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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 Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mid-Ohio-Con Program Book

Continuing my Mid-Ohio-Con report...

The cover of this year's program book featured Feedback, the winner of the first Who Wants To Be a Superhero? competition on the Sci-Fi Channel. The art is by Matt Haley, who, in addition to be a fine comics artist, drew the comic-book covers used on the series and the panels used at the start of the commercial breaks. As always, the program book itself was put together by Thom Zahler of Love and Capes fame.

A show couldn't ask for better guests than Feedback (a.k.a. Matthew Atherton) and Haley. They were enthusiastic participants from start to finish. They appeared on a panel about the Stan Lee and Sci-Fi Channel show and then co-hosted our Superhero Trivia Challenge. To the latter, Haley contributed DVDs of the show for the winners of each round and a sketch for the ultimate winner of the challenge. We'll talk more about our own Mid-Ohio-Con game show a little later in this report.

Atherton is one of us. He's a comics buff and a collector of action figures. He was friendly to all the fans who came to meet him and especially wonderful with the kids. He posed for pictures, answered questions, and never stopped smiling. If you want to see how terrific a guest he was and how much the Mid-Ohio-Con attendees loved him, check out his online photo album:

www.forcefeedback.tv/Photos.aspx?AlbumID=13

Here's a taste of what you'll find there:

Feedback

The Hero Initiative was at the con. Formerly known as ACTOR, it's the first-ever, federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic-book creators in need. Besides making a donation, I bought a copy of Actor Comics Presents [$10]. This is a 152-page anthology of comics stories by a bevy of top talents, including Stan Lee, Paul Dini, Joseph Michael Linsner, Dave Sim, and many others. Courtesy of Marvel Comics, two of the dozen or more stories feature Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. I reviewed this book for Comics Buyer's Guide #1627, which goes on sale sometime next month.

Everyone Knows

The small press is always a big part of Mid-Ohio-Con, though I'm not sure what constitutes small press in an era when relatively few comic books, self-published or otherwise, sell more than 10,000 copies. I'm not even sure I "know it when I see it" anymore, just whether I like a given item or not.

For example, I always get a kick out of what Pam Bliss brings to the show. This year, she had Everyone Knows About Wolves and Cars [$2.50], her first full-color mini-comic. Set in Kekionga, "a small town in Indiana where anything can happen," it's a tight eight-pager in which a werewolf librarian must recover a document that was auctioned off by mistake. It's a fine tale on all counts: good writing, clear storytelling, expressive art, fun characters, and inviting color, the last by hubby Nick Bliss. That one earned four out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Also from Pam:

Kekionga Bug Book [$2], a mini-comic anthology of bug-related shorts and features;

The Smell of Midnight [$1.75], which again stars the werewolf librarian and which is presented in a decidedly different format of 11" wide and 4-1/4" high;

Pumpkin Howl [fifty cents], a Halloween mini-comic that again features the werewolf librarian and other Kekionga citizens; and,

Snapshots [fifty cents], which is just what it sounds like, a mini-comic collection of snapshots of Kekionga characters, including, of course, that werewolf librarian guy. Hmm, maybe Nick should be worried.

I enjoyed all of them above and recommend them to you. Since Pam hasn't updated her Paradise Valley Comics website in a while, you'll need to e-mail her to order these items and to get a list of her other available comics. That address is:

sharkipeda@yahoo.com

I didn't get around to as many of the artists alley tables as I would have liked, but I did get a few more comics worth noting. I reviewed some of them in CBG #1627 and plan to review the rest of them here before the week is out.

Guardian Line

Creator Michael Davis and writer Lovern Kidzierski were at the show to promote the Guardian Line. Set in the fictional New Hope City, these faith-based comics feature characters who combat evil, heroes led by their Biblical code of conduct, the Ten Commandments. The giveaway issue shown above previewed three series:

Joe and Max teams a feisty 11-year-old, chosen by God for a future mission, with a guardian angel. It's written by Jason Medley with art by Claude St. Aubin.

Code is a man of mystery on a mission from God, roaming the earth helping people in need with his knowledge of technology and Scripture. The pages in this preview ish were written by Mike Baron and drawn by Howard Simpson.

In Genesis 5, five angels with the appearance and the personalities of teenagers are called to a high school where they are aided by a mortal teenager. They must battle the evil Steven Dark, lend an ear to their friends, and make curfew. Written by Kidzierski and pencilled by St. Aubin, this strikes me as the most interesting of the three launch titles.

I don't know when the Guardian Line comics will be available, but you can count on my reading and reviewing them once I get them. Keep watching this column.

My Mid-Ohio-Con report will continue tomorrow.

******

CIVIL WAR

Here's where I start catching up on Marvel's gripping Civil War storyline. These three issues hit the comic shops the week of September 20 and, as always, as you read my reviews, you should expect that there will be SPOILERS AHEAD!

Civil War 4

In Civil War #4 [$2.99], Iron Man's ambush of Captain America's Secret Avengers goes from brutal and craven to literally deadly. The megalomaniacal Tony Stark, who has been saving tissue samples from his fellow Avengers since the day the team was formed, has, with the help of fellow war criminals Reed Richards and Henry Pym, cloned the missing Thor. Their ersatz God of Thunder uses its lightning to blow a hole clean through the chest of Goliath (Bill Foster), killing the hero instantly. By the time the smoke of this battle has cleared, a number of Cap's allies have been captured to be taken to a prison in the Negative Zone, a prison which violates any code of decency worth the name. A few of Cap's people switch sides, but many of Stark's team are having doubts and some of them, including Sue Richards and Johnny Storm, decide to join the Secret Avengers. If you think there's any limit to the evil Stark will do to further his agenda, think again. The issue ends with him having recruited some of the most murderous super-villains in the Marvel Universe and preparing to send them after Cap. By the time I had finished reading this issue, I was trembling with equal parts rage and anticipation.

Writer Mark Millar and artists Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines have been doing incredible work here. Yes, the story is every bit as manipulative as its critics have claimed. Miller has a point of view and the story makes it crystal clear. Any pretense that there is no correct side in this conflict disappeared within a few issues of Civil War #1. Despite that, this *is* the most exciting Marvel storyline in decades.

Yes, I have quibbles with some elements. The president of the United States in the Marvel Universe is the same one as in our real world. Publically, I don't see George W. Bush signing off on the creation of a clone, much less a clone of a pagan God. That would hardly fly with his religious right base. Privately, well, I don't think Dubya has an ethical bone in his body or an ethical lobe in his brain. I figure he'd be okay with anything as long as he could plausibly deny it at some later date.

I had a problem with one of the visuals as well. Stark pays for the 38 burial plots it takes to inter the still-gigantic Bill Foster, but doesn't spring for an actual coffin. I get the visual impact of Foster being wrapped in a shroud secured by chains, but it's disrespectful to have steam shovels dumping mountains of dirt on the slain hero's uncovered face.

My quibbles aside, Civil War #4 is still an outstanding comic book. It earns the full five out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony Tony

Civil War: X-Men 3

Civil War: X-Men #3 [$2.99] picks up in the middle of the battle between Bishop and a mind-controlled Cyclops. Mutants who escaped their forced refuge at the Xavier Institute have made camp at a secret government base. Bishop has tracked them down for the government, Cyclops and the original X-Men are there to protect them from the feds. Continuing negotiations in Washington have the potential to change the lives of the mutants for good or for evil. All of which sounds more interesting here than it is in the actual comic book.

Writer David Hine is doing a decent enough job on the writing, but, save for a good moment here and there, this issue is very much by-the-numbers storytelling. It does move the story from "here" to "there" adequately enough, but it doesn't do so in a very exciting manner. The art (pencillers Yanick Paquette and Aaron Lopresti and inker Serge LaPointe with Jay Leisten) is better than the writing and boasts some great facial expressions.

Civil War: X-Men #3 earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. It's good, but it doesn't get the juices going the way the better Civil War issues do.

Tony Tony Tony

Wolverine 46

Wolverine #46 [$2.99] gave me the giggles on account of it's basically Logan versus Halliburton. After bringing Nitro to justice - it was never lost on Logan that it was Nitro who actually killed all those people pre-Civil War - he learned Damage Control had supplied the villain with Mutant Growth Hormone that increased his explosive powers. DC, originally a construction company that specialized in cleaning up after super-hero/super-villain battles, is now a big-ass corporation with equally huge assets. It has the inside track on government contracts and salvages super-technology for its own ends. Not every Damage Control employee is evil, but CEO Walter Declun is definitely a rotter.

Writer Mark Guggenheim delivers a satisfying mix of action and character interaction. Logan's scenes with Forge and then Cyclops and Emma Frost, are first-rate. Penciller Humberto Ramos' style is sometimes hard for me to take, but his storytelling is good and he does get some punch, emotional and physical, into his pages. All in all, this was a fine issue, fine enough to rate four out of five Tonys. I look forward to what comes next.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Look for more Civil War reviews next week.

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

Tony Isabella

<< 12/18/2006 | 12/19/2006 | 12/20/2006 >>

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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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