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

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for Thursday, December 28, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Davis Studio

The Domino Lady, as drawn by my pal Rob Davis, hopes you all had a merry Christmas. So do I. I'd tell you about my Christmas, but, being as how I'm writing this opening section on December 23, I haven't yet had my Christmas.

I can tell you that my birthday (December 22) was a darn good one. It started with Sainted Wife Barb, Eddie, and Kelly giving me birthday cake and presents in the a.m. The cake was a multiple-layer creation that looked like the Italian flag. I almost took a photo of it for this column, but just looking at this cake would put you at risk of a frosting overdose. None of us have dared to have a second piece.

My bestest buddies - Bob Ingersoll, Roger Price, Thom Zahler - and I then had lunch and a gift exchange at Buffalo Wild Wings, an annual Christmas tradition. The food and service were less than we had enjoyed on previous visits, but I came for the company and that did not disappoint me in the slightest.

The rest of the day was pre-Christmas errands, birthday calls from friends and family, and so many e-mailed good wishes that I'm probably since responding to them as you read this. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of writing. So far, this being 55 is working out okay for me. Let's hope it continues.

A few columns back, I promised to review the rest of the stuff I picked up at Mid-Ohio-Con. Let's have at it!

Chrissie Claus

Flare Adventures #18 [Heroic; $3.25] isn't your typical Christmas comic book, despite heralding "The Adventures of Chrissie Claus" on its cover. This latest exploit of Santa's favorite elfin girl, continued from a tale begun quite some time ago, is ever-so-slightly salacious. Artists Rob Jones and Dick Giordano include a lot of "good girl art" shots as Chrissy and her attractive friends contend with the horned god Cernunnos, who is also described as the "anti-Santa." There's a bit of double entendre in the Wilson Hill script. But, while it's not a comic for kids, it is pretty funny. I especially got a kick out of Sigma-Chi, "master of Claus Fu" and rebellious son of Cernunnos. His dialogue and internal monologues had me giggling out loud a couple of times. The story suffers some from the distance between its opening chapters and this one, but I still enjoyed it.

Flare does make an appearance in this issue in "The Adventures of Dorf" by Dennis Mallonee, Tim Burgand, and Stan Sakai. Dorf is a "stupid stick-boy," the hero of stories Flare and her sister used to make up to amuse themselves during their troubled childhood. In this tale, Flare has come to the library to read some of those old stories to children. That the material is not really appropriate for the kids is a source of humor, but the underlining themes that they need "a glimpse of something wonderful" and be trained to look beyond the obvious are good ones.

The Heroic titles offer a different take on super-heroes than can be found at the Big Two. They have their flaws, but I like and recommend them. This issue earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys. If you don't know what that signifies, please check out the "Tony Scale" that runs on the right side of this and every edition of TOT.

Tony Tony Tony

Liberty Girl 2

Liberty Girl #2 [Heroic; $3.25] continues the present-day adventures of the daughter of...hmm, maybe I better not mention him by name, as obvious as it will be to most who read this issue. I like this character a lot, even though I think creator and writer Dennis Mallonee can get a little strident in using her to proclaim his political views. It's not that I disagree with those views - though I do disagree with many of them - it's that, particularly in this issue, they are inserted into the story in such a ham-fisted manner that they undermine the story and the more noble, partisan qualities of his character. And I do apologize for the unavoidable pun in the previous sentence.

In "The Return," Mallonee and artist Mark Sparacio wrap up the first modern-day adventure of Liberty Girl, who has been missing in action for half-a-century. The action part is swell, the emotional reunion of LG and an aged friend of her family is also swell, up to the point where the politics derail it. I'd like to think the end of this story sets the direction for LG's future adventures, that she will be an inspiration and not a polemic. As for the Sparacio art, well, the guy is terrific and I look forward to seeing a whole lot more of his work in the years to come.

The "All About Liberty Girl" featurette by Mallonee, Daerick Gross (pencils), and Jeff Brennan (inks) is a tad "pose-y" for me, but fun and informative. I love this kind of feature and wish we saw it in the Big Two super-hero titles.

Finishing out the issue is a short Liberty Girl tale by Henry Vogel and Mark Propst. Set in Chicago, 1938, it's one of a series of past LG stories - by guest writers and artists - which will be appearing in the title. It's a neat little tale, not outstanding, but fun nonetheless.

Liberty Girl #2 also earns three Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Meow Wow! #2

Chris Yambar's Meow Wow! 2 [Airwave; $3.50] is so kid-friendly that over half of the issue is either written or drawn by kids. Their inexperience makes for uneven material, which is only partially overcome by the sheer enthusiasm of its creators. Among the comic's featured players are Itsi Kitsi, Ninja Dot, Heart Girl, See-Thru Baby, and the for-real pre-teen musical act called Shisho. The issue is pleasant and I certainly applaud Yambar's encouraging young talent. But good intentions don't insure success. The best I can do for this issue is two Tonys.

Tony Tony

For information on how to order this and other Yambar comics, head over to:

Agent Z

Nik Havert gave me a trio of his Pickle Press comics. Agent Z #1 [$2.50] is a well-written and well-drawn adventure series. Zachary Ash is a government agent who should be dead several times over, but isn't. Indeed, it appears he can't be killed; this is a matter of confusion, concern, and even fear for him and his partner Mark. Written by Havert and drawn by Federico Zumel (pencils) and Timothy Shea (inks), this first issue intrigued me enough to earn three Tonys. I'm hoping Havert sends me future issues so I can see where Agent Z goes from here.

Rocket Girl 2

In Rocket Girl #2 [Pickle Press; $2.25], a young woman seeks to attract the romantic attention of a super-hero by becoming a super-heroine herself. She does this with the assistance of her fashion designer friend and her genius inventor uncle. She defeats her first super-villain by accident, but that evil lady isn't about to stay defeated.

Havert's script is pretty good and pretty funny in places, but it doesn't hit either consistently. We never see the hero for whom Rocket Girl pines. A sub-plot appears out of nowhere for a single page and breaks up the story flow. If the villain has a motivation for using her impressive powers to rob banks, she never reveals it and her murderous actions or, rather, threats of murderous actions, aren't compatible with the lighter tone of the rest of the story. However, the biggest drawback of the issue is the art. It doesn't tell the story well, doesn't differentiate between the characters well, and doesn't have the energy required by an adventure-comedy comic book. It's maddening to me because I think there's a really good comic book underneath all these flaws.

Rocket Girl #2 earns two Tonys.

Tony Tony

Three Keys 1

The Three Keys #1 [$2.75] is a bouncy sword-and-sorcery series by Havert and artist Paul Schultz. The heroes are cleverly introduced during a thrice-told flashback of a battle with some bandits; each hero gives his own description of the events, giving himself the most crucial role. At the issue's conclusion, all of them are summoned to some greater task. Neither the writing or the art are outstanding, and some of the storytelling isn't as clear as I would prefer, but the issue does have a nice sense of fun about it. It earns two Tonys.

Tony Tony

All these Pickle Press titles were published in 2004, so you probably won't find them in your friendly neighborhood comics shop. You can find ordering information here:

That's a wrap on my Mid-Ohio-Con 2006 coverage, though you'll find reviews of other items I received at the event in my "Tony's Tips" column for Comics Buyer's Guide #1627 [April, 2007]. That issue will be going out to subscribers, bookstores, and comics shops in mid-January.

Next year's Mid-Ohio-Con will again be held in Battelle Hall at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The dates are Saturday, November 24, and Sunday, November 25, 2007.

See you there!

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

Tony Isabella

<< 12/25/2006 | 12/28/2006 | 12/29/2006 >>

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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.

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