIAN MANHUNTER series. To read these reviews, head over to the CBG forums at...

www.cbgxtra.com

...go into my section and then scroll down until you hit these mini-columns. These CBG forums are worth regular visits. You'll find lots of cool commentaries and conversations there.

******

TONY POLLS

Every week, we post new TONY POLLS questions for you to vote on because we're all about the fun...and we sure don't get a lot of that from actual elections. Here are the results to questions you voted on a few weeks ago...

Legion of Super-Heroes Cartoon

How would you rate the new LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES animated series?

Near-Mint.....17.86%
Fine.....26.79%
Very Good.....19.64%
Good.....19.64%
Fair.....8.93%
Poor.....7.14%

I rate this series FINE on account of my daughter Kelly likes it, too, and it's one more thing we can share. Trust me, when you have a teenage daughter, you'll know how precious that is. If you already have a teenage daughter, you already know.

Black Panther

How would you rate Marvel's BLACK PANTHER?

Near-Mint.....13.33%
Fine.....11.11%
Very Good.....13.33%
Good.....13.33%
Fair.....24.44%
Poor.....24.44%

I rated this title NEAR-MINT. The sprawling storylines of the regular Marvel Universe do affect this series, but writer Reginald Hudlin has managed to reflect those events without overwhelming the stories he's telling in this title. I'm impressed and entertained. What more can I ask for?

Justice League Unlimited

How would you rate DC's JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED comic book?

Near-Mint.....25.86%
Fine.....27.59%
Very Good.....24.14%
Good.....15.52%
Fair.....5.17%
Poor.....1.72%

I like this enough to give it a FINE. Every now and then, I read an issue that could use more meat, but, most of the time, the stories and art are just right.

Jericho Cast Photo

How would you rate JERICHO, the new CBS series about a Kansas town seemingly cut off from the rest of the country in the aftermath of nuclear attacks?

Near-Mint.....5.26%
Fine.....10.53%
Very Good.....18.42%
Good.....23.68%
Fair.....15.79%
Poor.....26.32%

I've watched the first two episodes. I found them engaging. I voted GOOD, but that could certainly go up if the series doesn't leave me hanging with the characters and situations questions it's raised in these episodes. That "leaving me hanging" is how another TV series lost me last season and never got me back.

This week's TONY POLLS questions ask you to choose which of a dozen or so future comics movies you are *most* looking forward to seeing...and to rate DC's CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE and MARTIAN MANHUNTER. You can cast your votes at:

www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony/poll

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

Tony Isabella

<< 10/09/2006 | 10/18/2006 | 10/20/2006 >>

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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THE "TONY" SCALE

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.

Tony
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.

TonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTony
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.

TonyTonyTonyTony
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?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
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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